Cross Vegas is the race that started it all. It was my first big CX race, 2012, I had no expectations, I just wanted to race my cross bike against the countries best. I went from last row to 13th by the finish. I pedaled my ass off, I didn't know what I was doing, but I did it and I felt proud. Everyone at home was cheering loud and rooting me on. Racing Cross Vegas has been a tradition ever since. The following year I finished 11th, and 11th the year after, and then in 2015 the first edition of the World Cup I finished my lucky #13, just like my first ever CrossVegas. It felt heartwarming, I was proud of my ride, that spot was meant for me, I just knew it.
Flash forward 1 year. We're back in Vegas for the first round of the World Cup circuit, the course vastly different than years past. During pre-ride on Tuesday I wasn't really sure I liked the course, it seemed there was an awful lot of pedaling to be had, the grass seemed extra squishy and spongy, but yet half dead and slippery. Race day is always an anxious one, my nerves start about mid afternoon and don't really settle until race time, but this year was a different one. I was nervous in the afternoon, but once I got to the course, did a hot lap or two, I stopped being nervous. I wasn't really sure how the race was going to go, but I knew however it went, that it was going to be all I could do. My legs didn't feel particularly good, they were absolutely feeling the efforts from the previous weekend and the travel, plus the heat and dry air of Vegas. I knew that whatever I did out there was going to be a result of heavy legs from the intense start of the season we've had so far. That also meant I had nothing to lose.
Since the weekend I had been pondering what I need to do to stay in the front of the race. At Rochester Day #2 and both days at Trek, I was missing something, speed was one of them, but I knew it couldn't have just been speed. I reflected on my races, what could I change, what can I improve on? I was visualizing where I had previously lost spots, what happened to my mental game, what could I change what could I improve? One thing came to mind, I needed to pedal more and coast less. All day Tuesday and all day Wednesday I told myself "pedal, pedal, pedal. Never stop pedaling". During the race my mantra continued, pedal through every corner, pedal on every downhill. Do not quit. Do not give up, do not take a break when a break shouldn't be taken, dig, push, go.
I was the first call up to row #3, not exactly where I wanted to be, I knew I had to choose my spot wisely. The further back you go, the more of a delay there is off the start, the further back you go in the pack. My start sucked. I kept getting cut off by riders, people running into the fencing, having to stop and unclip so I wouldn't crash, people trying to shove me all over the place. I think I went by the pits for the first lap in the mid20's. My legs felt pretty bad, but I remained calm, I've raced Vegas enough to know what happens to people, they blow up catastrophically. When I would catch up to riders I would sit on their wheels, catching my breath, seeing when the right time to pounce was, feeling out how they were riding. I watched as riders in front of me were forming gaps from the riders in front of them, and I dug to get by and latch onto the next group of riders. I moved into the top 20, into the top 15. I was getting passed by riders, only to catch up to them a minute or 2 later, sit on their wheel catch my breath and move on. Before I knew it, I passed a group of Euros, dropped them and kept going. Then I was 10th, with 8th and 9th just in front of me. Going into the last lap I caught 8th and 9th, keeping my pace steady where I needed to stay steady and attack the corners where I knew I could attack the corners and not vomit. Ultimately, the last lap was vomit inducing, a bobble with another rider on the last half lap on one of the stair sections left me dropped and tired, and I held onto the finish for 10th. FINALLY a top 10 finish in Vegas, and to have it be a World Cup at that.
For the first time in my racing career I feel like I actually raced, instead of riding around in circles really hard. I thought about how best I could come out on top of the race when I didn't feel amazingly awesome, and it worked. Watching from the pits Chris said I looked smooth, I closed the gaps when I didn't think I could, and I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to never stop pedaling.
I can't thank my sponsors enough, my equipment is top notch, and worked flawlessly. I didn't ever once question how my bike was functioning, which is such a peace of mind. I realize I haven't written about my bike set up, so heres a brief on what I rode in Vegas:
- Frame: Focus Mares
- Wheels: American Classic Aluminum Tubulars
- Tires: Clement LAS (24/25 front/rear psi)
- Bars: Easton EC90 SLX 42cm
- Stem: EA90 80mm +10 rise (because I ride grandma style! Actually it's because of my torn labrum in my hip)
- Seatpost: EC90 Zero
- Saddle: SDG Circuit Mtn
- Crank + Chainring: Easton EC90 SL 38tooth
- Drivetrain: SRAM Force 1
Also, I can't speak enough amazing things about the new Feedback Sports Omnium Trainer. This thing is a magical piece of equipment. Gone are the days of lugging around a 40 pound awkward to carry trainer, gone are the days of me begging my host house for a trainer to warm up on. The Omnium is 14 pounds, can be carried onto a plane (trust me I've done it, it gets through security), and it's even easy to ship with your bikes if that's how you're doing your bike transportation. This trainer isn't just for the privateer athlete, this is for everyone. Heading to a local cx race? How many times have you been drug down by lugging your heavy 5 year old trainer from the car to your team tent? I know I've been there, I'm happy to say I won't ever be there again! Oh, also, gone are the days of inconsistent resistance on those silly heavy trainers.
The season is here, I'm so thankful for my set up, my sponsors, my support system, I don't know if I could be any happier?!!