McEwen Cyclocross #1

Once again, we found ourselves headed East on a Saturday morning. This time, to McEwen Tennessee for the first of two races.

Despite the promoter’s offer of a seperate women’s race and payout equal to the men, only two other women showed to race. To make things more intereseting, we decided that we’d race at the same time as the p1/2/3 men for 60 minutes (instead of the usual 45).

The course was really nice. This was the first cross race I’ve been to this year that didn’t have a drop of mud on it! Don’t get me wrong, I love the mud, but it was a very nice break! It also had some nice power sections- including one nice sized hill followed by a screaming downhill (I topped out at around 25.5mph a couple of times) which claimed more than one rider in our race, including Ryan.

I decided I’d try to pace myself since this race would be my longest effort on a CX course. It worked well. I took the women’s lead from the start and never looked back. I also began picking off some of the men and ended up sitting in 5th place with a couple of laps to go. Ryan was catching up to me after wrecking early on the decent, and I wanted to hold him off, so I took a risk around a hard right turn early in the lap and managed to burp my front tubeless tire, lost traction, and fell down. I tried to hop up and keep the pressure on, but the next turn resulted in another burp. With ~10psi, I was able to ride straight, but had to baby my bike through every turn. Ryan passed me just before I got to the pits. Luckily, I’d brought my Air9 along and put it in the pit “just in case.” I finished my last lap and a half on it (and also realized how badly the fit it off on it- I’ve got a setback seatpost and longer stem on the way… hopefully they’ll be in before the Lock 4 six hour race next weekend!)

So, I ended up winning the women’s race and finishing 6th against the guys. Not bad… I’m hoping that today, I don’t have any tire issues so I can keep the pressure on.

Niner Air9… more photos, first ride

Got in about 10 miles at Stanky Creek this afternoon. First impression- I NEVER want to ride a 26″ bike again. After several laps on the same trails on a borrowed bike ( 12 hours of Stank), I realized today hom much nicer it is to have the big wheels. It’s kinda like free speed.
As for the frame itself. It’s pretty awesome. The hardtail will take a bit of getting used to. I think that higher volume tires may be in order. It feels pretty amazing going uphill. I had to keep reminding myself that I have cyclocross racing to do tomorrow because it was pretty tempting to hammer through everything.

This weekend, Ryan and I are going to the McEwen Cyclocross Festival. He’s coming back to Memphis for his team’s end-of-the-year party, and I’m sticking around the race venue for some MTB riding and camping. I can’t pass up the chance to ride some new trails on my new bike when the weather is supposed to be awesome!

Anyway… here’s a gallery of some nicer photos (click to enlarge)


Cross the Way Cyclocross #4

Sunday’s report should actually begin on Saturday night… we went out for dinner and (multiple) drinks with some Nashville friends. If it’s any indication as to just how many drinks… we ended up at the Waffle House next to the hotel eating waffles and hash browns at sometime around midnight.

Sunday morning, I felt like I’d been run over by a bus (Ryan, on the other hand, was fine… he’d laid off quite a bit since he was the DD the previous night). I rolled around in bed with a nauseous headache. I eventually managed to choke down a slice of bread, some ginger ale, and two asprin. Miraculously, after napping for another 30 minutes, I started to come around. As I packed my bags and got ready, I pounded cups of watered-down hotel coffee and a couple of bottles of water spiked with Elete electrolyte drops, wondering how my 11:45 race would go…

Like several of the other races we’ve been to this season, Sunday’s weather was gorgeous compared to Saturday. The ground had dried out a little, though the parts of the course that had been sloppy the day before were still pretty bad. The mud was vaguely like the infamous Dirt, Sweat, and Gears nightmare mud… it was sticking to everything and mixing with grass. While I was getting ready for my race, I saw no fewer than three broken derailleurs.

A couple more cups of coffee and one asprin later, I was dressed and warming up. Though I was tired, somehow I didn’t feel too bad otherwise. Luckily the girl that thrashed me on Saturday didn’t show back up, though Troy Tucker’s wife Becky was there… she claimed to be out of shape because she’d just had a kid, but based on past expereinces with moms on bikes, I was only halfway believing her.
We lined up with four cat3 men. I got off to a somewhat slow start, but got a little faster with each lap. I steadily increased my lead over Becky and began reeling in the men that had jumped ahead of me at the beginning of the race. On the last lap, I caught up to 2nd place (the 1st place guy was running lap times that would have made him competitive in the 1/2 field). I was able to pass him to the inside on the final turn, lining us up for a heads-up sprint to the finish. Unfortunately, I wound it up a little early and he ended up taking 2nd by about a bike length.

