Nationals. It’s the big show. A select few have their bigger sights set on worlds, but for me? Nationals.
For a full spoiler, check out this link to the on-demand replays of the live feed! http://www.cxmagazine.com/live-video-2016-usa-cycling-cyclocross-national-championships-asheville
Many racers had the opportunity to race in Tennessee and then stay over for the week local to the Nationals venue in Asheville, North Carolina. Some others spent a long block of time over in Europe doing some pretty big racing over there. Not wanting to travel much or have so much time away from home, I used that time to train and rest in prep for the big day. I must admit, I was a bit skeptical taking nearly a month off of racing and then hitting the start line at Nationals, but my fears were abated knowing that my fitness was being kept in better form training than constantly racing, and that I would have plenty of time to preview the course to ensure my skills could handle what it had to throw at me.
I flew down to Asheville on Thursday to meet up with the Raleigh Clement crew at the rental house. Bittersweet, hanging out with my new bike family for the last time. They were finally starting to laugh at my jokes! The whole crew was present except our Frenchie Caroline and her Dog… err… Mechanic, Doug. They were in France. Because that’s where she had to play Nationals Bicycle. Spoiler alert, she won. Like, she CRUSHED. She had already eaten an entire baguette with frog legs and snails by the time the rest of the field finished.
But, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, the masses of cyclocross racers from sea to shining sea descended upon the beautiful Biltmore Estate in Asheville. The course was declared by many as the best course in the US – comparable to a solid European course. I cannot confirm nor deny these allegations. However, it was the first course of the season to make me hesitate on some sections, the only runner-up being Supercross in Stony Point, NY.
I was hoping for a straight power course, because that would mean I stood a good chance at doing well. Seeing the list of women registered, I knew I could throw blows with all but two of the riders (I have never been near the Katies in any race, but I have at least hung out in the zone of the others – even if it was due to their struggling and not necessarily my rocking). If it were a power course, my hopes were high for a good result! And, well, you definitely needed strength to succeed on the course… But there were also a couple good technical punches that promised to allow the mountain-biker type crème rise to the top. During my dry preride on Friday I got a level of confidence with the course in a general sense, and kept my spirits high! Then, on Saturday when we showed up to the venue to preride, it started to rain. And wooooeeeey did the rain change things. Have you ever ridden on wet proper clay? I have some experience with West Virginia clay. A lot of soil types get muddy and they are slick because the mud pushes out from underneath our tires, so deep knobs like on the Clement PDX can really get in there and get a good hold. Clay? It’s nearly impenetrable. The climbs on the course were slick when they were dry for this reason: the ground is so hard the knobs can’t dig in for traction. And when it is wet, it is just hard with a layer of Teflon.
My teammates spent a lot of time assuring me that I could handle the course. I saw Logan Owen do a faceplant. My confidence dropped.
Then I saw this video that GeWilli posted and my confidence increased a little!
My brother got this one of me during the race just after that drop:
I did a half of a lap with Arley Kemmerer on Saturday, and she showed me the cool line on that big off-camber by the barn before it was cool. Seriously, it ended up being the line. On Sunday I did two laps of preride (though I did that offcamber 4 times) and felt so confident, I headed to the tent to hit the trainer while there was still course time. Very uncharacteristic of me. I guess I was ready to start my 3rd cross nationals.
I was called up second row. I could not grid up on the far right to be on the outside of the first turn, so I slotted in on the far left behind Kathryn Cumming and Jena Greaser came in right beside me. I knew the chances of an exciting start straight were high.
Everyone said that my start was fantastic. I was coming off the second row, and I was for sure in the top 10 by the first corner, so yea, my start was pretty good. At the whistle I made my pedal and started the charge, looking for a hole. When Kathryn tucked right, I took that inside line and motored up as far as I could before tucking back into the group on my right to make that first left hand turn. I tried to keep moving up before that first ditch and before the flyover, but I was struggling. My fingers were frozen. Did you see the live feed? That huge gear was bigger than normal and not a tactical approach to the race. I just couldn’t shift. The temps dropped at least 10 degrees while we were on the start line, meaning I wanted not only leg warmers, but also heavier gloves. My numb bumbling fingers couldn’t articulate the buttons of my Di2 shifters and I ended up taking my palm and slamming the shifters hoping something would happen. The bigger button downshifts the rear derailleur so I thought the chances of success with this method were high. My fingers eventually warmed up.
