After a fun weekend of collegiate mountain bike racing, I got to switch gears, or rather bikes, and head to Waterloo Wisconsin for my first elite cyclocross race of the season.
At this point in my career, I am lucky to experience large amounts of improvements at a time and after another year under my belt I felt like I had no idea what I was capable of on the cross bike. Standing on the start line with few expectations felt freeing in and of itself. When the whistle was blown and we sprinted down the straight I looked around and found myself in great company. Lap after lap I found myself riding with women that I have and do look up to. 7th place was so much more than a number, it was a boost of confidence that I hope to have last the entire season.
The second day at the cross races was just as exciting. I rode in a group of 4 people spanning from 8th to 12th. With one lap to go I was sitting in 9th and gaining on 8th. Getting within 5 seconds in the last few turns I felt like I had the potential to make a move for it. Rounding the final corner as I looked toward 8th, the girl behind me was closing in as well. We stood and sprinted for the line! I finished in 10th with the same time as 9th and only 3 seconds behind 8th.
The first weekend of cross racing was extremely exciting and even better, they had a U23 podium both days and I got to stand on the 2nd step.
4 long days at school later…….
I packed up and headed to Iowa City for the UCI Jingle Cross weekend.
The Friday night race is always a spectacular experience, and without the cold to hinder us this year, it was better than ever. Two days of torrential rain in Iowa left the course in true cyclocross conditions, with lots of running and mud to test even the best pit crews.
My boyfriend Clayton, and the Clif Pro Team mechanic worked together like they have done it for years and they had my bike ready for me every half a lap…even when I gave them extra work. On the 2nd lap, as I came down the hill in 5th my chain derailed and I found myself running 800 meters to the pit. Throwing one bike to the mechanics and heading off to catch the girls who had caught me while I was running, I made passes and worked my way up to 6th. Coming back to the pit in a half of a lap the mechanics had already broken the chain and rerouted it. I remounted my bike and pushed through the mud to finish in 6th.
On Sunday, I got to join the ‘big girls’ and race most of the same contenders from the World Cup the day before. Starting 4th row my goal was to move up the whole race. In less muddy conditions, I set my sights high and raced a gusty race going all out from the start and hanging on for 16th in the UCI C1 race.
On surreal race weekends such as these reality feels so far away as I’m transported to a place that I feel God truly designed me to be. I am so thankful for the gifts that God has blessed me with and every weekend I get to use them I find a new happy place. Sometimes racing in these professional fields I feel a million miles away from being a young 20 year old girl double majoring and working to fulfill course requirements. It’s crazy, but I love that sort of double life because I get to walk around campus with my fellow peers during the week and then put on the CLIF Pro Team kit as if it were my superhero cape on the weekend. 🙂
Photo: Dave McElwaine