This past weekend was incredible. So good I'm not sure where to begin. From the revolutionary soldiers firing rifles at the start of our race to the Maple Water samples I consumed the whole event was a great welcome back to the East Coast and a Tea Party of a good time.
Because this was the last US Cup race in the series, and since it was the only stop on the east coast, there was a bit of a celebratory air to the weekend. Team Ridebiker kicked off the shenanigans with a post pre-ride meet and greet party catered by the amazing _____ mexican restaurant. It was super fun to meet a bunch of east coast riders, chat with them about the riding in the area and eat delicious burritos. Although it had been raining when we arrived at the course to pre-ride the sky opened up and it became a gloriously sunny and warm day, just in time for the party. This caused some confusion about which tires we should run, but by the end of the evening most of us had decided that Kenda Honey Badgers were the best choice for the rocky, slightly muddy course.
Saturday, after eating breakfast with team mates at the hotel (which I thoroughly enjoyed each day) we arrived at the course to the most perfect bike race weather one could imagine. It was sunny without being hot and for the east coast the humidity was almost nonexistent!
I got down to business with warming up and also set to work mentally preparing myself to race bikes. While I have set really high expectations for the past few races, and spent time visualizing exactly how I wanted each race to turn out, this time I approached it a bit different. I still narrowed my train of thought to focus on the task at hand, but I reserved a good deal of my thoughts for enjoying the race, for laying it all out there but simultaneously remembering that I love bike racing and that regardless of the end result having a great time was as important as placing well.
The start was awesome because revolutionary soldiers fired rifles into the air to send us off after the national anthem, but it was a bit chaotic as well. I ended up hitting the singletrack in something like 8th position, not exactly what I had wanted, but my hole shot getting skills apparently need some work. Over the course of the first two laps I tried my darndest to get around riders who where letting a gap open to the top 5, but each time we hit fire road (of which there was very little) the same riders would surge and do everything possible to keep me from passing.
Eventually around lap 3 Evelyn and I were able to take control, but by then it was a little too late to chase down 5th place, and our strategy turned to figuring out how to beat each other. I tried to be patient and sit on Evelyn's wheel, but periods of her slowing made me think I could come around and start chipping away time on the gap to 5th (who might flat, or get tired...) so I ended up doing some work as well. When I was in front I also accidently showed my cards a little too well, and I'm pretty sure Evelyn realized that if she attacked in the last rock garden I would be gapped enough that she could beat me. For some reason I was struggling with a few of the New England rock gardens, something about how the rocks don't move and that they are spaced just far enough apart to catch your wheel.
|Most likely a shot of the finish, still having a good time after being out gunned by Evelyn.|
My strategy of riding Evelyn off my wheel didn't pan out so well (I figured at the very least being in front of her meant if I slowed in a rock garden she would have to as well) and she ended up getting around me just in time to attack that last rock garden and held a couple second gap to the line, landing me in 7th place.
The good news about the finish is that I was stoked to have raced my bike for the past hour and 45 minutes, so not landing the podium spot I wanted wasn't soul crushing like it was at nationals.
The best part of the race was going off the A-line drop on each lap because it was the only 2 seconds where you didn't have to pedal. Overall though I never felt like quitting, or going back to teaching, or like I was having a heart attack, so I'm going to say it was a great time. Every bermed turn, or steep pitch or rooty descent was engaging and challenging and fun in the best possible way, making it pretty much my favorite race this summer.
AND the BEST part was that finishing 7th was all I needed to keep my 3rd place rank in the 4 race US Cup series, which is extra lucky since the podium was only 3 deep :)
After the race, instead of heading straight back to the hotel, we spent a ton more quality time with team mates and East Coast mtb-ers. We sampled Maple Water and fizzy water, chatted with Roger from Kenda and Marty the race organizer. We ate Bubba Burgers and popcorn and drank Katerina Nash's podium champagne.
The Boston Rebellion was a great reminder that racing bikes is as much about the solo interval rides and agonizing surges on lap 4 of a 5 lap XC as it is about the people you race with/against and the ones who support you or set up the course. It was a perfect combination of suffering and celebrating all that makes mountain bike racing so awesome. And best of all it was great to feel like myself again in terms of just good old fashion having a blast out on the course. At some point my body will come around too and I will feel fast again (hopefully before next year, haha) but it's just great to feel happy racing again :)