Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jingle through the Mud

Had a super fun three days spent in Iowa City, IA for the Jingle Cross Rock UCI events. This is my 4th year coming down for the races and this was the first time that they added on a Friday night under the lights race. I convinced Dave to join us for the weekend which was awesome as we got to spend a weekend together and he even raced too. This meant we got to bring Cider too. We broke out the down jacket for her as it was chilly and she's a wimp.The night race was pretty intense. They had some really cool lighting that helped with visibility. There were still a couple of dark corners where you couldn't really see what you were riding over but that made it kind of fun!
They had forewarned us that record rainfalls in the month of November would make things muddy. My overly optimistic attitude told me it was beautiful outside and would dry up. . . . not so much. It was a mixture of sloppy, thick mud and it was a mess. And it was wrecking equipment. I must have seen or heard of 20-30 rear derailleurs busting. The worst was the pea gravel sections after the mud. The rocks would stick to the mud, get lodged somewhere and then you were done for. The grassy mud was also clogging up near the brakes and bottom bracket - not good. And the course was tough. Up and down the famed Mt. Krumpit the run up was incredibly long, steep, and muddy. Shouldering the bike was essential if you didn't want it to weigh 50 pounds from all the mud that would collect on it while pushing. And then you got to come down the ridiculously steep, rutted, off camber switchbacks. I didn't preride - might as well let the fear hit me in race mode! Bike changes were going to be crucial too and luckily we had an amazing pit crew with Chris, Dave, Daniel, and Jim all helping out.

A solid crew of Midwest women signed up for the race with national powerhouse (and fellow UW alum!) Meredith Miller also showing up. She's the current US road national champ and is a talented rider and she's super nice. Linda led out for the first little bit before Kaitie ended up getting around and getting a bit of a gap on all of us. She's a great mudder and it showed. Super announcer Dave Towle was calling out her name along with his usual grandiose analogies. Meredith was just biding her time though and came around on the next lap to take the lead. At one point Linda, Kaitie, and I were all chasing Meredith together on like the second lap and the announcer was dramatizing the situation - calling us the aramada and saying we weren't friends anymore as we were all trying to outrace each other. It was pretty funny. Kaitie pulled away from us and I was back in a group with Linda and Rebecca Much and by the end of the third lap had gotten ahead of both of them to sit in 3rd place. The course was a mess but it was fun. I was running down a few of the crazy off camber descents and riding a couple. I'm certainly not a great mud racer but I think my balance is at least improving - now I just have to stop grabbing so much brake! Lots of cheering fans made for a great atmosphere. The order stayed the same - Meredith won, Kaitie 2nd, and I was 3rd. Linda was 4th proving that us Planet Bike women are really closely matched. We were all taking bikes every lap and huge thanks go out to all of the guys in the pit working for us. Trying to pit for three people who generally ride very close together and all wear the same kit is not an easy task - and it was dark out!
photo: Velonews

The next day the sun was out and it was really nice out - mid 50s. Mud had dried up a bit but was still causing some problems. Here's Chris working hard on cleaning the bikes. He had a lot of bikes to take care of this weekend and he did a great job.

Here's Jim C's bike after his race - yuck!
Luckily he didn't break any derailleurs but I knew of at least two riders who had broken them on Friday, bought new ones, and then broke them again on Saturday. Bad luck!!

Here is Cider chilling out in the van while James pins his numbers.
Dave slapped on a PB skinsuit on Saturday and had a great race in the 2/3s. He ended up 12th - not bad for only having one bike and not really racing much cross this year!
Linda, Kaitie, and I decided to wear white on Saturday. Why not? It was a beautiful muddy day! Jordan was also wearing his white skinsuit underneath his jacket and pants. That kid tore it up this weekend taking 3rd in the 2/3s race on Friday and winning his juniors race on Saturday and Sunday - he's 14!?!
So the course was changed up a bit for Saturday - this time a really steep run up (still so long!) and a slippery straight descent down. Similar situation as Friday with Meredith proving her strength and going off the front early in the race. This time Linda was chasing after her with myself and Kari Studley battling for 3rd. I didn't have the oomph today and ended up 4th. Kaitie was 6th. Whew - too much running in these races! My quads were killing me and my shoulder was bruised from all the bike carrying - I know I'm a whiner!
photo: jared roy
We then watched the mens race - Tristan, Mark, and James were racing. Tristan and Mark were both in a chase group of 4 guys going for 2nd place behind Todd Wells. Marko crashed late in the race and had to chase back on. Tristan rode awesome and finished 2nd with Mark in 4th. Nice racing guys!
Saturday night we amassed the large Planet Bike crew and had dinner together. It was a lot of fun and is a little taste of what things are to be like out in Bend for Nationals.
Here Kaitie and Jim are scheming up something. Those two plus Jordan are always looking to pull pranks. I better watch my back in Bend . . . or should I say they better watch theirs ;)
Sunday was cool and windy with just some sun in the morning. The festive atmosphere was taken to a new level during the single speed race when a crew of bikini clad riders hit the course. It was awesome and for a second I felt like I was in Portland.

One final day of racing and another tough trip up and down the "mountain". My legs were killing me today - the running was taking it's toll for sure and a good warm up on the trainer was going to be important. I started out fast and knew I wanted to be first through the barriers so I could get through a likely bottleneck area. I actually got a gap on Meredith and led the lap until she passed me going up the hill. I tried in vain to stick to her wheel and was left chasing her the rest of the race. The switchbacks down Krumpet were so steep and I was pretty scared going down each time. photo: Nikicyp
Somehow I made it down the first lap but then crashed into the snow fencing on the second lap. I lost a bit of time and I could see Kaitie gaining on me. photo: Nikicyp
The next trip down I dabbed again and we rode together for a bit before she pulled away. On the last lap I could see Linda coming up on me too and despite my slow descending I held her off to finish on the podium again in 3rd.
photo: Mark Considine
photo: Nikicyp

The mens race was another impressive ride by the Planet Bike guys.
This time Marko was on the podium for 3rd and Tristan was 4th.

What an awesome three days of racing. Thanks so much to everyone who helped make it happen and who helped make things go smoothly.

Daniel and Dave G.

Gordy and Jimmer
and Dave!

Jingle Cross was a great way to wrap up the Midwest racing and a good preparation for what we might face in Oregon! I fly out Friday to Portland for the USGP finale. I'm incredibly excited for the racing and the opportunity to visit Oregon. We'll have a few days off after that before we drive over to Bend and get ready for Nationals. We've got at least 16 Planet Bike riders racing out there and it's going to be a blast. I'm predicting some good things!

Thanks so much to all of the sponsors - Bob and Planet Bike especially. And thanks for stopping by to see if I've actually updated yet! No promises but I'll try to update from Oregon!

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