The season opener, a big show out in Rochester, NY at Genesee Park. Nothing like your first race of the season being a C1 UCI race. Seriously, I didn’t even have a training race. Plus, it was a new venue and a new course. I had been visualizing for the Ellison Park course all summer: hot weather, long climbs, sweeping turns. I had done well last year, 8th and 6th, so I was envisioning the podium all summer. Then with the change in venue, some of my confidence was shaken. What was the new course going to be like? Was my previous season-opener success a result of the weather, the course, or just myself? I wasn’t sure how to shake my mindset.
In addition, this UCI race would be my equipment shakedown. Super casual, so pro.
Some Technical Deets
- Frame: Scott Addict CX 10 disc. This thing is LIGHT!
- Brakes: Shimano Ultegra HYDRO disc. Emphasis on the hydro. I can achieve a full stop off of a fast decent with ONE FINGER! Though I suggest 2 for potential cramping over long durations.
- Groupset: Shimano Ultegra 11-sp. 2x. I need to specify the 2x, apparently. Everyone is all about the 1x these days. A girl needs choices, though! I am running 34×44* Wickwerks rings. (* I was actually running 34×42 this weekend due to some frame-fit-struggle).
- Wheels: Stan’s NoTubes Valor carbon. Because it isn’t always about what equipment you do have, but what you don’t. Tubeless setup means no tubes, and no glue. Can I emphasize that any more? No glue.
- Tires: IRC SERACCX. These things require some hand strength to get onto the rim, but once on, they seat with a hand pump, and don’t unseat.
I carpooled with Coach Kyle from the Vermont line over into NY. Not driving is like, the best. Driving makes me crampy and cranky. Friday I pre-ride, hug all of the friends I have been missing all summer, and make myself at home in my new tenty-digs. I had known Drew from last season, but I got to joke around with him and I found we will be able to be friends. This is good. Because I feel most mechanics end up hating me so it’s great to start at a high level of likeability.
We had host housing with Andy August and family of Park Ave Bikes in Rochester, NY; Thank you so much for the hospitality!
Saturday I arrived at the venue very early thanks to Drew’s commitment to customer service and my care for the environment and wanting to carpool. The goal was to stay calm and cool; the max temp was 91F (33C) and the sun was relentless.
The good news for me was that the course allowed for a lot of use of power. So much power. There were some technical sections, a few small logs to go over or drop down, a few downhill chicanes, a cool section they called a 6-turn half pipe (I called it mini Sidewinder for all of you KT familiars) and then just dust and grass. My offroad work this summer paid off because I had no doubts in my mind about anything on the course.
The only section of the course that required some actual thought and planning was the “Abus drop” or something. That was the official name, but it was eventually called “the dust bowl”. It was steep and VERY dusty. I was able to ride down, but the turn at the bottom had to be tight and riding out of the dust was hard, so it was faster and easier to run. Once I knew I was running it was just plain obvious to me that the best idea was a drive-side dismount for the right-hand turn. The question was where to dismount. You want to maximize your time on the bike, but at the same time control your speed to make a safe transition to the steep downhill run in deep dust. The dust is not only slick, but hides anything you may trip on. Check out my instagram for a video of the Dust Bowl (@gofahr)
I did 3 laps on Friday and 2 or 3 on Saturday then I decided it was enough. I was confident! I was running 22 psi with the tubeless set-up. The ground was very hard, and that pressure kept my rolling resistance to a minimum and offered enough cushion to prevent my glasses from shaking off of my head in the bumps. Life is a balance.
I am never sure how to warm up in the heat: I don’t want to be hot but I don’t want to be sluggish. I wore an ice sock to the grid to do some start efforts and wait for the call ups. I was second row, and my start was not what I hoped for. This was my first time on a 42t ring and I think I started too high on the cassette and I just couldn’t get the speed I wanted. And to add another excuse, nerves really get to me on the start grid and just choke me out.
I was too far back and allowed too many gaps to open in front of me which put a lot of time between me and the leaders. At some point I was sitting top 20. I dumped the bike on lap one, taking a turn too tight and fast and letting my rear wheel slip out. More spots gone right before the techy section of the course that doesn’t allow for much passing.
Grassy straight away. Make some passes. Sit in for the turns. Close gaps on the straights. Stay calm in the turns.
