Race Report: Altitude Adjustment Cross & US Nationals

Braving the snow and cold at Altitude Adjustment Cross

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve wrapped up ‘cross season and I think I’m still feeling the hangover from it.  Bittersweet end where it finally felt like I was actually racing, all cut too short by the mere fact cyclocross isn’t a year around sport.  I’ve also gone through feeling like I don’t really want to write down much about the events that occurred because I’d rather savor the goodness in my mind?  Yeah, I dunno, haha.  I need me a year around ‘cross season, clearly.

First weekend of January I braved the crappy roads (one of the rare times the weather got worse upon entering Colorado from Wyoming) to race at Altitude Adjustment Cross – touted as a warm up for Nationals starting a few days later.  This was the first race where I realized I had a legitimate chance at the podium, but I kept telling myself to stop thinking about that so I wouldn’t be disappointed if it didn’t work out that way.

We lined up in the snow and cold (~20 degrees!), all seven of us brave ladies!  I knew Renee and Darcy would be my main competition.  I had a rather bad start, maybe partly due to not knowing how well I’d grip on the pack snow and maybe partly due to the fact it was just a crappy start.  I came through the pack by the time we hit the grass section.  Darcy was gone from the start and distanced herself quickly, and I was riding about 3rd behind Terri when she took an unfortunate spill on an off camber corner.  Barely missing running over her rear wheel, I took the chance and took over 2nd.  And that’s how it pretty much stayed.  I felt strong and I could tell where my training had helped.  I ran the run ups, hopped on my bike without stopping, and handled the technical corners quite well.  There was large packed snow sections that felt like pavement so I could lay down a decent speed.

However, on the third and final lap was I was a mess.  I started stumbling on the corners and Leslie managed to catch my wheel about halfway through the lap.  I managed to hold her off until about the final few minutes of the race where we come out onto the pavement (at least I think it was, it was all snow covered) for a high speed climbing loop and down to the finish.  Right in the way was a junior rider and their father.  And they would… not… move.  Leslie called out to them, I called out to them, and spectators called out to them.  Ugh, so frustrating!  Finally they got the idea that some people were trying to race on the course and moved, but Leslie managed to slip around easier.  I tried to chase, but she got away.  I rolled across the finish in 3rd place about 6 seconds behind Leslie.  Woohoo, my first ‘cross podium and upgrade points for me!!

Darcy on top, me in 3rd.

Unfortunately I won a box of Clif bars I can’t eat because they have almonds in them, doh!  But overall it was an awesome day and felt that the course played to my technical skills well, and I could feel how my training helped me mentally push harder.

I returned for the second day of racing, hesitant to play in the now 10 degree temperatures.  Turns out, some people decided to stay warm, so I was the only SW4 racer, so they combined me with the two SW3’s (yay for getting to race against Suzie!), and the one JW 15-16.  Heck, we didn’t even line up on the starting line and the official restricted us to two laps due to the temperatures.  For the race?  Well when you’re racing no one and the course turned to ice since the previous day… I kinda just goofed off, haha.  I still managed to score the sweet winner’s prize for my “win,” which was a big bag of steel cut oatmeal, water bottle, multi tool, and 6 pack of Dan’s Pale Ale.

I’m not sure what I was doing, but I managed not to fall on my face doing it! And yes, it was cold enough to forgo cycling gloves for big ol’ skiing ones.

I had 2 days off, and then we headed back to Boulder for the US Cyclocross National Championships!  So exciting to have a nationals event in my backyard so I couldn’t pass it up, even though all I could race was the “non championship” class due to still being a Cat 4.  Pre-ride on Tuesday night was a combo of mud and snow, but by Wednesday morning for my race it had turned into a frozen skating rink.  My pre-ride had me really hesitant and worried.  I knew it would be carnage on the course, and since I had a last row call up out of 51 racers, I pretty much decided I would hang back and not get into anything crazy.  I just didn’t want to get lapped or pulled.

Woohoo!

Like the weekend before, I didn’t have a spectacular start, but jumped up a few spots as we all fought for the single non-icy line around the first corner.  It was horrible.  Girls were off their bikes, falling or walking all over the place on what is a rideable climb.  It became just a matter of choosing good lines and avoiding those who were having trouble.  At one point in the first lap I just picked up my bike and sprinted a good 200meters or so just to get around people struggling on an icy flat.  Once I got around traffic I felt more secure and once again put some technical and ice-riding skills to work.  Second lap went much better and the third even better!  On my second I was so worried I get pulled, but I was sent through for the final third lap, which plastered a smile on my face.  Each lap I improved by 1-2 minutes, which is usually the opposite of what happens in a ‘cross race for me.  Coming to the finish I tried to chase down the girl in front of me, but lost it by one second.  Considering how much ground I made up for that to happen, I could handle that!

Waiting for results I had the awesome WD40 Bike guys wash my bike, which didn’t get too dirty since things were still very frozen during my race.  I was shocked once I finally saw the results.  USAC’s “Race Predictor” said I would finish 50th or so, and I started at about that position, and managed to pull off 29th place!!  Oh man, imagine what I could’ve done with a 4th lap, eh?  Took me awhile to get into race mode, but I can’t really complain!  I credit this also to my Flash Gordon lightning bolt socks 😉

5280 Run Up during the first lap

Managing traffic in the 1st lap

Getting sideways on the icy straight that I had to run the first lap

Unlike during MTB Nationals, I think I made Flash Gordon proud of my socks during this race!

Coming around the switchback to head towards the lower part of the course

Down into the frozen sand pit (Photo by Visual Focus)

 

Whoa, still shocked about these results!

 

And that’s that… now the long depression until September…

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