Wow. What a race. (Elisabeth’s race report.)
*My thoughts going in:*
1. This is known as a “Fitness course” or “roadie course.” I’d never raced nor ridden it before, but I was told to expect wide open trail, lots of fast cornering, and long road stretches. I’m feeling fit-ish, but my strengths are more on the technical end. Keep expectations measured.
2. Start fast, stay fast, act like it’s a cyclocross race. See above.
3. Get low when it’s techy. Pay attention to my body position on the bike to maximize speed. Send it on the jumps.
4. New cornering styles when possible. Big new thing learned at camp was a major adjustment to my body weighting and positioning while cornering. Plan to use it, but also don’t run into trees trying to figure it out.
5. Pedal the descents. I’d hit the Pumptrack Connector Trail in Belmont on Saturday and set my fastest time ever by really staying on the pedals. Carry that thought into the race.
6. Earn your turns. At the top of each climb or rise, ramp the speed back up before allowing myself a bit of recovery.
7. Pack a CO2 just in case. Noticing a bit of a ding in my rear rim when cleaning the bike Saturday, Willem strongly suggested I bring CO2 with me. This proved to be a very useful bit of advice.
8. Don’t give up. No matter what place you’re in, don’t settle in.
*The race itself:*
The weather was beautiful and it was so fun to be lined up at the start, seeing friends I hadn’t seen since the end of cyclocross season and making new friends on the start line. We went off fast, and I led the charge up the hill, with Roz squeaking by for a few seconds in her very fast starting way. I got back around before we hit the trail, then led the whole first lap, stretching my lead over chasers Emma and Lauren in a few sections. I caught a bunch of air on the downhill jumps. My back end felt really sluggish up the climb at the end of the lap, but I told myself it was nothing, just a soul-sucking gravel climb.
I came through the feed zone with a bit of a gap. Hit the first turn into the second lap and confirmed I had burped out a considerable amount of air and had a flat. Fumbled through using a CO2 to boost air back in as riders cruised by. I got a bunch of air back in, hopped back on and chased HARD. I was back into 3rd place half a lap later. I missed my second bottle going through the feed zone, very thankful to have made the decision to wear a hydration pack, but worried about not having enough nutrition to sustain my effort. A third of the way in to lap 3, I saw a glimpse of Emma up ahead. The masters guy I was with encouraged me on, I caught her, and then rode with her, following her great line choices for a stretch. I could tell I was really pushing her pace, and eventually I broke away clean into second place, wondering if there was any possible hope of seeing the front of the race again. As I hit the finishing climbs, there was Lauren. I was closing in, but without enough course left to make it happen. Came within 30 seconds at the finish.
It’s hard to be too bummed about a mechanical when you can’t really believe you were able to recover from it and chase back so hard. It was a new experience for me to be leading out the pro race, setting the tempo at the front and working to open and extend my lead whenever possible. Knowing later how close I was to getting back into first, I should’ve passed Emma sooner, as I was definitely settling into her pace a little once I’d caught her. But what I’m most proud of is my mental game. After the flat, I could’ve (and in the past likely would’ve) told myself that 4th place was still good, or that making it back up to 3rd was surely enough of an accomplishment. Instead, I kept pushing, kept chasing as if I were the only one out there doing a time trial. Sure, there’s a bit of bittersweetness knowing I came so close to my first elite win, but I know I learned way more about myself as a racer because of how the race shook out.
Moreover, I was so, so stoked on how our whole squad did. We had seven racers across deep Open/Pro and Cat 2 19-35 fields, and five of us were on the podium. Shout out to Trek for making elite payouts equal for women and men!
Elisabeth 2nd, Open/Pro
Emma 3rd, Open/Pro
Meghan 7th, Open/Pro
Caitlin 1st, Cat 2 19-35
Erica 3rd, Cat 2 19-35
Michaela 4th, Cat 2 19-35
Sam 7th, Cat 2 19-35