Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Cyclocross Master World Championships

If you asked me a few years back, if I would ever race in January, I would have answered something like: “No, are you crazy?” ..... I’m not really sure how this past week came to be, but Cyclocross World Championships making it’s first visit to the U.S., was an opportunity not to be missed. It did not take all that much arm-twisting from friends to convince Art and me to make the trip to Louisville and register to race as part of this historic event.

Raystown Lake, Pa .... Our journey started with a quick stop at Raystown Lake Trails for a short ride to loosen our legs up. We had lunch and got back on route and quickly drove into rain.

Louisville: We arrived in Louisville after a few 50 degree rainy days that left the course very wet. The course is situated in a flood plain which is silt soil with a smooth and slippery texture. The first day of heat races churned the course into mud and puddles. Then the temps dropped into the low twenties making frozen ruts and ice over 80% of the course. The flyover and landing area was so icy, that before the heats could start the promoter poured bags of salt and added a few loads of dirt to the landing to make it safer.


Art warming up in the truck

Art raced his seeding heat the morning of the first deep freeze, and conditions were very unpredictable, with racers getting hooked on ruts, falling and shooting off course. Even the leaders were struggling. I was uncertain if I should even pre-ride the course that day because the conditions were so sketchy. Several ladies told me that they would not ride in those conditions. Then the course crews started to relocate a few of the really bad sections, so I went out on course to give it try.

It took me a half of a lap to trust my instincts, but once I did, I really enjoyed trying to negotiate the conditions. It totally took my mind off of fitness and being nervous to race, as the conditions demanded full concentration. I rode the edges and zig-zaged across the ruts trying not to let them hook my wheel. When I got to the flyover, there were a few ladies discussing if they should ride down. I did not even want to look down. I just needed to trust in myself. Without hesitation, I stepped up to them and stepped onto my pedal and swung my leg over, and I was down smoothly.

The following day the sun came out, and by late day it warmed slightly, softening, churning and rutting the course up again. Yep, you guessed it …. twenties again at night and a dusting of snow to leave me frozen ruts and hidden ice for my early morning race. When I got there the crews were busy dumping wood chips and dirt on a few dicey sections, which really helped. I took 2 laps in the morning and once again enjoyed the challenge of the conditions and how it took my mind off of being nervous.

Run up

Start line


Eventually I took the line and was 2nd row behind Elite Time Trial World Champion and past Olympian, Karen Brems. Not that I had the goods to hold on to her wheel, but I had the best wheel in the line up, thanks to Art for pointing me to that spot. I had a good start and after the long stretch of pavement I was well within top 8, maybe even top 6. In the first lap, a few ladies passed me on straight stretches as we settled into our places. Then I tangled into some kevlar tape, which does not break but tosses you back, and I lost another spot. This momentarily flustered my confidence. It took me a half a lap, but I got my head together and back on pace.

The run ups were all steep with frozen shoe holes. My chain fell off on the barrier run up while head to head with another woman. I hopped on, found my pedals and shifted my chain up before the next turn, while staying in front. I am so pleased for staying calm and getting that done under pressure. I went back and forth with several women in lap 3 and 4. Then going into the last section, they both ended up in front of me and they opened up a very small gap. I took the inside line with the giant rut into the second to last run-up. I hung out my inside leg, and managed to keep the bike upright, which put me right behind the other two women. I hustled up the final run-up and mounted quickly to get in front of one of them, and then took the inside line into the final turn and passed the other. I ended up 2nd in the finish sprint, which placed me 12th overall.

By afternoon the course completely changed. Art's race was a total mud slog. He had no pit bike, and ground out the whole race, only able to find one happy gear where he could keep his chain on. Many of the racers were struggling, but Art stayed tough and held a strong 15th in a large field. The conditions were so diverse, It's hard to believe both our races were on the same day. By the last race of the day, racers were only getting 3 laps in the allotted time because of the mud. I never thought I would say this, but I was happy for the frozen ruts and ice.

Art's bike

Erin after the muddiest race of the weekend. We enjoyed some beer while cars were getting pushed out of the mud.

This race was a great experience with totally epic conditions. I was uncertain how I would hold up in full winter conditions, but I thought I did really well, and to my surprise, I actually enjoyed the frozen conditions. It was also very inspiring to race in a class with so many strong athletes. I certainly have my work cut out for me, if I should want do this again next year.

Ray's Indoor park in Cleveland!! Oh heck .... we are out here anyway, so why not stop and check out Ray's! You can be certain that Pixy was terrorizing the little peanuts in the beginner and novice areas.

Drove back into rain. ..... The whole view of Pennsylvania

Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 and One Week to Go ....

2012 is here and while I have had some thoughts about the new year, I found myself putting them on hold in order to try to focus on this one last race to wrap up my cyclo-cross season. I'm headed to Cyclocross Master World Championships and I am not sure if I am ready to race, but I am looking forward to the journey and the new experiences I may have, as well as the the long anticipated break that lies ahead at the end of my race season. Stay tuned for some pictures and stories.