Ending the season on the top step!

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From 3rd in 2014, to 2nd in 2015, to the WIN in 2016!

Five seasons of Laramie Mountain Bike Series over four years of learning how to be a bike racer… and I took home the overall open women’s title!

LMBS was rough this year.  Lack of training + lack of motivation or interest for XC racing + petty small town BS + the road race crash = kind of dragging myself to those six Tuesday races. But I made all six (another first), finished all of them, and survived!  I really wanted to win the overall this year, but knew it probably wouldn’t be easy, but so happy I fought until the end and came out on top of my local race series!

After the first two races I kind of struggled.  LMBS 3 came a few days after my amazing race at the Tatanka 50k, and involved two laps up Death Crotch.  I just never could get a good rhythm on the climb, and the course really didn’t suite me well with it’s rather short amount of climbing (granted tough), combined with a ton of descending.  I hung on for 2nd.  LMBS 4 was more of the same… started on a descent, ended on a descent.  I did make myself proud with clearing Aspen for the first time in the climbing direction with no dabs (I remember Sara and I walking decent amounts of it during the race in 2015).  The final lap three of us came together, which I don’t remember seeing happening in an open LMBS race in a long time.  I was riding 3rd and put down a great pass and sprint on a tight corner into a climb to take over 1st.  I’d end up taking 2nd again.

I did the math and knew what I needed to do for the final two races.  LMBS 5 almost didn’t happen, though.  When I pulled into the parking lot I noticed my rear tire had deflated completely and come off the bead.  In a panic I hauled butt down the summit and into Laramie, where Joel from the Pedal House quickly grabbed my bike, changed out the valve core, aired it back up, and sent me on my way.  I drove the way back up to the race with my gloves and helmet on, knowing I wouldn’t have much time to make it to the starting line.  I pulled in with ten minutes to spare, so no warm up as I had time to get the bike off the car, shove a pump and a million CO2’s in my back pocket, check in, and line up.  Not ideal.

Luckily the course was to my style, with 20-30 minutes of solid climbing, followed by the descent down Death Crotch, and a steady uphill double track climb back through the start-finish.  I knew I had to hammer the climbing to build the cushion for the descending, as Alyssa is a super fast descender.  It had rained so the dirt had moisture which led to tacky hero dirt.  And hammered I did from the whistle, and never looked back!  I even took the QOM on the Summit trail climb, which I was surprised about since the rocks were slippery.  I flew down Death Crotch, and even had a few advanced men racers tell me I was “flying.”  Better than last year when a guy tried crashing me and another girl out for going “so slow!”  Second lap went well, though another storm rolled in and just as I was cresting the climbing portion of Death Crotch to begin the descent there was lightning and icy rain pelting me.  Usually I recover ever so slightly across the ridge, but I wanted out of the exposed area.  I powered up the double track and took 1st place, much to my relief!  And it all worked out that the 50psi of rear tire pressure I had worked out due to the tacky dirt!

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There’s something to be said for blending in, so I went incognito with an all black kit for LMBS 5! No sense in being a neon pink rabbit when every point matters! (Photo by Jessica Flock)

Another round of math was done, and I realized I didn’t even have to show up to race at LMBS 6 and I would still secure the overall win.  However, I wasn’t going down without a fight! My parents came out to watch me for the first time at an LMBS, which was exciting!  The course made me nervous, as once it again it ended with a big descent.  The start did involve climbing up Middle Aspen, so I knew I’d have to do what I did best, and that was climb.  I did worry how my legs would respond as this was days after the National Championships up Pikes Peak, but it would be what it would be.  With my new Specialized Racing white/pink kit I took to the starting line.

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LMBS 6 (Photo by Ben Parman)

The first lap I felt awful.  Absolutely awful!  Side ache and just so unfit.  But I knew I was flying as the steady stream of advanced men hadn’t flown by me yet, and they wouldn’t until I started the descent down Pole Creek back to the start-finish!  I waved a few guys around, and one told me, “You’re hauling ass!” which made me smile.  Unfortunately we would hit the kid racers on LiMBS, which to me was a very dangerous situation, as we were going 15-20mph, coming up on children on bicycles who really have no idea about what to do in race situations.  Luckily it all went without incident, and we hammered through for the second lap.  Second lap I felt better, and aside from going off my line and having to run up a loose climb on Middle Aspen, it was all going swell.  I forced myself to get out of the saddle and to hammer when I could, especially on climbs.

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Displaying terrible descending form on my last lap (Photo by Ben Parman)

After about an hour and four minutes I came through to my parents’ cheers with a big smile on my face and first LMBS overall win!

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I won’t lie, I’m happy and relieved that MTB race season is over for 2016 (minus the Dakota 5-O, which I’m doing more for the awesome trails and experience than a race).  On paper it actually looks like a good season, with double podiums at Fat Bike Nationals, and then three wins at LMBS and strong races at the Half Growler and Tatanka 50k.  But to me it just wasn’t the season I had imagined.  But it’s okay to have an off year, right? 😀  What I’m really enjoying are my more confident descending skills… I even took 3 MINUTES off my PR down Wathan… 3 minutes is huge!

I’ve started to try to think of what 2017 would hold in store for me.  Initially in early 2016 I had said I wouldn’t race in 2017 and would focus on trying to get over to Iceland to ride, but as my season went on this year and didn’t go ideally I realized I wanted to see if I could make 2017 go a bit better, plus I’m dipping into my Iceland savings to pay the medical bills from the road race crash, and I only want to go to Iceland if I have the money to do the trip exactly how I want!

2017 rough plans:

  • Absolutely no mass start traditional road races.  My wallet cannot afford another $7000 trip to the ER due to someone else’s poor bike skills.  I do plan on trying to do some of the hill climbing events, and maybe early spring TT’s to get that motivation burning and going.  I think a flaw for 2016 was I didn’t race all spring until Florida Cup in May.  There was nothing keeping the spark alive to keep training.
  • Fat Bike World Championships in Crested Butte in January.  I’ll get to meet up with the Dirt Components crew which will be awesome, and I’ll get in several solid days of fun on the fat bike!
  • Half Growler to try to go sub-4 hours after having an awesome time this year at the race
  • Tatanka 50k because the race was amazing!
  • Possibly the Carson City Off-Road
  • Leadville Stage Race.  Expensive, but it’s perked my interest, and I think is the most feasible way for me to go back and “finish” the LT100 course.  Plus I’ve been wanting to do a mountain bike stage race for awhile now.  There’s a new stage race in Iceland, and wouldn’t this be a good prep?  😀
  • USAC Hill Climb Nationals.  Obvious reasons!
  • Missing from the plans are the Gowdy Grinder.  That race is out to kill me, and I haven’t had fun at it for years.  I’m on the fence about LMBS, surprisingly.  It’ll really depend on how training and preparation goes, along with how my race calendar shapes up.  I only want to race LMBS next year if I’m in great XC shape.
  • I’ll have to see how it all fits in and goes, but being considered is USAC Marathon MTB Nationals and the 50k version of Pierre’s Hole.

There’s a theme, and once again it’s longer endurance races.  Eventually I think I’ll decide whether to focus on XCO vs. XCM, but until then I think I’m young enough to keep flip flopping 🙂

Until then… there’s cyclocross and riding just how I feel like it (wait, that’s been most of this year… ha!)!!  Also I am trying to mix it up with a few other sports.  I’m really itching to re-learn how to skate ski and add that in for my winter training (though who wants to bet how quickly I’m trying to enter ski races?).

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