USGP #5 & #6 Derby City Cup

Cincy3 left me with some good experiences, more lessons learned, and an inevitable cold that I had held off for weeks.  I did my best to rest up during the few days I had before the USGP in Louisville and felt much better by the time we hit the road again.

I had high expectations for this race: our team is based in Louisville so I really wanted to represent our sponsors well on the “home” course.  Last year was extremely disappointing as I developed a fever on Friday night, raced sick on Saturday and was unable to race again on Sunday.  Also, this venue will host the World Championships in 2013 (first time ever outside of Europe!) and the registered fields were huge–stacked with World Cup-level talent–and I wanted to see where I stood.

Dave and I left as early as we could after work on Friday and arrived at our host family’s house around midnight.  Not exactly an ideal schedule but it had to work.  We fell asleep instantly and I had pleasant dreams.  Several hours later those dreams turned into horrible nightmares as I experienced some of the worst stomach pains I’ve ever had!  I had several emergency runs to the bathroom and felt marginally better by the morning.  My health seemed a little off both weekends leading up to Louisville, so perhaps it was a lingering bug.  I suspect the salad bar dinner I had during the drive had more to do with it…

Either way I was pretty miserable as I drove Dave to the course so he could work the early races.  My only hope was the fact that my race was in the afternoon and maybe I could recover in time.  We didn’t anticipate that an inaugural half-marathon would shut down all of the streets surrounding Eva Bandman Park and getting through the mess added a ton of stress.  Eventually I was able to force down some food and get to the venue in time to pre-ride…

The course was similar to last year’s edition, albeit more difficult.  More challenge = more fun in my opinion!  There was a little bit of everything and at around 60 riders the women’s field was nearly the same size as the men’s!  It was really awesome to see and I certainly hope large women’s fields become the norm.

As expected, the race started insanely fast and never let up.  Up until that point it was the most challenging cross field I had encountered.  I had a decent start and tried my best to maintain my position:

photo: Dave McElwaine/trailwatch.net (Cyclingnews.com)

I made it a couple of laps and then fell waaay back.  During my warm-up, my heart rate was much higher then usual and I knew I was nowhere near 100% before I toed the line. Even though I was feeling better my body was totally depleted and I decided to pull the plug so I’d at least have a chance to try again on Sunday.

Saturday was a huge disappointment but Sunday was a new day and another chance.  My team started off with a quick photo shoot between early races:

photo: Christine Vaughan with Velo Vivid

I came into the race as positive as I could and tried to hang with a group within the top 20. It was much better than Saturday, though I still didn’t have all of my strength and was still recovering from stomach issues.

There was a point where I lost a bit of focus in a technical section and completely went through the tape.  It was minor mistake and I recovered quickly but lost a spot and a lot of momentum for sure…after that, I went into damage control to avoid losing more places to the riders quickly approaching behind me.  I was cramping badly and wanted to stop, but I managed to come ahead in a sprint finish.

Though for the second year in a row, my results were far less than what I had hoped for, I am proud of what I could do while feeling so awful.  The women’s fields have grown substantially in a short time frame, both in terms of depth and field size.  Louisville had the world ranked #1 and #2 riders in addition to a strong European contingent.  I feel incredibly lucky to  have the experience to enter cyclo-cross when it is exploding; likewise I deeply regret missing mountain biking in it’s peak during the NORBA days….so it goes.

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