Hurt in the Dirt

Hurt in the Dirt

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

USGP #2 New Belgium Cup

Just as I felt like I was getting back into a normal routine at home it was back on the road again. This time it was to Ft. Collins, CO for the New Belgium Cup. Which, in comparison to the previous trip from Vegas to Seattle to St. Louis to Madison, driving to Colorado and back was going to be easy! No airports, no packing bikes, and not worrying about everything making it in one piece. Plus, I was really excited for Brandon to be able to come with me. This would be his first opportunity to see me race my cross bike on the big stage! There is something about having him at the races with know, sorta like a comfort blanket! I went into the weekend with lessons learned from the previous races and a win under my belt from the UTCX series. I had high expectations and felt great.

On Friday Brandon, our friend and fellow racer Weston, and I went to the venue to check out the course. It was a warm sunny day, but the forecast for Saturday was rain so I figured the course was going to be very different come race time. Never the less, we took a few laps around the hilly course set literally in a random hay field! Crazy how you can put up some boundary tape, a few railroad ties here and there, and build a wooden staircase and ramp in a hay field and suddenly it transforms into a cycling event! There were lots of off-camber chicanes, ruts probably from tractor tires that were perfect for causing endos, and long climbs capable of breaking up groups quickly. It was either going to be fast and dusty or muddy and greasy!

Next came registration. Since UCI points have yet to be updated this season, I once again had to "draw a random call-up number" because I have ZERO points from last year. I have been fairly lucky drawing numbers for previous races and knew it wouldn't last forever, but once again I drew in the 20's, 26 to be exact. The top 20 racers get called-up based on their UCI point standings, so 26 is not bad. Day one in Ft. Collins was pretty good...super fun pre-ride on the course and pretty good call-up. I was excited and ready for race day!

Beautiful day for pre-riding on Friday

I woke up to overcast skies but no rain! But by about 11am, the rain started. When we arrived at the venue it was pouring rain...sideways!! The course was getting muddier and muddier! As always, I was focused on a good start, on days like this being on the front of a group is the safest place! The temperature was somewhere near 40 degrees, but with the rain and wind, it felt more like 30. I was shivering at the start line and to my surprise, I had a great start. However, after a few bobbles here and there on the greasy course I heard Weston yell "Thirteenth" with a lap and a half or so left. Really, 13th? I looked ahead and knew I could make up a place or two, but the gaps created by that type of weather and course are huge. In the end I finished in 12th place. Enough for a couple more UCI points, but not good enough for my top 10 goal. I was stoked to have another race in gnarly weather and have my Jonathan Page Series Blue Norcross bike and my ENVE tubular wheels holding up without flaw in the elements! Its always nice to know that your gear is solid no matter the course!

It may look benign in the photo, but if you note the amount of clothes I have on and the stiff expression on Weston's face, it might give you an idea of how cold and nasty it was on Saturday!
We were lucky to have other Rooster's/Biker's Edge racers with us in Ft. Collins, and decided to go to dinner together Saturday night. Thanks to Guy Letendre and his family we had a great warm evening to cap off our cold, rainy day. 

Staging for the race on Sunday

Sunday was a totally different story! By the time we made it to the venue, the sun as shining, the course had dried out quite a bit and was now tacky, much like Autumn Utah single-track. I went to registration hoping to yet again draw a good call-up. This time however, my luck had ran out. I drew 32, which meant a 4th row starting position. When the race started I weaved through as many girls as I could and at the first chicane section it seemed like everyone was hugging the inside line. I got out of my saddle and sprinted in the long grass to move up a few more spots. After 2 laps, I found that I settled into a good group but the next 5 or 6 girls were very close behind. Spectators were yelling "9, 10, 11" to us and I knew this was my chance for that top 10 finish. Our group traded back and forth on position and had widened the gap from the group chasing us. With 2 laps to go I found myself in 11th place riding with Kathy Sherwin, an experienced fellow Utah racer. Ninth and tenth were just ahead and within striking distance. I opened a very small gap with abut a half lap to go and was chasing 10th with every bit of remaining energy. We turned the corner for the long, slightly uphill finish and my heart was racing as much in excitement as from the hard effort I was giving. We hit the pavement and I sprinted for my life! One so Kathy wouldn't catch me and two, in hopes of getting 10th. I was gaining ground quickly and at the last second 10th turned and saw me coming, she gave a few hard pedal strokes, and I gave my best bike throw (Nicky would be proud!) but she crossed the line before me by about a wheel length. ELEVENTH! I was so close! Part of me was stoked about the ride and effort I had just put together, but part of me wanted to burst into tears! My goal of a top 10 finish at a USGP had been right at my fingertips! 

Funny, I wasn't even close to winning the race or even making the podium for that matter, but for me 10th place was like my first place. Its my goal for the season so to take 11th by such a small margin was heartbreaking! When I came back to the truck Weston and Brandon were acting like we had just won the lottery! Congratulating me, hugging me like I HAD won. It was so awesome to get such a reaction from those two, and much needed to say the least. During my cool-down I had to remind myself of when we lost the high school state basketball championships my junior year and all I wanted to do was cry the second the buzzer sounded. But my dad, who was also my coach, came to me and sternly told me "NO tears, you hold your head high and be proud of what you just accomplished!" So looking at the big picture, I've now done 8 Elite cyclocross races. To be finishing consistently in the top 15 is not bad. I'm racing against some of the best in the world, keep my head up and be proud of it. 

This is called "Suffer-Face" as I attempt to make a big effort somewhere early in the race on Sunday!
 As always, there are always many people to thank after a race weekend! Cyclocross is one of those sports that requires a team even though it's an individual sport. Joe Johnson from SBR sports in Orem was kind enough to let me use his Blue bike for my pit bike! Always a calming feeling when you know you have a spare! Thanks to the Letendre family for a great Saturday night. And of course Brandon and Weston...the best pit crew EVER! If you add up their bike mechanic abilities, it equals about...well, lets just say they know how to change wheels and pump up the tires!! But, they are the best cheering squad and have the most fun in the pit out of all those guys! Plus, they were always around to do the little things that make race preparation so much easier. So thank you Brandon and Weston!

Joe from SBR let me use this bike in the pit... Thanks Joe!
Next on the schedule is the Colorado Cross Classic the last weekend of October. In the meantime, race the UTCX series in O-Town this coming weekend and lots of training! Until next time, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Kels, I love this! 10th place, 11th place - either way, you beat some really fast girls - great job!