The end of the season finally brought us some weather in the form of cold temps and SNOW! This gave us some fun conditions for the ‘warm up’ Altitude Adjustment race put on the week before Nats by our friend and long time ‘cross promoter, Brook Watts. Brook is one of the good guys in the sport and with his long history of putting on races, including Cross Vegas, we knew he would have a good course. Since we were both racing Wednesday at Nats, we only raced on Saturday, but we found cold conditions and a course that was covered with snow over grass. The route included a lot of short sections up and down a side hill that was still slippery enough in the morning to require running instead of riding. It also had lots of tight turns, sand, and barriers, as well as a really fun vibe since Nats were right around the corner, and lots of racers were in from other states.
Bard did the first race of the day, ‘snow plowing’ the course for the other categories. He got the hole shot and held on for a fantastic 5th place finish. A great way to cap off his first season on the team!
The course for Nationals was an epic construction at Valmont Bike Park. It had a little of everything—a long climb, short, steep climbs and descents, multiple off cambers, barriers, and two sets of stairs. The snowstorm had brought 7-8” of snow to Valmont, with warming temperatures throughout the week, so the races on Wed and Thurs featured frozen sections in the morning that thawed to mud by afternoon. Unfortunately, it had largely dried out to a super fast track by Sunday’s Elite races, not that the wins weren’t well deserved, but it would have been fun to watch their skills in muddier conditions!
We had a tent in the Athlete Zone all week, handing out Fluid as well as homemade cookies from Carl’s Mom. It was really fun, because especially on Sunday a lot of traffic was casual spectators unfamiliar with Cyclocross. Carl was able to spend a fair amount of time explaining the sport and our equipment and hopefully created some converts (and sold products!).
It’s funny, I always seem to struggle with motivation for cold races. I think it’s because of the added hassle in getting on all the clothing and warming up before the race, but afterward I’m invariably gushing about how much fun it was! The Altitude Adjustment race was definitely no exception! I started third row and got a great jump off the line. Unfortunately, my gears were initially frozen up, so I was stuck spinning a high cadence and lost a few spots before we left the pavement, putting me somewhere around 20th. From there, I consistently moved up, feeling really good and riding aggressively. I advanced to about 8th place before making the tactical error of tossing my fogged up glasses to Kristal for the last lap. Without the eye protection it was hard to see in the falling snow and I lost 4 spots in the last lap, which was also my slowest by 30 seconds. Nonetheless, I was happy to roll in 12th place and feel like I’m on track for a good week!
Wednesday brought muddy conditions for my noon start in the ‘B race’ at Nats. Through my own mistake of arriving at the back of the grid for staging, I missed my callup and ended up having to take a spot in the 4th row instead of 2nd as I should have. This left me a little buried at the start, especially as the course bottlenecked and the leaders were able to get away. I knew the conditions favored me, though, and set about making lots of passes. It was amazing how many people I heard cheering every lap, considering this was a weekday and that made me keep charging forward. My aggressive riding also led to my crashing four times, which I think may be a single race record for me! In the end, I finished 12th and was very psyched with that!
Finally, I lined up at 9am on Friday for my 45-49 Championship race. Cold temps overnight had frozen Thursday’s muddy ruts, creating what’s turning out to be a common condition for this race! Combine that with high winds that actually blew me sideways down an off camber in warm ups and I knew it would be a ‘hard man’s’ race. I didn’t miss my callup this time, nabbing the last slot on the 5th row. I got a decent start, but heading up the hill for the first time could tell I didn’t have great legs. I guess running around the day before and not drinking enough water wasn’t a great strategy! But, I resolved not to accept that fate and to drive as best I could. In these conditions, handling can often trump fitness! I rode clean and smooth, passing a lot of riders, once again driven on by cheers from family and friends all over the course. At the finish, I was 36th, ten spots better than predicted, which was my main goal.
I was up in the afternoon. I had a great start and was sitting in 5th on the first lap. The snow had started to clear a bit on the course making the off camber areas rideable again. I was able to move up steadily and finished 2nd to local pro and former Olympian Georgia Gould!
Nationals, Wednesday: Singlespeed
I lined up in the Women’s Singlespeed race in the afternoon. It was a small group of women, 15, but the competition at the front was tough! I had a great start, even momentarily had the holeshot! I never quite know what to expect when racing in this category, so I was pleased with my 6th place…an improvement over last year’s and maybe with a little more work on the SS, I can get a podium in Austin next year.
Thursday: Master’s 40-44
This was my main event. The field was full of local fun, fast women as well as the visitors from other states. The conditions were a bit drier but there was still plenty of mud to be found! I had another great start but soon found the field swamping me (something to work on for next season!) and drifted back a bit. I was steadily moving up when I had a crash and twisted my handlebars. Fortunately I wasn’t very far from the pit, so I rode my bike in and was greeted by my top notch pit crew (Carl and John Mansell). Once back on the course I was sitting in 6th but could see the other girls not too far ahead. I fought back and snagged 4th! Whew, made the podium!
Sunday: Elite Women
By Sunday the course was pretty much dry. There were a few spots of mud but nothing that was going to affect the race. The Elite women’s field had 111 women— the largest Elite women’s field in US CX History! I had 3 goals for this race: 1. Finish on the lead lap, 2: Finish ahead of my starting position (47th), 3: have fun and enjoy this incredible day.
Happy to report, I met all 3! I had a good start and began moving up. Everywhere on the course I was cheered on by friends, really this was the case all week. Every time into the long staircase I had to smile, the noise was deafening! I made it as high 28th-ish but faded around lap 3. I finished 36th on the day and was super pleased.
On a personal side note: Carl and Kristal’s kids, Cate and Nick, both raced on Friday. The junior course was a shortened version of the main course but still very challenging for these kids. They had to deal with the 5280 run-up and some slick conditions. Nick did awesome and held on for 10th, even having to sprint at the end! Cate’s pre-J event was held on a separate course but at the same venue. Since not much action had been seen on this part, there was still plenty of snow. She did 2 laps and kept charging even after a few spills.
This was a truly special week of racing. Having a National event held in our hometown on a top-notch course, with so much excitement…it still makes us smile.
Thanks for reading. Next up we’ll recap the season.