Event Reports

(It’s been a while since I’ve posted a race report on this page… and since I’m switching my focus a bit, I’ve renamed this page. Visit this page to get the nitty gritty on the events I participate in.)


Road Racing Race Reports 2012 Season

Calabogie O-Cup – April 22, 2012
This race was my first road race in two years. I had a good case of the nerves on Sunday morning and spent a large part of the drive out to Calabogie thinking crazy thoughts. Marc realized that the lack of talking meant something was up and he ended up settling me down. I like to get to the races with lots of time – like 2.5 hours – yes for a road race. For most riders this is way too much time – but not for me. I seem to waste the time to the point where it is 45 minutes to the race start and I still haven’t put on my kit…

When I finally did get my race kit on and tested out various levels of leg warmers and gloves, my brain and gut started to settle down. I chatted with a fellow from a local team who had just finished racing and he gave me some good pointers and reminded me to think about the wind.

On the start line, myself and my team mate Alyssa did look rather outnumbered with the very big Stevens Racing P/B The Cyclery women’s team and the Infinit women’s team on the start line. The Real Deal team had four riders in the race and there was a smattering of other single riders. All in all, it looked as though it would be hard to break through the strong team domination.

Well, the race pretty much played out as I expected it to – a bunch sprint. I was hoping that a good break (with me in it) could get away but the wind, the course, and the racing itself did not lend itself to this happening. I gave a few hard digs at getting away but I lack acceleration and jump right now so I was able to get a small gap but not enough to really cause a separation. I did take a few stabs at it and spent some time on the front chasing down a few moves and then bringing back one rider who had been out solo for a long time. I’m pretty happy with my positioning coming into the finishing straight of the race course, experience has taught me that this last corner on the Calabogie race track can be a bit tricky. My sprint was decent – but not great – admittedly I didn’t sprint as hard as I should have… I wasn’t sprinting for a podium spot since a Real Deal rider attacked in the last lap and got a small gap (yes, should have tried to bridge up to this or done the same…) and two of the other Real Deal riders were well-positioned and did an excellent job of sprinting in for the final two podium spots. In the end I finished 8th.

I’m content with the race. After discussing it with Marc – there were lots of things I did well and things I should have done differently. I felt good out there. Never over my limit. I felt I recovered well from my hard digs and from those of others. I didn’t feel “on the ropes” so this tells me my fitness is decent right now but it also tells me that I should have done more and taken more risks. The best thing though – I had a lot of fun. It is nice to be back road racing again.

Cyclo-Cross Race Reports 2011 – 2012 Season

Aspere-Gavere – Gavere, Belgium – Nov. 20, 2011
I suppose the third time really is a charm! This was my third season racing in the Aspere-Gavere race and the in the previous two seasons, I’ve been lapped and pulled… But not this year! That’s right – didn’t get lapped. Actually had a decent race. Of course as I sit here and replay the race I think of things I could have done differently, but overall it was a good ride for me.

The Aspere-Gavere course features some very fast and tricky descents combined with some leg-pounding, lung searing, “need another gear” climbs! In between these ups and downs are some flat stretches, a rather intimidating ditch, some slippery corners, patches of mud, and some false flats. Yes, a little bit of everything.

I had an okayish start but still not a start that I’m satisfied with… But for once this start “saved me” – I came around one messy crash and then managed to get by a bunch of girls during a pile-up at the base of the first climb (granted most of these girls passed me later – but at least I had some feelings of being ahead for a bit). The first time through the pits I was in 20th position and in the end I finished in 21st.

For the first couple of laps I duked it out with a couple of girls but managed to get by them on the third lap – a lap in which I had a crash on a slippery grass corner. I worked hard to put distance between myself and the two girls and tried to catch those in front of me. I would make up time on the climbs and flat stretches but loose it all on the descents – too much braking… Each lap I tried to brake less and less – but still the brakes cost me today.

I’m happy that I was able to ride the ditch with no issues (in years past I’ve run the ditch) and there was a steep bridge to get over and I had no issues with this (last year I dismounted for it) – so small steps forward. I was completely done at the end of the race – but I know that if I was able to let the bike “run” more on the descents I could be up with the group of riders ahead of me.

A big thanks to Ignace for all of his work this weekend – cheering, cleaning the bikes, maintaining the bikes, letting me stay at his place on Saturday, for supper on both Saturday and Sunday – and for being a good friend. Huge congrats to my pal and housemate Nikoline Hansen for her 10th place today! A big thanks to all of you for the cheering and photos. Many thanks to Christine and Jonas for being helpful, friendly and as ever very supportive. Thanks to Andy for coming out and helping out as well.

Hamme-Zogge – Hamme-Zogge, Belgium – Nov. 13, 2011
Today was my first Belgian race in my 2011-2012 season. After getting in three pre-ride laps, I had very good sensations and felt good about the course. Traditionally this race course is very wet and muddy – but this year with the dry weather it was super dry and fast. In fact it was a very good course for me – lots of power sections and not crazy technical.

Well, after a decent warm-up and getting to the staging area I was called up to the third row and managed to squeeze into the second row. The course featured a long drag on the pavement with left hand turn followed by a tight right hand turn, a bit more pavement then hopping a curb on to the grass/dirt. A few turns and we were by the pits, tight 90 degree turn and it was off to the one steepish climb that was followed by a quick descent, 90 degree turn and a set of stairs. Up and over the stairs down the other side and onto a big bridge (flyover) that emptied us on to a long straight stretch with a few turns, a little climb and onto another bride that also included a set of stairs. By the pits, tight turn, a left, a right, some grass riding and then another set of stairs followed by a quick descent. Long power section towards the finish with two little climbs and a few quick corners and back on the pavement.

So a fun and exciting course that required a lot of different skills. My start was not half-bad and I was able to move ahead on the grass with some aggressive riding. But it was this aggressive riding that became my undoing… I took a tight and inside line to get by a couple of girls and hit a course barrier with my left shifter. I didn’t think anything of it and kept on drilling it. When I came to the climb, there was chaos everywhere and I was able to get by about eight girls (they were nervous to remount their bikes on the descent – but likely I’m comfortable with this). Well, on the descent my bike felt a bit strange, when I turned the tight corner and tried to accelerate into the stairs I realized there was a problem – my front brakes were completely clamped on my front wheel and had slipped under my wheel. I stopped to try to fix it, decided to run up the stairs and then spent a lot of time fiddling with my bike to fix the brake. Now I’m in dead last place by a very long way. I simply put my head down and rode as hard as I could catching and passing girls. This trend continued for the next couple of laps and I was doing a good job of gaining positions – in fact I had passed the two girls who finished in front of me but was met with more bad luck – I dropped my chain when hopping the curb (so had to stop and fix this) and then the next lap I hit a big bump and my left shifter became completely loose and turned 90 degrees to my wheel… I pitted to get my spare bike and by now the two other girls were long gone. I simple focused on not getting lapped and on riding as hard as I could.

In the end I was the last one to finish without getting lapped. Not what I had planned on and not what my fitness and skills had me prepared for. Today was a course for me and it showed with the way I was able to ride through girls and not get lapped on such a fast course. We did 6 laps today which is a lot of for a 40 minute lap.

When I finished the race I was very frustrated about what “could have been”. But this is bike racing – and my friends were there to remind me of this. I got some good pointers from Nancy on ways I can improve technically and I can be happy with my fitness. I’m happy also that I was able to make small adjustments during the race to ride the technical sections better each lap. The other thing I struggled with today was very cold feet – so cold that I couldn’t feel my toes. Since I got really sick last year I’ve discovered that my circulation is not that great – so lesson learned – wear warmer socks and maybe think of putting hot sauce on my feet.

Okay, enough rambling on… A big thanks to Ignace for everything he did for me today. Huge thanks to Nancy and Andy for helping in the pits, taking my jacket and for being really good friends. Thank you to Jacob and Karsten for their help with my tires, checking over my bikes and for being great friends. A huge congrats to Nikoline for her fast ride today into 11th place (as well thanks for putting up with my whining about today’s race)! Of course none of this would be possible without Marc and his amazing support.

Tabor World Cup – Tabor, the Czech Republic – Oct. 23, 2011
Well, World Cup number two is done! After the race I was happy but having mixed feelings about my ride. I believed that if I hadn’t made the small mistakes – crashing, overcooking corners, missing my pedals after the stairs multiple times, and other little things – I would have had a better result. But after talking the race over with Marc and reviewing my lap times, I actually was right were he predicted. I had a couple of quick laps and then the last two laps were a bit slower – and this is where I made my mistakes. In other words – I overcooked myself – nice problem to have.

I do have to say my start was rotten. Series of events occurred and a bunch of us sort of stalled and missed our pedals. There was quite a bit of pushing and shoving in the first few bends and little uphill sections. I was just off the back of the group ahead of me but I made a couple of mistakes that caused me to miss them. I just kept on focusing on trying to catch the girl in front of me. I came close but not close enough to really close the gap. All in all, it was a good day on the bike.

I’m getting closer to qualifying for the 2012 World Cyclo-Cross Championships in Koksijde, Belgium – and this is the season goal. I think the best thing about this race was having different people come up to me after the race and tell me that I’m really improving and that it was a better race than last week in Plzen. This really means a lot to me – to hear people whom I respect tell me that things are getting better.

A big thank you to Ignace for all of his help this past couple of weeks. He literally did everything for me – all I had to do was ride my bike. Also many thanks to Any and Nancy for their incredible friendship – it was great hanging out with them these past few days in Tabor. Thanks as always to Luc and Kelly for the cheering and photos. Also, many thanks to all of the people I don’t know who were cheering me on today – can’t beat hearing “Go Canada” all the way up the barrier section!

Plzen World Cup – Plzen, the Czech Republic – Oct. 16, 2011
The first World Cup of the season is done! What a day it was. (I’ve written more about the actual day on the main page…)

Well, it was a goodish day today. I had a decent ride. I wasn’t last (hooray!) and I duked it out with one other girl for the entire race – actually felt like I was racing, rather than riding around alone. It was a great feeling. I was called up to the last row and I think the third last person to be called up! But the good news is I had a good start – I didn’t lose contact with the pack and I even passed a few on the start. It was an awesome feeling to be part of the big long chain of girls at the start and down the descent and by the pit. There was lots of chaos with some crashing and tangling of bikes that caused gaps to open. For a while I was ahead of four other girls – then two passed me – I tried so hard to stay with them and would pass them on the power sections but they passed me on the steep climb and I couldn’t get back on. Then for the rest of the race I duked it out with one other girl (I think a girl from the Czech Republic) – I was definitely more powerful than her but again she passed me on the steep climb and on the darn stair run-up. It was definitely a fun time and I was cross-eyed for a lot of the race. I almost made it – Katie Compton caught me just before the finish – if only I could have made it around I could have done the entire race (maybe – might have been a victim of the 80% rule).

Anyway, it was a big improvement over last year. I felt good. And it was nice to see that my power is coming back – I just have to fix some technical things – primarily getting over steep climbs – if I conquer this, I will see some big gains.

Thanks for all of the support and cheering. It was so helpful to have Ignace there to do the pits, take care of my bikes and help me out. Also great to have Gregg and Gabby there to talk to and discuss the race. Nice to talk to Luc before the race and to hear him cheering me on – a big thanks to Kelly for taking my jersey and for cheering me on each lap. Yes, a good day was had. And of course a massive thanks to Marc for waking up at 6 a.m. to listen to me stress about the course and to calm me down!

Grand Prix of Gloucester – Gloucester, Mass. – Oct. 1/2
Well, as quickly as it came it has gone – GP Gloucester is over and in the books. I wrote about Saturday’s race on the main page of this website but here is a brief recap: not a great start, struggled technically, kept my head firmly in place, continued to dig, was not where I wanted to be regarding position, did some things really well and others not so well, had fun, learned some good lessons.

Really, the race report for Sunday is not that different from Saturday with a few exceptions: had a good start for me, gave up lots of spots in the twisty bits at the top, running was not that great, power and strength are on the mark, learned that I still have to push my limits in the corners, won a few small battles, head stayed on during the race but promptly fell off once I crossed the line, learned some very good lessons, had fun.

I went into this weekend of racing with some big goals regarding my outcome. As I sit here on Monday morning with grit from Sunday’s race still in my ears and between my toes, I recognize that I aimed too high. This aiming too high has the potential to beat you down in the end. The outcomes were not what I wanted but I learned a lot about where I am as an athlete right now. I know what I need to do to get better – so this is all I can ask for from a weekend of racing.

Big thanks to Marc for all his amazing support this past weekend. Many thanks to our hosts Mike and Cathy for opening their home to us. Big thanks to Alex and Heidi for the pit support. Massive shout out to Pete for the pre-race advice and really encouraging words. Many thanks to all those who cheered me on and bellowed at me as I pedaled and scrambled by. Many thanks to Tom and Allan for putting on another great weekend of racing. Huge shout out to Deb and Richard for the very very sharp new hat – can’t wait to show it off.

Ellison Park Cyclocross – Rochester, New York – Sept. 25
We elected to only race once this weekend – deciding to have a relaxing morning at home and a non-rushed drive down to Rochester on Saturday. All in all, it was a good day of racing in Rochester. Marc had a great day – finishing second (I’ll write more about this on the main blog…).

My race started at 2:00 in the heat of the day – boy oh boy was it every hot. Really hot for cyclocross. So hot that the feeding was extended to an extra lap. I felt pretty good on race day – some residual heaviness in my head due to the head cold but nothing that would impact my riding or racing. My warm-up was spot on and I felt like I was doing a good job of controlling my nerves… and then I started to get nervous (always happens) – right before the race I just really need to hear Marc remind me about the big picture and to focus on my smaller goals for the day.

On Sunday I really wanted to have a good start. And guess what? I did have a good start, but then I screwed up… I neglected to remember that the start is basically uphill – so clicking down through my cassette really wasn’t the smartest move. I was in the front of the race and then lost a bunch of spots due to my over-gearing – sigh lesson learned very quickly on!

I got back in the groove and focused on moving up and getting past wheels. From the first few corners I noticed that my rear tire felt a bit soft – but decided to roll with it – well the tire ended up “burping” and compressing on a lot of the fast corners. This is where I learned another lesson. I pre-rode early in the morning when the grass was still damp and slippery from dew – Marc raced and used 30 PSI, so when I raced I took the same wheels/tires and let some air out. But I didn’t get out for a ride to see how this pressure would feel on the now dry and hard course. Yes, lesson number two learned – remember to pay attention to changing course conditions and to recognize that the course conditions at 9 a.m. will be very different at 2 p.m.

So the race well – I was in 8th for quite a while and was trying to catch 7th place – but wasn’t making up much ground. At one point I faded for a bit and this was all it took for Julie to catch me – this is where I learned another lesson. I decided to take a feed and Marc was past the mid-way point of the pit so when I took the bottle I stopped pedaling so I could drink – this is when I was passed. I didn’t know that I could take the bottle with me out of the pit zone on to the course.

I tried to catch Julie but admit that I was rather gassed and suffering badly from the heat. This course featured a big climb with lots of fast descending – Julie is a much better descender than me and I simply couldn’t make up the ground. I focused on my descending and cornering – looking for exit lines and really just putting as much as I could into each pedal stroke. I also had to run the one steep pitch on the course (this cost me time as well) – I simply was so gassed when I got to it that I couldn’t turn my legs over fast enough. Another lesson learned – in the morning there was a single barrier at the bottom of the pitch so it was a forced dismount – for our race the barrier was removed – I should have gone out and ridden this section.

So I finished in 9th. Very happy to have picked up two UCI points. Very happy to have cracked the top ten. Disappointed that I had 8th and lost. Disappointed that I squandered my good start. But lots of lessons learned. I also learned that I’m really quite terrible at downhill barriers… I am happy with my cornering and focusing on the things Marc showed me during warm-up. Honestly I would like a do-over for this race. I’m content with the physical effort that I put out but the little mistakes I made really did add up and became game-changers.

Catamount Race Weekend – Williston, Vermont – Sept. 17/18, 2011
Fully back in the rhythm of cyclocross racing weekends now! The second week of racing saw us make the shortish (5 hour) drive down to Williston, Vermont for some racing as part of the New England Verge Series. I wrote about day one on my main blog site, so I won’t rehash this day here. But I will say that the first day of racing really stirred up some long lost emotions and sensations.

Sunday came fast and furious (as it always does) and we were at the Catamount Outdoor Center bright and early to get in some warm-up laps and so Marc could get prepped for his 11:30 start. I didn’t race until 2:00 but I really don’t mind arriving so early. I have plenty of time to relax get in my laps and chill out. Being rushed and racing really just don’t work well together!

Marc had a great ride finishing in 5th place and it was just so awesome to see him so happy after the race!

I went through my normal warm-up and really tried to drink lots of water – I find that the warmish temperatures really make it easy to get a pasty and dry mouth out there on the cyclocross course. Sunday’s course featured lots of climbing, a challenging set of stairs, some fast descending with some really good lines (and some not so good but tempting lines), a bunch of twists and turns, uphill barriers (that felt like they were above my knee) and a fast and twisty run into the finish.

Really all I wanted out of this race was a good start and a solid ride. With this, the results will come. Well, I blew the start big-time. Completely missed my pedal, let this rattle me and really floundered. Luckily my head came back quickly and I just started the passing game. Problem is this wasted energy in playing catch-up and poor start meant I missed the early selection… I went through a bunch of girls and at one point had a group of 5 or 6 racers chasing me! Ended up duking it out with two others for a while until I really found my groove. Luckily I was able to follow Julie down the long descent and see the good lines. Before this I was really just a mess on the descent and losing precious time. With about 2.5 laps to go I realized that I needed to be the first of our group of three to the uphill barriers – because one girl was not pedalling in the corners and Julie is a much better descender than me. I attacked into the barriers and just hit it full gas – taking a bunch of risks in the descent. This worked and when I came by the pit, Marc yelled at me to keep attacking so I could open up a bigger gap by the time I hit the next big descent. This worked and I managed to put some space between Julie and the other girl (but not enough that I could make a mistake).

I really felt like I raced on Sunday. Poor start aside, I used my head, pulled out all the stops technically and really pushed myself. Seeing spots and feeling goosebumps/chills with a lap to go are a sign for me that I’m drilling it. In the end I finished in 11th. Bit disappointed because I know I had a top 10 in me. But I did beat two girls on Sunday that beat me on Saturday – and the field was a bit more stacked with a couple of new riders. So all in all, I’m content.

My biggest learning point from this race and the entire weekend of racing is to never ever give in. No matter how hard you’re breathing, how badly your legs are screaming, how steep the hill appears and how hard it seems – it is the same for everyone else.

A big thanks to Marc for all of his help, the cheering, the really kind words after the race, the work in the pits – everything – it makes such big difference for me. Also big thanks to my parents who came down for the weekend and did lots of cheering and photo taking. Thanks to all those who cheered me on and most importantly said super kind things about my racing.

Nittany Lions Cyclo-Cross Weekend – Trexlertown, Pennsylvania – Sept. 10/11, 2011
Well the first weekend of cycle-cross racing for the season is in the books. I wrote about Day 1 of the Nittany Lions Cyclo-Cross weekend on the main “blog” section of this site, so I’ll keep the Saturday report brief. Essentially it was a positive racing experience – the result on the race sheet is not groundbreaking (19th) but the racing went well – I learned a lot from the race with some excellent take-aways.

