Charlotte Short Track #2

I don’t know why I waited so long to race the Winter Short Track Series. Perhaps it was the overload of collegiate cycling that requires quick transitions between seasons making the limited rest weeks invaluable. Maybe it was just the fast that it was something new and I wasn’t ready to jump into another new situation. Regardless, I’m so impressed by the series so far and the racing is so intense and fun.

Photo by Street Ghost
Photo by Street Ghost

Sunday’s race was cooler than the kickoff race. It was around 40 degrees when the sport and expert women started, so the perfect temp for no arm warmers! This time I was steady on the start, no squrreliness! I had a fairly good position going into the woods on the first lap, still a little back from where I wanted to be but I knew I could make it up. The course was very dry, and a lot faster then the first race. Since it’s on dedicated mountain bike trails, the flow is good and fast, almost too fast into some corners for me! Since it was the same course, I felt pretty comfortable, knowing where I was at all times. That is a benefit of doing series races!

I felt really steady throughout the race, working my way up, back and forth with a couple other racers. My times were a lot faster and more consistent than before. I kept trying to get a lap in under 4 minutes but didn’t quite make it this time.

Short Track #2 Times

 

The last few laps ramped up the intensity. Ann from BikeLaw was either right in front of me or behind me. Just after going through the finish to start the 9th lap I heard the announcer state that the expert women were coming through and starting their 10th and final lap. That made me hustle even more, I was about to dip into the woods and didn’t want to deal with them passing on singletrack. My goal was to make it through the woods before they caught me. Amazingly, I was able to make it the entire lap, getting to do the entire 10 laps of the race! On lap 10 Ann was right behind me the entire time. She’s stronger on the straightaways than I am, and I was sure that once we got out of the woods and onto the gravel she’d pass me. She started to pull along side, and I gave it everything I had. There was that period of time that stretches out in uncertainty, could I hold her off long enough? Would I have enough once we hit the pavement? I just kept turning over the pedals, going as hard as I could, not looking behind me and taking as straight as line as possible into the finish. It ended up that we had about a second difference in finish times! I ended up in 4th place, my best non-collegiate race finish to date! It’s a great finish, but being so close, yet so far to podium is a disappointment.

Short track is changing how I race. It’s a different format, and while I raced it for Mars Hill, I’ve grown as a racer since then. It’s exciting having competitors, not being alone while racing, evaluating my strengths and weaknesses on the bike vs those of whoever is in front or behind me. There are just two weeks left of short track! I’ve got some goals for those two races, but I’ll keep those to myself for now.

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Biltmore CX

So, my 2013-14 cyclocross season is officially over! I was able to finish strong by racing the North Carolina Cyclocross series final races held on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. Biltmore will be hosting the USA Cycling Cyclocross Nationals in 2016, so this weekend was the inaugural race to test out possible course design and features. Admittedly, I did get a sneak peak a week before since I do some work with NCCX. It was pretty exciting seeing the before and during, as well as hearing all the feedback and evaluating how things went and ways to take the BIltmore race experience to the next level.

As Saturday got closer I started to feel less and less motivated to race. I wanted to be at Biltmore, surrounded by bike racers and absorbing everything possible from the weekend, but I just wasn’t feeling racing. I knew that this was the final goal of my training plan, so obviously I had to race, but mentally I was not feeling it! Fortunately I was preregistered so at that was working towards getting me on the bike. Getting to the site early on Saturday morning was good. It had “snowed” a bit the night before, leaving a light dusting over the fields. The sky was pastel and the moon was still up. Biltmore is a beautiful place regardless of the time of year, but getting more of a winter feel while driving in was nice.

