Tag Archives: Cyclocross

​Chain of Events

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Jenny shows grit and determination despite a bad chain of events at the Sienna Lake cross race. She pushed through and managed to finish strong. No DNFs for this lady!

At the start line of Cyclo X-Sienna Lake I was in the second row of the Cat 3’s. There were more people there then normal, but I had been training hard and felt like I actually had a chance this time. I lined up behind Emily Z., knowing she was going to get a great start, and Tea was right next to her. Once the whistle was blown everyone immediately started sprinting, and I was able to keep up. On the grass I was in about 7th or 8th place with the front group within my grasp. I was feeling good as we approached the ditch and I was ready to ride it without a second thought. But as I got closer to the ditch, the person in front of me slowed down way too much that she was barely moving down the hill. Since she had no speed and had her breaks completely locked, she did an endo into the ditch and nearly took me down with her. I was just able to scoot by her and saw that the gap between me and the lead group wasn’t too big. My first three laps of the race were fast, consistent, and I didn’t make any mistakes. I was happy with how well I was doing and was just starting to gain some ground of the people in front of me. By the fourth lap I was flying through the ditch and learned all the best lines to take throughout the course. 

At the top of the big run up after the ditch, I set down my bike really fast and hopped back on only to learn that I dropped my chain. I panicked for a moment then thought, it’s fine! I’ve done this a million times before. But in my rush to get the chain back on, I only made it worse and it completely locked up. Then I really got worried. Everyone I passed and put a big gap between had finally started to pass me. I stood there for some time not knowing what to do and watched as the beginning of the 4’s started to come. I was so frustrated with the situation because I was doing so well in this race and had been improving throughout the season, only to have this happen to me. Another thing that made me concerned was the fact that my dad wasn’t there to help me. At that point I felt defeated and thought that it was pointless to finish the race since I was in last place. I finally decided to just pick up my bike and run. I ran a little ways until someone was able to help me. He was very nice and helpful, and fixed my chain in no time. I quickly hopped back on my race but felt no motivation to actually race. I passed the pit with a strong urge to get off and quit, but told myself that I should at least finish this lap then be done. Once I got to the finish line, I saw there was only one lap to go. I was about to stop and be done but I didn’t want to disappoint myself and my dad for not finishing. I got a quick jolt of hope and started racing hard again, determined to catch a few of the 4’s. On the grass I was flying around the corners and was actually catching a few people! I felt confident again and was sprinting hard with my head down on the gravel straightaway. 

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I was pushing down hard on my pedals and concentrating on the path in front of me when I looked up and realized that I had to turn right now! I quickly jerked my bike to the right and wiped out, crashing under the tape. After laying there for a few moments I got up and dusted myself off. I was so utterly disappointed that I said out loud “I’m done.” Some people near me came over and helped me fixed my bike and asked if I was alright. Shawn Curry (photographer that many of you know) also came over to make sure I was alright. When I told him that I was done, he told me that I was doing great and that I didn’t want a DNF. I got all pumped up again and jumped back on my bike and decided that I was going to finish the race even after all that happened. I managed to pass a few more 4’s and finish the race. Even though this was not one of my best races, I’m happy that finished the race and didn’t quit. 

#tireswinraces

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They say it’s not about the bike, but you bet your victory it is about the tires. Read about Emily‘s race and how the tires helped her get to the top step of the podium (along with some killer bike handling skills).

My brain doesn’t work the same way as other people’s when it comes to having fun, which is why I was delighted when I woke up before the sun on Saturday to inches of snow and temperatures that hadn’t yet hit the teens. The company I work for, Challenge Tires, was the presenting sponsor of the race, so I got to enjoy the crazy day from dawn until dusk in an expo tent with a propane heater and brewing hot cyder to keep me company as I reminded people all day long that in cyclocross, tires win races.

The other people that made it out have the same types of brains as I do and were already high on the endorphins of numb digits. On the start line we sang an enthusiastic rendition of “Aruba, Jamaica, ooh I wanna take ya to Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama…” to go with our new dance moves, The Cyclocrosser. The moves go as such:

  • Swing your right leg up and behind your left foot and switch feet (The Dismount)
  • Reach your right arm down and make a fist and bring your fist up to your right shoulder (The Shoulder)
  • A couple delicate leaping butt kicks (The Double Barrier)
  • A few Jazzersize-style running steps and a double-legged butt kick (The Remount)

Over the next 40 minutes or so, I proceeded to slip and slide in a foot-out, flat-out riding style on sand, snow and ice and stay upright more often than not, taking high-fives from spectators who did the wave to all of us on the final lap. Coming through the start-finish on the bell lap, I heard the announcer explaining that I wasn’t literally riding naked, but riding for Team Naked Women’s Racing, and thank goodness because riding naked wouldn’t be a wise choice on a day like that. My 1x green Zinn Magster Cross was riding great, but after a lapped rider took me out and I twisted my brake lever I ended up finishing my race on a different bike (my 2x orange Zinn Magster Cross) than I started with and with enough time on second place to post up and point to my tires as the announcer confirmed that “This proves it, tires do win races!”

