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.
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.
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!