Saturday Morning
Saturday Morning

I started hustling to do what I could to help get everything ready to roll. While the Biltmore race was a big race, the day-0f prep logistics were fairly low (partially due to it being the first ever with little elements outside of NCCX). The course at Biltmore is located near Antler Hill Village. Since this is the first year a course has been marked out, it is shorter than it will be for Nationals, and there will be features added over the next few races to take it to the next level. The start was paved, up to a grassy section with several turns before hitting a set of barriers. Then it was back on to pavement before going into a chicane through more field, followed by another paved section, before moving towards the pits. The area around the pits was the roughest since it was a field area that had only been mowed the week of the race. After the pits the course moved onto a gravel road before dipping down to approach the run up. I loved the run up both days. It was super steep but not too long to absolutely kill every time. Plus I’ve been feeling better about the short running sections lately due in part to circuit training. Then there was more grassy up and down before climbing up a gradual climb to the most popular race feature: the drop-off! It was a steep dirt drop-off behind the bike rental barn, that took you out around the corner of the building. The drop-off was a little slick on Saturday, but that made it more fun! Sunday work was done to dry it out, which made it too simple, in my mountain bikers opinion! The drop-off was followed by a grassy off-camber section that dipped down into a wooded area. The off-camber was fast and I was able to take a low line and make up time on this part of the course. After the wooded area, the course worked around some gravel turns (never my favorite) and then into more grass with another barrier that most riders had to dismount to get over and then run up. The remainder of the course was made up of the return to the puts through the field and then back onto the pavement to the finish (here’s a video of the course from BikeRumor!).

Saturday was cold! Add in a nice chilling wind and it was bitter out! Thankfully it was dry and sunny all day. As the morning progressed and the first races went off, I started to get ready to race. My warm-up was poor, I didn’t even get a pre-ride in (granted, I knew the course), and I wasn’t excited. It was cold, I knew it would hurt, and traditionally, flat, power courses like the Biltmore course have not been my friends.

The start line is a unique place. There you can find pure focus, motivation, nerves, excitement, terror. It is all about the race in that moment as you get ready to start. It was only there that I started to get out of my head that was telling me that I shouldn’t be there riding my bike. I had a descent start, nothing great, nothing terrible. The start was fast! It’s always fast but this course was a fast course all around and it started right off the bat.

Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc
Coming out of the off-camber — Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc

My legs were tired and racing below freezing is not something my body responds well to. All the doubt about being on the bike came back for the first lap. I was lagging and was not feeling good. I knew it was all mental. That was the frustrating thing, it was all up to me and I was letting myself down! Coming through the finish on the first lap something clicked and I started to pull it together. The rest of the race was hard, I had to keep changing my mindset, grinning even though I didn’t feel like it, and pedaling as hard as I could whenever I could. I finished, I raced, and by the end my mental block was gone and I was excited to redeem myself the next day!

Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc
Run up — Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc

Sunday was a little warmer. It was right around 40 degrees for my start.  I like racing at 40 degrees. It’s just cold enough to keep me from over heating, warm enough I can get away w/o a base layer or arm warmers (gotta have the knee warmers to keep that funky knee of mine happy). I had a good warm-up, I knew the course, and I was ready. The field was larger by one for Sunday, with a different mix of racers. Another fast start, before jumping into the grass and working across the barriers. Typically with the combined field of races in the women’s race the first lap is fast and furious with a lot of bunching before spreading out in the second lap. Usually these races end up with me being there by myself, maintaining my position and cruising along. But not this time! I guess it was the combination of this particular group of racers, the last race and great conditions that turned it into a hammer fest. For pretty much the first time in a combined field cross race I was being chased and chasing the entire time! It was amazing! It was hard, especially on the flat bumpy field sections with a headwind! My derailleur wanted to be difficult during the last 2/3rds of the race as well, causing some frustration as I tried to get in the gear I needed for the inclined sections. I actually kept telling myself “my bike does not define me” each time the chain would slip. For most of the race there was one racer in front of me who I kept almost catching and then she would pull ahead. I knew I had advantage in the technical areas but wasn’t so sure about the straightaways.  After going through the finish line and seeing 2 laps to go, I was pretty much set on being where I was in the field for the finish. But the lap leaders passed me with about a half a lap to go. At that point I decided that I had to put the hammer down and see if I could catch the rider in front of me. It was the last race, I had nothing to do but leave it all out there! So I went! I rode hard and fast, and then I was running out of course! As soon as I hit the final paved section I put it all out there and once I could see the finish I stood up and sprinted as hard as I could. I just overtook the racer in front of me with just  a few yards to go! It was so intense, I don’t even really have the words to describe it other than “yes!” and then “I’m going to die.” My place was 12 out of 15. It’s one of the best finishes I’ve had in the Pro1/2/3 field, and I had to do work to get it. That race was one of the hardest due to how the field was spread out, but it also made it that much more memorable and fun.

