Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Race Report: SuperPrestige CX La Vista Park

Originally I had said I wasn't going to do any of the SuperPrestige races.  I'm excited that there are additional cx options in the area, but I think I raced entirely too much last season and I needed to make a cut somewhere.  Well, I went back on my word.

Sunday we packed up and headed up to Godfrey.  It was about a mile and half course.  It had been well ridden because the grass was gone on most of it--it was dry, dusty dirt.  I pre-rode the course and was comfortable on it.  Nothing really technical, some longer climbs, a few off camber turns.  One set of tall barriers, one set of short.  I warmed up in the grass around the course, following the tape on the outside.
I was smiling early on . . . *Photo credit: Mike Dawson
We had nine very strong ladies in our field.  We got the whistle and were off.  Liz was first off the line with Carrie on her wheel and I jumped in third.  I was feeling great, doing well until the off camber switch backs.  My turns were off.  I couldn't seem to corner well and I didn't know why.  All of a sudden I had given up four places.  I started out on course again and still didn't feel right.  I couldn't figure it out until I tried to shift and felt like I was reaching.  My bars were tilting.  By the time I hit the pit, my levers were faced downwards.  UGH!

I switched bikes in the pit and took off.  Something was wrong though.  I felt too extended to get power on my pedal stroke. I remounted after the short barriers and could barrier swing my leg over the saddle.  Enough!  Racing, in spite of the 'normal' pain, is supposed to be fun.  This was sucking. I rode to start/finish and withdrew.

Lesson learned: I need to be better at checking my equipment. No one's fault but my own.  I spent the rest of Sunday afternoon making sure my bikes were in working order.  They were cleaned, lubed, and tightened.  This won't happen again.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Race Report: CrossVegas

It was finally here--Vegas, baby!  My first elite race.  I've been waiting for this race since I catted up in January and bought my UCI license.  Time to pit myself against the "big girls". While I had no delusions of granduer, I wanted to make a decent showing and not being totally outclassed.  Yeah, right!

The course for CrossVegas was tough but fun.  It was just at two miles.  The race started with a "hot lap" that looped around the upper field before taking a right down into the lower bowl.  There were no real technical pieces, the turns were smooth and fluid.  There was one set of normal barriers, up hill with a turn after, and three sets of 'stairs'--short barriers, four in succession, uphill with sand holding them in place.  The bottom half also had a hill that was brutal.  It was a long grinder, not to steep, just thick energy zapping grass.  The top section had a flyover ramp.  I loved it because you actually up and over the ramp.

I pre-rode several laps on Wednesday morning and got a good feel for the course.  I knew anyone who could ride the stairs would definitely have a time advantage, but that wasn't going to be me.  That's a skill I still need to develop.  I went back to the course around 4:30 to get my number and hang out.  It was fun to watch the USAC and Wheelers/Dealers race.  The temperature dropped a great deal once the sun went down.  I warmed up on a field adjacent to the course.  I did a few sprints and dismounts/remounts while spinning out my legs.  When the course opened I did another lap and then just rode around the hot lap section until we were called to staging.  Being as I have no UCI ranking, I was way in the back for the start.  I wasn't worried.  My goal for the night was to not be pulled, not be lapped and not be last.  We got the green light and took off.

Got greedy! *photo credit: cxmagazine.com
I've been in large cx races before, but this was craziness.  I was timid navigating the hot lap trying to get around ladies. We headed off onto the course and I felt better.  I passed a few ladies.  We hit the barriers and I felt smooth through those and the first set of stairs.  I lost a little ground on the switch backs climbing up the back side.  I finished lap one and headed back out.  I was to the barriers the second time and the camouflage guy jumped out . . . cash handups.  I thought about it and decided why not.  Well, he was a bit too close to the barriers and my dismount was a wee bit late.  I got off the bike but was carrying too much momentum and hit it.  Back wheel up, body forward, but I did not fall.  I stood up and smiled at the crowd, getting great cheers.  I hopped the barriers and remounted to realize my chain was off.  I put it back on and took off.  I had been passed by several girls and it was time to make up ground.  The rest of the race I concentrated on doing just that.

