Race Report

Cross Was Coming, Then It Was Here, and Now It’s Gone (Almost)

2019 marked something new for me:  the first season I’d attempt to actually legit train for cyclocross.  Whaaaaaa, training you say?  I know, bizarre.  So at the end of July, after finishing up my silliness of Mountain Bike Nationals and the Laramie Range Epic in the same weekend, I began my cyclocross training plan.  My motivation was a string of three years finishing 2nd in the Colorado Cross Cup in the singlespeed category.  So there I was in my living room, doing some godawful foundational strength routine, grunting through gritted teeth “Girls are going down this season!” (in the most loving sense… I legit love the women I race against!).  And I ran… hills… multiple times.  Including 20 times in a row in near 100 degree heat in the Red Desert.  I did intervals for the first time ever outside on my road bike.  People were going down.

Season opener for me… Modern Market Cross and bunny hopping the miniature patriarchy (Photo by Brent Murphy)

My season opener was Modern Market Cross way back in mid-September.  I took the hole shot, and held it for about half a lap – until a silly extended climbing portion that just sucked.  I’d hold on for 3rd place.  I think the field was 7 or 8, so not a shabby start to my season, considering historically I don’t catch my groove until November in cross.

Blue Sky Velo Cup (Photo by Shawn Curry)

Blue Sky Velo Cup saw only two of us line up to race, so I finished 2nd.  LOL.

CycloX Valmont (Photo by Brent Murphy)

CycloX Valmont… oh Valmont.  For some reason I just never race well here.  Without Limits changed up the course A LOT, making it very “turny” (aka more technical), which was a nice surprise.  This was probably the biggest singlespeed field of the year.  Naturally, I took the holeshot (oh if cross races were just 100m long), and held it up the climb until Errin and Sarah snuck around me.  I strangely found myself in 3rd, so I went like hell to maintain that.  It all seemed well, until the last half of the last lap, where I washed out on a gravel corner.  I hit the ground hard and immediately bounced back up to spectacular applause, briefly reaching behind to make sure my butt wasn’t exposed, and took off to hold onto my 3rd place position… and I did!  HOLY CRAP I got a Valmont podium with a full field of 10!  I also earned a massive new scar across my left lower leg.

Stem CiderX (Photo by Shawn Curry)

Cross was shaping up to be a hot and dry affair this year in Colorado.  Stem CiderX was another brand new race, and had a ridiculous course with a ton of climbing.  I was the only singlespeed woman brave enough to apparently take it on, so I got to take it “easy,” take some hand ups, and still win.  Ha, we all need one of these races every once in awhile!

Primalpalooza (Photo by Brent Murphy)

Primalpalooza is one of my least favorite courses on the BRAC calendar, and this year it was coupled with crazy wind.  Held it together for a 2nd place.  Meh, I could do without racing this course ever again.

Needless to say, burning out was on my mind. Cross season began a weird downhill tumble… I suffered some rather bizarre mechanicals on my singlespeed bike and tire issues on my geared bike.  Then in mid-October, right after the US Open and on the night of my birthday, the familiar sign of a scratchy throat started and I was knocked out sick for one full race weekend, and about 10 days in general with a respiratory virus.  And with that went my motivation.  I knew it would be another year of a 2nd place finish in the Colorado Cross Cup since before then, and now it was cemented.  Then after Cross of the North I contracted norovirus and spent a week making friends with any toilet I found, all the while traveling to Dallas for work, and not really eating any food for six days straight.  By mid-November I was done, mentally and physically.