Honestly, looking back, I can’t remember the exact events. What I do know, is that I did what I had been unable to do for the past few races, which was keep pushing beyond that good start, not content to sit on wheels and just keep passing. I remember coming up to Meredith Miller and whipping around. I remember sitting behind Arley Kemmerer, passing her and then my foot came unclipped pumping through one of the many ditches and she got me back. Eventually, the front four were very established (Compton and Gould battling very closely for the win, Antonneau dangling back in third, and Elle fighting in fourth. Then, there was a group of three fighting for fifth. The group was yours truly, Rachel Lloyd, and Amanda Nauman. Rachel and I battled closely; every time up the steepest run-up I pushed passed her, and she passed me once while I was coming out of the pit, another time in the downhill woods section (whoaaa) and then finally up the climb, Bonk Breaker Hill.
I regret letting her gap me so much on the climb. Did I have more in me? Could I just have kept pushing? Did I think I could get her later? But, she got me, I think during lap 3. For the rest of the race people were screaming to me that she was RIGHT THERE and that I could get her. I did yo-yo off of her a bit, often close enough to allow me to think there may be a chance I could pass her – if she could slow up. My main thought? Screw 5th, I want to hold 6th! KEEP AMANDA BACK! I put in some hard efforts in the straight sections only to keep her at bay. For once, I was not thinking about the potential of crashing. I was calm and confident. I came across the line, in 6th, after a clean and smooth race. The season, is over.
Reading Amy D’s last blog post before the race, I was hoping to feel how she felt after my race. Dialing the A-line, putting efforts I hadn’t achieved before. And I’ll be damned if I didn’t do it. I was for sure riding with Amy out there on Sunday.
Finally, I put it all together. The race I had is the race I wanted, and the race I knew I was capable of. All season I worked super hard on a lot of things. Coach Kyle was ever working on my fitness and confidence while sometimes it was all I could do to keep up with my workouts and job and sleep and travel. It was a long, tough season, but I learned a lot, and I am anxious to carry this knowledge on to the next opportunity!
I have been receiving some messages, and no, I did not make the worlds team. There was one discretionary spot open and it was filled with Elle Anderson, one of the best choices we have to put on the team. She is in great form right now and has huge experience over there. The rest of the spots are riders who deserve it through auto qualification earlier in the season. I am sad, because who wouldn’t love to feel like a superstar getting some extra special nod to go be a total badass, but I was in no way snubbed. A while back I did apply for the post-Nationals World Cup races. I was granted entry into the French WC being held January 17th, but I was told this only one week in advance (the night before Nationals, and I had to commit by Sunday). Not only did I have less than a week to plan the trip, but I would have also had to have called out from my day-job, and being a person of sound responsibilities I was not comfortable neglecting that obligation. So, hopefully next year I am a clear choice for World Cup racing so that I can do the races given proper planning. Either way, BECCA WILL RACE (cyclocross) IN EUROPE NEXT YEAR!
I want to thank all of my friends and sponsors from the season
Raleigh Clement pro cycling team (Donn Kellogg, Caroline Mani, Jamey Driscoll, Kerry Werner, Lance Haidet, Laurel Rathbun, James Sullivan, Chad Ament, Doug Sumi, Meg McMahon, Mark West)
Amy D Foundation (Dan Dombroski , Nicole Novembre, and many more behind the scenes I am sure)
Coach Kyle with Finish Fast Cycling
Also to the countless supporters that held or contributed to fundraising, or funraising events, and of course the many many fans of either myself, Amy D, or the Foundation along the way.