I must admit that I wasn’t that stoked for the Sunday race – the thought of slogging through the mud bogs was not appealing particularly the rotten run in the peanut butter-like mud. And unfortunately this attitude worked its way into a lacklustre first half lap – luckily I got my head back in the game after going through the pits and seeing Marc standing there. In a lap and a half I caught and passed a whole bunch of people and was pretty much free and clear in 8th position – then I made a series of mistakes all in one section of the course… Likely because I was a bit gassed – somehow kicked my rear brake into my rim (had to stop and get it out), took a bad line through the second mud bog and went off course (had to get off my bike and get back over the tape run through the mud), bad barrier technique (nearly crashing myself out), terrible running line through the mud bog (thought I’d try a line no one else was using…) – all this resulted in me giving up four spots. Sigh. I was also a tad beaten down mentally by the run in the mud (I strongly disliked it – once I found the fast line though it was much better) and the fact that we had to do three more laps (rather than two). In the end I worked myself back into tenth place and held this for the rest of the race.

I found I rode much better today. This was reinforced by Marc who said “that was the kind of racing I expected to see from you”. So this is pretty good. I rode the corners much better today – taking good lines that allowed me to continue to pedal through them and put the gas on quickly upon exiting the corners. I did a better job of looking up and ahead – allowing me to link up sections of the course. Although my start was lethargic today I was much more aggressive on the course – likely angering a few racers with my passing style… I was physically spent at the end of the race – and I pushed myself a bit over my limit for a while (resulting in the series of errors). I did a much better job of managing my gearing and finding places to recover on the course.

Still with all these positives there are some definite learning points:
– run faster – as fast as I can
– keep my head in the game and get over the fact that the race is 5, 6, 7 laps long
– start better (like I showed I can on Saturday)
– stand out of the corners and sprint up back to speed (I did this in the beginning but as I fatigued I stopped – keep doing this)

All in all, two good days of racing. I’m feeling like things will come around nicely this year.

(Huge congrats to Marc for his racing this weekend and for being a superman in the pits for me – Marc raced right before me and didn’t even get to shower or eat after his race – he was at the start, in the pits and then cleaned my bikes for me afterwards while I chatted with my pals and took a long and chatty shower!)

Cyclo-Cross Race Reports 2010 – 2011 Season

Koksijde World Cup – Koksijde, Belgium – Nov. 27, 2010
World Cup number three of the season is in the books. It was a very challenging course – as is the way with Koksijded. This year in particular – because we raced the 2012 World Cyclo-Cross Championships course today. There was a lot of sand. A lot of steep climbs and descents. Some good heavy mud sections. It is an excellent course.

My race went fairly okay. I actually beat one person and was ahead of another for a while until a last lap endo allowed her to pass me. I did all I could today. I did make a few mistakes but I got my composure and rebounded from them. I learned that one sand section I could ride yesterday I couldn’t ride today – but the first time through I fumbled around and flailed around in the sand. Next lap I remembered to just run the entire section. I rode fairly well technically – though my sand skills aren’t that great yet. I’m happy to have gotten through the big mud section on my bike. All in all it was okay.

It was disappointing to get pulled but honestly I was mentally prepared for this. Many many thanks to Ignace and Alex for their amazing pit support today. They were amazing and my bikes were sparkling after the race. Thanks to Alex for doing all the driving as well. Thanks to Karl and Denise for letting me travel with them this weekend. Thanks to Luc and Linda for the great conversation, letting me hang out in there camper and for the photos.

So Koksijde is in the books. Looking forward to racing the 2012 World Cyclo-Cross Championships in Koksijde next year….

Asper Gavere – Gavere, Belgium – Nov. 21, 2010
Well, I had a really fun day on the bike today. I felt like I was riding fairly well. I rode technically my best race ever. I handled the mud fairly well. I wasn’t all over the brakes. I rode the crazy descent (wish I only ran in the warm-up). But I got pulled – I was a victim of the 80 per cent rule. This was a real bummer.

But I can take some small victories from today’s race. I rode well. I felt good. I passed a few girls and built up gaps on them. I was closing on another girl. I dug deep on the straight sections. I did well on the climbs. I ran fast and hard (thought about short punchy steps). I rode the crazy descent and didn’t brake all the way down. I pedaled on the first muddy downhill sections. I let the bike fly.

I admit I was shocked to be pulled. I was frustrated. But it was out of my hands. I rolled back to the RV and hopped on the trainer – and got a good cool down in and vented my feelings. Many thanks to Luc for driving me to the race, taking photos and taking my clothes at the start – and of course for being a good friend. Massive thanks to Ignace for pitting for me and cleaning my bikes (my bikes are positively glowing right now). Thanks to Karl, Denise and Alex for the cheering, moral support, and for being great friends.

At the end of the day, it was a good race day. Getting pulled is not fun – but this is the reality of where I am right now. I can get better – I proved it today by pushing my technical limits during the race.

Hasselt – Hasselt, Belgium – Nov. 20, 2010
Ah, Hasselt. One of my favorite races. It really feels like a home race for me since it is a mere 30 minutes from my home away from home. Today was made even easier because I had Karl along for the race. Karl didn’t race but he brought his bike and pre-rode with me – showing me the lines, correcting my mistakes, encouraging me and being a very positive influence. And the to top it off, Karl stood in the pits for me during my race – giving me more pointers and cheering me on. Definitely couldn’t have ridden the way I did today without Karl’s help. Also many thanks to Luc for the cheering, the photos and for taking my clothes at the start and for being there at the finish with my warm and dry clothes.

So the race? Well I raced with the juniors. It was 43 junior boys and me…. I got called up third last so it was a challenge to see over the heads of these giants. The start took me by complete surprise – I had a terrible start. But I managed to put my head down and did catch one guy. I passed him after the first sand pit (I rode it and he ran it). I got through the first sand pit every single time (that training at Merivale Gardens definitely paid off today). There was a tricky off-camber followed by a little sand climb and descent. Then onto a power section, the pit and some twists and turns back to the pit. New this year was a fly-over that lead into more twists and turns and then we hit the second sand pit. I chose to run the second sand pit since the entrance to it was very narrow. After this sand pit we had another fly-over followed by a tight uphill twisty bit, a set of stairs with a fly-over descent and back onto the pavement.

I have to say this is one of my most favorite courses. It has a little bit of everything – it is fast and it is technical. As for my race – well I did okay. I wasn’t last but I still did get lapped. I got three laps in and got caught starting my second lap and the leaders were getting the bell lap. I kind of new this would happen so I just had to focus on staying fast and riding smart. Karl thought I would finish on the lead lap but then the leaders started attacking each other and the pace got faster.

All in all, I’m content with the race. Of course I would like to finish on the lead lap but I have to take small victories where I can. I improved technically as the race went on so this is a good thing. Fun day out on the bike – can’t ask for much more.

Niel – Niel, Belgium – Nov. 11, 2010
The day started out with blue skies and sunshine but by the time we got to Niel, all we had were grey skies, wind and rain. A perfect day for cyclo-cross! The course was extremely muddy. I spent a lot of time running today and trying to keep the pedals turning. The course was pretty much the same as in years past but with a tricky and very narrow off-camber – it was not (in my opinion ridable) – I ran it as did most women.

I actually had a not bad start – I still went backwards but not as quickly as normal…. Got into my groove and just focused on pedaling and pedaling. I tried to stay light on the front wheel and not get bogged down. I was chasing two other girls whom I would close on during the power/flat/dryish sections and then lose in the mud. I’m not sure of my result – somewhere in the 30s I believe.

But the key is: I finished on the lead lap, I wasn’t lapped, I wasn’t last and there were girls behind me. I feel as though I could have run harder and I need to work on spinning my legs more (an ongoing problem). But all in all, I’m happy to have raced and to have had some minor success.

Many many thanks to Luc, Johnny, and Kelly for the drive in the warm camper, the good conversation, and the smiles. Many thanks to Ludwig for the awesome pit support and for fixing my bikes. Couldn’t have done this race today without such amazing support and friends.

Canadian National Cyclo-Cross Championships – Toronto, ON – Nov. 6, 2010
Well, in the spring and summer when my coach and I were looking ahead to the cyclo-cross season, one of the goals was a top five finish at cyclo-cross nationals. This did not happen. I didn’t even come close to a top five finish. I finished 16th. Very very far from my goals. In fact my worst finish at nationals in two years. But, I finished.

Some would be very disappointed with this ride. I am not thrilled. But it was all I could do on the day. I got beat by people that I’ve beaten in the past. I really don’t have a lot to say about the race. I went as hard as I could. I rode it as technically cleanly as I could. I’m happy with how I rode the off-camber section on the hill. I dug super deep on all the straight sections. I tried to take smart lines into the twisty turny stuff and focus on the entrance and exit of the turns. I did a good job of keeping my feet moving and always pedaling. I kept my eyes up and focused forward. I didn’t let any negative thoughts creep into my head. I just focused on each lap and trying to ride each section a bit better and a bit faster. I’m disappointed that I had to run the two climbs – this I need to fix. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t aggressive at the start. But I did it.

Many many thanks for the cheering and the words of support. It was awesome to have my parents, Gregory, Liz and Henry out there cheering me on. Thanks to the guy on the hill who was just amazing – I didn’t get to look at you to see your face – but whoever you are – you helped so much. Between this guy (dressed in black) and my brother I felt like I had wings on that hill – their cheering and encouragement was amazing. A huge congratulations to Wendy Simms for winning the race – a true champion and an excellent role model. It was a great day at the races and I’m happy to have been able to take part.

Kanata OBC Cyclo-Cross – Kanata, ON – Oct. 31, 2010
Here is a race report from Timothy Austen about Sunday’s race in the snow at the Kanata Rec Center. Thanks Timothy for the race report.

Ahhh five thirty am starts my weekly tradition of the ‘cross season. The downside of being the race organizer’s son. Cycling clothes on, breakfast of champions (Nutella and banana bread) in my stomach and on the road we were. It wasn’t until the car ride that I grasped what the conditions actually were like – 5 cm of snow. My friends took the cross country skis and skiied on trails near Mackenzie King. It was cold and it was snowy, riding in the cold I had done, riding in the snow – my experience at that was little more than none.

After I did some course work, I headed to the car to get my numbers on grab a bottle and attempt to pre-ride. I got some advice from Eric Betteridge on how not to totally fail, which was nice, because I needed that. He particularly helped me with uphill run and the super difficult dismount section. I was good through the twisty bit and ride up. So I was pretty set for the race.

Ahh the race, lined up next to my youth rivals and we were off. My start was good no not good my start was awesome I was riding about 20th place and I was for once clipped in. My whole first lap was good. The tough uphill run section was tough but I got the bike on and off my shoulder pretty quick and got past a rival of mine Derek Gee. I never saw him again but he had some mechanical problems so it was sort of an empty victory. On the second lap I was feeling good on the ride up so I attacked and got a gap on another rival. I got in a fast moving group which was good because I gapped my rival. I had a pretty clean rest of the lap besides seeing Vytas get taken away via ambulance, heal up quick Vytas. My third lap was a little wonky, I had some trouble with the pedals, I got passed by a few people and I nearly posted myself to a message board next to a corner and slipped but stuck the foot out trying to pass someone on the final corner (foreshadowing). The fourth and fifth laps were pretty dull I yo-yoed in and out of groups got passed but only by older people. My last lap was a little bit of a disaster. Took me 500 meters to clip in one time, I bonked a little and lost my top thirty spot. But maintained my clean race. Until the final corner where I tried to get around somebody before the sprint. But hit a stake and face planted pretty hard. I ran the last 50 M and lost only one place. Thanks for reading.

Rochester UCI Race – Rochester, N.Y. – Sept. 26, 2010
After a day at home to catch my breathe, we were up very early on Sunday morning for the 4.5 hour drive to Rochester, New York. I was pretty wiped out so Marc was stuck with the bulk of the driving (thanks Marc!). Arrived at the race course with time to get a few laps in and get warmed up.

What a course! Hilly. Really hilly. Steep climbs. Long climbs. Short kickers. False flats. Really this course had every type of climb you could put in a ‘cross course. Oh and it was all on super long grass. A challenging course and one that I let get into my head. My enthusiasm for the race dwindled the more I pre-rode the course. Not good. Oh well, we came all this way so I could race so that’s what I would do.

I had a front row call-up and therefore a good spot on the start line. We were a small field of 13 riders so really call-ups weren’t that important. I had a good start – I popped off the line really quickly but then backed off and didn’t keep sprinting…. I forgot to shift again and started to go backwards in the start. I put myself in a bad spot and pretty much stayed there for the rest of the race. I didn’t ride well. My head was full of nasty thoughts. I didn’t want to be there. And to put it plainly, it was a bad day on the bike. No excuses. (Yes, I’m fighting an ulcerative colitis flare and yes I hadn’t eaten in 7.5 hours but still this is no excuse for my attitude and mental state.)

Not much else to say about this race. It was not my shining moment and one that I would like to “do-over”. Lots of lessons learned. Lots of tears shed. Lots of negative thoughts swirling in my head. Not a good day on the bike. It won’t happen again.

(Congrats to Sophie and Melissa of Stevens Racing for their awesome rides. I can learn a lot from these two competitors and fine people.)

Big thanks to Marc for driving me around, giving up his day and for just being himself.

Cross Vegas – Las Vegas, Nevada – Sept. 22, 2010
Cross Vegas! Yes this race does live up to the hype. This is a race that I wish everyone could do. The crowd is solid. The atmosphere is energetic. The course is darn hard. All in all it is a fantastic race experience. Never before have I raced at night so this was a new experience. The goal was to take it easy on Wednesday with a few errands in the morning and then relaxation at the hotel. Pretty happy to say it all came together perfectly.

Thanks to the KingsBridge guys for the amazing support and patience when as race time got closer I did (admittedly) get a little “short”. Pre-riding and pre-race warm-up went really well. Thanks to the loan of the trainer (thanks Dave Smith of the Element Hotel for arranging this!), I was able to to my standard race warm-up. It was fun to catch-up with lots of racing friends and to hang out with the Stevens Bikes crew before the race.

I had a second row call-up and stuck myself behind Amy D. (a fast and reliable wheel – and second place finisher at Cross Vegas). We had a 2.5 minutes to start warning and then bam the whistle was blown. I think a few were caught off guard but I got off to a great start. In fact my best start ever – I made it into the lead group and was just trying to stay glued to the wheel in front of me. The first time we went through the pits I was in 18th position and then somewhere after the first stair run-up I exploded.

I lost wheels and couldn’t grab the wheels that went by me. Sigh. From then on I just focused on pedaling and trying to ride as technically smoothly as I could. It was so dry and my thoughts were consumed with water – wishing I had a bottle in the pits or on my frame. The race really is a blur – I tried to catch the girl in front of me and to hold off the front of the race. When I heard that Katerina Nash had attacked the lead group, I knew it would be tough to make the 80 per cent time cut. But I kept plugging along. I did get more smooth in some sections but I have to say the climb out of the “bowl” was treacherous – the last few times up I felt like I was barely moving.

In the end I did get pulled. I was disappointed and had a few moments of feeling sorry for myself. But I had a good talk with Marc and this helped me pull my socks up and be somewhat proud of my ride. Massive thanks to Steve, Skip, and Jason for their support and cheering. Thanks to Vince for the encouraging words before and after the race. Thanks to Peter for the post-race tips (next time I’ll get that hole shot!).

All in all, it was a good racing experience. I would have liked a better result – but who doesn’t want a better race result?

Catamount Day 1 – New England Verge Series – Sept. 18, 2010
Well, I had hoped to be writing you a race report telling you about my excellent result. Lets just say the result today does not measure up to the physical effort I put out. To those watching the race this might seem like a surprising thing to read. But it is the truth – I couldn’t have gone any harder today. There was no recovery for me on the course. No, I was hitting it hard the entire time. My body is just not giving me what I want right now. This is not a mental thing. No this unfortunately is a medical thing.

To put it out there, I’m sick. Not head cold/sore throat/flu sick. No I’m really really sick. My ulcerative colitis has been raging since the middle of May. I’ve been training and pushing through it. But I think it is finally taking over. This is so damn frustrating. I just don’t know what to do. My technical skills are really much better than last year. My head is screwed on straight. But I feel like I’m racing my body. Frustrated would be the word for how I feel.

Okay, so the race. Well I really don’t have too much to say. I started not badly – I didn’t pop off the line but I didn’t go backwards. I settled in on and the climb and I could tell from my body signals that I was giving it. It just wasn’t enough. The goal quickly changed to riding as hard as I could the entire race and riding as technically cleanly as I could. These goals were accomplished. I did have a nice wipe-out on the last lap on the downhill/uphill corner climb thing after the stair run-up. Smacked the ground pretty hard. Ended up having to pit. My dad did an amazing job – his first pit exchange ever. It was smooth like butter. Thanks Dad! I felt like my barrier technique was solid today. I attacked the corners. I didn’t touch my front brake. These are pluses. But still I just can’t beat my body.

This is hard. Really hard. I had two amazing seasons and now I’m battling my body every time I line-up or go out for a training ride. Really, I’m at a loss. All I can do is keep lining up and take what I can from each race. My focus has to shift from the results to what can I learn from this race course that will pay off when I’m healthy again?

Thanks for the cheering out there today. It means so much to hear you encouraging me. Sorry I’m not producing the results that I know are buried deep inside me. It will come. I just have to keep plugging and fighting. This is how I got here and this is what will get me through.

Kirkland, New York – Sept. 12, 2010
Day two of the opening weekend double-header saw us driving to Kirkland, New York for a ‘cross race. I’m really happy we went. I needed this race. It still wasn’t my best ride of the year but it was better than the mess on Saturday.

We arrived to find a long course that combined lots of tall soggy grass with some fun singletrack, slippery and greasy mud, a challenging run-up, a deep sand pit, and more long sloppy grass. Luckily when I raced it wasn’t raining but the overnight rain and early morning rain had made the course very sluggish and slow. After a quick warm-up and some number pinning, it was time to line up.

The women raced at the same time as the singlespeed men (only five of them) – so in total we had 20 of us lined up for the start. The whistle went and I found myself out front. Two of the singlespeed guys came by and this is when I made my first mistake… Should have dug deep to bridge up to these two guys – rather I just let them go… So lesson number one – be more aggressive – don’t assume that these guys should be faster/stronger than me. The race was quickly established with myself and young Emma White distancing ourselves from the rest of the women’s field. I lead for the first lap and then on the second lap I bobbled in the sand and Emma got away from me.

This is where I made my second mistake… I kind of let her go – I didn’t stomp on my pedals to bridge back up to her. So lesson number two – very similar to lesson number one – be more aggressive! Over the next two laps I ate into Emma’s lead and caught her on the off-camber section on the last lap. I could see that she was fading and wasn’t able to ride a lot of the steep slippery climbs. I went by her on the off-camber and lead through the singletrack and to the steep run-up – I dug deep on the run and established a gap. Nice – just up and over the climb and false flat, through the pits, a ride through the sand and the last power section and I would be across the line in first place….

And then it happened. I had hopped back on my bike after the long run and had started pedaling when there was a horrible noise. I thought I had dropped my chain. Nope my rear brake had slipped below my rim. I yanked on it but couldn’t get it to budge. Sigh, time to run and run and run. Emma came by me just before the pit and the race was no longer mine. Second it was. Bummer.

But, I learned a lot from this race:
– my turning is better but I need to take more risks
– really need to let the bike run in the slipper mud – keep pedaling and stay off the brakes
– I’m much better at riding steep challenging climbs
– my fitness is so good – just need to go deep and hit it hard
– I need to be more aggressive and race with a more of “killer instinct”
– risk will be my friend and pay off with big rewards

So there you have it, opening weekend in the books. Not how I intended it to go – but it is what it is.

Cyclo-Cross Race Reports 2009 – 2010 Season

2010 Cyclo-Cross World Championships – Jan. 31, 2010, Tabor, Czech Republic

Wow! I did it! I raced at the Cyclo-Cross World Championships. And I finished on the lead lap. Massive. What a great day. What a fantastic race. I had so much fun out there.

From waking up in the morning until I hit the pillow early this morning it has just been a fantastic experience. The support I received from Marc, Alex, and Matt through-out the event was amazing. These three guys took care of everything. All I had to do was ride my bike. So that’s what I did.

