If Cyclocross Nationals Happens in the Desert, is it Cyclocross at all?

I’ll admit it, I was super spoiled by Hartford Nationals last year. We got to sleep in our own beds before the race and effectively zero logistical planning went into getting our bodies and our belongings to the venue. It was simple. Of course, that was an ideal scenario quite possibly never to be seen again (who knows). This year Nationals was on the left coast, all the way in Reno, Nevada. Logistical planning commence.

Praise be to Gary for raising his hand to drive a van and trailer packed to the gills with our stuff (along with some others’) all the way across the country. We had two riders set to race this year with Erin heading into the Elite race with a solid block of December training and Leslie hungry for a victory in her final Collegiate cyclocross race, along with the elite and single speed races on her docket.

In addition to driving across the country, Gary dialed up our bikes with some extra sweet touches for the big race. Check out that “GARY” cable crimp stamp and the pink zip ties. I’m not convinced he loves the Garytar stickers, but we want the world to know who keeps things in order.

We were fortunate to set up as part of a giant tent city which also included Cycle Smart and the JAM Fund, so we benefited from lots of experience and eyes on the course in our proximity. We were also proud of the opportunity to fly the Averica tent for the last time in such a cool location.

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We did our best to look intimidating, but were too excited about our matching outfits to really look tough. Joe, the owner of Trouble North, has been both a tremendous supporter and big fan this season and we were really stoked he hooked us up with matching getups for the big event.

Suffice it to say, our spirits were high heading into the racing.

The first race of the week was Collegiate Club for Leslie. In case you didn’t know, Leslie is finishing up a PhD in cancer research (experimental and molecular medicine, technically) between race weekends. She had a front row start in a deep field and put out the race’s fastest lap (on the last lap) to come within five seconds of a podium spot. Turns out that altitude legs are a thing! She finished strong and ready to fight again for the single speed title on Saturday.

The team got some downtime on Thursday and Friday which gave us the opportunity to cheer on some of our favorite Masters ladies in their championship races, shouting our faces off for fellow Jersey girl and now national champ Stacey Barbossa, as well as our roommate for the week Tara Seplavy, and all-around bad ass lady and rad Feedback Sports marketing guru Katie Macarelli.

Saturday brought the singlespeed race where Leslie had the second call up and equally high ambitions. Coming the day before the elite race, the single speed event functions both as a full-on individual race, as well as a great opener for Sunday’s pro field. Looking at the front row lineup, lots of firepower showed up to contest this one.

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Yes, that’s Meredith Miller next to Leslie. You know, Meredith Miller of former USA National Road champion and many time CX worlds team member fame.

Leslie claimed the holeshot in the race, before ultimately settling into the chase group. The field was competitive and Leslie clicked out her fastest lap times of the week, finishing 8th.

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Last up for the week (but definitely not least) was the Pro race. There were a few new sections for the pro races, with a longer run-up and sketchier off-camber descent sections. I (Erin) was excited about the opportunity to use the difficult technical sections to differentiate myself from competitors. I had the lines dialed in warm-up and was feeling good about the block of training that went into Nationals. In short, I was ready for a big race. My pre-race cold brew even came with a special message under the cap:

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Sometimes our best laid plans don’t work out, though. I let the intensity of the event get to me and crashed on the descent. Every lap. Like groundhog day. No amount of hard pedaling can make up for an every-lap dirt nap, and there’s no one to blame for it but myself. It’s a tough lesson to swallow, and there’s a lot of disappointment in preparing for a month to fly across the country for a 40 minute race. Especially when it turns into a 30 minute race. But that’s sport. Now that the race is a few weeks in the rear-view, the disappointment has subsided enough to find the important lessons.

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The course itself was great – technical and fast too. The other thing about a remote venue is that the depth of field is unlike any other domestic race. There’s no “scrub zone” in a National Championship. Every spot was worth fighting for. The dry course with slick rock descents made it a file tread day and we glued up some freshies for the occasion. It was also my first chance to run a sweet dual-GoPro setup for full front/rear footage. The mud quickly ruined rear-facing clarity, but several hours of internet research taught me how to make a split-screen so please enjoy this dual-view holeshot and complete video of the first lap.

 

All said, we left Reno with lessons learned, with high quality time with our bike racing family, and with a new appreciation for altitude, slick descents, and the quality of our competition. Onto next season!