Friday, November 30, 2007
Monday, November 26, 2007
I have to say that when I got up on Saturday morning and saw that the temp was a BALMY 17 degrees (that's Fahrenheit for all my Canadian friends), I really just wanted to crawl back under all of the covers! Instead, Mike and I left EARLY to head out to Sterling, MA. Tom Stevens does a great job designing really challenging and fun 'cross courses, and this was not a disappointment! I did wonder, though, how I was ever going to pedal and shift with so many layers of clothes on ;-).
Before the race I talked to some teammates and friends who were really burnt out on the season, had no motviation, and didn't really want to race. In fact, one of them pre-rode the course, and decided not to race at all. This certainly didn't help my motivation, but I figured since I was there, already cold and had paid my money (and had a front row starting position - hooray!), that I was going to do my best. This was a UCI race, so I couldn't race Elite, and lined up instead with my 3/4 teammates and friends, hoping for a decent showing.
The course started out on the cinder track, which unlike Lowell, was not muddy when I raced - more like frozen! We exited the track to ride up to a steep run-up, the top of which was also frozen, and VERY slippery (as I later found out the hard way). Back downhill into a horse barrier - this particular feature is NOT a favored of the more vertically challenged women racers, and it even gives me, at 5'10", a really hard time. From there, it was out into the field, onto some pavement for a bit of recovery (or passing), back into the field for some swoopy ups and downs, before riding an of-camber hill down into the barriers. Remount, head back UP to the off-camber, out the backstretch near the pits (with a VERY tight turn - every lap I thought I would end up riding THROUGH the pits...), up a bumpy section of dirt and back onto the track. Fun, fun, FUN!
The women lined up behind the juniors. Thankfully, the under 19's were going to have a 1 minute head start on us, which meant that they MIGHT not lap us - at least not too early. Unfortunately, the cub juniors (10-14) started between our two groups...
I got a great start on the track, and wound up going into the grass towards the run-up about 4th wheel when Libby crashed in front of me. I somehow managed to make my way around her, but then got caught behind some of the little juniors running up the hill, and they were having a TOUGH time. Caught a few more of them at the horse jump, and actually lost some time there. They were so little, they couldn't even lift their bikes up over the jump! One of them was almost in tears, and even cursed as a friendly spectator (his mom?) helped him get his bike up and over...
I knew I was sitting in a good position, but eventually heard that I was 4th. Woohoo! But man, did it hurt to try and maintain that! My teammate, Shannon, and the "good doctor" (aka Mrs Zanc) and I raced together - HARD. I flubbed my dismount on the run-up one lap, causing Rebecca to hit my rear wheel, and Shannon to blast ahead of me. We were still all three together, but now I was on the back... Shannon and I managed to get ahead going onto the track, and she did a great job pulling me about 3/4 the way around before letting me know she wanted me to pull. I'm not sure exactly where, but somewhere on that lap, Rebecca and I lost Shannon - I think it was on the up, 180 turn, down hairpin section.
In the final lap, Rebecca and I were battling really hard. As we were about to crest the run-up, I had the better line and could see I would get ahead of Rebecca, but my foot slid on the frozen ground, and I went down. Frantic, I got back up, didn't check anything, and was off, chasing hard - Rebecca was in 4th, and I was in 5th. I caught her again in the field, but then she put in a good surge through the swoopy up/downs and off-camber/barrier sections to gap me just a little bit. At that point, I didn't have the juice left, and a small gap opened between us. If I could just stay on her wheel, I knew I could get her in a sprint.
Rebecca, I think, wanted that race bad! She put in a huge effort to increase the gap just enough so that I couldn't out sprint her on the track. She had a terrific race, and clearly, deserved to beat me in the end. I congratulated her after the finish, and we were both glad to be done, but also to have had such a fun race, and my best Verge/UCI finish ever!
I waited for Mike's race to start then, and watched as he lined up in the second to last row of about 65 men... Of course, by the time they raced, the sun had warmed the track enough that they had the muddiest race of the day - AGAIN! He managed to work his way up through the pack, and was racing with a small group of about 4, including Wayne, for a long time. In the end, he sprinted for the finish with Brian from Bikeman, and finished 40th. He had mor bike trouble at this race - bars slipped twice, and his shifting was still an issue. We need to make sure that all gets worked out before Natz!
