Well the snow ended up being a little bit more than what was predicted and we had about 7 inches on the ground in Madison Sunday morning. Dave helped me load up the cross AND mountain bikes and I was on the road to Milwaukee blaring some music to psych me up WHILE driving through pouring rain as temps were now in the mid 30s. Oh yes - rain, snow, and likely mud - the Wisconsin State Championship race was sure to be that all too often used term . . . epic.
I get a nice parking spot where I can see the course laid out in front of my windshield - perfect for spectating from the warm confines of my car. The park is completely snow covered with about a 2 foot wide icy muddy path for us to ride on.
photo by renee
I walk to registration and see that in addition to two sets of barriers with hill runups we also get to ride through a big fat puddle. Maybe it will clean some of the mud off the wheels every lap anyway?
The toasty warm registration area is like a battle zone. Riders looking zoned out sitting around with their feet bare - just hoping that they'll thaw out and the pain will subside. Boy oh boy! I can't wait 'til that's me in another couple of hours! But Hampshire Cycling did a great job putting on the race and in addition to having access to showers they also had lots of warm snacks and drinks for racers.
I grab my umbrella and decide to walk parts of the course. I've decided not to preride in an effort to keep my bike fairly clean. I run into the Queen of Cross herself, Renee, who is sick with a cold but like the trooper she is she's out taking photos and cheering crossers on. I'm a wimp and am starting to get cold so I go sit in the car for my "warm up" and pump some Kanye and Eminem and try to convince myself this will be the best race of the year. My view:
Finally race time comes and I emerge from the warmth to ride the roads. To try to keep the dreaded toes warm I've put plastic zip lock bags over my socks before I put my shoes on and then put some wind proof socks with the bottoms cut off over my shoes. I spray the bike and my cleats down with PAM cooking spray and hope for the best. I listen to the wisdom of the experts and ride the cross bike and the mountain bike goes in the pit - thanks Dave T. for putting it there!
A good group has shown up for a shot at the title and even a few Illinois riders. Pressure was on since I'm the defending champ but I'm looking to go out there and have a good time. Being me I neglect to realize the dire importance of lining up in the center today and from the start I'm riding off in the snow trying to move up when possible. The muddy icy ground is the consistency of a snow cone and while not too slick it is slow going. No coasting in this race and you hardly needed your brakes. Devon and Sam get a gap and after a half a lap I am around the other riders and trying to chase them down. I am catching up to Sam and am on her wheel after the long gradual climb. I pass her, she passes me back as I dab a corner, and then I get around her in the long start straightaway. Clipping in is a nightmare as the snow freezes to the cleat and after each run up I am riding unclipped for 20-30 seconds.
photo by renee
I am actually having a lot of fun though. The mud isn't thick and sticky and the snow actually provides a fair amount of traction. My bike is a mess and probably weighs an extra 5-10 pounds due to all the snowy mud that has piled up on the brakes and down tube/deraileur. It's no easy task hoisting it over barriers and I decide to push up the hills. On the third lap I come through the start area and see 3 to go. Devon is so far gone I don't see her anywhere so I focus on just staying smooth and powerful. I have a good gap and one by one the laps tick by. Marko passes me with 2 to go and I am happy to have one less lap. Finally bell lap, I manage to stay upright the entire race and come through in second place but win the State Champ title being the first Wisco rider.
Congrats to my fellow Wisconsin podium finishers Kaitie in silver and Elicia in bronze! Nice job girls!!
Amazingly I was not cold at all after the race and the feared painful frozen toe experience was averted for now. And I cannot say enough about the amazing wicking and warm qualities of Craft base layers. Here I am post race - gotta love the mud!
The bike was pretty much a mess but the PAM seemed to do a decent job of keeping the drivetrain running smooth.
So it was a really fun race despite the conditions. And c'mon it's cross - HTFU - I don't think we could have really asked for a better way to close out the season. It's been a great year for racing cyclocross in Wisconsin and huge thanks go out to Renee and John for their tireless work to make the state series one of the best in the nation. Here they are in action - photos from madcross
Also thanks to my hardcore cheering section of guys from Team Magnus and Machinery Row. They've been out there every race, always offering me a beer hand-up (of which I politely refuse!) and yelling my name. I appreciate the support guys - thank you!! Here's some pics of them - all shots courtesy of madcross.
Two more weekends to go! Chicago next Sunday and then the following weekend KC better watch out because a HUGE contingent of WI crossers are making the trip - can't wait!