Race Reports: Cross of the North Weekend

Cross of the North.  Hands down the funnest 3 days I’ve had doing cyclocross in a long long time (if not ever?)!  Held at The Ranch complex in Loveland, I thought all three courses were fantastic, even with all the thick, gloopy clay mud that sapped the power from my legs and made my wheels hard to turn.

Day 1 – Friday:

Well, I was in the mixed for the first half of lap one… that counts for something, right?  😀

I had a stupidly good start, even clipped in right away with sticky peanut butter mud on the bottom of my shoe.  I followed Ashley (way too fast junior) out of the start and was 2nd leaving the starting straight away.  I hung right on everyone, and was 6th place going into the huge sticky mud bog by the pits.  This is when everyone else, who has running skills, let me in the dust.  And then began my solo “race.”

I’m not sure I was giving it my all, I’ll admit that.  I know that because I sprinted the entire finishing straight on my last lap without feeling tired.  I think mentally I have just stopped pushing myself.  Which I guess is ok.  I had fun during the race.  Second lap I attempted to ride the sticky mud bog and just ended up stopping up my wheels with the mud.  But there was my collection of fave photographers egging me on, so I gave it the good ol’ college try!  I had my friend from Cheyenne, Robert, crewing for me in the pits and he asked if I wanted the B bike, and I just decided to ride my S-Works (Hank Jr) that was barely moving.  Third lap I swapped out bikes, and it went amazingly well!  I dismounted, ran, and remounted the B bike (Hank Sr) quite well!  I just had the bike in too hard of a gear which sucked at first.  It helped having the granny gear for the sticky boggy surface, though I noticed the weight difference (roughly 3 pounds) between the two bikes.  Deb, Suzie, and Terri were cheering me on very enthusiastically, and I whined that I wanted my carbon bike!  We were racing along with the Master Men 45+ for some odd reason, and I was worried I was going to get lapped… Tim the Official let me know it would probably happen on the 4th lap and I said it was only because I was on my slow bike (when in doubt, always blame the bike, right?).

Hammering on the rarely seen "B" bike! (Photo by Erin Hooley / The Coloradoan)

Hammering on the rarely seen “B” bike! (Photo by Erin Hooley / The Coloradoan)

Robert had Hank Jr washed up for the last half of the fourth (and my final) lap, and it was great to be back on the lighter bike.  I did end up getting lapped by about 4 of the men, so my race was over.  I told Tim it wasn’t fair because I was back on the fast bike!  LOL.  I’m pretty sure I almost raced nearly 40 minutes, so it was alright I got pulled.  I just don’t know what to say.  It was almost embarrassing how bad I did, but I had fun.  I finished in 7th place.  (Shhh, nobody has to know there was only 7 of us!)

The only hiccup was my Garmin, which remained on Hank Jr.  I’m OCD about my mileage and time ridden, so I freaked out a bit on Hank Sr when I realized I didn’t have my Garmin.  And then while Hank Jr was getting washed the satellites got turned off somehow, so when I was back on that bike distance wasn’t recorded.  I did some manual entries in Strava, but my OCD tells me I have to figure this out for next time when I might be swapping bikes.  I guess I might just have to put the 510 instead my skinsuit somewhere, haha!  First world problems of a wannabe bike racer…

The muddy aftermath (Photo by Erin Hooley / The Coloradoan)

The muddy aftermath (Photo by Erin Hooley / The Coloradoan)

Day 2 – Saturday:

The course dried out a bit, but the mud bog seemed to have extended itself (I blame the power washers in the pit).  There was a larger field, 16 of us this time.  I didn’t have a great start this time, I didn’t clip in right away so I was off the back-ish right away.  I did use the chance to take some more unpopular lines, which is always good, when there was traffic.

Over the edge... (Photo courtesy of Steve Urlocker)

Over the edge… (Photo courtesy of Steve Urlocker)

... And weeeeeeeeee  (Photo courtesy of Steve Urlocker)

… And weeeeeeeeee (Photo courtesy of Steve Urlocker)

Coming through on the second lap Malcolm yelled to me that Amanda’s tire was flat, and that I should go catch her.  I had been keeping Amanda in my sights, but I had no idea if Malcolm was telling the truth, or just trying to motivate me!  I slowly started to reel Amanda in, and finally I caught her wheel and did see that she had a rear flat.  I yelled out to her asking if she knew (sometimes it’s hard to tell, especially in peanut butter mud when tires always feel flat), and she did.  I followed her through the downhill/uphill twisties and got around her before blasting down into the mud bog.  Amanda is a strong rider, and faster than me, so I knew I had a limited opportunity to not be in last place for a little while, so I took to trying to hammer as much as I thought I could.

