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26 September 2011  |  Race Reports

USGP #1 & #2: Madison Race Report

After experiencing the awesomeness that is ‘cross vegas, I was excited for the first USGP races- it seems like every year the USGP gets bigger and better.  This year was no different.  We arrived in Madison on Friday with just enough time to pre-ride a few laps of the course before heading to the number presentation that evening.  We had dinner at the Cannery Grill where none of us was man enough to take on the carnivore challenge which entails “2 hamburgers, a bratwurst, grilled chicken breast, pulled pork, ham, turkey, corned beef, roast beef, 10 slices of bacon, every cheese we have in house and topped off with a fried egg.”  Oh yeah, and you have to finish it in 45 minutes…and you have to finish your SIDE dish too. The walls were covered with the faces of poor souls who had taken on the challenge and failed.  It was pretty spectacular.

The next morning as I was getting ready for the race, I was approached by a woman who said something to the effect of, “if I give you this cupcake, can I interview you?”  Was that a trick question?  Do you know how many interviews I’ve done without realizing that there could be this kind of quid pro quo?  How many cupcakes have I missed out on?  Um….YES.  But only if I get to eat said cupcake during the interview.  (It looked too delicious to save for later).  I must say, it was one of the more enjoyable interviews I’ve ever done…

I pre-rode a few laps to figure out the perfect tire pressure and ended up almost missing the start because I hadn’t heard the announcer call us to staging.  It was a pretty lame move on my part, and I apologize to everyone for the last minute drama on the start line.

The race.  Nicole Duke shot off the line as soon as the gun went off, grabbing the hole shot and putting several bike lengths on the rest of the field.  I missed my pedal and ended up somewhere around 10th heading into the first few corners.  Things started to string out a little bit, and I could see Nicole and Katerina  up ahead opening a gap on the rest of us.  I was riding in a group with Caroline, Sue, Meredith, Chloe, Emily and a few others, and everyone was riding strong.  After about a lap, Katerina managed to drop Nicole who then joined our group.  The course was fast, and it seemed like everyone was pretty evenly matched, so I figured it was going to be a tactical race.  I sat in, biding my time and letting the gap to Katerina grow;  I didn’t have great legs and wasn’t feeling strong enough to ride solo for 4 laps, so I waited until 2-laps-to-go to make a move.  I wanted to get an idea of how everyone else was feeling, so I attacked on the run-up to see who could go with me.  I managed to get a gap and was able to maintain it to the finish.  I crossed the line in second- about 20 seconds down.  I was pleased, even though I would have liked to have been up there battling it out with Katerina for the win.

Day 2.  We woke up to rain Sunday morning.  Lots of rain.  The course was transformed into a sloppy mess which made for completely different conditions than the day before: tactics weren’t going to be much of a factor out there.  I had fun pre-riding in the mud, but in retrospect I should have pre-ridden a little bit more- especially since it’s been awhile since I’ve ridden in the slop.  (It always takes me a little while to sharpen up the ol’ mud-riding skills.)  I knew people would be making mistakes and crashing, and I was determined to get a better start than the day before in order to avoid getting stuck in the first-lap chaos.  I was also gunning for the SRAM $250 hole-shot prize.

I was quick off the line, but Caroline and I headed into the first corner side by side and since she was on the inside she just edged me out to take the $250.  Dang it!  I passed her on the next straightaway and just tried to ride as smoothly as possible in the slippery muck.  I’m not sure what was going on behind me, but Katerina was on my wheel.  We were able to get a gap and rode together for most of the first lap.  At the very end of the lap I slid out on an off camber section, and Katerina went around me.  When I stood up I realized I had stepped through my frame, and it took me a few seconds to extricate myself (clumsily!) from my bike.  Well, that was the end of riding with Katerina…

In my flustered attempt to bridge back up to her, I was riding like a total ninny, taking every bad line and making lots of mistakes.  I was trying to ride where I should have been running, pushing my bike when I should have been shouldering it and just all-around flailing.  I was sitting solidly in 2nd, but I really wanted to make the race a little more exciting than the day before.  Finally, in the last lap I started to focus on being smooth and trying different (faster!) lines, but it was too little too late.  I ended up 2nd again behind Katerina, and I’m now also 2nd in the overall standings.

Overall it was a great weekend of racing.  Thanks to everyone who came out and cheered (especially in the pouring rain on Sunday!). Madison might be the first place that I have been heckled during the pre-ride!  So happy to be racing the USGP series: the organization was professional, the racing was great, the spectators were awesome.  Thanks also to USGP title sponsor Exergy for stepping in to extend equal prize money to the top 15 women.  What a huge step for US women’s ‘cross!  I’m really looking forward to racing in front of a home-town crowd at the next round of USGPs in Fort Collins.


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