One of the things that I love about bike racing is the fact that it’s different every time. No race is just like another. This weekend I saw the most beautiful dichotomy in bike racing. On Saturday and Sunday we raced nearly the same course, the same venue, the same competition, but in an entirely different circumstance. On Saturday we raced a bone-dry course, in 65 degree weather. Some racers were running file tread tires and complaining that the weather was too hot for a proper cyclocross competition. Over night, Boulder saw record breaking cold temperatures and snow blustered down on the town. Sunday we lined up in 25 degrees to slip and slide and battle through the thick mud and ice.
On Saturday, we all lined up, in short sleeve skinsuits with the sun beating down on our backs. It was the perfect day in Boulder and the perfect weekend for my last races of the season. Saturday was a pretty straightforward race. I raced hard, moved through the field and finished up 6th. The race was close, only seconds separating groups of riders. I walked away from Saturday with a fire burning in my belly. I made some mistakes, mistake that I knew I could correct on Sunday. Sunday would be perfect.
I woke up on Sunday and looked out the window of my Boulder hotel room to discover the temperatures had dropped and there was a thick coat of snow covering the ground. It would be a new race.
When arriving at the course and watching the amateurs finishing their races covered in mud from head to toe, I couldn’t help but be excited. After pre-riding the course in 25 degrees and exiting the course soaked from head to toe in mud and ice, someone asked me how the course was. I said, “It’s fun,”
These types of conditions are a new opportunity. That was my word of the weekend, “opportunity.” It was an opportunity to overcome, to endure, and to accomplish something new.
Us women stood on the start line with whatever base layers we could squeeze under our skinsuits while the spectators stood around in ski jackets, beanies, and thick gloves. When the race began, I had a decent start finding myself somewhere around 10th at the first corner. The chaos immediately ensued as we entered the mud. In the first descent everyone took the high line but I had practiced both so I took the line less traveled and passed racers in the process. As I emerged at the top of the climb, I found myself sitting around 5th. I mounted my bike and discovered that the mud and ice had invaded my cleats and pedals making it seemingly impossible to clip in. I battled with my cleats, banging my feet against the pedals to release the cleat from the ice, but I was losing positions quickly.
By the time my cleat was free and I actually exclaimed with relief. I had fallen all the way back to 15th and had a lot of work to do. I battled through the elements as my hands went from cold, to numb, to throbbing, to numb again. I continued to struggle to clip in. Every time I got a new bike from the pit the brakes were frozen solid and I had to work to pump them open again. By the final lap I had made, what I felt like, was a heroic effort up to 4th. I put in a big attack on the only long climb in the course and afforded myself a gap, which I needed as I once again battled cleats unable to latch onto the pedals. The competition was close and as I pulled out of my pedals trying to respond to attacks, the final straight away on the course determined the entire outcome for me. I ended up 6th. A tough bullet to bite after such an epic event, but that’s racing. I’m proud of my effort, today and every day.
I’m proud of my effort this season. I’m proud to have overcome, to have had so many first time experiences, so many great results and to finish with a burning desire for next season. I’ll be ready and I’ll be the best I’ve ever been. But…for now…cheers to the off season. It’s time for a little rest and then a whole lot of hard work.