One of these days I’m going to get organized and have a plan for race day as to when to change into the bike kit, when to start the warm-up, etc. Until then I will remain slightly behind and have to rush to be ready. It’s hard to be organized though as cross is about hanging out, cheering, and snapping some photos. Sure, it’s also about the racing but in some ways the racing is just a small part of what makes cyclocross so fun. You may be cheered/jeered to peddle harder, coast less, run faster and go harder but then you get to do the same to others.
This week was the first ever official cyclocross race to be held in a City of Madison Park. Discussions about the potential for holding a race in the city have been going on now for a few years but team Magnus finally stepped up, jumped through all the hoops, went to a zillion meetings and put down the required deposit to make it happen. All I can say is kudos to them for doing it as the course was amazing. Definitely my favorite of the year so far (although I, of course, would have loved the USGP course had I raced it and not just helped build it).
So not a good warm up as usual but luckily the start was pretty mellow compared to normal. I was actually tacked on the group and even had one person behind me. After the start straight we come to some good swoopy corners which don’t require breaking except when you’re in a train of other riders. Through the corners and to the barriers and I get around another rider by carrying good speed through and getting on the bike fast. Then it’s to another set of corners where the woman I passed tries to repass me but touches my wheel and she goes down in the corner. I check if she’s okay and since she is I keep chasing the group which has now suddenly decided to put the hammer down and is flying away.
The large group pulls away but I keep focus on trying to ride hard as I now I have two riders behind chasing me. I feel good when I hit the 4 log section which requires a dismount as the logs are just too tricky to be worth attempting to ride. I’m off, over and back on in and for a moment I feel like the cross rider I used to be (ie, smoothish and fastish). Then after what seems like 5 seconds and absolutely zero time to recover you are headed down and back up to the next barrier and hill run-up.
The hill run-up is substantial although not the longest in the season but running is a bit of a nemesis for me this season (note to self – it is good to run a little during the summer even if you think every day is too hot for such an activity). After the hill came a section of several cool turns that took you down the hill, around and down an off camber section, back up, and then down. Then across the grass to the bridge crossing where someone is standing in your lane, try to yell at them to move, slow down so you don’t hit them and finally you’re headed towards the finish. Now there is a racer breathing down your neck and so try to speed up in the grass straight away. But the grass is sucking all of your momentum and you feel like you’re moving slowly and you get passed.
Keep the pace up through the turns, trying to minimize any braking and just ride the right line to carry speed. Back to the barriers and staying with the woman who passed. She’s definitely putting out more power but try to use my many years of racing to be smooth over the obstacles and take good lines. This works for about half a lap or so before fitness wins the day and she's got a good gap that won't be closed. Then it’s time for just making sure I keep ahead of the rider behind me. Thankfully years of racing against her has given me the knowledge needed to know where I can gain time – corners and obstacles – so I work those as best I can. My hill running is still a disappointment to me but I’m shouldering the bike in an attempt to at least look pro.
And then here comes the leaders of the men’s race, I get over to let them get a clean pass and they give me a cheer and then all 3 give me a pat on the back/butt. And to think I was a little nervous about racing with the Cat 3 men after many years of racing with the master’s guys. I think the Cat 3 guys are possibly more chill than the master’s.
That gives me one lap to go when I go through the finish area and now it's time to just ensure I don’t make any dumb mistakes that would open up the opportunity for Heidi to close down the gap I have. Luckily the gap has been growing and I roll in for 7th out of 8.
Then a quick change out of the bike clothes and it’s time for some serious cheering, jeering and heckling for the next 2 races. It was super fun to be spectating the elite women’s race as there was some serious racing going on with people going back and forth throughout the race before Abby Strigel finally triumphed over Holly Klug and right behind was new Cat 2 racers Alyssa Severn and Sarah Huang.
Definitely put Warner Park on the list of places you need to be next Fall to race cross!
In this photo by Frank I am breaking many of Adam Myerson's rules of cross fashion. No skinsuit is a huge gaffe but in my defense there aren't enough people on my team to meet the minimum so jersey and shorts it is for me. I'm wearing long fingered gloves with short sleeves. My only defense on this one is that I had a house guest over the weekend and I was packing while chatting with him and so only grabbed the one pair of gloves. Ooops! The nylons are a HUGE mistake apparently. Apparently those make it look like I'm desperate to be cute, don't want to be seen as serious and am afraid of success. I have developed a huge fan base for my socks and nylons but clearly it is time to retire the look or be forever in the fashion don't column (maybe I can get away with this since it was Halloween??). Luckily you can't see how my number is pinned as it is probably all wrong from a fashion stand point (that will have to stay as is until next season as I wash my jersey with the number on for convenience on race day). My bar tape is black so that is boring. And I've never gotten around to removing the top mount brake levers which I'm pretty sure is not just a sign of laziness but also of some heinous cross transgression. However,on the positive side I was racing hard (just in case you can't tell!). I really didn't want Heidi to catch me as I was embracing success as a Cat 3.
The worst part is that I am not positive I'm a tastemaker. Wait, maybe a midwestern tastemaker (which I'm sure to coasties is an oxymoron of epic proportions) . . . I have seen others sporting some no longer ironically cool tall socks . . . and if I'm not a tastemaker it doesn't matter as I do like breaking rules. I think the handbook for women over 40 says "screw the rules" so maybe I should dig those no longer ironically cool tall socks back out!!