Tag Archives: Cyclocross

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!

Coming Back from Injury

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Jenny – our youngest super star on the team – is coming back from injury. Hard to do especially when your season pre-injury is on fire! But it didn’t keep her down. Read more:

In one of the last races of an amazing road season, I had a bad crash. I was racing in the SW4’s in the Littleton Crit. when the person in front of me went down suddenly. She took me out near the end of the race and I broke a small bone in my right hand. Three days later I was getting an x-ray and off the bike! I was out for the rest of the season and had a cast for four weeks. Even though I couldn’t ride outside I was on the trainer everyday getting ready for the upcoming cross season! 

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As soon as I got my cast off and got the ‘okay’ from my doctor I was on my bike and had already signed up for my first cross race barely a week later. My first race of the season wasn’t only my first time racing in over 5 weeks, it was also my first cross race as a 3! I was quite nervous to get back out there, but once I lined up and the race started I remembered how much fun cyclocross is! Even though I was dying the entire time I had an amazing time racing with all my teammates again. In the end I got last place but I couldn’t be happier with just finishing! 

Crashing in a race and getting a bad injury can be very discouraging. You just have to jump on the trainer and let yourself heal so you can come back next season stronger than ever!

Boulder Cup: A moment of panic

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Melanie Wong rips the bandaid off and gets her first cyclocross race of the season under her belt. 

You know that moment of panic when you realize you’re completely unprepared for what’s about to happen? Yeah, that was me at the start of the Boulder Cup cyclocross race at Valmont Bike Park in Boulder.

It was my first cyclocross race of the season, and the first one I had done for almost an entire year. It was a brisk morning and I was still slightly groggy from the 8 a.m. start time, but I jerked to attention when the announcer counted down 10 seconds.

“Wait, I’m not ready!” I wanted to yell.
Too late.

Off we went, and after clipping in and grabbing onto the back of the pack, things began to feel familiar. Valmont is a fun course with a lot of climbing and mountain-bike style dirt track. I charged up some of the steep, but short grass climbs, squirreled my way through the sand, and was pleased to find I was not only keeping up but picking off riders one by one.
My favorite part of the course was the grand staircase, where people would gather to watch the action. For some reason those stairs were just the right height for my short legs to bound up them.

Alas, I lost some time on the gravel-y turns and corners, and I only worked my way about 1/3 of the way up the pack before succumbing to tired legs.

I finished, wide awake and grinning. Let the cross season begin!

Embracing Vulnerability

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Perfect title for Katie Whidden one of our road teammates as she competed in her first cyclocross this past weekend.

This weekend I competed in my first cross race and felt a certain level of vulnerability that I have not felt in a while.  One of my blessings is that I am typically confident enough to try different sports or athletic activities because I have always been able to pick up on them quickly.  For some reason though I was more nervous about this race than I usually am.  I started out in endurance sports as a triathlete and have only been mountain biking for 8 months so I am still learning how a bike responds on dirt.  I have fallen a few times and while I now understand I won’t die if I fall, I do know that it can really hurt and take a few days or weeks to heal. After some nudging from teammate Brittany Jones I finally decided this was a perfect fall day to try cyclocross.

Before the race I was feeling pre-race nerves that I hadn’t had in a while.  I had signed up for the unknown.  Would I embarrass myself and eat it into a barrier on a dismount, would I slide out in a corner or worse yet hold up an entire line of girls trying to race? These were all thoughts that passed through my mind before the race.  Having Naked teammates to warm up with and talk with before the race really helped. Katie Harrer, Helen Prieto, and Cathy Goodheart were racing in category 4 with me. Emily Zinn and Brittany Jones were our seasoned mentors in category 3.  All of them have raced cross at least once and provided advice that was able to calm some of the nerves.

One thing I was never warned about was call ups.  I know positioning is important before you hit the dirt so I was planning on having a good starting spot but the USAC official came by to call us up into specific rows.  This surprised me and I was unfortunately called in the 2nd to last line out of the 50 girls that were racing in my category.  The start played out exactly opposite as I was hoping.  I got stuck behind a pile up the moment we hit dirt. I managed to stay on my bike but continued to have a messy first lap. I was braking in every corner, nervous of all the girls behind me hating me for my bad handling skills and slightly nervous that I would blow up because I wasn’t sure if my fitness was ready for cross.  However, something happened on the 2nd lap.  I played to my strengths and powered up every asphalt section to pass as many racers as possible.  I knew my cornering and lack of dismounting skills would slow me down so I needed to be smart and suffer when I could and stay upright through everything else.  I ended up feeling much more confident and flowing through the corners with more ease.  This race alone has forced me to sharpen up my skills in a way that I wasn’t doing during training rides with friends.  My competitive drive took over and I knew I had to put my big girl pants on and start racing like I know how to ride bikes.  By the last lap of the race I knew I would be back for more.  This was way too fun and I could tell there was tons of improvement that I could do to help me go faster.