I was able to bring back two girls.  I rode well through the course, I just didn't have the go that the top ladies have.  I got better on the long hill each time, I think through endurance and finding the right body position on the bike.  We did five laps in all, each one was very fun. Having that large of a crowd cheering and heckling was an experience like no other. A lesson learned though: I need to be more aware of feed zone rules for cx though.  I know I could have taken a bottle at sometime, I just didn't know when and didn't want to chance it.  I was DRY by the time race was over.  While I didn't make a stellar showing, I met my goal for the race--I wasn't last, I wasn't lapped, and I wasn't DFL.  
On the line, waiting to go.  *Photo credit: cyclingnews.com

Hot lap -- see me in the back! *photo credit: velonews.com
Will I do CrossVegas again?  Absolutely.  It just remains to be seen whether or not I'll do the UCI race or the USAC race.  Either way, it's an experience not to be missed!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Race Report: Hermann CX 2012

Saturday morning I helped out at a cross clinic.  It was good for me to go through a few drills and get some feedback from some more experienced racers.  I headed to Hermann after that was over.

I was there early enough to get laps on the course between a few races.  The turns were all wide and smooth.  Obstacles included normal barriers, three short barriers on an uphill, one section of stairs and a sand pit with a turn.  I watched the single speed race to see if any of them were able to ride the short barriers or the sand -- they were all running it which was what I had been planning on.  An hour before my race I got ready and headed out to warm up.  I did a few hills and surges and also hit some grassy areas.  I did one more lap on the course and headed to the line.  There were seven of us racing.  We got instructions and the go.  I was sixth off the start.  I definitely need to work on my cx starts!  We wove our way through the "technical" section of the course and the lead three (Sunny, Karen, and Jenn) were beginning to get a gap.  Cory was on my wheel, but I knew she starts hot and fades, so I wasn't worried there.  I took the barriers smoothly and added some gear on the first pavement section.  We hit the grass again and wound to the short barriers.  I was smooth going over them, but I'm guessing dropped my bike too hard because I dropped my chain.  I had to stop to put it back on and Cory passed me.  I told myself I would get her on the power section on the field or the stairs.  I jumped back on the bike and went down the short hill and back up the other side.  SNAP. There went my chain.  Not much I could do at that point because the pit was still a good distance -- time to run.  I started to shoulder the bike and realized I was better off pushing it.  I kept a nice pace and ran through the baseball field and up the stairs.  I rode the bike down the hill and to the next up hill before I dismounted and ran again.  Through the sand and another hill and back to the pit.  I switched bikes and was off.  At this point I knew that I didn't have a snowball's chance of placing in the race, but I was not about to let up.  I needed a good workout and no better way to practice racing than in a race.  I rode solid and switched back to my bike at the end of that lap.  I was able to close the gap between Cory and me to 50 seconds by the last lap.  My highlights for the race were cornering well, even in the dark and staying focused on going hard even though I was way off the back.  My areas to work on our remounts on pavement -- I bobbled a few at the top of the stairs and starts.
Just happy to cross the line! *photo credit: Dan Singer
Sunday's course was much the same as Saturday's with one notable exception. Sunday we ran the full set of stairs...61 of them I've been told. There was also an added section with an off camber down switchback to an uphill off camber 180 around a tree.  I won't lie, that section made me nervous every lap.  I warmed up on the road again and took a few extra times down the added section.  I wanted to make sure I had good lines for it.  We had 10 ladies in the race on Sunday--three the same as the night before, everyone else was fresh.  Off the line I was in sixth place.  I was following Mary Piper and was on her heels up the stairs.  I should have switched sides on the stairs so I could get around her, but my hypoxic brain wasn't thinking that clearly.  She got a gap on me on the downhill section.  I was determined not to let her get away.  Also, Teresa was right on my wheel at that point.  We started through the turns on lap two and I got a little heckling from a friend.  When I yelled back Teresa commented "how can you still talk, I'm dying."  That made me think that I wasn't going hard enough so I added gear and went harder.  I got closer to Mary, but wasn't able to over take her.
Top of the steps . . . those hurt!  *photo credit: Mike Dawson
The off camber section after the turns.  Yep, scared me! *photo credit: Dan Singer
In lap three I knew I was closing the gap on her. Plus I could see Liz and Karen in front of Mary.  I knew if I got Mary, I could get them as well.  Lap four we hit the baseball field and I put my head down and went after her.  I was on her wheel at the dismount for the stairs.  She took the right side and I took the left.  Run, run, run.  It helped that I had my Boo yelling at me "Faster, Mommy, faster. Your mom can take these stairs faster than you."  I was a half step in front of her at the top and I lunged forward with the bike, set it down and remounted.  I got the line for the downhill.  It was now time for a gap and fourth place.  I saw Liz in the sand when I went over the hill.  I knew I could take her.  I was able to pass her in the first wide turn after the start finish.  I knew with Liz I would have to keep going strong because she is known for fighting her way back.  I started concentrating on catching Karen.  I could see her in front of me on the stairs on that lap.  I passed her just before the start/finish and beginning of Lap 6.  I heard the announcer say that I must have been lapped . . . he apologized later.  Karen passed me again going through a turn.  I stayed on her wheel through the barriers and subsequent turns and overtook her again on the pavement.  She got me through the second turn on the grass.  We went over the short barriers, just a few paces apart.  She edged me out on the downhill/uphill and I knew I had to do something if I wanted the podium spot.  We hit the pavement section and I attacked and didn't look back.  I got a sizable gap on her and knew I needed to ride smart and strong and finish the last lap well.  I got a gap count for Jenn in second.  She was about 30 seconds ahead of me, but I ran out of time to catch her.  All in all it was a great race for me.  It reinforced that I need to work on starts.  And while I'm remounting quickly, I'm still double hopping to do it.  I know in my cx skills workouts I'll be slowing down my remounts to work on that muscle memory piece.  
Podium shot -- two great ladies to share it with! *Photo credit: Dan Singer

