Sliding into the Season in Roanoke

*Don’t forget to check out the audio version of the post below if you don’t have the time to read!*

And just like that, the cyclocross season has started. One race weekend down means we are even closer to the US World Cups, after which fall-like weather will set in, and then we are looking to hit Continental Championships and then final tune ups before Nationals. Then I will be in Europe.

But until those whirlwind next few months, just the one weekend is done so far. GoCross in Roanoke, VA. I flew in to meet Kerry in North Carolina at his and Emily’s home with the expectation I would be sizing newly built bikes. Instead, I helped to sort out some parts boxes and pack them into the trailer for the 2 hour drive to Roanoke. My new Kona Jakes were still on a boat and I was hitting the season with 1 new-to-me-but-last-year’s Kona and one of my old bikes – which was for emergency use only.

We arrived in Roanoke on Friday in order to do some tire testing for Maxxis. This is my second year riding Maxxis tires, and the first time I had been asked to partake in testing. Whether or not they wanted me to help test tires or if they wanted Kerry to and I just happened to show up is beside the point. We were testing some treads set up tubeless, so I was right at home after the past two years racing on tubeless tires. It was great experience, and something I have always wanted to do. But it was also unfortunate for the timing, because, I was so anxious about riding too much in the heat the day before my first race that I had a hard time concentrating on the task. In addition, this year I am racing Maxxis tubulars and I hadn’t ridden tubulars in over two years. But it was a good chance to do some laps on the course.

I was feeling pretty spry on Friday and enjoying seeing some old friends. Getting a little over-excited, I decided to pull some slick moves and get some air over a little hump in the course. Well. I may have over estimated my ability to get rad, because I ended up crashing pretty hard and banging up my bars pretty hard (as well as my leg). Nothing was seriously broken, and I just walked back to the tent and had my bike reset to its original operating levels. But this sort of ended my Friday pre-ride and tire testing.

Speaking of tires, we were damn sure it was a file-tread weekend. Knowing that, I had my files mounted up for my preride on Saturday. Right before I went out, the sky darkened and started dropping some precipitation. It was raining on the open 1/2/3 women’s field pretty good at this point! I still went out on my Speed Terranes just to see. Without pushing the pace too much, I slid out a few times on the slick grass. With the rain stopping and the men yet to hit the course, I was unsure if the course would get more dry or churned up and muddy. I was pretty torn on what decision to make, but I decided that I would ride the All Terranes for the sake of confidence. The last thing a racer should do is doubt their tire choice during a race, and maybe holding back because of it. An option could have been to have different tires on my pit bike, but, again, my pit bike was for emergency use only in this early-season equipment purgatory.

With some of my race decisions I was lucky not just to run them by my teammate Kerry, and my coach Chris McGovern, but also my Amy D family. The Amy D Foundation has been a huge part of my life and racing career for the past 3 years, and this year is no different with Kerry’s wife Emily Shields being an Amy D racer. Our tents are hopefully going to be close at all of the races so that we can keep the families together – meaning Kerry and Emily as well as me and my orange and blue beginnings. It is nice to be around the familiar, including Emily, KK, and ‘cross veteran and new Amy D CX mentor Mo Bruno Roy.

There was a bit time for me to hang around the venue this weekend because GoCross flipped the schedule, putting UCI men before the UCI women. Whenever this happens, it makes us all reassess our normal schedules, and for men, they get to experience a few of the women’s weekly struggles. For instance, you have to show up to the venue a lot earlier. Though this event did not have a UCI-specific course preview window, when they are there, they are immediately prior to the first UCI race, making it impossible to be used by those racers, usually women. So Kerry had no idea how to use the discrete 10-15-minute windows for course re-rides. In addition, Kerry had to wait around until after my race, my cooldown, and my general catching-up before he could leave. Kerry was not happy. I just can’t wait for this to happen in the winter so that his hair can freeze, too.

Anywho, so, men went first, and, Kerry won despite a not-so-stellar start. He showed me anything was possible, and set the bar high. Not knowing what to expect from my fitness, I was inspired to not be totally embarrassed and shown up, and give it my all out there.

Kerry was stoked on the Win

Front row call up, I slotted up right next to Caroline Mani, and Crystal Anthony came next to me. The rain had stopped and the temps had really dropped. We were ready. At the whistle, I pushed off and got my pedal. Not a bad start! Crystal missed her pedal and was dropped hard. Everyone kept charging forward, fighting for the daylight at the front. My racing edge was not sharp and I wasn’t sure how to fight back. I slipped back a few spots. Once we settled in I was happy to feel that the pace felt slow. I didn’t charge forward immediately, instead, I took a moment to gather myself and lower my heart rate. Then I charged. I tucked in to third. Eventually Crystal found the front end of the race and she and I battled a little. She is a great at being assertive in passing – I could learn a lot from her. I was able to gap her off and I was in a steady third place, with Van Dessel riders Caroline and Sunny charging in 1st and 2nd.

