I took 2 whole days off the bike after Northampton’s CSIcx race weekend. It’s amazing how 45 minutes of racing can leave you destroyed. Two days in a row, I tapped out, needing the break.
When I entered that race weekend, I thought that this might be how I end the chapter of this freshmen effort in the sport of cyclocross. But I was selling my new addiction short.
I registered for a small race in Connecticut for next weekend. Last year only 10 women raced in total. They have a breakout category for just Cat 4 women this year, which may mean they are expecting a larger turnout. At any rate, I’ll be racing with the Cat 1-4, but scored as a Cat 4. I’m interested to see how that looks. I was really pleased with my results at Northampton. I felt I made very solid efforts and my placement–while nothing to write home about–had improved from a similar race (Providence). In Providence, I was 63rd, in Northampton, 52 and 55th. And while I realize it’s not an identical crowd, identical course, identical conditions or identical size field. It is similar enough in all those regards that I feel a 11 placement improvement is well, an improvement.
Other things I have noticed in this pursuit: I started playing women’s pickup hoops again this year. Last year, my lungs burned and I poured sweat, red in the face and gasping trying to run a full court game for 90 minutes. This year, I was up and down that court faster than ever, and I didn’t feel fatigued at all. I was also sinking a few baskets this time, which was a nice switch.
To top it off, yesterday I went back to the ‘cross practice course that I am so lucky to have access to. There is one other woman on Strava who has indexed this course in her workouts. I’ve never met her but she is a friend of Heather’s and she races ‘cross and mountain bikes and does pretty well–considerably better than me. When I first started doing laps at Ed’s farm I was a good 2 minutes off her time. After yesterday, I have reduced it to 30 seconds. And I know she has been going back there and improved upon her personal best as well. It’s a stretch to think I could close down that gap entirely, but I wasn’t going full throttle yesterday, just keeping it a consistent effort and working on being efficient–so I know there is still time to carve off.
Not making mistakes on the course carves time. Getting faster and stronger carves time. Building endurance carves time. Knowing your bicycle well enough that it is starts to become an extension of you carves time. Skills work carves time. Staying healthy carves time. Staying lean and light carves time. I am starting to see the moving parts, the art of improvement, the finer points of chance and luck and very hard work.
Cheshire CX (that small race in CT) is next weekend and I will finish toward the end of the pack. I will score higher points because it’s a smaller race. That will help me get a better starting position for another race. Which will also carve time.
Cyclocross races might only be 40 or 45 minutes long, but the game is a long one. The effort that you put in day after day, each race is another stepping stone, each barrier, each muddy turn–each of these things are small factors that go into the larger result. But what supersedes all of these things is the biggest, most important point of cyclocross. It’s just really, really fun. It’s really hard, really intense and incredibly fun. It does not matter where you place, it matters that you are out there, shivering in the cold and mud and under modified sunlight pushing yourself and your bike as hard as possible. This is an optimal medium for self discovery, and the person you race hardest against is yourself.
Here’s a few more shots of the Women’s Elite Race last Sunday. What a beautiful day for cross racing. Until next year Northampton! –Karen
Just because it’s winter, doesn’t mean there isn’t anything happening in the cycling world.
Right now, pro teams are readying themselves for the Amgen Tour of California, one of the premier tours in this country. HealthNet/Maxxis has morphed into a new team, Ouch Pro Cycling. Several members of the old Health Net Team are still there, with notable addition Floyd Landis. It will be an interesting season with Floyd back in the game, and of course I’ll be tuned into the Tour de France to watch Lance’s performance closely. Another favorite cyclist of mine is Tyler Hamilton, who rides for Rock Racing. I’m excited to see Landis, Tyler, and Armstrong all in races again. A wave of nostalgia perhaps, with a anticipation of what is to come in 2009.
The National Cyclocross Championship races are being held in Kansas again this year. Last year the snowy cold weather provided a dramatic win for Tim Johnson of Cannondale/Leer/Cyclocrossworld. There’s a big kick-off party being held that weekend, appropriately dubbed the “Mud & Blood Ball.” I say….excellent! Here’s the press release taken from their site:
Crossniacs National Syndicateand Cyclocross Magazine present the Mud and Blood Ball, the USA Cycling ’08 Cyclocross National Championship kick-off party to be held at the Mission Theatre in Mission, Kansas.
Clip into your race weekend with a cool movie, gourmet food, Boulevard Beer, give-aways and much more. Visit with other racers. Celebrate the season with a beer. Tickets are $10 pre-sale, $15 at the door. Get tickets at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/47004
This gritty movie is a Roll Your Own Films Production with additional support from Trek Bicycles and KLM Marketing. It was shot entirely in high definition in December of 2007 at the Cyclocross National Championships in Kansas City. The film immerses the viewer in the real feel of hard-core cyclocross racing in extreme weather conditions, including driving snow, mud, ice and frozen mud. It includes interviews from Steve Tilford and elite men’s champion Tim Johnson. With a hard-charging soundtrack, all the action is from multiple races over four days, culminating with the exciting elite women’s and men’s championships.
Definitely sounds like a good time! Check out the Mud and Blood Ball site for more information!
They used to hold this race at UMASS/Amherst years ago, right near my old dorm, Van Meter out near Orchard Hill. A few years ago they moved it here to Look Park in Northampton. The park is large enough to still accommodate its rapid growth.
I brought my Mom and my son. Mom was snapping pictures and enjoying herself–it was her first bike race. She compared it a little to when her brother raced motocross back in the 70′s. I guess bikes are a family thing–one way or another. We caught the Men’s Cat 2/3 race and most of the Women’s Elite race before my son had had enough, and we headed home. What a great weekend for ’cross racing here in New England!
Trebon took first, Johnson took second, and Jamie Driscoll took third. For more photos and results click here. It was a beautiful day and there was a heavy spectator turnout. More photos to come!
Another “this just in,” The Gran Prix of Gloucester Cyclocross race coming October 10 and 11th will host it’s first Beer Garden at the race. This event has grown over the years and will likely continue to do so with the rise of cross racing in America. For complete info on the event click here. On the bikes will be…..
TOP INTERNATIONAL, US, AND LOCAL COMPETITORS
Tim Johnson, Beverly MA – Current US National Champion
Ryan Trebon, Bend, OR – Former National Champ
Jeremy Powers, 2007 Gran Prix of Gloucester Champion
Jesse Anthony, Beverly, MA – US National Champion, multiple years.
And for your drinking pleasure….
Erdinger Alcohol Free Beer
I will be attending this event with my brother, who will likely be a regular at the beer tent. I will probably refrain, since I’m not a huge beer fan.
Two more weeks til Gloucester!
The video trailer of the 9 Ball Diaries hit the cyclocrossworld site today. The video, produced by DH Productions and Emmy Award winning documentary director Don Hampton, chronicles current US Cyclocross Champion Tim Johnson’s entire season last year, giving viewers a rare inside look at the sport. See the trailer, and you’ll be cruising the cyclocrossworld site for your local neighbor cross race. Fantastic!
Is it true? Lance Armstrong leaving retirement to compete in the Tour de France? Sources say YES. Somehow this isn’t completely surprising to me. He did the Leadville 100 and placed 2nd. He’s been running marathons. Some would say he was born to do this. And wouldn’t this make a little more history? A little more controversy? All I can say is that unlike this year, next year I’ll definitely be tuning into the Tour again.
PS. Pick up the latest VeloNews for more info.