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Race Report: Gateway Cup

I got to the park and the rain started coming down in buckets. It was going to be a soggy one.  I got registered and dressed the rain dwindled.  By the time I was ready to warm up, it was drizzling at most.  I rode around the area, making sure I had good tire pressure and could corner well.  It came time to go to the line.  We were having some spurts of rain, but nothing like earlier.  17 women lined up, we got instructions and were off.  I didn't know most of the field and that always makes me a little nervous.  I knew I wanted to be upfront and out of any craziness.  We got our first prime about four laps into the race.  Right after turn 1 Tricia (Korte Hammerdown) took off.  I jumped and bridged up to her wheel.  I thought I we would be off, but right before turn three Stephanie, her teammate, led the pack back to us.  We turned the corner and Aimee (Michelob Ultra Big Shark) took off.  I wasn't anticipating her jump, so there was no way for me to grab her wheel without bringing the pack.  I sat up and let the other girls work.  She had a nice gap on the field, won the prime and kept going.  It didn't seem like anyone was working hard to bring her back.  For the next three laps or so, her lead was under 15 seconds.  I stayed second wheel to whomever was leading the chase, but refused to pull through.  I felt like I had it to bridge, but didn't want to bring the group.  Her lead then began to steadily grown.  About 25 minutes in we got a field prime.  I stayed in position until we rounded turn four and then got out of the saddle.  It was mine.  For the rest of the race I stayed second or third wheel and chased down anyone who decided to jump.  I knew Aimee's gap was good, but I didn't want anyone to get away.  We came down to the last lap.  I knew where the optimal sprint was and jumped when it was time.  I hit the line for a third place finish.
Sitting in and not letting anyone chase Aimee.  *Photo credit: Mike Dawson

