The flip side for me is that as much as I say I don't like the course, I typically have decent results here. I was hoping for more of the same this weekend - I have been training a bunch, had a few races already under my belt, and was really hoping things would go my way. We arrived at the venue on Friday evening to do a course inspection, and I asked Mike to ride a lap with me - pointing out the best approach to the corners and providing other helpful tips. I was amazed at the difference in my cornering after just one small new instruction!
After the pre-ride it was off to Waterbury, VT where we had a room booked at the Thatcher Brook Inn. We decided against staying in the Williston/Burlington area this year, and were very happy with our accommodations - lovely inn and the staff was SO FRIENDLY! We will definitely choose to stay there again. On a fluke, we headed out in the "wrong" direction in search of dinner, and ended up at a place called Tanglewoods. BEST. FIND. EVER. The large barn led us both to believe that we would be headed into a ski bar/bbq restaurant, but nothing could have been further from the truth. We feasted on a delicious meal - homemade chips with truffle oil and blue cheese, chipotle duck with beet greens and sweet potato fries for Mike and mac n' cheese with truffle oil, peas, prosciutto and chicken for me, and then a triple berry crumble to finish the meal. We were stuffed and happy when we left, but I was a little worried about how all that food would fare climbing the hills in the morning.
The morning of the race dawned with bright sun - at least in Waterbury. We had a delicious breakfast and hopped in the car only to see VERY dark clouds on the horizon, and then pass through a rainstorm. The butterflies started their floor routines... Mike reminded me that it was just a bike race - I would do my best and that was good enough. While that helped settle things down, my money was still on the butterflies :)
There was lots of socializing as this was the first big event of the season, and we were seeing good friends we hadn't had a chance to connect with since the end of the previous season. Lots of talk about off season training, new bikes, new teams and the like. This is one of the best parts of cross - the community (more on that later).
I lined up after some final words of wisdom from Mike - "Kill yourself on the start to stay with the leaders." He had said this before as well, and that was my plan. From the second row, I managed a decent start up the first hill, and was sort of surprised at how slow it seemed we were going. It wasn't long, though, and we were a select group of about 7 or 8 - and I was racing with the leaders! Through the barriers on the first lap and I heard Mike yell that I was 7th. I continued to maintain contact, and even pulled through to take the lead for a short while on the second lap. I was feeling good, and any time I did get gapped off just a bit, I was surprisingly making time back up and catching back ON THE CLIMBS! WHAT?!?!?!? Yeah - I don't get it either :).
|Photo: Vicki Thomas|
|First lap - 7th?!?!?!|
In the end, I did end up getting gapped off the lead by a small margin, but held onto a 6th place finish. I was so excited and happy, that when I got to the pits to see Mike, I broke down in tears. I had a GREAT race - raced forward the whole time, stayed with the group instead of burning myself out too early by trying to attack, and riding clean and smooth. And apparently, people besides Mike and I took notice of my race - the rest of the day and into Sunday people were congratulating me on a great ride. That community is so supportive! The Elite women were cheering like crazy, as were the 35+ men who were waiting for their race to start, and others - amazing.
This year, Mike and I are racing back-to-back, making the logistics a bit more difficult. From the finish of my race, I headed straight to the pit to be sure to support him as he began his first foray in the Verge 45+ category. He started out really strong and looked great out on the course. When he passed the pits sitting in 3rd place, solidly attached to the leaders, I was so excited. The next time the leaders came through, however, my stomach dropped - no Mike. Where was he? He finally appeared and pitted - he had burped his new tubeless tires, and needed a quick bike change. He switched from the SRAM/disc Cannondale back to the Ridley with V-brakes/Shimano to finish the race, still solidly in 9th place. A great ride for him as well, though he was disappointed.
A cool down ride, a trip to the bike shop, some spectating of the men's Elite race and it was back to Waterbury to clean up and grab some food. Saturday we ended up at a place called The Reservoir where there were numerous local beers on tap (uh-oh) as well as burgers as big as one's head (uh-oh). Neither of these boded well for a good night's sleep ...
|Photo: Vicki Thomas|
My result from Saturday netted me a front row start on Sunday, and I lined up next to the reigning world champ, Kathy Sarvary. I love Kathy - she has been an inspiration to me since I started racing cross back in 2006. She is always supportive, and seems to always have a smile on her face - well, almost always. We both admitted our nerves before the start, and that was the extent of our conversation.
Sunday's race wasn't as good for me. I had a terrific start, and went into the opening section still with the leaders. Unfortunately, I soon started to bleed places, and then the dreaded racing backward instead of forward began. Instead of looking ahead to see who I could catch, I was looking behind to see who was going to catch me. This is a losing strategy, and didn't play out well. My back was also pretty sore from the previous days' effort, making the hill climbing even more difficult. I did give it my all, and still had a respectable finish (despite missing a remount after the barriers on the final lap). I was tired, but knew that I had a successful start to the Verge series.
It was quickly back to the pits for me to support Mike in his race. The determination he showed was amazing - he continually moved up in the race, and launched some vicious attacks on the uphill climb. The grimace he wore for the duration was a testament to the effort he was putting in. He managed a 5th place finish on Sunday - in the money!
Today (Monday), I feel hungover. I'd pretty much forgotten what a weekend of travel and hard racing will do to you. After the success of this weekend, though, I am looking ahead to the next races with much more enthusiasm than in years past!
Thanks so much to all of you who cheered, yelled, and offered congrats this weekend. It really means so much to me! But a bigger, and more important thanks to MKR - I couldn't do ANY of this without you.