Corn fields. Rolling hills. Huge cows. Open roads. Pumpkins. Apples. Colorful sunsets.
Wisconsin in the Fall is a beautiful place. And somewhere amid the Dairyland you’ll find a bunch of cyclocross racers going in circles on the grounds of Trek Bicycles.
Dave Towle’s voice boomed across the fields of the Trek Headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin as we rolled up to the venue on Saturday. Last I saw Dave was in Emporia, Kansas back in May as he congratulated racers across the finish line of the Dirty Kanza gravel event. It was nice to hear the familiar voice I’ve grown to associate with great cycling events as I arrived to my second Trek CXC Cup.
Renee Callaway is the famous female Race Director of the Trek CXC Cup and is known for being one of the most vocal promoters to champion equal payout to the men and women’s races. This year she went one step further for the women and scheduled our race to be last for the day. Dave was sure to remind the attendees of the Trek CXC Cup over and over that the women’s race was the “main event” of the weekend. It was nice to hear our race be put on a pedestal and made the racing that much more exciting following the men’s race. On the flip side, it was difficult for me to focus on warming up for my own race when the men’s race was unfolding. I’m normally warming down and am able to spectate at least a portion of the men’s race to satisfy my inner super fan. However, this time around I was forcing myself out on the road to get in a proper warm-up when all I really wanted to do was see how the Powers-Hyde battle would unfold. When the super fan clashes with the racer…
My travel warm-ups without a trainer usually call for some creativity scanning GoogleMaps for a good route in close proximity to the venue. Luckily there are a few roads surrounding Trek HQ that gave me good runway to get ready to race.
Called up to the second row of the start line and I was ready for my second C1 race of the season. With a slightly smaller field compared to Providence, I wanted to have a smooth start and try my hardest to stick with the lead group. But as we all know, race plans can go out the window in a split second and Saturday was going to be one of those days.
As I came out of what I affectionately later called the “death ditch” at the back of the cornfield prologue, my chain dropped over the following bump in the dirt and there I was on the side of the course yanking my chain back onto my front ring. When I jumped back on my bike I was dead last. Nightmares of random call-ups, last row starts, and UCI point-chasing flashed back and I now had one of the biggest mental blocks weighing down on me. I shook my head, took a deep breath and made a quick decision to do my absolute best no matter the shit luck I had just been dished.
I put out huge efforts where I could and started picking off riders as quickly and courteously as possible. With two laps to go I caught up to Jessica Cutler (Jamis Bicycles) and my pit yelled I was in 15th. Honestly, it was hard to believe I made it up that far after hearing 39th on lap ones passing by, but it was all the motivation I needed to harden up and maintain that position through the final lap to the finish. I need that C1 point, and even it if it just one, I’m happy! I’ve seen Katie Compton make too many epic comebacks from mechanicals to quit a race on the first lap. You never know what you can deliver until you push yourself in that situation. It was also great to hear the race unfolding ahead of me and see Katie Antonneau (Cannondale – Cyclocrossworld.com) take the win in her home state.
Much of Saturday’s battle took place in my head as it was a big mental hurdle to race my own race and keep moving forward. Luckily, I was able to properly take that battle out on course for Sunday’s race and match up further in the field. Rebecca Fahringer (Amy D Racing) made a mistake at the “death ditch” right at the start and that was the instant the lead group got their gap. I was forced off my bike and ran the ditch to get around the scuffle. Immediately, in chase mode again, I was hammering through as hard as I could to keep moving up. I heard 15th on my first time past the pits, 12th on the next half lap, and just kept my focus on the “FORWARD” motto of Wisconsin.
I eventually caught up to the strong U23-ers, Laurel Rathbun (Raleigh-Clement) and Ellen Noble (JAM Fund). Noble and I came under the Start-Finish together with 2-to-go but she slid out on our way down to the steep ride/run-up and I got a gap. Into the twisty trees, Noble effortlessly bike-handled her way back up to me. I stuck on her wheel back around the cornfield. When we hit the pavement on the start/finish straight, I went as hard as I could through the finish line and maintained a gap from there until the finish.
I much prefer the Sunday throw-down with my competitors than Saturday’s mental test. But the takeaway there is: no matter what, do your best.
One of my biggest pro-tip learning lessons from this travel trip was a small but significant detail. On Friday leading up to the weekend of racing I broke down the event schedule and wrote down a plan of when I would get on course to pre-ride, when I needed to eat, when I needed to change, how long I had to warm up on the road and finally when I needed to head to the start line. I feel like this is probably a no-brainer for most racers, but after a couple years of going with the flow on race day and not paying too close attention to a strict regimen, I finally learned that this left-brained racer sees more success when a proper plan is put in place to follow. Take what you will of that piece of advice, but know that if you map out a nutrition and warm-up plan for optimal results, you’re more likely to achieve it. #CTSathlete
I was tentatively planning on being in Boulder for the US Open of Cyclocross UCI races this weekend, but duty calls and I need to get home and put some hours in at work. Next up will be a couple solid weeks of training, maybe some local SoCal Cross racing and then off to the Ohio River Valley for the Cincy race weekend.