This year Austin Texas won the bid for the national championships. When I heard that in 2014, I was excited for 60 degree weather and sun. I imagined a desert like course with tons of power sections, probably zero hills, but maybe a bunch of man made run ups and obstacles. I also envisioned cactuses and cowboy boots.
My sister’s best friend lives in Fort Worth so she really wanted to make the trip out with her fiancé to visit, and watch the race. After that, a huge family vacation ensued when everyone bought each other plane tickets to Texas for Christmas. In total it was my parents, sister and her fiancé, youngest sister, and my girlfriend. My sisters and mom flew out Thursday and the rest of us flew out Friday. Upon arrival we were all set to begin making our way to Austin. Minus my bike. It decided to stay at BWI. So after multiple panic attacks and phone calls, my bike made it to the Austin airport 12 hours later. (We flew into Dallas).
Thankfully (sarcasm font) I was somewhat right on my course prediction and weather. I was right on the no hills part and completely wrong everywhere else. It was 30’s, rain, and mud mud mud. If you know me personally, you are probably laughing at the thought of me racing in the mud. Below sums that up quite well.
On Saturday, I did a flew laps on the course before more rain hit, and muddied up most of my warm up clothing and brand new bike. My new Van Dessel full tilt was so fun, and the course exceeded my expectations. However, secretly I was hoping the course would dry up a bit before our 4pm start time on Sunday. Regardless, going into the race, my goal was to shoot for top 25.
When I signed my road contract in October, cyclocross had to go onto the back burner; so I thought if all went perfectly, I could squeak out a respectable finish. For those who don’t really follow the sport, it’s becoming harder and harder for cyclists to balance the two disciplines. Especially if I plan on being a stage racer, focusing on my climbing strength. After talking to my coach, we decided a month long break in November would be best. Then begin my first experience with real base training for the upcoming road season. With that plan, I had to be okay with nationals being a non priority.
December 1st started the base phase, so I had 5 weeks of decent mileage, and then threw in a few cx workouts the weekend and week before the race. I was feeling good, but didn’t quite know how my body would react to the hard efforts required in cx. Regardless, I was super excited to see my teammates and catch up with the SEAVS/Haymarket and Van Dessel crew.
On Sunday I woke up to the news that the police were shutting down the course. Anyone who tried to ride would be thrown in jail. The cops were fully prepared with pepper spray and even milk, to wash the eyes of anyone they sprayed. Twitter was blowing up with assumptions and rumors left and right (personally I was preparing to dry the course with a hotel hair dryer). The Austin parks department tweeted the race was cancelled, while USA cycling was saying it was just postponed. Finally, USA Cycling informed the riders the race was cancelled. I texted my new road teammate and cx guru Adam Myerson if he had heard any news, and he said there was a rumor it could be in North Carolina the following weekend for a reschedule. A few hours later USA cycling came back saying that the race would be held on an abbreviated schedule the following day. Apparently the course was coming way too close to the root system of the trees within the park and needed to be rerouted. A lot of people were very unhappy. Cyclists vs. tree enthusiasts. (Hopefully they don’t find out about the companies that make bamboo bikes).
Logistically, this was going to be a nightmare for a lot of people. My flight out was during my new race time, and three hours from the course. For my family, girlfriend, and I to stay it would have cost a few thousand dollars. So with that being out of the question, I had to figure out how only I could stay. This is the part where I became truly enthralled by the kindness of the cycling community. Without hesitation, funds were donated or raised from friends and fans of the athletes affected by the change. Our team was fully covered by donations to allow the three of us who were rescheduled to the next day. Again, I feel the need to express gratitude for the kindness that was presented to not just our team, but to other teams whose budgets were over exasperated by the rescheduling.
Thanks to friends and fans, I was able to stay for the Monday reschedule. My buddy Josh (a top notch United employee) rebooked me a flight, and my buddy Dillon who is currently living in Houston, was now to be by pit man, mechanic, and driver. Due to the reschedule, the course was to open at 12pm to allow the riders a 30 minute window to pre ride the course. My family and girlfriend packed up that morning and headed to the airport. Bummed, but happy I was still able to race.
The course was still extremely muddy from the rain. To add to the mud, there were extremely technical off camber sections that would require lots of running and or amazing bike handling skills. While I can hold my own (somewhat), mud riding and bike handling skills aren’t my forte. Regardless, I was positive and excited to race.
At the start, 200 meters in, there was a pretty big crash between a few riders. I managed to squeeze through after getting a bit tangled, and drove towards the mud. It took me a bit to get the mud legs, as I struggled to keep the pace of a start while working my way through the technical sections. I felt strong, but I couldn’t ride any faster due to the nature of the course. I made up a ton of ground on the running sections, while losing some at others. All in all, I rode a technically clean race to just miss finishing on the lead lap. Guess that makes me even at nationals now. Lapping the field at crit nats, and getting pulled with one to go at cross nats.
Here’s a quick video of my new road teammate Brandon Feehery showing me which line not to take.
With that said, Texas is a pretty cool state. The food was absolutely amazing and the people seemed extremely nice everywhere we went. I’m not trying to get worked up about the huge inconvenience of the reschedule, or pin down who was to blame. Some say it was all on Austin, some say USA cycling, some say both. Frankly, I think it’s a learning opportunity, and hopefully it will never happen again. In the end I raced my bike and had a good time. (Edit- after reading about the junior debacle on Monday I really hope that never happens again to those junior women)
From here, I’m wondering what cyclocross holds for me (season structure wise). I want to continue in the sport, because I believe it’s extremely beneficial in making you a better cyclist. But I’m slowly realizing my skill set is much more suited on the road. Thankfully, I’m extremely lucky to have the sponsors I do for cyclocross, who don’t put huge expectations on me. Because of them, I can come to a national championships and represent without the burden of performance on my shoulders. So if you’re ever in the market for a cyclocross bike. I strongly urge you to check out Vandesselcycles.com and if you’re ever in Virginia swing into Haymarket bike shop.
So today I can look ahead to strictly road racing in the upcoming months. I chatted with my director and team manager a few weeks ago, and it looks like team camp (pictures, meet with sponsors, get gear) will be in Tampa March 21st; then the stage race team travels to California for racing/training. After talking about goals, we’ve agreed that my first of two peaks will be at USA road nationals through Philly in June.
I look forward to getting opportunities, but also learning how to work in a support role for stage wins and GC. I have a ton to learn and will be surrounded by guys who have a ton of experience and can help me do just that. Hopefully I’m able to surprise some people this year, and continue to grow as an athlete. Thanks a bunch for reading and following me on this journey.