The cheering from my fellow Canadians, from the Belgians, the Czechs, the Americans – it was just overwhelming. Everywhere on the course there was someone cheering for Canada and cheering me on. Amazing. The crowd at the World Championships simply does not compare to any other race I’ve done.

The race itself was awesome. I had one of my typical starts. Managed to get by a few girls in the first big pile-up before the second little bump. I just focused on riding consistently and steadily. I knew I’d be fighting hard to finish on the lead lap and one of the keys to doing this was staying upright. I had a number of close calls with my bike going sideways but I managed to keep the rubber side down. I felt like I rode fairly well. I was trying to stay with the Japanese rider just ahead of me but she was faster through the corners than I was. This as you can see from the time differential makes a big difference. But I’m still very happy with my ride. I rode well.

I couldn’t have finished on the lead lap of this race at the beginning of the season. So I’m please with my improvement. I have lots of things to take away from this last race of the season. I know that I can and still will improve. I want to finish higher in the results. And I will. But for now, I’m happy. In fact I’m ecstatic. Just sitting here writing about the race brings tears to my eyes. It was just an amazing experience.

One of my favorite moments of the race was when I came onto the start/finish straight the last time. I knew I was the last rider to finish. So I sat up, smoothed out my skinsuit, wiped the dirt off, and rolled across the line sitting up so everyone could see the red maple leaf. I really wanted to raise my hands above my head but was worried that would be disrespectful to the winner Marianne Vos. But let me tell you, I felt like the winner at that moment.

I set a goal. I worked towards it. I accomplished it. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Thanks so much for your support over this season. From the readers I’ve never met, to the people who comment regularly, to Marc, Steve Weller, Steve Proulx, Josee, Skip Williams, Vince Caceres, Luc, Alex Sanna, Matthew Knight, to all of you. Thanks so much. I so deeply do appreciate your support. You’ve inspired me. Kept me pushing on the pedals.

I promise you, this is not the last Cyclo-Cross World Championships race report you will read for me. I’ve got at least three more Cyclo-Cross World Championships left in this spry legs of mine!

Hoogerheide World Cup – Jan. 24, 2010

What a day! What a race! What a course! I had simply a great day. The race was awesome. I had so much fun. I had a smile on my face for the entire race.

My result? Second last. The result doesn’t matter. What matters is that I didn’t get lapped. I got the bell! There is nothing sweeter for a cyclo-cross racer to hear than the bell. What a sweet sweet sound. It felt so good not to get lapped. I had a solid battle going with another Belgian racer and a Japanese racer. We shuffled our positions so many times. In the end they got the best of me – but not by much.

I rode some sections really well. Others could have been better. At times I was on fire. At others, I was lagging. But all in all, I had a blast. I had so much fun. I got better in some sections. I tried different lines. I raced my bike. Finally felt like a bike racer. What a feeling. No other way to finish off my last race in Holland for the year. On a massive high.

Many thanks for the cheering, photos, line support, warm-up support, and just general support. A great day. Marc and Alex were awesome in the pits – we even did two bike changes. It was awesome to be so well supported today.

Tervuren, Belgium – Jan. 3, 2010

Ah, the New Year and a bike race – really doesn’t get much better. Now don’t worry, I didn’t go into this race with massive expectations of having a breakthrough or an outstanding result. Nope, just wanted to get out there and race my bike – to get that exhilarating feeling of endorphins, adrenaline, and fatigue. Nothing else quite like it.

Well, this didn’t happen. It turns out that I went to a cyclo-cross race and a mountain bike race broke out. Yep, that insanely technical. A couple of notches above my skill and comfort level. There is always going to be something in a race course that makes you think twice, but this was the case for the entire course. Lots of tight blind corners, super deep ruts, steep ups and downs, muddy slippery descents. One of those race courses where the rider really has to trust and know her bike and what it is going to do underneath them.

Do to the weather we arrived a bit later than possible and I only got in two warm-up laps. After these laps I really really wanted to get in the car and drive home. Luckily my friends saved the day. Jos and Nikki Harris talked me off the ledge and basically convinced me to just get out there and do it. My confidence was at the bottom. But I rationally knew that I couldn’t not race. So I did it. It wasn’t pretty. I actually wasn’t able to race – couldn’t get going fast enough to ride at “race pace”. Rather, I rode. I was slow. But I did it. In the end, a massive accomplishment. The easy route was to not ride and to cave into my fears. I didn’t do this. Instead I got on my bike and got around the course.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling “happy” about this race but I’m also not devastated by it either. I did it. And next year I’ll be ready for this race and will have the skills to actually race it. Many congrats to Nikki for her ride and a fine 2nd place finish. Many thank to Jos for driving me to the race, being my support crew – taking my stuff at the start, working the pits, cleaning my bike, encouraging me, and being a good friend. Thanks to Luc for the photos and friendly words. Also thanks to everyone cheering me on during the race: Luc, Jos, Ninna, David, Rudy, Ludowig, Daniel, Leo, and many others whom I don’t know.

Azencross, Loenhout, Belgium – Dec. 29, 2009

Traditionally, this is one of my best races of the season. The course really suits my strengths and I really have a lot of fun racing this race. Well, lets just say this was not the case this year… I had a bit of a shaky warm-up with some floundering in the mud. But thanks to Marc and some sage wisdom, I knew what I had to do.

Had a good call-up – third row. The start kind of caught me off guard a bit – that darn light is hard to get used to! I hit the mud a bit further back than I wanted but I recovered and quickly went by people. I was moving up all right. Read to play and the catch and pass game. And then I crashed. Right after the second pit before the stairs, I hit the ground. No biggie. Hopped on the bike but there was a problem – my seat was not pointing in the correct direction. In fact it was pointing in the completely wrong direction. Drat! I had to run up the fly-over and down the other side. I was in basically last place now. It took me forever to straighten the saddle. I tried to get motivated to play catch and pass but I was pretty downtrodden. But I got a second wind and told myself to use this as a chance to work on skills. Then I began crashing a lot. I simply rode to the pit – changed my bike and rode to the car.

Not good. Not the way I wanted today to happen. My first DNF in Belgium. I was feeling pretty low after the race. (I still am.) I’m trying to find the small successes from each race, but it can be damn hard when I don’t feel I’m improving like I should be.

Many thanks to Marc for giving up his day to drive me to the race, pre-ride with me, be my sports psychologist, work the pits, clean my bikes, and then fix the damage I’ve done to the bikes. Really this is not possible for me without Marc’s tireless devotion and dedication.

Zolder World Cup, Zolder, Belgium – Dec. 26, 2009

Another day, another race, another World Cup. Kind of crazy to write this. Guess it is good I’m getting used to the World Cup routine. It really is different from other races. Everything is bigger, faster, and more intense.

This was the second time for me at this race. The course was basically the same. Fast challenging descents. Some long straight sections. Lots of fans. A good race. A hard race. A challenging race. As it should be. So my race…

Well, I had a terrible start. But I managed to tag onto the back of the group and was feeling okay. Got through the first biggish descent and then up over the hill to the chapel. Things were going pretty good. Got through the left and right uphill corners. Then I crashed. Crashed on the “big” descent. The one that everyone was worried about. This is where I lost contact with the group I was with. Got myself together and tried to catch back on. Spent the rest of the race going back and forth with another Belgian girl. Eventually I caught and passed her as well as another racer. But I struggled on the big descent. It really rattled me. This is what cost me time. And ultimately, I was lapped.

Frustrating is how I feel about my performance. My legs were good. I was riding hard and fast. But I limited myself with my lack of confidence on the descent and the other technical sections. I know what to do. If only I could make myself do it. I don’t know what it will take. It is getting to the point where I’m getting ticked off with myself. I know not to use the front brake. I know that speed trumps all. The faster I go, the easier it ultimately is to get through the tricky stuff. I guess I really have to commit to that next level. Sigh. I feel like I let myself down today. I’m super strong and fit. I just can’t use this to my advantage when I’m riding at such a low technical level.

Kalmthout World Cup, Kalmthout, Belgium – Dec. 20, 2009

Today was my fourth World Cup of the season. And what a race it was! Tons of snow. Lots of fans. Lots of friends. Even more Canadians! Can’t ask for much more when racing in such a famous race. I really liked this race. The circuit even with the snow was super fast. It definitely once again highlighted my need to learn how to “relax” on the bike. Just what I want from a race – a chance to learn and practice.

So my race. Well, it was basically a crash-fest interspersed with moments of good riding combined with some “too tight hands” and “too tight upper body”. But all in all, I’m okay with it. I had a good start. In fact for me, a really good start. I passed some girls in the snow when we first came off the pavement. And then I proceeded to crash. I think I hit the deck three times before getting to the pit the first time! This was frustrating especially since I was riding around girls I’m usually not around. Ah well, another chance to learn. The problem with the crashing – apart from the bumps and bruises, is how much it slows you down. Lap two was pretty good. I was duking it out with a Japanese racer and managed to not crash. Then on the next lap, she pitted so I decided to hit it really hard on the pavement to open a gap. Well, this was a mistake. I crashed hard on the pavement. Totally slid out on a corner – never thought I’d get road rash in December! Of course this caused me to get a bit rattled. The Japanese racer passed me, I tried to catch back on but made another series of mistakes and miscues and could not settle down. This resulted in more crashes. And then I got lapped… I was on track to not get lapped (Japanese rider did not get lapped)… But I simply could not recover from my mistakes. Bummer.

But this is what makes cyclo-cross racing so challenging. Not only are an engine and technical skills required, but so are nerves of steel. The ability to settle down and take the mistakes in stride and not let them lead to further mistakes. So I learned a lot today. I learned that I can race in the snow. That I am getting more comfortable following the ruts and tracks. But that I really need to focus on relaxing on the bike. This can only come with experience and more time training and racing in such conditions where I’m on the edge of my abilities. It is amazing, at some points during the race, everything is flowing so beautifully and then the next moment well – it isn’t. The other thing I need to work on is keeping my eyes up. At times I get fixated on the tree or the tree – and then I ride into the tree! I also need to focus on pedaling! I know this but when I get nervous and my brain starts churning away, my feet stop moving.

So in the end I finished 43rd. I don’t know how many starters there were. Am I happy? No. Am I down in the dumps? No. Because I know that it is just small adjustments to my riding skills and technical abilities and I will get those next spots on the results sheet. My engine is super good. Just need my technique to catch up. It is. Slowly but surely. Super fun day.

Scheldecross, Antwerp, Belgium – December 18, 2009

This was my third time racing at Scheldecross. This is one of my favorite races. I guess probably because it was my first “big” race in Belgium.

The race yesterday went really really well for me. By reading that you might presume that I had an amazing result on the scoresheet… Nope. I finished 20th. Not bad. Not terrible. Should have been better. But this was a a breakthrough race for me… This year the course had a new dimension – a massive hill that we had to traverse twice – this meant two challenging descents. Descents that during the pre-ride on Thursday I could not ride. I was a bit stressed Thursday evening worrying about these descents. I was close to not racing… But lucky for me, I have a patient husband.

Marc and I went early on Friday so I could get in some cracks at the descents. I’m proud to report that with Marc’s help, I was able to ride down both sides. Not elegantly. But I made it down! Phew – I would be racing after all. So what happened during the race? Well I rode the one descent each and every time! The other descent – well I crashed going down it the first time so I chose to run it. But I consider this to have been a massive success and I put a checkmark in the win column.

Next thing to work on is re-accelerating and keeping my upper body relaxed. Oh and remembering to pedal at all times!

(Sorry for the short race report but I’m a bit behind with my blogging…)

Voldhoven, Holland – December 13, 2009

This was a new race for me. Nice and close by at only an hour drive.

This course was a bit different from the typical Dutch courses. This one actually seemed to have more of a mountain bike feel to it. There was a section in the woods that involved a lot of fast tight descents, steep climbs and log jumps. Was my first time riding through a corn field! Luckily there wasn’t any corn… But this was where the pits were set up. This course had its share of fast “brown stripe” riding in the woods with some serious grooves and berms worked into the ground. It also had some fun “power” sections where I could really open things up.

Goal for today was to have a better start. Well – good news – I had a markedly better start than I’ve ever had. Problem was, I wasn’t ready for the chaos that happens when you hit the woods for the first time with a bunch of girls who are still fighting for position (usually I’m at the back and I don’t have to put my elbows out and keep my spot)… So you guessed it, I went backwards rather rapidly the first time we hit the woods. Then to make things worse, I over shot a corner, got hooked up with the bar tape, had to stop, and found myself stopped and off my bike… Yes, so last again. Shoot! Okay, well I’ve been here before. Sigh. So I just did what I always do. I passed a lot of girls. And if the race had kept on going past 40 minutes, I would have kept on passing girls. Frustrating. But at least I know I can start. It wasn’t the best start I have in me. But it was certainly better than all my other starts. Now I just need to get the next part of the race sorted out.

As was the case yesterday, I continued to get faster as the race went on. This I presume is a testament to my fitness and my capacity to learn the course and get more confident as the race goes. I certainly did scare myself a few times today! So today I finished 15th. Still not good enough. I should be finishing in the top 10 in these Dutch races. At least it was better than yesterday… I did have my eyes on 14th place, but a bit of a dust-up with a junior boy during the race, resulted in me not being able to pass the next girl ahead of me.

All in all, a positive racing experience. The start was better. So I know I have it in me. I beat some girls who have beat me in the past. I know I’m fit and strong. I can see myself improving technically. I just need to pull it all together. I suppose this is the great mystery about cyclo-cross – getting it all to come together on one day.

Amersfoort, Holland – December 12, 2009

This race is always a lot of fun. I last raced in Amersfoort in 2007. The course was pretty much the same. Winding, twisting, and turning in, out and around trees. There is also a climb in this race that ends with a steep run up some stairs. Followed by a fast descent and a sharp right hand corner after negotiating some exposed roots. Yep, this course has it all.

So my race was okay. Definitely not great. But just okay. My start was rubbish. So as a consequence I had to pass a lot of girls. And on a course such as this, there aren’t a lot of places to pass – you’re either riding the brown stripe or you’re in the trees. So it took me a long while to get clear of some rather slow girls. Again, this is completely my fault. I’m getting quite good at passing people though! Marc said that again I got faster as the race went on. I did ride things much better and more smoothly as the race went on and I got some confidence in the fast corners and descents. But once again I hurt myself by putting myself so far back. The result was not great (20th) but the ride was good. Next step, have a good result and a good ride.

Raced a mere minutes ten minutes from the house today. Once again with the junior boys. But like Saturday, we had a decent number of women out to race.

This was a fast, technical and challenging course. It was a lot of fun. The course really twisted and turned in the woods at Averbode. I think we went around every tree that was in the forest… This meant lots of fast loose downhill corners, fast loose uphill corners, tons of sand, a sand run-up, fast pavement through the center of town, followed by more twists, turns, and tree dodging. This was a typical race where there was one race line – making it hard to pass other riders.

Today we lined up behind the junior boys and started with them. I had a typical start… Then got caught behind a crash… So put the head down and work on figuring out how to get by people. This resulted in a risky move in the sand and hitting my head on a tree… Eventually I settled into my position and just worked on getting faster and more smooth. This did happen. As the race went on I took more risks and was able to take the fast swooping corners in the loose dirt faster and more smoothly. I worked really hard on staying off my brakes. This was the trickiest component of the race – not braking and maintaining the momentum and power in the twists and turns in the woods. I did get faster each lap. Cool. This means I was riding better each lap. I nearly caught another girl but the super fast juniors caught me… Shoot. I nearly made it to the start of my last lap without getting caught. I really wanted to not get lapped by the juniors. At least only three of them caught me.

So again, another fun day on the bike. I learned a lot today. I learned that I do have the technical skills – I just need to push my limits in training to get them really sharp and strong so that during races, everything comes naturally during the race. The mantra of “what you do in training you will do in the race” really rings true. My one frustrating component today was the start. I don’t know what it is. I just lack aggression on the start line. It is not that I don’t have the power and can’t explode, it is just that I can’t find that “killer instinct” to unleash things during the start. I’m totally open to any and all suggestions on how I can tap into this aggression during the start. It is not anything to do with being nervous about being bumped around – I’ve been there and done that. Anyway, all ideas are appreciated.

All in all, another great day of racing in Belgium. Many thanks to Marc and Jos for their help today. Jos was at the start to take my clothes, out on the course to cheer me on, and to give me my dry clothes at the finish and of course a friendly smile. Marc was the pit man for me today – he gave me lots of encouragement, lots of excellent tips during the race, and was a super positive influence. Also got to chat with some of the the other Belgian girls – nice to make some new friends at these races. Again, I pocketed another 5 Euros – not massive amounts of cash – but it does buy a few loaves of bread!

St. Jozef Rijkevorsel, Belgium – December 5, 2009

Decided to race a bit close to home with a less than one hour drive. Good decision as we bumped into lots of friendly and familiar faces and got to race on new course. So I’ll set the stage – pouring rain. This meant extreme mud…

There was a decent number of women there so we got our own start – 15 seconds behind the junior boys. I popped off the line really quickly but then my aggression failed to kick in and I was in familiar territory…. Bit of fast pavement, followed by some fast dirt roads, set of barriers, by the pits, and then the craziness began… The bulk of the course was essentially on a muddy BMX track. The mud was insane – never raced in such mud before. I struggled on this course. I couldn’t get a rhythm on the ups, downs, twists, and turns in the mud. Due to the mud, I did some extra running.

My race was really highlighted by the crashes. I’ve never crashed so much. Some rather spectacular ones and some of the run-of-the-mill ones. I’ll be brutally honest to say that I didn’t race/ride well. I really struggled in the woods/BMX section. This course really was beyond me. I just couldn’t get comfortable on the bumps, ups, downs, mud, etc. My motto became to survive in one piece!

But there was one really good thing that came out of the day – my fortitude. I kept on going. I didn’t stop. I really wanted to. I wasn’t feeling it out there. But I stuck with it and tried to get better each lap. So I take this as a win. I finished pretty close to the back but at least I wasn’t last! In fact even got 5 Euros in prize money! So, a challenging day in the mud and the woods but a good day of racing in the end. Learned some more. Survived hooking my bars on the course tape and basically flying through the air… Saw lots of our Belgian cyclo-cross friends, including the two guys who adopted me at Kasterlee this past week, and even saw the guy who pitted for me in Hasselt. Very cool. Fun day.

Koksijde World Cup, Koksijde, Belgium – November 28, 2009

Today I raced in my third World Cup of the season. Cool! Extra bonus it was the first World Cup in Belgium. This brings with extra excitement and a heavy dose of fans. Really makes you feel the excitement when you have 20,000 people out watching, cheering, jeering and clapping.

I might as well be completely upfront with your right now. Today was not a good day for me. I just couldn’t get it together out there. I felt like I was fighting my bike. Fighting my head. Just plain old not riding the way I know I can ride. And yes, I have shed a fair number of tears today after this race. First time this happened to me this season. I don’t know why. Well, I do know why…

I expected an overnight miracle in my skill level. I put expectations on myself that I shouldn’t have done. I really wanted to today to be my day. I wanted to have a “good” day. To breakthrough today.

So the race. Had a good call-up – second row! Pretty sweet. My start was typical. Not good. But I knew things would congest in the sand so didn’t panic. Well, didn’t expect a massive pile-up in a bit of slippery mud. This caused extreme chaos. I regrouped and just put my head down. Managed to pass a few girls. But then lost ground again in the sand. Then the gaps just grew. Today was a day for technical riding. Even with the sand being packed down. I couldn’t use my power to make up for my technical deficiencies today. Riders who I typically am ahead of were ahead of me today. There were some sections that I did ride not badly. But others where I just couldn’t pull myself together. Sigh.

