Almost Full Circle: N.C. Cyclocross Grand Prix

Once upon a time, there was a young girl who was exploring the world and learning about possible career paths. In her meandering, she learned about an event that was the product of a recreation employee at a park who had graciously taken time to talk to her about recreation. So, one sunny Saturday in November she headed off to a park and was exposed to the coolest thing ever: cyclocross.

Even though she wasn’t aware of the impact it would have on her life then, that day marked the planting of a little dream that seemed very out of reach.

Several years later, after being at many such events, each fueling an admiration of the sport and desire to be amazing, that girl got the chance to race cyclocross.

Super happy!

Cyclocross is ground zero when it comes to bike racing for me. It was the first competitive cycling event that I was exposed to outside of the Tour du France. While I love mountain biking and have had an absolute blast racing, cyclocross has been at the back of my mind. I was super excited to race my first cyclocross race in October and have been looking forward to racing at the North Carolina Cyclocross Grand Prix (NCCX GP), where I watched cyclocross in amazement for the first time years ago.

I love the Grand Prix. I love working it and being an observer. And finally, I can add participant to my list. In addition to the awesomeness of racing, the Grand Prix is held at Jackson Park, my own local park! This year was the largest GP to date, with over 700 racers! Several pro cyclists also came down to race the elite races and get UCI points. All the races were fun and amazing to watch.

I raced the ACCC collegiate race both days. This is the first year (that I’m aware of) that collegiate races have been held at the Grand Prix. Since I haven’t been training for cyclocross specifically since returning from nationals, I decided to do the collegiate race, even though I wouldn’t get any points for myself or my team, instead of the regular series categories.

Saturday was cloudy and a little on the chilly side. I didn’t get a great warm-up and didn’t even get a chance to pre-ride the course. I felt like I had a decent start and went hard for the first lap. It hurt, so on the second I lost a lot of time. By the third however, I was ready to go hard and finish strong, but got pulled as I started my fourth lap. There were only three B girls racing, but all the collegiate riders raced at the same time. I ended up 2nd, which is technically a podium finish!

Now, for anyone who is familiar with the NCCX GP, they know about The Wall. The Wall is a steep bank that is incorporated into the course every year. Some people ride it, others try valiantly, and still others fail miserably. As a mountain biker I was pretty confidant that I could handle it, after all, climbs are a big part of mtb! Well, I failed. It was sad, so I ran the bike up following my disheartening attempt. If I had one goal for my racing, it was to ride the wall!

Sunday was sunny and warm, perfect racing weather in my mind! I know there are many cx-ers who will disagree with me. I got a great warm-up and got to pre-ride the course, which had some additional curves and fun stuff thrown in. My start wasn’t great, but I caught up with the main group as everyone turned off the road and into the twisty-turny things. I felt strong and good! I found a great cadence and settled in. The added turns and lessened straight-aways were great for me, I loved swooping and cornering up and down. I settled in behind a guy from VT, and while he would drop me on the road/straight-aways, I would catch up in the turns. I didn’t have the strength to pass and maintain a lead, so I camped out behind him for the remainder of the race. I didn’t get pulled, and even lapped some chick from App! However, the greatest moment for me came on the second lap, when after failing to ride the wall my first time around, I charged up the wall with all my might and with a lot of effort made it up and over the top! Booyah baby!

I’m not sure of my place on Sunday’s race, but it doesn’t really matter. I made it up the wall, felt strong and fast and had an amazing time!

I cannot wait for next year when I’ll be officially racing cross and can say that I have indeed made it full circle!

Thanks to Spin-Tech for the use of one of their baller demo Scott bikes! I cannot say enough good things about these guys….they are generous with their time and equipment and some of the nicest people you’ll meet. They go above and beyond just sponsoring the Mars Hill team, and I am eternally grateful!

Check out Cyclingdirt.org for amazing footage of the races!

Weldon Weaver Photography for awesome photos

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