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23 April 2013  |  Race Reports

Race Report: Sea Otter Classic

It will be hard to beat my blah blah blah blog post, but for those of you who want a little more detail on what’s been going on in my blah blah boring world, here goes:

It was quite a change to start my season at Sea Otter this year. Usually by mid-April I have 2 or 3 races under my belt and a solid 3 months of training, but after a long year of racing MTB and ‘cross in 2012, I opted for a little more time off this winter. So I took the month of February off. Like off-off. As in didn’t-ride-my-bike-for-a-month-off. And I started training again March 1st.

So I didn’t really know what to expect at Sea Otter. I knew I didn’t have my best-ever fitness, but I’d been training hard and hoped that would be enough to at least get me on the podium. I love racing Sea Otter, and I always want to win, so it was difficult to temper that expectation with a little bit of being realistic. This year there was a deep women’s field with at least 7 women who have been on World Cup or World Championship podiums. It was going to be tough.

Short Track:

The short track course was totally new and much different than in years past. It was flat, fast, and tactical. I had an OK start, and made the initial selection which was a group of about 15. That eventually whittled down to 3 riders off the front (Katerina, Marianne Vos, and Annika Langvad), 3 of us chasing (me, Annie Last, Rebecca Henderson) and another chase group behind us. I was having trouble with the surges and changes of pace, but I managed to squeak onto the podium in 5th after losing the sprint for 4th. I made a few mistakes, but overall it was good race.

Cross-Country:

The start of the XC race was sketchy. There were plenty of heavy hitters and it seemed like everyone wanted to ride at the front.  I made the lead group of about 10 which whittled down to 4 of us (Catharine, Marianne, Annika and me). At first I was feeling pretty comfortable, but about halfway through the race I was starting to get popped on the climbs and again, I had a hard time handling the surges. Eventually, I got dropped for real and just had to suck it up and ride my own pace. I was starting to suffer, and closing down the gap suddenly seemed impossible. Not long after that, I got caught by Katerina and Kelli who were chasing hard.

At this point I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, and I was pretty sure that everyone in the race was going to catch me and drop me. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. I gritted my teeth and stuck on the back of that group. I was feeling strong on the flats and downhills, but I was suffering on the climbs and digging deep to maintain contact. Finally we hit the last singletrack climb. There were a few steep rollers and Katerina and Kelli were hammering each other while I just tried to stay in contact. I knew that if I could stick with them until the last fire road climb, I might have a chance of contesting the sprint.

I managed to stay with Katerina and Kelli, and I was feeling pretty decent as we started the last 15 minute stretch of fire road. There was a ripping cross wind, but I felt pretty comfortable (at home, a ripping crosswind is usually my most faithful training partner…). Up ahead I could see three short hills and I decided to see what the other two had left in their legs. I upped the pace on the next punchy hill, and Katerina dropped back a bit. Kelli stuck on my wheel and we rode the next couple hills together. As we crested the last hill, I knew it was my best chance for 4th: if I got into the last singletrack first, I could hold off any attacks before the finish.

I attacked, Kelli couldn’t quite respond and I was able to ride in for 4th with a few seconds gap.

Overall, it’s hard for me to say I’m thrilled with 4th place, but it was a solid race and a good start to the season. Of course, it wasn’t fun getting dropped (never is, really), but I have plenty of time to build fitness before the first World Cup. I’m really hoping that a little slower start to the season will pay dividends later on, but we’ll see. Every year is a work in progress, and I am constantly learning and working at fine tuning my training and fitness. Nothing like good old-fashioned trial and error.

Next up is the Whiskey 50 MTB race this weekend in Prescott, AZ. I’m expecting another throttling as 4 of my Luna teammates and a bunch of other fast ladies are on the roster. It’s going to be a battle!


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