Slimed. Yup, Slimer had his eye on me at the US Cup Pro XC this past weekend. I pedaled (and ran) my bike up muddy hills and through grass lagoons, but Slimer got me anyways. The savvy biker kitted up in their ghost suit, powered up the photon beam, and was afraid of no ghost. Me? I didn’t think ghosts existed and got slimed!
This past weekend I kicked off my 2016 cross country racing season at Bonelli Park outside of Los Angeles. I knew the race would draw big talent, but I had no idea the Argentine National Team would be there, or the Chinese National Champion to name a few. I was star struck the moment I saw the start list and it was a huge start list! I have dreamed of being at a start line with 50 women, and the race plates went to 59. 59!
I was overly confident coming off my Fat Bike Nationals victory and for not being a rookie this year at UCI races. Relaxed is a good thing, but I must have been in denial at what this field of women were capable of. It was pouring rain in SoCal with flood warnings every day. I thought it was always sunny in SoCal (I packed lots of sunscreen, two pairs of sunglasses and a bikini) so I completely neglected to prepare for the conditions. I kept thinking NOAA was mistaken but on Saturday I took the start line in the rain for an up and down, up and down, up and down course that kept you pedaling the whole time as the mud was forming a slick akin to Exxon Valdese.
Call-ups put me in the last row of contestants, and with a whistle a hundred wheels burned rubber and handlebars clashed across the line. The mud slicks caused pile-ups early on and I was caught up in several. Separated from the main pack I soon began to give the mud too much respect. Yes, my tires were the absolute opposite of what you wanted for the day, but I am a strong technical rider and relying on good technique and grit should have kept me sailing through the slime. Instead I looked like I needed a chaperone on the off camber traverse above cacti and forgot how to lean my bike on tapped lawn turns. I did crush the short rock downhill, running it more direct each lap. Then, I was pulled before the last lap. I was stunned. I made a few strategic errors in the first lap, rode too conservatively on the mud flats, wasted energy speeding up and slowing down in a reactive fashion, and was not a good pre-race mechanic for myself. I was disappointed in my performance. This was the biggest show I’ve been a part of and I didn’t completely show up. What?
Room for improvement!
Lucky for me on Sunday was the short track race (STXC). I’ve not raced one, but was excited to learn what this format was all about, and it was a chance to get my preparations right! I showed up early with my training wheels (hard-pack race tread but wider than my race wheel tires) and a pressure gauge to dial in my tire pressure for the conditions. I adjusted my suspension to be a bit slower so it would stay connected with the mud. I envisioned the course in my head; riding it perfectly and with total confidence my tires would stay connected. I took the start line sweaty and ready to jump into the lead pack from my back of the pack start position. At go I turned my photon beam on! I was in the middle of the lead pack rubbing elbows and wheels for the first two laps. I even passed one of the Team Luna girls (she passed me later in a smart tactical move) and was proud of how I anticipated the pack maneuvers while giving it my full effort. I was sure the race was almost over and let my gaze stray for a moment to my Garmin and saw we were only half way through the race. Half way! I was ejected by the pack and lost the draft effect to time trial my last laps. I gave it my all, felt elated by my first short track race, and I got my race self back!
Lucky me (again). Next week is the Sea Otter Classic where I’ll race the cross country like I mean it and get to play short track strategy with a little mileage under my belt. Look out ladies, I called Ghost Busters!