Kerry: After a 3.5 hr drive north east from Iowa City we were firmly located in the heartland of squeaky cheese curds, where the mascot switched from an Iowa Hawkeye to a Wisconsin Badger.
There was rain predicted during the week but Friday when we arrived the course may as well had been paved. It was super fast, dry, and bumpy. Maxxis Speed Terranes (file treads) were the tire of choice for Becky and I. While there would be the same level of competition that would race the World Cup (more so for Beck than me) there was a more relaxed feel to Friday’s pre race. Probably because it was classified a C2, not as much money or as many UCI points up for grabs as a C1 or World Cup. Regardless, we toed the line excited and eager. I was looking forward to the fact that most of the women racing the world cup would line up for the C2 race where a lot of the guys sit out, saving their legs for Sunday’s effort. That meant I had more of a chance in holding some ground in the inter-team competition. Becky got seventh though, I was secretly hoping she’d do worse…
I got off to a good start and slotted in to a good group. I never felt like I was pushing super hard, just holding wheels. Then about three laps in I went to the front and washed my front wheel in a turn. The dried grass was surprisingly slippery and I was simply pushing too hard. It was my own fault for thinking I could gap some guys in one corner by pushing a little harder then everyone else.
No big deal. I recovered and latched on to the back of the group. Then a lap later I did the same thing. And latched on again. Then two laps later I did the same thing! What the hell was I doing?! I was riding like Squidward and making unforced errors!
By this time groups had formed and gaps were big. There was nothing to do but race for the position I was in. Michael Van den Ham and I were together so we traded pulls the last two laps and finished it off. I was 11th. Another tally in the L column for me.
I was not excited about my choices out there on course but I was happy with how my legs felt so I brushed the result off my shoulders and focused on recovering and getting my head right for Sunday’s World Cup, which was likely to be wet and wild. The worst part of the day was that in the first crash, my glasses ejected from my face and some spectators said they would grab my glasses for me (I asked if they would) then they never returned them to me! Not cool.
Trek Cup and I don’t have the best history together. years ago, it was one of what is now three total DNFs – I crashed multiple times until finally my bike was in such disrepair I couldn’t even make it to the pit. Two years ago, at the world cup, my cleat bolts came loose and I got stuck in my pedal, causing me to crash and eventually finish out the race being careful to remain unclipped. Last year I was on the ground at the start, and crashed more and mechanicalled more before rolling in to a lackluster finish. I think the reason I do poorly at this race is because it is a very fast and hard track, usually always dry and dusty. That, combined with the many offcambers, it doesn’t suit my pedaling style or my frantic race brain. It is a bummer to not perform well at Trek’s world cup, because it is the only world cup that offers equal payout to men and women. So where normally I am earning a thousand dollars or less than a man, at Trek I can earn more money just for finishing than I can getting a top-20 result at any other world cup. So I guess maybe if I were going to botch a result it may as well be this one?
With the schedule being C2 on Friday, day off Saturday and world cup Sunday, some people choose to sit out Friday. I think it is a good opportunity for me to get used to the course. A paid opener, if you will. Just being a C2, I went in to the race knowing it was more of a hard workout. It was hot, and I was still recovering from Jingle Cross, so I saw no reason to dig super deep unless I was in podium contention. Well. The fast start of the race immediately took me out of podium contention. The first lap of this race is more like the last lap of crit than anything – fast, tactical, and aggressive. Riders were sprinting passed me only to jam on their brakes for a turn. They were tucking under my elbows and chopping my lines. I found myself dangling off of the front group, unable to latch back on. I focused on staying calm and tried to catch up by staying smooth, letting the back of the group yoyo while I could coast up. It took a half a lap or so, but I finally made it! But by then the group had split into two, and I had caught the chasers. Fine with me. Jen Jackson nearly came back to meet us, until Sammy Runnels took a digger in the woods after just passing me, hanging us both up and allowing Jen to get away and thus finish 6th, while I rolled in for a smooth 7th place.
I was actually very pleased with how I rode on Friday, smooth and focused, taking the time to ride elements that may be of note during the world cup.
Kerry: Saturday was chill! We scoped out the World Cup track but our efforts were futile because rain was definitely coming and all the lines we were scoping would be completely different on Sunday. But at least we got the lay of the land and knew what sections would be the hardest to conquer in the mud.
We gapped off our easy day with a movie, J-Lo’s new “Hustlers” movie in a Gucci movie theater with recliners where you could order beer and fried cheese curds, not that I did but it was an option!
Sunday came and we awoke to some heavy conditions. I couldn’t even step out of the RV to walk the doggos with out sinking my saddle above the sole. I was pumped it was going to be fun!
We got on course at 11am for pre ride and it wasn’t a whole lot different then yesterday yet. There was still a lot of grass so you could ride a lot of the course still, however, that was bound to change.
By 12:30 it was super heavy. Running almost all the up hills and downhills. Ruts were starting to form and outriggers were unclipped on every off camber.
By the time Becky’s race started the ladies did the first lap in 13:45. They were slotted for only three laps! Unreal. I figured we would do five or six.
All I wanted off the line was to make it to the mud and through the first corner clean. That’s what I was telling Stevie in the picture below..
Miraculously, I achieved this and made it through lap one with only a minor slip up.
I decided to race very consistently. In conditions like these as soon as you go into the red zone you start making mistakes in the handling department and your running starts taking steps backwards, which was bad because there was a fair amount of on and off the bike.