I finished 37th. Not good. But it is once again a hard reminder of the work I need to put in. The funny thing is I improved over the week of the UCI cyclo-cross training camp. I know in my brain how to ride this stuff – it is just connecting the dots and linking my brain to legs. It will come. Just have to remember it is not going to come overnight.

Den Haag, Holland – November 22, 2009

Made the easy two hour drive to Den Haag today to race in a Dutch women’s race. Really glad I went. The cyclo-cross races in Holland are really special. Typically they involve a thin narrow line carved into the grass and mud that twists, turns, and winds around. You have to be comfortable riding in the deep grooves carved into the ground and stay off the brakes. So lets just say I’m glad I went because I was tested on so many levels today.

The women’s race didn’t start until 3 and was the last race of the day but there wasn’t really a lot of pre-ride time since there were four races today with the first one starting at noon and then running on the hour. So basically 20 minutes between races. Arrived in time to watch the first race start and watch the leaders ride various sections of the course. I ended up being able to get in four warm-up laps between the last two races. So not bad.

This course was tough for me. Muddy. Very muddy. Tight turns in narrow grooves in the mud. An uber-steep grassy/muddy climb that descended straight down immediately into a greasy mud pit then along some slippery grass to this mud that seemed to be place on top of ice – so slippery the more tight twist and turns in the single lane mud track. A drop down next to the water… Then a quick little dismount, over a bridge, hard slog in seem wet deep grass, up a steep pitch, down the steep pitch, long off-camber, into the wind on the pavement and then back into the twisty muddy stuff. Yah, so pretty much a lot of things that I struggle with.

I was called up last out of close to 40 women… But I had a decent start. Was in a good spot coming off the pavement. But for some reason I was not as aggressive as I typically am and I did not start passing girls right away. In fact the first lap and a half I was really tentative. Took me a while to get comfortable with the speed and the slippery mud and twists and turns. I basically gave myself a stern talking to and forced myself to ride better and more intelligently. This meant staying off the brakes, attacking everything I could, looking ahead, telling myself to pedal, and going easy on the front brake. Each time I came to a tricky section I would tell myself to ride it better – for example – no braking this time. Then once I got that then the next time I came to it, it was no braking and keep the feet turning over. Good news – this worked. I got better and smarter as the race went on. And the lucky upside to this was I started passing a lot of girls. I also used my power to my advantage and drilled myself in the headwind sections (I find people ease up in the headwind) and on the pavement (again people will relax a bit here).

I passed a lot of girls. More than I should have had to… I finished 12th. Cool. Best result in Europe ever. Granted it was not the same type of field as I’ve been racing. But still some very talented and strong racers – the Belgian champion was there and won. The frustrating aspect for me was that I put myself behind by being tentative. The great thing for me is that I recognized this and learned and improved as the race went on. If there had been more time, I think I could have ridden myself into the top ten. This is good and bad.

I learned some big lessons today. I am improving. I can ride technical muddy courses. I can climb steep slippery hills. Descents aren’t that bad when you stay off the brakes. Always be aggressive – even when you get a decent start. If there is an opportunity to pass – take it. If there is a fast wheel just ahead – get on it.

All in all, I’m really glad I made the drive for this race. Met some more friendly people. Saw my old pal Harrie. Hung out with Joyce a bit. Got to go to Holland. All this and showered and home by 7 p.m. Pretty good for a Sunday.

GVA Super Trofee, Hasselt, Belgium – November 21, 2009

First time racing with the super-fast junior this season. I was a bit nervous about racing with these guys. Some of whom I was 20 years older than! But, hey you only live once…

Got to the course with time to get three warm-up laps in. What a course! Loved it. It had everything – tight twists and turns, sand patches, some little hills, tight downhill turns, slippery off-cambers, and some long power sections. A really fun and challenging course. It was pretty much dry – a bit slick in a few sections but it wasn’t muddy. The sand was super deep and heavy. Strangely, the uphill sand climb was the easiest of the sand sections.

I asked the people next to me to help me out with the pits. And luckily they said yes! Super helpful – they took my bike to the pits, cheered me on and brought my bike back for me. Awesome to have such help from strangers. Then thanks to Nikki and Nicole I was able to give my warm-up jacket to their helper. Again – many thanks.

There were 47 starters and I was called up 46th… UCI points don’t count for this race so it was the back for me. There were four other women racing today. The start was a bit nutty. Managed to hang on to the back of the group. We ripped down the start stretch and then everyone slammed on their brakes for the right hand pavement turn. Managed to get by a couple of guys here. Then more pavement and finally onto the course. The first lap was nutty going through the technical stuff. Seemed like more running than riding at times. I managed to get by a few guys again through the chaos. Then onto the power sections. Did my usual, put the head down and try to catch as many as I could. Ended up settled in with a three other guys. At times I would pass them and then one of them would pass me – continued like this until two laps to go when we had pretty much settled in. But I was still desperately trying to hold off the leaders.

Almost did it. Got caught half-way through my second last lap. Drat! So finished one lap down. Finished in 40th place. Everyone from position 24 down was lapped… So don’t feel too badly about it. Would have been nice to not be lapped. I’ll just keep digging. Got a good little recovery spin in after the race.

All in all a great race day. I found myself getting better in some sections as the race went on. I was talking to myself, reminding myself to look-up, to stay off the front brake, to make different decisions for the sand, and to pedal hard. A fun day at the races.

(I took a bunch of photos of the elite set-ups – go check out the blog post for the pictures and to read more about the day.)

Super-Prestige, Asper-Gavere, Belgium – November 15, 2009

Well, today was the first “real” Belgian race of the season for me. Yes, I did race in Niel on Wednesday. But this race was a true Belgian course. Crazy mud. Challenging descents. Raucous fans. And overzelous parking patrolmen. In short, this race had everything.

Got there in good time to get a couple laps of the course in and then quick wash of the bike and back to the car to complete my pre-race prep. Jos had set the car up so that I had plenty of room to set up my trainer underneath the massive trunk lid – allowing me to stay dry.

I had heard rumors of the course and how challenging it would be. These rumors were spot on. Oh well, this is why I’m here to be challenged to the max and to get better. Got in a good warm-up on the trainer and a few sprints on the road. The first race seemed to be a bit delayed so hung out with Joyce Vanderbeken and Nancy Bober before the race – two super friendly girls. Nancy’s helper took my jacket at the start which was a massive help. We were called to the line – I got a second row call-up today and then we were off.

As usual, I popped off the line really quickly and was in the mix and then I started to go backwards again in the start. Aargh – so frustrating. But I’m changing up my start intervals which will hopefully help. Anyway, hit the first muddy twisty descent. I passed a couple girls on the descent and was passed by a few more. It was a bit crazy and admittedly, I was rather tentative – never have I descended something like that before. Hit the first run-up – I passed some girls here. Settled into a bit of a groove. Came to the pits and promptly crashed hard. Ended up crashing into a metal barrier. I’ve got a fine blue and red welt on my left arm and a matching one on my left calf. Picked myself up and braced myself for the crazy descent. I elected to run it as I watched girls hit the ground all around me. Then it was onto a slippery ride/run-up. Passed some girls here. Got in a groove again. More descending with a tricky ditch crossing – I elected to hop off and run this. Then onto a flat section before the long and slippery climb to the pits. This climb was super challenging and I’m super stoked that I was able to ride it so well. I wasn’t setting world records on it but I was able to move my body around to keep the bike moving up the muddy hill and over these strange lips and in and out of the ruts. A lot of girls were run/walking this so it was nice to go by. Then it was a few more flatish bits, a challenging little bump that was super greasy, a long stretch of bumpy grassy mud and onto the pavement for the start/finish.

This course had everything. The other thing about this course is it highlighted my technical definicies… I would pass girls on the power sections and the climb, only to be passed by them on the descents and super muddy sections. Frustrating. But at least I know I have good legs and lungs. I can improve on my technical riding skills. This is why I’m here – to get better. In the end I got lapped. Sucks. Really really sucks. I hate getting lapped. But it is what it is. I can only get better. The true test of myself as an athlete is what I do with such experiences.

If it was up to me I’d be out riding right now. Working on getting better. But I also need to remember to rest and recovery. Tomorrow is a new day and only good things can come of it. Many thanks to Jos for her tireless support today. She had my bike fresh and clean for me in the pits – I pitted twice today. She cleaned both bikes for me after the race. Reminded me to get out of my wet clothes and to clean up. And just generally is an excellent friend – she listens to me repeat myself over and over again after races when I’m venting my frustration with how I so desperately want to get better. Thanks so much Jos – you made today a doable race for me. To top it off, Jos has arranged for a mechanic for me for the Koksijde World Cup (Jos will be away on holidays working on her tan).

So there you have it – another race day in Belgium done. More lessons learned. I’m going to do this. I’m going to get better. I so want to. Like I’ve never wanted anything before. Motivation with a capital “M”.

GVA Trofee, Niel, Belgium – November 11, 2009

Today was the big race in Neil, Belgium. My first race in Belgium. Wow – forgot how many people come out for these races. Especially since it is a national holiday here. So the race. I watched the video from last year so I was bracing for an intensely muddy affair. But I guess we haven’t had the same volume of rain. So it wasn’t really muddy. Rather soft. Some places had some mud. But really the grass was super bumpy and soggy.

This is a challenging but fun race course. Quite a good mix of pavement, grass, and some fun ups and downs. The race is located in the center of the town which adds to the spectacle. I had a solid warm-up. Gave myself more time than on Sunday. This allowed me to get my legs spinning and a good sweat on. I hopped off the trainer with about 30 minutes before the race start. I needed to get away from the spectacle and do my final sprints on the road. There were a lot of people milling about – I found it hard to concentrate on the task at hand.

Jos was off to the pits so I rolled around in just my skinsuit. Was a bit cool but my body soon adjusted to the temperature. Before the race I met Rudy De Bie – Belgian National Team Coach. He was super friendly and gave me a few tips for the race. He even checked my tire pressure for me and then told me he’d be shouting at me during the race. Nice.

I had a first row call-up today! How cool is that. Haven’t been on the front row since racing in Canada. Definitely a nice change from the third and fourth rows. One of my goals today was to have a good start. (This is a common goal for me.) So the front row call-up was definitely appreciated. The start was super sudden. We heard one minute to go and then the traffic light changed from red to green. I popped off the line super fast. And then it happened – I started going backwards. Don’t know what it is. I react to the light/whistle/gun really well and pop off the line well but then I just can’t accelerate at the same rate as the other girls. Darn frustrating. So I was in the usual position of catch and pass.

Luckily I have experience with this. So I put my head down and focused on catching and passing as many girls as possible. After three laps I settled into duking it out with two other girls. I would pass them and then they would pass me. I’d catch back on. I was getting gapped on the run-up. The run-up was particularly leg sucking as it came after a bumpy slog on the grass followed by some mud and patch of sand. Just enough so that when I started to run, my legs were ready to explode. I was able to catch back on and pass the two other girls on the pavement and longer grass sections. All except for the last lap. I had really pushed it with two laps to go because I was terrified of getting lapped. This didn’t leave me much to respond to the last lap accelerations. I kept on trying to catch them and nearly did on the last section of road. Next time, I’ll get them.

One crazy part of this course was the ditch. The ditch was literally in the middle of this long bumpy grass section. It just kind of came out of nowhere. The first time I came to it in the warm-up, I nearly crashed big time. There was no way to ride the ditch. And it was awkward to run through/over. It seemed like I took a different line everytime!

The course had a lot of fun stuff in it. Some steep bumps. A cool ride over some kind of wooden fly-over. And a steepish but wide-open descent that took us along a ridge. All in all, a very fun course.

So at the end of the day I was 18th. My highest result ever in a race in Belgium. So this is good. But I know I can do better. I need a few more things to come together and I will get where I want to be. I know my start is an issue. I talked to a few people after the race and got some pointers on drills I can do. So you know what I’ll be doing tomorrow. I also know that I can dig deeper still. I also know that my technical skills can still improve – this will come with more practice and more racing experience. All in due time. I’m just so hungry for it to happen right away. I know this is not possible. But I just so want to improve. I’m pleased with my result but not thrilled. I wanted to be i the top 15. I wanted to be ahead of a few other riders. I know it can happen. More hard work, more learning, more improvement, and I’ll get there.

Many thanks to Jos for helping me out today. She was in the pits ready for a bike change and cheering me on. Super to have this support. I could also hear a few other people cheering for me out there today – thanks so much. Many thanks to Rudy for his tips after the race and the cheering during the race. Can’t do these races without the support I get from Jos and the rest of my Belgian cyclo-cross friends. It is amazing how people are so willing to help out. Thanks so much.

Of course, thanks to Marc for talking me through my emotions after the race. It is hard when I want to do better. I’m trying to be patient and remember that it will still take time to get better. But I just want it to happen now. It is really hard to explain. Lucky for me, Marc understand this and is able to help me keep my head on straight. (Not an easy job!)

Next race is on Saturday in Zelzate, Belgium. This race is part of the Vlaamse Cyclo-Cross Cup. There isn’t a women’s race so I’ll be racing with the super-fast juniors. It will give me a chance to practice my start again, ride in the mud, and get another race under my belt.

Nommay World Cup, Nov. 8, 2009

Well, my second World Cup of the season is in the books. I won’t mince words – it was a tough one out there. But you know me, I can always find the good in the not-so-good. I’ve got a lot of lessons from this race and I’m feeling like it is the kick in the pants that I need to get out there and improve my technical skills.

Got to the course with plenty of time this morning for a good last look at the course. Went round a couple of times to test out the conditions, test the tires and see if anything had changed. I was still struggling with the off-camber – having trouble with the angle and attacking it just right. But otherwise felt pretty good with it. Some sections were a bit softer than Saturday and the descent onto the pavement had changed a bit to bit more muddy with some big braking ruts. But really nothing to get in your head.

Had a good warm-up on the trainer in our private tent and then dashed off to the start. I was called up in the third row – this was pretty smooth. Never been called up that high before here in Europe. Many thanks to Gabby Day for directing me to the best position in the start grid! So the start… Yes, it happened – world’s worst start. Terrible start. Sigh. Luckily we hit the stairs right away so thinks kind of congealed and I was able to get on the back of the group… (Yes, this is one of the lessons taken from the race.)

Managed to get by a few girls. Went back and forth with Christine V. a bunch of times. She was able to ride the off-camber section – I was not. This was a big factor for me. I couldn’t close the gap to her after having to run the off-camber. So there I was just riding for my life. After two laps I looked at the lap counter – I was expecting to see three laps to go. Nope, it read: five laps to go. This is when I knew I was in trouble. Never in a 40 minute race have I done seven laps.

I fought off the inevitable as long as I could. But I got caught and I did get lapped. I hoped to get one more lap in. But I didn’t. Such is bike racing. How do I feel? Well not great but not terrible. I’m not down on myself. I’m more realistic. This was the top field we’ve seen this year. This was my first time racing in muddy conditions. It was a short lap. I still had a good ride – I rode as hard as I could and really had nothing left. I focused on improving on each section every lap. Really, this is a good thing. This result has reminded me that I need to work on my technical skills. I’ve really got no choice – I need to improve. So I will. It is not going to be easy. But I got where I am with hardwork so it is more hardwork that I will do.

So that is the story of the race. Massive thanks to Jos for coming to the race with me. Jos did so much for me – driving, moral support, pit work, being at the start and finish, helping clean my bikes, setting up things, and just generally being there for anything that I may need. Thanks so much Jos – you made this weekend much easier for me. Also many thanks to Matt B. for helping me out this weekend – Matt took care of my spare bike, helped me change the wheels around and was just generally ready and willing to do whatever. This kind of help really does make these races so much easier. Thanks guys – I owe you both!

Kingston OBC Cyclo-Cross, Oct. 25, 2009

Have to say I had a really fun day on my bike. Just thoroughly enjoyed being a bike racer today. Can’t put my finger on one thing that made my day – suppose it was simply the combination of racing close to home, racing an OBC race, racing with a bunch of people I don’t normally get to, and just feeling no pressure. Suppose this is what it comes down to – no pressure. Just go out and race.

So the race. I honestly don’t know where I finished in the overall standings (men and women race together). Really not to bothered by the final result either. The start was a bit nutty with Sarah C. hitting the deck in the loose gravel (feel better Sarah!). I settled in and was really just riding. The first couple laps I wasn’t feeling the competitive fire. But then I decided to ride harder and push my limits a bit. Not sure what caused this – just decided it was time to get down to business. I had a blast. Ended up passing a bunch of guys and then duked it out with Michael B. of Eurosports.ca for the last two or three laps. Each time I thought I’d opened up enough of a gap on him only for Michael to come back on me on the terrace section. It was good fun.

The best thing about the race were the people cheering. This was just great. Everywhere on the course it seemed there was someone cheering for me, taking pictures and just being super encouraging. This really made my day. I had a blast.

I didn’t race worrying about my position, UCI points, prize money, mistakes I made, etc. Rather I just had fun. I tried different techniques in some sections. Tried to let the wheels run on some of the faster descents. Gave myself the opportunity to think ahead, look up, keep the legs turning and think through sections.

A very fun day on the bike. Thanks so much for the words of encouragement. It was awesome to meet some of you! See you next Sunday at Kanata Lakes.

Toronto International Cyclo-Cross Day 1, Oct. 17, 2009

Lets just start this race report by being brutally honest. I had a bad day on the bike. A really bad day. I wasn’t in the race at all. It has been a really long time since I’ve experienced such sensations during a bike race. I remembered how much I hate not being in the race.

Things really went south from the start. The whistle went, and I reacted really well. I think I’m clipped in… But I’m not – completely blew my pedal. Great. Now I’m way at the back. Hmm, well have dealt with this before. So put the head down and go. Only thing is, the course did not lend itself (for me) to moving up and making gains. I’m not enough of a technician on the bike to know how to pass people through the twisty and turny stuff. I managed to pass a few people and that was it.

I think it was pretty evident from my face about how I was feeling during the race. My apologies for this. I just had a bad day. Really it was lackluster. Sigh. Suppose this has to happen sooner or later. I’ve had a really good string of races so far this season so one not so good one was bound to crop up.

Many many thanks for the robust cheering. That was awesome. Really, the cheering and support kept me on my bike and pedaling yesterday. If there hadn’t been so many of you encouraging me, I’m pretty sure I would rolled off the course and over to the car. So I thank-you sincerely for your support yesterday. A big shout out to Rick for some awesome announcing yesterday. He definitely keeps the race interesting with his commentary. Thanks Rick!

Jim Horner Classic, Edmonton, Alberta – Oct. 11, 2009

Ah, day two of the weekend double-header. Day two brings with it so much. Plans of repeating or doing better than the day before. A chance to avenge oneself of mistakes out on the course. A chance to maybe catch that person who was just ahead. Maybe even eke out a podium spot. But, day two also brings with it some fatigues and maybe a bit of a lethargy.

I was feeling all of these things today. I was pretty wiped from Saturday – combination of racing, stress, adrenaline, and perhaps travel fatigue had me feeling a bit uninterested today. But thanks to my super-helpful pre-ride with Peter Mogg (Canadian Nationals Masters 30-39 champion), my zest for racing was re-ignited. Peter was super helpful and took me out for a couple of laps after his race to show me some lines, offer suggestions on how to ride certain sections and generally just helped me chatter away any doubts I might have had. Peter did say something that really stuck with me “You know your strengths so ride sections in ways that play to your strengths.”. This was a key piece of advice for me.

We had an earlier start time today which was refreshing. The bonus was we could warm-up on the course right before our race. So the course, the feeling of the ground and the sensations were all fresh in my mind as I stood on the line. I had a much better start today than yesterday. Still not an awesome start but better. I was in a better position – did get caught behind one girl who went sideways through a corner. But I kinda saw it coming and was able to adjust. For the first part of the race I yo-yoed with one girl until I got fed up with it and put on the jets. Then I set my sights on the sixth place girl. I caught her and was focused on catching number five. I came close, but close doesn’t count in bike racing.

