I finally did my first “real” cyclocross race. By “real”, I mean that I raced on a real cyclocross bike. I don’t count the other two races I’ve done because one was on a mountain bike and the other on a cross bike that was much too large for me. The latter race resulted in the lovely sprocket punctures to my calf after a stair run-up. I had a friend who offered me her old cross bike for a couple of races because she had upgraded to a newer model. She’s very close to my size and I was able to use her bike with minimal adjustment. I carefully selected which race I would do. I didn’t want to race in a large field of racers or on an extremely technical course. After all, the bike was new to me and I had only a few days to get used to its nuances. I registered for the Green Mountain Sports CX Race. After registering for the race, I felt something I’d never felt about a race before: excitement!! Typically, my pre-race feelings range from dread to denial to fear.
My excitement level for this race was almost on par with the excitement I have each year in the days leading up to my birthday. All week I looked forward to the race, counting down the days. I was excited that my whole family was coming to cheer for me because most cycling races are just not spectator friendly. Even my dad, who would be passing though town that weekend, would be watching me. He had never heard of cyclocross nor seen the shenanigans that are involved with a cross race.
On race day, the women who had completed other cross races would be called up to the start line. This is great for those receiving the call up because it means you get to be in the front of the pack when the whistle blows. Those who do not get called up are left to line up behind everyone who was called up. The bottom line here is that racers with call ups definitely have an advantage over those who don’t. Despite the fact that I was near the end of the pack, I was happy and excited to be racing on such a beautiful September day. The field was small and I felt confident that I would have a respectable finish barring any major crashes.
When the whistle blew, we took off. There was much shuffling for position as we moved through the parking lot and took a sharp right onto a narrow sidewalk. I was cautious as I didn’t want to crash before we even got to the dirt section of the race. The day was very hot for September and I knew that pacing myself in the heat would be critical to a strong finish. I was able to avoid a couple of crashes near me and kept going as fast as I could. Hydration via water bottle hand ups was key. I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone I may have inadvertently thrown a bottle at… I certainly wasn’t aiming for you. Disposing of a water bottle when you’re sprinting through a parking lot sounds easy until you actually try it!
As we settled into the second lap, I lost sight of the race leaders and hoped that I would eventually be able to catch them. There was a group of about 5 of us clumped together. We played cat and mouse and continued to shuffle our positions for the next two laps. I had a wheel slip out in a corner, which allowed the group to pass me. I didn’t let them get far and eventually caught and re-passed two of the three cyclist, while the the third continued to pull away from me.
Eventually I caught my teammate – the gal who loaned me the bike on which I was racing. You can imagine the mental conundrum this created as I debated whether she’d loan me her bike for another race if I passed her. We eventually came to a steep hill run-up, where I uttered encouraging words as I ran by. This was the last lap and I wasn’t able to chase down anyone else. I was thrilled to finish 11th out of 25 racers, particularly since I’d started in the back of the pack. Best parts of the day:
* Having a bike to race on – thanks to Linda!
* Hearing my family cheer for me.
* Water bottle hand-ups on such a hot day and dusty course.
* Not crashing.
* This awesome picture from Ryan Muncy Photography.
* This awesome video from my honey that makes me look really fast!