Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dry & Dusty in Bend: USGP 7 & 8, December 10-11, 2011

The last set of USGP races always comes too soon. But this year they came later with a change of venue. Instead of PIR, they were moved to Bend. I still considered it 'home court advantage', and by the awesome cheering around the course, it did feel like home. THANK YOU OREGON!!! However, I don't think the weather could have been more different than one year ago on the same weekend when we descended upon Bend for nationals. Dusty and dry with sunshine. But it still managed to be cold.
The highlight of the race weekends are often seeing friends, who are like part of your big extended family. This weekend was no exception, when we were graced with an overnight visit in Portland from the Thibault/Simms family. With 2 kids in tow, Wendy and Norm make it look easy and it was fantastic to catch up and spend some time with them. I don't think kids get much cuter than theirs. Seriously.

Friday we headed down to Bend for the usual routine of of pre-ride, number presentation & dinner. It was even better, however, because it was almost like being at home. Ryan is always a brilliant host.
Saturday was cold, but sunny. I made it to the course just in time to see Tim get passed in the last 500 meters of his race and take 2nd. Although a huge disappointment, because the leaders jersey was also on the line, he had an amazing race! 

My biggest regret of my race: taking my numbers off my regular skinsuit and putting them on my roubaix. I boiled to death the first two laps of that race. My legs definitely didn't feel as awesome as the prior weekend, but aside from my one big wipe out before the barriers, I had a solid race and finished 5th. I know I was too cautious in the loose corners, but at least I didn't go down more than once. I would risk all on Sunday. 

Sunday was cold. I unfortunately had to conserve my energy and not go see Tim take the big "W" for the season finale! Finally a win. He raced smarter than Saturday and pulled it off, taking 2nd in the series. 

As for me, I was a bit apprehensive of racing in the cold after my lovely experience in Iowa, but Madison was a month away. I had better get over it. Madison would be cold. I warmed up outside to get the lungs ready for the chill in the air. I was feeling the efforts from the day prior, but who wasn't? The temperature was dropping and when that whistle blew at 2:15, I was in slow motion. My start sucked, but I got back up there. And then my body just wouldn't warm up. Finally by the last lap, I was back on track. Too late to do anything, but I pulled myself back up to 6th. My last lap was 20 seconds faster than my 2nd lap. That is a lot of time. So maybe I need to go do hot laps before the race at nationals to get my body ready to go. The plan is starting to form.

Celebration is always in order at the end of the USGP series, but unfortunately for me, I had to hustle on out of Bend that evening and get ready to get some wisdom teeth extracted on Monday. I'll blame that for my delayed blog. And as I write this, I am usually landing in Belgium to get ready for some Christmas time racing. It has been a different kind of year. But one that is not over yet. There is still some good racing to come.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Warm weather cross: CXLA, December 3-4, 2011

As many of you may know by now, our weekend was kicked off by a misrepresentation of who we are and what we stand for in one of the largest print publications in the country. Just remember people, what you read is not always 100% accurate and maybe you should get some facts before you draw conclusions. Lot of haters out there, but its not going to merit a response in MY blog. I just want to say that yes, we have a nice house.
More importantly, we had a great time in LA. Dorothy Wong is doing such a great job growing cyclocross in SoCal and bringing some UCI races to the west coast. I applaud her for all her efforts and her endless energy. She is truly amazing.
This year the CXLA was held in the Los Angeles State Historic Park. Quite a unique location and a much different course than Griffith Park last year. And the race had grown and the competition was stiff. After feeling like pretty much crap for the better part of a month off and on, I was a bit scared lining up at the start, but it was like magic. My legs were back. I felt so much better and after a week of tears and thinking my season was over. In fact, I almost cancelled this trip on Thursday. If it wasn't for Tim trying to improve his USAC ranking and for us being able to see family, I probably would have. But I was able to ride my bike with the fury that I enjoy. To my surprise, I grabbed the holeshot and then the hammer fest began. It was a course with lots of turns, but some long straightaways too. 3 places to dismount. A little something for everyone. There was an immediate split in the field, leaving 4 of us off the front. On one of the long straights, Nicole and I were away by a very small margin, then I thought I heard her say, "you have a flat". Unfortunate for her, but lucky for me, she said, "I have a flat". I came to this conclusion when I no longer saw her with us. Eventually it came down to Meredith and me. And she is crafty, smart and strong. She attacked me on the long straights, got a small gap and held it to the end. I was happy with second and to have finally felt good and raced well. 

A cultural celebration at start and podium. Very cool.

Tim had a GREAT race on Saturday. In fact, he was so far in front of his group, I had a hard time telling where he was. I think he ended up 5th overall, after starting a minute behind the non UCI cat 1's. At least 30 seconds ahead of the 35+ group he was racing with. It was pretty cool.

Sunday was another gorgeous day. Tim had to work for his victory today and won in a sprint by maybe a tire width. It was close, but it was a win. Exciting and nerve racking. I prefer a bigger margin for him than that, b/c it is less stress for me. But with relatives there cheering, he put on a great show.
Tim on top step both days.

As for my race, I was still a bit apprehensive about feeling good. I wasn't trusting my body, but my legs felt pretty good. I grabbed the holeshot and then we whittled the field down to 6, then 4. It was Julie, Nicole, Meredith and me. And it was a hard race. At some point, Meredith escaped, however narrowly, but she did. Then it was a race for 2nd.  And a close one. My chain kept popping down on my small ring on the front from the super bumpy course, causing me to have to keep chasing back on. But I was able to stay with them. Then it happened. My chain dropped off completely after the stairs. Hit a big bump going into it or something. I didn't panic, but thought I could pedal it on, so remounted and was able to get it back on. But they were gone. I had some real estate to make up. I kept pushing and they were getting closer. Then I did exactly what Meredith did to me the day before. Stood up and attacked in the last straight away before the last bit of winding course and was able to just stay in the front and open up a sprint at the end. I wasn't sure where anyone was at that point, so I even threw my bike across the line just in case. I was totally surprised (in a pleasant way) that I pulled that off. It was really a great stepping stone for this next weekend in Bend.

Such a cool back drop for a start/finish.

The stairs early in race on day 2. They almost were my demise later on that day.

Just in case...

Another cultural podium celebration.

Now that the racing was over, we rushed off, Tim said his good byes, we stopped at a Christmas party thrown by some relatives to see some people, give hugs and get him to the airport.

Our 10 minute stop at the xmas party. Pictured with Grandma Jo & Triss.

I stayed another night for a bonus half day of amazing weather. I rode over to my Great Aunt Toni's house to say hello. She is 97 and still sharp as a whip. Getting around with her walker and just amazing. An inspiration for sure. I went 'home', packed bikes, loaded up, grabbed my Grandma Jo for a quick lunch an then had to say good bye to sunny SoCal. But at least I was coming home to clear and cold Portland. It's not so bad.

Amazing and inspirational. 97 and so with it.

I wish I shared her genes. Grandma Jo looks GREAT!