Corner into the fenced passage -- Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc
Corner into the fenced passage — Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc

I’m satisfied with the way I ended my cross season. It had been a little touch and go all weekend, but Sunday’s race really did end things well. I want to thank my coach Hugh Moran, my shop Beer City Bicycles, North Carolina Cyclocross, and all you awesome racers out there that I’ve raced against this season!!

Race Report: Charlotte Short Track

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.

Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc
Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc

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.

Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc
Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc

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!

Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc
Photo by Torrenti Cycles, Inc

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:

Short Track 1 Times

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?

North Carolina Cyclo-Cross Grand Prix: Behind the Scenes and Race Report

The penultimate weekend of cyclo-cross for me (next to Nationals, which unfortunately I won’t be attending) has come and gone. The North Carolina Cyclo-Cross Grand Prix, was hosted on my home course was Dec 14-15! As if that’s not enough excitement, the close Pro-CX points rankings brought in Jeremy Powers, Tim Johnson, Zach McDonald, Yannick Eckmann, and many more pro cyclists to race for UCI points! In the weeks preceding the race, I thought I would explode from excitement as Tim let me know more and more top riders who had committed to come race!

This weekend is unlike any other weekend. Primarily because I get to be involved in the set-up, logistics, and preparation for the races. That’s part of what makes it so exciting, but also adds challenges on top of normal racing. The week before is spent revising and publishing materials, writing press releases, answering questions on Facebook and Twitter, and helping out Tim, the race promoter as much as possible. Then the fun of setting up the course begins! For three days we’re outside, setting stakes, painting lines, measuring pits, and then taping the course. So much work goes into a race, and luckily there is a lot of help! This year the weather, while cold, was at least sunny for set-up. We knew the weekend was calling for 100% rain on Saturday, creating the “perfect” cross weather. Then on Friday afternoon and into the evening are the final touches, making sure everything is ready to go, all the signs and tents and equipment is where it needs to be for first thing on Saturday.

Then I go home and prepare what I need for the weekend: layers of clothing both normal and bike, kits, gloves, make sure my bike is tuned and clean, I have the spare parts I need, oh and trying to get a good night of sleep before racing! I usually have trouble sleeping the night before a race, even more so the night before an event that I’m working!

My races were at 12:30 each day, giving time to work before I raced. There’s always such an excitement to this race weekend for me! The last minute rush to ensure that everything is ready when the first race goes off at 9am, seeing friends, and watching all the exciting racing. I feel like there’s a pressure for me to race well here too, it’s my home race, an event I’m involved in, and a special race since the Grand Prix was my first exposure to this thing called cyclocross.

On Saturday the weather was on point with rain starting in the morning and temps in the 30’s. I’ve raced in conditions like this before, so I knew it wasn’t going to easy, but I was ready to have fun and do what I could! It was still raining at the start of my race. My start was a little sketchy, but being a paved start helped me recover before heading into the mud. Since it had only been raining a few hours at that point the course was wet with a lot of standing water. The mud was there for sure, but it was fine and watery versus thick and sticky. I have mud tires on my bike, so I knew equipment-wise I was set. I had dropped my tire pressure to just below the min recommended pressure since I knew the lower the better. I can’t wait to get a tubular or tubeless set up for cross, I like to run a low pressure anyway and it can be iffy with tubes. However, there was a lot of standing water and even water-fill ditches on the course that splashed up the freezing water. On the first lap I lost feeling in my legs. I felt so slow and sluggish, but I was handling the mud fine, staying upright and chugging along. For once I didn’t get anxious and lose focus, it was awesome! The wooded hill was really slick, and the first lap through I got off and ran it since everyone in front of my was running it. Half way up I realized I could ride this! So the next two laps I rode that slippery muddy hill! The wall was another story! In the past years I’ve been able to ride it, but I had a feeling that the conditions this year with the rain and mud wouldn’t let that happen. Still, I tried every single time!

