This weekend I took a little break from cyclocross and hit the Charlotte Winter Short Track Series for their opener. The series has been going on for about 15 years. It’s a great way to start the mountain bike season, and from what I saw yesterday is really well run. I’ve been meaning to race these races for the last couple of years, but it just hadn’t worked out. Races take place at Renaissance Park in Charlotte. Rain on Thursday and Friday left the course wet and muddy, but ride-able due to the awesome construction and maintenance of the trails.
I figured the race wouldn’t be too much of a departure from my training, since the Sport category runs for 45 minutes. There were 15 starters in the Sport category, that’s similar to the combined field in cyclocross, only just with one category racing! The Expert women started right in front, so there were around 20 women on the course at once. I had a terrible start, and unfortunately tangled up with Annie on my left. It’s one thing for me to have a bad start, but I feel really bad if I negatively effect someone else! She recovered a lot quicker and set off. I put the hammer down and caught up with the field, putting myself into second-to-last going into the woods. I was so annoyed! I was stuck behind riders that I knew I was faster than, but couldn’t do much about it until the course spit back out onto a gravel section.
The gravel section has two parts: a slightly steeper grade that took a lot of effort after coming out of the woods, then smoothing out into packed dirt that brought you out on the paved section. I used these sections, as well as the pavement to pass as many riders as I could before going back into the woods. I went back and forth with a couple racers a few times, but kept catching more and more riders in front of me.
It was a great feeling being able to come back from that terrible start! It hurt, a lot, but knowing that I was in a field that I could compete with, with each second mattering brought a focus and determination that I don’t often have to tap into. In cross I usually find myself off the back of the field, alone, keeping my position as steady as I can. Here, even a second’s hesitation could make the different between places! I loved the competition that such a field brings, and I can’t wait to experience more races like this!
I got caught by the Expert women’s leaders just before hitting the pavement at the end of my next-to-last lap, meaning I finished a lap early. I’m still in that interim of sometimes making it without getting caught, and others getting caught right before the finish. I know that had I started right, I wouldn’t have gotten caught. My final placing was 6th out of 15, meaning I made up seven places throughout the 45 minutes of race time. I’ll take it!
Charlotte also uses chip-timing, so it is neat looking at that data when thinking about my performance:
The Scott Scale 29r from Beer City Bicycles was perfect in the mud with the Schwalbe tires, race stance, and larger contact area. It handled all the switchbacks smoothly, but also transitions well into paved sprints. I noticed that it gave me an advantage over rocks, since it smoothed everything out.
While there is a lot of room for improvement, I’m also excited to see what I can do with the rest of the series. This coming weekend is the North Carolina CX series final at the Biltmore Estate. It’s also a test run of the course for nationals in 2016! Then there will be 4 straight weeks of short track races. I guess after that’s over I can take a break?