A Muddy Uphill Battle

Yea, I know, I have not updated in a while. But I have been busy! Since I got back from Europe I have been busy resting, being sick, recovering, training, working, and worrying.

The weekend following the Valkenburg World Cup was the Continental Championships in Cincinnati, OH. I went out to race, knowing I was not in strong contention for the win even in top form, but, on top of that, I was sick. I knew it on Thursday afternoon, I felt the tickle in my throat. And by the time Saturday came around, I knew I wouldn’t have it in me to do half the effort I was capable of. Despite being sick and tired, I still managed two top tens in the weekend! The following weekend was another C1 weekend in Louisville. I was still sick, but, wanting to pretend it is my job to race, I made the trip and put in the efforts, again finishing top ten and in the points both days. After that, it was time for some rest, healing, and working to get back into form.

It was a huge mental blow to have such a great early season, a successful euro campaign, and then to get some sub-par results. I discuss this in the CX Hairs podcast I did, but it is worth noting again how hard it is to be an athlete who has only ever improved, and then to get sick and barely be able to beat out a prior year’s performance. After a few weeks off (“OFF” as I was working more than ever in addition to doing hard training on the bike) I made a return to one of my favorite races of the year, Supercross! The venue changed, and everyone said if I was ever to win a UCI race, it would be this one. My biggest competition was Maghalie Rochette and Crystal Anthony. The course was a grass field with climbs, how could I mess this up!? Well, let me tell you how. Low fitness and lower morale. I came in 3rd both days. I had no engine, no power, no mental fight. Another blow to my ego. Cyclocross is a muddy, uphill battle.

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However, By the end of Day 1 at Supercross, I had stopped racing and started having fun, and here are 2 photos to evidence this: I am smiling in one, and worked for a few laps to ride the “stairs” and finally did!

The spectator is looking back at me because I am lolololololing at myself Photo by Nick Czerula
The spectator is looking back at me because I am lolololololing at myself
Photo by Nick Czerula
Photo by Nick Czerula. "riding" the "stairs"
Photo by Nick Czerula.
“riding” the “stairs”

The following week being Thanksgiving, I could take a weekend off from racing, train hard, and try to drop some weight. Working with Coach Kyle, I was finally starting to see the power come back and I successfully dropped a few pounds. WOO HOOO!

The weekend after Thanksgiving there were no UCI races. The weekend after that? 3. Three. NBX in Rhode Island, Major Taylor in Indianapolis, and Ruts n Guts in Broken Arrow, OK. It was hard to decide where to go, because NBX was a double C2 weekend and a cheap choice, as it was driveable, but, Ruts n Guts was a C1. Major Taylor was the worst of both of those worlds. I chose Ruts n Guts in hopes that it would look better in my vying for a world’s spot: losing to Katie Compton and all. Good practice. Either way, it was free points weekend across the US. Or at least to the middle of the US. I have no idea what OK is considered. West? Midwest? Mid? South? Central? BFE?

Photo by Nick Czerula
Photo by Nick Czerula

I am calling it a good choice, if for no other reason than I finally go to race with Jake Wells, manager of the Stan’s NoTubes Cyclocross team who has been out due to injury for most of the season, and his family got to come watch him race! Yay!
The course was pretty rad. It was super technical despite not having that single crowd-drawing feature. The corners were flowy, not choking, the sand was tricky, not a pointless addition of frustration, the log-barriers through the beer tent were a skills-highlighter, and each pass through the drainage ravine was a test of your line-choice. In fact, line choices were a factor throughout the race as the course was riddled with divots, roots, rocks and undulations. In a good way, not a bad way. It was actually a huge game changer for my confidence to be on Stan’s NoTubes, becuase I had zero fear of flatting so I was able to be much more liberal with my decisions of line-choices. I am still flat-free. Day 1 it rained for our races making the grass a little slick, then it rained throughout the night and the sun came out in the afternoon to make Day 2 tacky and fast.

I smiled when I pre-rode the course at race-pace. “Race-pace”. It was fun! Not knowing were my race fitness was, seeing who was registered, and understanding the course had a ton of spots where every type of rider could excel I had NOOOO idea where to expect to be racing or finishing. Fear not: Day 1, the idea of anyone except Katie Compton winning was immediately abolished. She was like, gone. After a sizeable gap had formed, I decided I had already waited too long, took to the front of the chase group, and just rode. Feeling the pressure of riders on my wheel made me nervous and choke up through the techy sections and I didn’t have the pop in my legs to sprint hard enough to gap anyone. Any time I had a gap, I managed to bobble enough to allow chasers to close it again.

