Race Report: Valley View CX

Valley View was probably the hardest race I did last year. Not from a technical standpoint, really, but from a “oh my god I just want this to be over everything hurts” standpoint, but I came in second and loved it.

On Saturday, Leon and I went to go pre-ride the course (one of the huge benefits of having a race close

Hello, mud tires.
Hello, mud tires.

to home). It was very similar to last year, but the rain in the days prior had left a very muddy patch on the course. I was grateful to have someone there to follow their line, since Leon generally knows how to go around corners pretty well, while I’m still learning (enter wide, cut is close, exit wide!). There were few curbs that made me nervous I’d hit them dead on and crash, but after a few tries, I was able to ride them. Leon had switched my dry weather file treads to Clement PDX mud tires before we went to ride, and I was immensely grateful, given some of the exceptionally sloppy portions of the course.

I had a second row call up this time, but once again, I had an actually decent start and didn’t end up piled up behind 20 other women. There were several juniors ahead of me, and one girl that had beaten me the week before. It’s her first season riding and apparently she’s a strong rider, so I wanted to stay as close as possible and not miss any opportunities to pass.

 As with the past few races, having solid brakes and not having to worry about shifting was awesome, especially on the off-camber downhills, and especially on the flat power sections, where I was able to shift into my big ring and make up some ground, which is what I did.

The run up

On the first trip through the mud, I went through neck and neck with the girl ahead of me. She either chose or was forced to dismount, while I was able to ride, and once we went around the muddy corner and I hoofed it up the standard Valley View run-up, I put my head down and tried to put as much distance between us as possible.

It worked. I established a lead, and thanks to some very considerate Cat 5 men (one guy literally hit his brakes and told me to take whatever line I wanted!!!!! You’re the best!!!!) I worked my way through the field and started chasing one of the three juniors ahead of me. I focused on keeping my effort up without getting sloppy, and sticking to the lines Leon and I had practiced the day before.

valley view cx podiumI crossed the line as the first Cat 4 woman, and subsequently got to stand top step on the podium. Another really rad thing about the Valley View race is that the podium prizes are super awesome. I got a $50 Infinit gift card, a pair of De Feet socks, a pair of Pearl Izumi gloves, a $10 gift card to Bishops Bicycles, as well as a few other trinkets. Seriously? That’s awesome!

After the race, I got back to my car and saw some texts from my dad telling me he and my mom hadn’t been able to make it to the race, although they had intended to come. I hung out for a few hours, and thought about how cool it would have been to have my parents come to a race, especially one that I won.

That’s when it occurred to me that I was going to be catting up by next weekend anyways, so… what if I upgraded to Category 3 and raced the 1:30 Category 1-2-3 women’s race? I doubted it was possible, but I couldn’t shake the thought. An extra race on a course I liked, a discounted race fee, and my parents could still come see me ride! Okay, I’ll ask Julie.

I asked Julie if it was possible, she sent a text and talked to an official, and I got the thumbs up at like, 12:45. I texted my mom, and she said she and my dad would come watch. Awesome!

I registered for the race, pinned my new number, and tried to sit down for a few minutes to give my legs a break. Soon enough, my parents were there and it was time to take my spot at the very back of the field.

My start was sloppy because, like a fool, I was messing with my bike computer when the whistle went off (who does that?). As to be expected, I was immediately at the back, but wanted to pass at least one person because like, people were watching.

valley view cx barriersMy mom was busy taking photos, and my dad was busy heckling me (“You have plenty of time to make move!”) but I managed to reel in a few ladies. I was catching up to my friend Kari who beat me in almost every race last season, but my first or second time through the mud I crashed and with her mountain biking chops, I didn’t see her for the rest of the race. I tried to reel in a few more women in the field, but I didn’t have quite the same “snap” in my legs as the last race, and they’re all strong racers, so I didn’t make any progress. Plus, I was way sloppier, having to dismount (or “dismount”) in the mud twice, and not handling the curbs as well as I should have.

So, my 30 minute race was three laps, and this 45 minute race was six. Explain that to me.

Of course, as I expected, I was pulled a lap early. The official told me at the beginning of the fifth lap that this would be my final lap and I replied (perhaps a little too enthusiastically) “Awesome! Thanks!” (the lady behind him laughed).

How I felt about my decision to race twice in one day
How I felt about my decision to race twice in one day

 However, I got lots of positive “feedback” about being a badass for doing a second race, and had plenty of people cheering me on as I proceeded to get “not last.” After reviewing the results, I feel mostly positive, since it was my second race of the day and first race in the 1-2-3 category, which includes women that race with the Elite category racers. And I only got actually lapped by four people, and the last two weren’t even by that much.

I came in 7th of 8 category three racers, and 24th of 28 in the start wave.

Overall, Valley View CX is awesome, and I’m looking forward to next year, and possibly grabbing another badass Bishops podium swag bag.

 

Race Report: Harbin Park CX

img_4694So, race #2 was at Harbin Park. I went up the evening before to pre-ride the course (one big, big bonus of local races). The course was mostly the same as last year — lots of power sections, nothing terribly technical — except for one giant hill in the back. Dubbed “The Sledding Hill” (not for this race, I’m assuming that’s just what it’s called because it’s long and steep and ends in a field and would be perfect for sledding), the downhill was some steep switchbacks that led into a very open 180 degree turn, straight back up into a switchback halfway up the hill, to finally end with a gut-wrenching fifteen foot climb. 

If it was paved, it would have been decently challenging probably, but for whatever reason Harbin Park just has this crazy grass that makes everything six times harder to ride. I pre-rode the hill a few times, but only bothered to actually ride up the hill twice, figuring like, it’s going to suck no matter what, I might as well not do hill repeats the day before a race.

I managed to get the switchbacks on the way down figured out pretty quickly, at least to my own degree of satisfaction. I saw other people practicing over and over and over again to find the smoothest and fastest way around the turns, but I figured if I had a line that let me get down to the bottom without crashing or putting a foot down, that was good enough for me.

Honestly, though, when Ellen texted me the morning of the race and said “we don’t have to do the hill!” I was pretty thrilled. The course was enough of a lung- and leg-burner anyway, I was definitely not looking forward to climbing that hill in the middle of the race.

Anyways, skip ahead to the race.

I had a better start than I expected, and took the hole shot with one other junior. Around the first corner I slowed up, which was a mistake. I let several girls get past me, and had to struggle to re-pass a few as the others got further and further away.

I spent most of the race by myself. Besides the two leading juniors, I knew there was at least one other Cat 4 ahead of me, and I caught glimpses of her as I rode. One spectator told me I was in fourth, and then the next lap corrected himself to tell me I was fifth, which meant I was sitting third instead of second. I soon confirmed this after seeing the two ahead of me locked neck-and-neck.

I thought the course was a power course, which would usually be my forte, but the terrain just sucked my strength, and after hearing someone describe it as a “climber’s course” I was like “oh, yeah, that’s probably right.”

I never successfully fully rode the sand, but came close within six inches the final time through, which was a highlight.

img_4710I told myself repeatedly I could catch the two women ahead of me, but by the time we hit the back half of the last lap and I saw that they were pushing each other to their limits and extending their lead, I resigned myself to the fact I wouldn’t be able to catch them.

Well, I’ve waited too long to write this post, so all I really remember is the power-sucking course, and the pain in my legs and lungs as I struggled to catch the two leading ladies.

Takeaways include “learn how to ride sand,” “take the hole shot,” and “don’t slow up and let people around you or they’ll take off and you’ll have to watch them be ahead of you for the entire race.”