I traveled to Massachusetts for the 2-day, C2 NOHO cx race on Friday November 8th. On the agenda was building the bikes and pre-riding the course. Unfortunately, I only got three laps during the scheduled pre-ride window before it was too dark to see rocks and roots I should be avoiding. I was late to pre-ride because after I built the bikes, I spent some time in the Northampton Bicycle shop fixing what United airlines damaged, my race wheels. It wasn’t anything bad, but they were out of true and disc rotors were bent. It wasn’t the first time it happened so I made a note to buy my own rotor truing tool to add to my tool collection, learn how to use it, and take even more precautions with padding important bike parts in case airlines keep mistaking my bike cases for trampolines or soccer balls, the similarities are just too many. I love to pre-ride and work out the kinks and problem areas and try out different lines. I’m a firm believer in muscle memory and effective repetition, I sleep easier knowing I can visualize and ride the course in my head. It’s like doing homework, how well you know the subject shows on the day of the exam. Because I didn’t get to ride as much as I wanted on Friday, I decided to show up earlier on Saturday to pre-ride some more.
NOHO day 1:
Day 1 of NOHO was cold, but not raining or snowing so at least there was that. My race went at 2pm and I arrived around 9:30am not only for pre-ride, but also for mechanical support from the neutral. The bottom bracket on my A bike was creaking so much you’d think the bike could fall apart any second. Turns out, the Scott frame I got over a month ago came with the wrong bottom bracket and neutral support advised I don’t race that bike as it indeed, could fall apart any second. The creaking was a sign of parts loosening. Thankfully, I had a B bike so I swapped the wheels and continued course inspection. I really loved the course, it started out wide, but after a few grassy turns and a straight pavement section, bottle-necked and became more technical. There were also a couple really fun drops at the tops of which, if you lined up accordingly, you could carry a lot of speed into the next corner all while still pedaling and then put some serious power down from all that momentum. After being happy with my preparation and riding circles in the grass for warm-up it was time to race. I have a history of struggling with starts, all the close, aggressive movement around and everyone fighting for position as well as knowing I’ve a mediocre (at best) sprint, sap whatever confidence I have in myself. But it’s been getting better. And NOHO was the first race I got to race with UCI points. That meant a ranked call-up number and of all the numbers, I got #13. I was so stoked. “Put it on upside down or don’t start”, “you gonna pin it upside down?”, “dude, you GOTTA pin it upside down!” were a few things I heard from my friends, and of course I was gonna do that! Who doesn’t want to be part of the ‘upside down 13’ tradition?! And #13 meant a second row start out of 45 people that showed up. I was already so lucky. I had a decent start and went as hard as I could to stay with the pointy end and all was well until the bottleneck. The girl in front of me crashed and I got trapped under her back wheel while the field was moving past. I got to work and passed people until the gap to the next girl was just too big to close. However, I had two girls I caught earlier sitting on my wheel. Unfortunately, I miscalculated my strategy and was out-sprinted by both to finish 11th, just outside the UCI points allocation. There was still day 2 and I walked away with renewed confidence I could perform at the same level as more experienced girls. Plus, I met awesome people that helped me in the pit and then invited me out to dinner with them. Day 1 was an absolute blast.
NOHO day 2:
Sunday was a bit warmer and still no rain or snow which was a bonus for the rental car. I slept in a bit longer, but still made it to the course around 10:30am. My front tubular was deflated, but I didn’t think much of it as I knew tubulars can sometimes lose pressure overnight. I added psi’s, although lower than day 1 because I wanted to test out lower pressure, and then pre-rode in between waves of other races and during the scheduled UCI pre-ride window. Day 2 was day 1 course backwards with a few technical sections added. One of them was a steep drop into a steep run up into another steep drop where you’re barreling down into course netting and a tree. I definitely had a couple close calls, but tree collision was avoided successfully. I had another decent start, but something felt off, cornering felt a bit slippery and tires a bit too squishy. I kept telling myself I’ve tubulars, I can’t have a leak, I’m fine, and just imagining things. But the problem kept getting worse, I was losing traction and slowing down and being passed. I had a friend in the pit with my A bike (the one with the wrong bottom bracket), but didn’t want to pit thinking of the time I’d lose going in and how the girl behind will catch up and pass me although that’s exactly what was happening. On the second to last lap I finally went in for a bike change and quickly asked Josh to adjust the B bike tire pressure to 22/23. Next half lap around I came back for the bike and immediately felt much better. On the last lap I chased down three girls to finish 14th. I was disappointed, I came all this way, spent all this money, pre-rode my brains out, knew I could keep up with the front group only to be sabotaged by my own poor judgement. But it’s all experience, and lessons learned for the future race exams. It’s like a trick question that gets thrown in and you need to be ready for it as well. Practice all scenarios and prepare for the worst. Overall, I had an amazing time, friends I made the night before cheered around the course and there were pats on the back from strangers after the race. Also, the race director, Alec Donahue, found me a host house pretty much last minute as I booked this trip last minute. I can’t wait to be back, the courses were my favorite by far this year and the hospitality unmatched.