Last weekend, the team headed to Boone, NC for the first weekend of collegiate cyclocross racing. It doesn’t get much better than cyclocross in the fall: crunchy leaves, crisp weather, bursts of oranges, reds, and yellows against a blue-tinted mountainous backdrop, Halloween costumes, heckling, and cowbells galore… we had an amazing weekend, to say the least!
Six of us made the journey to the mountains: Mollie, Grace, Suzanna, Jessica, Tracee, and Brian. App State hosted the collegiate race on Saturday afternoon, and the team stuck around to race the non-collegiate NCCX race on the same course, the Boontown Throwdown, on Sunday. Suzanna and Brian started the day off with a bang, each winning their category (Women’s B and Men’s C, respectively). It was Brian’s first cyclocross race — and he dominated the field on a mountain bike! Jessica and Tracee completed their first collegiate cyclocross races in style, even while rolling up to the race site a mere few minutes before the start due to some wrong turns and traffic mishaps. Mollie and Grace were up next in the Women’s A category. Due to a series of unfortunate bike malfunctions, Mollie ended up RUNNING an entire 2 laps carrying her bike! Grace raced smoothly and strongly, nabbing third place in the small (but fast!) Women’s A field.
After the race, we refueled with delicious burritos at Black Cat in Boone, and then we headed to Espresso News for some coffee and studying before another day of racing. The next morning, we trekked back to the race site for the USAC races — larger fields, crazier costumes, free food, and TONS of fun! We had some impressive results at this race as well: Suzanna claimed 2nd in the Women’s Cat 4 field, Grace and Mollie finished well in a very competitive field of Pro/1/2 women, and Brian finished in the top 3rd of one of the largest Men’s 4 field sizes we’ve ever seen!
Individual Race Reports
When I was younger and I first started racing my coach taught me how to evaluate my races using a method called “Rose, Bud, and Thorn.” Rose was the stuff that went well in the race, what I enjoyed, or what I thought I did well. Thorn was something that might have gone wrong or something I didn’t like. Bud was what I learned from the race or something new I discovered about myself as an athlete. This technique helped me not dwell on the negative things, reminded me about why I do what I do, and helped me improve and grow as an athlete from race to race. Even though I am a lot older now, I still gravitate towards this method every time I race and use it today with the youth I coach.
So here goes: Rose, Bud, and Thorn from the Boone Race this weekend.
ROSE: The atmosphere and my UNC team. I fell in love with cycling after joining and racing with the UNC team last spring. I had so much fun traveling and racing with my teammates. I continued to race all summer on my own. Attending the collegiate cyclocross race on Sat. reminded me again how different the collegiate atmosphere is and how much I love the setup of collegiate racing. It was fun to travel with the team and celebrate when Suzanna and Brian won. It was also my team that got me through my race when I flatted multiple times. They were there supporting me, desperately trying to fix my bike, offering me their own bikes, and being there at the finish line offering words of encouragement when my race didn’t go well.
THORN: All the flat tires!! 10 mins prior to my race, I rolled my back tire. We thought we had fixed it but after one lap, I flatted again. Unfortunately it was right after I had passed the pit. In cross you can’t cut the course and have to travel the entire race course with your bike back to the pit to either get a new bike or have your current one fixed. Therefore, I had to run with my bike on my shoulder about 1 mile to the pit to exchange bikes. I made it and hopped on my mountain bike, but it wasn’t set up for me and I had cleated shoes and the bike had flat peddles because one of my teammates rode the bike in the previous race. This made the next lap really hard for me. As I completed that lap on the mountain bike, my teammates fixed my cross bike and did a superb handoff when I came back around to the pit. Unfortunately something was wrong with the tire because 500 ft later, I flatted again. I ended up running the last lap of the race to cross the finish line and by that point I was dead last.