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It’s become clear after trying many times that explaining that this experience is a fully type-A fun for me is simply lost on most people, but I assure you that is exactly how I wanted to be spending my snowy Saturday – playing in the sand box at the Boulder Reservoir.

Racing Without Limits at Snowy Boulder Res

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The first official ‘cross weather’ race is in the books. Here’s Amanda B.’s take on the below freezing and beyond snowy race at the Boulder Res!

Starting the day by layering up with ample embrocation lotion and then 3-4 layers of clothing on all areas of the body does not always predict a good outcome. Below freezing temps, wind and snow blowing we lined up to start the race at Boulder Res. The temperatures had been dropping all day. Spending the day watching each group fall around the first icy corner did not inspire confidence in beginning this race. However, all the worries dissipated after the whistle blew and the ladies were off.

Around the first three icy corners and no falls.  So far, so good. This race did not disappoint with windy, icy, snowy corners, downhills, steep turns and icy sand to ride or run up. There was also a drop into sand that was even steep to run followed by several barriers on the uphill. More sand and stairs followed. I layered well and was never cold but my mittens were too thick and I could not brake or shift effectively. Last lap= gloves came off… watch out ladies. I had thinner gloves under the mittens and could finally shift while maintaining my warmth. I threw the mitten off the course and began shifting for the first time in the race. Fastest lap time for me.
Finishing the race I was so proud of the teammates for going out to race, of Emily Zinn who brought home the W and was happy to have completed such a mentally and physically challenging race.
Thank you to Without Limits for another stellar race at the Boulder Res and to all the ladies and gentleman who came out to race and cheer. The cheering kept us going. Also to the poor photographers who braved the weather to give us evidence of the insanity that ensued today.

5 reasons why racing in below freezing temps is better

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Amanda B. may be the only one who could be crazy enough to turn our cold weather snap into a fun listicle for you! Read her top 5 reasons why racing in below freezing temps is better.

1. You seem more bad a$*/crazy than other cyclists. You also think your friends that are racing are pretty hardcore and you enjoy the company of others.
2. Sand is easier to ride when frozen.
3. Liquor and warm drinks (such as apple cider) taste so much better in the cold.
4. Cheers seem to be louder when it is cold out. It’s a physics thing.
5. The warmth of a shower post embrocation is one of the best feelings in the world. Being warm feels so much more enjoyable after being extraordinarily cold.

I run. I bike. But I do not run and carry my bike.

K Harrer

Riding off road isn’t for everyone.  Katie may just be to be one of those people.  Read about her experience this cyclocross season.  

After months of badgering from Brittany Jones, Amanda Bye and a coworker, I decided to take the plunge into cyclocross.  I bought a bike.  I got some new shoes.  I was excited about trying something new but also a little hesitant.  I run.  I bike.  But I do not run and carry my bike.  I kept telling myself that cross will be good for bike handling and skills but I was definitely not excited about mounting and dismounting or bunny hopping.  I’m a warm weather girl. If it’s below 60 degrees you will find me with my North Face coat on.  I get cold easily. I don’t like off camber.  I don’t like dirt or gravel or sand.  I don’t like water or mud or snow.  Why am I trying cross again?  The answer, simply, was to get better.  To get out of my comfort zone, to try something new and maybe change my opinion on the aforementioned conditions.

My First DNF: Mechanicals of the Mind and Body, Not the Bike

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Rachel explains some reasons behind her first DNF in today’s Interlocken Cyclocross Race. No bike mechanicals, just mechanicals of the mind. Don’t worry, she’ll be back at it tomorrow. 

Is a DNF still considered for a race report? Even when I quit pretty much in my first lap? I’ve had plenty of DFLs, a couple DNSs due to injuries, a couple of time cuts as well as some lackluster results in the 8 years of bike racing. But I have never had a DNF so I feel it deserves some explaining. Especially since I encourage all of our women to never quit a bike race no matter the circumstances. So this is not an unpacking of excuses as to why, but rather offer a comparison to life, losing and other “L” words. Don’t worry, it won’t be a diatribe either. But it will be heart-felt. It would be easier to accept my first DNF if it were due to a broken bike or mechanical of sorts, but unfortunately it’s due to a broken heart coupled with a mechanical of the mind.

