Last year, HPCX was held in the aftermath of Snow-tober (that October snow storm that brought down all the trees and wreaked havoc). This year, mere hours after I pre-reg’d, it was decided that Hurricane Sandy would likely be hitting the Mid-Atlantic during the race. Really, Mother Nature? That is some twisted sense of humor!
Fully expecting a wind- and rain-filled mud-fest, I gave myself pep talks all week. A self-proclaimed roadie, let’s just say that mud has historically not been my thing. Jameson, who would be in Salt Lake City, UT, for Friday and Saturday, had bigger things to worry about than a little mud. He was bound and determined to do this race to preserve his 4th-place MAC series ranking. He decided that the best way to prep for a race when you’re spending 6 hours traveling by plane the day before the race was to wear his compression pants on the airplane. Yup. Nerd.
At any rate, he returned safe-and-sound from SLC late on Saturday night, only to find he had a few hours of bike prep to do getting the ideal tire/wheel/cassette combo happening for the predicted mud-fest. Going to bed at 1 AM, waking up at 7 AM, driving 3 hours? Sounds like awesome race prep to me 😉 C’est la vie, sometimes you just have to go out there and get it done!
Despite all of the dire predictions, we arrived to a dry and dusty course at Thompson Park. People were wandering around with knobbley tires, looking confused. Where was the hurricane? The rain? Not in New Jersey, apparently. Although it was windy, the sky remained obstinately precipitation-free.
The course was similar to HPCX 2011 – a steep climb at the start, some winding off camber, and some fast flat sections weaving through the trees. I was shocked to discover the amount of roots around the course, as these were buried under 3” of snow and mud the last time I had raced.
Jameson snagged the number 303, and a corresponding front-row start. The start gun fired, and his race took off. He later told me that his legs took a lap or two to remember that this was a bike race, and refused to accelerate or put down power. Nevertheless, he battled to the front of the chase group, putting himself in 7th place. Our teammate, Andrey, was ahead in the lead group, wavering between 5th and 6th. At this point, I retired to my trainer and only watched snippets of the race when they breezed past me on the short road section of the course (thus the lack of pictures taken as well). It seemed like both Jameson and Andrey were holding steady. The top six spots in a 2/3/4 race are highly coveted, because these are the only places which earn points towards your USAC upgrade. Andrey finished in that magic 6th place spot, snagging one more point towards his Cat 1, and Jameson slid in right behind in 7th place. Although he was bummed about not getting the upgrade point, he was pleased that Andrey was able to, and wasn’t too disappointed with maintaining a reasonable MAC ranking after decidedly poor race prep.
Before I knew it, the UCI Women were being called to the line. Highly unusual, we staged in reverse order, so my #85 that I had been pretty excited about actually earned me a 3rd row start (there were 4 rows total). My teammate Bad Kat (AKA FAST Kat) lined up next to me. My field featured some tough competition: nationally-ranked C3 teammate Arley Kemmerer, Nikki Theimann, Stacy Barbossa, Brittlee Bowman… yep, in for a tough day of racing.As the 1 minute warning was given, a light mist began, accompanying the wind which had been building for the past few hours. Would this turn into the forecasted mud race?
The gun went off and I followed Erin Silliman’s wheel to the mid-front pack area, but I soon got boxed out by some speedy ladies as the course narrowed and left the road. We went through the first couple turns without incident, but then had to swerve to avoid a crashed Stacy Barbossa. I soon found myself leading a small group of four (a chase group to the chase group of the chase group, probably), and just tried to stick with it and hold my position. The wind is always tough for me, so I was feeling pretty tired in the more exposed sections, but I managed to keep it rubber side down and not implode, coming away with a 20th place finish. Considering I’ve done 3 UCI races, please take the following statement with a grain of salt: this was my highest-place UCI finish to date! Not as sweet as my 10th place at Whirlybird, but the field was much more competitive. My teammates, Arley and Bad Kat, both snagged some UCI points: Arley got her first-ever UCI win (!), and Bad Kat rolled in at 8th. Congrats ladies!
I also want to give a shout-out to my other teammates who raced: great job holding it down for C3’s MAC team ranking, and thank you so much for cheering me on, even when I’m quite obviously not “in” the race in any capacity. Suffering is much easier when you hear your name called out several times per lap 🙂