It was also fun to hang out afterwards and watch our other teammates in the Killer B (2/3) race and then the Elite Women. Cris and Sally looked terrific, working together to maintain control over a small group. Cris played the finish of her race perfectly, crossing the line ahead of the other 4 women in her train thanks in part to the blocking tactics of Sally! So fun to watch.
Next week the MRC race in Wrentham, and then it's off to Natz!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Shannon, Carrie, Joanne, Teri, Kathy and Julie all had great races in the 3/4 field (although according to the results, Kathy and Julie didn't actually race - the results were really fubar). I was so excited to watch them sprinting through corners, flying downhill, and passing other racers. Shannon finished a strong 3rd, and Carrie's 6th place race came down to the finish line where she beat the good doctor by just an inch! Smiling and dirty, the team looked great even after being covered in mud (and how did Teri get so dirty????) ;-)
Mike's race was next, and I knew I would have time to warm up in between, so I watched his entire race. He looked great! After a good start, he made up some places and quickly was jockeying for 6th/7th place. Despite breaking his saddle, bad shifting and popping out of his pedal in the final sprint, he finished in 7th - his best race this season, and the second race in two weeks where he finished ahead of Paul. He is having a great season, and I suspect, will do great at Nationals.
Me? I have determined that my race results are directly proportional to who shows up to race. Of course, everyone could say this, but I suspect that I am not actually doing that much better. So, the fast girls showed up, and I ended up in the back...
I actually had a good start to the race. The photos show that I was sitting about 5th wheel, but had lined myself up on the wrong side of the track, and quickly was squeezed out on the right. Coming into the barriers on the first lap, I was behind, and was quickly passed by the two women behind me. Sadly, this put me last going into "the hill", and the Wheelworks rider in front of me bobbled, forcing me off my bike to run up. UGH! She would pick up the pace on the flat sections, and then slow WAY down in the technical sections. I quickly grew frustrated, and when I heard Mike yell for me to move up, I put in a surge to get past her and create a gap. This was my first race.
The second part of my race came with just under two laps to go. I knew that the Junior leader was closing in on me, and I decided that I wasn't going to get lapped - I wanted to finish ALL of my laps (yes, I really did want to ride "the hill" one more time - call me crazy!). I came up on a lagging junior in front of me, and started rapid firing at him, "C'mon - you can do it. Only 1.5 more laps to go. Don't let him catch us now. You don't want to get lapped, do you? I want to finish all of my laps. C'mon, I know you can do it - you're doing awesome!" He probably thought I was nuts, but he did pick up the pace. I passed him on the track, and we both just crossed the start/finish ahead of the winning junior! The lagging junior I had passed? He got by me and beat me in the end! I met my mid-race goal though - didn't get lapped and didn't finish last!
Oh, and apparently, Tide doesn't always get the tough stains out....
Friday, November 16, 2007
The weather this year was also quite different from last. Overcast skies, cold temps and WIND! I did my warmup laps with my jeans and down jacket over my cycling gear, and threatened to race that way too. The wind was biting, making it feel much colder than the temps indicated. A lot of racers were having trouble staying warm, especially once warm layers were shed in the staging area. Since there were only 8 women, we told the official to start us and not wait!
I knew that hanging onto a wheel was going to be important in this race, especially with the wind and long, flat sections of the course. I managed to latch onto Perri for much f the first lap, but she quickly gapped me, leaving me chasing Sue M and Karen T. I was pretty suprised to pass Sue - she is a much better racer than I, and I don't usually see her after we start a race. I later learned that she wasn't feeling well, and didn't end up finishing the race.
So, I targeted Karen, who I could see, but not catch for much of the race. At about lap 4, her rocket boosters kicked in, and then I could no longer even see her. I was on my own. I hunkered into TT mode, trying to get as low as I could to stay out of the wind, and just finish. When I came through for the bell lap, I was really excited to have only one more to go. So much so that the announcer commented that they usually see smiles on the bell lap, but never as big as the one I gave!
I finished the race in 5th, which was in the money. My teammate Teri, in her 1st race with the big girls, accomplished her goals as well: finished, didn't get lapped, and didn't come last! It was a good day for both of us, but we were REALLY happy to get into warm clothes when we were done.