For those of you who are struggling to convince yourself to make the leap to actually race cyclocross I suggest you step out of your comfort zone and experience another fun way to ride bikes. It is important for us to put ourselves in situations in our life where we know we aren’t going to see immediate success and where we will potentially embarrass ourselves.  This is how we grow and add excitement to our life.  Being what I consider a “freshman” at something doesn’t end in college.  We should put ourselves into these types of situations as much as possible.  This will keep us mentally and physically fresh because learning something new should never end.  I challenge you to embrace the feeling of vulnerability and try something new whether that be cross or any other activity that puts you in an uncomfortable place.

Flatirons CX Race Report

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Cyclocross is supposed to be muddy, treacherous and hard, right? Susan lost count of how many times she slid out, crashed and walked like a frog. But she did it all with a smile. Read more to find out why this race was so tough.

Some of Colorado’s finest female CX racers begin to gather at the start line and circle around like sharks hunting for the kill. As we wait to be called up into our proper starting order, the rain begins.  As does the chatter about sprinklers watering the course, but “don’t worry” we’re told, safety cones are on course where the water has puddled up.  Oh and the 180 turn at the far end of the course that we were riding during warm up is more slippery than snot, so run it. Oh and the good lines in the mud have all been trampled by the Pro Men who went right before us. Everything about the course has changed from when we rode it during warm-up. 

A couple of racers decided to bag the race in fear of injury and others are getting last minute bike swaps, ones that are more suitable for the slick, muddy conditions.  A few minutes delayed, but the race begins and so does the adventure.  The course starts on asphalt, then up a curb to a wet grassy off camber set of steep “S” turns, my rear tire is sliding from side to side, but I manage to keep it upright. Next up a tight right and uphill turn into a set of barriers, this left me gasping for air at the top.

As I am coming off the sidewalk down the slightly off camber grassy hill, I see the sprinklers. They are on, arching overhead directly onto the course and right on the slicker than snot 180 turn.  I quietly say to myself, “hey it’s cyclocross, anything goes.”  The racer in front of me attempts to ride the 180, but goes down. I quickly hop off and find myself able to make it around her with little trouble.

But the most challenging sections are still to come and those sections become worse as the race and rainy weather continues. We are all struggling, some more than others. For me on this day, I was struggling both physically and mentally. I lost count of how many times I slid out, sometimes crashing harder than others, chainring falling off getting stuck between my ring and derailleur and the absence of toes spikes made running in the slick mud very difficult (placed an order for toes spikes in all sizes today).  In fact, the only way I could make it up one section was by walking like a frog, I had absolutely no traction. All I could do was smile, have fun with it and do the best I could. But one thing I knew for sure was that I would finish, even if that meant last place.

After it was all over, a few spectators congratulated me for a job well done. They saw me out there struggling, but never giving up. This will be a race I will not forget.

If a picture is worth a thousand words…

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Gayle took 1st place this weekend at one of Boulder’s biggest cyclocross races, but not after getting a face full of sand….and getting it caught on camera. Read more or just laugh at the picture instead.

If a picture is worth a thousand words this picture writes the race report for me…

This will be my first real season of racing cross after a few races on a borrowed bike last year.  My season started this weekend at the US Open of Cyclocross at the Boulder Reservoir.  I was nervous for the race after a week of traveling for work (read: not enough sleep/exercise and too much free breakfast buffet).  I made my way up to Boulder on Friday to pre-ride the course (in the snow) and was disappointed to see that they hadn’t marked the course yet and since it is a very “taped” out course, it was impossible to get any real idea of what the course would be.  I was able to tell that there would be a lot of dirt!  I rode around in the snow for a while and made the journey back down to Aurora – after a pit stop for some warmer gloves

Saturday was an early morning.  The SW4 race was at 7:32 so I was out the door by5:15 to get up there.  I threw every layer of clothes in a bag and just hoped it would warm up.  I appreciate that cross is an all-weather event, but I just wasn’t ready for sub-freezing temps in the beginning of September.  It was 32 degrees when I pulled in the parking lot…ouch.  I layered up and rode the course twice.  Not the warm-up I would have like, but I got to ride the course and see where some of the muddy, sandy, challenging spots were.  I was glad to see a few other SW3 and SW4 Naked racers there that morning.  There’s something to be said for pain in numbers.

As the SW4 race started I tried to get to the front as soon as possible.  The two Junior racers started with us and they were the first off the pack.  Those girls were fast – I have total respect for their ability at their age.  Part way through the first lap I passed two racers and it dawned on me that the juniors were in a different category so I was winning the SW4 race.  I tried to keep a steady pace and be cautious in some of the sandy areas.  I realized which spots it was faster for me to put a foot down or hop off and run and I sucked it up on the totally bumpy dirt, grassy areas that jostled you to the core.  On the third lap I was pumped to still be in the lead, I got to the drop-off spot that was a challenge the first few times.  First lap I felt like I got whiplash I landed so hard, second lap was good, third time…not so much.  I “guess” I was a bit too far over the bars and in a flash I was flying over the handlebars, face down in the sand.  I totally knocked the wind out of myself and it took a few seconds to get up.  I stood up, took a few big breaths to re-inflate my lungs and spit out some dirt.  A few steps to make sure I was basically ok, put the chain back on my bike and took off the best I could.  A few people were pretty close behind me at that point, but I knew if I pushed I could hold them off.  In the process of falling I must have smashed my handlebars into the meaty part above my knee-cap which made it hard to push hard, but generally I was ok – except for the massive quantities of dirt covering my entire body.  I think I spit out dirt the entire last lap and still had dirt up my nose when I finished the race.

