Cyclocross Season Update #5 2017-2018 | National Championships
And just like that five months went by in a flash! Two countries, fifteen states, thirty-six race starts, over ten thousand miles, seven podiums, eighteen top tens, and ending up ranked 101st in the world.
After a few weeks of getting back in to the groove at home it wasn’t particularly appealing to take off for one last trip. Nationals week came up quick and the time home was nicely punctuated with solid training on the bike and two homegrown backyard races, one very cold with snow and mud, and the second warmer and sunny with the usual dry dirt.
I was trying to ride quality hours in the cold to get ready for what might be in Reno and I must have worn myself down because after a whole season of being healthy, one particularly cold day on the bike had me riding home with a significantly sore throat.
I could tell I wasn’t feeling quite as peppy riding the rest of the week, which was a high contrast for how I was feeling just a few days earlier. I skipped more than a few workouts, acquired some elderberry syrup, ate a ton of raw garlic, had friends join me to caravan for the drive, loaded up the van and pointed it west.
Early on the Reno course was wet, rain showers made for fun slick corners, heavy pedaling, and plenty of bike washing. I was very relaxed; with a whole week to kill and the weather causing the course conditions to change I didn’t have much worry about pre-riding.
I spent the week getting healthy, cheering on friends in their races, having a relapse of the head cold from too much cheering and excitement over my driving buddies collegiate win, spent a day on the couch blowing my nose and trying to regain energy, avoided my bike, ate lots of food and even more raw garlic, felt good enough Friday to take a trip to visit the Gigifactory with my host and badass Tesla engineer as a tour guide, and got my mind thoroughly blown, an earful of blue Oyster Cult, and my head crushed against the back of the seat test driving the Model X around the factory.
My nonchalant approach to the big day was maxing out to nearly overkill. I had a few things to do to be ready for the race and those were all getting put off. From mud removal in the far off bike wash to fixing things: I’ve had a bike that wouldn’t shift since October and a few trips to neutral support a few hours before the race did finally correct that. I had noted two features I wanted closer looks at and rolled out for a last pre-ride lap to give the now functional bike a test. I was so excited to have two bikes with reliable shifting again even if it was just hours before the race!
I kept thinking the race started 15 minutes later than it did. Getting caught up watching the drama of the U23 men’s race on the live feed in the van with the heat blasting put me outside to warm up with just 45 minutes till race start. I remembered that I should maybe have spare wheels in the pit and that my spare race wheels didn’t have a cassette on them. I got that going until I decided this would also be an optimal time to throw some spikes on my shoes and hopped on the trainer with the tools. Not wanting to change into my race kit without changing shoes (shoe dirt in chamois isn’t awesome) I knew I needed a few extra minutes off the trainer to suit up. Fortunately I had at least remembered to pin my number on already!
It miraculously all worked out with much thanks to my super organized pit help volunteer recruited as I strolled through the venue also a few hours earlier in the day. I managed a few efforts on the trainer and rolled over to the start with plenty of time to get adjusted. The racers lined up on either side of the start chute, a new and very impressively organized development, and there were a few rounds of “paging Katie Compton” before they realized she was already in the start grid.
My late second row call up left me with a grid choice of center pack or far right. With the first corner a left hand turn, I was stoked to slot into the right pole position. I checked to be sure I was in the correct gear, ate my gel, took a last sip of water, handed my jacket over, and rotated my pedal into the perfect place. Thirty-seven starters prepared for the collective tension as the countdown began.
We were off and I was determined to hold my ground up front. With the race leaning left I should have had a clear shot. I nailed my pedal with a clean clip in and went for it. The rider to my immediate right has at least a foot of height and managed half a wheel length on me as we left the line. For reasons unknown she leaned hard right into me and checked me into the boards.
It happened fast, I lost a pedal and hit the boards hard but still was moving forward. The folks packed in on the side of the course were leaning over the fence to gain a better view of the start and at least six of them smacked me in the jaw with their arms and elbows as I slid across the boards. For three full board lengths I was leaning on the wall with my face bouncing off spectators.
By the fourth and final board before the gap for the lap finish, the arms retracted enough to give me room and I was able to lean on hard enough onto the boards to push back upright.
I watched the race spin away from me as I fought to regain my left pedal while till trying to maintain and build speed, now very much in the wrong gear and unable to stand and crank without both feet clipped in. I passed under the finish line mid-way down the start stretch with bike lengths between me and the last racer.