There were guys blowing by me on straights in the first two laps that I caught a lap later and never saw again. I had my dismount points down and I never tried to ride passed them. In mud that’s 3” deep there are often roots and ruts hidden beneath that can send you off into the tape at a moments notice. I was playing it safe.
About half way through I was in the top 20. Then I caught Curtis’ group and he and I started racing together. Pushing each other on the sections we thought we were stronger. We wiggled our way into a fight for 16th.
Last lap came and Laurens Sweeck was chasing us. I did all I could to hold him off but the Belgian Bull came by me before the last fly over and brushed me off like a fly on his shoulder.
Regardless, I was pumped. I have a history of flailing in races that have heavy mud and lots of running, so it was encouraging to keep it together and have a solid ride. Not to mention at a World Cup where I scored my best placing and some much needed points due to the lack of C1’s in the US this year.
After the race it was clean up time. Straight to the pressure washer at the tent where Spaceman (Spencer) housed me off. He an Kerm killed it in the pit. Letting me know when bikes were ready and making due with a severe lack of washing power due to someone’s bad planning for adverse conditions (they only had two pressure washers in the pit and they ran out of water in the middle of our race). Spence proved himself though by swapping brake pads in half lap pulls and making sure my bike was clean/ shifting properly for at least the first 30 seconds when I took it from him.
We got the tent packed and hitched the trailer to the RV. Then we said our good byes and b-lined it home to NC for a weekend off and some R&R.
Fayetville CX is next for me as Beckster takes two weekends off to regather herself.
Becca: Saturday’s preride we knew would be more of an overview rather than a preride for lines or tactics, because everyone saw the forecast and knew we would be in for rain. But, many of us had never seen this course wet, and was the rain going to bring deep mud, make the ground slick, or maybe just tacky? Between the other races on parts of the course and the closed off world-cup only sections, we weren’t sure what we were in for. Nonetheless, I prerode if not just for the race, then to focus on riding the course with confidence to build skills.
Then. It rained. It rained Saturday night. It rained Sunday morning. Nearly two inches. The course was going from wet with puddles to a sloppy mess. And, in typical fashion, the women were given a 30 minute window to preride, whereas the men had that window plus and extra hour up until the time the women raced. Sure, we could have ridden during that hour, but very few women have the support system to allow them to preride at 12:30 when you need to show up for staging at 1:15. Plus, though I only got one lap of the course in my half hour, I managed to crack a frame by crashing pretty hard into on of the stakes and my mechanic worked quickly to get my training bike prepared to be my B bike in the pits – which we were going to need on this muddy day.
Though I couldn’t preride right before the race, Kerry helped me scope out the situation on course as it was changing before the race. He told me it was getting less wet and more sticky, meaning the downhills were more rideable, the uphills were less rideable, and the bikes were getting more coated with mud.
I did a half-ass warm up, distracted by my frustrations, and hit the line. I had a second row call up. My immediate start was fine, but I was getting bogged down in the heavy grass and felt I was losing spots. Then, I set up for the tight chicanes before pit 1, and they had moved the fencing so riders were passing swiftly while I was still staring at my stem like an idiot. I was shuffled further back. I chose a bad, slow line up the first flyover. Further back. I was not very aggressive getting to the first offcamber, but was able to make some passes. The second offcamber, however, was another story. In first lap traffic, it doesn’t matter what is rideable, when you are back where I am, everything is a run. I was in a bad spot – the downhill side. I didn’t have a line to run in and slid low, sliding under the fencing and getting stuck in the deep, soft dirt. I was tripping over the netting and the string holding it in. I was really getting passed now. I was kicking myself because mud is MINE! I love it!
I slogged forward, passing where I could. By the time I finished the first lap, I saw two to go up on the board. WTF, did I just finish lap two and I was just delirious? Did I get lapped? Nope. Ladies and gentlemen, we were doing a THREE LAP RACE.
The first lap was what it was. The second lap, I was sitting in 14th and not really thinking of anything except “how in the world do I only have one lap after this?” I couldn’t find where to pedal, because even the pedally sections were littered with ruts and roots that you had to be aware of and carefully pick your way around. In my final lap, I was finally feeling good and finding some flow in the course, and was able to pass four people and finish tenth. Had I had one more lap, I think the other riders would have faded and I could have clawed my way further up. But, I can’t really go back and add a lap, so I need to reframe it and say, I need to be able to ride for the race I am given, not the race I want. The riders at the front didn’t want one more lap because they went all in on those three. I love those conditions not necessarily because I can ride them better than others, or even faster, but because I can do it longer. The power it takes to ride and run in the mud is my optimal power band that I can hold for however long they want me to do it. Give me an hour!!! Those fast races, though? Yeah, let’s cut those ones a lap short because it’s always the last lap there where I crash and break everything.
Finishing the US World Cups with 2 top 10s and knowing I have more to give leaves me feeling pretty happy and proud. And, I am tempted to follow the world cup circuit, but because women aren’t paid equally, I don’t find it to be financially feasible. Plus. I have identified my #1 weakness for the season, and I am going to give a go at racing and training in the US to work on bettering myself so that by Nationals and the European campaign at the latter part of the season I am ready to give it 100%, and not go in with the intention to learn, but the intention to race.
Have a look at the vlog to catch all the behind the scenes action. Special thanks to my groms who captured some awesome in race footage!