Cyclocross Season Opener 2017-2018 | September
Once again I'm out and about traveling for the fall cyclocross season. Like usual there is a lot of ground to cover in the van but this year there will also be some flying added to the mix. I'm super excited to experience China, attend the very last Cross Vegas, and head home and race the home UCI weekend in Boulder all while driving east to race the events focused there.
It seems that every year cross season begins earlier than the year prior. I have no complaints, by late summer I’m more than ready to hang up my fat tires and pinned downhills for lots of pedaling and ten foot wide courses. After a well-earned summer at home teaching kids and racing locally the thrill of loading up the van and heading to less familiar ground once again becomes appealing. Starting the season off on another continent definitely took the concept of new places up a notch.
Aside from the jet lag, air quality, and racing on unfamiliar food, I loved the trip to China. The opportunity to bond with the other racers is unique to racing in a foreign place. I roomed with a racer from Denmark and we got along fabulously.
The courses were well loved and had a strangely foreign flavor to them which really brought an enjoyably different feel to the racing. The first course featured much woodsy climbing and cornering and the second course featured a blistering pace in and out of the trees along a small river. Lining up with racers from other countries is much less orderly than in the US. Although there were formidable features forcing slow-downs pretty quick off the start lines, the starts seemed cleaner.
It was a good confidence boost to race strongly and finish well within the points. The first course suited me better with it’s elevation gains and necessitated handling but I focused on throwing down and overcoming an early race tangle that led to a broken spoke and bent derailleur hanger in the second race to also solidify a top ten finish. A solid handful of UCI points is not a bad way to start out the season!
Food was a never ending source of entertainment
Don’t wait until midnight before flying to try and fit two bikes into one case Picking up passport and visa from Fedex three hours before plane departure How is my other bag that small? Pretty sure every single person here smokes Can I eat enough to make it to the next meal time? The bike lanes as big as the roads and full of everyone else! Consuming liquids at meals is a fend-for-yourself ordeal You are all close friends when you are in someone else’s country Duct tape the hair dryer and close the bathroom door to hang clothes to dry Does every spectator in this country have a 2k dollar camera?
I was pretty excited to be home and set my sights on the upcoming months even though I had a legit case of jet lag.
Not-my-cat was also stoked I was home and naps were on the agenda
It was to be a quick turn around of packing up the van, getting in a few local events and heading out of the road for the fall.
I rode Tour De Cure on the team with one of my junior riders then jumped into the local weekend cross race.
It’s becoming a tradition to race the Wednesday night series race before heading out on the road.
Likely I should have headed out that morning but I couldn't resist one last chance to visit with my home cyclocross community, accepting birthday wishes, a birthday watermelon, and playing bikes.
Thursday morning I got on to the road, took a few minutes to spin and do some openers somewhere along the drive, and then camped out in a rest area for my first night in the van.
I arrived in Iowa City to early morning kitten snuggles and coffee to meet my host family before heading out to the course. The temps were HOT and the humidity high.
I had a few laps on the course before that nights race and a chance to cheer on one of the athletes I coach but ugh it was miserable out. The van said 96 as I tried more or less unsuccessfully to nap a bit before the race.
That night was a C1 and the start list was jam packed. My race was clean but I was caught off guard on the start line when the whistle blew anytime after 30 seconds instead of the 15 seconds from last season. This quickly washed me to the back but I worked through the pack the whole race to a solid 23rd place finish.
Many of the girls opted out of Saturdays race. I’m here to race bikes so I went for it. There were maybe four of us - guys and girls - that did them all. I could feel a little bit of fatigue on the long run up dubbed Mt. Krumpit but with a front row start and fewer girls in the way it was easier to really throw down and work hard. I was stoked with a 6th place finish.
Sunday featured the first World Cup of the season and it’s a privilege to be able to compete in these as they only allow in the top 8 from each country and a double allotment of 16 riders from the host country. I was in the back for the start of this one and got tangled up at the first bottle neck which resulted once again in a bent derailleur hanger. I didn’t want to risk losing spots to swapping bikes but the shifting was not functioning and I rode in a few laps later than I should have.