Playing in the mud on Saturday
Playing in the mud on Saturday

As you can see, it was slick!  But I was having a blast! I was were I knew I could be given the field size (only 9 in the combined 2/3 women), and I was having a good race! The rain tapered off near the end, improving visibility and taking one of the challenges out of the equation. My final result was 6th out of 10! My goal for this weekend was top 10, so it was easy to meet that one!

I was so cold afterwards! Once the focus and distraction of racing was gone I was miserable! I went to get cleaned up and had to just sit in front of the heater until I stopped shivering. Unfortunately I missed the start of the elite men’s race, but felt that my warmth was more important.

Post Race on Saturday
Post Race on Saturday

Getting back to the course and seeing the remainder of the elite race was amazing! Watching the handling, power, and seeing the determination of the elite racers was inspiring. JPow ended up with his first legit muddy race win!

Sunday brought sun, slightly warmer temps, but also cold gusty wind! The mud had turned into a thick, sticky mess that sucked all your power away. It reminded me of the conditions at CX Nats 2013 in Madison. I wasn’t looking forward to it at all. But I had signed up for this, and this is what cross is all about after all. By the time we staged, the wind had died down and it was around 40 degrees. My start was much better and I was doing great on the first muddy section, but it was so tricky having to avoid everyone else in the mud. People were wrecking everywhere, sliding out on the off-camber, eating it around the corners. I was going slow and steady, since staying upright is faster than ending up on the ground. I was about to make it out of the carnage when a lady slid out in front of me, right in the line I was trying to take. I attempted to go above her, but there was no traction and down I went. Boo. The mud was so thick at this point in the course it was better to run it and then remount. What I didn’t know at this point was that that would end up being the standard for the rest of the race. I tried to ride everything, but kept loosing traction, sliding out, and not being able to pedal with the insane amounts of mud caught in my fork, derailleur, and brakes. It was really frustrating, but at that point all you can do is finish! The lap times were 20 minutes each for the 2 mile course. Talk about ridiculous!

Slugging up the Wall
Slugging up the Wall, not having fun anymore.

We ended up with just two laps. I was so glad to be done! I ended up 7th out of 9, a little disappointing but I’m no runner. Especially with a bike that is triple its usual weight with mud! I hustled down to get my bike washed off before the start of the elite men’s race. I wasn’t going to miss the start this time!

Elite start on Sunday
Elite start on Sunday

There’s nothing like a start, both for the racer and the spectator. As a racer all your focus goes to being primed to explode off the line at the sound of the whistle. As a spectator, you’re waiting for the release that comes with the start. The tension is amazing, especially at a race where there is so much on the line. Once again, I was amazed by the speed and power put out. I know it takes time and commitment to the end goal, but I wanna be that fast!!

On Sunday, JPow once again took the lead and opened up a huge gap. It’s really cool that this race was such an accomplishment for him, not just for the wins that helped keep him in the #1 spot in the rankings, but as his first wins in true muddy races! As someone involved with the production of the races, that is a good feeling!

Once that last race was over, it was time to break it all down. The Brevard College Cycling team lent a huge helping hand in taking down the course. Members of the Crosstown Velo Team worked hard all weekend to make sure the course was safe and taped, including repairing a large portion of the course that got taken out by a fly-away tent on Saturday night, and retrieved the stakes from all over the course. It’s amazing all the people who come together to make things like this happen. It’s also great since with lots of help comes a quicker set up or break down!

Usually there’s a let down post-Grand Prix. But this year was a little different! Watching the response from the racers, spectators, and pros who attended was amazing! The compliments for the course, the pits, and the entire operation mean so much, especially when given under the increase scrutiny of having such high caliber racers on site. It was exciting getting to share the Facebook comments and Tweets with Tim, and seeing how happy they made him.

So, thank you to everyone who came and raced, and to those who volunteered in less than kind conditions. It means a lot to the people behind the scenes to know that you had a great time! Here’s a bigger and better North Carolina Grand Prix in 2014!

Personally, I want to thank my coach Hugh Moran. Having a set training schedule and plan have made my season one of the best yet. While my results aren’t near the top I feel better physically and mentally. Progress, a little bit at a time! Many thanks also to Beer City Bicycles! They really are the coolest shop in Asheville, and their support and advice have helped me out more than words can say!

