This was the last weekend of 'regular' races before we enter the cycle of State Championships next weekend, then Nationals and Worlds. Both races were set at new venues. Saturday's was in Loveland, at a county fair complex and promised indoor bike washing! That was no small attraction, given the cold temps and snow still on the ground. Sunday was at Lyons High School, which hosted a race last year that we missed. Given the weather conditions, that promised cold, snowy, muddy courses, we were psyched!
Darcy, a friend of ours from racing, was working registration and looked knowingly at me when we arrived, saying I would love the course. She was right--it was twisty and technical, with some steep climbs and drops that seemed to be making other riders nervous. Our field was on the small side, at 20 riders, and that, combined with my improving results, gave me a front row callup. I was determined not to waste it and accelerated hard off the line. After some back and forth, I found myself in 5th place, with a good gap and gaining on the 2 guys ahead of me.
At that point, I made a tactical error, coming in too hot to a muddy turn instead of staying composed. I went down hard, jamming my rear brake. It took me a while to get the bike and myself going again, by which time 7 guys had passed me. I was fired up, though, and managed to get past 4 of them by the end, finishing in 8th place overall. It was definitely one of my best rides of the season!
Sunday's race was basically on athletic fields and a hillside above the school. It featured two steep, icy runups, with matching descents. Again, it seemed well suited to me. Since callups were based on a different system, I was third row, but set on not braking with the inevitable slowdown at the first turn. It worked like a charm as everyone slowed around me, but parted like the Red Sea in front of me. I got past at least 10-12 guys and slotted in just out of the top 10. I stayed in the mid-teens most the race, unfortunately a few lapses put me on the ground, and each time I was passed by a few more guys. I finally rolled in 21st place, but was still happy as that is one of my better finishes in a strong field.
My confidence is at a season high now, so I'm really looking forward to our final weeks of racing!
The Juniors started at 8am, and the temperature was barely into the 20's at that point. Between that and the snow, the field was small, so Nick got to start with the 10-12yr olds. He got a great start in about midpack, but paid for the effort as he drifted back and many riders pulled away.
He did a great job of continuing to push though, and battling the cold and tough course. Carl rode with him for encouragement, and Mom, Cate, and Grammy showed up repeatedly along the course to cheer him on. At the end, he got lapped by the top 2 riders of the 10-12 category, but won his group of 2 riders! He was happy with the result, even more so when he found that he won all kinds of prizes, like tires, socks, a water bottle and more!
As was the case with Carl, I was really excited about Saturday's course as I felt it suited me well. I was particularly excited about the fast descent into the BMX style bumps!
My field was small just as the others throughout the day were. I had a decent start sitting about 3rd but knowing the technical sections that were coming, I wanted to move up. Within the first 1/4 lap I moved up the front and continued to grow my gap. The course had become even muddier so I decided to pit. The handoff went well but I completely flubbed my remount and ended up with the seat in my belly and my bike making a 180! To make it even more embarrassing it was in plain view of the announcer who so nicely commented on my "pitting trouble". Oh well. I continued on my way and finished the race in 1st.
After Sunday's race I dubbed myself the "Tim Tebow" of CX. During my preview laps I had a couple crashes on the icy/snowy descents. These definitely got in my head as did the fact that my carbon wheels weren't braking as well as I would have liked. My awesome husband, coach, teammate, mechanic gave me some tips that proved to be a big help. The start rolled around and I had a very poor start. I found myself in 8th-ish but tried to be smart and not panic. The first 1 1/2 laps were a mess. i crashed again on the 1st descent and the 2nd time through I tried running down it...not a good idea. I knew other girls were riding it just fine so I set my sights on getting smoother and faster with each lap. Eventually I was moving my way up through the field. By the last 2 1/2 laps I was closing in on the lead group. I finally made contact with the front 2 girls, Karen Hogan and Kristin Weber. Within the last couple laps I was able to move myself up to 2nd then 1st. I held them off for the win!
I have to say this was my most exciting race/win of the season. I had a blast racing with Karen and Kristin and the support we received from our husbands, friends and everyone at the race was incredible. Everytime past the pits was like a wall of noise, very motivating!
I am still highly motivated and looking forward to the last few races of the season!
Carl's Report on Kristal's Race:
I feel the need to chime in here, because I think Kristal has given slightly short shrift to her race on Sunday, so here's my version... Her warmup and race prep didn't go that smoothly. I had dug deep in my race, so was a little out of it and not as organized as usual--for example, I forgot to pin on her number and she had to have a fellow racer do it at the start line (the Women's field is so nice to each other)! She also seemed a bit distracted--concerned about poor braking power because of the wet, gritty conditions, and jumping on and off the trainer as she went back and forth on what layers to wear for the race.
Suffice to say, when she was in 8th or 9th place, about 45 seconds back from the leaders on the 2nd lap, I thought she might just mail it in for this race, especially since the lead group was all strong women that weren't going to slow down or make mistakes. But then something clicked for her and she started charging, moving steadily up through the field. Within 2 laps, she had made contact and it was a group of 3 at the front. At that point, I knew she had a chance, but also knew that chase must have cost her. Nonetheless, she rode smart and strong and eventually was able to get a gap when she rode a runup and the other 2 stalled out. Still, they both closed most of that gap, and she won by a couple of seconds at the line.
Karen and Kristin are both really strong riders, so this was a quality win and certainly her most exciting ride of the season. That's how I saw it!