CCCX #1 Race Report

September 25, 2006 · Print This Article

by Sarah Kerlin

CCCX Schedule

Finally, it’s here, the first cyclocross race of the season is tucked away in my pocket, and we are all off and rolling with the first of the national series events only 2 weeks away. I’ve been contemplating what this season might hold since way back in April, when I first hit the nasty steep hills of Westside Santa Cruz for evil, evil hill repeats. Back then, I’d head out for these nightmarish intervals with dread, and at the top of each hill I’d think, so this is what a lack of fitness tastes like – blood, sweat, and vomit all mixed together. It was never a good feeling; I wanted a feeling of working hard and conquering a hill, but instead I was only beat down by the hill and crept back for each repeat with a sickening burning in my legs and lungs and belly.

Time and training passed by, and recently I hit that hill again for intervals, and it felt oh-so-good, as if my legs and arms and breathing all worked as one and I loved every moment of it. Now I can keep my eyes on the dead end at the top of the evil hill, which isn’t as steep now, and I can fly up it like a fit, ready to race machine.

But even with the knowledge that I had that fitness now, I still arrived at the first of the Central Coast Cyclocross events with nervous anticipation. No matter what you’ve experienced in training, it never can be as painful as the true test of race day. I arrived early so Matty Wabbit could line up with Master’s As, but still I had a moment of pre-race nerves when I discovered I had forgotten my flair!

Thank god for teammates, as Jen Chapman came to my rescue. I was exiting the ladies room when I spotted Jen and Brent just rolling up in the Euro Van. I ran up to Jen, in a panic. I needed something, anything to accessorize! I couldn’t line up without a girly frilly something.

“Jen,” I cried, “I’ve come empty handed! Do you have anything? Can you help a sister out?”

Jen, calm and collected, pulled out of her purse a nice little purple package, saying “I always travel with flair!” She showed me how to install it on my stem with the handy little plastic applicator, and I was off to finish my warm up. Whew, what would I do without the girls on my team being prepared, even when I’m not!

Before I knew it we were lined up, I was next to some Giant Strawberries and Rock Lobsters and Ann Fitzy was just behind me, soaking in the scene like a cool cat waiting to pounce. Stella was quick off the start, and early on a group of 5 of us rode off the front. I was the lone Bella riding with Stella and Shelley of Rock Lobster, and Mel and Josie of Giant Strawberry. I’m glad to see that the idea of teamwork in cross racing has caught on, but I was on the wrong end of it! Our group stayed together for a few laps, Stella was doing a great job pulling us around and I was sitting near the back of the group thinking about strawberry margaritas on the rocks.

I made a move to front on a fast downhill about 2 1/2 laps into the race, and kept pushing the pace back up the hill on the course. I opened a gap, and decided this was going to stick. I pushed through the turns a little faster than I had earlier in the race, and each time up the long paved hill to the finish, I hammered out of the saddle. After all those times suffering by myself up that lonely hill in a quiet neighborhood, with no one to cheer, no glory on the line, I knew I had to do it again today when it counted. It was one of those moments when your worst pain in training comes around to payoff when you need it to.

I was having a good time on the fast downhill parts of the course, too, swinging through the rolling singletrack in the trees when I hit a root, hard. Thud! Exiting the dark tree section was a super bumpy hard pack descent and I was dismayed to hear a loud rhythmic screeching honking noise…. oh, what part of my bike was broken? Crap! But then something from my foggy, distant memory came into focus and I recognized that sound, it was Brent playing Paul Sadoff’s brass horn. On I went, while Brent put down the horn and dug up a tasseled argyle bagpipe for the next lap.

I held my gap open to end to take the win, with the Rock Lobster ladies riding in behind me. The Giant Strawberries rounded out the top 5, and Fitzy rolled in just a little bit back, quick to hand up a high-five at the top of the hill. I collected my box of strawberries, disrobed from the chamois as quick as a flash, and sat down to spectate the men’s race. And so the season begins…… .

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