NCCX #3: Winston Salem Cyclocross Race Report

Yikes, I kept meaning to tell all my stories about Raleigh, and then something would get in the way, and then I was out of town, and so on and so forth. So here I am at last!

North Carolina Cyclocross Race #3 was in  Winston Salem, hosted by Mock Orange Bikes and held at the Children’s Home. It’s been a couple years since I raced in WS, so the venue was new to me. This was my first NCCX race of the season! I missed the previous weekend’s season kick-off due to work. Sad face for Laura, so I was ready to race!

My friend Josh rode down with me. It’s always nice to have company on the longer rides. We arrived with just under two hours to my race start at 11:30am. The weather was gorgeous! Sun shining, slight breeze, still a little nip in the air. I received my series race number: 321! I love it when my numbers are consecutive in some way or have a pattern. Last year I was 345. This thing of starting the season a couple races in works out in that regard.

I’ve been feeling good on the bike. This is largely in part to having a real training plan from Hugh Moran, as well as the motivation to make the best out of my season. Of course, there are bad training days and I wish I had more training time, but having an intentional plan of riding and racing is what I need. I got a quick pre-ride in on the course. It was a great mix of grass and dirt, with a paved start and finish area. It also had a little of everything: wide corners, descents, punchy climbs, and a lot of off camber stuff. The mountain biker in me loves the off camber, so I was feeling good about the course.

I had a great warm-up, and got to the start with plenty of time. This year NCCX has split the Pro1/2/3 field by creating a Master’s 2/3 35+ category that races at the same time. This reduces the Pro1/2/3 field, and makes it a lot faster! I didn’t make the mistake of my previous race, sitting solid on the second row since I didn’t have a call-up (call-ups are based on series points to date and I had zero.). The start was also paved and on a slight decline into the finish area before climbing up and into the grassy section. I had a great start and was in 8th or 9th going into the first turn. I lost a couple of places but settled in on the wheel in front of me. From then on it was pretty intense! I worked really hard to hang on to Genisis’s wheel, and managed to pass her at a couple points, but she always caught back on and would pass me again. This went on for the first few laps. However, my little bit of advantage came from the massive “run-up” that I was able to ride every time. I finally was able to start building a gap, but even then I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to maintain it on the grassy flat sections. We know how much I love grassy flat sections, which ends up to be not very much at all. But these areas all had some sort of descent going into them, allowing me to really build up my speed and keep a good pace through them. The corners were also wide, which helped me out tremendously. The end result was 9th out of 13. I will take that, thank you! It was hard, but I raced smart, I raced hard, and most importantly, I had a race I am proud of!

This weekend will find me in Durham repping Beer City Bicycles for the next NCCX race, followed by some time in Raleigh for work. Did someone say rest week?

I’m a Bad Cyclocrosser

I’m a bad cyclocrosser. At least, Sunday’s race left me feeling very unskilled and so not pro. Sometimes you feel great and just know that you’ll do great. Then something happens and it all goes to pieces. That’s the story of my race on Sunday.

The last Asheville Cyclocross race of the season was held at Pisgah Brewing.  It’s a fun venue and always a fun time! Going in, I felt rested and excited. Asheville CX self-insures and doesn’t mess with USA Cycling sanctioning, which takes the pressure off and lets me just race for fun. So there I was. I had a great warm-up and got a couple of pre-ride laps in on the course. When we staged, the A women started in front of the B men. This was a little weird since they started to catch women about half a lap in. Now, I KNOW the importance of a good starting position. But I figured being on the second row was fine and that I’d make it up with no problem. Well, ha on me. I had a rough start and ended up in the back of the field. I knew were I could be, and decided that I was going to get there one way or another. I think I got so focused on making up places that I lost focus on racing well. I ended up snagging a stake and tape, rubbing tires and falling, dropping a chain over the barriers, and failing to unclip fully in a crowded rush to the barriers again. Ugh. I was pretty annoyed with life. I did settle in and ended up making up 5 places from the end of the field twice, for a 14th out of 19th finish. I take that as a personal victory. I wouldn’t have been able to make up those places before. If I had raced smarter, then I would have been in the middle of the field, where I know I belong.

But, even with all that, I still had fun. I still smiled, I still felt great (once I got off the ground each time). I earned my delicious post-ride beer from Pisgah Brewing. I got to be surrounded by awesome people and get hoarse cheering on the Master’s and A men.

