Tuesday, November 18, 2008
USGP New Jersey Day 2
Whew - what a trip. Sorry I'm delayed in getting an entry up. Travel takes it's toll and I haven't had much time to sit down and write or upload photos.
Sunday brought windy and cold conditions with temps in the upper 40s. Mud got thicker and I thought almost harder to ride through. Still several sections where the thick mud made these gloppy puddles that would suck up your entire shoe.
They took out a section of the course also since the racing was so slow so our laps were probably 2.5K instead of 3K. My calves were sore today from all the running on day 1 but otherwise I was feeling okay. A new bruise on my right inner knee matched nicely with one on the left from Toronto - poor legs take a beating during the cross season!
Chris got our bikes all cleaned and tuned up including some new cables and housing. He was such a huge help this weekend - thanks Chris!!
Lined up and off we go. I'm ashamed to say I once again had trouble clipping in and lost precious places because of that. We surf into the mud and I'm sitting in 25-30th as we enter a long gloppy section (note: gloppy is my new favorite adjective). I get around some riders and try to ride as much as I can - carefully trying to stay on the outside line while avoiding the tape. I get a bike exchange from Chris and try to stay upright. I pass several more riders and am at the back of a group that includes Sarah Kerlin and Meredith Miller. They are running (and riding!) faster than me and I soon fall back. I'm trying to catch back up but I'm having a rough time. I slip into the caution tape a couple of times and have to wrestle my bike free. I dread the long running sections and try to ride as far as I can into them. Riding in the mud is actually really fun as you try to steer through it and stay upright. Getting off and having to push your ridiculously heavy bike and run through the slop is not as fun.
A lap to go and I want to catch the riders in front of me but my legs and lungs are screaming at me. Sally has a mechanical and I pass her as she is trying to fix her drivetrain. The long run before going under the flyover is brutal. I try to keep running but I feel like I am walking. I had a blast out there this weekend but wow, never have I wanted so much to stop and just take a break for a minute! Getting a clean bike every half a lap is wonderful. I try to ride smoothly through the remaining sections and keep my position. I make it through the last tricky section, back wheel sliding as I steer the front end through the mud, come onto the pavement and cross the line for 15th place.
Again I was really hoping to finish a little bit higher this weekend but given the conditions and the competition I'm still happy with my performances. I know I'm not a great technical rider and the only way to improve that is to race and ride in less than ideal conditions. This weekend gave me that opportunity and it was definitely a lot of fun. Embrace the mud!
Anna rebounded from her crash on Saturday and finished a solid 19th.
Kaitie, who rode one dirty bike the entire race, rode strong and came in 26th. She rides a single 42 chainring too and I am so impressed at her ability to push a big gear through tough conditions.
Immediately after the race I rode over to the hose and cleaned off the bike and sprayed down my muddy, dirty legs and feet. It was much colder out on Sunday but you're still warm for about 15 minutes post race and I wanted to clean off before I started to get cold. Thus, I don't have any great pictures of the filth but you'll just have to trust me that I was really muddy!
Cleaned up at the van and then rode over to collect clothing from Mark on the line.
Saturday's winner, Tim Johnson, sat out with a knee injury so it was time for a different face atop the podium. It was amazing how quickly the race was strung out. The Wells bros and Jeremy Powers comprised the lead group with several other main contenders quickly falling back. Here are those three riding a muddy section.
It was a fun race to watch and to see how the riders chose to tackle the conditions. Here are riders running that same section. I think you can tell which way looks faster.
Here are Brian Matter's legs as he runs the mud.
Mark was sitting just out of the top 10 when an unfortunate flat tire caused him to run nearly half of a lap. He was riding well but admitted the conditions were taking their toll.
Both he and Kaitie had bruises on their shoulders, arms, and torsos from shouldering the bike and running so much on Saturday. Mark pushed on through until the end and rode strong, finishing 14th for some points and some cash.
After Mark's race we had to quickly clean up and load up the van so that we could get Mark to Philly for his flight back home. By this point in the weekend we had the van packing down to a science and the 5 of us assumed our roles and were ready to go less than an hour after the finish of the race. Thanks again to Chris for all of his hard work in the pits and helping organize us and all of our stuff. I don't think we could have done it without him!
We dropped Mark off at the airport and then began the long 15 hour drive back to Wisconsin. After a stop for some food at a sports bar near West Chester, PA we drove on until past midnight near the Western border of Pennsylvania. We awoke to a snow covered landscape and began driving again in the morning. There was some snow in parts of Ohio but the temps were warm enough that the roads were fine. Pretty uneventful drive - listened to lots of CDs, did a few cross word puzzles. Anna and Kaitie did some homework, watched videos on Anna's laptop, and took some naps - aren't they cute :)
We made it through Chicago quickly and were in Milwaukee by 4pm. Anna and I were hopeful to be back in Madison by 6 or so. Then we got on the highway and saw the brake lights, we got through what we thought was the worst of it and then all of a sudden more brake lights, and then it started snowing like crazy. There was a large accident on the interstate and we got off in hopes of getting around it and meeting up with the highway further west. The snow got worse, the traffic inched along, and the roads got super slippery. I guess they're called "snow bursts" and over an inch of snow fell in under 15 minutes. The van doesn't exactly have 4 wheel drive and we decided to get off, have some dinner at Qdoba, and wait for the roads to clear up.
Needless to say we didn't make it back to Madison until 8:30. Whew - good to be home.
I figured out that in the past 12 days I have spent over 60 hours traveling in the van. And as homey and comfortable as it is I am definitely glad to be sticking around home for the State Champ race this weekend. It's really fun to get to travel to these big races and to see new things but the long hours spent traveling and away from home can also get stressful. I've had some amazing experiences thus far this season, though, and I am so grateful to Planet Bike and all of our sponsors for making it happen. Final push is on towards Nationals and I feel like I've had an excellent preparation for my two big races out there. Three more weekends of racing first though with Wisconsin State race this weekend, Jingle Cross in Iowa City, and then the Illinois State race. Somehow I forsee cold temps, mud, and snow in my future races :)