As I sit down to write this, I realize how often I write things about how lucky I am for the weekend and how special the venue is to me. This weekend was no exception. NBX takes place in Warwick, RI, and though the no-longer-there Providence race is where I got my start, this race just a few miles south has replaced it as an anniversary venue. The cyclocross community in this area is what made me fall in love with cycling and it’s why I am who I am today. LUCKY FOR ALL OF YOU!!!
This course has always been tricky for me; it is characterized by turns, roots, and sand. And rooty sandy turns. In years past I could race both days and still not be able to guess where the finish line was from anywhere on the course. I had lost finish spots multiple times because I couldn’t remember where I was on the course. This year, though, was a little different.
This year, and finally by this point in the season, it all came together for me. After 2 years on tubeless tires, I am finally getting used to tubulars again; I am figuring out the pressures to run, learning their limits, and trusting their strength. That was IMPERATIVE on this course, to trust that a little boom and bang here and there was survivable. I was able to ride light, even in a turn, pick a discrete line instead of general area to ride (precision and accuracy, yay!), and I even got my wheels off the ground a few times to just jump over some gnarly knots.
If everything came together this weekend, I must have won, right!? Nope. I did not. This was a C1 weekend and drew top talent including Kaitie Keough, ranked 5th in the world [update, 3rd after this weekend], and the taker of the top step both days. She is not a bad one to lose to. (But I don’t feel like a loser so I will say to not-win-to).
Saturday was chilly all day, until the clouds parted and the sun shined down (Shown down? Wtf, English.) on us for our race. My start was (you guessed it), not fast. But I wasn’t in any of the typical NBX first lap carnage and rode in the front group for the first lap. I finally found myself in the 2nd position, with Kaitie far out in front.
No matter how hard I went, though, the gap between her and I didn’t seem to close, and the gap behind me to Ruby West barely grew! I was worried about the roots but I managed only a couple of cringe-worthy bangers. I eked out a few great evasive maneuvers but of course there was no one there to record the proof. Remembering how easily she closed down our gap the last time we faced off (at Supercross) I stayed engaged. It is so easy to just settle in, or worse, to become hyper-aware and crash (like I did at DCCX both days). In the end, I didn’t give up, and was able to hold her off and maintain a 2nd place finish – my highest C1 finish ever.
A yummy meal of chili made by our hosts Syl and Kellie (I rode with Syl when I lived in Providence) for dinner was the recovery fuel I needed for the next day, which after rain all night and all day proved to be muddy. Just the weekend before I had been telling Kerry how NBX is never muddy- so obviously the sands of Warwick proved us wrong. I love the mud, but contending with the mud and the roots was something I was not really mentally alert enough for. I was wiped from Saturday. On the line, all I could convince myself of was to not quit no matter what.
I was fast off the start. We were all contending with some tire slip as we powered off the line. I put my weight back and was able to pull ahead of a few people. No hole-shot, but pretty good for me. I made it through the first sweeping turn of the start loop in the clear. The start loop was literally the only grass on the course, and as we went in for the left-hand turn before the woods, I tapped my brakes. With a tire pressure set for roots, not wet-grass traction, I slide out. My bike slides away from me and I am hunkered down, holding my hands over head and actually yell out, pleading “PLEASE DON’T HIT ME!”. And, no one did. Surprisingly, no one else went down, hit me, or ran my bike over. I was able to hop back on as the last few riders were clearing. Watching the DirtWire coverage it all happened so fast, but it felt like I was down for much longer than I was. Kerry said when he saw me there were 5 of the over 30 finishers behind me.
The silver lining for me was, the pressure was off for a good result, and at least I scored a 2nd place yesterday. With that lack of frantic energy, I was able to charge forward. I passed people in huge groups. I passed in turns. On hills. On pavement. In mud. I hucked roots and splashed through puddles. (some good on-bike passing footage on the Dirtwire recap HERE). I was through the thick of it by the end of the first lap. Nick yelled “get that last podium spot, one more rider!”. Really? I’m there already? I had passed a few riders I wasn’t expecting to, given the conditions and my setback, but maybe they were having bad days. Wow. So, I forge forward and nab that 3rd position. I could have likely taken 2nd without my setback, but I doubt I could have beat Kaitie on the day, so I am super pleased with my ride. Other racers commented on how fast I passed them. A couple said they envied my aggression. The funny thing, is that I didn’t feel aggressive. I hope to be able to recreate that mindset, confidence, and skill come time to race in Europe. That is no place for being timid!
In addition to the 2nd and 3rd place podiums, I did get to climb on the top step of the Vittoria New England Cyclocross Series podium, taking 1st! The series was Gloucester, Northampton, Supercross, and NBX. Despite not racing Gloucester, my podium finishes at all other events were enough to get me the overall!
Here’s to hoping some of this momentum carries through to Nationals and beyond.