Supercross is a race that always has predictably unpredictable (crappy) weather, and no matter the venue or course, something gets thrown in to make it fun and tricky. There was the year that I nearly got frostbite and have lasting effects, and then there was the year where I yelled at Myles for pouring water on a ride/run up DURING RACES. Stupid Myles. But Myles proves to be not so stupid when he and both were really hoping that this would be my weekend. It had been 2 years since my previous (and only) UCI win, and I have had countless near misses since (NBX last year, DCCX, NoHo,. It was time to break the curse.
Cue Supercross weather, and snow dumped across New England on Thursday night and into Friday morning. Were we going to contend with snow, ice, or mud? By the time we raced on Saturday, it was slick mud with icy cold puddles of melted snow. The air temp was in the low 40s but the cold water of snowmelt meant no fingers or toes were safe.
The course itself is across a grassy field with some undulation and a tricky woods section. But it was all mud. The uphills were runs. Most of the flat sections were runs. The downhills were recovery coasts, but you couldn’t really recover if you were white-knuckling the bars like I was. The woods were less muddy and more soupy, so it was easy to pedal through but you couldn’t see the sharp rocks or the slick roots and you had to choose your speed wisely.
I started well on Saturday, immediately getting slotted behind Canadian U23 National Champ Ruby West. She starts to draw away from me as the lap unfolds, but she bobbles a few times and I get to close the gap. She drops her chain and I get to attack. I am off the front and leading the race. After 3 laps, I am still leading. I had been riding smoothly, so smoothly in fact, that my 10-minute lap times were all within a second of each other. The crowd is cheering for me that I can finally get my win – it is my race. I feel like my 20 seconds or so is pretty solid, I just have to stay upright. In the last lap I encounter lapped riders. I yell “RACER BACK” and they don’t yield. One is running in the line I had been riding. The only rideable spot in the wide grassy track. I have to dismount, I yell “JUST STOP”. She does not stop. I go around, losing some time. I continue on. I get to the crest of another hill and see another rider. I yell for her to get out of the line because I am about to go careening down this hill with no option of stopping to avoid running her over. She does not move. I delay my mount. I lose time. She again does not yield around the turn. I run a rideable section. I lose time. The finish is minutes away, and I can now see Ruby over my shoulder. I try to ignore her and stay calm. She catches me up the final hill – a run. We get to the section of boggy grass that had baffled me the whole race – not sure if I should be running or riding and where to mount. She hops on, I keep running and get ground. But then I hop on, she has momentum and passes me. Watching the video is painful because it is so obvious I should have got off to run, but in my head, if I was on the bike when we hit the pavement then I could outsprint her – but the gap was too big and the finish was too close. There was no way to do it. I had lost the race. Again.
Check out a recap of the race, and the finish (from a million angles) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RomuKy1dmgE
I was pissed, to say the least. Heartbroken. Confused. What made it worse was Ruby was exhausted at the finish, and I wasn’t, but where could I have put that effort out on the course? I had so many emotions that anytime I went to talk to someone I instead wanted to scream and cry. It felt childish to have these feelings but they stem from passion, not hate. And this wasn’t the first time Ruby snatched the top step from under me – last year, NBX day 2. After I had a lackluster day 1, I got my shit together and led day 2. Last lap I had a gap but bobbled, knocking my chain down. I took time to put it back on, getting passed by Ruby in the process. I was inches from the pit entrance this entire time. Just another example of me completely botching it. Looking back, I am still totally bamboozled as to how it happened this weekend at Supercross. I am happy to note that Ruby shut down the 20 seconds, I didn’t slow down. Any slow down to lost riders was made up in my lap time by working harder once Ruby was over my shoulder. So, luckily, unlike so many times before, I didn’t scratch on the 8-ball, and the only excuse is that Ruby raced a better race. I was happy with the race I had ridden, no crashes, mechanicals or mishaps on the treacherous course. Besides, there was always tomorrow. By the time we were at podium I was not exactly over it, but in much better spirits and ready to celebrate Ruby’s victory and my own accomplishments. Besides, there was podium bubbly.
Kerry finished his race in 2nd as well but was so cold he couldn’t function. He delayed podium by a solid 45 minutes (no big deal, buddy).
Sunday, the course was the same only run in reverse. The temperatures stayed above freezing so the snow continued to melt, but the days’ events churned the water and mud into a thicker concoction. There was even more running, with the flats getting heavier and the downhills becoming uphills. Many races had much thinner fields, the elite races included. Many didn’t bother preriding. I almost didn’t, but for the sake of being a winner I did.
My heart was heavy. My body was cold. I didn’t really feel like racing. We got to the line and I was jealous of the people not showing up. The whistle went and I got on the pedals. I started slower than the day before. Or others started faster? Cassie was throwing elbows like we were in line for the last Tickle Me Elmo. Ruby was at the front. I was not. I was gapped off through the first run and even moreso by a bad line choice down a muddy hill. Her gap increased across an off camber run. I kept my eyes on the prize: the daylight at the front. I got to the front of the chase, dropped the others easily, and very quickly made time to Ruby just by riding some things she was running. I sat on her wheel for the rest of the lap and into the second just to make sure I was ready to go for it. And I did. I passed Ruby on a runup and never looked back. After the woods section I heard I had a gap. Through the finish line they thought Ruby had a mechanical (she later joked to me that she wanted to yell to them, “nope. You’re wrong. I just can’t go harder” haha). I heard I was up to 1:30. 2:30. With a lap to go I still wanted to take nothing for granted. I joked with all of the onlookers to not jinx it. I only looked over my shoulder once I hit the finish straight. Another flawless day, but this time without the last minute hunt-down. I finally won. Over 4 minutes later, Ruby would cross the line in 2nd.
I am obviously very stoked to have finally won, but it isn’t quite as nice under that lingering pain from Saturday. I wish I could go back in time and decide to run that last corner as Ruby did, so maybe we could come to the pavement together to at least take it to a sprint. Or that she had caught me sooner so we could have battled 1-on-1 a little longer! But what’s done is done, and I have accepted the 2nd and then of course that final victory of a top step finish!!! And PS, I am very proud of my lines through the woods both days, but especially the exit on Day 2. If anyone saw, please do feel free to feed my stoke, or to tell me that literally everyone was taking those lines.
Thanks to everyone who has been there, and hopefully continues, to support me along the way. Sometimes this traveling circus seems silly, but beyond being a billboard: an ambassador for brands, I think those of us who go out there to race also serve as inspiration. Whether that inspiration is for others to ride, get health, chase their dreams, or whatever it is, we are always trying to find the bigger impacts of what we do. And it’s a positive feedback cycle. The outpouring of congratulations I experienced shows me the breadth and depth of my team, and I want to work harder to represent them well.
I only have one more domestic weekend before Nationals, and that is the C1 at NBX in Warwick, RI. Then, the team heads over to Belgium, where each race is a victory just to finish with everything intact! Hopefully the success continues. But for now, I am going to go make a pie and see if it can be half as good as the slice I had from Emily!!