BUD: I learned that if you can’t personally fix your own equipment, don’t put it on your bike. I tried out new wheels and had been having some difficulty with them in pervious training rides but trusted my mechanic and thought they were fixed. Since I am new to cross, I didn’t really understand the type of wheels I was using and probably shouldn’t have blindly trusted the mechanic. In addition, I learned that I had enough will power to finish a race when nothing seemed to be going right. My goal is to represent UNC at cyclocross nationals and so I was determined to finish and get some type of points even if they were minimal. This race pushed me back some, but I know with the support of my teammates, my coach, the cycling community, and a lot of hard work, I can get there. I may have hit a set back but this race is evidence that I haven’t and won’t give up trying.
I had been looking forward to racing at ASU all week. It had been a few weeks since I tried my first cross race in the preseason and I was ready to get back out there and use that experience to improve this time. We left Chapel Hill with plenty of time to make it to App to warm up and get ready before the race but somehow Tracee and I ended up getting to the race site TWENTY MINUTES before the race was supposed to start. We still had to put our bikes together and pick up our numbers to pin on. Forget warming up or getting a lap in on the course, it was basically get out of the car and go.
One major problem with this (well there are actually a lot of problems with this but the one I’m actually going to talk about…) is that I was borrowing a new bike that I had never ridden before. I went from having a super light and speedy cross bike to racing on a flat pedal mountain bike. I happened to forget the differences in bikes until I tried to go over the first barrier. I very nearly fell flat on my face when I first tried to pick up the bike to go over the barrier since it was MUCH heavier than I remembered.
I’m really unsure of how I actually did on Saturday according to the results but it was actually kind of nice. It was kind of refreshing to just go out there and push myself as hard as I could but also just try and have as much fun as possible with it. I’m actually pretty happy with how I did. I wasn’t blazing fast but I definitely took a lot more technical chances than I did during the preseason race…it’s the small things that matter!
I thought we woke up plenty early on Sunday to avoid the same mistake that happened the day before. We weren’t staying very far away from the race site but time always manages to fly by right before a race. It was pretty much time to start by the time I got everything together and pinned my number on!
Unfortunately, I ended up having to drop out of the race because some pretty severe back pain. It was disappointing but after going to physical therapy this week, I’m just happy that I didn’t end up hurting myself worse all things considered. Either way, the race Sunday was so much fun and I loved seeing all the crazy Halloween costumes people were wearing in the races. I have to say though I saw wayyyyy too many men in speedos and lacy underwear.
Overall, it was a really fun weekend with a great group of people! I’m definitely looking forward to doing a few more cross races before the season ends!
This crazy sport is hard! I seriously don’t remember the last time I hyperventilated so much. My favorite moment of racing was probably when I missed a (poorly marked) turn on the first lap and, not having any clue where I was in the field, whipped my bike at super sonic speed around the next 2 corners, only to slide out epically on a patch of gravel and tear my fishnets (collegiate racers who wore a costume got a “call-up” to the start line… that’s why I was wearing fishnets, I mean. Costume? You know? You know?) Apparently Grace has this crash on video, though she hasn’t uploaded it to our shared DropBox yet which means that it’s probably pretty horrendous looking. I’ll make sure to share it with you guys when I get my hands on it. Another highlight was Grace yelling: “SANDBAGGER, SANDBAGGER” every time I passed by. Girl is supposed to be my teammate… but she loooves her some heckling. Anyway, I’m moving up to Collegiate A’s next race, so we’ll see how that goes.
Sunday, I managed to figure out how to wear my blue wig while I raced, which I’m pretty sure accounts for my results. I might just keep wearing it for every race for the rest of the season. What do y’all think?!?
Going into App State race weekend, I had no idea what to expect having never raced cyclocross before. Here’s what I got: a whole bunch of fun, pain, and heckling. The atmosphere at the race, especially Sunday’s NCCX race was incredible. People with cow bells, people with vuvuzelas, and people absolutely screaming like mad on the run up. I received my fair share of heckling for riding my mountain bike: “COMON! BUNNY HOP THE BARRIERS, YOU’RE ON A MOUNTAIN BIKE!” and “RIDE IT, YOU’RE ON A MOUNTAIN BIKE FOR GOD’s SAKE” on the run-up. Definitely an awesome experience, and I’m looking forward to doing some of the next several CX races!