It really came down to the last lap. I had ridden a very clean race. Some excitement on the fly-over when I caught my pedal on the lip going down. But luckily I just kept on pedaling. Everything was going well until a bobble in the bowl on the last lap. I didn’t hit the deck but the horizontal slide was enough to cause me to hesitate a bit and gave the rider behind me enough incentive to put on her jets. We hit the pavement with me in front. Uh oh. And as it came down to it, Jean Ann caught and passed me in the sand. Darn. She opened a little gap – enough that I ran out of real estate to catch her back.

So in the end I finished in seventh place. Same result as yesterday but a totally different ride and race for me. I rode much better today. I pedaled through more of the corners. Made sure not to lean my bike as if I was racing a criterium. I was more aggressive coming out the corners. Made sure to sprint everything. I also took more risks in the bowl. All in all, a good day on the bike. Nothing like a solid second day to round out the weekend.

Many thanks for all the cheering and encouragement during the race. Thanks to Natasha for giving me her podium flowers! Massive thanks to Alex and Marc for being stellar pit men and for cheering me on. I could hear them all over the course. My parents were everywhere today – zooming all over the place taking photos and cheering me on. (They saw me get passed in the sand on the last lap… Might even have a photo of it!) A most excellent weekend of racing: friends, family, fresh air, bikes, a bit of snow and top it off a brownie sundae for dessert.

Canadian Cyclo-Cross Nationals, Edmonton, Alberta – Oct. 10, 2009

All in all, a good day on the bike. Admittedly, not the result I was looking for. But still a good ride and result nonetheless (7th place). I wanted to make the top five. And for a a little bit, I was in the top five. But it was not to be. Such is life.

Got a nice front row call-up. Pretty nice to get this. I had a decent start but made a few critical errors in the first twisty section. I decided to take an inside line… Not smart. This caused me to have to slow drastically and I lost a bunch of spaces. I could see the train getting away. Well, put the head down and picked off the riders. I was just sitting off the fifth place wheel. Perfect.

We yo-yoed a bit. Still okay. I wasn’t at my limit so I thought I’d just wait for the “right” time to pass. Well, I waited a bit too long. In the infamous “bowl” I ended up hitting the deck. This resulted in the little manageable gap growing exponentially. I put my head down and started working on getting it back. It was working. But then I hit the deck again – this time just as I entered the start/finish straight. Now I’m in seventh. Uh oh. Panic set in. As did caution. I started taking the corners a bit too tentatively. I was closing on sixth on all the long power sections, but then the gap would open in the technical sections. Then on the last lap, I was really closing and I crashed again.

Hmm, lots of lessons learned. I learned more about how to ride in icy conditions: don’t corner like I’m in a crit… Be smart about the lines I take at the start. But there were a lot of positives as well. I did ride quite well. I felt pretty strong out there. I rode the bowl section fairly well (maybe a bit too much brake at times) but definitely an improvement over last year. It wasn’t the result I wanted. But I gave it my all, made some mistakes, recovered, and just kept on pedaling. Can’t do much more than that.

Massive props to Conor and Keirnan for their fine rides in the junior race. Huge congrats to Marc for a smooth ride to fourth place this morning in the Masters race. Congrats to Shaun A. for his solid 8th place in the elite races. A great day of racing for the Ottawa crowd. Many thanks for the cheering out there on the course today – makes a massive difference when you’re out there having fun on bikes. Big thanks for my parents for coming out and braving the cold and taking lots of race pics.

Treviso World Cup, Treviso, Italy – Oct. 4, 2009

A World Cup! Wow! Pretty cool to be writing a race report for a World Cup. It was a good one. Good day on the bike. Really, I’m not sure what to tell you in this race report. But here goes…

Had some really last minute excitement before the race – I flatted in the warm-up! Uh oh. Totally a rookie mistake. I had decided at the last minute to run my clincher on the rear because I wasn’t comfortable with the wobble in my tubular. But, I only put 28 psi in the clincher… Yep, too low for a clincher. Luckily I was right next to Christine when I flatted so she was able to find Jonas – I hung out at the pit while Christine brought me a wheel. I zipped over to Jonas and he changed my flat for me. Yikes – talk about getting the adrenaline up. Many thanks to Christine and Jonas for saving my day and my race!

So after this excitement, I found a quiet road to calm my adrenaline a bit and get in some warm-up sprints. Then it was show time. Man was it hot. Luckily a friendly guy from France gave me some water and Christine had some extra water. (I drank all of mine during my flat tire stress period!) I was called up to the last row. Kind of depressing to be one of the last ones called up. But at least I know I have nowhere to go but up!

The start was pretty insane. We started at the bottom of a loose sandy/gravely hill. I knew I needed a good start. And I had a pretty good one. I stayed with the pack! I wasn’t even at the back of the pack. The first descent was ridiculous – coudn’t see a thing with the dust clouds. I focused simply on staying in contact with the wheel in front of me. On the long climb I moved around some girls and got into my catch and pass groove. I yo-yoed back and forth with Suzie Godart a couple of times. She ended up passing me on a technical section. She was my rabbit – I came close to catching her but she really turned it on with three to go and I couldn’t close on her. So I simply focused on the next girl. I was also pedaling like a maniac because I didn’t want anyone to catch me!

The course was dry. Fast. And it was ridiculously hot. The long steep climb really was a challenge. I told myself to bury it on the run because there was a flat section and then a little drop onto the pavement where I could recover. Then it was by the pits and a drop down with a steep climb (which all the girls around me were running). Then another drop and onto the stairs. I’m pretty happy with how I attacked the stairs – no bumbles shouldering the bike or remounting. Then it was some twists and turns with some long sections, up some pavement, past the pits, a drop down on pavement and then a funny little climb and off-camber section and then back to the start/finish.

Although this was not an uber-technical course, it was still very challenging. Momentum was key. I think I did a decent job of this. I felt I got better at the downhill/uphill corners/climbs and started to ride some sections really smoothly. I buried myself on the long climb at the back of the course. I knew this was where people would slow down. I continued to push it across the top as well since there was a descent coming up. Some last lap excitement on the climb when a terrified rabbit darted in front of my wheel. I thought I was seeing things!

I think in the end I finished 28th. Not bad. I really wanted mid-20s. But I suppose there isn’t a massive difference between mid-20s and high-20s. Though the raced paid to 25th… Oh well, next time. So all in all, I’m uber-satisified. The trip was a big one. Lots of things to manage myself. But it was definitely worth it. Really glad I came over to race at Treviso. Extra bonus was getting to know Christine and Jonas. Meeting Suzie Godart and her husband. Catching up with Helen and Gabby. And chatting with Nicole de Bie for a bit after the race. Always helps to have some friendly faces around. Again, many many thanks to Christine and Jonas for all their help these past few days. So appreciated.

So there you have it – World Cup #1 is in the books. Next World Cup for me will be Nommay, France. Cool. Can’t hardly wait.

Green Mountain Verge New England Cyclo-Cross Race 2, Williston, VT – Sept. 27, 2009

Really, the only reason I’m sitting here at home typing up this race report today is thanks to an amazing support team. And I mean amazing! I had a great bunch of people looking out for me today and working some magic behind the scenes. Thanks to Marc’s eagle eyes he caught a rip and large bulge in my race tires minutes before the race (I was out pre-riding on my spare bike). Many thanks to Keirnan Orange (who was second today in the junior race) for loaning me his wheel! Thanks Keirnan. Massive thanks to Skip and Shane for helping Marc out with getting the wheels sorted, getting my race bike and keeping all this chaos to themselves. Must also be mentioned that seeing Keirnan rip it out there was pretty inspiring. His dad the famous Robbie O did pretty fine today as well finishing a most impressive fourth place in the 45+ field.

Then during the race, this solid support team came through again for me… Yep, on the first lap I managed to crash twice and flat my rear tire. Well, actually flat Keirnan’s rear tire… I wobbled into the pit with a slippery rear wheel – did a super smooth bike exchange (thanks J.D. Bilodeau for the catch) and thanks to Skip and Shane for rushing down to the pit to give Marc some advance notice. Hopped on the spare bike and put my head down. At this point, I was basically out of the race. Crazy thing was that today I had a better start! Oh well, get some lemons and make lemonade. The guys had my main bike ready for me by the time I came through the other side of the pits but I decided to race on the spare bike. Thanks for the amazing pit work and quick wheel change.

So, my mission after all this chaos was simply to put my head down and try to catch and pass as many girls as possible. I managed to claw my way through the field. One thing I can say is that racing from this position gave me the chance to take some extra risks and try running more speed through the slippery greasy corners. Oh yeah, the course was completely saturated as it had been raining all day – making the corners slick and the traction a bit crazy. Crazy in a fun way. The only bummer for me today was that the lap was so long so I really ran out of time, if I had some more time on the clock I think I could have ridden myself back into the elusive UCI point winning results. Ah well, can only do what I can do.

This is the first race where I’ve ever experienced a flat tire. Yep, all these years of racing ‘cross and this was my first flat. Glad it happened today. Another thing to put in my lesson binder. I have to say it is tempting to check out mentally and physically when you’re so far behind. But luckily for me this didn’t happen. I still wanted to get a decent result and ride a good hard race. This way there are no regrets left on the course.

I don’t know where I finished – can’t find the results on line. No biggie. The performance was solid so that is all I can ask for. Massive congrats to Mo Bruno-Roy for taking the win today! Also huge shout out to Nikki Thieman for nabbing the third spot on the podium – most impressive ride for Nikki. Great day of racing as usual – lots of friendly faces, cheering, and good race organization. Many thanks to all the people cheering me on all over the course. Thanks again to Marc, Keirnan, Shane, and Skip for helping me out so much today. Really couldn’t have done without you guys.

Green Mountain Verge New England Cyclo-Cross Race, Williston, VT – Sept. 26, 2009

Phew. What a day. What a race. Perfect weather – warmish but not too hot, windy and dry. The venue at Catamount is top-notch. This is the second year I’ve raced here, and I thoroughly enjoy the location. The course is challenging and unrelenting. There is something for every type of racer from long heavy on the legs climbs, tight twists and turns, a run or ride up through the woods and over some natural log barriers, fast descent to an even faster corner around the barn, the super smooth up down and around, then off to the barriers and another little twister before the false flat grind into the start/finish area.

So my race was pretty good. As per usual, I put myself in a deep hole 100 meters into the race. Frustrating! But lucky for me I have experience dealing with such situations. Put the head down, get kamikaze and get to work. Steadily and surely I was able to pull back riders and be in a decent position. Bit annoying though because I do miss the formation of the critical groups at the start. But, I have to race the hand I give myself. So I had a good ride today. I finished in a solid 9th. I was closing on the group of three ahead of me but just ran out of real estate. I’ve got to say I hate that run-up! Yeesh that part kills me every time. My strategy was to bury myself going into this in an attempt to minimize losses on the run. I felt like I improved as the race went on and just kept on trying to push myself deeper into the pain cave.

I’ve got to say, I’m pretty beat right now. Good. Sign of a good day on the bike. One of the best parts about today was the support on the course. There were people everywhere cheering for me. Thanks Skip, Shane, Jen, Skip’s Mom, Robbie O, K-Bomb Orange, Steve, Josee, Kathy, Mike, and all the other people. It really does help so much to have someone yelling encouragement. Of course, it goes without saying that Marc’s support, words as I ride by the pits and encouragement before, during and after the race are top-notch. It is going to be hard to race in Treviso without him yelling at me (guess I’ll find some Italian man to cheer me on!). So all this to say – massive thanks for the support. Also, huge shout out to Steve for taking time after his race to fix my shifting on my spare bike. Thanks Steve – I really appreciate it.

Good day. Looking forward to another one tomorrow.

Charm City Cyclo-Cross Race, Baltimore, MD – Sept. 20, 2009

Sunday came fast and hot. Another fine day for a cyclo-cross race with dry dusty conditions and the hot sun blazing down on us. The race venue was Druid Hill Park – a spectacular park – huge with so many things going on and just generally it seemed to be an oasis in a large city.

The race. The race was good. The course featured longer power sections, with some climbing, a man-made stair run-up on a hill, massive cement barriers, a set of double barriers, a three-part sand pit and lots of sweeping turns in the dry dirt with more power sections thrown in, oh and a bit of single-track for an added touch. Suffice it to say, this course had everything. A nice flowy course where I was able to find my groove and apply my diesel engine. The interesting aspect to this course was the start – we started on the “prologue” section that dumped us out onto the course and we only rode the prologue for the start.

One thing I will say is that I wasn’t impressed with the pre-start business. The commissaries simply told us to get ourselves in order. No call-ups. So of course, not being aggressive and slightly bewildered that we were supposed to “get ourselves in order” I was on the second row – looking at people who I knew should have not been on the front row… So I asked about a call-up – the answer was “no call-up”! Hmm, at a UCI sanctioned race? Anyway, thanks to Laura Van Gilder for speaking up on my behalf and I was quickly on the front row…

On Saturday I had a better start than I’ve had in the past… On Sunday I regressed. A terrible start. I put myself in a deep hole and hit to dig super deep to get out of it. As a consequence I missed the lead group. (Not that I would have been able to stay with them but, if I could have made the front of the race from the gun, I could have been racing for 7th or 8th instead of riding through 10 or so girls to get established in 9th place…) Other than my non-aggressive start, I’m quite happy with my race. I had to make some kamikaze moves to get by a lot of people but they all worked out. I felt like I got stronger as the race went on and I just kept applying the gas. I really wanted to catch the girl in 8th and I nearly did – but this caused her to turn on the gas and she ended up catching the girl in 7th! I also wanted to keep things high so that the girl in 10th wouldn’t catch me. Suffice it to say I was going a bit cross-eyed. But in a good way.

Nothing like those crazy race sensations to make me dig deeper. I knew I was pushing my body when the following thought popped into my brain “after the race you can have a beer”! First off, I don’t drink – haven’t had a drink in many many years. Secondly, if I was to drink it wouldn’t be beer! This to me was a sign that I was in the “zone”. So once again a 9th place. Good. Can still be better. I’m riding much better than I did last year. Technically, I still have some things to work on (but who doesn’t?). My fitness and power are coming along nicely. I did a much better job of managing my race stress. Still not perfect but much better than last year.

Good. Happy with the day of racing. Super awesome to see Rebecca Wellons on the podium on Sunday. Massive shout out to Matt Roy for helping me out and taking my spare jersey and bottle to Marc in the pits. Thanks Matt! Great day of racing. First class organizers – very friendly and efficient. Jon Safka was out again taking photos so be sure to check out Canadian Cyclist. Good day on the bike. Definitely will be making the trip down to race Charm City next year.

Nittany Lions Cyclo-Cross Race, Trexlertown, PA – Sept. 19, 2009

First cyclo-cross race of the season is in the books. I’d have to say for the first race of the season it went pretty fairly well okay. Hmm, maybe I’ll just cut to it and say this: many pluses and a few learning points to take away from the race. Good.

The word of the day was grass. Lots of it. As the day progressed the dry conditions meant that the grass slowly eroded into the infamous “brown stripe” and in other section out and out dirt. Lots of tight twists and turns around trees and other natural obstacles. A fun technical section in the front of the course featured a crazy root section. Lots of roots. Luckily we only had to ride straight over them – my tactic was to put the bike in a big gear and hit the roots like I was riding cobbles. From the tight and twisty technical section we dropped by the double pit and hit the grass. This middle section featured more twists and turns with a few long straigthish stretches. There was one set of double barriers in the back side of the course that threw us into a soft sluggish section. Then it was up a steep little bump, pass by the double pit, around the “tree” and drop into the finish section. A fun course. Deceptively challenging. Particularly at race speed.

A pretty strong women’s field hit the line for the race. I had a front row call-up which was pretty sweet. I squeezed in between Laura Van Gilder (today’s winner) and Rebecca Wellons. Well, I had one of the best starts of my racing days. I popped off the line first. And then as quickly as I jumped off the line, I eased off. I know. I know. Not sure why I did this (old habits die hard I suppose). So the inevitable swarm happened and I was back in no man’s land. I had no choice but to put my head down and start taking risks. I needed to make up ground and fast. It took a couple of laps but I got through the crowds and found myself sitting in 8th, with 7th in my vision and 9th hot on my rear wheel.

So I did what any cyclo-cross racer would do, pedaled harder, tried to take more risks and found that zone where the race sensations are trying to take over your brain and make you ease off on the pedals. Luckily I was able to push those voices to the back and keep digging. I yo-yoed between 8th and 9th place. The girl I was slugging it out with was much stronger in the technical sections than me today. I would power by her in the longer sections and in particular in the sluggish section after the barriers. But in the end, she hit the “tree” before me the last time through and I ran out of real estate to get by her. So 9th on the day. Good. Pretty darn good.

I’m happy with my race. A lot of things went really well today. I feel did an excellent job of managing my race stress today. In addition I had a good start – just need to work on the continuity of the start. I struggled in the twists and turns but when I realized that I was over-geared going into these sections, I corrected this and was able to flow a bit better. I lost my rear wheel twice but didn’t panic. I decided to run Pipistrellos today. Thought these would be good for the conditions but with the eroding surfaces and probably a bit too much pressure, I felt like I didn’t have the traction I wanted. I knocked my head super hard on the “tree” by the pit. I’m talking hard – I cracked my helmet… But I kept on going and was able to shake it off.

So lots of really good things to take from this race and some more learning points. All in all, a good ride for me on this course. This course definitely highlighted some areas I need to work on. This is a good thing. Means there is still room for improvement. Super fun day at the races. Excellent venue. Well-organized (well, except for the prize money… we had to wait until after the men’s race to get our prize money – so we finished racing at around 3:15 and couldn’t get our prize money until close to 5:00…) But this was a mere wrinkle in a pretty fine day. Check out Jon’s photos on Canadian Cyclist.

Road Racing Race Reports 2009 Season

Ontario Criterium Championships – July 19, 2009

I’m not going to not say it: I really really wanted to win this race. Maybe too much. Anyway, fact of the matter is, I wanted to win. I didn’t win. I gave it a good go, but things did not work out in my favor. Am I disappointed? Sure, but on the flipside, I can say I did all I could so there are no regrets. Maybe I could have made some different decisions, etc. But at the end of the day, I played my cards and took my chances.

I have to say a big thank-you to Alyssa and Sophie for the great team work and team riding. They were both awesome at counter-attacking, keeping the pace high, reminding me to get off the front, and just being there in the race. It is not often that I get to race with team mates so it was a really great experience on Sunday.

As far as a race report, there isn’t too much to say. Sophie drilled it for the first few laps to get the pace high and shake up the field a bit. This worked really well and then we just started racing. I tried, Alyssa tried, other people tried, but we could not get a break established. I knew I wouldn’t win from a bunch sprint so I really wanted a break to go. But due to a combination of things, we just couldn’t get something to stick. So with one lap to go I settled into fourth or fifth wheel, I knew where I needed to be coming out of the last corner. Well, it was on the second last corner at the top of the hill where I made a big mistake. I leaned a little bit too far, and caught me pedal. My rear wheel came up (it felt like it came up really high…). I corrected myself (too much) and managed to lift my front wheel off the ground. Somehow I kept things upright. But now I had lost many spots and was sitting in maybe tenth coming out of the corner. I didn’t sprint. Honestly, I didn’t even try. I was so happy to be upright and a bit shocked with my near miss that I just kind of rolled in. Not the best way to finish a good day of racing. But so be it. Frustrating that I caught my pedal when I did but I suppose it is at the end of races when mistakes like this are made.

Ah well, a great day of racing for myself and everyone else. Had a fun time hanging out at the NRC watching all my pals race and catching up with friends. Big thanks to Bike Race Ottawa for hosting the race and putting on another excellent day of racing. Great way to spend a Sunday.

