Monday, March 30, 2015

RACE REPORT: US Cup 1 and 2, Bonelli and Fontana

Fontucky. Photo by JPoV

The first two weekends of the US Cup have provided some of the most exciting racing of my life. Fresh in my new category, in new kit, with a new bike, there was plenty to get the juices flowing. After an awesome weekend logging some more endurance miles and spending time with my family while they were in town, I'm ready to finally get this post up! Read on for thoughts and feelings about Bonelli I and Fontana/Funtana/Fontucky.

Team Cannondale for a day!
BONELLI  - US CUP 1, UCI C1

I headed up to Bonelli to ride and visit with the ShoAir-Cannondale crew the Thursday prior on assignment for MTBR which was an exciting way to kick off the weekend. Manuel Fumic wanted to make sure we were "actually media" which I think was a compliment. "You should race," Evelyn Dong told me shortly before I endo'd over the handlebars on the steep backside descent. Embarrassed, I let her know that I would be somewhere near the back of the pro women's category and she kindly offered up some tips and line choices on the course. It stuck, so I had the treat of her voice in my head each lap!  
Darryl Sykes photo: I survived Bonelli!

I rode that first lap on the Cannondale Scalpel so I thought it would be a good idea to sneak out out my new Rocky Mountain Vertex to make sure I could get around the tough course on a hard tail. About then is when Tedro and crew started hammering the railway ties into the A Line. And I still couldn't even get my brain to allow another attempt on the steep section, let alone acrobatic wheel lifts. *gulp*

Thus dampened of spirit, and short of time, I returned to Bonelli only the morning of the race, without having had the chance to sort out my trouble spots, which i knew were mainly mental. I chatted with Gerhard part of the way (he was in Colorado) to try and understand the nerves, and hopefully put them to bed.

Let me tell you, it does nothing for nerves to hear your name called out at the bottom of a very long list of national champions, world champions, and Olympians. What does help with nerves is when the whistle blows, you get clipped in, and start moving.

I was pleasantly surprised to find I was not chewed up and spit out the back as I was sure would happen. I was with the group, though yes, near the back thanks to being called up in 55th place, but I had contact and it wasn't so scary afterall!!

I got to work on the very short course, and to my excitement, found I was passing girls on the climbs (of which there were many). I should probably also mention that the temperature was a blistering 90+ degrees. There's tough, and then there's tough.

I got in about an hour of racing before I was met with a line of tape across the course, and directed to the side. The UCI 80% rule had been amended to 50% to accommodate the short [2.35 mile] course and I was done (and 'well-done', after an hour in the oven).

Even though I was pulled, and finished in 32nd place, this was one of my favorite results ever. I met all my goals: ride safe, figure out hardtails, know the unknowns, and get in a workout.

FONTANA - US CUP 2, UCI HC
Fontana, with shots from Drew and Ben

For Fontana--a course I really enjoy for its technical rocks and long "power moves" climbs--I set new goals. Now I understand that you can't race with all that extra fear. And you can't race like you're going to get to ride all the laps. You gotta go NOW like you're on your last lap, every lap. So the biggest adjustment for me was pacing.

Thankfully, the heat was down a little with the temp comfortably in the 80s. My folks and Gerhard made the trip as well which always makes me dig a little deeper. Fontana was ranked HC by the UCI so we again had a truly impressive group of riders to line up with vying for those valuable points.

They announced my name in the call up much sooner than last time, however I didn't get to take advantage of the better start position as the staging took a LOT longer than anticipated. So again, I was in the back row, but I had a much better idea of how to handle it.

After a few laps, I came through the start/finish expecting to get pulled and every lap that wasn't the case. I was joyous, but also totally shit-wrecked because I was racing like I was about to get yanked thus not leaving as much in the tank as I'm used to. However, I found out that I have a lot more in the tank than I think!

Fontana: Drew Engelmann photo
We had a few great bike races --another thing I like about the US Cup and racing in the pro category: other people!! and I enjoyed playing "what would happen if..." to test out different strategies and tactics. I won a couple rounds, and learned from a couple more.

The best part of this race though was the support from so many friends, family and Ninja teammates along the course! It seemed like every corner on the way to that grueling asphalt climb had someone else yelling my name. Big thanks to Mom, Dad, Gerhard, Drew, Tony, Liana, Dawn, Todd, Derek, Vinny (Vinny especially!!), and last but not least, Jake (and I'm sure I missed some names!!). Jake was up top taking photos and his "Yeah Kris, Stay on it" was such a welcome message near the end of that climb. Except the last lap, he added, "Yeah Kris .... you want some beef jerky?" which almost made me fall over. It was just the smile I needed to get my hot crampy legs up that final push one last time. Thanks Jake! And thanks for the photo too!!

I raced clean, my bike was SO AMAZING, and I finished all five of our laps for a 35th place. I couldn't have been happier if I'd won the thing.

TAKEAWAYS: THINGS I LOVE ABOUT RACING IN THE PRO CATEGORY 

 1) So awesome to have big fields! It makes racing 1000% more exciting when you bust off the line with almost 60 other women.

2) Feeling like even though I'm at the bottom of the pile, it's pretty much the raddest pile ever.

3) Short laps. I kind of love it! I thought I wouldn't but besides getting lost on the lap count sometimes, it is really fun to roll through start finish/feed zone and get that energy boost from your friends

4) Ours is the only race on course. I don't mind sharing a race course, but this is just darn luxurious.

5) The pomp. I love the call up, I love the helpers standing around with umbrellas, and I love national anthems.

6) My fellow competitors are awesome! Everyone is super nice but you can tell they're also there to do well, and they recognize that you're there to do well too. It makes for a really cool vibe of mutual respect.


Thanks again to all of my amazing helpers this season: Top shout outs to Rocky Mountain for that hardtail you sent me. Good lord I love that bike, especially after Brock at RIDE Cyclery helped me get it dialled in. Thanks to Eliel for helping me look the part in the best-fitting kits I've ever had. Thanks GU Energy for keeping me fuelled and well-stocked in salted caramel, and heat-beating hydration. My stylish new white shoes are courtesy of friends at Gaerne and they are a perfect fit right out of the box (thank goodness, because they were an emergency addition to the shoe rack after Temecula wrecked All The Things). And of course, thank you to Team Ninja, the awesome gang in black and pink! The season is just beginning and we have so much more fun to come! 


Fontana: Drew Engelmann photo (hi Tony & Liana!)