Cyclocross Racing – Stacie’s Fall Update

November 03,2013

As Summer ended and Fall has begun, our teammate Stacie has been getting into the cyclocross season. Read about her adventures racing this unique sport in bike racing in her blog post.

[box]What is cyclocross racing?
As Ryo says, “cyclocross racing mixes disciplines of trail riding, road riding, and 6th-grade gym class-like obstacle jumping.” Riders start in a group at the starting line, a whistle is blown, and they take off on road-bike style bikes on pavement, through dirt, and over obstacles, jumping off their bikes to lift it with their arms and jump over a barrier, or throwing their bike on their back over their shoulder to run up a flight of steps or a muddy hill. Courses are very spectator-friendly, as they are usually a mile or less in length, twisting around fields in a park. Fans ring cowbells and people have a great time.[/box]

Well it’s been a while since I have posted last, but I’m officially in the swing of things this cross season and have a few races under my belt.

The season started as Kate, Greta, Rachel and myself traveled east to Trexlertown for the 2 day Nittany Cross races at the beginning of September.  I had only been commuting for a few weeks and a couple days a week at that point and knew my fitness was not anywhere near what it should be.  I figured this season I may need to race myself into shape.
Fifty women were registered for day one!  That’s a really big field when you are used to racing against 10 or so when racing closer to home at ABRA races.  I really had no expectations, but finished a very disappointing 43rd.  Well that was enough.  I wasn’t going to let myself settle for results like that.  Granted I had a few mechanicals but I’m not going to use those excuses either, i wasn’t prepared and that’s how i finished!  Day 2, yeah I expected more, but all I wanted was better results than the day before.  They turned the course around and added a bit more technical features that I think suited me better and was much happier with finishing 25th out of 46.  I’ll take it!! And just like that, cross sucks you back in!!

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So after that first weekend of racing I started commuting to work everyday.  Sometimes riding 14 miles round trip other days 20, but I never ride from home.  Roads by me aren’t really all that great and I get to ride in with my friends Kate and Rachel which makes it more enjoyable.

We hit Ohio the following weekend.  Greta and I rode out with Mayhew while Rachel brought someone who was new to cyclocross, giving her some pointers on the way, I’m sure.  This race was a category 1/2/3 race as opposed to the 3/4 race we did the weekend before.  Rachel, Greta and I are category 3 racers so we are racing this race with stronger, faster women.  I knew I’d be getting schooled but hey, I’m racing and really that’s all I wanted to do.  Results not bad, finished better than I thought, got caught by a few I was hoping to keep at bay but also finished better than some I thought would beat me.  Good day of racing in Ohio.

photo 1Next up, Winchester Apple Cross race.  We got up at the crack of dawn, loaded the Subaru with 3 ladies and 4 bikes and hit the road….3.5 hours later we arrived in VA.  As we usually like to do, we  grabbed the bikes and pre-rode the course as soon as we can.  Not bad, some technical spots, very dusty, a good run up and def places to catch your breath.  Wasn’t sure how I felt about the course, but like-it-or-not I had to race.  In the 3/4 race, we started one minute behind the 1/2/3 ladies, we got the 30 seconds and go!  Off we went down the pavement into the grass.  Had a decent start, but I have previously found if I go out too hard, I blow up sooner rather than later.  I had an okay race, felt my legs coming back a bit and was starting to feel better about my racing.  Not as good of a result as I had hoped but it was enough to continue to make me want to race and get better.

Last weekend we got to sleep in and stay closer to home.  The first up for our local races – ABRA in West Virginia – was Kickoff cross.  JR, the series organizer, usually puts some kind of crazy run up or hike-a-bike in his courses so I knew this would be nothing different.  We line up for the 1/2/3 race with all the local big guns present.  Betsy, Traci, Cassie, Rachel, The Swan and Hannah.  Yeah, I already had it in my head what place I was hoping to get.  All I had to do, all I wanted to do was beat one person.   The whistle was blown and off we go. The course was much better than in the warm up laps, something about going at race pace as opposed to just pre-riding made it better.  I worked really hard to keep my spot behind the fastest ladies and not let Stephanie L. behind me take my spot.  Was pretty happy to finish 7th out of 11, because I know I earned that position.  Nice first race, JR.

This past weekend Rachel and I packed up the 3 bikes and 2 extra sets up pit wheels, woke up at 4 am and headed to Maryland.  Tacchino cyclocross was the 3rd race in the MABRA series and my second race of the series.  This was to be Rachel’s first race as a cat 2 since she has landed on the podium every race so far this year, even winning Hyattsville as a cat 3, up you go Rach!  It rained for most of our ride there – was not really thrilled about that – but we got there set up the tent, hit registration and just started getting the bikes and ourselves ready to pre-ride.  The course was muddy and a bit technical.  I felt like I handled it alright and my legs were not feeling too bad.  Sometimes I get nervous when my legs don’t hurt, but what could I do?  We lined up and waited for our start one minute after the 1/2/3’s.  The whistle is blown and 2 take a decent start putting me in second.  I managed to stay there for most of the race.  First place took off, never to be seen again, however 3rd place wanted to make me work as hard as possible making sure I never let up.  I slid out before the first barriers and managed to grab my bike run over them and recover before she was able to pass me.  I got a little lead and tried to let myself catch my breath but that was a bad idea.  Somehow I managed to drop my chain on the last half of the last lap.  3rd place caught me and I started to panic.  I got my chain back on and managed to put myself into the red to catch and pass her.  I didn’t let up and was able to get my gap back.  I secured my second place spot and my first podium of the year!

Just when you think you are too tired, don’t want to get muddy or just don’t feel like racing anymore, you do one cyclocross race and it manages to suck you right back in!!  I love this sport, road-tripping with the ladies and just riding bikes!!  And I do it all with my chapstick always in my back pocket!

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