This hasn’t been the best week of prep for a weekend of fun cross racing. Having consumed less than 1000 calories and getting less than five hours of interrupted sleep in the last three days and throw in a great deal of waterworks adding to the dehydration factor, I didn’t have stellar expectations for today. But I did expect to have a top 5 finish. This course was perfect for me and it was fun. My first two pre-laps of the Interlocken course, I rode the sand and was darn close with my first attempt at the mud pit. I was confident. I was tired and weak, but yeah, I was confident and looking forward to forcing pain upon my body, making it hurt as much as my heart. I choked a Gu down and couple swigs of Naked Juice as the only calories I had taken in that day despite riding an 1.5 to the race and it was approaching almost 3 pm. It was tasteless and hard to make myself eat lately, having lost 6 pounds in 3 days according to my Withings. Weird how the mind does that to the body.

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I’m a very private person with regard to my relationships or my family life. Though I’m very active socially more for my profession, most people would never know that I’ve even dated or anything about my family other than superficial info since living in Colorado unless you’re a considered a pretty close friend (not the Facebook, Strava or Twitter kind-sorry). I’ll spare details but it’s been a long time since I’ve suffered a broken heart. Around 12 years for it to hurt this much to be exact. Yes, I’ve been in relationships since then and have loved other partners since then, but this was a different type of feeling. I was beginning to question if I were capable of having emotions that would even remotely bump over or under a flatline until this person was in my life. Let alone have tear ducts that worked.

Anyway, this is a race report. Got my usual very back of the pack, last row call up and lined up behind my super fast starters of teammates Amanda and Emily. Also, had my usual bad start but was able to pick through the crowd of racers in front of me. I rode the sand but slowly through the congestion and got stuck on the hill behind some other riders. I still pushed, picking off riders knowing where my ranking among the other racers would be if I kept this pace as I had done in all my previous races. It felt good and my heart rate was stable but certainly at threshold. But then I saw THE person. I wasn’t sure if they saw me. I had never seen said-person at a race before because our start times are very different. We’ve never even crossed paths when I’ve raced, unless it’s intentional and long after my race is finished. Why was this person here this time?

And at that precise moment, I proceeded to fall a part. My mind completely shut off, and I forgot how to ride my bike. That has never happened before. Ever. In looking at my heart rate, it was the highest it had been all year and it wasn’t even a difficult part of the course. It couldn’t come back down and then…I nailed a root driving me into the tape and knocking my chain from my bike. I struggled even getting off of my bike because my body didn’t want to work. I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t swallow. My chest felt like it was going to explode, and I was going to spew that Gu everywhere. An eternity passed while trying to get my chain back on my rings with hands that weren’t working.  Then I was quickly the very last person in the race. I thought I could give it another try, and passed three more folks to charge my way back. Heart rate still through the roof and getting higher, I then rounded the corner through the sand (terribly might I add) and at the top I saw that person on a different part of the course. Cheering me on. Why? Why now and never before? Was it an accidental crossing of paths? A lot more why’s ran through my head in the 1 minute it took for me to get out of eye shot. Heart rate hit 182 which it hasn’t done since moving to altitude. Once out of sight, I slipped through the blue tape and told my kind teammate I needed to go home but to finish strong. She understood.

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I returned my timing chip and left quickly with my tail between my legs, tears streaming down my face. Thank everything holy that cycling isn’t my job because I would have surely been fired from the team that day. I’ve always prided myself on strength and determination. Why had my mind told my body to give up? I remember talking my teammate earlier this year through a tough experience, and she had the mental fortitude to push through and challenge her body and mind in a way she had never done before on much more technical terrain. How hypocritical of me that I can’t eat my own dog food? Perhaps this experience will provide me more empathy for others who have a bad day on the bike, no matter the circumstances.

In any event, I’m certain this won’t be my last DNF. It won’t stop me from riding or racing again either. I love the bike and all it provides: freedom, experiences, transportation, memories, career opportunities, exercise, camaraderie, passion, opportunities to give back. My heart will still be heavy, but I will go back out tomorrow, and I will finish that bike race, even if I’m DFL. I will also love and likely lose again. But that’s a part of life. It won’t stop me from giving 100% and allowing myself to be vulnerable again (I just hope it’s not another 12 years). Breaking up is like a big fat DNF – the probability that it will happen again is high throughout the course of your life or racing career. It’s how you choose to deal with it, learn from it, and grow from it that matters.

