This was a different race weekend for me. It was the third time I have raced at SuperCross Cup, and I was surrounded by familiar faces, but the Raleigh Clement team that I have been traveling with wasn’t there. I didn’t feel lost without the normal routine that comes with the team, traveling with Nick quelled any loneliness or nerves I may have had. What did I miss? This weekend, the mechanics and equipment support. I have been spoiled with bikes that are always clean and smooth as butter. I have taken it for granted that no matter the issue, broken part, misaligned this, loose that, my mechanics could fix it by the next preride, or even the next half lap. I am lucky, however, to be a part of a community willing to help out regardless of the circumstances. My shout-outs are going here, at the beginning of the blog, and not the end.
Thanks to promoter Myles Ramanow, for checking in with me throughout the weekend for making sure I had everything I needed.
Thanks to teammate Kerry Werner who carted one of my bikes and some wheels from Louisville to PA to NY!
Thanks to Drew Esherick from the Stan’s NoTubes CX team for helping me out with some mechanical issues, even when he had his own rider to worry about.
Thanks so much to Don Seib and Mike Robinson from BMB Next CX Team for offering their assistance all weekend, especially time in the pits during my races!
Thanks to my team and mechanics, who were willing to offer support from the other side of the country (especially my mechanic Chad Ament who called me back after I texted him at 9AM, only he was at CXLA with the team so it was 6AM… whoops)
And a super special thanks to the boy of all boys, Nick Czerula who drove me around, cleaned my bikes, and did all of the things.
After the …. Struggles … my body endured at Derby City I took a few days off of training, got a cold, and did a nice training block leading up to the weekend. Historically I have posted best-results-so-far at this race (14th in 2013 and 6th in 2014), and despite it being described as a mountain-bikey course, I like it!
Myles posted a video before the weekend started of a potential “pro-only line”, a practice that is becoming more popular, putting in a section of the course that only the elite races will ride. The section showed a steep run-up, a right-hand turn into an off-camber which consisted mostly of large, smooth rocks, and then a downhill exit through a narrow ditch before re-joining the course. Normally I would feel nervous about the inclusion of an elite-only section, because it means it is a technical and gnarly section, something that the promoter wouldn’t want to risk the safety of the “general public” on. However, I saw the video and felt excited for the challenge, something that is new for me.
Rain leading up to the race combined with poor venue drainage meant mud! Not a total slop-fest, but some large puddles, spongey ground and sloppy grass sections. My first preride of the course went really well; I rode up and through things on my first preview that others around me were totally botching. This ego-boost increased my confidence. The elite section did not fill me with dread, but it did take a few runs before I cleared it. There were three lines as I saw it, and after trying all of them, I went with the high line which took you over smooth dirt before you dropped off the edge of the rock that was rounded and no higher than a curb. It took me a few tries to get the confidence to ride off of this on my rigid-fork-cyclocross bike, but once I did it I was embarrassed I was ever nervous about it.
Alright, I had the pre-ride dialed. I was running Clement PDX’s with slightly higher-than-some-might-ride-in-mud tire pressure because of rocks and roots, often hidden under the sloppy surface threatening to flat an unsuspecting tire. Whereas I might usually choose to ride 21-22 PSI, I took it higher, closer to 25.
I had a front-row callup. The race starts, and something happens that has never happened before. I took the holeshot. I WAS THE FIRST ONE TO THE CURB TO EXIT THE PAVEMENT, AND I WAS LEADING A BIKE RACE! Why was no one coming around? Where was Jena at the very least – a known hard first-lap charger. I still lead through the first element, a big mud-puddle before a hill leading into the woods. I lead up the hill. I lead into the turn. But then, don’t worry, I Becca’d. I made some silly mistakes and bounced myself off of my bike and I was forced to run, losing many positions. As if losing the lead wasn’t bad enough, Crystal Anthony saw and told me after the race I should mountain bike more. I know I could work on my finesse, but in reality, I feel I need more practice BEING IN THE FRONT OF A BIKE RACE! I could ride that section fine, it was the nerves that got to me. Without someone to chase I found myself in a weird place – mostly in an out-of-body experience, watching this total badass I didn’t recognize LEADING A BIKE RACE!
