After the Waterloo world cup, Rebecca and I headed three hours south-west to Iowa City. We had host housing just a 10min bike ride from the venue. In fact, you could see the lights of the Johnson County Fairgrounds just over the hill from the house. 

Even though there was racing on Friday night Rebecca and I skipped it to focus on Saturday’s world cup. That meant we could treat the weekend like a normal weekend, i.e. openers Friday, race Saturday and Sunday. The added bonus was that we got to watch the racing on Friday night. We only stuck around for the Women’s race though because they didn’t start until 7:45 and the Men went at 9! Have fun getting to sleep before 2am after racing that late.

Becca: Pre-riding on Saturday I had everything dialed, from tires to line choices. I even decided that I was going to play it by ear if I was going to ride or run the last two turns of the descent of Krumpit, but I was nailing the turns at the top.

Kerry: I got to go first! I always like when they switch up the order because I like to watch the women’s race. It’s always cool to check out a race after you have emptied the tank yourself. It’s also a bummer when you see other people have already raced and you are just getting warmed up on the trainer. Though I have gotten used to it. 

I was poised for a good start on Saturday but only managed to hold my position. I came through the first lap in 20th or so then no matter how hard I tried I stayed there. For some reason, I was missing the ability to go into the red. I couldn’t wind up into that extra gear when small gaps were closing in front of me. I only packed the diesel motor and had one speed. 

Granted, it wasn’t a terrible speed but I missed out on a group early for 17th then the last three laps Gage Hecht was a stone’s throw in front of me, down to three seconds at times. For some reason, I just couldn’t close it. A part of me thinks it was my subconscious holding me back saying, “Woah buddy, easy partner, don’t dig too deep. You’ll be too gassed to hit this super technical section.”

So I ended up 22nd. That’s two world cups in a row I landed 22nd. It isn’t a terrible race but I felt like I was capable of better. I had gotten 19th last year and felt like a top 20 was in my grasp but was ultimately going for 15th. 

Anyway, I grabbed some hot chocolate and a few of my friend’s mom’s famous cookies and watched the women’s race.

Becca: My start was great, until halfway down the start straight the fencing forces a zig-zag and the riders ahead of me are braking so heavily that they lock up their wheels. I sit up. Losing ground despite no crashes happening, I charge forward, into the mud pit before the first turn. A crash. I go wide. Luckily I go clear but I have lost more spots (I am only ahead of those who hit the deck it seems). I pass when I can and am patient when I cant. Then we get to the descent of Mt. Krumpit, and people are dismounting before the tricky turns, forcing me to as well. As I run I figure out why – the rain has turned the grass and clay-rich soil to ice. It is an awkward scramble to the bottom. I keep passing groups until I find myself into the teens – right where I want to be. Another run-up and a quick mount with our feet full of mud. A rider goes down on an off-camber and I can do nothing but lay the bike down and slide into them instead of running them over (was that an option? Not worth the risk of hurting another person or myself if you ask me). Losing a few spots. The next lap shows me picking off even more riders, but also losing a few spots in the tougher climbs. I just couldn’t run any faster.

That same off-camber that I laid it down on in lap one has a large sweeping turn afterward, and in lap 2 I decided to check my speed right as I entered, and it sent me into a solid 200-foot slide, dropping my bike and sliding on my hip. I actually slid about as fast as I would have ridden, so no time was lost. But when I picked my bike up, I noticed my chain had dropped. Remembering last race, I was very careful at trying to get it back on and checking the full drivetrain, making sure I wasn’t going to make matters worse by riding. Maybe my check was too thorough because I could have pedaled it back on but I had already lost precious spots and time. I chased hard and caught a few riders, but we were only racing for 4 laps so I didn’t have much time left.

Despite the short race (40 minutes for the winner), I was so cracked by the last lap that I was making sloppy mistakes on the slick runs, and for every spot I gained I lost 2 to riders who were more careful. But that is the toll a slick course can take – these conditions require more than skill, but also patience. I crossed the line in 21st. Again not what I was hoping for, but at least beating Kerry.

It was back to the normal routine, Women racing prior to the Men on Sunday…

Becca: The result left me hungry in the C1, but also exhausted. The officials didn’t have the UCI course set up when I went out to preride, and I didn’t have the gumption to go out a second time when half of the course was a walk through thick mud. Kerry gave me the intel on the course changes and I felt confident in my choice to rest the legs until race time.

I had another acceptable start and rode an aggressive 1st lap, making great passes and even blocking when I could. Luckily we were only going up Mt. Krumpit once per lap, but unfortunately, it was the much harder way up – the run. The top of the run was where they changed the course for the C1, adding a few turns before routing us to the descent. I was prepared for a slight incline at the top when we remounted, but because I didn’t preride I didn’t realize it was a “be in your easiest gear” type of incline.

I hop on, and even midway through my cassette and in my little ring I stand on the pedal and go nowhere. Not your typical hero-type, I get off the bike and air-shift into my 30 tooth cog before hopping back on and spinning (lol jk slogging heavily) to the top. I lost a lot of spots doing that, but it was the only way. I charged hard, and eventually found myself in 7th, clawing towards 6th. But for every inch I gained on the flats and downhills, I lost 2 in the steep run-up to the tall and long-legged Sunny Gilbert. I couldn’t close the gap. And my legs were so shot from the day prior that I lost the battle for 7th to Clara Honsinger and ended up 8th. I know I left it all out there on Sunday, so I am happy with the ride despite some very rookie mistakes (like not pre-riding!).

Kerry: I have adopted a motto: Sunday’s are for sending! It stems from the idea behind a usual weekend in the US where there is a C1 Saturday race and C2 Sunday. So C1’s I play the game and do everything possible to go for the win. Sit in, play it smart, really watch the other dudes, find flaws, etc. Those races there are more points up for grabs and more money. Then Sunday, I have decided just to go for it. Send attacks really focus on pushing the pace instead of sitting in and saving myself for the win. We only get to count our 8 best C2 race’s points towards our overall UCI point total. I am hoping I can get enough good C2’s that even if I botch a few because of this method I’ll still be ok. 

So with a front row call up I decided to go for the holeshot, then settle in and see what happens. The top guys from the world cup decided to sit out Sunday’s race but there were still a few guys there to keep things spicy. 

I damn near hole shotted and then kept going. I lead some on the first lap, tried to breathe and tell myself to just ride smooth. The running up Mt. Krumpit was killing me. I managed the first half of the race and was in the running for the final podium spot until the wheels started coming off. I couldn’t hold the Euro’s pace up the 1min climb and I started making small mistakes that caused gaps to form with 3 laps to go. From there I put my head down and brought it in for 6th. 

I was truly pumped with the ride. The conditions were just right and racing with those guys for the first half of the race was a real learning experience and confidence booster. Those guys, Boroè , Thijs Aerts, Jim Aernouts, Wouters, and Cleppe are top 20 and top 10 world cup racers. So I was happy to hang with them as long as I did. Baby steps. 

Becca: Charm City in Baltimore is up next – and I am pumped. Last year was my first time to the race, and this year I am excited to see how I stack up.