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Monday, August 5, 2013

Iowa State Championship Crit + Mathiessen XC = Busy Race Weekend!


State Championship Crit
A Crit and an XC Mountain Bike race in one weekend sounds like a good idea, right? Well that is what I was trying to convince myself! I felt like I was warming up for cyclocross season with a two race weekend.
The weekend kicked off with the State Championship Crit in Des Moines on Saturday. Fittingly, it was right in front of the State Capitol Building.

I was excited to have my mom, niece and nephew there to watch the race and to cheer me on. I was really hopping to have a good race, I’m still a cat 4 on the road and would really like to be able to upgrade to a 3 for next year (I’m a cat 1 for XC and cat 3 for Cyclocross, I just don’t race on my road bike often).



There were about 10 of us on the start line, including my teammates Darian & Alijah. A 1-2-3 finish sounded pretty cool and was a strong possibility. It was going to be a short race, just 30 minutes long so I was guessing about 12 laps. 
Things started off quickly and there were a couple unsuccessful attacks, people just testing the waters. After about 2-3 laps, my teammate Alijah went for an attack from behind and just one other girl was able to follow. I was in front and didn’t do a good job of anticipating. With a teammate up the road, I let the other girls try to catch, but wasn’t going to try and pull them up to her. The two in front were maintaining the gap. I still took some pulls on the front of the chase group, but kept a safe pace, not trying to pull everyone up.
Eventually, there were just 3 of us left in the chase group, (Darian, myself, and another girl).  At this point, I tried to make an attack, hoping to bridge the gap, but was unsuccessful. I got a little gap on the uphill, but was pretty much caught by the downhill. I was having some serious issues shifting from my little ring back to the big ring after the climb. It was hesitating and taking the whole straightaway before the big downhill to engage.  With just two laps to go I did have a small gap to 4th and 5th place and then my chain fell off. No!!!!!!!!! I pulled over in the wheel pit and to my extreme luck there was Hopson (team/club director) and he put the chain back on in no time and gave me a good push to get going again. I could see Darian down the road at the bottom of the hill and knew she was close to the girl now in 3rd place. I pedaled as hard as I could. And then I saw the girl who was in 3rd on the side of the road, with someone trying to fix her chain! (I found out later she had actually crashed around a corner). I continued to go as hard as I could and finished in 4th place. I was a little disappointed about dropping my chain, but it could have been a lot worse and I could have lost a lot more places! It wasn’t quite the 1-2-3 finish with my teammates that I had hoped for, but we still managed a 1st, 3rd, and 4th place finishes. Not bad at all!

Alijah (1st), Darian (3rd), Race Baby, and Myself (4th)
Darian & her mini. Holy Cuteness!
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Mathiessen Mountain Madness – Oglesby, IL
After the Crit on Saturday, I was a little leery about doing a mountain bike race on Sunday. The last few XC races have been extremely tough. At the same time though, I was looking forward to having a good race after being slightly disappointed about my chain falling off the day before.
The expert women and men were starting together (I wasn’t so sure about this!) We had a neutral start with a guy leading us out for a road start before hoping onto the race course. 

Lead out guy

We took off at a decent pace and things just got faster and faster until the lead out guy pulled off and we were able to go full out. We hit the long grassy start/finish stretch with everyone jockeying for position. As far as I could tell there was just one other lady (a little ahead) that was keeping up with the back of the men’s pack. We made it through the start/finish straightaway to a taped off grass section that was exactly like a clyclocross course (this really was practice for ‘cross season!).
Beverly made it into the single track first winning the first prem. She was really going fast and I made sure to not let her out of my sight. I needed the visual motivation to keep going really strong. My legs felt great, a welcome change from most races, but she was just flying through the first lap. I caught up to her, but made a few small mistakes and had to chase her down again. We made it to the final climb out of the little river valley and I was right behind her the whole way. I knew I was going to really have to push myself to keep going strong for the next 3 laps. I was feeling pretty good at the top of the climb and went as fast as I could down the straight away. Amazed, I had a decent gap. I thought for sure that Beverly would be right behind me.
I made it into the single track for lap 2 and kept pushing hard, I wanted to make sure that none of the other ladies caught back up to me. I had the leaders of the men’s sport class pass me and they kept me motivated by giving me something to chase after. I heard another person behind me and thought for sure that one or two of the girls had finally caught; it turned out to be more guys. What a relief! This reminded me again to keep pushing. I really, really, didn’t want to get caught. I made it up the climb without problem and was still feeling great. Looking back and writing this, I still can’t believe how good I felt out there!
I had a gap going into the third lap, but had no idea how much of a gap (I found out later it was 3 minutes!). I got passed by more of the sport class guys, but luckily there weren’t any girls in sight. I was getting towards the end of the third lap and the possibility of winning was starting to cross my mind. If I could hold the gap, this would be my first win since upgrading to a cat 1 earlier this year. I knew I needed to keep focused though and keep pushing. I didn’t want anyone to gain on me but didn’t want to do anything stupid either. I was flying down the long technical decent before the final climb out. I got too close to a log on the side of the trail and hit something on the rear of my bike. I didn’t go down or lose balance at all but thought I dropped my chain. I looked down and sure enough my chain was just hanging, but to my utter disbelief my derailleur was also hanging off. I got off my bike thinking “this isn’t happening ,this isn’t happening, I’m so close” and there was nothing I could do. I was devastated and there was nothing I could do but hike my bike out along the trail and watch as all the women went by. So much for not doing anything stupid!
I found a course marshal to ask if there was a short cut out, and he graciously offered to carry my bike and walk back to the start with me. I’m horrible with names, but I think it was Darin? Thank you a million times for helping me out! That would have been a long lonely walk without your help! He was so nice, and chatted with me the whole time, keeping me from dwelling on what happened.
I reported my DNF to the officials and carried my bike to my car, so I could get changed and gather my emotions, I was pretty upset. I just kept thinking how did I let this happen, why couldn’t I have been just an inch further away from the log? Why did I have two mechanicals in one weekend!? I don’t think I’ve ever felt this sort of frustration! It was such a great day, a super fun course, and I felt great, and then I had to stop. I was a crazy mix of being pissed off but also happy with how I had been riding and feeling.
I found Aaron right after he finished his race (2nd place – yay!) and told him what happened. 

Men's Expert Podium (the women didn't stay for a group photo)

I was worried I caused some major damage to my bike, but he assured me it was just the derailleur hanger. That was a small relief. He changed quickly and we turned in our number plates and then found the 312 boys. I’m not a beer drinker, but I took one today! We chatted for a while with the 312 guys, they are a pretty cool bunch!
I had forgotten about the 2nd prem they had announced at the beginning of the race and got the KOM prem for the first person up the climb on lap two. Sweet! I grabbed a 12 pack of 312 for my prize (absolutely delicious when mixed with lemonade…just try it).
We had fun chatting with the other racers, and event organizers. Everyone was so friendly. We are really loving the PAMBA series races! What a great bunch of people and fantastic race courses! I will definitely come back to this race next year. It was such a fun course, one of the best yet this year.

Here’s to hoping next weekend’s road race and xc race go a little better!

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