Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Nationals weekend Kamloops, BC Oct 20,21

BC Provincial Champion and Canadian National Champion - yeah, I guess you could say it was a good weekend. Basically everything went perfectly. We headed up to Kamloops on Friday to check out the course we would be racing both days. I have to admit I was a little worried because the organizers had never put on a cyclocross race before, but it only took one lap pre-riding to see it was going to be a fun, challenging cross course. It had lots of twists and turns, a few transitions off the bike, fast open sections, and a couple of sand pits. It was actually quite a scenic venue in Riverside Park with the sunny weather and the fall leaves turned orange and yellow down by the Thompson River. There was no sign of the snow they had originally forecasted, so it was going to be a fast course that required you to be smooth in your transitions and corners. A perfect course for me and my Queen Ann!

Saturday a lot of people chose not to race BC provincials so it looked pretty weak with only 8 girls on the start line. But Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com) was there so we took the opportunity to check out the course at speed, test equipment (my FSA Kforce wheels rocked!), and see how each other fared on the different features of the course. We stayed together the entire race, with a few attacks to see how each other could respond in different sections. The finish stretch was quite short and came up on you immediately after a tricky 180 degree asphalt corner so I attacked one corner earlier and kept my lead to take the BC Provincial Champion title. I don’t know when I consciously decided to attack but I had left it really, really, really late and I had no other option. Not known for my tactics (I have often been laughed at for my stupid, stubborn decisions in races), I was pretty proud of myself. But, most importantly I got a big shot of confidence. Although the score over the past few years was now something like Wendy: 2, Lyne: 184, I started to really believe I could take Nationals. A little wee part of me thought “but won’t Mark Peterson be pissed if you win Nationals because you just got your new Kona – Yourkey kit and he will have to make up new ones?” But I stuffed wee Mark Peterson in pocket and figured we could deal with it when/if the time comes.

Saturday night, while digesting my chicken and pasta dinner (yes, ever so tasty, high glycemic index, white pasta!!). I walked myself through the course. After racing Lyne, I knew where I was stronger, but tomorrow Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain) would be racing. She was the mystery meat. Although she hasn’t raced a lot of cyclocross, she is a skilled technical rider (they don’t just hand out those mountain bike World Championship titles) so I couldn’t just plan to get away from her on the corners and sand (assuming I could shake Lyne). Alison is also a wiley cat with lots of road smarts and strength, so we couldn’t let her use us and then spit us out on the last lap to take the win with her powerful sprint. So I tucked a few options away and went to sleep. Sunday morning Norm won his race and kept the National Championship jersey for his third year. I wanted to match him. Three for three.

Off the line it was Lyne, myself and Alison away immediately. The first few laps Lyne and I could get a small gap on Alison through the sand run, but she came back ever so quickly. Quicker and quicker each time actually. She was processing and learning from us each lap - it was like she was a cyborg. Lyne was setting the pace and seemed content so we settled in. With two laps to go my stupid non tactical brain remembered an interview with Sven Nys who said he always attacks with 2 laps to go and always wins. I considered going for it but then a voice of reason (Nicola Mann actually) called out from the pits – “be patient Wendy!” – and I snapped back. It was like she knew what I was thinking! Probably another cyborg. So I stayed in my comfortable 2 spot and decided where I would attack on the last lap. Ideally I wanted to be in the lead into the sand run but Lyne countered me with serious aggression so I backed off. But ten seconds later I attacked again out of the sand run and got by her. I don’t think she or Alison expected it so I got a small gap into the twisty sections. I was running scared. I knew they were right behind me so I attacked into every straightaway where they could potentially pass me. I managed to hold a very, very small lead into the last few corners and pulled out my third (but sweetest) National Championship win! So the score is now Wendy 3: Lyne 184. Not too shabby.

PS sorry Mark! I guess I need some new kits made up……

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Canuck Cross

While most of the Kona crew headed back East to the big $ races in Southampton, I decided to stay close to home on the Thanksgiving weekend to support one of our three UCI races in Canada and to help out with the first race of our Vancouver Island cyclocross series – Turkey Cross in Victoria.

