Panda’s POV: Divine Providence

My 2015 NECX trip has come to an end and it’s been a ride to remember. I’ve been looking forward to this and I’m happy to say it lived up to my expectations.

Wednesday 9/30

I landed at Logan International Airport in Boston early Wednesday morning and spent a majority of my day working in the rental car hallway and assembling three bikes in the Avis parking garage. It comically got to the point where Avis employees would come by every once in a while to check on my progress and ask me about cyclocross. I was pleasantly surprised with the cheeriness of these Bostonians and their genuine interest in the bikes given the gloomy weather. Dave Sheek finally landed at BOS in the early afternoon and we were headed to Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, in a deluge of rain for our first Holy Week race, The Night Weasels Cometh.

The weather cleared as we approached the small ski area and by the time we were riding the ski slopes, the grass was only slightly slick and the ground was fairly dry. The NECX community was doing their thing, being awesome and making this California girl excited to be racing at Holy Week. I got my night racing on with some heavy airplane legs, a serious lack of sleep, but a high level of stoke and a top ten finish for the evening. As Trebon later said, the event embodied everything that’s awesome about cyclocross, and I highly recommend it as a bucket-list Holy Week event in the future.

Thursday 10/2, Friday 10/3

Cloudy skies. Rainy days. Slick grass. Cemeteries. Broken vodka bottles. Getting yelled at by passers-by in Providence, “You look like cops on bikes!”

Things started out a bit dreary in Rhode Island but Thursday and Friday slowly warmed up to me and by the end of our fun, muddy pre-riding on Friday I was excited to race.

© 2015 John Kavouris
© 2015 John Kavouris

Saturday 10/3

I pre-rode a couple laps during the open time at 2:15pm then did my warm-up back-and-forth on the park roads. Quick change into my skinsuit and off to the start line. The UCI official informed us that we would not be doing a prologue lap and we’d be gunning straight for the run-up immediately off the start line. There was a general groan across the field when we heard this because that meant the run-up would become a slow walk-up with this many racers and your position out of it would be decisive for the rest of the race. I lost a majority of my UCI points after the CrossVegas and Trek Cup points of 2014 expired, so I was relegated to fourth row and knew I absolutely had to have a good start.

I came out in the top 20 after the chaos of the start and slowly moved my way up. I ended up going 35 seconds faster on lap two than lap one after maneuvering forward through the field and even though that dig pushed me into dangling off the chase group of Katie Antonneau and Meredith Miller, I burned a lot of matches to get there. The remaining few laps were a back and forth with Miller, Antonneau, and Crystal Anthony as we were gapped just too far off the lead group from the beginning to ever reconnect. I ended up crossing the line in 11th, extremely satisfied. I wanted top 10, but mixing it up with that caliber of talent and finishing 11th met my expectations. The course was tacky, FMB Super Mud tires were perfect, and my handling felt great on the super fun, flowing Providence course.

Sunday’s warm-up routine matched the previous day but I was lucky enough to get a third row call-up on day two. Unlike the previous day, we were starting with a half-lap prologue before coming back around into the run-up and steep descent. It gave us about five minutes of racing before throwing us into the decisive sections. I nailed the start and moved my way up to the chase group during the prologue by the time we climbed up to the Dirt Chute descent. If you’ve ever been to a water park, you know the feeling of standing in line at the top of a big water slide, mentally preparing to take the plunge behind the person in front of you. Even though the queue was a little longer on the first lap, that’s how the approach was on every roll up to the Dirt Chute and the following plunge into an adrenaline rush was awesome. Photos didn’t do the steep grade justice and luckily there were no harsh wedgies that needed to be picked out like on water slides.

© 2015 John Kavouris

Sunday 10/4

As a fan who watches cyclocross racing on a regular basis, I know the characters and riding styles of ‘cross. I know Meredith Miller is a tactical racer and makes moves for precise reasons. So on lap three when I caught the group containing Anthony and Miller I should’ve known what was going to happen. It’s like when a doctor gets sick and can diagnose his or her own symptoms. I knew exactly what was happening during that fourth lap after Anthony moved over with a flat. I was getting “Meredith Miller”-ed as she stuck on my rear wheel and let the young kid take a pull. Part of me was smiling inside, too happy that I was even in that situation while not trying to make a mistake, and the other part of me was hurting like crazy and dishing out as much as I could until I knew she’d make her move around me on the last lap. I laid it all out there and it was a pretty neat moment for me.

I finished 8th and ended my first UCI weekend on a high note. It’s been a tough road to get to this point, but this weekend was one of those rare moments where all the hard work pays dividends. I begged sponsors to believe in me, I trained my ass off all summer, I did my homework and when the gun went off I delivered. It doesn’t always work out that way. Bike racing has its ups and downs and I know there could’ve been mechanicals or bad luck sprinkled in there somewhere, so I’m grateful. For now I’ll relish in the success this weekend and continue spouting endless thanks to my sponsors and supporters.

I’m currently en route to Madison, Wisconsin for the next weekend of C1 racing at the Trek CXC Cup. The season is finally in full swing for me. Thanks for following along!


One thought on “Panda’s POV: Divine Providence

  1. Right on Amanda. So cool that you got to race in New England this year. Hopefully next year you can race Gloucester!

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