Nittany CX and the Elusive UCI Point

Team Averica's Julie Wright and Erin Faccone traveled to Pennsylvania last weekend for their second UCI weekend in a row. Julie, who had a breakout season year last year and has kept the momentum running into this year, retells the story of almost reaching one of her season long goals - catching a UCI point.

Last weekend was Nittany CX, the second week of the Pro CX calendar. I headed down to Philly with Erin, whose sweet bike and even sweeter wheels (with New England roots!) were just profiled in CX Magazine. My goals going into the weekend were (in order): stay upright, keep focused, finish near Brittlee Bowman, and reach my season long goal of getting a UCI point. The field was 42 deep on Saturday, with more fast women starting on Saturday than on Sunday (saving legs for the first world cup in Vegas). I’ve found out (thanks to Lydia and Erin) that getting to races early and having a routine is key to starting mentally prepared. I got to the race plenty early and feeling way more prepared than I was at Ellison. I even showed up with cleats on my shoes, a great improvement over the previous weekend. I ran into Cycle-Smart coach, Al Donahue, who I started working with over the summer and did a few laps with him. Pre-riding with him was awesome and a big part of why I think I had such a great day on Saturday. I went into the race knowing the sections where I’d be hurting and want to ease up, but also knowing how far away recovery turns were. I knew where to get out of my saddle and where to start my sprint. Erin had recommended I ride my Clement MXP wheel on the front and keep my Challenge Chicane on the back, which turned out to be perfect. My tire pressure was the lowest I’ve probably ever ridden – around nineteen PSI (Total Helen Wyman Style). Probably not a coincidence that I felt like I actually knew how to handle my bike in the race and turn on the increasingly slick course with that tire pressure. 

What began as a drizzle before the race turned into straight up rain during the race, which made the course far more fun that it would have been otherwise. I say this mainly because I stayed upright the entire race and felt like I could ride in mud for the first time EVER. If I had ridden like I did at Baystate last year, I would not have appreciated the mud and would have finished saying the course was “so unfun!” 

NBX, 2014, in which I managed to fall exactly 20 times every lap.

My Beautiful Seven, on display at Ride Studio Cafe at the Team Averica Launch Party

Cross races are always hard for me to recount, but I remember the last lap pretty well. I knew I was close to top ten (aka the coveted UCI point). I was riding with Emily Shields and Joanne Grogan. I knew Emily had points so if it ended in a sprint, she might be less aggressive. But I wasn’t sure if Joanne did. The course was getting slicker as the rain kept coming. Emily ended up going down in a turn on the last lap. I could tell Joanne was getting tired as her turns were getting wider and a bit slower. I was too timid (a common theme in my races this year) to go around for fear of falling and/or burning a match to pass her and be outsprinted by her much wattier self. So we ended up in the best sprint I’ve ever had, finishing just inches apart. Sadly, I’m still 0 – 3 in sprint finishes this year. It was a huge bummer to be so close to a point and miss it, but it also felt really good to know my goal is attainable this season. And if I had to choose, it would probably be the best way to lose out on getting a UCI point - as opposed to falling, crashing or having a mechanical. In the end, I met 3 of my 4 goals for the day. I stayed upright, kept my head in the game and finished 7 seconds behind Brittlee. 

Erin, my new companion in all things cyclocross and holder of immense racing knowledge. Go Erin! 

Nothing really noteworthy happened for me on Sunday. For how smart I rode on Saturday, I did the complete opposite on Sunday. I endo’d into the mud pit on the second lap. Given the opportunity on the next lap to choose to a different line, I chose the exact same one. Unsurprisingly, I had the exact same result, except for that in addition to endoing I also broke my saddle the second time around (thank you awesome decision making skills). The best part of this whole scenario though was getting to ride my Seven Mudhoney Pro and my Kona Queen Anne back to back in a race. My Seven is unbelievably more compliant. I had no idea what a difference a bike could make. It’s actually made me question whether my fitness has improved this year or if my gains are entirely due to my bike, wheels and tire choices. 

Erin had amazing starts both days. If she had been on the front line, she’d no doubt win hole shot. Watch out #necx.

Next race for the entire team (yay!) is Gloucester. We're really excited to have the full team out (with Hannah!) for everyone's favorite local New England race at Stage Fort Park.