Pretty soon I catch Ellen Noble, Emma White and Amanda Miller. I try to pass them but Ellen puts in a huge effort and I can’t respond; I had burned a couple of matches just to get to them. I get gapped and need to work to get myself into the group. It takes another lap before I can get a good pass on Ellen but by then Emma had ridden away up to second. Sitting 4th I was trying to just stay steady, but with around a lap and a half to go, Amanda Miller passes me and I just let her go. “Bye Amanda, have fun” I say. Around that point I found my bottle too distracting; all I could think about was taking a drink, so I toss it away. I ask myself if I can go harder. I have goosebumps, maybe I can’t. I cross the line in 5th. But, Maghalie Rochette, who had been leading, faded HARD into 4th due to a case of heat stroke. If I only had KNOWN about the HEAT STROKE I could have fought for FOURTH! Seriously, though, Maghalie went to the hospital, is fine now, but let us all take this into consideration. Health first, finish second. Literally, care about your health first so I can win. Bur seriously for real, way to push Maghalie. I am glad you are okay!
So, 5th in a C1: my best C1 to date! Following the 6th at Nationals I felt I was picking up where I left off. I was, however, disappointed. I wanted better. I expected better. I know I could have done better. I crossed the line and knew I had another gear I didn’t tap into. Maybe it was the heat deterring me, maybe it was nerves telling me to just stay safe and calm this go-round. Why do I keep allowing myself disappointment!?
Day 2. I wake up at 5AM, STARVING and needing to pee. Unable to sleep, I ponder how much weight I would gain if I ate all of my snacks in addition to my breakfast before we leave for the venue.
Another early day at the venue, cooler temperatures and the course was unchanged minus one set of turns on a hillside that was altered because a huge tree limb came down over the course overnight. I did one lap of preride before the race. After that, I was just trying to think confident thoughts.
I get off the line a little bit better day 2, but still just sitting top ten. I let a few spots go in that first lap, not willing to be aggressive enough to fend off passers-by. Once everything thins out a little I start hunting. A few riders at a time, after two laps I have passed everyone but the main chase group and the leaders. It was Miller and Mani up and a chase group of Antonneau, White, Anderson, Mcfadden and Noble. I work my way to the front of that group and just ride. I know they are all sitting there behind me. That was not ideal on half of the course, wide grassy lanes with lots of wind, but I just want to ride to close that gap and maybe shake some of these ladies off of my tail.
Mani and Miller putting time into chase group of five riders. pic.twitter.com/L0MUk5DpLQ
— Clement Pro Team (@ClementProTeam) September 11, 2016
Each time I look back we lose another rider from the train. Soon Noble and McFadden were gone. A half a lap later I see Miller ahead, popped from Mani who was like, a million miles ahead. As I pass Miller I tell her to hop on the train. She tells me to ride smart because I had two (Cannondale) teammates on my wheel. This isn’t a road race, though. I know that if I can keep in front of them, any errors I make will slow them down as opposed to gap me off. At one point in the woods, I was red-lined, and I make sloppy slow turns. Antonneau is annoyed with this, but I just take note that I have a long way to go before I reach that level of all-time smoothness, and keep cranking.
With two laps to go I come to the Belgian stairs. I forget who was behind me, but I end up walking the last two steps, trying to see if anyone would pass. No one did. So I kept going. I know I was risking blowing up, but I had to see if I could ride at the front of the race. Did I have what it took? I know that some of the other riders dug deeper than I did the day before and the efforts left their legs empty, but I need any bit of confidence I can get from this day! I KNOW I BELONG ON THAT PODIUM!!!!
So I keep cranking away, and sure enough, I was able to cross the line in second, just 17 seconds behind Mani. My closest finish to first. Not my first UCI podium (I had 3 last year, I think. Maybe 4), but by far the biggest. Still a C2 race, but a C1 crowd.
Most importantly, this was my first weekend, and last race, before Vegas.
Vegas of CrossVegas, the world Cup Season opener. I will be starting VERY far back in the grid, so I am not sure what to expect of my finish, but I am sooo excited to see what I can do on that course, similar to this one, against the best in the world.
A podium the first weekend of the year. What more can I ask for? I am going to carry this confidence with me for the rest of the year. Every race this year, I am racing for the podium. Even at Vegas and Iowa, I will race for the podium, even knowing I am coming from maybe 4 or 5 rows back, I will not allow myself to be complacent. I will keep thinking “I can do better. I can fight harder”. And I will keep pushing!