I stayed in front of Amanda for one full lap, and she recaught me in the mud bog.  I got lucky and she fumbled in the mud when she remounted, and I remained in front until shortly before the second set of stairs.  I watched her run (literally) off into the sunset and I settled in to just finish the race.  I’d end up in 16th (shhhh, nobody has to know there was only 16 of us! 😛 ), but for what it’s worth I caught and beat about 4 of the MM45+ Cat 4’s in the duration of the race.  😀  Woohooo, beating the boys!  I can get down with that!

I like high speed cornering.  (Photo by Karen Rakestraw)

I like high speed cornering in tacky mud. (Photo by Karen Rakestraw)

I was oh so thankful to have some motivation for once in a race, even if it was a bit of bad luck for Amanda and her tire.  It was nice to finally feel like I was really racing, even if it was just for 2 laps or so.  I hung out for several more hours, had some yummy food truck pulled pork tacos, had Amy the Amazing Physical Therapist work on my lower back (it hasn’t hurt since!), and watched #rockstar Suzie Q during the Women’s Open race.

The awesome Cat 3 gals of Naked Women's Racing!!!  (More of that coming soon ;) ) (Photo courtesy of Rachel Scott)

The awesome Cat 3 gals of Naked Women’s Racing!!! (More on that coming soon!!!) (Photo courtesy of Rachel Scott)

Day 3 – Sunday:

Whew, third day of racing.  My legs were protesting a bit, and it was definitely colder, windier, and cloudier when I arrived at The Ranch compared to the previous days.  I had foregone pre-riding all three days, partly to avoid mud on the first two days, and out of laziness the third day.  I had forgotten my pair of “cross” shoes at home, but luckily had my Motodiva MTB shoes (the one I had a long blog complaining about, LOL) in the car, sanes insoles.  Felt a bit weird, but I was happy to have shoes to race in nonetheless.  I putzed around a bit, and lined up with the other ten brave SW3’s.

I had a pretty bad start, and couldn’t clip in my left foot for the duration of the starting straight, which is pretty darn long.  I blame the unfamiliar shoes (actually, I tend to be wearing these shoes when I have start line clip in issues…), but I let it get me more frazzled than I should’ve.  I finally got attached to the bike about 10 feet into the bumpy, grassy dirt.  I hung on the tails of the fast ladies as best I could, and started to find my groove in the significantly firmer trails.

They changed up the steep off camber drop in to one way steeper and way more off camber with a whoopy-whoop at the bottom that could launch a person going too fast or who is caught off guard.  Just as I was about to drop in I saw Deb endo, and in turn I yelled out a bad word and almost came to a stop.  Spectators yelled at me to just roll down it, and this was when I regretted not pre-riding at least that section.  I made it down just fine, but it was definitely scary during the first time!

One of the fast downhill sections (Photo courtesy of Cross of the North)

One of the fast downhill sections (Photo courtesy of Cross of the North)

The field spread out, and I was pretty much solo.  I knew there was a gal behind me, so I just worked on staying on the bike and avoiding the wind-whipped course tape.  The mud bog was finally rideable, though it did take some power, muscles, and bike handling to do so.  I was just happy to be keeping my feet clean for the first time in 3 days!  I was proud of myself, as I was actually “running” the run ups and stairs/barriers.  I kept hearing people cheering for me on the course that I had no idea who they were, but they knew my name, and this made me happy!

As I came through on my 3rd lap (I think it was 3rd…) my fave photog Shawn pointed out that Deb had started to fade a bit, and encouraged me to go get her.  Finally I had another rabbit to chase down!  I did shorten the gap, but never caught her wheel.  Either way, it was nice to have someone to chase, once again!

Deb, me, and the gal behind us got pulled after the fourth lap, which was fine by me.  My legs were cooked from the three days, and especially the past two of actually pushing myself a teeny bit more than I would’ve (and running up a lot more hills than I ever do).  I finished 9th, so definitely not last!  (Still okay to shhhh on the fact there was only 11 of us!)  Woohoo!  Alan was a crossing guard at the end of the finishing straight and was taking my photo so yes, I did “post up” all silly like.  LOL!  Tim the Official laughed and asked if I had fun… YES!

I booked it down to the pits, got the B bike, and back to the car where I drove straight to the Cheyenne Cyclocross race.  My legs were done, so I rode 4 or 5 laps at a casual pace during the advanced race…. two races within two hours in two different states… booyahhh!

 

So that was my COTN weekend!!!  For the first time this year I actually felt “competitive” (I use that term loosely) and had a ton of fun every race!  The courses were kick ass:  technical, twisty, elevation changes, and muddy!  And there’s no way I can complain about USAC races 45 minutes from my house!  I’m already looking forward to next year!

Now to de-mud, de-stink, and dry out THREE pairs of shoes.  Yes, THREE.  Thank goodness I’m a bit of a mountain bike/cross shoe snob and have this many pairs to go around…

(And as a final note, I think I have 100% tested the Wolf Tooth Components single front chain ring set up in a variety of conditions, including thick mud, well enough to say that I fully trust it, and have had zero issues with my chain dropping off when paired with a SRAM Force CX1 rear derailleur!)

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