At first glance I was not looking forward to arriving for Nationals on Tuesday only to wait around in Hartford to race on Sunday at 3pm. However, Emily Shields made it worth my while.

img_4620Photo: Alan Garvick

The whole reason I came early was to cheer on my one and only for the Collegiate Club race and I am glad I did. She dominated! Off the line she had good positioning but didn’t choose the best line up the “Wall” and therefore found herself just outside of top 5 on the first lap. She was not deterred though. She kept her head up and slowly showed the ladies how to ride in the mud (keep in mind it was in the mid forties on Wednesday, the kind of weather mud can exist in).

img_4621Photo: Alan Garvick

By the end of the race she had tacked more than a one minute lead. I was so happy with the way she rode and thus I got even more excited for my upcoming race.


We were posted up in an Airbnb about 4 miles from the course just outside of d-town Hartford. I was able to avoid the venue for the most part and checked out West Hartford, which had some decent road riding. I got out for a good but cold day on Thursday for some openers to stretch my legs before Sunday’s fun.

After being at the venue on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I vowed not to set foot in Riverside Park on Friday. To achieve this Emily, Doug, and I hit J Rene’s Coffee Roasters and I had my first siphon pot brew. It was delectable.


Saturday I headed to the venue to see what the course might actually look like for my race on Sunday. It snowed significantly over night and the course was covered in a 1-2 inch thick blanket of pillowy white dust (until the bike-cyclers started going around and making it brown).


The snow made for a sand-esk type of ride where you were sliding through all the corners and lines where constantly changing, even while you were riding through them.

img_1547Photo: Meg McMahon

Starting Tuesday and throughout the week the course was changing everyday due to weather and dropping temps. This made for a lot of speculation and hype about what to expect on race day, another reason to avoid the venue until I absolutely had to go. I was trying to stay calm and not let things get into my head too much. I wanted this weekend to be just like any other weekend of racing for me. I knew that if I could avoid getting amped up about it and toe the start line with a focus and determination that was uninfluenced by excessive nerves and self induced pressure I could have a good race.


Plus, the course was pushing riders to stay loose and go with the flow. There was no sense in getting tense and stressing out. I needed to harness some Jamaican vibes, mon.

Sunday came and I was amped. I kicked off the morning with the typical pre-race cake, followed by a drive over to the course for some inspection.

img_1553Photo: Ryan Rives

The course was more or less the same as Saturday but temps were dropping through the day making the ruts more icy and the margin for error much smaller.

The front row start helped and I quickly found myself glued to Stephen’s wheel up the wall. Out of my peripheral I saw Yannick blaze the bottom line and then run up the further part of the hill putting time on us “conventional line” users and teaching us a lesson for lap two.

img_1563Photo: Meg McMahon

After watching Stephen and some others go down on the first two laps I knew this race was up for grabs. I found myself towards the front and feeling good on the second half of the course, which housed the more technical and turny sections.

img_1560Photo: Meg McMahon

Then Stephen started to come around and unleash the beast. He gapped me and I was riding second for a while until Papa Driscoll came by me. I knew I had my work cut out for me if Jamey was towards the front at the end of the race…

img_1562Photo: Meg McMahon

He managed to gap me, mostly likely because he was running those new Clement BOS tires, and I found myself fighting off chasers the last two laps. Jamey was always with in 15 seconds so I new a slip up could put me in contention for 2nd or even 1st. The name of the game for me the last two laps was riding smooth and I managed to pull it off.

Photo: Meg McMahon

I was so pumped to roll across the line and let my shoulders relax. The line I was riding was between cautious and pinning it to the point where I thought I was going down a couple times. Though it all worked out and culminated in my first Elite Nationals podium!

Photo: Meg McMahon

I can’t thank the support crew enough. The Shields family as always has my back and I was ecstatic to have my parents there to witness the race, even if it did stress them out a bit. Doug was more than exceptional this weekend. I can’t wait to head overseas with my main man for another 5 weekends of CX racing. The adventures are only beginning.

Off to Fiuggi, Italy on Thursday for the World Cup on Sunday. Doug and I will be teaming up with Becca Fahringer for a dream team assault on the city that is about 1.5 hours east of Rome. The goals are to smash the race, eats lots of pizza, drink more espresso, and possibly some vino.

Keep up with Kerry’s world travels on Instagram and through the Kona Bikes Instagram and Facebook pages.