CycloX Interlocken (Photo by Brent Murphy)

CycloX Interlocken is one of my favorite races, and this year I took the holeshot and stayed out front for a long time, putting as much hurt into Sarah as I could before she got around me.  After about one lap in, my chain started clunking and catching a lot, which was making me nervous, so I backed off the power a lot (not easy to do on a grass course like Interlocken).  This allowed Sarah to ride away from me.  The clunking intensified, so I held onto 2nd as best as I could.  After I finished, I was told that I was missing two chainring bolts, which was noticed on my bike before I even raced.  Well that explains the clunking and catching and weird ness!  I began the scramble to locate new bolts as I was racing the next day.  What a bizarre to say the least… just happy the other 3 very loose bolts held.  Sigh… what could have been.  If there was a race I could’ve beaten Sarah at this year, I felt like this was the one 😦

I oddly enough do not have a photo from Amy D Breaking Barriers Cross.  That race just went like poo from the start.  Bad start, and I washed out on the first corner.  I was in 5th, and then on the last climb of the last lap, my rear wheel seized, and I was bucked from my bike.  I managed to get it kinda moving so I could finish out the race without it turning into a duathlon.  Whyyyyy with the weird mechanicals?  Singlespeed bikes aren’t suppose to break…

US Open of Cyclocross Day 1 – My shorts were too short to hold up knee warmers, so I let those aging knees out in their full glory in freezing temperatures! (Photo by Brent Murphy)

The next big weekend was the US Open of Cyclocross at Valmont.  I hate racing singlespeed this weekend as a lot of people who don’t have UCI licenses, but are otherwise cat 1 and 2 racers, pile into the category.  It didn’t really happen the first day this year, but still from the start I didn’t feel good.  Something was off.  I kept tripping on the 5280 run up, and on the last lap I smashed my lower gum/teeth hard into the handlebars.  So much pain!!  I ended up with quite the sexy bruise on my chin, and it hurt to eat.  Sigh.  Revenge of Valmont.

Cross of the North Day 2 cat 3 race – the latest in knee warmer fashion (Photo by Brent Murphy)

I needed to change something up, so I jumped into the women’s cat 3 race on day 2 of US Open of Cyclocross.  I had rediscovered my geared bike at one of the weeknight New Belgium races, and since I had the bike with me for the UCI race, I decided to give it a go (especially since singlespeed was too fast for me on this day).  I had a great race, finishing 5th and really enjoying that shifter and 10 gear selection I had to use!

US Open of Cyclocross Day 2 UCI Elite Women (Photo by Ryan Muncy)

I have a UCI license for 2019.  And dammit, I decided to use it!  I was slightly terrified (okay, really terrified) to enter my first UCI elite women’s cyclocross race,  and even the pre-ride super intimidated me.  This would be my third race of the weekend, so I felt like I was approaching it all wrong, and did I mention that I still have cantilever brakes and have no idea how to pin on shoulder numbers?!  (Luckily some cool dudes in the parking lot gave me the trick to shoulder numbers… water bottle in the sleeve!)  But there I was lined up in not the last row of my first UCI race, and probably the second biggest field I’ve been in for cross.  Naturally at the start it terrifies me, so I’m off the back chasing, and made passes on the climb.  I found myself not in last place!!  I ran those 5280 stairs, and rode harder than I had in a long time, all the while enjoying it.  Then disaster.  On climbing on Pete’s Plunge (nasty off camber) I bumped my rear tire.  This is my first time ever burping a tubeless tire during cross after running them since 2015, and at first I just ignored it.  Then I remounted after the run up and my weight slamming down onto the bike burped more out.  I rode another lap on a  squishy tire, still not in last place.  Then I lost even more.  I was effectively riding sketchy descents on a flat rear tire.  I pulled into the pits and someone rushed to air me back up as I watched the races who I was ahead of ride through.  I knew I was going to get pulled when I came around at this point, as I was in no-woman’s land, so I shrugged, and smiled, and finished out my race.  Last place.  Another “what could have been,” especially since I was riding so strong, and not feeling any pain or “omg this sucks and I’m dying thoughts.”  I was fighting so hard for positions, going aggressive on the descents, and running those damn stairs.  I kicked myself for not putting the singlespeed in the pits, so I at least could’ve had an option.  Oh well.  It was still a great experience and I’m happy I jumped into a UCI race!

