I don’t even know where to begin on expressing my love of cyclocross racing. Need I say more, my weekend was completely awesome considering how much hesitation I had over whether I would even like cross racing.
Saturday morning was the Kick It Cross Festival and Time Trials… a one lap race done in time trial format to determine call ups for Sunday’s race. I resisted wearing my aero helmet (though, hey… it would’ve worked with the randomness that is cross!), and was eager to do a time trial on the dirt. I showed up early, and found the time to do a pre-ride lap of the course. I didn’t know what to expect and was pretty clueless on everything… tires pressures… course preview flag colors… the fact that if you put bib numbers in your jersey’s rear pocket they will fly out causing you to have to walk the course backwards to find them… It was hot, already pushing 80 by 9am. I immediately discovered how bumpy the course was and how the dirt had a powdered sugar consistency.
At 9:12 I set off for my lap. I immediately pegged my heart rate and therefore about halfway through the 3 odd miles felt all my energy draining. I was super proud that I made it through a technical downhill-uphill part without walking, which was caught on camera, yay!
I was passed once, and then at the finish lost the sprint by about half a second with another gal. Not bad considering I was coming to a full stop at dismounts and it was my first time ever, right? I ended up 9th in my SW4 category. Average heart rate of 190 for the nearly 19 minute race to boot.
I signed up to do the BRAC Women’s Cross Camp in the afternoon so I had plenty of hours to kill. I laid out a sleeping bag behind Mr. Fozzy and laid in the grass watching the other categories and almost falling asleep. It was relaxing and despite the heat, a beautiful day. By noon I was hungry to I packed up and wandered to Panda Express before the camp started.
The BRAC Women’s Cross Camp was up next. Ann Trombley was coaching it along with the gals from Tough Girl Cycling. I was excited to practice skills, dreading the 95 degree weather we had to do it in. We split up into 5 groups for different skills stations, with Amy and I ending up in the “Intermediate-ish Advanced” group.
Our first station was run-ups with Rebecca Gross and another girl from Tough Girls. I have a huge awkward fear of getting off my bike while it is moving, so this was a challenge. First go at it I came around hot on a tight turn and almost ate it, long before I had to dismount and run up a hill with railroad ties. Nice… We practiced shouldering techniques and the most efficient ways to run up stuff.
Next station was starts with Lynn, a USAC Official, and Lynn from Tough Girls. We went over USAC regulations and got free hair ties (I found a leopard print one! ARGHHH so cool! Hahah) and then went over starting techniques and theories. I realized that I usually like starting on the inside line as I thought back over my mountain bike races. We practiced both inside and outside, and yep, I confirmed the inside notion. Afterwards was a short break, and then onto more.
The third station was my clumsiest. First we practiced “scootering,” which is keeping your left foot clipped in, and hovering on the left side of the bike and using your right foot to kick yourself along, like a big awkward skateboard that is really a bicycle. Swearing I didn’t have enough coordination for this, I did get the hang of it. And wouldn’t you know, I got more comfortable with the dismounting technique! We also worked on remounts, which is something I think I’ll never get the hold of.
Fourth station was with Ann Trombley, and Olympian mountain biker, and Ksenia Liepkhina who I always tend to be at mountain bike races with. Of the 5 skills stations, this is the one that I felt was the least helpful, as it was skills I carried over from mountain biking. However, always good to still practice! We practiced neutral and attack positions and some cornering.
Finally the fifth station was technical riding. This is where my full squish mountain bike has given me bad habits, as I can be lazy and just mow through stuff and come out alive at the end. Quite different on a cross bike, so I enjoyed thinking about line selection. We practiced on the powdered sugar hill from the TT (and I couldn’t ride up it this time) and on a switchback downhill.
Finally we regrouped for food and raffle prizes. I won a pair of neon green and orange Basil Docs socks, which is awesome because I never win anything! Dehydrated, tired, and completely filthy I headed home. Was attending a skills camp worth it? Most definitely! You get to look like a dork along with tons of other people looking like dorks! For $25 it was well worth the money and gave me some new things to think about!
Sunday was Cross of the North. My first official mass start cross race. I arrived and spent a lot of time sitting on Mr. Fozzy’s back hatch, watching the action. About 20 minutes until call ups I took off to warm up in the neighborhood by the course. I took the inside edge of a second row call up, and gave myself a good position going onto the gravel thanks to decent flat line power I have at the start. It suddenly became apparent that 20 girls riding the same 5 foot wide section of trail sucks, and rideable stuff becomes a scramble off the bike and around traffic. Still, it was fun. I took a tumble soon in the first lap, kinda going over the bars to the side but not really. Abby managed to not run over me (yay!) and after I freed Hank (my Crux) from the barrier tape I was on my way. I was passed and passed others, and had no idea where I was in placement. The second lap was better, as traffic strung out and stuff was clear to ride. The third lap I started getting chills and goosebumps in the 90 degree heat, reminding me of MTB Nationals in Pennsylvania. As I neared the finish line I hoped hard that they would pull me, but wouldn’t you know Christine, Abby, and I rolled through for the final fourth lap – they pulled everyone behind us.
The fourth lap was just all about survival. I battled with Abby, finally pulled away on some technical corners and worked at closing my gap on Jen, who was always so close by always so far away. My granny gear felt like the hardest gear in the world. My 22-ish pound bike felt like 50 pounds on run ups. I saw my teammate Bill near the end, yelled out something about feeling like die, and put in a decent sprint effort to the finish. And then tried not to puke. And tried to stay upright.
When results were posted I let out a loud “Holy crap!” at the results board. I was 12th out of 20! I was expecting to definitely be near the bottom, so I was shocked. 48 minutes of racing, 192 average heart rate, 7.1 miles, and 90 degrees.
The number one reason why this weekend kicked butt:
Everyone is just so darn friendly and helpful. On my 4th lap of COTN I took a bottle hand up from a guy on Team Rio Grande (he offered on the 3rd lap as well). Not my cycling team, and heck I didn’t really know him except we talked about SPD pedals briefly the day before. And there he was, offering me water. A long time friend Malcolm was there spraying water and heckling both Reanna and I, which is great and always nice to see a friendly face. Jen immediately offered up her water bottle at the end as I stumbled over barely forming sentences, and she proclaimed me her “nemesis” and said I better be chasing her to the point I beat her this year (she got me by 26 seconds in the time trial and something like 14 seconds in COTN). Dejan and another photographer laughed and said how funny it was that I was giggling while racing, and I told them that they really had the hard jobs of the day. Lots of congratulations and good jobs and good times all around.
So I’ve pretty much decided cylocross is my thing, aside from the fact I don’t drink beer. It has the dirt, it has the kidney-jarring non-squishy bikes, awesome people, and challenge. I signed up for the two races coming this weekend, and can’t wait for them! Here’s to new adventures, friends, and being covered in dirt!