From that point, the chase was on. I was in 6th for a stint but spent the majority of the race in 4th. Crystal had a solid lead and Arley and Jena were chasing together. I spent laps yo-yoing off of them. I would catch the two of them, find myself unable to pass because of where I caught them, and would get gapped off, usually in the section of the course that had a lot of rooty turns. When I finally overtook them, it was a commanding move. I thought for sure the pass would stick, especially with only one lap to go. However, Arley took my wheel and we were racing together. Starting that last lap together I had a mechanical going up the hill after the big mud puddle. My chain, coated with the gritty New York mud bound up between my chain rings and front derailleur. I tried pedaling through but I had to get off the bike to unkink the chain. As I ran up the hill I tried to hold off a charging Arley. Want to know what likely lost me second place? I didn’t pit, because I was afraid of losing second place. I had an entire lap to ride, and I had just had a mud-induced mechanical, something that is totally fixable by having a clean bike. But, I didn’t even think about pitting. As I passed the pit, my bike was fine, why lose time pitting when my bike was fine? I was still leading going into the last technical section before dropping down to the pavement for the finish stretch. Arley was close, and sure enough, it happened again. My chain kinked up and I was forced to dismount. I had a few moments of “I can run it in!” (I honestly thought in that moment that I could carry my bike up and over the hills and turns faster than Arley could ride them. Race brain, much?) I was off my bike and Arley passes. I hop back on and start the chase, hoping I could catch her, but I can’t. She takes second, and I have third. It’s my own mistake for not pitting, and it is a sure sign of inexperience. The good news was that there was still another whole day of racing ahead.
That evening was spent moving hotels because my “cheapest hotel close to the venue” choice was found to be inadequate, cleaning bikes, and eating pie in bed with a boosted morale (now that the bed was surely free from butt-invading critters and no one was lurking outside waiting to steal some bicycles).
The next morning while running through my bikes Nick noticed that on my A-bike the front derailleur had been tweaked, which may have been contributing to some drive-train issues I was having during the race. This resulted in me calling my mechanics trying to figure out what I should do. Both Nick and I are new to Di2, and the last time I tried to adjust my front derailleur I lost all shifting capabilities in the rear, which doesn’t even make sense. Anyone who remembers the road bike cabling fiasco of summer ’15 can attest that I am mechanically declined. He got it mostly working, but I will still not sold on how fine-tuned it was. It is like difference between a sandwich you make, and one your mom makes. You have the same ingredients, why is hers always better?
Well, after many people applied some TLC to both of my steeds, I was able to preride the course and everything seemed great. It hadn’t dried up, and I was still feeling confident. And of course, in true Supercross form, it was cold enough to were my Castelli baselayer and Toko gloves on Day 2.
The race started. I missed my pedal. CRAP. Well, you can’t expect a great start two days in a row, can you? Wait, are people like, sitting up? I clip in and pedal hard. I come around some riders (on the orange fence, which is usually a move I avoid) and HOLY CRAP LADIES AND GENTLEMEN IT HAPPENED AGAIN, I HAVE THE FREAKING LEAD OF THE BIKE RACE BEFORE THE CURB!!! I get passed in the mud after the curb but fight to stay at the front. The steep grassy hill of the start-loop for day 2 is thick with mud and I go to drop into my little ring. Crap. Under load it isn’t shifting! I guess that front derailleur wasn’t quite perfect. The announcer says something about my heavy gearing choice as riders come swarming around me. I want to yell back “THIS IS NOT BY CHOICE!!!” So once again, I am pack fodder by the barriers, and Jena has taken the lead and is gapping everyone. At some point Crystal wizzes past us all and takes her position at the front of the race. I keep chasing, and end up third maybe by the end of the first lap, with a lot of daylight between all three of us.
It was a lonely race for me, occasionally catching Jena’s wheel but failing to pass and getting gapped off again. When I finally caught her with two laps to go, I decided to pit because my front derailleur was still causing issue. Going into the pits I smack the curb suuuuuuper hard. I yell to the crew “not shifting in the front, I think I just flatted the rear”. Knowing I had no other wheels and assuming I had just killed those, I knew I was on my finishing bike. All of a sudden, every root had teeth and they were jumping out to get me. So obviously I stare at them, the enemies waiting to flat me out of the race. And what happens when we stare at things? We hit them. Those last two laps were a mix of hard root slamming and slow, ginger line selections. I finally caught Jena again after my pit, and I yelled to her that Cassie was closing. We exchanged spots a few times, and she always walked away from me in those technical rooty turns, just like the day before. But, luckily for me, I was able to pass her in the last straight-section of the course and hold my lead till the end. It came down to a sprint, and I heard the crowd going wild! I didn’t look back, I just kept the pedals slamming. I held on to 2nd place by a bike length. YES! I had broken the 3rd place curse! Three 3rds and I finally climbed onto the second step. Next stop: Top step.
So close to Thanksgiving, I have that cheesy feeling of having much to be thankful for, starting with my Amy D Foundation support. The sponsors are amazing, the people behind the program are nothing but heart, and the ride with Raleigh Clement is more than I could ask for. I’m super glad I found a coach in Kyle Wolfe that has allowed me to achieve such amazing results. To be a part of such a loving community is rad, and to have such a supportive boyfriend is what makes everything possible.
Over the next two weeks I am going to be maybe breaking my bike in an attempt to learn how to maintain and fix it, training hard and resting harder, and getting prepared for the last big race before Nationals: Jingle Cross in Iowa. Brrr.
Oh, and eating more pie.