Photo credit: Kent Baumgardt
With three weeks between the USAC National Championships in Madison and the UCI Cylocross World Championships in Louisville, racing Kings Cross appealed to me for a few reasons. It gave me the opportunity to get in one last race – one last hard training day – before lining up for Worlds next Sunday. It also provided me with a chance to contend with weather I’ll likely see next weekend. We have had some amazing weather in Boulder lately. It’s been unseasonably sunny, warm and dry. While it’s made for some truly enjoyable training days, it hasn’t been ‘ideal’ preparation for the conditions we might see at Louisville. Racing in the cold, muddy, icy and wet in Cincy was good practice in that regard.
The Kings Cross course would have been pretty straightforward and fast had it been dry, but it wasn’t dry. It snowed overnight on Thursday and into Friday morning, and when I headed over to the course for my pre-ride, a thin layer of snow remained. It made for a slippery but still fairly fast course. Yesterday, as the morning went on and the sun came out, the snow began to melt. The mud on the course thickened as snow and ice melted into the dirt. The slippery course produced some tricky sections. There were a few off-camber portions of the course that became harder to negotiate with each passing lap.
Two hours before the start of my race, I pre-rode the course. Everything was pretty fast still despite the melting snow. I did two laps and my bike remained fairly clean. I had been running low pressure during the pre-ride but as the snow and ice melted, rocks and roots were becoming exposed. I thought I might want to run a little more pressure because of this, so I added two extra psi to my tires. It became clear fairly quickly that this was a mistake. I shouldn’t have added pressure – I should have lowered it. The more things melted, the more greasy and slippery it got. Lower pressure is much more beneficial in these types of conditions.
About 500 meters into the race, we hit the first turn, I hit a slippery patch and I slid out. I slid on my side like I was sliding into homebase – going from one side of the tape to the other. It felt like I was sliding forever. Luckily, I managed to hop back up fast and get back on my bike without issues. Less luckily, my vantage point afforded me the opportunity to see the race unfold ahead of me.
Photo credit: Blair R. Fraley
I started working my way up a group that had formed in front of me. As I played catch-up, I saw Katerina Nash (Luna Chix) open a gap. Georgia Gould (Luna Chix) was the next to jump away from the group. Finally, Jasmin Achermann (Rapha Focus) separated herself. Those three riders would ride alone in podium positions for the rest of the race.
I slowly but steadily picked off several riders ahead of me until I ended up with Pepper Harlton (Juventus) on lap three. With Katerina, Georgia and Jasmin still ahead, Pepper and I were battling it out for fourth and fifth place. Shortly after I caught Pepper, I tried to drop her on one of the harder uphill sections. She stayed glued to my wheel, so I let up a little bit. When we came into the next tricky section on the course, I fumbled slightly. My mistake allowed her to come around me, and I had to work to catch her again.
When we came to the start/finish line for the beginning of lap four (of what was a five lap race), I had not yet caught back up to her. I finally managed to make my way back to her wheel just before an off-camber section on lap four. I didn’t stay there long. I slid out on the top of the hill and collected myself quickly. A few seconds later, I found myself on the ground (again!) and at this point, I had to run through the rest of the section. Even running, I was slipping all over the place. By the time I got back on my bike, Pepper was long gone. I rode the final lap and half alone to cross the line in fifth.
While I certainly wanted a better result, I’m definitely glad I raced Kings Cross. It felt good to get another race under my belt before Worlds – especially a race that may mirror the conditions in Louisville. Regardless of the result, it was a solid training day, and the course was fun. I’m grateful that the race organization put this event on for us to give us one last tune-up before Worlds. And I’m grateful to all the spectators who came out to show their support on a cold January day. I’m curious what Niels Albert though of the Heckle Zone?!
I also need to give a special shout out to Jose Alcala from SRAM NRS. I was in Cincinnati without team support, and Jose took fantastic care of me and my bikes. He’s had one of my race bikes since Madison, and he did an incredible amount of work on it to have it race ready for today. I dropped off my other bike to him on Friday after I pre-rode, and he got that bike race ready as well. When I arrived on course on Saturday, both of my bikes were there waiting for me. Being by myself, it’s especially reassuring to have had such a good, trustworthy and reliable mechanic looking after my equipment. There’s a reason there’s always a line of people waiting for Jose’s attention!
Next up – Worlds! Who’s excited? I am, I am!!!