Once I had a functioning bike I made up quite a bit of ground but I could really feel the fatigue from the past two days. My goal was top 30 and to not be the last American. I managed to finish 33rd which was respectable enough to be satisfied. Likely I could have done better had I not been as tired but I believe the experience of racing is as important as doing well.
18 race trips up Mt Krumpit is more than enough for a weekend Tomatoes and grapes and apples oh my cloud cover will make it cooler right?! The VIP section? You mean the sheep barn? If a walnut falls on my head will it knock me out?
And it was onward for Vegas with three of the six races planned for the ten day period complete!
It was a quick turn around to pack up a bike and make for the airport in Madison. I flew to Vegas for a 36 hour trip to race Wednesday nights final version of the iconic cross race that first brought World Cup cyclocross to the U.S. This would be my 7th time racing Vegas and fittingly my bib number was lucky 7. The thick slow grass, low technical skill, and road race type format never quite suits me that well but I enjoy being part of the event and the spectacle that comes along with it.
Wednesday was spent trying to preride the course without getting yelled at, eating my pre race meal with a box cutter as a utensil, and scoring a front row start.
As we got going I was bumped pretty hard and took a few minutes to regain the pace. I worked up through the pile ups and found myself in no mans land where I worked through a few of the girls spit off the back of the lead group. I was happy to finish in the top 15, in fact 13th may have been my best result in this venue since it became such a big ordeal.
I packed the bike back up in the parking lot after the men finished up, got 3 hours of sleep, and flew back to Americas Dairyland first thing the next morning. We were racing again on a Friday but at this point I preferred to nap then to see the course. I headed to my login time hosts that live just a few miles past the Trek factory course and passed out.
Thirty-six hours starts now Does it count as a window if it's covered from the outside and only opens two inches? I'm really not on the course pre-riding, it's an optical illusion. Since I ate all my watermelon can I eat yours now too? I don't have a bike in the casino you are seeing things. You can eat an avocado with a box cutter, just don't loose a finger My hangover is not the same as your hangover When a front row start means I'm so busted for having my front tire on backwards.
The Midwest was still featuring heat that could make Trump question his declarations on global warming. I got the bikes set up and barely a few laps on the course. While this race was a smaller C2, the start list was stacked.
I started clean, was feeling comfortable and then had a girl chop me in an off camber corner and go down under my front wheel. It was awkward to get around and it put me in a position to fight with the chasers for the rest of the race.
Just as I was settling in I wacked and flatted a rear wheel avoiding another riders attempt at a step up and limped the bike back in to the pit. I managed to regain all the spots I lost after grabbing the other bike, my pit crew was dialed and I was motivated to make things happen.
While a few injuries left me feeling as though I didn’t have the best training this past summer I’m definitely holding more confidence and riding like I know how which is really fun to experience. I moved back through all the girls that I had to let go heading to the pit and then some to finish 17th on the day.
Sunday was the big day with round two of the World Cup. The course at the Trek factory in Waterloo is technical and fast and I have always had fun racing here. I was the final addition to the U.S. start squad and the notification came mid week. I was ecstatic, having this experience under my belt is a solid way to start this years cyclocross campaign. The course had some added climbing, lengthening of the power sections, and additional technical features from Friday. I loved it.
I had as clean a start as you can from the back of the field and managed to power around the shenanigans. I was settling in on the first big stretch to lay it down and I popped off my chain in a bumpy section. Being a few hundred feet from the pit I ran in and swapped bikes.
There wasn't much more to do than make up ground and I spent the whole race passing girls throughout each lap. For the first time I'm finding myself enjoying the individual battles more than riding solo. I was one shy of my same goal of top 30 but was pleased with how I rode and handled myself.
Trek CXC Cup:
Are you eating the ice out of your bra? Learning to ride the technical bits means not crashing into me every time! Maybe we should actually practice pitting since I do it every race? Boots and cats and boots and cats Caught up in the course tape? The struggle is real! The big bruise? That's actually from climbing over the fence. If I had the energy to be cussing someone out while racing I think I'd try going faster instead.
And the travel continues with 1,100 miles of van life due east and the occasional laundry day!
I’m excited for a chance to have a clean start and see what I can really bring, I definitely have a little more oomph than the previous years which is setting me up for an exciting season!
The drive east continues this week with KMC fest in Thompson, CT on the calendar for this weekend.