Friday, December 12, 2008
Cyclocross Nationals - Day 2 report
Quick recap on the proceedings out in Kansas City from cyclocross Nationals. We left a snow covered Madison on Wednesday morning and made the 8 hour drive to KC in the Planet Bike van.
A pretty uneventful trip which is a good thing but we did manage to take a quick stop at the World's Largest Truck Stop in Iowa. I just recently learned of this not to be missed attraction off of I-80 and was very excited for the photo op. Didn't look around too much but maybe we'll stop on the way back home.
A quick team dinner and we all settled into our rooms. Decent hotel with Suite rooms so we all got kitchens which is always nice. Thursday was a day for most of us to go check out the course and see what we were in store for. Mechanic David Kohli set up shop in his suite and started dialing bikes in. With over 12 bikes to tend to he was definitely going to be busy - thanks so much David! We have a big crew of riders here with Jonathan back from Europe, Anna, Diane, Mark, Bob, Patti, Ian, and Jordan.
Diane and I rode our bikes from the hotel to the race site on the very rolling roads of KC. We discovered a somewhat sloppy muddy course due to the inch or so of snow that had fallen on Tuesday. It was a beautiful sunny day with temps in the mid 40s so the snow had melted and made the course wet and muddy. A tough course with more elevation change than I expected. Long stretches of gradual climbing and a few fast technical (and very sloppy!) sections. Two separate sets of stairs built into a hill and one set of barriers right before a 180 degree corner. The start and finish was on a fast flat pavement stretch. I liked the course and knew I would like it even more if it dried out a bit more. We rode a couple of laps, got the bikes completely muddy and then rode back and left them with Kohli to get them back in working order.
We had a really nice team dinner in downtown KC at PF Chang's with everyone coming together. Somehow they managed to seat all 19 of us and we ate well. Anna and I had a lot of fun playing with Jonathan's kids Emma and Milo who thought they became invisible when they covered up their faces with their napkins. It's amazing how long kids can be kept entertained by such a simple game! They're so cute! On the drive home we were not amused by the steady sleeting rain that fell for nearly an hour - not in the weather forecast and sure to make the course slick for the next morning's races.
Today - Friday - was a big day for Team Planet Bike. With a total of 6 racers in the day's events it would me a long and busy day for everyone - especially David! Anna at 9AM, Jordan and Ian at 10AM, Diane and Patti at 1PM, and me at 2PM.
The mud was mostly frozen and hard packed in the morning although the sun quickly warmed things up. Anna had a great race and finished a very strong 2nd in the girls 17-18 race.
She was only 10 seconds back from cycling phenom Coryn for nearly the entire race. The last lap brought a flawless ride for Coryn and a crash by Anna. Very exciting race to watch and congratulations to Anna on a great ride! Also in that race were Wisconsin riders Kaitie who finished 3rd in the 17-18 group and Sarah who completely demolished the 13-14 group to take home a stars and stripes jersey - awesome races! It was so cool to hear announcer Dave Towle speak so highly of the riders from Wisconsin with all of our great finishes in the races. That strong Wisconsin cross scene!
By the boys race at 10 the course had softened up and was turning into a sloppy muddy mess again. Both Jordan and Ian raced well in the conditions. Ian's pedal actually came off and he had to ride half a lap with one foot! He finished 12th and Jordan raced really strong to finish 3rd. Check out Jordan's bike after his race - yuck!
Jordan was kind of muddy too.
I chilled out in the van for the next race and got ready to preride the course at noon. I struggled with the decision of whether to preride or not because I didn't want to totally trash the bike and my clothing. But I decided it would be good to see what kind of condition the course was in. And the answer? . . . thick, muddy mess. After a lap there were blocks of grassy mud around my front derailer, my brakes, the chainrings, the rear der. pulleys. My bike must have had 10 pounds of mud on it. And the water vehicle was no where to be seen as it was gone to get refilled. Luckily we've got a Nomad and David helped me de-mud the bike. Looked like it was going to be a day for some bike changes.
I rode around and watched parts of the Womens races and got to see Diane rock the 55-59 race and defend her title from last year.
Patti also rode strong and finished just off the podium in 6th. Great races for them both! I was also pleased to see that the course firmed up an incredible amount in the preride hour it was open and the bikes were no longer caked with the thick mud.
There were 25 women on the line for my 30-34 race and I started second row. Tough competition in attendance with riders like Mo B-R, Josie J-M, and Rebecca Wellons toeing the line. Off we went and I won't mention the start . . . if you read any of my race reports this year you'll know what happened. I moved up on riders through some of the early corners and passed more as we began the long uphill section. I was amazed how much the course had dried out and only a few sections were very wet so that the bike stayed relatively clean. After the finish of the first lap I had moved up to 7th place. There were four riders not too far ahead of me and I knew if I could stay in control they were catchable. I held 7th for the next lap after moving up on riders on the hill and then getting passed back on the technical, more wet muddy sections.
I had so many people cheering for me out on the course it was awesome! Many Wisconsin and Midwest riders/fans out there and it was motivating to hear my name at so many points on the course! On the third lap I was determined to move up and passed one rider with 4th (Josie) and 5th (Kristi) just seconds ahead. With two to go I moved into 5th place on the hill and knew I had to really try to get a gap on the part of the course that suited me. Coming through the finish with one to go I was in 5th with both Josie in front and Kristi behind me, each 10 seconds away. Here's a great shot (thanks Jamie!) of Bob pointing out to me how close 4th place was.
Sarah Kerlin was just ahead of Kristi and was leading the race in the next age group, 35-39. I knew she wasn't going to jeopardize my podium spot. I was getting tired and rode up the hill with as much power as I could hoping to hold my spot or move up. I was slow through the technical section though and Sarah passed me. I found out later Kristi is a former downhill rider and she was flying through this section. Through the barriers near the end of the lap she was right on me and as we came to the steps she was running next to me and then passed me. I got into my drops through the final twists and shifted into the big ring and stuck to her wheel. I knew that the pavement section would suit me and if I was geared right I should be able to take her in a sprint finish. I pulled around her and gave it my all. Sarah was just ahead of us and was crossing the line with her arms raised for the win while we were sprinting behind her. I took Kristi by less than a bike length and crossed the line in 5th - the final podium spot. Here's a cyclingnews pic of Sarah winning her race and Kristi and I sprinting in the background.
Whew! What a race! I was happy to finish on the podium with some great competition in my age group. And the sprint finish certainly made things very exciting! Thanks again to all of the people on the course cheering for me - the atmosphere at these events is awesome and I love all of the spectators! I think Ben gets the award for superfan at this race - I swear I heard him yelling at like 10 different parts of the course!
Thanks Jamie for the great podium shot!
Big thanks to David Kohli for being in the pit and having the bikes all set to go. The whole Planet Bike crew did a great job today for everyone - in addition to all of the racers Jim, Dave S., and Jamie all did a fantastic job helping out - thanks guys!! Thanks to Bob, Planet Bike and all of the sponsors for the support out here!
Alright - time for bed. I'll try to get pictures later! Thanks