Madison, WI doesn’t exactly sound like the ideal place to be for cyclocross nationals (cross nats) in January. However, everything has been wonderful! From the course which I was not looking forward to from the several preview videos that were made, to the weather that while cold doesn’t involve several inches of snow, to the amazing spectators, and of course amazing support and performance from the rest of the team.
We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and after meeting and greeting our newest member, Mariske who had flown in from South Africa to start the year at Mars Hill, we headed out to check out the course conditions. We’re staying about 1.5 miles away from the course, at the hospitality of the Cassels. They gracious opened their home to us and have been the perfect, no, better than perfect hosts.
It felt great to get back on the bike again and actually ride! We were able to get a feel for at least the design of the course, if not the conditions. It was extremely muddy, with frozen earth under all the mud. Definitely caused some mountain bike nationals flashbacks for sure! The course conditions have gradually gotten better over the past couple of days, despite being re-frozen every night.
Before leaving for cross nats, I had decided that my goal for this race was a top 10 finish. But after being out here and riding the course a good bit and feeling really excited and positive about the race, I decided that top 8 was a better goal.
The women’s race was Saturday at noon. The ground had thawed out nicely after the juniors and master’s races, leaving some really soggy icky spots, but also creating some areas that where compacted down and pretty fast.
The biggest part of my worry for this race was the start on a long paved section. I am a mountain biker, so long flat things aren’t my strong-suite (yet!). But I got a great start, and according to Hugh was in the top five for at least half a lap! There were a couple hard climbs, which I had made about 50% of the time during practice laps due to the lack of traction in the mud. But with the better conditions, I was able to clear each one easily. Not really quickly, but strong and steady. Maybe it’s because my roots (or wheels, ha ha ha) are in mountain biking, but I take climbs seriously. After all, that’s half of mountain biking right there, and I better do that well
Photo by Mikey Keith
I went out hard and kept the hammer down for the first two laps, settling in to bring it home on the final two laps. I did get pulled since the leaders where several minutes ahead, which kinda threw me off. I wanted that last lap to see what I could do and who I could catch!
I ended up 7th, which is amazing to me! It’s exactly where I wanted to be, and it feels so great knowing that I put it all out there and performed at the top of my skills and fitness! This is easily the best race of my short racing career!
Mariske took first in her first cyclocross race ever! We’re really excited about the strength she’s bringing to the team, not only in mountain bike, which is her specialty, but in all areas as has been proven today.
Photo by Mikey Keith
Stephanie and Lacey took 11th and 12th after battling the tricky mud and a mechanical.
Overall, Mars Hill Cycling is currently number 1 in the DII team omnium! We’re cheering on the guys tomorrow and will see where we are after that, though the top step of the podium is our goal for sure!
I do want to thank all of our sponsors, hosts for the week and everyone who has helped me and the rest of the team get here! It’s been amazing and I’m so lucky to be able to do this cycling thing!
And thank you to the crew here and USA Cycling for putting on this great event! The course and entire event has been amazing! Also, the spectators here are the best I have ever had the privilege of racing in front of!