Jim Horner Cyclocross Gran Prix, Edmonton Alberta
I met the organizers of this race at Cyclocross Worlds two years ago in Zeddam. Their son Mike Bidniak was racing as a junior and they were in the beer gardens cheering on the Canadian team the entire weekend with their flag held high. They all belong to the Juventus club in Edmonton which made the effort and financial commitment to put on one of the few UCI cyclocross races in Canada so I thought I should go and show my support. Plus it was a Kona sponsored event and a great chance to pick up some points for my euro trip later in the season. I was not disappointed. My rental car was a sweet Magnum, the weather was sunny and warm, the course was super fun and I ran into some friends that I hadn’t seen for awhile. It was a small field on the start line compared to my last race at Cross Vegas but what was promising was the number of younger athletes racing. Very cool to see. I started fast but could not shake Pepper Harlton (Juventus) for the first lap. She told me afterwards that it was her goal to stay with me as long as she could but what was more impressive was that this was her first season of racing cyclocross. Watch out. Eventually she blew up and I extended my lead and settled into the twisty course. That is until I saw the lead junior that had started a minute behind us charging hard. The crowd screamed out that they would give $50 to the winner of the heat. Game on! I did not want him to catch me but he was gaining fast. He caught me in the tricky ravine section and I couldn’t hold his wheel. He was too fast - $50 was his. Unfortunately I had to pack up immediately after the race and get on a plane to Victoria but I made sure to let them know I would bring more next year – well worth the effort. And who knew Edmonton could be sunnier and warmer than home??

Turkey Cross Victoria
For a few years now, I have helped out with the Vancouver Island cyclocross series – Cross on the Rock. We love the sport of cyclocross so why not share the joy? Sometimes I feel like a drug dealer when I hear someone who has just finished their first cross race gushing “that was awesome!! I loved it!! I can’t believe how much fun that was, I am totally going to buy a cross bike for next race”. We don’t work for the bike companies – honest. Dan Proulx, Sarah Stewart, Norm Thibault and Oak Bay Bikes were the masterminds behind the Victoria event so I just had to show up, help out where needed and race. And since I had been racing in Edmonton the day before most of the work was already done – slacker. Victoria is a hot bed for elite cyclists in Canada so the Turkey cross was bound to get some big names out. Hmmm lets see we had multiple World Champion Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain/Haywood), U23 World Championships Bronze Medalist Max Plaxton (Rocky Mountain/Haywood) just to name a couple. The course was probably the best yet – with a BMX track, mud, sand, a steep hill to run up (that was rideable if your legs weren’t full), a chicane, chip trail and a velodrome. Top that. I was excited to play with Alison on a cross course that had more features (she schooled me in Vegas) but she broke her bars into the first set of barriers so I was on my own for the rest of the race. Just me and a field of Master men that were actually pretty fun to play with too. The best race however was the kids race. They loved it so much they did it three times!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The cyclocross season rolls out! (a little wobbly)

Touch down from the mountain bike world cup finals in Slovenia on Monday, three days turn around time at home with Norm and Marty, and then I was off to Kona HQ in Ferndale to pick up my snazzy new cyclocross bikes. Mark Peterson flashed me the 16.3lb 2008 scandium Queen Ann with the custom orange “wool jersey” style paint job and I was getting giggly. Pan down past the FSA carbon bars, stem, seat post, cranks and K force wheels, Kore Kross brakes with Swiss stop pads, and Alpha Q CX20 fork and I may have peed my pants. I was excited to race cross again!