A lonely 3rd

On the course there were a few logs that you had to ride down. Nothing big, but some rough drops if you didn’t do it right. Apparently I didn’t do it right once. I plopped down and my left shift lever moved. A lot. I wasn’t aware when it happened, just saw that it did and was like “wtf why did this move? I didn’t crash!” It was likely loose from the crash on Friday. I slowed down a little trying to figure out how loose it was, and if it was unsafe or if I should pit. I yelled into the pit stating I may come in, but decided that if I just rode in the drops that I would be fine. But Crystal sensed this slow down and attacked hard. In literally the last half lap she passed me, and I just couldn’t muster anything to chase her down. She neat me by 8 seconds. That hood dropping was my 8 seconds – it was 20 seconds. I lost the podium.

I was a little disappointed, but not mad. First race, new mechanic, a lot of kinks to work out. In addition, I didn’t even know I could put in an effort like that this early in the season! I felt I could have redemption on Sunday – I am always better on day 2!

Climbing up the logs we later go down. You can see my left hood had already moved a little in this photo. Photo by Bruce Buckley

That night, Kerry went out for ice cream to celebrate his win. I was such a strong specimen of a Becca that I abstained. Humble Brag. But I was promised ice cream for Sunday night. I was hoping for a reason to deserve it as well.

Day 2 was slated to be over 90deg F and sunny. Oh, and like 800% humidity. I had to run a bottle cage. It ended up being a file tread day with no last minute rain storms to change it up. In Kerry’s race he was pushed by another rider and crashed, so I thought for a moment it could finally be my day to beat him! Alas, he came back for another win. What a selfish jerk, double showing off.

Feeling very relaxed at the start, I went quick from the gun, charging up and sitting in the front three towards the middle of the lap. But this is when we hit the freshly tilled fluffy sand, and there was a bit of a pile up. Combined with my slow-motion running, I exited the sand back in the teens placing. Not ideal. After a few turns the pace was settled and I was waiting to make my move. With all of the riders very close and riding single file along the fast track it took me close to the end of the second lap to finally start moving up the ranks. I went from deep within the field to the top 5 again. Then, I found myself in 2nd. Crystal was way up and I didn’t see anyone catching her, but, I could totally hang on to 2nd. I could feel myself getting goosebumps; not because I was excited, but because I felt cold. I was not ready to push my body to the limit. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but, I think it’s fair to say no one is capable of murdering themselves 100% of the time. Even if there was a chance I had the mental ability, I am not sure my body would have held out. I was passed and slipped into 5th and it was all I could do to maintain that. My back. My legs. My arms. Everything was feeling it.

Some steep flyovers
Photo by Bruce Buckley

Day 2 is my day when I am extremely fit. My days of extreme fitness in September are passed – I am now looking for late season extreme fitness, so I will need to reflect on some of my expectations moving forward.

Here I am complaining about my fitness, when my host, Carla Williams, was also racing. She is an ER doctor who worked late on Friday night (into the wee hours), raced Saturday, volunteered on Sunday morning, and raced Sunday. And was in front of me for a lot of the race. Wow. Incredible talent in that woman.

I felt the same about my race on Sunday as Saturday – disappointed but also a bit optimistic. I had what it took to get from deep within the field up to 2nd, but not the staying power quite yet. Plus, I was sliding across the dusty ground on my Maxxis Speed Terranes, which is exactly what they are made to do – limit the friction for faster rolling and have the side knobs catch you when the time comes. I rarely enter turns fast enough to get a slide going, but I did it and was comfortable with it-a good omen for things to come.

Despite this not being my strongest placing for an opening weekend, it is the first time I have been able to identify weaknesses and come up with a plan of action to strengthen them, or, in the event of fitness, already understood the potential lack of world domination.

After the race on Sunday we packed up the camps, and rolled out of town – the whole shebang like a circus caravan rolling up the tents to go to the next sleepy little town. In this case, Rochester, NY.

Kerry and I are housed up here in NY for the week, planning on a local group ride Tuesday night, working some skills in training on Wednesday, doing a local clinic on Thursday, and then I have the clinic at the Rochester course on Friday. This much activity is a bit new to my schedule, but it is really important to me that I do this, because I want to be a community-forward athlete, not a holed-up nervous ball of anxiety. I am always looking for the balance in my own priorities of performance and expectations of sharing my love of the sport with the world.

Here is the audio version of the post below!

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