Saturday--Francis Park
It was nasty humid again on Saturday.  The rain poured down as soon as I finished registering.  I sat in the car until it let up and then put the bike together and headed to the trainer tent.  I hate warming up on trainers because I don't ever feel ready to race.  Today was no exception.  I was also timid to start because I crashed on this course last year.  We had about the same number of ladies racing, a few sets of fresh legs though.  We got instructions and were off.  It rained on us mid race for about four laps.  There were lots of attacks coming from the usual suspects, but no one was letting the break go like the night before.  I never could get lined up for the primes in this race.  My positioning before turn four was okay, but not where I like.  I made sure I was close to the front, but didn't nab any.  The race once again came down to a field sprint.  My legs had ached most of the race and just didn't have it to be up front.  It was a sixth place finish on the day, leaving me in fifth place for the omnium.  Aimee lost the jersey to Tricia.
Wet once again!  *Photo credit: Don McKinney

Once again overcast and muggy.  We got a few spurts of rain during warm up, but the race itself was sunny, hot and humid.  The kids had come with us to the race, so I knew I'd have a great day out there.

Did someone say prime??? *photo credit: Mike Dawson
We got instructions and took off.  I was feeling really good and was ready to make some noise during this race.  A few laps in we got a prime bell.  I know for this course you have to be in place before turn three or your chances are slim to none.  The HED girl jumped early on the backside and took off.  I was ready to chase her down.  We were both off the pack, with her having a slight gap on me.  I took turn four poorly and had to brake to avoid the curb.  I never was able to make up ground on her.  She was tired off her jump and I caught her just after the line, and the pack got us after turn one.  A few laps later the bell went again.  I wanted this one bad.  I was sitting up front and ready for any move.  No one went.  We made turn four and I sat on Aimee's wheel and let her take me to the fencing.  I was up and going.  I crossed the line and claimed it without issue.  On the back side Kelly (KC) jumped.  I didn't know if I could react and let the field chase her down.  I had to work the rest of that lap to get back on the pack.  Three laps later another prime.  Again Aimee tried to lead me out but the HED girl was a bit smarter this time.  We went to the line and she got me by a wheel.  Again the race was coming down to a field sprint.  I was sitting in a great position on Aimee's wheel coming down the hill to the finish when Amy McClintock (Team Rev) came on my inside in the gutter.  I went wide and lost my lead out.  I sprinted hard and went to the line against Aimee.  I was scored fourth, but the photos I've seen look like I edged her for third. Regardless, she (and Big Shark) had the leader jersey back.  I got a talking to from the official about not holding my line on the sprint.  I held my tongue and didn't give her excuses as to why.

Overcast and cloudy but no rain on Monday.  I got a great warm up in the neighborhood and was ready. I didn't get a front row position on the start, but was ready when the whistle came.  I knew for this race it could be easy for a break to make it so I wanted to be up front and ready.  The ladies had lots of problems with corners and lines in this one.  I'm really surprised no one went down.

Three laps in our first prime came.  I wasn't necessarily interested in it because I wanted to save my legs for the final sprint.  We made our final corner and one of the out of town girls jumped early.  No one went after her.  Well, if no one else is doing anything I might as well see what my legs had.  I'm assuming she thought it was hers because I took off and caught her without problem.  It wasn't even close at the line.  We started our way around again and crossed over by the brewery.  I heard "Go Mommy!"  My smalls were there.  I yelled "yes" and had a new sense of energy to race.
*photo credit: Mike Dawson
Two laps later the next bell went.  I had no intention of going for it, but again wanted to stay close.  I crossed the line third.  Another prime two laps later with similar results.  With two to go Tara (Michelob Ultra Big Shark) was ramping up the pace.  We were ready to hit turn six and there was a truck in the middle of the course.  I know I yelled "oh shit" and we somehow maneuvered around it.  Final lap--I was where I wanted to be through six.  The back of the pack swarmed and as we made the final turn I found myself blocked in.  I started my sprint early to make up the ground I had lost and gained several places.  I found myself going against Aimee at the line again.  She took sixth and I got seventh.  It was enough for her to win the omnium, but knocked me off the podium for the weekend.

Overall I was pretty happy for the weekend.  My legs felt great and I was able to mentally talk myself through races where I was uneasy.  My bike handling was what it should be and I felt like I had my sprint back.  I reinforced to myself that I'm better off warming up on the road versus the trainer.  If I could change anything I would've jumped sooner on some of the finishing sprints.  I think I probably had more in my legs than I gave myself credit for.