Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cyclocross Nationals - Day 3 and 4 report

picture by Andrea Wilson
Ugh - I apologize for not updating regularly in KS. We had very slow internet at the hotel and it's amazing how quickly the "down" time can get sucked up. I'm still in the process of collecting pictures from the trip and races so check back as I'll add them in throughout the week.

Day 3 - Saturday - U23 races, Masters Mens races
Mild temperatures in the 50s but extremely windy. Conditions turned the soft mud into a hard packed yet spongy course. Fast but still energy zapping. Watched the U23 races in the morning. No Planet Bike riders in either of those fields but I did get to see future Kenda riders Ally Stacher and Ashley James take 2nd and 3rd (respectively) in the womens race. Nice job ladies!
After heading back to the hotel to relax for a couple of hours we headed back to the course in the afternoon to watch the 40-44 race and see Wisconsin racers JPE, Paul, Dave, and Mark race. After that Bob raced the 50-54 race and despite being in the final stages of a cold he had an impressive performance and finished a strong 7th place.
He was bringing back 5th and 6th place and if he had another lap I think he may have been on the podium. The race was won by mountain biking legend Ned Overend.

Day 4 - Final day of racing with Elite races for Anna and I followed by Jonathan and Marko. The weather was a balmy 60 degrees when we woke up and around 9:00 it dropped 15 degrees in a matter of 5 minutes. By the time we got to the course at 10:30 it was 35 degrees and the wind was howling out of the north - freezing cold. Fast course again with the dry, windy conditions. Anna and I warmed up on trainers sheltered from the wind by the van. Nearly 80 women on the line for our race and I had a third row call up. We shivered on the line and finally off we went. My bad start luck continued and I lost maybe 30 spots as we entered the grass. It's become a mental block for me. Some friends told me it's just part of my formula - I need to claw my way through the field in order to get in "the zone". Either way I vow to improve on my starts for next season. I quickly started to pass riders and was out of the saddle trying to take advantage of every straight away and the hill to make up time. The course was a lot of fun - it was fast but the hill provided plenty of suffering as the head wind and the bumpy ruts took it out of you. I felt better today in the technical descent portions of the course but realize I was still losing time there to many riders. Thanks for the picture Andrea!

I was feeling alright and in the second and third laps continued to pick off some riders. I heard people yelling that I was in the top 20 and with several riders just ahead of me I knew top 15 and possibly even top 10 was within my reach. The next lap I passed a few more girls and through the technical section got passed back. Coming through with two laps to go I passed the two riders just in front of me on the uphill section and heard fans telling me I was in 15th place. There was a strung out group of 5 riders not very far ahead of me and I pushed to try to catch up to them and put distance on the chasers behind me. On the runup after the hill I was nearly on the wheel of the rider in front of me but she gapped me in the corners on the descent. As we came through with one lap to go I was at my limit and was trying to push hard to reel in the riders in front of me. Just couldn't do it though and I focused on staying smooth and powerful on this last lap as I could no longer feel my toes and my breathing was getting erratic. I tried to stay calm and keep the pedals turning and finish off this last race of the season strong. I came across the line in 15th - 25 seconds behind the group of 5 in front of me. I wish I could have been in there sprinting for 10th but I was pleased with my race.

My toes were so cold after the race despite those little toe warmer inserts. I skipped a cool down and instead changed quickly in the van and put on virtually every piece of clothing I had with me for spectating the mens race. Anna and I were enjoying the warm van but finally emerged ready to be Superfans. Congrats to Anna on a great Elite race too - she finished a very strong 22nd. The wind was incredible - it cut through whatever you were wearing and made the 25 degree temps feel like 0. I put on my balaclava in an attempt to stay warm.

Being a superfan was a blast. Jonathan had a huge contingent of family and friends and we were handing out cowbells with Planet Bike and JP stickers on them. JP was leading the field off of the pavement and a group of about 7 riders soon formed. photo thanks to Amy

Marko was in the top 15. After a couple of laps Anthony attacked and Driscoll went after him. The remaining group of 5 rode together and after a lap or so Trebon went as Anthony's lead dropped. Trebon was incredible and passed them both to get a good gap that grew with each lap. Driscoll rode strong in between Trebon and the group behind that eventually became Page, Anthony, and Johnson. Marko was working himself further up and was riding with Troy Wells for 11th. Page hit it hard the last two laps in an attempt to get to Driscoll and dropped Anthony and Johnson. Couldn't quite make it and he finished a very respectable 3rd. Marko meanwhile dropped Troy in the last lap and was nearly on Bishop's wheel as they reached the finish stretch. photothanks to Amy
He couldn't quite come around but finished a strong 11th place. Strong rides by both Planet Bike riders and an awesome race to watch. Wow - was I ever cold by the end of the race!

We had a nice team dinner that evening. I'm going to write up a more official thank you blog post soon but I have to thank Bob and Planet Bike for the incredible support during nationals and throughout the season. I am so proud to be a part of this team and the sense of family within the group of riders and support crew is inspiring.

The snow began to fly as we ate and it was cold, windy, and snowing as we made our way back to the hotel for the night. I am quite thankful we didn't have to race Monday as we woke up to 6 degrees, windy, and a snow/ice covered landscape. An uneventful trip home - thanks to Kohli for driving the whole way! - and we arrived at Planet Bike before the sun set.

All in all a great way to finish off the season. Thanks for following me along on all of the cycling adventures of 2008. Blog posts will probably become a bit boring in these next couple of months but I'll try to keep 'em coming!

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