What an exciting weekend of racing in Wisconsin this weekend! It felt so good to finish this first block of races with two first place finishes! It’s been a whirlwind. So much so that time seems to have passed both slowly and incredibly fast over the last several weeks. This racing block started back in the beginning of April at the Sea Otter Classic and it’s been almost full gas since then. My turn around time between races has consisted primarily of 36 hour stretches at home to replenish my suitcase and to take my clothes directly out of my bags into the washing machine and then back into the suitcase. One room in our house has practically just turned into a packing station with a variety of different items that made or missed the cut in the packing system depending on what trip (or country) I was headed to next.
When I started this block of races I was incredibly excited for the opportunities in store, but I didn’t quite know how the travel and fast turnaround times would play out and I’m pleased to have had very smooth (although hectic) experiences all-around. In fact, I think the fact that it seems like each of my races throughout this block improved and got better with time showed me that not only was I able to manage the logistics well but I’ve raced my way into this season just like I typically do and now, we are officially rolling. With so much behind me to recap and reflect on it’s hard to believe that we’re not even half way through the season yet, but as I feel like I’m catching my momentum I’m beyond excited to have so much still in store.
When I started planning this season one of the first things I did was create a spreadsheet calendar of every weekend of the year and all of the races I wanted to attend on it. I could tell this first block of races would be a big one so while the first 5 weeks of races were highlighted in yellow as “guaranteed” this final weekend was highlighted in green as a “maybe.” As I repacked my bag one final time and headed to the airport on Wednesday barely keeping my eyes open from the jet lag of flying home from Europe the day before, I still questioned my decision just a little bit to turn that ‘maybe’ in a ‘yes.’ Now, in hindsight, I am so incredibly happy that I did.
Friday Short Track:
The Friday short track was my first opportunity this weekend to snag some additional UCI points. The course was a big grassy loop with a very gradual mellow rise and some twisty turn-y corners leading back into the finish. The lap was only 2 minutes long so I knew that the racing would be tight and close.
It was important to me to use these races as additional practice opportunities as well so I really focused in on my start and made an effort to explode off of the line. I put in a hard first 2 laps and then settled into a conservative rhythm to assess the race. At that point it was already just me and one other woman off of the front and after assessing the situation and knowing that Saturday’s XC would be the primary goal of the weekend I decided to sit up and try to share the load and trade pulls. The pace lulled as strategies clashed and as we recovered the group came back together which allowed some other women to put in some efforts.
Without any features or major deciding variables in the course, I knew that getting away would require a big effort from the front, but I also knew that winning was in the cards so I bet it all on a final last lap attack and sprint coming around the final corner. I was very happy to cross the finish line in first and even more overjoyed by the trophy they presented at the awards ceremony which was the cutest tiny golden cow since we were racing on a cow farm.
Saturday Cross Country:
Saturday’s XC event was classified as a UCI C1 race which meant that there were lots of UCI points up for grabs and left me nervous over the opportunity I had sitting at my fingertips. There were some new competitors who joined for Saturday’s race that weren’t in Friday’s XCC so I knew that the level of racing would be elevated even more.
Once again, I focused on using the opportunity for improvements and practiced a hard start off of the line and gunned it at the front of the race for 5 minutes before settling into a solid pace at the front. As we paraded around the first lap of four there were 3 of us women in a small group and I decided to put in an initial decisive move on a small incline to whittle the group down to two of us.
Wanting to solidify the gap and put the two of us in a commanding lead I kept a strong pace at the front leading the entire first lap. As we entered lap two it became obvious to me that I would either continue to lead or the pace would suffer so I continued to drill the pace at the front putting in small efforts, not with the intention to get away, but with the intention of forming small gap after gap that I would force my competitor to close and burn energy trying to keep up.
As we entered lap three many spectators had been hollering at me to “not do all of the work” and to “race smart” so I tried to force my competitor around to the front. We even had a conversation out there as I requested her to take her turn breaking the wind. After much heel dragging all the conversation got me was a short 3-minute pull after which I took the lead back again and just embraced the fact that this would be my race to dictate.
As we came through on the final lap, I set my plan in my head. There was a short incline about 2 minutes out from the finish and at that point I would go all in and never look back. I could feel the anticipation in my body and mind as I came to my determined point and I prayed, “Dear God, please give me the strength in my body and mind to commit to this move.” As we rounded the corner, I sent out an attack and didn’t look back until the course doubled back on itself and I had a clear shot to see if I had formed a gap. I could clearly see my attack had stuck and I grabbed another gear and stood one more time to solidify my victory. I felt so much joy coming around the finish line and getting to post up across the line. The win is wonderful but what’s even better than that is setting a plan and executing it. And what’s even better than that is celebrating with friends, getting to hug Clayton just as I finish, and having the opportunity to sign shirts and number plates of young, up and coming riders all afternoon. Yup, I’m so glad that I came to Englewood for this bike race. Thank you!