Feedback Cup in the mud and slop (Photo by Terri Smith)

I got sick shortly after US Open, so I had to miss Schoolyard Cross and CycloX Louisville.  Feedback Cup in Golden was my return, and the weather gods smiled down with snow, so we would have proper cross conditions!  I didn’t know how my lungs would do, but luckily it wasn’t too cold, and I love these conditions.  I had a very slow start, but made some passes on technical parts and downhills, and found myself leading on the first lap as I let my bike dance in the mud underneath me.  Patricia caught me on the climb back up through the start finish, and I settled in to ride 2nd wheel, forgetting all about the Mrs. Potato Head first lap prime ARGHHHHHH!  (I would’ve gone for it if I remembered).  I knew it was about holding on, and letting my skills do their magic.  Sarah would catch me another lap or so in, and I settled into maintaining 3rd position ahead of some pretty strong racers.  I just was loving the hell out of the course conditions.  Seriously, I love that sensation of what I call “dancing” that my bike does in the mud.  Most people hate it, I love it.  This is why I spend all those hours on a fat bike in the winter on soft snow – so when it gets crappy in cross, I am familiar with how it feels.  Boom, 3rd place… redemption for Amy D cross that was on the same course, and a nice comeback from illness.

CycloX Sienna Lake (Photo by Terri Smith)

Weather gods once again paid me a favor, and the following weekend at CycloX Sienna Lake was snowy, frozen, and muddy.  Just depended on what time of day you raced!  My pre ride was still pretty frozen, with scary deep ruts waiting to buck off unsuspecting cyclists.  By the time we raced, it was semi frozen, but getting muddy.  Suzie jumped into singlespeed, and her and I took off at the start.  I was just happy to hang with one of the coolest girls I know for 1 minute or so, my jaw dropping as she cornered in such a beautiful manner.  We caught the back of the open women insanely early, and wove our way through course traffic on a heavily rutted gravel section.  Sarah motored past me at some point, so I took to maintaining my 3rd place position, enjoying once again that I could put my skills to work to make up for a sore lack of fitness.

Cross of the North Day 1 SW3 (Photo by Terri Smith)

Cross of the North weekend:  my favorite time of the year!  Sadly weather would remain dry, and inhumanly hot, unlike last year where a foot of snow fell.

This weekend was… disappointing.

In Saturday’s cat 3 race I just did not feel good… my stomach cramped and I ended up pulling out after a few laps.  I think it was only my second DNF in a cross race.  But I wanted to make sure I could recover for the main show later in the afternoon, the singlespeed race.

Cross of the North Day 1 singlespeed race (Photo by Brent Murphy)

Probably my most heartbreaking race of 2019 was the singlespeed race on day 1 of Cross of the North.  I took the holeshot, and settled into the lead.  I felt strong, and I was going for the Homan Prime, because making $50 is awesome, and also I consider Cross of the North my hometown race, so I put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver good results here.  I was so close to it, mostly just a sandpit and two run ups standing in my way from taking the prime, and maintaining a podium spot.  The sandpit was long, and near the end my 165 pound body naturally bogged down a bit, so I dismounted to run the last 5 feet of it.  As I dismounted, I was slammed into from behind by the woman behind me in the race, which pinned me underneath my bike, and jarring my handlebars into a position 90 degrees from normal. Race = over, really.  I rode with my awful handlebar position to the run up, and stopped to twist them as back to straight as I could (I couldn’t get them all the way), and proceeded on.  I was nearly in tears, but continued on.  Eventually, I recaught Heather, and she asked if I wanted to ride with her and just drink and take hand ups.  So we did just that… shenanigans abound!  And hey, the more hand ups I took, the straighter my handlebars seemed, ha!  We ended up crossing the finish line holding hands.  We did singlespeed cyclocross properly.  I still cried a lot that night.  It just sucked.  I get racing is racing, but grrrr.

