Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The lead up to EuroCrossCamp, State, and Bend USGP

First off, in-case you didn’t know, I’m going to EuroCrossCamp to race in Belgium against the best Juniors in the world for two weeks. I (ironically) found out I qualified on Thanksgiving morning. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks getting everything together, fundraising, and traveling to Bend, Oregon to race one last Junior UCI race. Here is what I have been doing:

Two weeks ago was State Championships. I opted to get the toughest competition I could in preparation for EuroCrossCamp so I raced Pro 1/2's instead of Juniors. It was a very competitive field. Some of the competition was Pro roadie for Kenda Gear Grinder, Pat (Patty Cakes) Lemuix; Eric Thompson, a previous podiumer at U23 Nationals championships; Reigning State Champion CJ Faulkner; Chris Fisher; Lance Beuning; Jesse Rients; and Chris (Smithers) Smith.

MN State Championships photo by Sara Weik
The course was very fast and the front of the race was consistently a big group of seven to eight of us. There was lots of tactics and attacks despite Eric driving a brutal pace at the front and Pat’s frequent leg breaking accelerations. A few times a group of three would get off the front, usually the instigator was Pat, sometimes Lance or Eric, and both CJ and Smithers put in their own attacks. Each time I reacted and got my self onto the attackers wheel. I felt great, I had the power to react to the attacks and position myself like never before.

MN State Championships photo by Sara Weik

 One time Eric got away with Pat and myself on his wheel and the other racers behind us were closing the gap. I decided to take the pace making at the front for a little bit to try and stay away, I felt good, but I knew if I did that to many times I would be to tired for the sprint. I followed wheels the rest of the race until the last lap when things started exploding. I stayed at the very front but got chopped in a corner coming into the bunch sprint for the finish and placed 4th. I was very happy with my result and the way I played the race and had a ton of fun racing. Congrats to Pat on the win!

Three days later we packed the car with bikes and luggage and headed out on the long drive to Bend, Oregon to do the final UCI Junior race before EuroCrossCamp. CJ, Chris, and Jesse hired us to transport their bikes out for them so the car was packed full (big thanks to them, this enabled me to afford this trip that was not in my budget otherwise). The drive to Oregon was three days long, some parts depressingly boring and others really pretty. We got to Bend on Thursday night and spent Friday relaxing in the hotel and pre-riding the course. It was very different, rather akin to a mountain bike course being technical, bumpy, and little opportunity for passing.

Day one was a lesson learning day. I was a little bit nervous and didn’t quite have my head in the game that morning. I had a bad start and ended up pretty far back and made some stupid decisions that made me crash. This got to my head a little and I got stuck behind other riders too much. I placed 11th, two and a half minutes out of 2nd. It was not my best day but I knew what I needed to do better.

Day two I was focused the whole morning of and did a much better pre-race prep and warm up. I was having a much better start, but couldn’t get into my right pedal. My foot flew off and hit the ground as I awkwardly straddled my bike for a few seconds. I stayed calm though and moved my way up the ranks aggressively until I got onto the back of a group. I attacked and dropped them and realized I could see second, third, and fourth just a little ahead. The last three laps were a blur of pain. Second place got thirty seconds ahead of me and third stayed about fifteen to twenty ahead. Fourth place though, was less than ten seconds ahead of me. David Lombardo caught up to me and we worked together to try and catch fourth place. Towards the end it became clear we were not going to close the gap and we began to worry about each other. David has beaten me in the sprint twice this season, so I did not want to repeat my mistake. I attacked him three times. Three times I dropped him, and three times he caught back on. On the last few sections coming into the finish, we were side by side going as hard as we could trying to be the first one onto the tar. David got ahead of me on the final stretch before the tar, we sprinted and David beat me by a second for the third time this year, beating me for the 5th position and the final UCI point. Despite the frustrating finish, it was a great race (6th is my best finish yet) and duking it out with my good friend David again was a lot of fun.

I’m home now after a very long and boring drive back. I’m celebrating my 16th birthday today. I will put a full post up on what exactly EuroCrossCamp is and what it means soon (which I leave for on the 19th).

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