Me? Let a gap open? Neverrrr. Supercross. Photo by NIck Czerula
Me? Let a gap open? Neverrrr. Supercross.
Photo by NIck Czerula

There were 5 or so of us in the group chasing down Compton. And by that, I mean there were 5 of us racing for second while Compton put nearly 2 minutes into us. Seriously. I was battling hard with Miller, Antonneau, and Gilbert the whole time. Each time one would pass me I would pass them back as soon as I could. The deciding moment came in the last lap, when Sunny passed me before the sand, bobbled, and made me awkwardly top-tube waddle, while Antonneau passed us by running through. She was gone and after spending the whole race in second place, I was fighting for 3rd by the end. Go figure, that happened the last C1 race I podiumed as well. But, I felt great! I was back to my old self, even improved. I didn’t wait. I didn’t succumb. I know I made tactical errors, I know I made frantic errors, and I know I rode some sections slower than I could have, but I still rode smoothly.

Day 2 is not even worth writing about. The course was just as rad and flowy, but the start was off-kilter. Amanda Miller got the lead off the line- not surprising. But after her came a slew of people I did not know, then myself, and everyone I know was behind me, including Compton. A huge gap opened up between the group and Miller until we were able to reshuffle. I tried to pass a few times but just couldn’t. That is my bad, my weakness. I need to train with Caroline Mani on the art of “Passing Because I Deserve To”. Also known by others as “Being Douchey” but to them the response is “Rubbin is Racin”, or, “If You Didn’t Want To Get Passed You Should Have Gone Faster”.

Any-who. I passed in a pleasant, grassy straight section. Compton passed me by riding the log-barriers. Which made me glad I ran them instead of riding because then people would see the difference between us. She is like a leaping gazelle, where I would look more a bumbling moose that didn’t know it was going over logs as much as tripping over itself. Though frankly the decision of me not riding them was made mostly because I couldn’t.

I saw the chase of Compton v Miller. It was cool to watch, like a Cheetah going after its prey. No stalking, just effing CHASING with the confidence of knowing she will make it. I pretended that Amanda would sit up and I could catch her, but she had a lot of fight in her after a not-stellar Saturday, while my back was feeling my stellar amount of work prior. The women’s field strung out quickly after the first lap and positions didn’t change too much.

I am super pleased with the weekend, not only did I get two podiums, but I got a boost back to my confidence at a time when it is very crucial. I am racing in North Carolina next, and that will be my last UCI race until Nationals in CT.

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I had a whole rant about what I was going to do next. I wrote about how absurd our selection process is for worlds. The team is not announced until the week after Nationals, and there are only 2 weekends between Nationals and Worlds. Do that travel math in your head and understand my frustration.

BUT THEN I MADE A BREAKTHROUGH! After riding for the Amy D Foundation for 2 years, I finally channeled the mission statement. I want to pursue a lofty goal. That goal is to ride at the top, so screw waiting for an invitation, I am just gonna do what I can do for the betterment of myself and my lofty goals. When else can you be selfish like that? I am excited for the next month or two to come…

Photo by Nick Czerula
Photo by Nick Czerula

2 comments

  1. “wanting to pretend it is my job to race” LOL!!!

    So of course I’ve been following your progress through the usual channels (wherever possible) and was very happy to see you get the 3rd places (to the point of thinking you should write your name on that step) but even happier [SPOILERS] to see you standing on the top step most recently. 🙂

    I think it won’t be long until we see YOU (yes you) checking out from the field.

    I’m looking forward to cheering for you at ‘Nat’s’ in person (please don’t let it be Ice Weasel cold) where I also hope to have a small gift for you as a way of saying Happy Holidays/Well Done/Thanks for all the entertainment/Cheers! (delete as appropriate)

    So Brava you and see you in Connecticut!

    1. Geoff! Thanks for following along as usual. I think the cold is passing… It will be standard cold, which may be colder than the coldest colds. But only time will tell…
      I’ll see you there!!!

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