Sometimes, things click and you’re just ON. Welcome to Boulevard Cup 2011.
Last year, Boulevard Cup was my first out of state race, and in the midst of all my documentary editing and premiering, I hadn’t had nearly enough training. In a huge field of 4s, my fresh legs pulled out a 3rd place finish. Needless to say, I was really stoked.
Fast-forward to this year, where I’ve raced all but one weekend since the 1st of October, as well as every Wednesday night in between. I’ve done the training. I spent the summer riding gravel and mountain bikes, and improved my bike handling skills dramatically. And after a couple of weekends of somewhat frustrating racing on wide open power courses, we pulled up to this venue alongside a very visible, long off-camber section. My heart started pumping. This was going to be awesome.
Spent my warm-up tooling around Saturday’s course with Emily Hoesly, chatting with her about off-camber riding. We watched some of the Men’s Master’s race, then squeezed in a practice lap on the course. After riding into the sandpit, I realized that I’d been spinning around in my big ring the whole time without even noticing. This bode well, as I’ve spent a couple weeks forcing myself to stay in that big chainring to build power. It also meant following my travel buddy Schmidty’s assessment that this would be a big-ring course. Since I’m still rocking bar-end shifters, minimal shifting is a very good thing.
I headed back to the staging area to find 46 other women lining up. WOW. This has been an absolutely incredible year for growth in women’s cyclocross. We were split into Open (fasties, 2s & 3s), 3/4s (where I opted to be), 4s, and then Master’s 40+, 50+, and 60+. Behind all of the ladies were junior racers, including an adorable 11-year-old girl.
The start was on a bike path, and I worked to hold myself toward the front of the group. I’d lowered my tire pressure to about 30psi for confidence in the off-cambers, and with pretty grippy tires, this wasn’t going to be my strongest part of the course. I managed to be about 10th or so through the first bit of grassy turns, and at the first sharp S-curve, traffic slowed to a near stop. Grr. Time to get a little more aggressive in the corners and move around — these were going to be my strong sections. Not too long after that, we hit the off-camber hillside for the first time, and I was zipping past women struggling with a couple steep little rollers. This section offered a bit of recovery for me, and even the short run-up was fun!
|Loving the off-camber, with Julie Higgins right on my wheel. Photo by Roger Harrison/Lanterne Rouge|
We popped out of this and onto a long flat stretch. I don’t know if I just get bored with these or what, but they really aren’t my strong suit. Unless I’m chasing someone, being chased, or really focused, I’m pretty sure I’m slowing down on these. The first time, I was on the chase, and once we hit the sandpit, I was caught partway through by a couple racers not making it the whole way across. Bailing and running the rest of the way, I hit the pavement in front of them and drilled it into the stretch in front of the announcer’s stand, holding 2nd wheel in the 3/4s pack. Renae Weaver of Women’s Free State Racing wasn’t far behind, and she made her attack on that long back stretch I mentioned not liking earlier. Also chasing was Jessica Vanackeren of LocalCycling.com, who had suffered a fall and a dropped chain in the sandpit.
Renae’s attack stuck, and I spent the remainder of the race checking over my shoulder for Jessica on the flats and increasing my lead in the sandpit and whoop-dee-dos. I particularly enjoyed hamming it up a bit for the sandpit crowd, as it felt proper to let out a big “YEAH!” after grinding it successfully across.
|Peeking over the top of a hill on the whoop-dee-do section, having a blast! (That’s on my face, right?) Photo by Roger Harrison/Lanterne Rouge|
Emily crushed it! I don’t know if my little pre-race off-camber lesson helped, but this girl rocked it.
|Emily Hoesly, making serious progress. 5th race and a victory in the 4s. Welcome to Sheclismo! Photo by Roger Harrison/Lanterne Rouge|
After the race, we were chatting, and she remarked that she didn’t think she saw anyone with a 700-number pass by her. Could she have won the 4s race? Sure enough, they did the podium, and there she was on the top step! Quick subcommittee meeting:
|Best part of Malcolm’s get-up: mimicking the ‘cross woman’s affinity for tall sox. Photo by Roger Harrison/Lanterne Rouge|
It was great to have such a large Nebraska contingent at the race, but it’s also been awesome to make new friends through the Midwest CX Stitch series. This weekend, I’m heading to the USGP in Louisville, and then comes our series finale and State Championships at Pioneers Park. Nostalgia abounds…that was my start to racing just two years ago, on a dare. Who are you going to dare into this?