Another NEW ENGLAND HOLY WEEK OF CYCLOCROSS ™ (OMG) has come and gone, and now, with the kind of hindsight that can only come with eight straight days of rest, it almost seems like five races in nine days is a totally reasonable thing. As is typical, the races were totally stacked with national talent. Even our local mid-week race saw the current World Cup leader, Katerina Nash, show up to throw down the locals. So how did we mortals fare?
MIDNIGHT RIDE OF CYCLOCROSS
Kicking off Holy Week is one of the greatest courses, and one of the few night races of the season, the Midnight Ride. This was was so long ago now that all I can remember is Helen Wyman (UK National Champ) and Lisa Jacobs (Australian National Champ) spewing their watts at me and 50 other amateur women who had just barely made it to the race after work. It was a great race, however, with all three Avericans present and our B2C2 teammates out in full force for extra cheering and heckling. Midnight CX is such a necessary part of Holy Week. It eases us into the intensity ahead at the big UCI races. It gives us the taste of New England grassroots cyclocross community we need before throwing ourselves into the ring with the top athletes in the world.
It was brutal. Gloucester Grand Prix, start of the New England Verge series, 17 years running. Second race in the New England Holy Week. The field attracts international talent, needless to say it was ‘stacked’: Katie Compton, Ellen Noble, Crystal Anthony, Caroline Mani, Helen Wyman just to name a few. Voracious competition, a pack of lionesses for American soil. To top it off Mani had on a glistening set of rings that also provided ample intimidation. Like Mad Max regalia with the utmost wattage potential.
Jumping up to an elite race isn’t unlike THIS. Nonetheless, as an individual you cannot help but wonder how strong you can be. Before the race, the women with UCI points were hustled forward. Everyone else, random draw and it was a 64 deep (day 1). The three Avericans were peppered from 5th to the last row. Before staging, Erin said to me, “Just focus on making every lap your fastest. Ignore what other racers are doing." I tried to absorb that idea, but it was really, really-fast-like, really, fast. When we were released from the countdown, the herd of women catapulted forward, only to be bottle-necked by turns and run ups. We stayed together and it was mind bogglingly different. Everyone was better, faster, stronger, and adaptive. Mistakes racers made were almost negligible, I had to believe I was racing cyborgs.
It was dusty, Julie sped off fast and I didn’t catch a glance (she finished top 25 first and second days) but because of staging, Erin was behind me, I witnessed her move through the pack and not unlike a cattle dog, darting between dumb, fluffy sheep. Have I mentioned how unbelievably fast it was? Because that’s about all I could think of while racing. That’s why Gloucester Grand Prix is so exciting, to witness humans at their top speed and skill in a breezy ocean lawn. It was the first cyclocross race I witnessed years ago and the first weekend the three of us raced together. I can’t wait to see what will unfold for us for the season. Success isn’t elusive in cycling: work hard (with a sprinkle of talent). But elite racing can be similar to a spelling B. Did you spell B-O-U-Y-A-N-T or B-U-O-Y-A-N-T?
Colin proved himself again as cyclocross Jesus, turning drought into rain just in time for Night Weasels. Thus continues the now four-year streak of rainy races in Shrewsbury. Unfortunately, recent drought conditions meant that morning monsoon-like rains were mostly absorbed by the evening, leaving the course only slightly slick in corners.
Over 60 women showed up for the combined field race. As in, the poor cat 4s had to race at the same time as Katerina Nash. Props to Colin for a course that actually made this a safe endeavor – except potentially to the egos of all 40+ riders that got lapped. Some twice. Ouch. And I say that with all the humility of a person who knows that she would also have been lapped by Katerina if the race went one more lap.
Hannah and I represented the Avericans in the 1/2/3 race and had a grand old time. Our dear friends Greg and Ryan announced the race, using valuable microphone time to discuss my love of bread, the internet, and to call out all the riders in the #FACCONEZONE™. I spent most of the race trying to chase SALLY FREAKING ANNIS (cue 2011 Erin freakout!), which was so exciting I convinced myself I could actually turn well downhill. But hey, what’s a little dirt-nap between friends?
Ah Providence, the three-day C1 sandwich that ends Holy Week. Or as I like to call it, the three-ring circus of Providence. This year’s course upped the ante again with FOUR flyovers, including the steep-double-sided-flyover-of-doom from last year. It was modified to be slightly less steep, but the wooden slats that made it walk-able were removed. On the backside of the double flyover, the course was carpeted (literally) with snow fencing. It didn’t make the ground any softer for landings, but more on that later.
All three Avericans took the start line. We all pedaled super hard. Results were mixed. Also, this race report is so delayed that you probably don’t even want to read full sentences anymore. So, bullets it is:
- Julie had great starts both days. Like someone lit a firecracker under her saddle
- Pre-riding together, as a team, was spectacularly awesome. The actual racing is amazingly individual, but having solid teammates to discuss lines, pressure, clothing choices, #flyovergate, pro worship, and lunch choices with is invaluable
- Elite women raced at 4pm. Much thought went into daily fueling. Julie ate a PB&J sandwich that she carried around in a gelato jar. She wins for most creative selection
- I (Erin) lost a fight with the course fencing on a downhill during lap one of day 1, which sent me full speed into the snow-fenced ground. Not a soft landing at all. It took a while to get up, but then I pedaled with all the fury of a person racing in front of all her friends to finish the race. Afterwards I realized I felt concussy, and fellow-lady-shredder, Christin Reuter, confirmed that I did actually hit my head on the ground
- Not to be outdone, on lap 1 of day 2, Julie tested the ground softness on the off-camber section that paralleled the start/finish. As I rode by, asking if she was okay, she responded “someone knocked me off my bike!” After righting herself (Wrighting herself?), she sprayed anger watts across the field and rode back to finish a solid 29th
- Hannah reminded us both that not-crashing is actually the fastest option, and threw down two epic battles with fellow #NECX buddy Melissa Lafleur. AND she got some saweeeet TV time, sharing the feed with Katerina Nash. Damn those kits look good on TV
- After I DNF'd on Sunday, I got some photos to make this #JULIEGIF.
Last, but certainly not least, Holy Week brought our first races with team mechanic Gary Bavolar. The dude is rad beyond my capability to describe. He had just the right things to say as each of us came by the pit every lap, and executed more than a few perfect bike transfers. It’s so incredible to have such a star mechanic and really good guy working with us this season.
Race reports aren’t meant to be mushy, but this team is really special.