OBC Grand Prix – July 18, 2009

Well, I did it. I finally finished the OBC Grand Prix. I don’t have a great racing history with this local race. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with it. So today I had a few minor goals and I pretty much accomplished all of them. I must admit at times I was tempted to pull the plug, but I reminded myself that this year was different and that I had committed to the full race.

Actually, I had one of my better rides in this race. It was the first time I was able to stay with the lead group up Camp Fortune. But then, I lost contact with the pack during the acceleration over the top. I wasn’t ready for that and as the last man in the group… I chased and chased and chased some more. I’d got “oh so close” only to lose ground on the descents. The distance to the pack is so deceptive on climbs. Eventually I was sucked up by a group and I simply rode around with them.

I’m not sure what my final result is. But for me I’m taking it as a win. Better ride than last year. A couple of small victories: staying with the lead group, not giving up and working to catch back on, sticking out the entire race, and not beating myself up about my ride. A few more lessons learned about positioning, race tactics, and how to battle my own internal demons. Can’t really ask for much more out of a race.

Big thanks to Peter T. and the OBC for hosting this race. It is so nice to be able to attend a quality event in my own backyard. I really liked the earlier start time. (Nice to have the afternoon to flake out on the couch!)

Preston St. Criterium – June 21, 2009

Sunday saw the 35th running of the Preston St. Criterium as part of the annual Italian Festival in Ottawa. What a day of racing it was. For the first time there was a women’s category. This is really a great step forward (not a lot of women started but hopefully in a few years there will be a deep field on the line).

I had planned to ride to the race but the rain in Barrhaven convinced me to hop in the car and drive down with Marc. Thankfully, Mike Nash saved the day and I was able to borrow his trainer to warm-up in the parking lot on Rochester St. I know, warming up on a trainer? Hey, it works – I’m able to get in a focused warm-up and don’t have to worry about dodging cars and finding decent roads. Thanks again Mike! (Thanks to Paul S. for hauling the trainer over to our car for me!)

So the race. Well, we lined up with the Masters 2/3 Men field – not sure how many started. I made sure to get on the front line as I’m often “slow to clip in” and I knew the first corner was critical. It was threatening rain all afternoon. And we got it. Hard. It started to rain while we were on the line. Not cool. We raced in the rain last year and it became quite hairy (in fact I went down in the rain last year). So I became a bit nervous. More so when my rear wheel kept on slipping out on corner two. It took me a bit to get comfortable in the race and with the conditions, as such I was dangling off the main pack for a few laps. But I caught the tail end and managed to find my groove. Then the crashing happened.

There was a big crash on the second corner with the middle of the pack going down. I was just behind this. The crash split the field and a small group was able to get away. I worked with Amanda (team mate from The Cyclery) and a few other guys but we couldn’t get the group back. Not much else really happened in the race. It turns out we had more people in our pack than I realized during the race. I guess this is because so few guys showed themselves at the front to help keep things rolling. Many thanks to Amanda for her help yesterday. I was riding a bit tense and not that well technically – she reminded me of the keys of crit riding and I was able to settle down.

In the end Amanda came in for second and I finished third. Not the spot on the podium I was aiming for but I’ll take it. As I’m often reminded, I have to determine what a “win” in the specific situation is for me. For me that third is a win. I admit I was nervous in the conditions and was not interested in hitting the deck. Congrats to Jenny Trew for a strong ride. Definitely a deserved win. Many thanks again to Bike Race Ottawa for including a women’s category.

My thoughts today are with Craig Burge. Craig went down really hard yesterday and ended up hitting his head. Please send him your positive vibes.

Thanks so much for all the cheering yesterday out on the course. There is nothing like hearing your name being yelled as you’re riding around. So thanks again for the cheering and encouragement.

Brossard Criterium – Sunday May 3, 2009

I had a fun time on my bike today. Everything clicked together and the race came out fairly well. Thanks to Jon Gee and Derrick Gee for the ride/drive to the race and the great conversation. The drive went by super quickly and I was super relaxed when I got there – all thanks to my most excellent traveling companions.

Thanks to Jon I had a super relaxed warm-up. I was able to use his trainer and trainer wheel. So I could just sit and pedal in place – focusing on my warm-up routine and not on dodging cars and finding good roads to warm-up on. I plugged into my iPod and watched the Master B race. Lots of action in that race with Ride with Rendall colors flying and ripping it up. So got in steady progressive warm-up and quickly changed into my race clothing. I pulled on the The Cyclery skinsuit for the first time this season. Nothing like a skinsuit or as I like to call it a “go fast suit”.

A large number of women lined up. Not sure how many but definitely a decently sized pack. The race started fast and furious. I quickly found myself at the back and set to work moving up and maintaining a good position close to the front. It took a couple laps of dodging riders/gaps and of reminding myself to be steady in the corners. Funny, I find the first couple laps of a crit, I seem to be on my brakes (when I know better…) – this costs me of course – guess I’m a slow learner.

Two big teams were well-represented today – Specialized and Cascades. These two teams were primarily the main animators of the race with a few other smaller teams making a go for it. Lots of little breaks got away but nothing really stuck. I was riding close to the front and paying attention to the action ahead – ready to make a move if needed. At one point I found myself on the front of the pack… I know. I know. I asked myself “why am I here?”.

Well, there was a break up the road, and I really didn’t want it to get away. So why didn’t I bridge? Well it is hard to jump from the front of the pack. So I said – “you’re here for a hard training effort – so if this riding on the front kills you – good”. So ended up bringing the break back. Things settled a bit and then a three person break got away – Audrey Lemieux and Karol Anne Canul from Specialized and a rider from Cascades made up the break. So I went for it. Managed to get a gap coming out of one of the corners. Took a peak – no one on my wheel so I hit the gas and bridged to the break.

We rolled pretty darn hard to establish a gap and get comfortable. But we didn’t calm down – just kept on riding hard. I never know how hard to ride in the break so I simply fully committed myself to the effort – I really wanted it to stick. At 35 minutes, the 3 laps to go sign flashed. We were stunned – the race was supposed to be one hour. When we saw that sign, we drilled it. Things got a bit weird with one lap to go – I was on the front and the Specialized girls jumped me when they pulled through. It took me a bit but I caught back on. Came out of the last corner third wheel – Audrey is leading out Karol Anne. I tried to stay with Karol Anne when she jumped but my legs did not respond. I held second for a bit and then the girl from Cascades came by me. So third place for the day.

I’m pretty happy with the race. I’m not sure what I should have done differently. I think based on my skill set and the others in the break, I came away with a solid result.

Young Derrick was up next and he rode a super race. He chased the break solo for two laps and literally turned himself purple. Impressive ride from this young guy. We stopped at Boston Pizza for a well-deserved lunch and made it home in good time. Once again an excellent ride home with lots of laughs and stories. Massive thanks to Jon and Derrick for letting me tagging along with them and for coming into Barrhaven to pick me up at the crack of dawn.

Calabogie Classic – Sunday April 19, 2009

Well, the first race of the season is done. I’ve got to say I’m impressed with how well this race was organized. Everything worked out like clockwork – started on time, wheel vans were easy to find, officiating was sensible. When this is smooth it makes everything a little bit more enjoyable.

Small field started the Elite Women’s race. The field was heavily packed with two teams: Ultralink and Stevens. There were a couple of other pairs of riders from the same teams, and a bunch of us single gals. I really don’t think that this had a huge impact on my result – team or no team, I made a mistake that cost me.

My plan going in was to be patient. I knew that Ultralink would be sending off attacks and that these would be reeled in. This is to be expected. I stuck to it and sat in – stayed out of the wind and paid attention to what was happening around me. Or so I thought…

Well, a group of three rolled away – I didn’t think they were much of a threat and it was still a bit early in the race. Besides we could see them and I felt like we were closing on them. Then Julia F from Ultralink attacked and Sophie M from Stevens smartly jumped on Julia’s wheel. I was tempted. But I thought it was still a bit early and we could see this pair. In fact we could see all five riders who were away. I really didn’t think either move would stick.

Well, all it took was for a couple of lulls in the pack and the two groups were a bit further away. Then Julia and Sophie caught the first group of three. Yep, you know where this is going. Now there is a group of five up the road. They are out of sight and it is too big of a distance for me to bridge to. In hindsight I should of jumped when I saw Julia and Sophie dangling in front of us. But I was afraid I would end up pulling the whole pack up – but then again if this had happened at least they wouldn’t have got away and joined the other three… Arrgh, tactics are challenging sometimes.

Frustrated, I resolved to do well in the bunch sprint. Thought I had a good position. But when we came around that final corner, everything fell apart. People accelerated. I kind of accelerated. Lost the fast wheels and just drifted in.

So, what to say really? I tried to play it smart and patient. This I accomplished but perhaps I became a bit to complacent? Maybe I should have been the one attacking – since I was feeling super strong and my legs weren’t stressed? We’d all like do-overs of our races. At least I’ve got this weekend to work on the lessons learned here. It is a fine balance of being patient and taking risks.

Next up for me is either G.P. St. Martine (I need a ride to this race – are you going) or Paris-Roubaix (ack – haven’t done this race since 1995 and vowed then I’d never do it again – but I’m feeling a tug towards it) or maybe just a long training ride….

Cyclo-Cross Race Reports 2008 – 2009 Season

Surhuisterveen, Holland – CentrumCross (Jan. 14)
Not much to say about this race. Second row call up. Wasn’t riding great. Then I fell in the river. Yep – fell in the river. This ended the race for me.

Loenhout, Belgium – Azencross (Dec. 30)
Well, today was a pretty solid day on the bike. I was not to jazzed about racing today. To be honest this time yesterday I didn’t even want to race. But thanks to Marc, I raced. The course was rock hard. Solid hard ground. Super fast. After a few warm-up laps I was pretty stoked for the course. Nothing crazy scary. Just hard fast ground. Good for a diesel like me. I had a hard crash in warm-up and broke a pedal (luckily Marc had spare pedals). I managed to get in four laps on the course and then jumped on the trainer to get my legs super fresh and warmed up. Besides it was so cold that I needed to keep pedaling to stay warm!

After a second sign in on the big stage, I rolled around in the start/finish waiting for the call-ups. I think I was called up in the fifth row – not too bad considering there were 62 starters – there were 24 girls called up behind me… I had a decent start and was in a good spot and then… Then I crashed. Crashed in the twisty section – I got a bit excited, tried to take an inside line, ended up rubbing tires with the girl in front of me and crashed right off my bike on to the tape. Drat. Quite a few girls went by here. Okay, time to put the head down and catch them.

Today I told myself, if I can see them, I can catch them. So I did just that. Then if I could catch them, then I could pass them. Marc gave me lots of encouragement from the pits – this helps so much. Thanks to Jos for the cheering and for taking my warm-up clothes before the race and for being there at the end. So that was my race – see, catch, pass. I managed to do this right through the entire race. Even when Rezza H. came by me (she had a big crash on the first lap) on the last lap I dug deep to stay with her.

I had one “massive death” experience in the first lap when I hit the BMX bumps (washboard) with so much speed that I really thought I was going to die. My bike went flying and I nearly crashed out. But luckily I managed to keep it together – much to my relief and possibly this was a let-down for the crowd!

I think I rode okay today. I was slow in the twisty sections – I need to be more confident in slick turns. I rode the frozen ruts quite well – in fact I think I was accelerating over this stuff. I had a good time today. Today reminded me why I race my bike.

If it wasn’t for Marc, I wouldn’t have been at the race today. I owe him a lot for convincing me to go and ride. He gave up his day and missed a day of training to get up early, deal with my surly mood in the morning, pre-ride with me, stand in the pits, and then listen to my non-stop chatter afterwards. Thanks Marc!

Zolder, Belgium – World Cup (Dec. 26)
First World Cup is in the books. Wow – to say I was nervous would be an understatement. I’m not sure why I was so nervous – there weren’t many new riders at the race. I’ve done lots of elite women’s races in Europe now, so this was nothing new. I think it really was the spectacle that got to me. The spectacle plus the race course almost nearly did my head in. I was close to cracking before the race even started. But I didn’t. This in itself is a success.

Thanks to Tim for driving me to the race and putting up with my race nerves. Thanks to Kurt O. for the fine pitting. Massive thanks to Marc and Ed for making such an effort to get to my race after their race in Reusel, NL. They also put up with my pre-race stress and where all over the course cheering for me and encouraging me. Also thanks to D-Rock SJ for coming by before the race and giving me some kind words.

It was cold today. -2 celsius. So this meant the nice soft sand and cushy ground was frozen solid. I was not a fan of this. In fact, I sketched out so badly on the big descent during warm-up (crashed into a wooden post…) that I ended up running the descent… Not the fastest way to get down but at least I got down in one piece. There were some sections of the course that I rode quite well. Others sections that I rode better each lap. And then there were the sections that I struggled on. This would be the typical sections – the steep uphills, the fast corners, and the start.

So my result – 38th. I got lapped with one lap to go. I really wanted to hold off the leaders. But not today. Am I disappointed – still not sure. I talked with Tim about the race on the drive home – he asked me how I felt about the race. It is a tough question to answer. I’m disappointed with my result on the piece of paper. But I’m very happy that I did the race. This race drove home to me how much I need to work on my skills and on learning how to accelerate. There was no cheating in this race – I couldn’t use the road sections to compensate for technical deficiencies. Today on this course, you had to be able to ride like the best – there was nowhere to hide.

So, all this to say – I’m pseudo-content with my result. I know I’ve got more in me – I can improve my technical skills and get a handle on learning how to accelerate. The way I look at it is this – I can only go forward. I’ve done one World Cup – the experience will pay off in spades. If I don’t learn from this and improve – really I only have myself to blame. This race was a gift – I need to take the hard lessons and do something with them.

It would be easy to quit. To say – it is too hard, I’ll never be good enough to race at the Worlds and leave it at that. This is what I would have done last year. But I’m not that bike racer or athlete anymore. I’ve learned that the successes worth earning are the ones I have to work damn hard for – this is the only thing that will bring me satisfaction. So there you have it. Tough day on the results sheet. Tough day on the brain. Tough day on the soul. But most excellent day for my bike racing career and future.

Lichtervelde, Belgium (Dec. 20)
Well, what to say? I suppose with the good days come some not-so-good days. This was today. I was pretty psyched for the race when I pre-rode before Marc and Ed’s race. In fact I was looking forward to racing in the soupy mud. But by the time my race came, the conditions had changed drastically. Really thick leg sucking mud – that I didn’t deal with very well.

It wasn’t fatigue. I just wasn’t that into it. Not sure why. I had a solid warm-up on the trainer – 1 hour of pedaling in place listening to my music. Rolled to the line. Had an okay call-up (i.e. not last). And then it went downhill. Even on the road sections where I typically can drill it and make up time – i didn’t. Strange. I wanted to quit – but I don’t quit. Finally I had the race course figured out and was getting on top of the conditions – and the race was over…

Oh well, I’ve got another 13 or so races to go – so one not-so-good race is allowed. Massive thanks to Marc and Ed. Ed was at the start to collect my muddy warm-up clothes. Marc was in the pit shouting encouragement and reminding me to pit and get a clean bike. Thanks to these guys my race experiences are that much better.

Marc and Ed both had great rides today. Marc had an excellent ride – he finished 5th. He was in the lead group for quite a while and then the guy in front of him had a rough mechanical (snapped his rear derailleur). Marc was gapped but dug back hard and finished in an excellent position. Congrats on an awesome ride. Ed rode really well. He finished in 7th position. Impressive to see these two guys tackle the mud and how well they keep their legs ticking over.

Scheldecross, Antwerp, Belgium (Dec. 19)
What a course! Sand, sand, and more sand. Long flat power sections. Some challenging twists and turns. A massive fly-over. Some fast little bumps. A great course. One of the classics.

My race was pretty good. I finished 23nd. This is a massive improvement over last year. I’m not sure how many minutes down I was – but according to Marc and Tim, I wasn’t close to being lapped. I had a pretty good start – anyway a good start for me. I had a decent position and then got in a bit of trouble in the first technical section – some girls decided to run and I got caught up in the mess. Ah well, I put my head down and worked to catch them back.

On the first lap I passed a lot of girls. I caught a bunch in the sand. This was a very long run. I elected to run the entire sand today. I wasn’t confident I could ride it successfully and decided it was more effective to commit to running. I felt my running was pretty good. I did pass a bunch of girls there. I was pretty wiped out at the end of the run but found I could recover well each lap as soon as I got on my bike. I tried to use the pavement and long grassy sections to my advantage and really drilled myself there – I know I’m a bit weaker technically so I try to use long sections to get my speed back and make up ground.

So 23nd. I really would have liked a top 20. But I’m content. I’ve got lots of room for improvement. I received some excellent feedback from Marc and Tim about my acceleration and sprinting. This is an area that I need to work on. If I can get this area stronger, then I’ll have a better start and make the fast groups. So it is coming together. I know I didn’t win today or anything but really I do feel pretty good about my race today. Some perspective – last year I was close to 8 minutes down and would have been lapped if there had been another lap. Not today. Ah, so nice to see and feel some improvement. Perhaps one of the best parts was hearing Marc tell me how proud he was of me and that he can see my improvement. Also super awesome to have some words of encouragement from Tim – he saw me race last year and also said I have improved. Perspective is a wonderful thing.

Massive shout out to Wendy – 6th place finish and to Nikki for her 10th place finish. Nice to see some super friendly and devoted cyclists riding well in a world-class field. Huge thanks to Marc for pitting for me today – he didn’t even get a cool-down today. Thanks to Ed for taking over in the pits so I could warm-up. Thanks to Jos for the cheering, the support at the line, and the encouragement. Thanks for all the cheering on the course – this helps so much.

Maldegem, Belgium (Dec. 14)
This was a classic today. Farmer’s field ‘cross. Muddy. Bumpy. Twisty. Turny. Couple of steep climbs. A slog through a mud-pit that I think is considered a rode here. Long pavement stretch onto cobbles. A good hard race course.

Arrived early since Marc and Ed were racing at 11:45. Got registered and hit the course for a couple of early warm-up laps. Then I was off to the pits to support Ed ad Marc. Marc and Ed both race well again today. Marc had an excellent ride and caught the eye of more than a few of the pit men. I even got one guy to cheer for Marc! Marc finished up 6th in the Masters B race and Ed finished 11th in the Masters C race.

My race was at 2:15 so I got out for a nice warm-up on the rode. Decided not to touch the course again because it was so muddy. I started in the back of a pack of 20 juniors (there were three women today). I had a slowish start. And then started to catch and pass a some junior boys. I got close to the other woman (the other one was behind me). But I just couldn’t close the gap. I had a bobble in the mud bog. Struggled with my front derailleur. And really the lead woman was better at turning her legs over in the bumpy muddy sections. A solid ride. More good lessons. Marc watched my start and gave me a few pointers for next time. I was able to spin not badly but just didn’t have any snap in my legs. I ran fairly well. All in all, a good day on the bike.

Thanks to Marc and Ed for their help today. Lots of advice on gearing and how to ride various sections of the course. Marc did a great job cheering and encouraging me from the pits. Ed was there at the finish with my clothes and some words of encouragement. Thanks guys for helping me out so much – very much appreciated.

Varsenare, Belgium (Dec. 13)
First race of my Belgian season. Wasn’t sure what to expect of my body or brain. Got in some good early warm-up laps before Ed and Marc’s race. The course really suited me. A long pavement section. A few fun twists and turns in some woods. More straight aways with some tight turns. A couple of bumps. Two muddy ditch crossings. And more long power sections.