From this experience, I am also thankful that I “get” to feel this way. No longer do I walk the flatlined life that I had thought was going to be my eternal purgatory. I get to experience excruciating pain because that means I truly felt the opposing yang. The same could be said for a bike race, especially the grueling cyclocross style of racing. How amazing does it feel once you’ve finished the hardest race you’ve ever done in your life: your body hates you, you want to throw up, and you’re already thinking about your next race? I’ve been reading a lot of Rumi lately and am grateful his words are still relevant nearly eight centuries later. This one excerpt in particular really sticks out, especially as it pertains to the season and the roots that knocked my chain from my bike :)

“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
Rumi

Giddyup – Cowboy Cross

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Cathy channeled her inner cowboy (or cowgirl) at the Cowboy Cross Race. From the looks of the pictures, seems like this was one event you didn’t want to miss! Yee-haw!

What do you get when you throw some yellow tape up and a huge pile of dirt at the site of the National Western Stock Show?  A cyclocross race, of course!

I have to admit that the sight of the monster truck -like jumps in the arena was a little intimidating, but once I was out there it was ridiculously fun.  The course was a short, quick, and crazy loop that meandered inside, outside, through stables (that smelled much better than the last time I was at the Stock Show), and up and down enough runs to make you think you signed up for a running event.  Oh, and there were three devilishly placed barriers just after a crazy roller coaster of an embankment.  All super fun!

And just as in previous races, the women’s field was fairly large – 28 or so starters! I love that there are so many new crossy friends showing up. My goal at every race is to chat it up with a new face, and it’s inspiring to find out that many of these cowgirls are stepping up for their first races.  I love it – especially when I can cheer them on as they pass me!

If you didn’t make it to this year’s Cowboy Cross mark your calendars for next year.  And if the women’s fields keep growing it will have to be renamed the Cowgirl Cross!

Check out all the great Cyclocross photos on RacerShots.com!

Try it and see what happens

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Brittany tried a few tactics to get through the mud as cleanly as possible this weekend, but there was no escaping it whether you ran, rode or did a combination of both. She still managed a 5th place spot! Read more about the muck and fun!

Try it and see what happens.

I’ve said that two weeks in a row with very different results.

I’m typically very conservative during races. The old rule of “don’t try new things on race day” extends to technical obstacles and even so far as not deviating from a line or approach that seems to have been at least OK the previous lap.

Every year that I can remember Primalpalooza has had a section of baby barriers. Lots (if not most) people ride right over them. I’d never been brave enough to attempt it before, but this year I tried it in my warm-up. Not only was it doable, I found it remarkably easy! That little move saved me a ton of time in the race and ultimately helped me land a spot on the podium. I know I wouldn’t have been able to ride those barriers in years past, so it’s nice to have a tangible marker of skill progression.

This week at Cross of the North race 2 however, I had a slightly different experience. No barrier experimentation, but I changed up my approach mid-race. The race featured a long, slightly turn-y stretch of deep, sloppy, thick clay mud. During my warm-up, I’d muscled through the first corner without needing to dismount and was able to again power through the last bad corner. I wasn’t racing at that point—I was mostly just trying to keep mud out of my cleats and pedals before the race started. It was hard and I didn’t ride through it quickly. But I rode at least part of it, and for the rest of my warm-up I stewed on whether to try it during the race. Would it be faster than running or would it be better to carry my bike and not add twenty pounds of mud to the rims right before I try to accelerate up a climb?

The first lap, the woman in front of me dismounted and I was forced to brake, dismount and run. I passed at least one person and was closing down the gap on 3rd place, so running the entire long stretch seemed to be at least OK. I still felt slower than I wanted to be. By the time we came to that stretch on the 2nd lap, I was sitting in 3rd with a 12-year old close behind me. I again dismounted and ran the entire stretch. I opened up the gap a bit more, but was worried I was working too hard trying to sprint through the over-the-ankle deep mud.

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The 3rd time through the mud pit I decide to change my tactic. I had a solid hold on 3rd place at this point, and it looked like 2nd place was fading a bit. My race-addled brain kept saying, “It’s rideable! Ride it! The sun is out, it’s warm—the mud is drying up and you can ride through it faster than you can run with twenty pounds of mud on your feet!” So I rode…until my bike just stopped moving and stuck in place. I awkwardly bailed off, un-suctioned the wheels from the slop, and clumsily dropped a twenty-pound heavier bike on my perpetually bruised shoulder. Then, I “ran” through the mud, gaining another several pounds on my feet. Back on the bike, and the mud-covered wheels refused to get up the hill without considerably more effort on my part. The 12-year old in 4th place had closed down the gap between us. I managed to stay in front for the remainder of that lap, but she and another rider came around me on the final lap (on which I reverted to my previous tactic of running the entire mud stretch), knocking me from 3rd to 5th.

