Friday, December 18, 2009
THE 2009 Cyclocross Championships
We're back from Bend now, unpacking, doing laundry and putting bikes back together, only to be shelved for a few months. It is great to be in the off-season, but even greater when the off-season gets kicked off by an awesome end to the season. Cyclocross nationals was an awesome end to the season.
I (Arley) finished 19th, Sally finished 20th. In a field of 108 women, it is amazing that we finished one behind the other. I guess your own teammate makes a better carrot than a stranger! The course was awesome. It was a relatively short lap, peppered with rocks, ice, snow, and slick grass. It had two features, a flight of stairs and a set of barriers. There was a steep power climb that dumped you onto an off-camber stretch, followed by a drop into a decent that was rutted, frozen, and slick at times. The course conditions changed hourly. The sun would melt some of the snow, which would either create just a wet surface, or black ice. I pre-rode the course Saturday morning at 7am, planning to ride the slickest conditions possible, so that anything after that would seem easier (Sally had raced the day before in the Master's race, where she placed 5th!). Despite the slick conditions on the pre-ride, it was tons of fun, and I was feeling pretty confident. Tire selection was crucial for the race. A tire with a more aggressive tread was a neccessity. I decided to ditch my tubulars and ride my clinchers so I could ride a different tire. This would add extra weight to my bike, but I would have rather had better handling. It was worth it though, as I didn't crash once during the race.
The start of the race was crazy. The gun went off, and all hell broke loose! The start was super fast, all the women were definitely charged up and ready to fight, fueled by the roaring crowd. By the time we raced, there was a thin layer of wet mud forming. All I remember is barrelling down the first stretch of the course off the pavement, bouncing around because I couldn't ride the smooth line, with gross mud flying in my face. I couldn't tell who was around me because I was bouncing around too much, and I was deep into the red right from the gun, which limited my focus to only the ground in front of me. I just kept pushing the pace, riding as fast as I possibly could, like I was running for my life! I rode past the 2nd pit entrance the first time and heard "you're in 14th". I couldn't believe it. I kept pushing hard, trying to keep contact with the people in front of me. I started to lose contact on the steps, which were too small for me to run each one, but too big to do every other, so I had to sort of alternate the two methods, which was tiring on my legs. With 3 laps or so to go, I started getting passed by some people, of which I couldn't hang on to. I was finally starting to hurt, but felt like I could still hold off the women looming behind me, including my teammate Sally. I decided that I would stand up and push really hard in the false flat sections that were wearing out my legs, and I would shift into big ring on the pavement, get into the drops, and pretend I was in a crit to push my pace. Those little goals definitely helped me keep my top 20 placing.
Sally took a few spills on the course, two of which I happened to see. She came in too hot into the slick grassy corners, once before the steps, and after the barriers. The first crash was pretty spectacular, she was all tangled up in her bike, which was made worse by the 6 women right behind her that were panicking to get around her. I had a good vantage point for that one. Sally said at that point, she couldn't decide if she should get back on her bike and ride the 20 feet to dismount at the steps, or just run. The problem with just running was her bike was on her left (which is the wrong side, it should be on your right so you can shoulder it away from the drivetrain). So she had to swing the bike in front of her, while running, to the other side. A+ recovery effort, she barely lost any placing!
We both finished roughly 4:30 behind Katie Compton, winner of the race, and number 1 atop the current World Cup standings. Not too shabby,eh!?
We had an awesome time in Bend. The race was great, the organizers and volunteers did a great job. The crowd and fans were AWESOME, really supportive and motivating. Sally and I would like to send a HUGE THANKS to Hub Racing for putting the season together for us, Carol for being an awesome souignier all season long, and even better at Nats (she cooked for us, carried our stuff around, cleaned/helped with bikes, etc., etc., etc.!), our sponsors Cannondale, SRAM, Specialized, Washington Area Bicyclists Association, and Bryson Web for their support this season, and everyone else in New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions who have supported us, cheered us on, fixed our bikes last minute before the start of a race, and just hung out with us and contributed to us having a rockin' time this year. Arley would also like to personally thank Josef Brandauer, who has been a phenominal coach and supportive friend, and was always there to keep the wheels from falling off (and boy was it close!).
Thanks again guys, catch you in the mud next season!