Cross of the North Day 2 cat 3 race (Photo by Terri Smith)

After the events of day 1, day 2 of Cross of the North wasn’t appealing to me.  I showed up, and rode my singlespeed to the Square1 tent, planning on DNS-ing my cat 3 race.  With about 20 minutes to go I looked around, pulled out my bib number, and said “screw it, someone pin me up, I’ll do the cat 3 race!”.  I hustled back to my car and changed bikes, and rode to the start line with no warm up and no pre ride.  Oh, and by then I had two MASSIVE deep, open blisters on both of my heels that strangely formed the day before.  (At least 1.5″ in diameter, each of them.  Seriously, so painful).  And sometimes it’s the races like this where it all goes right!  I had a very strong race, finding the course similar to the weeknight configurations I have memorized, and traded and fought for positions.  I’d end up in 10th, which isn’t shabby as Cross of the North brought out some of the biggest and deepest women’s cat 3 fields of the season.  Boo-yah, a victory for my weekend!  (oh, and no burping.  Tire stopped acting up.  Thanks geared bike…)

Cross of the North Day 2 cat 3 race (Photo by Paul Kumm)

I legit wasn’t going to do the singlespeed race, which was the last race of the day, but then I discovered that it was just Sarah and I registered, and she didn’t want to be on the podium alone.  I agreed to race, and ten seconds in my body tossed up its white surrender flag.  I couldn’t get my heart rate up, and my blisters throbbed.  Knowing I had a guaranteed podium, I resorted to shenanigans and hands, and allowed Suzie to lap me twice.  Ha, Cross of the North… what a fun weekend!

CycloX Westminster (Photo by Brent Murphy)

hate the course of CycloX Westminster.  It’s not singlespeed friendly and has an awful cement staircase.  Yet there I was, still fighting nausea and having not eaten a real meal in about six days, on the starting line.  Everyone thought I was crazy, but it was the final race in the CycloX series so why not.  Yeah, race… went.  LOL.  I managed 2nd overall in the CycloX series, woohoo!

The Wyoming “State Championships” was the next day in Laramie.  I use quotes because this apparently wasn’t sanctioned by Wyoming State Games this year, and I’m not sure even ten people in total showed up, so I’m not putting much value on it being a “championships” compared to other Wyoming states I have raced.  The course was definitely everything a USAC/UCI course isn’t, complete with multiple creek crossings, but was actually quite fun.  I’d end up 2nd, which was expected after not eating for a week and racing the previous day and the fact that Isa is a crazy fast 15 year old.  I joked that I won the “grown ass woman” category.  Either way, always fun to race in Laramie and hop creeks.

But then… I was exhausted.  Mentally. Physically.   Though the Colorado state championships were an absolute mud fest, which makes me giddy, I opted instead of 34 miles on gravel with my friend Leigh and her husband, riding to a brewery in Boulder and getting use to being on a bike for more than 45 minutes.  It was a fun day and I didn’t regret at all not racing states.

No, it wasn’t the picture perfect season I had envisioned.  Racing rarely goes that way anyway.  But I am pleased with progress I gained this year.  I felt more confident on barriers, and had some more success in run ups.  I also just learned to keep moving through adversity, including my first mechanicals in 7 seasons of racing cross.  I might race the last cross race on the Colorado calendar on December 8th, but I haven’t decided.  Otherwise, I’m declaring an end to my 2019 race season!

I always like to shout out to those who helped me be successful the whole year… 9Seventy Racing teammates, the amazing people of Square1 Cycling, Maxxis Tires for their support, Tailwind Nutrition for their support, Theresa Hansen at Little Lotus Yoga, Anthony Zegan of BikeWyo – my ever awesome mechanic, and friends and family who deal with the “no, I’m racing my bike then…” nonsense.

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