I can’t say I that if I’d consistently run the mud I would have—without question—won a podium spot, but trying to ride it clearly and certainly did not help me hang on to that 3rd position. So, I guess you take chances and sometimes they pan out and sometimes they don’t.

Photo Credits: Ilavee Jones

‘Cross of the North’ – Friday Night Under the Lights

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Susan A. raced under the lights for Cross of the North. Just take a peek at those shoes and you can decide the conditions on the course that night!

Today’s (or rather tonight’s) race was under the lights and in the mud. I have raced at night once before, but that course was dry, so tonight’s conditions brought an extra challenge. I was well prepared for this race as I had everything I needed including a headlamp. The sun has been going down around 6pm and my race started at 7:30pm, so getting dressed in the dark required patience, which is sometimes hard when those race nerves start kicking in. But I did a great job of remaining calm and the whole process reminded me of camping.

After warming up on my trainer, chomping down on some scones and a triple shot of espresso, I hopped on my race bike to take a few laps on the road. It was hard to see anything or anyone, especially those wearing their all black “ninja” skinsuits. There was a full moon, but it was hiding under the thick layer of clouds. I head over to the start line to find out that my race is delayed, because several lights on the course have blown out. The officials are in the process of getting cars parked next to the course so the headlights can provide some light.

My focus for this race is to test out my new tubular wheels and to have a strong start. The whistle blows and we are off and I can’t get my left foot clipped in, it’s frustrating… it’s not like it’s the first time I’ve had this problem, I say to myself, but maybe I’m overthinking it, just like swinging a golf club, the more one thinks about hitting the ball the more likely one will miss it.

Anyway, I move on from that and focus on the race. Is it difficult to see? Yes, at times, but I think that is a good thing because it narrows one’s focus to the task at hand, and removes some of the distractions from seeing the entire course. On the first lap, I get hung up behind a few racers, but I was able to pass them when I chose to ride through the mud bog while they ran it…I didn’t want to get my shoes dirty :)

And so far I’m loving my tires and wheels, but as the race continues and the mud gets caked on, my front wheel starts acting strange. For some reason I think that it’s the mud causing the problem. (after the race I realize the problem was actually a flat tire) so I reach my hand over the handlebar, configure my fingers in an upside down peace sign and place them on either side of my tire to get the extra mud off. I do this several times and then decide maybe I should switch to my pit bike? I start having an internal dialog, debating whether or not I should. I finally decide to swap bikes. The pit is right next to the big mud bog and I know will have to ride a portion of it before I can go into the pit zone.

A bit distracted and not focusing on the best line in the mud, I go down, sliding across the mud. I get up, grab my bike, run into the pit, swap bikes and off I go. Awhhhh…much better! A fresh clean bike, but it’s a lap too late. The next thing I know, Amanda Miller (Hudz-Subaru) and Katie Clouse (Canyon Bicycles-Shimano) are inching up on a few of us. I’m about to get lapped by the leaders who have a 3+ minute lead on the next racer in the group…these ladies are flying. The race announcer is giving a play by play of the battle between these two ladies, one a seasoned Pro and the other a young teenager. Who wins this battle?? Katie Clouse, the teenager, the future of professional women’s racing…impressive!

Cross of the North – Friday SW4

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Gayle suffered through the mud in day 1 of a 3-day cross weekend. Here’s to hoping tomorrow is a bit less peanut-buttery!

Notes to Self:

1.  Win lottery so you have enough money for a second bike.

2.  Put said lotto bike in the pit at SludgeFest…aka Cross of the North

2.  Bring pit people to powerwash your sludgey bike each lap and return to you a clean one.

Inevitably it rained Thursday night, a lot!  At 1:00 I rode a preview lap and it was so muddy I had to stop and clean my bike a bunch of times an powerwash mid-way through the lap.  I finished it off, cleaned my bike and finished my warm up on the road.  By 2:30 the course had firmed up a little with the help of the sun and crazy wind.

I was first off the line and held a lead the first lap and a half or so…I even managed to get the prime (score!)  I managed to stay relatively free of mud build until the second lap.  This is when the smart ladies swapped to their pit bikes and smartly to mtn bikes too.  As the mud built up more and more I could barely spin my wheels.  Looking back I probably should have hopped off and cleared out the mud from my wheels and shoes real quick, but I didn’t.

I finished 4th, not bad, but I was certainly a little bummed.  I learned a lot and look forward to my next adventure in SludgeLand.  Good Luck to everyone who races later this weekend.  As the course dries out a little you will be fast and furious!