report by Avanell
Several weeks to DCCX, Chris and I had this great idea to watch a YouTube video of the race course in the years prior. THINKING that would help us in figuring out what to expect. The course looked flat and fast, with very few turns that would make for a good place to gap. I'll be honest, I was a little discouraged going into the weekend. The courses I look forward to are not power courses, but those that are technically challenging and test your bike handling ability. But walking around the course with Zuma (our 2-year old Basenji) and watching several races before mine, I decided that watching a video will not show ANYTHING very well! There were short steep climbs, false flats, tricky descents, and plenty of technically difficult sections. Everything I want in a cross race!
The start was a short, paved road which turned right onto another paved road before crossing a small bridge and hitting one of the technical sections. With a few short straights on grass with 180 degree turns, a little bit of loose dirt, the first technical section ends with a short, steep climb. At the top is a 180 to the left, a 90 to the right and a short steep descent with roots, rocks, and gravel at the bottom. A mountain bikers dream! But a quick wake up call (this is cross after all...not mountain biking!) puts us back onto another paved section. A false flat that takes us to a short, steep, grassy climb to the left. Descending into a fairly deep dip filled with a little bit of mud, the course made its way counter-clockwise around one of the two big spectator spots. A 90 degree turn to the left and over the first set of barricades. They were a little tricky to maneuver since you had to turn immediately beforehand and couldn't keep your speed going into them. After remounting, you had just enough space to build some speed, shift into the small ring, and make your way up a short steep climb to what many racers will say is the toughest part of the course. At the top of the hill is a 180 degree turn to the right and back down you go...only to get 3/4 of the way to the bottom and have to take a 180 turn to the left and go back up! This was definitely a place that would spread the field out even more and for some, determine the outcome of the race. Why? At the top of the hill, is yet another descent that drops you onto the road again and into the finishing stretch. If you gapped the person behind you during that off-camber switch-back, you could stay away until the end. But its not the end and there's still another 1/3 of the course to ride! After passing the finish line, the course moves you back onto the grass with several more 180's. The 2nd set of barricades will be on a straightaway with plenty of room to hit them at speed...and another place to open up another small gap. A few more long straights and a few more turns shoot us into the 3rd dismount, a set of short, deep stairs that can jump up and grab you if you're not careful! After remounting, ride through a few more turns, short steep climbs, and you'll find yourself back on the starting straight.
28 women lined up at the start of the DCCX Women's 1,2,3 race. Starting in the 4th and final row, I knew I would have to bump elbows with a few girls to get a good spot into the first technical section. Once we got into the technical sections though, I found it fairly easy to make a pass and snake my way through and up into the top 15. After the the 1st lap, it took the next 3 to make up 5 more spots. Grabbing 10th place came after passing a rider who slid out in loose dirt and pushing my pace through the 2nd set of barricades. Unfortunately, keeping that spot proved to be difficult as I was soon passed by Kristine Church (HumanZoom). The rest of the 4th lap I battled back and forth with Jennifer Tillman (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and was able to open up a big enough gap to hold her off for the 5th and final lap. Overall I'm extremely happy with my results...especially thinking that this course wasn't going to suit my riding style very well! It was a great venue and a well designed course. Definitely something to keep on the schedule for next year! Thanks to DCMTB for hosting the race and Dogfish Head Alehouse for being one of the title sponsors and giving the Elite Women the same payout as the Elite Men!
Next week I'll be taking the weekend off of the cross bike to race in the 24th Annual Tidewater Mountain Bike Challenge in Williamsburg, VA! Check it out at http://tidewaterchallenge.blogspot.com/. A great spectator course, lots of fun, food, and one of the best events that I've ever done!
Also, check out BikeReg for UVA Cyclocross in Earlysville, VA on Sunday, November 6th! Just added to the calendar and open to everyone (not just collegiate racers)!