The whole wipeout happened to take place directly in front of two photographers and a medic.  Good crowd for a crash!  I bet John Flora stayed in that spot all day getting “money shots” of people in mid-crash.  I saw he had a bunch of other crash photos later, but I also noticed that over the course of the day the ledge that was there in the morning smoothed out a bit and wasn’t as harsh of a drop-off.  Goes to show how much a course changes over the length of a day of racing.

After a post-race stop at the medics (they waived me down asking to check me out) and a trip to the top of the podium I stole an ice-pack from my kid’s diaper bag and made that journey back to Aurora again.  I was glad to just be in some pain and not actually hurt and anxious for the photos I knew would emerge in a few hours.  After posting my epic face plant pic to the world of facebook lots of great comments followed.  My favorite was a post on the photographer’s page from a woman I didn’t even know and it just said “Bless her heart”.  Too Funny!

This was definitely an exciting way to start off the cross season.  Although I’m hoping to not have this much excitement in future races I am hoping for a great season and possibly another trip onto the podium.

Colorado Cyclocross Awards Party – Naked cleans up again!

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Our dirt diva Brittany J. recapped the cyclocross awards party. Naked cleaned up again. It was one dirty job but these ladies went above and beyond and came out on top!

This last Saturday was the Colorado Cross Cup awards party, and Naked represented well.

For those who are unfamiliar with BRAC’s Cross Cup (or the very similar Road Cup), it is a points system that spans the entire CX season. You earn points both as an individual and as a team based on your results, and some races are weighted more heavily than others.

Our own sponsor in 2013, Prestige Imports, hosted the awards party. Basil Docs supplied a veritable wall of delicious pizza, while Great Divide and Izzie provided libations. There was also a raffle for some pretty nice swag from Rudy Project, Polar, and several others.

As the awards got underway, Jenny Lucke took to the podium. Our rockstar junior not only won the individual racer competition for Jr Women 17-18, she also single-handedly earned a second place spot in the team competition for Naked in the same division.

Jenny wasn’t the only Naked woman to earn a spot on the podium, though. Every Naked woman that raced as a Cat 4 during the season helped earn a Team 3rd Place for Naked. Cathy Goodheart and Emily Unger (and I’m not sure why Jenny wasn’t up there, because she raced Cat 4 as well as Jr.) represented Naked on the podium. I’m looking forward to seeing all of these women race Cat 3 next year.

And finally, after many slices of pizza and many grapes and strawberries, Naked was called back up to the podium as the 1st place team in the Senior Women Cat 3 division.

Lanier Allen and I received the 1st place plaque on behalf of Naked and our other Cat 3 teammates.

As far as I can tell, it was a stellar end to an amazing season. Several people have a new mud addiction, while others continued to hone skills and aim for the hole shot.

Congratulations to all the women who raced this season—you played an important part in earning these awards. And thank you to everyone who cheered and encouraged us.

Photos 1 & 2, Jenny Lucke

Photo 3, Ryan Muncy Photography

Race report: The Nationals Buzz

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Emily Zinn shares her CX Nats experience. We had several Naked ladies out there representing in almost every age group and during the UCI race! 

The week of the Boulder 2014 Cyclocross National Championships was amped. Juniors grinned ear to ear or scoped the course seriously with their headphones blocking distractions. Masters over 70 sharpened their elbows to contend for stars and stripes. I took it all in with pleasure and the pride of getting to show off something you love at its best.

The non-championship race was a wild ride on off-camber ice that saw girls running icy descents. Fortunately, my Challenge Fangos hooked up great and rolled fast in a straight line. The racing was tight and competitive with lots of back and forth. I was happily in the 5-way sprint for 3rd.

But, as someone who loves chaos, lining up 80th in Sunday’s elite race was something special. Fighting for every position, running the stairs to deafening howls of enthusiasm, hearing the gasps that mean someone went down behind you, the focus of navigating a tough off-camber with eyes blurry from a hard effort, it was all a buzz I could never describe. I fought through a lot of the pack, and took a donut hand-up on the stairs. My Zinn Magster ‘Cross was super responsive and I made lots of passes in technical sections.

I also got to send off the kids I’ve been coaching in Boulder Junior Cycling to battle for their own wins, one of whom took home the jersey and all of whom won the pleasure of racing a championships in front of their community on a course their coach, Pete Webber, designed. It was a uniquely wonderful race and the organizers did a phenomenal job getting the crowds out.

Impressively, more women lined up for the elite race than men, one more thing to be proud of.