[Editor’s Note: Amanda “Panda” Nauman is a southern California racer who is on the cusp of breaking into the top tier of professional cyclocross racing in the U.S. We are excited to have Amanda on board this season to share her experiences as she attempts to enter the top 10 in the USAC Pro CX rankings.]
[Author’s Note: Panda’s POV will be focused on my racing experiences in the upcoming season. However, this particular entry will kick off my Rider’s Journal for CX Hairs with a different vantage point on Cross Vegas… behind the barricades.]
It’s been a couple week since the first UCI Cyclocross World Cup graced North American soil in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in that time I’ve reflected on what Cross Vegas has meant to me.
In 2012, I attended the event as a spectator following a day of working Interbike as a Felt Bicycles employee. It was the first time I had ever seen a cyclocross race in my life and in a way that experience really changed a lot of my life decisions in the subsequent year.
In 2013, Cross Vegas was the first time I ever pinned a UCI Elite number to my jersey. It was such a thrill to race it after merely being a spectator the previous year. I remember chasing Emily Kachorek around in circles and shaking hands at the end of it, both with a huge smile on our faces.
In 2014, I set out to have what is still one of my best and proudest cyclocross races ever. I finished 8th on a course that’s viewed as a gigantic test of fitness with a world-class field. Heck, I even got a shout-out by Cosmo!
In 2015, when the announcement was made that Cross Vegas would be a World Cup event, I was thrilled and concerned all at once. I wrote a piece on CX Magazine about the USAC selection process for World Cups at the time. Ultimately my concerns were realized and I was not selected to be on the American World Cup roster. After reaching out to USAC I was told, “Your 8th place in Vegas last year certainly is a good result so if I have any of the riders we offered starts decline their position I’ll let you know asap.” Then on September 10th, “All the women who were offered starts in the Vegas WC have accepted then so unfortunately there are no start spots available.”
That was completely fair and understood, so I resigned to the fact I was attending CrossVegas as a superfan and rearranged my training accordingly. I drove up to the event just as the Wheeler’s & Dealers race was about to begin on Wednesday evening. As any superfan would do, I opened up the official UCI Start List on my phone for the evening to pick out my fan favorites. I scanned the list of American women and counted 16 of the original 17 women who were selected to race. In all seriousness I was probably the only person who noticed this slight detail because I was the only person who it really affected. As you can imagine, I dealt with a few minutes of pure outrage in the parking lot, wondering what the hell happened and why I wasn’t racing. After collecting my thoughts and gathering there was nothing I could do but enjoy the evening, I grabbed a beer and set out to run around like a true superfan.
Behind the barricades, the races were pure excitement. I squealed seeing Sanne Cant roll up to the start line. I prayed to the heavens Katerina Nash would make a surge for the win. I screamed at Compton to move back up to the front of the field as I’ve done plenty of times at my computer screen. I was in awe of the Luna Team domination and Gould’s huge effort. I learned that Wout van Aert looks just as ridiculously fast in person as he is on Sporza. I witnessed Sven’s final season strength and it was such a treat. I wanted so badly for Powers to crack the top 5 that the joy of 6th was still hard to appreciate. And at one point I casually walked by Cadel Evans?! Surreal night.
One of my favorite spectator comments was, “These guys are super-human.”
All the World Cup racers did in fact seem super-human and the course was super-amazing. I relished in all of it and it took me back to 2012 when I got too drunk running around, amazed and inspired by this beautiful sport.
CrossVegas will always have a special place in my heart as it sparked my love affair with cyclocross. My relationship with the event has evolved over the years, but the flames are still burning hot. Vegas, I’m coming for you in 2016!
I kicked off the season at our local SocalCross season opener in Los Angeles. From there I flew out to Boston and will race Night Weasels on Wednesday night of Holy Week! Providence Cross races will be my first UCI weekend of 2015. Despite living in New Jersey for about 5 years in college I’ve never experienced east coast cyclocross. Someday I’ll do all of Holy Week, but for now I’ll relish in this opportunity to see the New England scene for the first time ever!
Please say hi, New England-ers, and teach me the secrets of your mud!