I am in the process of moving from Lincoln to Philadelphia. Two days after arriving, I lined up for my first East Coast cyclocross race.
On Wednesday, I packed up my dear friend Corey’s Honda Element with a cornucopia of important things, snagged my bestie and fellow Sheclisma Berly, and hit the road for two days of cross-country travel to Philadelphia. After spending a good chunk of the summer in Philly, I decided to make the move for real, and after completing the editing of a feature length documentary on Tuesday, it was time to make the move. One last night of Star City CX cross practice on Wednesday evening — where my awesome 9-year-old buddy Adrienne wished me well in PA and told me to “go show those ladies who’s boss,” and we hit the road early Thursday morning.
|Last night of CX practice at Piedmont Park in Lincoln. Feeling good chasing the fast dudes.|
We arrived and unpacked everything Friday afternoon, then celebrated Willem’s birthday Saturday.
|Hanging the birthday flags for Willem, an important family tradition, was the main reason I needed to get to Philly by Saturday.|
|Oh and also to make this cake. Chocolate espresso with toasted coconut and maple-sweetened whipped cream.|
We headed to Granogue on Sunday morning. This is a race with a storied past. It takes place on a private estate owned by the DuPont family in northern Delaware. It’s been a UCI race. It was gone for a couple years. This year, it was back, and after pre-riding the course with some local friends, it was back in a reportedly far more challenging design.
|View up the hill to the watchtower.|
The technical features of the course were amazing. Off-camber stretches, some turns I could really rail, a little run-up, and fun sections through the woods. But then there was the climbing. A couple long, punchy climbs, however, had me immediately certain I had a very overgeared singlespeed. Thank goodness I’d at least switched to the 42×19 from the 42×18 I’d been training on…
We watched the 3/4 women race, and I definitely had a bit of regretsies registering for the elite race instead. It was awesome, though, to watch my friends crush it. After they were done, I changed up my tire pressure and took another couple laps of the course. I’m still running clinchers, and there were a few rocky sections of the course that had me nervous about running low tire pressure, but the grip was so good everywhere else that I felt like I should risk it.
After another race was through, my amazing sweet friend Rachel and I kitted up and did a little spin around. Rachel and I got to know each other this summer, and she is just a wonderful human. Both of us are new to racing this level, so we tried to relax each other on the ride’n’chat. Try not to get stressed, just have fun.
We lined up and the whistle blew so fast I was barely prepared and did not have a fast start. With one steep climb right away, though, I knew I’d fall back, even with the surge of adrenaline in my legs. It was just too steep for my gearing. I made it all the way up — what I would give to know what sort of wattage I was putting out to make it up that beast — and had lost contact with the group by a couple seconds. But I was not going to be satisfied with that. Coming through a few turns more cleanly, I made my way back into the mix and rode really cleanly through the off-camber downhill, only to be caught while spinning out on the long, slow downhill straightaway. I stayed right on her wheel, though, and passed a couple women on the run-up and through the pavement section, where I really put on the gas. The barriers — which we skipped on the first lap — were on an uphill, and coming back onto the bike went right into the top half of that punchy climb at the start. I was so deep in the red that I just couldn’t stay on top of the gear and had to dismount. Emily came around me at this point and gave a nice word of encouragement in my misery, and I hopped back on and chased her.
I knew where to push, with my technical skills being allowed to shine in certain sections, and with good cheering sections scattered around the course, I was feeling pretty good about hanging in there and racing hard, not caring that I was nowhere near the front of the field. I wasn’t in last, and even if I had been, I was racing as hard as I could and I belonged in this race.
Then, after coming through a muddy set of turns, I hit the rocky dip into the run-up at full gas. PFFFFTTTTT. I came to a quick stop as I heard my rim clanging against the rocks, just before getting to a run-up where I knew I could cut time into Emily’s lead on me. Damnit. DAMN. I WAS HAVING SO MUCH FUN.
I had nothing in the mechanical pit. My race was over. I walked, defeated, out of the woods to the run-up. Spectators looked on as I lifted my bike, resigned, and crossed the tape. “Pinch flat.” I went off to the side, where Willem found me. And I’m not going to lie, I tossed my bike down and cried a little. I didn’t want it to end so soon. I was so, so frustrated to be done racing, no matter how overgeared I was or how much 3 more laps would’ve hurt. No matter how far back I was, I did not want to quit. I don’t do that.
|Best remedy for a pinch flat? Maybe.|
I’ve been so lucky as to never have a mechanical take me out of a race before. I’ve watched it so many times with friends, and now I have a much greater degree of empathy for how frustrating it is. (Rob Livermore, looking at you, buddy.) The rest of the day, through watching the elite men and on the drive home, was spent with lots of thoughts and talk both about setting up tubeless and debating on going back to gears. I love racing singlespeed. But where would I have been with gears? Was this course an anomaly? Would swapping for a 39t up front do the trick? If I had a geared bike with discs, I could use Willem’s pit wheels…and and and and. The amount of factors and decisions and money I could spend…Sigh.
|Corn Hecklers: Better than Cornhuskers.|
This morning, I woke up remembering moments in the race that I was really proud of. Pushing so hard up that climb and reconnecting with the field like that. Sighting turns down the hill and seeing I was doing it better than others. Not giving up when I easily could. And really, being so deeply frustrated by a flat taking me out of the race when I was nowhere near in contention for even a top ten placing. I could’ve shrugged it off. But that I cared about staying in there means something to me.
This weekend, I’ll head down to Baltimore to race at Charm City, where a UCI field means I’ll drop into the B’s field for the women. I have a flat to fix, and some decisions to make about other changes in the stable. Stay tuned…