There was something else special about that day in 2013. There was a moment of silence for a racer who was lost earlier that week. I did not know this racer, only witnessed the emotion felt that day. The silent lap. The caps worn in her honor. The ribbons handed out and worn by racers and spectators alike. The was the first race without her. Amy.
The venue of the Providence race has changed. It is now…. #notProvidence. It is KMC Cross Fest in Thompson, Connecticut. Changing the venue made it less picturesque, less familiar, less like coming home. But all things change, and the venue of the Motor Speedway had much better infrastructure, but most importantly, the cheers of the familiar providence crowd were still there.
Pouring rain on Friday night and drizzle/rain on Saturday prompted a goal re-evaluation. Knowing that mud favors those with more experience (inexperience leads to crashes, hesitation, mechanicals, or too much or too little pitting), I thought that a podium may be just out of my reach.
Temps and rain meant it was time to break out the long-sleeved Pearl Izumi skin suits and Toko gloves! The course was interesting: a lot of pavement, some turns on said pavement (knobby tires on wet pavement can be quite slick!), some slick off-cambers, and a sandy decent (this was for the UCI race only). Adding to the fun, we were told we were not able to pre-ride the sandy drop except for the last 10 minute preride window the women would be taking before our race. And it was a gnarly drop!
Trying to preride, no line was burned in, so it was deep sand that required speed to plow through it. Without that speed each time I tried to go down I just… fell over. I also crashed on preride when I slipped out of my rut on the offcamber and … went… over? The bars? My drop bars wrapped around my legs, my rear wheel left a skid mark on my right shoulder. Each time I tried to move to get up, the bike got tighter around me. A nice gentleman also preriding took the time to get off of his bike to disentangle me. It takes a village, people, it takes a village.
I was finally able to ride the drop during my last preride lap, with the help of encouraging onlookers, got the rest of my lines dialed, and tried to get my head in a positive mental space.
Getting to the line, my nerves actually decreased a little because they were still staking out part of our finish loop, so the officials allowed us to do a little parade lap of a preride before our staging so we could get a lay of the land before race time. Which was minutes away.
Front row start for Becca. YES! Thanks, world cup points. My start was not terrible, but I was only within the top 10 for the first part of the lap, but was battling for top 5 by the middle. I was involved in some bobbles on the offcamber section, but was able to ride everything cleanly.
Video of the whole group going through the offcamber, up, around, and down the drop the first lap. Pretty entertaining video, from CXSisters.
I forget how the race actually went down. I know that after I got around some of the chasers, I could see Ellen in front of me and Katie Compton pulling away from her. With 3 laps to go, I kept closing down the gap. Then, with 2 laps to go, I completely zoned out on the offcamber section and botched a remount, causing me to walk and even stop just to compose myself. It was cool and hot and humid and my Lazer glasses were fogging and splattered with mud. I toss them to the pits, only to hit myself in my own dang eye with mud not a minute later. And this was bad. The mud was IN my eye. I had to ride an entire lap with my eye closed before it was clear enough to see out of. But even then a chunk of mud came out later that night, and because of the redness and oozing I was worried it was poop mud and I had pink eye. Good news, no pink eye. Maybe not poop mud.
And on the last lap, because everything was going very well and we just can’t have that, I had a crash that sent me over the bars, as my front wheel washed out on an eroded portion of the offcamber. Luckily, the gap to 4th was large, and though I could not close to 2nd, I was secured for 3rd. My first UCI C1 podium!
Podium bags. They are a thing. Maybe more of an important thing when you are whisked to podium as you cross the line, but yes. They have importance. Everyone was getting all dolled up and I was like “guess I can scrape the mud off my legs…” I was able to procure Matt Roy to run to my tent to get a clean jersey. Again, the village.
Day 2 the course was essentially backward, heading us up the sandy run-up, and creeping us down the off-camber. I pumped a few more PSI into the IRC SeracCX muds because there was less mud, and still a lot of rocks, and I felt a ton of rim on the previous day. And though I had zero flats or problems, I am always a little uneasy when I feel the hard “chink” of a rim-on-rock.
I had a great start. Immediately it did not seem great, but I was in the top 5 by the time we finished the first few turns. Emma White was leading the first lap, I think. When we hit the track to start lap 2, I attack, and I hit the front. Of the bike race. Like, 1st place front, not front of the chase. I have never been in the front of a UCI cyclocross race. It was incredible! I don’t know how it is different than just chasing someone down, out of sight or not, but the feeling was invigorating. It was like floating. I could sure as HELL get used to THAT feeling. I honestly can’t remember if I was on the front for a half a lap or one and a half… But I can remember looking back over my shoulder and seeing that the field was shattered. Muaaahahahahaha!!! MUAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Laugh while you can, stupid girl, you are too big for your britches and you’re about to get claimed to a more familiar place.
I hit the deck.
I go into the offcamber section faster than I had been, and I get scared. I hit my brakes. My front wheel washes out and I go down. I slide forward on my side, passed my bike. I get up, run back, grab my bike and check it out to make sure it is okay as I hop back on. I only get passed by 3 people: emma white, caroline mani, and Katie Compton. Compton tells me to calm down and get on her wheel. I get on her wheel and we pace back up to the other two. Katie passes them immediately. I don’t. I sit on the back of the train. Katie starts to pull away. I pass Emma, a little roughly, and wait for my time to pass Caroline. It takes a couple of attempts, and one yell from the Frenchie, but I made it!
Then, I chased. I chased and chased and chased. I don’t think the gap to Katie grew until the last lap, when attempts to catch her proved futile. Caroline was on my wheel the whole while. There was a small gap to Emma.
Caroline passed me right when I knew she would, and she was so smooth and strong through the last section of the course that I just could not catch her. I thought for sure I could outsprint her, but she gapped me before I got the chance. So I take 3rd on day 2. To two National Champions, and women with 2-3 times the experience I do. Yea, I will take the 3rd.
I have a lot to learn. I want to be patient like Katie. I was to be ferocious like Caroline. I want to be smooth like the both of them. For now, I am just powering when I can and holding on for dear life in between.
Last season, and now this one, I have had the honor of wearing Amy’s name, riding for the Amy D Foundation. The Foundation has been providing me with the opportunity to pursue a dream, to push my limits, and to let me find where I belong. For me, having not known Amy, I can’t really say that I am riding for her. Instead, when I put on that kit, I think of the friends, family, fans, and community that loved and supported her enough to allow for a successful program to have been created in her name, and I race for them. Okay, I race for myself, too, but, I always know what I am representing. The support for me, that is really just a translation of the support for her, is incredible.
I am taking this weekend off from racing to get ready for Europe (I will still get plenty of torture from Coach Kyle, though. No rest for the wicked). I will just be there for a week to dabble in the experience. I will be with new people, on new courses, in a new culture. I love traveling, but I get so stressed out for races even in the US, I don’t think I would be making this solo trip to Belgium if it weren’t for the Amy D Foundation. They are making it not only financially possible, but also, I am doing it because of Amy. She went all in for cyclocross and made the move to the big-time in Belgium. I want to wear her name over there so she can race there again. I am drawing on her inspiration and strength. I am borrowing her dreams. So this next one is for you, Amy.
Why #ridelikeagirl, when you can #ridelikeamyd?