Cross is here! Cross is here! If you can’t tell, I am so excited. I LOVE racing cyclocross. It is my absolute favorite cycling discipline. Having a good race, getting into a good flow in the corners, figuring out where to go hard and where to recover, accomplishing the technical and challenging sections, and doing all of this successfully is one of the best feelings in the world to me.
My season started out with the very first UCI cyclocross races in the US on the calendar at GoCross; two C2s in Roanoke, Virginia. If you have never done this race before, you should definitely consider adding it to your calendar. All of the promoters and sponsors actively promote cyclocross and they do an excellent job. The atmosphere is amazing and it could not have been a better kick off to the season ahead.
My Dad, Kerry, Becca, Spencer (Kerry and Becca’s mechanic) and I headed up to Roanoke on Friday afternoon. As it’s only a 2 hour drive for us it feels like a hometown race. So many people I have met while growing up racing attend this race so it is cool to have such a large cheering crowd. Regardless of racing so close to home, I still had quite the nerves going into the first cross race of the season. I had a bad start but then couldn’t recover from it and move back up through the field. I think my nerves, anxiety, and also the 90 plus degrees heat got the best of me. Luckily, the promoters reserve the pool all weekend so it is open for the racers and spectators to use. I headed straight to the pool post race to try to cool down and regain focus for Sunday.
Sunday’s course had some changes that suited me. Punchier sections and more climbing were added in, both of which I enjoy. I had talked to my coach about remaining calm on the start line and focusing on the start and first lap. I felt more confident and was ready. I had a second row call up. The start whistle was blown, I clipped in, and we were off! But not for long! A rider on the far left of the front row either missed or pulled out of her pedal and crashed sideways, across the front of the field left to right. I was lucky enough to be able to hit the brakes and slow down as she flew in front of me taking out the right side of the field. I heard people and bikes crashing and crunching but tried not to panic. I got around the crash without having to stop and was able to refocus on the race as quickly as possible. I moved up quite a lot throughout the race and got into a great rhythm of accelerating and recovering. I finished 9th which I was happy with. It was an improvement from the day before. I spent Kerry’s entire race cheering from the pool.
We packed up and headed to Rochester on Monday. The August family was gracious enough to host us and both dogs (Sherman and Forrest) all week. It was a great recovery week which included a ride to a creamery, a movie (The Art of Racing in the Rain- very sad but highly recommend the book and the movie), bike path spins, and lots of sleeping. Sherman loved the August’s house because they have a HUGE yard so he got to sniff all the smells to his little nose’s content. Forrest seemed like a young pup again, frolicking around the yard and sunbathing in the afternoons.
Friday arrived and we headed off to the venue for the Rochester Cyclocross weekend. My dad prefers to arrive early to secure the perfect parking spot. Saturday was a C1 and Sunday a C2. The weather was perfect with only 70 degree highs and overnight showers so dust was minimal. This weekend was the first “Team Race” meaning the whole Amy D crew was going to be there together. This included Mo Bruno Roy our manager, mentor, and support person; two talented mechanics (Jon and Colin); and the other pro cyclocross racer on the team, KK Santos! I met Mo and the mechanics at the course on Friday. Mo pre-rode with me and showed me all the fast lines. I felt pretty good about the weekend to come!
KK arrived late Friday night, so it was good to catch up with her Saturday morning. The weekend consisted of really stacked fields both days. Practically everyone but Katie Compton was there racing. The start and first half lap of this course has never been my favorite. You start on loose gravel and then there are several off camber and technical sections in the beginning of the lap. This causes a lot of bottlenecks and lots of running, especially if you have a bad start. I don’t mind running but I hate getting bogged down as the front of the field rides effortlessly away. The race began and the rider in front of me got off to a bad start and I saw no way around. Trying not to get discouraged, I moved up as much as possible throughout the race and finished in the low 20s which was disappointing.
Sunday arrived and I was pleased that for the first time the promoters added a little start loop. It was a more open, less technical start with longer grass straight-aways for passing and much less potential for bottlenecks. I had a better start and was able to move up quickly so that the rest of the race I was able to draft and pass in smart places instead of wasting energy working all by myself. I finished 16th and I was very happy with that in such a stacked field. I’m trying to be happy with small improvements rather than accomplishing my goals instantly.
Next weekend, the team will reconvene in Iowa City. I am so excited for an entire season ahead with the amazing Amy D Foundation squad. Thank you to all the sponsors that make this crazy sport resembling a traveling circus possible. We couldn’t do it without you.