Oh well… the points I scored put me in the lead for the CX BAR points. I’m hoping to extend that further this weekend at the McEwen/Hoss of Cross race. It’s going to be close considering how many races (including the State Championship) are taking place over in Northeast Tennessee- about an 8 hour drive from Memphis.

Cross the Way Race #3

This weekend found us in Nashville, TN for races #3 and 4 of the ongoing Cross the Way series.

On Saturday, we arrived to a soggy course. It had rained for about 12 or the previous 24 hours, so the mud was fierce. It’s OK, though… I like mud. Once again, only one other woman showed for the 1/2/3 race. It was Ashley James, a strong collegiate rider from my previous team- Team Kenda Tire. She finished several places ahead of me at USGP the follwoing weekend, but I was hoping that my mud-wrangling abilities would play to my favor this weekend.

When the race started, I took the lead through the sloppy/of camber section. Soon after, we went into the woods, down a large hill, then up a really steep, chunky run-up. I was feeling hopeful until the next section- a loooooong, slick drag of a hill. With my 40T single chainring, I found myself overgeared. She spun past me while I was grinding at somewhere around 40rpms…

No excuses, though. I’m pretty sure that even if I’d had better gearing, should still would have taken me out at that point.

Following the hill, the course went back through some hairpins and more mud. For the first two laps, I was able to sucessfully close the gap between the two of us in that part of the course, but the 3rd & 4th times up the hill were to be my downfall. I was toast.

Being Halloween, I almost rode in costume, but then decided that I’d go partial costume for the race, then change into the rest of it afterward. There were some good ones…

Taking a beer handup
Taking a beer handup
On the 3rd lap, I decided to cut my losses and get a mud dollar from the hecklers
On the 3rd lap, I decided to cut my losses and get a mud dollar from the hecklers
Dirty Schoolgirl
Yes, I was a little bit cold...
Yes, I was a little bit cold...
Not really sure what Troy Tucker is... other than fast

USGP Derby Cup Sunday

The fun part about racing in an “elite” race is the people who are there to watch. If you’re warming up or walking around in kit just before the race, random strangers smile & wish you good luck. It’s pretty cool, and I needed all the luck I could get.

Unlike crit racing where you have a “race to the race” in order to jockey for front line position, cross racing is staged. Since I was added to the roster on Saturday rather than pre-registered, I was staged last. Not really a great place to start a cyclocross race- especially one with an early mud pit where less confident riders were sure to take spills and cause traffic jams.

When the whistle blew, I started well and moved up into the back of the heard. However, after we rounded the first two corners and dove into the mud, I was momentarily overwhelmed… first off, the crowd was huge (ok, maybe 40-50 people huge) at that point. The sound of yelling and cowbells combined with a solid wall of spectators on both sides of the course overwhelmed/distracted me for a fraction of a second. At the same time, the woman next to me lost control of her bike and fell on me, forcing me to put a foot down as I exited the mud. Rounding the next corner, someone else shouldered me out to get a better line through the turn.

CRAP! I’d forgotten just how physical an elite race can get- the big-money crits are the same way- ladies won’t hesitate to throw an elbow/shoulder/knee your way in order to gain position. I had to snap myself out of the surprise and remind myself that I could throw elbows with the best of them. However, by that time, I’d fallen back to nearly last place going over the first set of barriers.

For the next 40 minutes, I rode to the point of stupor. I chased and passed and, at some points, had no idea where I was on course or how many laps were left. It was the most wonderful pain that only cyclocross racing can give… where you’re fighting and riding until your eyes almost bleed just to go from 21st to 20th.

Something I’ve noticed ever since leaving the Metro Volkswagen cycling team is that whenever I’m struggling or riding at my limit and it’s just not fast enough is that I can hear my former team manager (Nathan Rogut) screaming at me in my head. Somehow his breath traveled through the race radio and implanted itself in my brain tissue like some sort of symbiote… or is is a parasite? Hmmm…

“Don’t you dare f***ing stop pedaling!!!!!”

