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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Oakley Night Cap

Holy smokes that was a fun course, I've never enjoyed a cyclocross race so much! There were ups, downs, twists, off camber turns, and a little bit of mud. And the straightaways were limited which was right up my alley!

Getting lined up and ready to race. Photo by Eric Roccasecca.
It's been fun to see the Women's field grow at this race. I got to line up with 16 other ladies, that's awesome for a local race! Since I haven't done super well at 'cross I lined up in the second row (lined up according to USAC rankings).

I had a great start and was 4th going into the first turn. Brittany, Vanessa, and Lisa were ahead. Britt and Vanessa started to get a gap but I could not get around Lisa with all the turns. On the second lap I finally got ahead but Vanessa and Brittany were already far ahead.

I drilled down to try and get a gap from Lisa and all the other girls chasing close behind. I kept things smooth through all turns and off camber areas. My mountain bike handling skills were put to good use!

Trying to build a gap! Photo by Eric Roccasecca
Darcy was on the sidelines cheering me along and giving me great tidbits of advice during the race. She reminded me to keep drilling down every chance I got, there were several girls close behind chasing. It was exactly the advice I needed - thank you Darcy!

When I finally got a look at the lap counter, there was just one lap to go. I was a little giddy by how well I was doing but nervous about how many girls were so close behind! I kept things smooth, pushed through the corners, and pushed even harder during the straightaways. And I finished in 3rd place. By far my best 'cross race ever! And my stellar teammates Britt and Vanessa finished 1st and 2nd - awesome!

Lisa, Myself, Brittany, Vanessa, and Linda on the podium! Photo courtesy of Brittany McConnell.
Now I'll keep my fingers crossed that the rest of the season goes so well!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Farmdale Festival - Final Race for the Illinois Series!

Well I didn't have it in me for a win at Farmdale, but my 2nd place finish sealed my overall win in the Illinois Homegrown Race Series! Iowa City showed it's dominance with teammate Britt taking 3rd place in the series and Kevin and Aaron taking 1st and 2nd place in the men's division!

Beverly, Myself & Britt for the series podium
Aaron, Britt (standing in for Kevin) and Jason for the men's series podium
If you've never done an Illinois Homegrown Race Series race, I would mark one (or the whole series) on your calendar for next year! There is friendly - but tough - competition and every course is fun with unique challenges and different types of trails. I would go back to any of these courses to ride just for fun.

And one of my favorite parts is the timing chip race plates. It's fun and helpful to be able look over your laps time for every race. You can learn whether your pace is consistent or drops off lap to lap and compare to how other riders are doing. I personally like comparing my time to the men's expert field to see where I would fit in :) And  with number plates there are no pesky numbers to pin on, it's the small things right?
And last, but certainly not least the Illinois Race series comes with super nice people. The volunteers, course marshals, fellow competitors, and spectators are all fantastic. It's always great to hangout with everyone post race and the 312 guys usually have beer (and if you are lucky they will give you a beer hand-up at the finish) :). And the Thallers are truly wonderful - thank you for everything you do to make the series so great!

Post race selfie with Britt - I love this girl!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sugar Bottom Scramble

Oh boy was I nervous for this race! The Scramble is always super tough - the course is long and trails can really beat you up. And then there is the whole gravel road climb to start the race....and I think everyone knows how much I like gravel ;) But I rode my ass off and managed a 2nd place finish. I'll take 2nd to Robin in a mountain bike race any day!

The field was quite a bit smaller this year. With the rescheduled date, the race was the same weekend as the Chequamegon 40 and a two day cyclocross weekend. We still had 6 ladies line up for the expert race though.

I struggled a bit on climb up the gravel road but managed to get around Liz right before the top, to enter the single track in 3rd. I really wanted to get in right behind Robin, but Britt is a super strong climber and got in 2nd.

Breathing a little hard at the top of the gravel climb! Photo by Angy Snoop
Britt and I sped through the south side of trails trying to stay with Robin as best as possible. I came around Britt right before popping out of the singletrack and onto the fire road. I really wanted to be in front on the next bombing fast downhill section. I’ve been working on cornering at speed and thought this might be my best chance to get back up to Robin. I got pretty close to Robin but she still kept a gap. She came through the start/finish area with Britt and I chasing hard behind.

I led us on the first North side lap, but Britt came around me before we headed back into the singletrack for our second North side lap. I fought hard to stay with her on the following climbs- I wasn't sure I was going to be able to keep up. She got a little ahead of me but I was able to catch back up at the beginning of Rockslide. Once we got to the rocky climb she made a little mistake and veered off to the left of the trail. I cleared the climb and used all my strength to push myself on the rest of the trail.

Climbing out of Rock Slide I could see Robin ahead which gave me motivation to keep going hard. I needed the motivation for all of that climbing! Unfortunately I didn't ride the next section of trail (fast downhill twisting trail) as smoothly as I would have liked. I definitely used my breaks too much and didn't get any closer to Robin.

Grinding up Cyclocross Hill. Photo by Angy Snoop
Coming through the start/finish all I could think was how happy I was that I only had one more lap! I missed a bottle hand up and I really wanted some water...and I was starting to get exhausted. I love these trails, but they really beat you up!

Thankfully my last lap went smoothly and I finished in 2nd place behind Robin, and Britt took third place. It was great to have teammates and good friends take all the top spots! I think that is about the hardest I've raced my mountain bike this year. It was so much fun to ride with Britt and really have her push my pace.

Friends and tough competition!
Now if mountain bike race season could just last a little longer! I'm not ready for 'cross season and all the cold weather that comes with!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mud Sweat & Gears - Another Win in the Illinois Series!

This race last year was actually my first ever win in the Cat. 1/Expert Category so I was pretty excited to take the win again this year!

Bev, Britt, Melinda, and I all had a fast start. I pushed the pace as best as I could and thought I had gotten a small gap until the very end of the first lap. The last trail was very tight and twisty with about 10 or so man made features (like long twisting skinnies and log piles). I only rode a few and the girls caught back up. I crossed through the start/finish with just a 5 second lead.

Wanting to get away I absolutely drilled it going into the second lap. I caught back up to a group of the Comp guys that had passed earlier and tried my best to stay with them as long as possible. It’s always so much easier when there is someone in front of you leading the way and setting the pace instead of being out there on your own! I managed to ride a very fast and smooth second lap and managed to get about a minute lead by the time I came back through the start/finish.

I continued to go all out on the third lap and I could just see the girls coming into the final section of trail as I was exiting it. I knew I had a decent gap but still didn’t want to take any chances of getting caught. As always I reminded myself to be careful as I sped through the last lap though. No need to jeopardize the lead with a crash!

This time when I was finishing up the final section of trail I didn’t see anyone behind. I rode down the long gravel road and came through the finish line with a solid three minute gap. Since the course hadn't changed since last year (except reverse direction) I had the extra motivation of wanting to compare my time this year to my time from last year to. My biggest fear is always that I stop making improvements- I’ve just finished my fourth year of riding and racing so the improvements have come pretty easy up to this point. But I have to motivate myself to work harder each season to keep getting stronger!

The Illinois state series is wrapping up and I'm currently in 2nd place with five wins and one DNF. Six races count toward the overall score, plus bonus points for each extra race completed, so the series overall will come down to the final race next weekend! As long as I finish the race I have a good chance to take the series win, so the pressure is on to not DNF!

Full Results with lap times - the best part of this series is the timing chip number plates!