It wasn’t just our Pro’s racing in the weekend. With the ProGRT kicking off in Windrock, TN two of our Super Grassroots riders put down the hammer for solid podium finishes. Back from two years of injuries, Rae Gandolf is on a mission this year and at this weekend’s race she laid some solid foundations. Below is her in-depth race report thats well worth a read. You can follow Rae on her Instagram here and on Facebook here.
After nearly two years off from racing due to injuries, last weekend’s early season March Pro GRT race was that much more of a conquest. The unusual schedule (pros practiced Thursday, qualified Friday and raced Saturday) allowed for a spectacular sunny 70 degree practice day on Thursday. Created by Neko Mulally, the course delivered non-stop action and I got to fully enjoy my second day on my new Operator.
As much as Thursday eased me back into things, Friday had something else in mind. After four hours of rain Thursday night, the course was a slip and slide of steep corners between sections of roots and tight rocks. When I looked around during my track negotiations early Friday, I realized I was far from alone in my fumbling, and the scene of muddy chaos to a soundtrack of “woots” and “yews” provided some comic tension relief.
I rolled through qualifying Friday at noon heavy on the brakes, realizing as I went, that the course had tacked up a good bit but I was still fearful of eating it again. A minor get off toward the bottom didn’t cost me much and I finished fifth in a respectably deep field of ten women from across the county and beyond.
I spent some of that evening wondering how I could find 30 seconds for my race run, as my husband and I labored through half-pound bison patties at a local burger joint. Friday morning I got back to work on the course and enjoyed the improved conditions. I flip-flopped back to my HT clipless pedals after qualifying in the flats and felt blessed to have options!
In the start gate, I stopped thinking about my lack of clean runs and focused on the course. The track felt pretty dialed and I felt fast and smooth through some sections but too heavy on the brakes in others. Overall it felt like a solid run, aside from missing a couple lines and feeling gassed on the sprints. I would have been delighted to gain a spot or two in the rankings, but I was also stoked to find 34 seconds and end up holding my qualifying place to earn the last podium spot in fifth.
By and large, I felt great to be back at it on my new Kona Operator and was happy to see the women’s field growing. I feel super fortunate to share it all with my husband and mechanic, Heath, and I’m stoked that he had a clean run, too! Meeting fellow Kona Super Grassroots rider Nathan St. Clair, who scorched the scene with third place in Jr expert, was a bonus and I look forward to racing with him at events to come.