STAR CROSSED, Seattle Sept 22
Star crossed is always my first big cyclocross race of the season and unfortunately something usually goes wrong. I would like to think its just bad luck but mostly its because I don’t seem to have my shit together. New gear, more race prep, different bike handling, actual race tactics … it usually takes me a few races to pull it all together again. This year was no different. I had a great call up (first) but proceeded to destroy all credibility as a cyclocross racer when I slipped my pedal at the gun, continued to slip the entire sole of my modified shoes (tire glued to the carbon soles that morning for more grip) and slammed into the top tube with my crotch. The only thing positive about that start is that I did not hit the ground and somehow managed to ride the speed wobble out and recover. But it was not pretty. Ego bruised I kept going and spent the first lap catching up to the lead group. It was a good size lead group (~6-8) so I could sit in and recover before taking the lead. I was riding smoothly but couldn’t pull away from them, not enough technical sections for me and the level of women’s cross has definitely gone up the last few years. I pulled out some tactics from the recesses of my brain and jumped the group a few times to get a gap but the big group would always catch up on the long open windy stretches. I didn’t have that extended power just yet. So I pulled back into the group and decided to try for the sprint finish. I got too keen, went into the second last corner hot. Not only could I not get around Sarah Kerlin (Velo Bella-Kona), Wendy Williams (River City Bicycles) blew by both of us to take the win.

RAD RACING GP, Tacoma Sept 23
I vowed to race smarter after my Star crossed fiasco. I pre-rode the course with both an offensive and defensive strategy in mind. The girls were stronger this year so I had to be smarter. PLUS I had shoe goo’d some random bumps onto the carbon soles of my shoes so I had some traction if I slipped my pedal again. This course had a HUGE run-up so I knew the group would blow up quickly today – not all cyclists can run. Rachel Lloyd (Proman/Paradigm) and I had agreed to work together so I had an ally. I still had first call up and this time I didn’t blow it. I went into the grass 4th wheel and was sitting comfortably. Rachel went straight to the front so I found her wheel. First run-up I knew I was stronger running than anyone else. I haven’t done much training but the legs were there so I ran past Rachel and took the lead. We had a big gap and traded off the lead for the next lap. I was feeling great. Wendy Williams (River City Bicycles) was trying to bridge up but couldn’t and Rachel and I were both comfortable. All I had to do was hold it until the last lap then turn it on for the final run-up. Brilliant. That is, until my tubular tire rolled on the fast descent and I stuffed my face into the dirt. I was scraped but not hurt so I tried to get my front tire back on, it didn’t budge so I started running but it was a long way to the pits. A couple of guys yelled at me to force it back on so I tried it again with both feet on the wheel and it finally popped back on. I gingerly rode it into the pits. New bike, lots of adrenaline, and good legs so I charged back. I was making up time every lap but it wasn’t enough. Another third place finish.

VEGAS CROSS, Las Vegas Sept 26
Interbike. THE big bike industry trade show in North America and I had never been able to check it out. This year they added a cyclocross race on Wednesday night which promised to have thousands of spectators. How could you not when every bike company, shop owner, racer, frame builder, and fan, was in town for the show (and there was a beer garden to quench their thirst). I had never been to Vegas so it was pretty amazing to see the “excess”. Crazy. But I had to be good - I was racing. The venue was a soccer complex 6miles from the strip. I left the hotel 3 hours before the race because I knew traffic would be busy but we didn’t arrive at the venue until 6pm! How can it take 2 hours to get 6 miles when every road in Vegas has 6-8 lanes?? I rushed around and got ready with enough time for a few laps of the course. It was all grass with almost no features. Sounds easy but the grass was like shag carpet. Super deep and it had a mind of its own – no guarantee your bike would go where you told it too. But I felt pretty strong and I had my new Kona-Yourkey.com skinsuit on so I felt fast. I had a great start and followed Katie Compton (Spike Shooter) and Lyne Bessette (Cyclocrossworld.com) out but they quickly showed the rest of us they were in a different league this early in the season. A large chase group formed and I sat comfortably in the group for a couple laps. Then I seemed to have trouble staying with the group as I started to cramp in my calves. I never cramp! I tried to stretch at the back of the group and started to yo-yo. Not good. I saw 3 laps to go and popped off the back of the chase group as I realized the cramps were getting worse. I was in no-mans land for a few laps barely able to get over the mini barriers because my calves were constantly flexed. Rachel Lloyd (Proman/Paradigm) caught me on the last lap and I sucked it up to outsprint her for 10th. I was disappointed as I thought I could pull this one together….. BUT I couldn't be bummed out for very long. I was in Vegas with the Kona crew and I had lots to check out.