Friday morning was the big day, and it dawned COLD! No tornado warnings to contend with, but when we got to the venue at 7:30 to preride, the temp was barely in the double digits. The mud had frozen about 3-4" deeps which gave it a 'breakable crust' consistency. More concerning, however, was the fact that when we went through any standing water, it froze almost instantly on our bikes and especially our rims. After two laps of preview, we had almost no braking power, because the brake tracks were completely glazed over with muddy ice. Carl had to thaw the wheels for a while in the heated ProBike Express tent, then chip and scrape the ice off with the ice scraper from our van. Nonetheless, on the preride Kristal was riding really well and looked calm and confident. That would be an accurate precursor of what was to come.
Following my terrible ride at Nationals I was determined to embrace whatever conditions I was given and have a great ride. Whatever the outcome, so be it, but at least I would have given it my all. I really felt good on my preride. I was riding the ruts well and putting down speed where I could. I was ready to go. My warmup went perfectly and I was called up to the front row (#4 starting position!).
The whistle went off and I had the hole shot! We hit the mud and one girl got past me. No panic, but I needed to get back in front. Within a few corners I managed to regain the lead and kept extending from there. The course was changing as the race went on. Not much mud collecting on my bike the first 2 laps but by the 3rd lap my gears were skipping and the mud was freezing on there. I told myself to not think about it and just keep riding. At the same time this was happening I had Melissa Barker on my tail about 15 seconds behind. The funny thing with 'cross is that when you are being chased, 15 secs. feels like they are right on your heels! If you are the chaser, it might as well be 2 minutes, the distance seems forever! Being the one that was being chased, I didn't want to mess up and give her a chance to close the gap, which I know she can do. Smooth and steady…that's what I needed. My friend, Kristin Weber, was running many sections of the course next to me talking, cheering me on. "Nice and smooth, stay calm, lay the power down when you can" All the stuff I needed to maintain my focus. Each time by the pit I was getting time splits from Carl and Lisa Hudson. All over the course I was being cheered on.
I continued riding calmly even as the course was mudding up. On the last time by the pit Carl called out "30 sec". I gave him a smile, knowing that this was MINE! World Champion!! Incredible! I crossed the finish line and was immediately surrounded by Carl, friends, photographers and interviewers. Oh, and this is a first, my own doping control chaperone!
Unfortunately, Carl's race time was right after mine. He completely sacrificed his warmup to celebrate with me in the finish area. We are so thankful and grateful to all our friends who helped us out…Bob and Susan Prieto, Dierdre and Clark Garvey, Bill Teasdale, Lisa Hudson and the Feedback Sports crew, Paul McCarthy, Wes (of ProBike Express, who runs a topshelf bike transport service, check him out), Harold Stephenson, Greg Gorrell, and I'm sure I'm forgetting people, please know, we appreciate all of you! So Carl finally gets started on his warmup as I'm being transported off to doping control at a hotel about 5 miles from the venue. As we are driving I realize that I have Carl's numbers in my bag! CRAP!
It's 12:00 and Carl races at 12:30. The driver offers to drop me off and take Carl's numbers back to them. With a lot of trust I hope that Carl is getting his numbers I head up to pee in a cup. This is a new experience for me. Of course I've heard the stories of pros getting tested and all that but didn't really know what was involved. The first thing I realize was that I was completely unprepared. I didn't have my race license or my ID, I needed both. Thank goodness for smartphones! Then the actual process started. I had to pick a cup from the pile, take it out of the plastic and head to the bathroom with the nurse. Yes, they really do stand within viewing distance as you "provide". I also had to lift my base layer to prove I had nothing under it. After that, I put the lid on and carried it out to the main room. Then open the kit and pour the samples into the bottles (A and B), put the bottles into bags and seal the kit. The racer has to do everything so they can't claim the person in the room tainted the specimen.
So my lesson from this experience. If you are contention for a podium spot pack a bag with, 1. all the supplements/meds you've taken for the last 10 days, 2. DON'T pack your husband's race numbers. 3. Pack your ID and race license. 4. Bring a snack/drink 5. Don't expect to be able to watch your husband's race.
The whole week was really great. Cheering on friends, winning and then watching the Elite Worlds with incredible crowds. Walking into the venue for the Elite World's was like walking into a football game…lines of people everywhere! Carl and I were so excited to be part of that experience.
So now that the season has wrapped up here are my 2 goals for next year. 1. NEVER again will I let course conditions dictate my mental condition. I will give it my all and if it isn't the result I was hoping for I will know that I did everything to try for that spot. 2. I will do my very best next season to honor the rainbow stripes. I won't be able to wear the jersey locally for races or at nationals (I age up a cat. next season) BUT it's still in my mind. I have to ride like a champion.
Thank you all for your support this season. Our sponsors are wonderful (Fluid Recovery, American Classic Wheels, Blue Competition Cycles and FRS), our friends and family are the best around and the Colorado CX community is family.
This is my report on Kristal's race, and the next update will cover mine. As mentioned above, in our preview laps, Kristal was already riding better than me, calm, confident, and focused. Things were a little more scattered than usual in the lead up to her race, with me working to clean/repair her race bike from our preride. Our friend Paul ended up pinning her up for the race, and I met her in the warmup tent to take her to staging. At the start line, she definitely had the 'eye of the tiger', while girls on either side were joking about how cold it was and the fact that they were from the south.
After watching her strong start, I headed to the pits, only to find I had forgotten my pit pack with tools and water. Fortunately, Lisa was there to go get it for me, so I could stay put in case Kristal had any mechanical issues. For the first two laps, her bike stayed completely clean, but then on the 3rd lap she pitted on 'pit 2'. Given the freezing temps, the pressure washers were down, so Paul and I started desperately chipping away at the ice on her bike with an ice scraper and multi tool. Paul was being really careful at first, until I told him we're getting new bikes next season (ours are 3 years old), and then he went to town on it! Lisa kept an eye on Kristal so we would know when to finish. Finally, she was on the turn leading into pit 1 when we popped the bike into the pit lane and screamed that it was ready for her. She executed a flawless exchange and headed back out.
We cleaned up her pit bike just in case, but as she passed the pits for the final time with over half minute lead and a smile, I told her to win it on her A bike. She continued to ride clean and solid and finished with 'clean wheels', nearly a minute ahead of 2nd place. Although I knew she had it in her, it was pretty overwhelming to see it happen! I still get chills thinking about the podium ceremony, and watching Kristal get the rainbow jersey of World Champion.
Here's a link to the race report on Cyclocross Magazine, with a post race interview with Kristal:
For those keeping track or curious, the technical specs for her winning bike are:
frame/fork: Blue Norcross (2010 model)
wheels: American Classic Carbon 38
tires: Dugast Rhino 32 rear, Small Bird 33c front (for better flotation on the ruts)
Gruppo: Shimano DuraAce 7901
Brakes: TRP Euro-X Magnesium with Yellow Swissstop pads
Cranks: FSA K-Force Light
Pedals: Time Atac Carbon
Shoes: Gaerne G Emma
Misc: Wickwerks 46/36 Chainrings, K-Edge Chain Catcher