Thursday night - i headed over to a happy hour for women in the bike industry (technically i'm not in the 'bike industry', but I am a woman, and love bikes, so that counts). Met a ton of amazing ladies, from I9, bicycling mag, bike, dirt rag, bike flights, competative cyclist and more. a highlite was when Amanda Batty (not EMILY) stopped in. She is WAY more bubbly than i would have expected from her very strong online presence. Very passionate, and a really cool chick.
Friday started out rather stressful. the drive to the venue typically takes 18mins w typical traffic. this morning, well over an hour. Certain entrances (that were open yesterday) were now closed to incoming traffic and i ended driving around in circles. By the time I got on my bike, i needed to get right over to the course to pre-ride, and i had forgotten my "entrance bracelet". I figured it wouldn't be a big deal, as my race was starting really soon and I had my number plate on my bike (and it lists the race its for on the back), and there was a not-very-used entrance gate right next to the start line, but it was manned by a nasty, grumpy woman who felt the need to lecture/yell at me about being responsible as an athlete and that she absolutely could NOT let me in without it. Luckily the kind gentleman also manning the gate stepped in as I calmly repeated a 3rd time that my race was about to start and ushered me to a table where some volunteers with a tablet checked I was in the next race and gave me a bracelet. and they were VERY sweet.
So relieved I got in, and i started warming up in the course. It starts out on the asphalt, then we are guided into a sandy gutter where we climb through sand s-turns (very cx style), cross the asphalt track, then ride down the other side through some grassy s-turns (with a couple deep water run-off ruts) and then into the gravel, back onto hard pack grass all the way around the track to cut across again and climb into a decent little grass hill which feeds back down into the track gutter (and had some awkwardly placed tire-towers (used as race car bumpers, i would assume) a long straight away with some ruts, mud and more deep gravel, then back through the start.
On my second or 3rd warm-up lap one of the UCI lead motorcycles (i didn't look close, but it was like an r1100 or something, all decked out with side bags and go pros) stuck in the sand. I hopped off and helped to push him out of the sand. He was a big guy, so it took a couple of us to push rock him out.
The weather is JUST Perfect - sunny, but not too hot, not too cold. we had the perfect start time - 10:30am. really good size crowd around the start/finish area, tons of media/camera/etc. A really awesome, excited vibe.
Then came staging. Last row call up as usual. The national anthem and then we were into it. I had an ok start, and weaved up into the mess. seemed like there were some close calls on the first pinch point, but I was totally clear of any issues. IN the sand 2 girls locked handlebars and twisted off to the side, but I was able to maneuver around that mess as well. down the gravel was slow, lots of traffic and then we were onto the asphalt. I hung onto a wheel and tried my best not to get dropped. Some girls passed along one side and I tried to jump and hang onto their wheel. up the climb and down to the tire-tower I was clearly off the main pack, but they weren't far off. I kept pushing and focusing on not getting dropped. into the next lap I squirreled out on an inside sand turn and bled a few places. The laps start to get blurry, i lost count, but I hung onto a group of 4 for a half lap that was chasing the main group and then dropped off of them at some point. then there was a single girl ahead of me and i focused entirely on closing the gap. I followed her for a least a lap, struggling to make any ground. then we came through the start/finish and the guy was holding the 3 laps to go card and I knew the lead group had a 2 min lead on us by then, so i figured I'd be getting pulled soon.
No UCI official waving me off, so I figured, this is the last lap, make it good. I stayed steady up the sand climb and worked my BUTT off on the asphalt to get onto her wheel, I DID!, and drafted off her through the flat too. Up and over the hill and back towards the finish sprint, and i dig in and make a pass. Solid! lap count says 2 to go. again, no UCI official at the wave off point, so I'm thinking, this is DEF the last lap. MAKE IT GOOD. I put it down, steady on the sand, feeling the fatigue set in there - just sucks the power out of the legs, but it's over before I know it and we are on the downhill gravel, and out on the flat. I know she's behind me and i'm not going to let up. nearing the end of hte lap I'm starting to feel major fatigue set in and I stand and pedal, trying to get to the finish line - and the lap count says 1 to go - and then NO UCI official and I have a mental barf and cant' figure out if 1 to go means this is the final lap or if there is one more after this lap. I puzzle over this through the sand, really struggling with it, working with an empty tank and the girl on my wheel passes me (I can't recall quite where, but somewhere early in this lap). As I'm coming down the gravel side I hear the announcer talking about the upcoming finish sprint and realize THIS is the last lap and i focus on trying to catch that girls wheel, but she is just too solid on the flats. I'm holding steady but not making up any ground. I sprinted hard through to the finish and overall feel REALLY good about the effort.
Then I cruised up the hill to cool down and decided to check out the XC course. The Cliff/Luna pro team caught up to me and split off - some riding hte road and 2 heading in to check out the xc course. (Magallie Rochette & Katerina Nash head into the xc course). we pedal just a short distance and are confronted with a tall (7foot?) chain link fence that is majorly pad-locked with barely enough gap in the gate for a person to slip through. Katerina (who took 2nd in the short track) immediately scales the fence and tells Magallie to hand the bikes over. Magallie picks up my high ball and goes "whoa! that's a light bike!". We get all the bikes over and then climb it ourselves and get back to pre-riding. I was able to chat with them through the rest of the xc course.
The xc course is gnarly this year - instead of routing us across the hill, we are now going straight up and down the hill. with the ups a very severe angle and the downs (with taped s-turns of course) very sandy and loose. It's all rideable, but in a pack? at race pace? it's going to be a mess.
the mens' short track was happening, so I stopped and cheered on Nick Lando (who had an awesome finish! Top 10, i think). Then I walked around the venue collecting electrolyte & protein bar samples and recovery shakes. I hung out at the santacruz /juliana tent for a while (They gave me an awesome set of juliana kit & clothing!). Then I met Danny MackAskill (santa cruz had him signing posters) and cruised around the venue (seemed way less crowded than I remembered from last year).
It's only 5pm and I'm ready for bed. Such a good day - I'm going to bask in the giddiness of it and hit the sack early, because tomorrow's xc race is going to HURT.