Mike had a terrific race, finishing 10th in his field. Congrats also to Shannon for finishing a strong 3rd in the women's 3/4 race.
Sunday - Plymouth South
Everything that Saturday's course was not, Sunday's course was. I think this was my favorite venue so far this season, and you can tell from the photo that I had a great time (and apparently, wasn't suffering hard enough)! Thanks to Dave McElwaine for the photo - great to meet you!
The course started on the pavement, with a hard 90 degree right onto the grass, along some chain link fence and into single track - SWEET! The trail was twisty, and turned up a semi-tough short grinder into another field before putting us at the bottom of another long, steepish uphill into a 180 degree turn back DOWN the hill. A fast field section, onto a loose/sandy road and back into the woods. Here, you had to carefully negotiate tight, muddy turns, curbs (yes, in the woods), and a tree smack dab in the middle of the trail before the hardest uphill of the course (many ended up running this hill). Once this was complete, a bit more up/down in the woods brought us back out into the field for the barrier sandwich - DEEP sandpit, barriers and second sandpit. Yahoo! Challenging and fun.
Because many of the local women had registered to do the race in Putney, VT, there were only 5 Elite women on the starting line. I knew that Jennifer would gap me early, I would have a fight on my hands with Libby, and the two others were slightly unknown given that Kerry is a great MTB rider and I didn't really know the other woman.
From the whistle, I was chasing Libby (important note: Libby is a National Champion. She is also 14). When we came to the difficult uphill on the first lap, Libby chose to run while I rode, allowing me to make up some time on her. She got a little nervous trying to remount, so I told her to just be calm (she is also a teammate). This seemed to help, and her awesome skills through the sand and barriers let her get a gap on me.
I chased hard on the second lap, with Mike telling me not to let her go, and Libby's dad thanking me for coaching her through ;-). Each lap, I was able to make up time on her in the fields where power came into play, and she made time on me in the singletrack and sand/barriers - that girl is SMOOTH! I would catch her again as she ran up the hill and I rode. By lap three, Libby admitted to me that she was pretty cooked (this was her second race of the day - and the 12th time up "the hill"). I followed her through some sections, coaching her to stay calm and not make mistakes. When we got into the field, I passed her, moving into second place. She never lost a lot of time on me in the remaining three laps though, finishing just 30 seconds behind.
It was great to have cheering "fans" on the course as well. On one of my climbs up "the hill", someone yelled out "You're an animal" to which I replied, "An animal looking for one more gear!". Then came the ultimate heckle - "Less talking, more riding!" Yup - something I would have said ;-).
Sadly, both the Women's 3/4 and Men's 35+ results were incorrect. Julie L was really 14th in her race, and Mike was actually 8th in his race, where they showed him as 11th - there are 3 lapped riders in the results ahead of him... Too bad - this was his best result all season, and the second race in a weekend where he bested Paul Curley! Congrats to Carrie, who finished 3rd in her race, winning a nifty medal made in China ;-).
All in all, however, a great race, great venue and a fun day, with great results for NEBC!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I've had a lot of comments from friends, fellow racers and family on the statement, "Cathy ... of ..., MA was the women’s champion." Let me be blunt on this one - it's hard NOT to be the champion when you are the ONLY woman racing in the Elite category! That said, I did beat out the other 5 women who raced in the Beginner and Intermediate classes, and even a few of the Intermediate men.
Most importantly, this race was a BLAST! Last year, I raced here as a Beginner, and there were only two women in the entire race. It was great to see more women, and some talented racers in the Elite Men's category, including Paul Curley and our own Scott B and Mike! I'm going to do some arm twisting to see if I can get some more NEBCer's interested in participating next year - if you won't take my word for it, go read Scott's account of the race!
We were lucky with the weather, too. It was warmer this year than last, and just as we packed up and started the car, the skies opened. This race would have been NO FUN (not to mention downright dangerous) in the rain.
After a night of heavy rain, the sun shone brightly over Mt. Washington for the start of the 'cross race. We arrived early enough to go out and pre-ride the course a few times, and surprisingly, it was quite dry. The views were stellar, and I even got some great coaching tips from the Elite Kona racer (who finished 2nd). But most exciting to me was the fact that I RODE the run-up! Yup - last year it was a slog running up the hill, and this year, after the first lap, I was able to ride it every time - WOOHOO!