The weekend after Derby City Cup was the Ohio Cyclocross State Championships, hosted by the amazing Cap City Cross. I had attended a few Cap City races in previous years as a spectator and not a racer, but I remembered them being a pretty laid back and welcoming atmosphere so I was excited to see what the was in store.
I could have opted to make it another two day weekend but since my ‘actual’ championship race was on Sunday, I decided to skip out on Saturday to make sure I wasn’t too gassed for the actual race and to avoid the extra costs associated with double race weekends.
My race, of course, was the first race at 10am. It was billed as the women’s Category 3/4 race and I had been told it would be scored as such as well. I was disappointed to be racing for the state title against Cat3 women but wanted to race my best anyways. None of my OVCX frivals (friendly rivals) were signed up, much to my surprise.
One of my friends who had raced on Saturday told me that the course was one that would suit my strengths – nothing terribly technical or unridable, and plenty of long stretches for me to put some watts into. My pre-ride confirmed this.
I arrived early and felt surprisingly good. After a few laps around the course, I had identified the challenges (some sharp up-and-down, hilly “s” curves that required precise gearing and steering to successfully ride) and opportunities (a few long stretches near the front of the course and the long, uphill stretch on the back of the course) and felt pretty confident, even if I wasn’t counting on beating the several Cat3 women signed up to race the 3/4 race.
Upon arriving at the starting line, the official announced that there seemed to have been a slight miscommunication. The Women’s 3/4 race was only a championship race for the Cat4 women. The Category 3 riders who had signed up could wait until the 2:00PM race that day to ride their championship race or race non-championship. Understandably, the Category 3’s were a little miffed but all of them were good sports about it. Most of them chose to wait until 2:00 to ride in the official championship race but a few were unable to stay around that late and so they chose to stay in the 3/4 race.
The field was probably the smallest I’d seen all season and with the last-minute clarification that I was in fact riding for the state champ jersey, I felt a new surge of excitement. I took my spot in the front row and waited for the starting whistle.
Per usual, my start was total crap. The starting group was small but I still ended up near the back. One of the other Cat4’s had a great start but took a hard fall on the first right-hand turn. I managed to avoid collision and tried to work my way past the ladies ahead of me. I passed one on the barriers and managed to pass several more on the first straightaway. I made it through the S curves without issue (always a gamble for me, since sometimes my chain ring will decide it is in the big ring and it will stay in the big ring thank you very much) and came into the paved uphill section strong. I flew past two of four women remaining ahead of me and managed to stretch that distance.
I was able to see the second place woman ahead of me and one of the people cheering me on (no idea who the guy was, which just proves how awesome and friendly the Cap City community is!) was giving me updates of how far ahead of me she was. It went from twelve seconds to ten seconds throughout the next lap until finally on the second lap’s uphill straightaway I was able to pull past her and put some distance between us, although she was never far off me for the remainder of the race. (Note: I am writing this entry over a month after this race took place and honestly can’t quite recall if I made this pass on the second or third lap. Forgive my editorializing.)
The woman in first was a strong Cat3 rider and I knew unless she was having a terrible day, I just wouldn’t be able to catch her, especially because while I felt decent, I didn’t feel great. My focus shifted to staying ahead of everyone else. I let myself think about winning the state champ jersey for a moment and then turned my attention back to the course. My third time through the S curves I didn’t shift properly and lost a few precious seconds when I had to dismount, run a few steps up, and run around my bike to re-mount.
The final half-lap was me looking over my shoulder to judge the amount of time my opponent had gained and trying to not make any foolhardy fumbles that would cost me second place in the wave or potentially the state champ title.
I successfully crossed the line as the first Category 4 woman, earning me the title of Cyclocross State Champion. While the title may not mean much in terms of actual real-life rankings, it was still really cool to be able to stand on the top step for once and hey, free jersey!
Mostly, I would like to emphasize how cool Cap City races are. Everyone is friendly and it seems like a really awesome community. Their motto is “PMA, no jerks” (PMA = positive mental attitude). My kind of ‘cross. I’ll definitely be adding a few more of their races to my 2016 race schedule.