I started at the back of a pack of junior boys – 30 or so. These were the biggest juniors I’ve ever seen… Anyway I had my typical start. But made up ground in the first technical section as the log-jam started. Then I was able to open up on the straight sections and catch and pass some racers. Caught the other girl (there were three of us – one was behind me) and put my head down on the head wind pavement section to open up a good gap. I tried to ride steady and catch more junior boys. I went back and forth with one kiddo and then I crashed in a soft corner – this was all it took to loose ground to him. I managed to open up a big gap and was the first woman. I had hoped to not get lapped but got caught just at the line for the start of the last lap.

All in all I’m happy with my ride. There are sections I could have ridden better. But overall it was a good first race after the travel and airport escapades. Thanks to Marc and Ed for the fine pit work, cheering, encouragement, and course advice. It was a chilly day so I really appreciate that Marc and Ed stood around in the cold after their races. Marc was 9th in the Masters B race and Ed was 8th in the Masters C race. A good solid day for all of us. Nice to have the first race under our belts.

New England Verge Series Day Two – Warwick, Rhode Island (Dec. 7)
The white stuff made an appearance. It only makes sense – seems to happen every time I travel to Rhode Island to race… Ah well, no biggie. Still better than rain. Early in the day the course was pretty slippery and very much snow covered. But as more races happened, a nice brown stripe was exposed and while some sections became less slippery others became more so. One of those races where technical skills were pretty important.

I was sort of excited to race. But truth be told, I could have got in the van and driven home. Long day. White stuff. Tired. But, I needed to do this – I needed to beat my Rhode Island curse and race the second day. I got in some pretty good warm-up laps and was feeling happy with the course. A couple of sections made me a bit cautious – especially the banked pavement turn into the pit – that sand was very greasy.

Another front row call-up. Nice. But it quickly became a last place position. That’s right – I had my worst start ever. I was last going into the hole shot – not good. Shoot. In previous years I would have probably pulled the plug or at the very least resigned myself to mediocrity. But not this year – I’m a new rider. So I told myself it was time to get down to business and to get moving. I managed to move myself into 11th place by the second lap. And this is where I stayed. I had put myself into too big of a hole with my poor start and the course did not lend itself to long straight sections on which I could open up and chase down the others. So I made a big mistake and it cost me. Frustrating. I know I could have been in the top 8 again on Sunday. Frustrating.

This being said there were some good parts to my race. I dug myself out of a bad hole. I kept on hitting it after each technical section. I ran hard and focused on not losing too much time on the run. My barriers were good. I kept on going.

One annoying aspect to this race was the 12th place rider. I caught her and passed her. She sat on and proceeded to heckle and hassle me saying things like “Come on go faster – they’re going to catch us” “Go harder”. This was very annoying. So I went harder. Oh and guessed what happened – I dropped her… That will teach her!

So I learned a big hard lesson today. The start is important and I can’t rely on my diesel to dig me out of bad situations. I had a good talk with Marc about it and he is pretty convinced that if I can get my start in order, I can be riding in the top 5 or 6 in the New England series. I think he is correct. I have to spend a lot of energy going through people and then I lose so much time doing this that I just can’t make up the time gaps. Well, this is a big lesson to take with me to Belgium.

So thank-you Rhode Island – you drilled a very key lesson into my brain. I’ll be back next year to prove to you that I’ve learned.

Massive shout outs to Marc for pitting for me and for putting up my tantrum/mood after the race. Thanks to Cathy for picking up my clothes at the start and for being a super cheerer on the course. Thanks to Alex, Rick, and Sharon for their cheering. And really thanks to the other elite women – you make me want to get better and most importantly I really appreciate the friendships developed this past season and the friendly words.

New England Verge Series – Warwick, Rhode Island (Dec. 6)
Ah, day one of the double-header in Rhode Island. Finally a good day on the bike for me here in Rhode Island. As I mentioned last week, I haven’t had much in the way of fun times at Goddard Park in Warwick. But today this changed.

Had a nice front row call-up. I was intent on a solid start. Well, as usual this didn’t quite happen. Very quickly I was at the back. Okay – time to get down to business. Turned on my diesel jets and started passing people. By the second lap I was riding in 7th place with one girl sitting on. This remained for most of the race until Amy W. caught us – now we were a group of three with me on the front.

I tried to keep the pace high and kept on hitting it out of the corners and on the open pavement sections. Couldn’t shake the other two – but neither was coming around. The last time through the “short” sand, Amy W. got ahead of me but I was able to go by her and then the girl who sat on all race came by – I couldn’t close to her and she beat me by less than 100 meters. Frustrating. But this is bike racing. So I finished 8th. My best result ever in the New England Verge Series.

I can say I had a lot of fun out there today. I really felt like I was racing today. I was digging deep. Accelerating out of the corners. Trying to pay attention to exit lines. Taking risks in the corners to keep my speed up. I was happy with how I handled the sand – I committed to running – preventing any errors or bobbles. I attacked the little climb quite well. I rode the pavement well. I had a couple of near crashes – but nothing to really worry about it. I felt good out there.

One area I didn’t ride well was the twisty pavement stuff at the bottom. Not sure – just didn’t ride that as fast or smoothly as I know I can. This is probably what hampered my start. Because I actually got off the line fairly well but then I just lost so many wheels.

Yep – it was a fun day out there. Nice to have this feeling, especially after the rough slog in New Jersey a few weeks ago.

Thanks very much for the cheering today. Helps so much to hear your name being yelled. Also big shout out to Cathy for helping me with my pesky shoulder numbers – sorry for my frazzled behaviour!

One of the best things today was the other racers. I’ve gotten to know a few of the other girls and it is nice to be able to chat before and after the race about the day and life in general. This is probably one of the best parts of bike racing.

Thanks to Marc and Steve for the last minute mechanics on my pit bike. Thanks to Marc for fixing up my brakes and for telling me what tires to run. Thanks to Marc for being my top pit man and for giving me some great encouragement every time I went by. Thanks to Coach Steve for his kind words and cheering. You guys rock – thanks. Also big shout out to Alex, Sharon and Rick for their cheering and awesome words before and after the race – nice to have some people from “home” out there providing encouragement.

Mooney’s Bay – Ottawa, ON (Nov. 30)
Last race of the OBC cyclo-cross series. Only one race was scheduled due to the snow. Lower numbers were expected, but it seems that everyone came out for one last local romp on the ‘cross bikes.

Yep, there was snow. And lots of it. But the temperature was perfect for racing – 2 celsius by the time the race was over. So this made for pleasant racing and spectating conditions. The organizers planned out a fun course. Lots of twists and turns that took us all over the flat part of Mooney’s Bay. After a few laps the snow became super compacted and the race got quite fast. The tricky stuff was all the turning – staying relaxed and looking ahead helped me a a few times.

So my race was nothing to write home about. In fact I registered my firs DNF of the season. Had an okay start but got my bike tangled with an exuberant racer – this resulted in about 20 people going by me. So now I’m in not a good spot. It was hard to pass people in the snow, but I did my best and tried to get around people. I found that I wasn’t really racing – my breathing was normal and my legs felt fine – rather I was riding. That’s okay I suppose – there were a lot of people on the course and with the snow passing was hard. But at the same time it was frustrating. I learned a few good lessons about racing in the snow and was able to apply some of the skills I learned from the New Jersey mud.

I was committed to finishing my race/ride but then I crashed. Supermanned in the snow. Hit a rock. With my knee. Yep that knee. Darn knee. I knew instantly that it was bad. Ah well, picked myself up and told myself to keep going and that it wasn’t that bad. Admittedly I did not feel like continuing. Then the fast guys started coming by. Normally I can handle this. But it wasn’t a lot of fun when I was struggling to stay upright at times and having a fast dude fly by me on the very narrow track. I pulled the plug.

Do I regret dropping out? Not really. As I said I wasn’t really racing – just riding. Yes, I’d like a do-over. But such is life. I think I made the wise decision as I wasn’t comfortable with the passing, etc and was worried about crashing again. My knee – well I opened it up again. Not cool.

But, all this being said, I’m super happy I went out. It was great to see so many people racing their bikes in the snow. Seemed to me that everyone finished with a smile and some good stories. Massive thanks to the organizers for coming out and holding the race for us in less than ideal conditions.

Ontario Provincial Championships – Toronto, ON (Nov. 23)
We woke up Sunday to a frosty morning. And the snow did not melt overnight. Ah well, could always be worse and to be honest, I wasn’t in the mood for a deep mud fest so snow was kind of welcomed!

Marc and I got to the race course at Riverdale Park East with plenty of time for me to get in 3 warm-up laps of the course. I really liked the course. Some long power sections, twists and turns, a hop and step through a sandbox, two climbs, some off-camber action and two sets of double barriers. The snow made things slippery as did the gradually warming temperatures.

I raced the 11:30 race – a change from typically racing later in the day. The first race ended just before 11:00 so I was able to jump on and get 2 more laps of the course. This was super useful as I was able to check out the race lines and see where the course was eroding a bit. Marc was a big help, getting out for a lap with me and helping me assess various areas of the course. The one area I struggled with was the first climb – and as Marc predicted it was a key section of the course.

Before the start I was able to hook up with Gregory and Liz – this was super awesome. Able to chill out and relax a bit. I got myself on the front line (no call-ups were done). I had a good start – but blew out of my pedal – putting a big gash on my ankle. No worries – I’m used to this so I quickly recovered and managed to get out in front. I wanted to be the first one to the hill – never know what will happen. As predicted, the hill was critical. I struggled – couldn’t gain traction, lost momentum and had to dismount – as two other girls rode by…

I put my head down and got focused. I tried to ride everything as smoothly as possible – staying on the bike and off the ground was key. I passed one girl (Sarah C.) and was comfortably in second place. I could see the first placed girl for the entire race. I would close on her in the power sections and the second climb but lose her again on the first climb. With two laps to go – my little bro yelled at me to dig deep. So I put my head down. I managed to close a bit. Still I wasn’t sure if I could catch the leader (Laura B.).

Lots of people were cheering me all over the course and giving me time splits. One of the tricky things was getting by the Masters 2 men and Junior boys. Some of these guys would move over and let me pass – others were not pleasant at all and would deliberately chop me. Not cool. Oh well, I still got by them…

On the last lap I came down the fast descent before the pits and the leader was right there. Okay – now or never. I caught her on the last climb and took the lead. I knew I had to lead going into the twisty section – she is a mountain biker and I was pretty sure she would ride that section better than me. I also told myself to take a bit of a risk and ease off the brakes a bit sooner and to get my feet turning over. I hit the track for the one last lap and had opened up a gap. But I wasn’t too sure how far ahead I was, so I didn’t look back.

Only just before crossing the line did I look back. Cool – I’m going to win (this is what entered my brain). I stuck my hand in the air and came across the line. Nice. I must admit, it felt pretty good. It had been a long time since I’d been on a podium. And I really did want to win on Sunday. As an extra bonus I was awarded $50 as the most aggressive female rider of the day – thanks Rick!

Up next was the Elite men’s race and Masters M1 race. Marc and Steve raced in the M1 race and a bunch of other guys from Ottawa raced as well: Warren and Mike N. in the Elite race and Craig, John, and Ron in the M1 race. I missed the first lap or so because I was at the podium but I quickly hooked up with Gregory and Liz and we dashed all over the course cheering on Marc, Steve and all the other Ottawa dudes. Fun day at the races. Steve finished third and Marc finished fourth – nice riding guys!

Massive thanks to the organizers of the race. The course was well-marked and laid out. The race kit pick-up was flawless. The officials were solid and kept everything on schedule. Thanks to Rick for some excellent race announcing. The polka band was pretty cool as well. A great day at the races. The extra bonus was we were super close to Gerrad street. So on our way out of the city we stopped and jumped into a Chinese bakery for a post-race treat – nothing like some sweet Chinese buns to warm us up on the car ride home. Huge shout-out to Marc for getting my bikes ready for me and for helping me to stay calm and focused on the race.

US GP Mercer Cup – Day 2 – Trenton, New Jersey (Nov. 16)
Sunday was chilly! The weather men were correct. Strong winds and some low temperatures made for a less pleasant day than Saturday. One constant that remained was the mud.

The course was relatively unchanged from Saturday. With the exception of the start and “inner” loops – these were removed. So we had a longer drag on the pavement and then turned right taking us into the “woods” right away.

So, the race. I had a much better start. I decided to start in the big ring – this helped a lot with my acceleration. Though I did find it to be a long sprint to the hole shot. The first time through the woods was a bit messy and very crowded. I ended up racing around a small group of girls (similar to the girls I raced around on Saturday). But on Sunday I was determined to keep moving up.

My strategy for the running sections was to run as hard as I could. This way I would lose less time on the run and sort of recover on the bike. This seemed to work. I was losing time in the back woods section and would catch and pass girls on the running sections. It was so muddy that I actually had to run down the false flat/hill.

I felt I rode much better on Sunday. I worked hard at keeping my legs moving, I attacked the sand, I ran better with quicker steps, and I drilled the “dry” sections. But in the end, my result on paper was the same as Saturday – 28th.

Yes, I’m disappointed by this. I wanted to do better. I need to do better. My original goal for this weekend was a top-15. Given the conditions – I would have been happy with a top – 20. 28th doesn’t cut it. Yes, I learned a lot on Saturday that I was able to apply on Sunday. But still, I’m left with a sour taste in my mouth.

Massive thanks to Alex Sanna for the pit work. I pitted every half lap. This made a big difference. Not only was the line through the pit fast and relatively dry, the fresh clean bike made a massive difference.

Huge thanks to Marc. He was everywhere on Sunday – cheering me on, giving me pointers that I could directly apply, and just generally helping me get through the race. Thanks to Steve and Josee for the cheering as well. I was really just trying to “Move Myself”!

US GP Mercer Cup – Day 1 – Trenton, New Jersey (Nov. 15)
So yesterday I wrote about the course. I believe I wrote something about it being fast and that I was looking forward to not having to run… I jinxed us.

Overnight the race course turned into a mud bug. Nothing was fast. And I think I did more running than pedaling today. I’ve raced in quite a bit of mud – lots of it last winter in Belgium and I’ve raced in Portland. But the first muddy race of the season is a shock to the system.

My goal for this race was a top 15. Well, after assessing the course today and watching Marc and Steve race. My goal transitioned to racing well. The word from Marc and Steve was to focus on keeping things steady and smooth. Keep grinding.

So the start. Not bad. Not great. I managed to pass a lot of girls once we got onto the course. Marc was at the first twisty corner and told me to get off and run it. This was great advice. I managed to get by a bunch of girls this way. The running was crazy. Did I mention the wind? With a tailwind, I felt like a gazelle. With the headwind, I felt like an elephant. So much running. One of my favorite sections was the sand.

Yes, the sand. Not often you look forward to the sand pit. I had a super sweet line for the sand – I stayed right. I managed to get through the sand so much faster than the girls I was racing around.

Massive thanks to Alex Sanna for the pit work. I pitted every half lap. This made a big difference. Not only was the line through the pit fast and relatively dry, the fresh clean bike made a massive difference.

The really tough aspect to today’s race was the brain. It was so hard that I just wanted to stop. Especially when the leaders were so far ahead. But I beat this mental demon today. All week I’ve been talking about aggression and being aggressive today. I think I did this. I rode hard, kept my legs moving, ran hard, tried to look ahead, I didn’t get pushed around by the other riders (especially one annoying girl who was heckling me about sliding in the mud and making it hard for her to pass me…).

I was spent at the end of this race. Dead tired. I didn’t even watch the elite men’s race – I chilled out in the van and rested. One very cool thing happened – during my cool down ride I saw a deer. I was about two bike lengths from the deer. It just munched the grass and I talked to it (yes, I’m crazy).

So, I don’t know where I finished. I think somewhere in the 20s. This is where I belong for a course like today. Not what I wanted. But it is what it is. Massive thanks to Marc for the cheering and advice today. Massive shout out to Alex Sanna for the amazing pit work (he also did the pits for Marc – freeing me up to warm-up).

Looking forward to tomorrow. Thanks for the cheering and support out there. I heard lots of “Go Vicki” and “Go Ottawa”.

Centennial Park Cyclo-Cross – Day 2 – Toronto, ON (Nov. 9)
Day 2 came fast. A relaxing evening on Saturday and a good night’s sleep was had but that alarm was a jolt this morning. We stuck to our routine from Saturday and arrived at the race course pretty early – 9ish – this way we could be sure to get some laps in before the racing action started. So the racing action.

Well, remember that incredible start I had yesterday? I must have used up all my good start karma in one shot… Because today I had a horrible start. So horrible that I was second last going into the barriers. Yep, not good. My first lap – well it was not impressive. I was not into the race. But then something clicked and I started riding. Basically I simply chased down girls all race. I felt I rode the hill fairly well. I lost time on the twists and turns. So my strategy was to hammer the stuff at the top of the hill, to let the wheels roll on the turny descent and to drill the two smaller hills and the flat sections.

This seemed to work. Actually I got faster as the race went on. With two laps to go I made a big move to catch and pass a girl. Thanks to Steve yelling “You know what you have to do!”. I put my head down, clicked the gear shift and gunned it. I was worried the girl would catch me on the hill so I hammered everything to the hill and worked hard at keeping my momentum on the hill. Not bad eh?

Well, yes and no. I told Marc about this in the car when he asked how I ended up catching and passing the girl. His response “Well, why didn’t you do that every lap”. Yep – exactly. Why didn’t I? I don’t know. Definitely a lightbulb moment.

So I finished 11th. Same result as yesterday. Once again one spot out of the elusive UCI points. Darn. Oh well. 11th is okay – considering the deep field. But I can do better. I wasn’t focused today. Honestly I really didn’t want to race. The hill really psyched me out. But thankfully Ingrid Coney gave me a pep talk during Marc’s race. She told me the hill was worse in warm-up than it was in the race. I’m so glad Ingrid talked to me – she was right. Thanks Ingrid!

It’s funny the tricks the brain can play on you. I love racing. But really I could have easily not raced. I know I would have regretted it. Silly brain. So, lots of positives and things to work on from this weekend. I think I did a better job muscling my bike around the course this weekend than in past races. I really worked on “sprinting” up the hills – but I still need to learn how to sprint – as indicated by my start. I’m a diesel – this doesn’t work in ‘cross. I need to open it up from the gun and just keep going – I can handle the pain in the legs and lungs – but sometimes I’m just slow to get there. I also had vision problems today – I didn’t look ahead – I looked down – this made my exits from the turns very ugly.

So lots of puzzle pieces to put together. I’m pysched to race next weekend – I’ve learned some excellent lessons about my racing this weekend. Now I want to put them into action. Massive thanks to Marc for working the pits for me (especially since his race finished right as mine was starting). Thanks again for all the cheering – it was awesome to hear my name yelled all over the course. This helps so much. Next year I think I’ll get my name on my skinsuit – this way more people will know my name! Okay, I best go – this race report is getting a bit crazy. (I’ll post links to the photos later – check back tomorrow.)

Centennial Park Cyclo-Cross – Day 1 – Toronto, ON (Nov. 8)
Today I had a big goal for this race. A good start. A strong start. Start like I know I can. Got called up to the front row – sweet! Lined up directly behind a massive puddle. Sucks to be the puddle. 30 seconds to the start. I’m relaxed. Ready for it. Whistle goes – blam I blast off the line. I mean really blast off. I’m in second! Wow – I’m freaking out. I’m happy. I did it – finally a good start. But then it happened. I stopped being aggressive. I let girls go by me on the holeshot. Darn. Well, like I told a lady today – baby steps.

So the race started well. And it pretty much stayed fine. I caught and passed a few girls. I was riding the steep climb really well – thanks Rob for the tip. I just focused on keeping the legs turning and using my upper body (thanks Marc and Steve). I was trying to attack everything that I could. Paying attention to my lines and trying not to lose too much time on the technical sections. My weak area was after the mud bog. I elected to run the mud bog and the climb. I endo’ed really hard in warm-up so I chose to ride. I think this was the smart choice. Though even running I nearly crashed – stepped in a massive sink hole in the bog and ended up pitching forward with a bike on my shoulder. I struggled with the other two slippery climbs. Couldn’t get up them. Had to run them – this is where I lost time.

