Initially I had only been planning on racing Elites this past weekend, but at the last minute I decided to race the W30-34 as well—because hey, if you’re flying halfway across the country to race once…why not double up? So I flew into Denver on Thursday night ready and excited to race on Friday morning. Apparently Thursday had been warm in Boulder, melting the remaining snow and making for a mud fest of a race that really tore up the course. Unfortunately, it froze hard that evening. When I arrived at Valmont to do my pre-ride on Friday, the temps had turned the course’s muddy surface into rutted concrete. Riding on corduroy-like surfaces is not my strong suit, and to make matters trickier half the course was off camber and uneven to begin with! Oh, yes, and then the morning warmed up—meaning that the top of the ruts thawed and there was a slick coating of mud over everything. Technical indeed. I had a front row call-up for this race, but between the surface conditions, altitude, and running required (more on that in a bit…) I quickly dropped back and finished 16th (http://www.cxmagazine.com/wp-content/gallery/rebecca-gross-takes-win-in-masters-women-30-34-at-the-2014-national-cyclocross-championships-gallery-by-matt-lasala/lindsay-knight.jpg). Not exactly what I’d hoped for, but still a super fun and challenging experience.
By the time Sunday rolled around, the course had really dried out and gotten fast. The off camber sections were still going to be tricky, but at least the worry that a rut was going to catch my front wheel and throw me off my bike had been allayed. The course designers also switched up the lay out of the course a bit by incorporating part of the BMX track from the park and diverting a portion of the course into a deep ditch before the second set of stairs. The sides of the ditch were pretty steep and the exiting side had a lip on it as well, and even though I figured out how to ride it (after about four attempts in the pre-ride…) my main worry was that if I got caught behind someone who fell I’d have to physically climb out of this thing like a trench…needless to say, thank god for toe spikes.
I’ve got to say that it felt pretty damn awesome to line up with 115 ladies at the start of this race. The women’s field was the biggest in Nationals history, and was actually a larger than the men’s race. I started mid-pack and had a relatively decent start. I felt way more confident on the descent and the off camber sections of the course compared to Friday, but simply put, the run ups cooked me. As anyone who has ever seen me race knows, I am not a natural runner by any stretch of the imagination. Never have been, never will be—and I accept this. But unsurprisingly, adding 5,280 feet to this equation does not improve matters. Every time I got half way up the large set of stairs (the shorter Belgian steps posed less of a problem, but were still not what I would describe as ‘pleasant’) and looked up, I swear my legs just laughed at me. My head was screaming at me to ‘GO FASTER!!’ My legs and lungs were not of the same opinion. Having never trained or raced at altitude, this was a rather novel experience. And while I don’t think I’ll be jumping up and down with glee to go do tabatas at altitude anytime in the near future, I can definitely see and appreciate the huge difference that training a mile up makes for overall fitness. Those Colorado ladies are impressive racers. I ended up finishing 97th in Sunday’s race, which was a bit lower than I was hoping for, but the experience of riding with so many awesome women on an incredibly technical and fun course and getting to represent Heritage Race Club in Colorado made it a totally worthwhile and memorable way to end the season.To close, I wanted to send out a HUGE THANK YOU to the Chicago-area racing community. There’s definitely something about being away from your home courses that makes you appreciate the community of racers that you come from. Between lining up with incredibly strong and fierce ladies, Heidi Beck (Twin Six) and Alyssa Severn (Team Yacht Club), during staging; hearing tons of familiar voices cheering (Ellie Blick of Johnny Sprockets, Jessica Whiton and Bill Barnes of xXx, The Schafers of Verdigris-Village, just to name a few); or seeing all the great pics that our local photographers took (Amy Dykema from The Bonebell, Gavin and Nick and the rest of the Embrocation crew)—the whole experience of racing at Nationals was fantabulous. You guys are awesome and see you all next season!
Heritage Race Club