Thursday, November 1, 2007

Pair of 4 ’s……… and a wildcard
Louisville Kentucky USGP of Cyclocross

I don’t want to sound like a suck, but I really hate fourth place finishes. And I seem to have a lot of them on my resume – maybe that is why I am so sensitive to the issue. Sure, you can’t really complain to the person that came 6th or the person that was 12th but talk to them when they come 4th and they will know exactly how you feel. It’s the difference between a good race and a great race. It’s one spot from a podium finish that acknowledges your training, your sponsors and your efforts to get there. It’s remembering the days when they used to have podium ceremonies to 5th place. It’s feeling like first loser because you had a good race but noone remembers because it doesn’t go down in photo or print history. Basically it’s thinking about every little mistake that you made during your race that COULD have got you on the podium if you hadn’t been so stupid.

New to the USGP this year was the number presentation ceremony (or maybe I just wasn’t fast enough last year??). I was presented #2. Since we had Nationals so early this year (and there are so many points associated with Nationals), I was ranked 6th in the world! That will change soon enough but for now it meant that I had second call up next to Katie Compton (Spike Shooter), who had just returned from a world cup in Europe with a silver medal in her pocket. They held the party at the Churchill Downs museum which was sooooo cool. To get into the museum you went through a set of starting gates and they had a ton of displays about the jockey colours, the training, the history etc. I used to follow horse racing when I was a kid so I recognized a lot of the great names like Seattle Slew, Gallant Fox and War Admiral.

With my crisp new National Champion jersey (Ok my skinsuit from three year’s ago that Kona made especially for me, that I raced in twice then promptly lost my title to Lyne Bessette), I knew that I had a bit more pressure this weekend. But I felt ready for it. I was feeling pretty strong and confident. As we waited for our start the bugler from the Kentucky Derby played the “call to the post” in his white jodhpurs and red jacket which was quite possibly the best part of the entire weekend. But I couldn’t enjoy it for very long because the gun went off. As I managed to pull out the holeshot, I thought maybe, just maybe Katie was a bit tired from her euro trip. But as she rocketed by me I realized that was not the case. All I could do was try to hold onto her wheel. Katie is crazy strong and a solid technical rider so I was having a hard time, yo-yoing after every corner and sand trap. When I took a look back, I realized that we must have been going pretty fast because noone else was with us. I held on for dear life for about half a lap and then she dropped me on the windy open stretch. I was riding solo for awhile trying to recover a bit of dignity when Lyne Bessette, towing Alison Sydor (Rocky Mountain), caught up to me. We rode together (quite defensively) for a couple laps until Georgia Gould (Luna) caught us. I finished a pull at the front and moved into 4th place in line to rest up a bit when I got stuffed going into the sand section (basically the person in front of you brakes hard right before a technical section so you get screwed up and have to run it). I lost the group and spent the rest of the race chasing them down. After a lap and a half of chasing I managed to catch up to Lyne going into the finish stretch and outsprinted her to salvage 4th place.

After racing so defensively Saturday, to finish 4th, I thought that maybe I should try something different. Were we all really racing for 2nd place next to Katie? I thought I should race a little more aggressively today and see what happened. It had dried up quite a bit so I no longer had an edge but I am a great day 2 racer and was still feeling pretty strong. Katie got the hole shot today with Lyne, myself, Alison Sydor and Rachel Llyod (Proman/Paradigm) tucked in behind her. We held onto Katie’s wheel for about half a lap when she took off. After pulling us around for most of the race Saturday, Lyne was fed up and pulled to the side, making it pretty obvious that she wouldn’t do it again. Katie was still so close so I charged hard after her hoping to a. catch Katie or at least b. shed the group off my tail, which now included Georgia Gould. For 2 laps I would attack after the technical sand traps, hoping to scrape them off . I would get a small gap but Alison would bridge back up every time. The efforts eventually shook Rachel off and I could tell Lyne was hurting but Alison kept coming back and Georgia didn't even look phased. But after 2 laps of this I was starting to feel the efforts myself. I was just starting to revise my strategy when Georgia jumped. Alison picked up her wheel and I followed but Lyne got dropped. I was having a hard time staying with them and started to yo-yo. I held on for a half lap then got dropped to solo in for another 4th.

I also managed to pick up a bug in my travels so this week I have been wiped out, totally useless thinking about how much I hate being 4th…. So I apologize if I sound bitter but I have had too much time to think about it!

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