I raced at Roger William’s Park for the first time in 2006 – for ‘Cross Nationals. I remember the course being difficult, with lots of power sections and some technical handling skills required. I was happy to see that hadn’t changed ;). I had a reasonable start into the grassy section, but managed to let myself get “squeezed out” by a couple more aggressive racers entering the first turns. At one point, entering "the bowl", I had a terrific uphill line to the right around several stalled riders. Unfortunately, one of them moved into my line forcing me to dismount, and nearly kick Michele H in the head!
Knowing I was still sitting in the top 10, I pushed as hard as I could, having to yell at a Quad Cycles racer at one point as she ran a hill I was riding – she kept cutting into my line! I ended up giving up a few places in the final lap of the race – just didn’t have the legs to go any harder. I know I raced well, and I was happy with the day.
After changing up and grabbing some food, it was time for me to cheer Mike on in his race. He told me that I didn't need to be in the pits - his bike was there if he needed it. So, I found my friends Susan and ML, and we watched the race from the barriers. As the Master's men came by for the first lap, I was concerned - Mike wasn't where he should have been. After LOTS of racing, you get to know where someone should be in a race - Mike was too far back, and I knew something had happened. Sure enough, as he came through, I could see from the dirt on his leg that he had gone down.
I continued to watch from the same spot. Lots of people will tell you that I can be a little, well, loud when I'm cheering. As Mike made his way through the "spaghetti bowl" and the "whoopdy-doos", I yelled again. He heard me, and yelled that he needed a bike. Uh-oh. I literally dropped my camera, my bag and my partially eaten bologna sandwich right then, and proceeded to SPRINT across the venue to the pit - in my clogs. As I was running, I thought about ditching the shoes, but changed my mind. Later, friends would tell me that don't think they had ever seen me move so fast - guess I need to practice that WHILE RACING!
I made it to the pit, but Mike wasn't expecting it, so went another half a lap before coming in for a bike change. In his haste, he literally threw his race bike into my shin (ouch) and took off, telling me only that it was "all messed up". I did a cursory look and saw that it wasn't shifting, and that the rear shifter had bent. Many, many thanks to the neutral support from Mavic - he had the shifter repositioned and the shifting fixed in time for Mike to change up the next time through. Another change of bikes, and Mike was on his way to try and pick off more racers.
In the end, I learned that he had gone down on the pavement just before the concrete stairs, costing him a number of places. His leg looked like raw hamburger, so we wandered to the medical tent for a clean up before watching the Elite races. He ended up 20th, still in the points despite the crash and two bike changes - pretty good racing, I'd say!
The change in course was going to require more technical handling skills on Sunday. Before the race, world champion Kathy S came by and told me to ride smart, leave space, and take advantage when people make mistakes. We talked about specific lines in certain places, and then went on to our individual warm-ups.
On the whistle, I wanted to get a better start than the previous day when I got boxed out slowing for the first corner in the pavement/grass transition. I sprinted up the hill and hit the hole shot second wheel behind Natalia G - sweet! Kathy proceeded to pass me on the straight grass section and then crash in the second corner. I took her advice and took advantage, got by her and continued chasing Natalia ;). (Photo by Geoff M.)
Unfortunately, I bobbled in the “spaghetti bowl” the first time through. I was forced to dismount on the first uphill and then couldn’t get clipped in fast enough going through the whoopdy-doos. That cost me about 5 places, and I was angry at myself for letting it happen. Heading into the same section on the next lap, I was behind Leah going up the hill. I didn’t quite make it, put my downhill foot out, and crashed, rolling to the bottom of the hill. Being the not-so-smart racer that I am, I jumped up only to crash right back down when I put weight on my left foot. I literally sat for 3-5 minutes before I was able to get up, get back on the bike and finish the race. The pedaling was ok, but anytime I had to dismount to run over or up anything, the pain was pretty brutal. I just don’t know when to stop ;).
Pain Face - captured by Geoff M.
Sadly, as I was crashing, Michele H was behind me, looked up and simultaneously hit a divot, sending her over the bars and onto her already injured shoulder - on the same hill from the previous day! That hill was jinxed for us.
Again, I changed up, and then went into the pits to support Mike in his race. He did really well the second day, and managed to finish on the same bike he started on, and to stay upright ;). He also did well, with a 15th place finish. He's been riding really strong this season.
Now, it was my turn to head to the medical tent. I was positive I had just sprained the ankle - after all, I had done the same thing, on the same ankle earlier in the year. So, I went in search of an ace bandage and some ice. Tom Stevens' wife, Kathy, was the attending, and advised that I should likely have an x-ray, just to rule out anything worse than a sprain, especially given where I was/wasn't feeling the pain. She treated both of us over the course of the two day event...
Then it was time for beer. Beer and cheering cures just about anything ;). Despite the crash-filled weekend, and the suffering, it was still a lot of fun.