|Photos by Kelley Dentry/Broken Spoke Photography
I carpooled with a couple of ladies from the local cyclocross scene, one of whom was doing her first 'cross race ever (on a single-speed, no less)! One of my favorite parts about 'cross is the community that grows up around it. I was excited to get to connect with a few more women in the scene. Hurray for new racing buddies!
Women's Cat 4
The women's 4 and men's 5 beginner fields share the course for the first races of the day. That affords plenty of time for warming up on the course and working on the technical bits. It also means the grass hasn't been tacked down, the best lines haven't been ground in, and the course is wet with dew. It makes for extra challenges; like I said before, there are pros and cons.
Anyway, the course had lots of turns and some off-camber stretches and a couple of really gnarly off-camber turns. There were two sustained climbs, neither of which was too brutal, and a horse jump on the opposite side of the course from the normal barriers (Schooley Mill Park is an equestrian center, FYI). It wasn't like a steeplechase hurdle, which is what I envisioned when I heard about it; it was like half a dozen railroad ties hammered together into a rectangular block about two feet high and two feet wide. It took a big step to get over; I had to hop down and land on both feet, because my legs were too short to step down off of it.
I got a front-row call-up in the start grid because I signed up early (I think), and dug hard in the start to get the hole shot. I kept the lead through the first several turns before losing a spot to the eventual winner of the race. She pedaled past me like I wasn't even trying. So strong. Then I washed out in a corner and lost another spot or two before I could get going again. There were a few stretches where I got caught behind some traffic. I washed out several more times, including one where I also took out my teammate, Kim, who was trying to encourage me.
I was sitting in 7th position, including to a teammate who was observing the race, with two laps to go, and I had 5th and 6th in my sights. I washed out in another corner, though, and bled a few spots. I clawed a few back shortly thereafter, and had no idea where I was placed going into the last lap. I had two women in front of me that I was pretty sure I could catch, but mistakes on corners cost me time. I managed to pass one of them on the fast descent coming into the final few corners and climbs. I drilled it to the finish line so that she wouldn't pass me back. And that was good enough for 6th place.
Kim got 6th at Hyattsville and won pie, but there was no pie at this race. Sad face. Kim ended up 9th on the day, so we had two VWS ladies in the top 10!
After working so hard in my first race, my goal for the 3/4 race was to try to keep a hard but sustainable pace, work on smoothing out my lines and cornering technique, and have fun. Most notably, I was intent on getting one of the beer tickets that were placed around the barriers. Nobody was giving out beer tickets at 8:15.
I did not get a front-row starting position in the 3/4 race. Starting positions there are given out based on points accumulated in the series, and I have not accumulated many points. I think I was in the 4th row. I passed a lot of people in the start, though. At least, I think I did. I haven't watched the video from that race yet, so I'm not sure. I was intent on riding my own race anyway, so I settled in at what I thought was a sustainable (but hard) pace and focused on improving my line choice. I got a beer ticket at the barriers and a Kit Kat hand-up to the enjoyment of the spectators hanging out in the infield. I retained enough presence of mind to keep an eye out for the women's leader and an ear open for the sound of the lap bell. So I was ready when the leader came around me, and I knew then that I was on my last lap. I ended up 18th out of something like 26 riders, and I felt okay about that. I got what I wanted out of the race, and it's good experience to race with the 1/2/3s.
Notable results from my teammates: Beth got 3rd in the women's 3/4; Sean frickin' won his Masters 35+ 3/4/5 race and has 3rd overall in the series; and Erik (a.k.a. Mr. Podium) took a decisive win the Masters 45+ race and is leading the series!
If you'd like to watch my fabulous start and epic wipe-outs, here's the video from the cat 4 race. I'll work on getting the 3/4 race up soon, too.