Race Recap: Harbin Park Cyclocross

Well, I have several half-written posts in my draft box but I’m going to go ahead and ignore them to write my first cyclocross race recap blog!

Today was the OVCX Series Opener at Harbin Park. Last year, this race was part of the Cincy Three series on the last weekend of October. I signed up to race and arrived at the venue way earlier than I needed to (I got the start time wrong by an hour and a half) and after hours of anticipation, I crashed in the first half lap and couldn’t continue due to bent brake cables or something. So I was a little anxious but ready to actually ride a full course at the venue.

Today I got my start time correct, so I had an appropriate amount of time to get ready for the race. There was one off camber downhill I was a little worried about, since my brakes are both embarrassingly loud as well as not very effective (I often have to drag myself to a complete stop with my shoes. It’s bad.). I was lucky that it was a power-intensive course as opposed to a technical one, since my bike handling skills are still pretty lacking.

I was lucky enough to have a first row call up and lucky to be racing with a group of really cool ladies.

My start was better than last week’s at the pre-season race at Kingswood Park, but definitely not great. Fast starts are one of the many skills I need to work on.

I spent the first half of the race chasing a group of three to four ladies ahead of me (there were actually five women ahead of me but one was so far ahead I literally didn’t know she existed). There were a few times when I sat comfortably on the third or fourth place girl’s wheel to try and lower my heart rate, since I could tell I was quickly “burning my matches”. I’m not sure if this was a mistake or not.

A photo of me in the sandpit last weekend. This is a far less efficient way to get through sand than actually being able to ride it.
A photo of me in the sandpit last weekend. This is a far less efficient way to get through sand than actually being able to ride it.

About mid-way through the second or third lap I managed to pull ahead of the group and start to make a tiny gap, which was promptly closed when I ran through the sandpit while everyone else rode it. I’ve never successfully ridden a sandpit longer than five feet or so, and I haven’t had time to practice “emergency sand dismounts” (aka getting off my bike quickly enough to not end up rubber-side up and still clipped in to my pedals) so I hadn’t even really considered riding it, which in retrospect was a mistake and cost me precious seconds that could have had me in a closer battle for second.

I spent another half lap chasing/passing the women who had handily sped by me in the sand but managed to pull away towards the end of the third lap. It was me and one junior girl battling it out until I was passed by someone I hadn’t seen the whole race. She was definitely faster than me but I managed to stay within range of her until the stupid sandpit again, when I lost just enough distance to make the rest of my chase attempts meaningless. Of course, I still battled it out the best I could, trying to keep an eye on the people behind me.

The finish was a long stretch that had just enough of an incline to make it really hurt. I finished strong but was definitely spent by the time I reached the end of the course.

Also we got medals, which is unusual for cyclocross but I'm always a sucker for hardware.
Also we got medals, which is unusual for cyclocross but I’m always a sucker for hardware.

I ended up coming in fourth in my wave and third overall, which I’m actually really excited about. I’ve been training for a solid year specifically for cyclocross (with some triathlon training thrown in mid-summer for ‘a fun change of pace’) and it was really awesome to actually see my hard work come together. One of my season goals was to podium and I managed to do it on my first race! My next goal is to stand on the top of the podium. I don’t think I have any chance of catching the woman who came in first today but I think with a little training I can at least be a challenge to the second place finisher, especially if I actually prepare for my races properly, instead of spending multiple 7-8 hour shifts on my feet, taking the three days prior to the race completely off the bike, focus on fueling my body, and getting more than four hours of sleep the night before.

I have this Sunday off (since this weekend’s race is three hours away and I just don’t want to drive three hours each way by myself for a thirty minute race, ya know?) and time trials the next two Wednesdays so hopefully over the next two weeks I’ll take some time to get rest, bump up my fitness, and work on my bike handling skills.

Race highlights:

  • Passing men who were clearly pissed that a woman was passing them
  • Having a spectator yell “You’re so much better than last year!” enthusiastically at the barriers. If I had been physically able, I would have laughed. Instead, I just shouted “thanks!” as I remounted my bike.
  • Talking to really awesome women who like bikes! Yes!
  • Standing on the podium, obviously.

Edit: Apparently, the woman who came in first was only about a minute and a half ahead of me, and not over six minutes ahead, as I initially read the results!

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