Well, another skill to work on. That’s okay. I can take some positives and negatives away from today. I rode hard. Sprinted out of everything. Drilled myself in any straight sections. Stayed focused. Had an excellent start. Now I need to work on being more aggressive – aggressive when fighting for lines and also aggressive with the course – don’t let it push me around.

Thanks so much for the cheering today. Gregory and Liz were amazing. Yelling and cheering so loudly. Thanks to Marc for standing in the pit cheering me on. I finished 11th today. Pretty good. A good race. A great race would have been two spots better to finish in 9th. The goal posts keep on moving – just the way it should be. Looking forward to tomorrow.

Cycle-Smart International – Day 2- Northampton, Mass. (Nov. 2)
Day two of the Cycle-Smart double-header. What a day. Perfect racing weather – bit cool but just right for the short-sleeve skinsuit. Lots and lots of fans out all over the course – seems to me there were more out on Sunday than on Saturday. The course was amazing – super tight and fast. Lots of twists and turns and best of all – no running!

After pre-riding the course with Marc I was pretty excited to be racing on Sunday. I felt the course really suited me. The top section would be a challenge for me – lots of turning in roots and rocks but I had some good lines (thanks to Marc) and a strategy to minimize my losses. On Sunday we went up the big descent from Saturday. I’m super happy to say that I made it up each and every time. I had to make sure I stayed left – a little over to the right and the ground was a touch to soft for me. I didn’t make it up lightning fast – but I muscled my Stevens Super-Prestige up and over.

One of my goals for Sunday was a good start. Or maybe I should rephrase that to a “better start”. I was pretty happy when Laura Van Gilder lined up in front of me. Can’t ask for a better wheel to follow than that off the start. Well, it didn’t quite work-out according to plan. Laura missed her pedal. Not that this really affected things – I was actually a little aggressive and got by a few people. There was some crazy line switching and bumping in the first corner that could have spelled disaster but everyone managed to stay upright. So the start was better. But still not good enough. I still had to get by a bunch of girls who I shouldn’t have let by in the beginning.

Coming up to the sand on the first lap I was in an excellent position – sitting on Amy Wallace’s wheel and we were moving up steadily. Then we hit the sand. Amy was smart and got through avoiding the chaos. Me – not so much. I should have ran it. I ended up caught behind a big mess and Amy was gone. One different decision in that section and I would have been racing a bit further up in the field. Another lesson learned – be flexible in tricky sections – just because I can ride a section – doesn’t mean it always makes sense.

So I spent the rest of the race chasing and passing. Eventually I was in no-man’s land just behind Chris and Linnea and without enough time left to catch them. I think they were faster than me in the top section. I rode the stop section as smoothly as I could – electing to stay in the small ring for the first few turns and then working on sprinting out of the turns. I’ve got to say those roots are bumpy – my body was being tossed around. To make up for time lost in this section, I really drilled it on all the pavement sections and really went to work on the bottom section – taking turns faster than I’ve done before and really sprinting out of everything. It seemed to work as I certainly wasn’t loosing time. But imagine how different things would be if I started better….

Anyway, I’m pretty happy with the race. I rode a steady hard race. I didn’t crash. I didn’t make any technical goof-ups (save for the first time through the sand). I passed people with authority – not giving them a chance to get on my wheel. I finished 12th today. Still two spots out of the top ten. But given the field, this was a decent result for me. Massive thanks to Marc for his support in the pit, his pre-riding advice and his advice during the race. Helps so much to have someone reliable in the pits and to hear positive encouragement and advice during the race.

Thanks again for the cheering. It seemed everywhere I went on the course there was someone cheering me. I heard “Go Vicki! Go Ottawa! Go Ottawa Cross!”. Very cool. Thanks again.

Cycle-Smart International – Day 1 – Northampton, Mass. (Nov. 1)
The first day of the Cycle-Smart International double-header. Awesome venue at Look Park. Very organized and thorough race organizers and crew. Great race. Perfect weather. Lots of fans. Tons of racers.

I’m not really sure how to start this race report. My race was kind of funny. I’m still a bit unsettled about it and its been over four hours since I finished racing. So I’ll start at the start. As you know, my starts aren’t that great. I’m typically slow to get my legs turning over. I’ve been working on my starts, but it takes more than two weeks of practice to have it all come together on race day. Anyway, to cut to the chase – I had a very bad start today. Not sure what happened. To put it simply I started very poorly. This lead to a very bad first lap.

I came very close to pulling the plug. I started to feel sorry for myself and beat myself up. But then I got my “self” together. It was the cheering that kept me out there. People were cheering for me all over the course. People I know and people I don’t know. Every turn, every climb, everywhere – I could hear someone yelling “Go Vicki! Come on Vicki”. Then when my coach popped up and started yelling at me, I realized that I had no choice. Suck it up and get going. Start racing. Stop feeling sorry for myself about the situation I put myself in and get down to business.

I put my head down and played the chase and pass game. My last half of the race was good. I just worked on catching and passing people. But it was strange, I didn’t find myself in the “pain cave” today. Maybe due to turning on the jets so late in the race? Don’t know. Won’t let it happen again.

I really like this course. I like to think it suits me. But there are two sections that I struggle with. The twisty turny stuff at the top after the forced run-up. I’m slow in that section – all I see are roots and rocks. My other weak section is the steep ride-up. I can’t do it. Well, let me rephrase – I know I can do it but my head doesn’t communicate that to my legs. So I’m forced to run it. This costs me a lot of time. Frustrating. But again, I’m doing this to myself.

So three areas were highlighted today: starts need more work (improvement doesn’t come over night – it takes time), need to be more confident in the rooty rocky sections (trust the tires, trust my skills), and I need to conquer my fear of steep inclines (this is purely a mental not a physical problem – I have the wattage and the power).

Good did come out of this race. I was in a bad spot. Mentally. But I pulled myself out of it, dug deep and started fighting. I started riding like the rider I know I am. Aggressive. Strong. Determined. I also had a strong second half of the race. The girls I caught were gassed and I was able to go through them and keep on plugging along. I felt like I rode the bottom section of the course really well. I worked on sprinting out of everything. I ran the sand well. I felt good on the run-up. The barriers were fast.

I was really mad at myself after the race. I didn’t think that I had ridden well. This was probably obvious from my body language. But after talking with Marc about the race, I realize that in the end it was a good race. I took what could have been a really bad race and turned it into something decent.

Suppose the real key is something that coach Steve Weller said to Marc “Perspective”. This is so true. I can’t loose perspective. Think of where I was. And where I am. And where I can still go.

The race is done. I’ve got another one tomorrow. Looking forward to it. (Oh, I finished 14th – still better than last year and considering the field, this is a decent result.) Thanks for reading. Thanks for the cheering – it really does help – today you kept me in the race.

Jim Horner Cyclo-Cross Race – Edmonton, Alberta (Oct. 12)

Day two of the double-header. Same location and the same course. I started the day watching Marc ride super strong to finish third! Congrats Marc on an awesome ride.

I raced at 1:00 today so after some food and chilling out time, I jumped on the course at noon for some warm-up laps. I wasn’t feeling super excited to race but new I’d be stoked once it got closer to the start. I got in three solid warm-up laps. I rode one lap with Steve which helped a lot – I was able to follow his lines and get a feel for how he linked sections together. I had a better start than yesterday. I popped off the line really quickly but again I was lethargic in getting my legs to turn over. Something I’ll definitely have to spend time working on.

I was riding fairly okay. A bit further back than I wanted but I just focused on catching girls. This was working out fairly well. I was with two other girls and feeling pretty good. Then I made a mistake in the bowl – this cost me. I wasn’t as strong technically as the other two but I was physically stronger. Well, once again, the message was drilled home – ‘cross isn’t all about wattage. I would close on the girls in the “power” sections but loose them on the back side with the ravine, then make up ground only to loose ground to them in the bowl. This went on for three laps. Tough. But it reinforced some areas for improvement in my skill set. (So this is good.)

My effort was super high today. I did not have any extra gas. But the result wasn’t stellar (13th). No UCI points today. But I did get some prize money. Massive shout out to Lance for picking up my prize money for me. Much appreciated.

Today was hard physically and mentally. As you know I had to get within 105% of the winner’s time yesterday to qualify for the selection list for the World Champs. I didn’t do this. I could still get 125 UCI points – but this is pretty much impossible for me. I would need to go out and win 6 races… So I struggled a bit today. Such is life. Such is sport. Time to sit down and work on some new goals for the season.

I had a great day today. Fun to watch Marc race. I had fun racing. Then I got to watch Steve race the Elite race. Then I got to hang out with the Adamson family this evening. To top it all off, my dad was here to really see and experience cyclo-cross racing. A great weekend. Thanks for all the cheering and help this weekend (Marc, Steve, Rob, Dave, Keirnan, Sean, and my dad) – it helped so much. Thanks for the kind words after Saturday’s race – this means more than the result on a piece of paper.

Canadian Cyclo-Cross Championships – Edmonton, Alberta (Oct. 11)

Well, my first elite cyclo-cross nationals has come and gone. What a day. What a race. Tough one today on the bike. But after taking a few minutes to think about the race and where I was last year, it was a good day on the bike in the end.

I had a front row call up so this was nice. Considering there were four rows of racers today. Pretty decent sized field. I didn’t have a great start. But in the end I think this was okay as there was a big pile-up pretty early in the race with one rider rolling her tire and another flatting. I worked hard to claw my way through the group and pick off riders.

I really just tried to keep catching the next rider and to put distance between the rider I had just caught. Some sections of the course I rode really well – the technical stuff in the bowl went well for me. The long power sections were perfect for me. The tight twists and turns were pretty decent. Where I lost time was on the technical descent, the run up the long hill (most girls rode it – bunnyhopping the log and riding), on the short descent onto the pavement before the bridge – all these sections hurt me.

But this is okay. Now I know where I need to spend some extra time working on skills and fitness. I really fought my brain today. My head wanted me to quit so badly. I had a lot riding on this race. In order to qualify for the World Championships I needed to finish within 105% of the winner’s time. So I needed to have a good one. In the end I did have a good ride. But I didn’t make the time cut.

I crashed twice in the second last lap. This was not good. I recovered from these but still crashing doesn’t help. I must admit I was pretty disappointed in myself after the race. But after talking it over with Marc and Steve, I’m feeling better about my ride. I just want to do well so badly. That it is hard when I don’t live up to my “own expectations”. But I have to remind myself that last year I would have been lapped in this race.

I don’t know how I finished. We think 8th. The results aren’t posted yet. When they are, I’ll let you know. So I’ve got another race tomorrow. Now I’m on the UCI points chase. Somehow I’ve got to get 125 UCI points by Dec. 9 or finish in the top 5 at New Jersey. So now the real work begins. I’ve got some lemons, but darn it – I’m going to make some damn fine lemonade!

Thanks for the cheering, the positive vibes, the emails – it helps so much. Massive thanks to Marc and Steve for working the pits, for helping me with the pre-ride, for cheering me on and supporting me, for putting up with some race nerves, and for just being the best bike racing duo I know – having these guys in my corner is like having an extra 30 watts in my legs. Big shout out to my dad who basically got a big introduction to cyclo-cross racing today – he was there whenever anyone of us needed him – schlepping bikes around, picking up clothes at the start, bringing wheels to the pit, taking photos, cheering us on, being there right at the end with warm clothes and a kind word. Thanks Dad!

Ottawa Bicycle Club – race #1 – Britannia Beach (Sept. 28):

Here is a race report for the first race of the Ottawa Bicycle Club race series. Thanks to Sheri Jay for the race report.

Yesterday was the first OBC Cross Race at Britania and I felt calm and confident after so much practice with Glen (Ride with Rendall) at this exact venue. When the race started all the skills and learning kicked in and my racing was much improved from last year. Actually I realized I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing last year. Yesterday’s conditions were very wet and slippery due to all the rain we have had and there were a lot of slide outs in both races. As usual there was a huge turnout of every age, skill and bike imaginable. I most enjoy watching the children giving it a go. A reporter friend of mine came out to one of Glen’s classes and her take on cyclocross is that it is like being a kid again so maybe that is what we all love so much about this sport.

New England Verge Series – Catamount, Vermont – Race 2 (Sept. 28):

Ah, another great day to be racing cyclo-cross in New England. We woke to misty weather with the sun working valiantly to poke through the clouds. The rain threatened, but the weather gods were on our side and we all raced in pretty much dry conditions. The Catamount course was quite soft and mushy this morning, but my 2:30 start time it had dried up significantly.

First up today were the boys. The race times were all shifted an hour and a half earlier today – making for a more hectic morning but an early departure time. So Marc, Steve, Rob, and Craig all raced the elite Masters race this morning. Marc, Steve, and Rob earned points yesterday so were lucky to be called up to the start grid – this makes a massive difference in a field of over 60 guys.

All of the guys got away cleanly with the three leaders establishing themselves pretty early on. From then, the chase was on. Steve road with “savage brilliance” to 5th place overall. Marc was in a group of five, working to close close gaps and riding together. Marc rode super well today and finished 10th. Craig had a banner day today – finishing much higher than the previous day. Rob came in strong as well with a very fast last lap to catch some fast guys. Everyone finished upright and with smiles on their faces – can’t ask for much more than that.

Up next were the Ottawa “young boys”: Keirnan, Conor and Karl. These three guys were getting a taste of the New England ‘cross scene and of things to come in Gloucester. I only saw snippets of the race but from what I heard from the dads, the boys all rode really well. There was an unfortunate disqualification for “taking too many steps in the pit” but other than that, everyone was pretty satisfied. Congrats guys on your races this weekend. Also thanks for the cheering and well wishes – much appreciated.

My race started at 2:30 so I had time after Marc’s race to chillax a bit. Sat in the car, read my book, ate my pre-race food – thinking I’m getting the food thing sorted out for ‘cross races now. The course today was quite different – with less climbing, a tricky u-bend, a run/ride in the woods, some fast swooping linked turns, a super fast chicane, a little stretch of mud, the infamous woods section, and another chicane, oh and two barriers. Basically all we needed was a sand pit and some pavement and we would have had most ‘cross components.

Anyway, the course was challenging both physically and mentally. I found I had to stay uber-focused on what was coming up around the next corner. This helped me to break down the course into sections and manage my energy a bit. In all of the “hard slogging” sections I really tried to drill it. I worked on riding to my strengths today – so this meant really working hard after the run-up. I lost time in this section so I had to commit to really drilling it after the run-up and taking a few risks in the corners.

I had a first row call-up today but since I was the last one called to the front row, I elected to start in the middle of the second row. Primarily because of the start – I knew it would be a fight for the “brown line” and felt I had a better chance of getting the line by starting in the middle of the grid, rather than the edges. All in all, this tactic worked. The start was decent today. I felt it was a bit more aggressive than yesterday. But again, my start could have been a bit stronger.

I spent most of the first lap, getting around girls and trying to catch the group in front of me. The jostling continued and there was some ridiculous passing made on the bridge – not impressed by this move… Anyway, I dug in deep in the woods section – attacking the climb and managed to get around a bunch of girls and settled into 9th place. For most of the race, I had Amy Wallace and a Putney rider in my sights.

I’d lose them on the run-up and then have to dig deep to bring them back. This put a little bit of fear into me. I realized that if I was losing them in the run-up, the girls behind would be gaining on me… Just what I needed to put myself in the red zone. I can safely say that I gave it my all today. The result was the same as yesterday but the body sensations were a little different. Partly due to the different course style, partly due to the fact that I rode most of today alone, and because I really wanted to bury myself.

I felt that I was cornering better today. I had the u-bend nailed. The woods became my favorite section. The chicane by the parking lot was wicked fast – I almost hit the fence once. I made a nice tripod save on the corner into the double barriers – pretty sure my bike was horizontal on that corner (nothing like the rear wheel slide!). All in all, I’m happy with the race. Couldn’t have done anything more today.

Massive thanks to Marc for going out with me for two pre-ride laps. He showed me all the correct lines and helped me get some confidence in the woods. Thanks Marc – it made a big difference. Not to be overlooked was the time he spent in the pits today. Thanks to Steve and Josee for their cheering as well. It helps so much to hear your name being called during the race.

After a quick cool-down and change we were in the car and on the way to Moe’s in Burlington for some much deserved burritos. A quick stop at Barnes and Noble and Sbucks and we were on our way home. First batch of laundry is in the washer, and I’m hitting the sack.

An excellent weekend of racing. Great organization. Lots of friendly people. New and old friends. I’ve got to say that cyclo-cross racing seems to go hand-in-hand with camaraderie.

New England Verge Series – Catamount, Vermont – Race 1 (Sept. 27):

Well, here it is – the first race report of the 2008 – 2009 cyclo-cross season!!!

Raced the first race of the New England Verge Series today in Catamount, Vermont. What a great day! Kicked off the day with watching and cheering on Marc, Steve, Craig, and Rob in the Elite Masters 35 – 45 race. Josee and I hung out in the pits – ready with the spare bikes and yelling our lungs out as the guys went by. They all did really well. Steve finished 5th and Marc finished 10th. (Sorry Craig and Rob – I don’t know your final results!). All in all, the guys seemed pretty happy with their races.

Next up was Keirnan in the junior race. He had an excellent day – finishing in the money.

My race wasn’t until 4:00 so I had a lot of time to chill out and relax. I appreciated having time to support the guys in their race and then not being super rushed for my race. It was great to see so many friendly faces from the past few seasons and the Cycle-Smart ‘cross camp. I managed to get in a few laps after the women’s 3/4 race and then hopped on the course for a few more laps right before my race.

The course was super dry. Wouldn’t even had known it rained last night. I really liked the course. I managed to find a groove during the warm-up and figured out where my strong points would be. So – the race. Well, I wore number 1 today – this is because I was the first one to register… Still kinda cool to have the 1 on m back and shoulders.

I got called up to the first row – thanks to the UCI points from last year. I really didn’t know what to expect going into this race. Not sure where my fitness and skills would take me. Well, it was a good one. My start was okay – better than in past races but still some room for improvement. We ended up in one snaking line going up the first climb. I just worked super hard to get around people and make my way to the front of the race.

Ended up in a group for a while. This disintegrated. Then it was a matter of just trying to catch the carrots in front of me. I managed to pick off a few more people. In this race I really wanted to leave it all out there. I did that for the most part – but still feel like I had something left at the end. So going into the last 1/3 of the last lap of the race I was sitting in 7th . I decided to really hit the tight corner after the tabletop fast. Well, I hit it fast – but this forced me a bit wide – into a really big rock…

I hit the ground hard. I popped up – now I was in 8th. Okay head down and get back to the 7th place girl. Caught here but Anna M. caught us in the chicane. Hit the barriers all together in a little group of three. Ended up finishing 9th. Cool. My best result in a Verge series race ever. For perspective – my best result ever in a Verge race last year was 17th.

So, I’m happy. It was a solid ride. My power is definitely there. I felt like I was riding the climbs well and was doing a decent job of choosing my lines. My cornering at speed could have been better. But all in all – I’m happy. I’ve got a little bit of road rash – but nothing that won’t heal quickly.

The skinsuit rocked! I got so many compliments on it – thanks Steve for the awesome design. Also, massive shout out to Marc for working the pit for me. Thanks to Steve, Josee, Rob, and Keirnan for all the cheering on the course. It helps so much to hear your name being called. Thanks dudes – you guys rock!

After the race I got in a little recovery spin and now we are just here in the hotel with full bellies thanks to the fine cooking by our room mates. On the menu: salad and home made turkey burgers. Now, it is time for bed.

Nothing yet! Check back in a few weeks for the first ‘cross race reports of the 2008-2009 season.

Did you race? Want to post a race report? Send me the race report with Race Report in the subject line.

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