Yeah. I want to dig it out with an icepick sometimes.

So, I finished 20th out of 32 starters. Not bad for my first UCI cyclocross race, but with plenty of room for improvement. I think that starting a few rows up and not getting distracted during the first two minutes of the race might have gained a place or two for me, but I mostly need to work on just getting faster. Hopefully I can find a few photos from the weekend.

I’m looking forward to some more racing next weekend… hopefully some good competition will show up this time so I don’t have to race by myself.

Live USGP updates on Twitter (and a race report)

If you want live Derby Cup updates today, follow me on Twitter @ AndreaMemphis!

Quick report from yesterday:
I raced the 3/4 race. It was a mistake. I started in the back and passed the leading woman within half a lap. Within a couple of more laps, I also passed the leader of the master’s 1/2/3 field, which started about a minute ahead of us. I went into the race not really knowing how I’d do since I haven’t raced more than 1 woman at a time, so when I crossed the finish line, I made a U-Turn and talked to an official. He upgraded me and got me added to the Elite race roster for today’s race. Should be interesting…

Cyclocrunk Finale Night!

Last night was the 3rd and final installment of our local cyclocross training series. It was also the first night that didn’t feature mud and standing water. The course was full of dry ruts from the previous races, but with less tire pressure and more speed, I never really noticed them.

I’m getting better at the LeMans start for sure… with perfect weather, a lot more people showed up, so it was crucial for staying out of traffic.

The course was fast. I FINALLY felt like I was really killing it over the barriers. I rode hard and only had a couple of mishaps- once, I was carrying a ton of speed into a turn, nearly ran into a fence, and had to dump the bike to avoid it; the other was a near-miss- there was a lapped rider in front of me as I approached a pre run-up barrier. For reasons unknown, he decided that it was a good idea to stop in front of the middle of the barrier and step over… I, on the other hand, was screaming towards the barrier trying to carry some momentum up the hill following it.

Important note- Cyclocrunk barriers are a lot narrower and about 3″ taller than regulation-sized barriers.

As I dismounted into a full-on sprint, I realized that he was not going to be out of my way and was forced to stop as quickly as possible so that I wouldn’t mow him down. My knees were a fraction of a second from buckling, but I managed not to make contact with him, his bike, or the barrier. Whew!

I don’ t know how I ended up overall, but I was the 1st place woman for the 3rd time, so, later at the Young Avenue Deli afterparty, I got my Queen of Crunk prize…


Beat the Freak Cyclocross #3 and #4

Traveled back to Fayetteville, TN over the weekend for some more cyclocross action.

Once again, on Saturday, conditions were not perfect. Some would call it typical Belgian Cyclocross weather- mud, temps in the mid 40’s, damp air, and wind. OK, so some people call this perfect cyclocross weather. I guess it could be much worse…

I lined up with a small group of Cat 3 men (including Ryan). No other women showed up for the 1/2/3 race, so I figured I’d test my legs against the guys. I ended up doing pretty well- Ryan won, and I finished 3rd- only about 10 seconds back from a guy that I tried my damnedest to pull back for the last 4 laps of the race. It would have been cool for us to get a 1-2, but I still turned in some good lap times and felt like I’d left everything out on the course.

Sunday was a gorgeous day. The skies cleared, temps were in the 50s, and the ground dried out a little bit. The course was nice, too- only one set of barriers! Ryan had upgraded overnight, so I raced against 3 other guys. I was hoping that the guy I’d almost beaten on Saturday would show up for round #2, but he was absent. Two of the guys were overnight 4-3 upgrades, so I had no idea how I’d fare against them. I had a couple of changes I wanted to make to my strategy- I decided I’d try to spin less, and I wanted to use a different “lifting” form with my bike over the barriers.

Both things made me a little bit faster- the bigger gear got my heart rate down a little, and lifting the bike so that I was flicking the wheels out to the side meant that I didn’t have to lift/jump as high over the barriers. That will be a nice skill to remember whenever I have a barrier to hop w/out much traffic around :) Even with my best effort, I still only managed a 3rd place. Once again, though, it was a hard-fought 3rd. I was dead by the time I finished!

Hopefully I can put that type of effort out next weekend @ the USGP race in Louisville. I’ll be testing the legs out against a much bigger group than what I’m used to, so it should be interesting.

Tonight- more Cyclocrunk!!!!