Here’s to hoping I got all my mistakes out of the way for the season and learned all the lessons I needed to learn before starting the NCCX series!!

Mars Hill Mountain at Kolo Bike Park

This weekend I got the best of both worlds: chance to race an awesome mountain bike race hosted by Mars Hill Cycling at Kolo Bike Park combined with having to only travel 30 minutes from home. Add in that I had a 12:30 start and a chance to wake-up without an alarm and you have a recipe for success. Right? One would think so!

Hammer time!
Hammer time!

Let me preface with the fact that I worked 12 hours on the soccer fields on Saturday. I went home, ate dinner and prepped all my stuff for my race. Went to bed at a good time, slept well and got up when I was ready. Had a great breakfast of the always awesome Bob’s Red Mill Seven-Grain, prepared the rest of my drink and food for racing, checked my bike, loaded the car, and away I went. Got to Kolo Bike Park, checked in, found out I was the solo Cat 1 women (whoo-hoo?), and went to get ready. I had plenty of time, the course looked fast and fun, I was excited! I get kitted up, pull out my shoes, put one on and discover I have two left shoes! I don’t know what happened, all I can guess is that my post-work delirium blinded me from realizing I had two different mountain bike shoes in my bag. Needless to say, I was really annoyed with myself. A couple of frantic phone calls to Kyle later, my other right mountain bike shoe was in transit to Kolo, while I pedaled around in my hiking shoes. I know I got a couple weird looks for that one! Kyle saved the day with 10 minutes to go! I quickly finished my very small and short warm up, and lined up with 6 other Cat 1 guys. They would do six 2.7 mile laps, and I was to do 5. I knew that the field would be small, but I was hoping for at least one other women to race against. Not that I mind having a guaranteed sport on the podium, but there’s an intensity that comes from racing against someone.

The start was great, I hung on to the Cat 1 guys for a little bit before settling in to my pace. The first lap was a little rougher than it should have been due to my shoe panic and less than efficient warm up. But the course lent itself well to riding and learning it as you went. The trails at Kolo have all been built in the last year or so. The Mars Hill Cycling team has spent several days there helping build some of the trails and it was exciting to recognize the section that I helped with in the spring! The course had a little bit of everything: wooded singletrack, open singletrack, super D downhill, some rocky stuff and some wooden bridges. Everything is built really well, and for new trails, they all had great flow and lines. You can tell that the Kolo guys know their stuff!

I’m still getting used to the Scott 29’r from Beer City Bicycles. While it’s comfortable and has been an easy transition, now I’m really learning to ride it with finesse and gaining the familiarity and trust that only comes with time on the bike. This bike loves to climb! And loves to roll over anything you steer it towards! It was great on the short climbs and descents all over the course, and handled pretty well through the super D section. I had to reign it in over a few of the table tops to avoid flying into the top of some rollers, but even then the Scott was easy to ride. One of the best things about this bike is how dependable it is! I’m never worried about having a mechanical while racing (though I’m always prepared!).

Since I didn’t have any female competition on the course I knew I would have to focus and not get lazy. My goal was to get a great workout and not get lapped by the men until my final lap. I was able to keep all my lap times within around a minute of each other, and didn’t get passed by the men’s leader until after starting the final lap. Amazingly, I was only passed by the one! I later learned that there were only 3 finishers total in the Cat 1 race, including myself! That made me feel that much better about racing a “solo race” since I must have done something right to finish! The USAC official also offered an early finish, but I was there to do work and did all five laps.

I ended the race with my entry paid back, an amazing bag of Mountain Roasters coffee (cannot wait to try it!!) and some other cool goodies I’ll share about later. Another bonus: my former teammates (and new team members) cheering me on throughout the entire race! You all are awesome, thank you! It reminded me of how big a role collegiate cycling has played in my life. Without it and the connections and friendships I’ve made, I wouldn’t be here.

Super big thanks to Mars Hill Cycling, Hugh Moran (my former and current coach!), Beer City Bicycles (Frank, Jay and O’Neill), and Kolo Bike Park for a GREAT day of racing, and especially to Kyle for bringing me my shoe!