Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Start of the season: Speed play

The 2012 race season has started. The Sweet Hammer is racing once again. It must be time for some sweet blogging!

Having spent most of the winter working and living in Northern California it seemed appropriate to spend a weekend racing and representing my new team at the ProXCT #2 in southern California. When else would I luck out and be able to drive myself to a race near L.A (albeit terrified driving in tinsel town)? With my bike tuned up by the amazing Chris Iles in Los Gatos, I was all set for my first race of the year.

Riding in Northern California

I arrived at Bonelli Park to meet my teammates and reccy the course. There were four of us racing for Stan’s during this hot March weekend: myself, Kaila Hart, Jenny Smith and Sarah Kaufmann. I had spent time with Kaila at the Windham World Cup last year. Kaila is an extremely strong U23 rider, with a brilliant eye for a good pair of jeans. I quickly got to business with her recommendations on this season’s hottest pair. This was my first time meeting Sarah and Jenny and they were as lovely as the rumors heard. They both have a laid back manner but an attention to detail when it comes to racing; I can learn a lot from all of these girls.

The Team L-R: Kaila, Jenny, Vicki, Sarah
Cycling News had described the race course as follows: The 3.1-mile, UCI regulation pro cross country course is a mixture of fast rolling fire road, short punchy climbs and steep twisting descents with four hundred feet of climbing per lap that will challenge riders to their limit. Natural and manmade obstacles have been strategically selected to elevate the difficulty of the course”. Horror.

We headed out on the course and the description was as accurate as in print. It was a roller coaster of short hard climbs, with fast sandy descents (with the odd ‘rock’ feature). No recovery. I looked at my HR warming up. Eeeek. This was going to be fun.

I could tell my approach to the race was totally different to normal. I had been nervous mid-week, but felt remarkably chill the night before. I did things I would never do, like changed my tires and added a new electrolyte solution, Elete Electrolytes, to my feed bottles. I barely like to ride with different socks on from race to race with 100 milers in case it changes my performance.

We were extremely lucky to have Jimmy Deaton as our race mechanic, the wonderful Joan and Matt Wehn as our hosts and ProGold Lubricants very own Bruce Dickman parked next to us (another fantastic sponsor of the team). All of these extra bonuses of being on an elite team take some of the stress out of racing (‘Vicki let me wash and lube your bike for you’ wow!).

On race day I had 2nd to last call up. No excuse though, as the field was smaller than usual (potential Olympians are racing in South Africa). When the whistle went off I nearly laughed out loud; at one point I think I was DFL. Focus Vicki. I stayed calm, and began picking my way through the field. My only real game plan was not to blow up, to stay positive and enjoy the race. I achieved all my goals. Even though I was technically racing mid pack I was enjoying every minute of it, re-affirming my love for bike racing and building my excitement for this year’s races.

Jenny S called this my game face. True. I love bike racing :0)

I also thoroughly enjoyed being fed bottles every lap by Jimmy and Matt. The Elete Electrolytes worked a treat and I will definitely be topping off my bottles with their products this year.

By the time the engine was finally fired up it was all over. I crossed the line in 12th. Not a stellar performance, but not a disaster either considering it was my first ProXCT. Even better, Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s team were strewn all over the results page, with Jenny in 7th, Sarah in 8th and Kaila in 17th.

As usual I spent the rest of the weekend dreaming of racing more ProXCT’s (I tend to do this whatever the discipline of bike race I have just finished). But really, this playing in the park at speed on Saturday afternoon was just a great excuse to race hard, hang out with wonderful folks and test all of the products from our amazing sponsors this year. Now it’s back to building towards NUE #1. I sure will miss the big mountains of California and the friends (really family) I have met here, but I sure am looking forward to my own house, Rich and the pooch. Hammer on.

So long California

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