Nationals Part 1 of 3
The Build Up
I tried to figure out a way to make a concise edition of the blog that rounded out the season, explained Nationals, and gave the context to the 12th place I was able to achieve. Its was impossible. So I split up the mega blog up into 3 parts, a trilogy of sorts so we can finish of this season in the best way. You have all been incredible readers and I want to do the best by you. So here we go!!
This year it was very important for me to give myself the best shot at a result in Asheville. During the season, I spent more hours than I can count in the car, and that always has a negative effect on my legs and my brain. Driving is not optimal. Kingsport TN (where we raced the weekend before) was only 1.25 hours from Asheville. I would have to 7 hours back home, only to drive another 7 hours back to asheville a few days after I get home, missing two days of training or recovering. Not ideal.
Once again, the cyclocross community crushed it and between my friends with the JAM fund, a local masters rider, and one of my sponsors, I was able to be completely taken care of with housing for the whole week in Asheville. It was incredible.
Sunday T-7 days
To follow up the hard race in Kingsport, I wanted to have a longer spin to shake out the legs. I met up with Al Donahue, Scott Smith, Carrie Seipp, Barry Schmitt, Ellen Noble and Brittley Bowman for a spin on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was a great way to meet new friends, see old ones and settle into the idea that Nationals was only a week away.
Non-Championship race was on Tuesday. The agenda consisted of a short spin on some roads and trails to keep the legs open and tech skills firing. Then off to the course to get my numbers and do a walk through of the course. My first impressions were the videos didn’t come close to doing the steepness (up and down) of the actual terrain. The closest course that I had ridden to the challenge of the features was Devou Park in 2014. A real challenging course.
Following the course inspection, I moved into the amazing cabin that David Tucker was willing to share with me. Dave has been involved in the success of the team from the beginning, helping support the Silent Auction early in September and a was able to bookend the season with a place to stay and relax for part of the week.
Tuesday T-5 Non-Championship Race. I chose to do this race for a few reasons. I wanted to keep my tech skills up, especially at speed. I wanted the chance to ride the course more than whats possible during the open training sections. Racing is also a great workout, so it saved me having to do a workout. The workout would have had running to simulate the run up in the race, so why not go ahead and do the run up on the specific feature?
The race: Not only did Dave set me up with the housing, he volunteered to come out and pit for me! Crazy awesome dude. The race went very well. I was worried about the sub freezing temps, but my Cutaway Fleece lined skin suit did the trick paired with my Aeroshell and Pearl Izumi leg warmers and gloves. It was a blast ripping on the course and feeling it change from frozen to slick in the course of 40 minutes. I was able to get through the race with no technical issues and come away with the win. It was incredible to race in the beyondCX colors and win the first race of the National Championship Week.
There was almost a disaster on the way to the awards that night. Like a cross race, I was caught behind a crash on the route that was going to make me cut it close. Fortunately, my awesome friends and fellow Ritchey Swiss Cross riders with Loose Nuts Cycling, Rhys May and Matthew Reeves were there. (Rhys was on the podium in her own Non-Champ race!) They talked to the officials to have my podium moved back so I could be there. They were even willing to help park my car for me so I could make it. Thanks guys.
Being on the podium at a National Champs, even though a non championship race was incredible. I want to do that again but in the big race.
Chill day, relax day. I had a massage, and played some pool, did my best not to not think about bikes. Didn’t even ride.
My time at Daves was came to a close, so I loaded up my car to head to my 4th place in 6 days. On the way, I stopped and did a ride with Carrie Seipp of the Foundry Factory team and smash my last workout of the season. Just hard enough to open up the legs, but not too hard to effect my race on Sunday. It was awesome to have the legs responding so close to the race.
After that, took some time to walk around Asheville and see a bit of the city we were staying in for Nats. Love the town. There is some really neat stuff there. It was also very important for me to have distraction from the race coming up. Balancing the build up of the biggest race of the year with staying calm and not being activated, burning energies thinking about things you couldn’t control.
After a killer dinner with the Loose Nuts Cycling team, I moved into the Shimano Lodge. An incredible house, it was another safe haven to relax and be ready for the race. They came on board late this year to sponsor the XC90b shoes I ride. I can’t thank them enough. Right at the border of the Pisgah National Forest, it was the perfect retreat.
I took a final mental day to get one last soul ride in on my Ritchey. From the Shimano Lodge, it was a 10 minute ride to some amazing dirt roads and single track in the Bent Creek system. I got to get loose and remind myself that bikes can just be fun. So important for my brain.
Everything comes full circle. In 2014, John Rademacher and his family hosted me in Cincinnati. This year in Asheville, John asked if I could help run the pits for his daughter racing in the 13-14’s. It was hugely important for me to do so. The parents of these kids sacrifice so much and after all the work they do, the last thing they need to do is watch their kids race from the pits. Olivia did great btw.
After that, I met up with John Gatch who would not let me leave the venue without setting up my Ritcheys for the race on Sunday. He also introduced me to Sam Klontz who would be my mechanic. While they set up the bikes, I did my openers around the Biltmore estate. The place is incredible. I jumped on the course for only one lap pre-ride as rain started to come in. The course was going to change every 3 minutes for the next two hours, so I called it after one lap and got home to get rest and get ready for the race tomorrow.
The hardest part of Nationals is the waiting. The training, easy. The nutrition, no problem. The work? That’s what we live for. Waiting? Thats about as hard as it gets. In the next blog, Game Day. The race, the day, a more typical blog. Thanks for reading!