Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Melissa wins Rocky Mountain regionals

Photo: Justin Tamplin
Melissa put together the race of the season to win Rocky Mountain regional championships in Longmont, Colorado on Saturday.

Right from the gun, she rode an aggressive race. "The holeshot was a left turn on to loose dirt, so I knew there was the potential for carnage," she said. "I gunned it off the line, got the holeshot and push hard up the first hill."

She was in the front for the first lap, followed closely by teammate Kate and Feedback Sports' Caitlyn Vestal on a fast, grassy course that had several extended power sections and a tricky sandpit.

"Near the middle of the race Caitlyn closed the gap to about five seconds," Melissa explained. "However, I was able to gain a little time back by riding both sandpits and pushing hard on the climb. I dug deep and tried to squeeze out every extra second I could by being consistent and smooth.

"People all around the course were yelling encouragement and giving me splits. By the last lap, I was holding a 15-second lead and starting to realize that I might actually be able hold my lead."

And she held it, with Caitlyn finishing close behind, and Kate riding home to third place.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winter arrives in the Rockies

Conditions finally delivered across the Rockies this past weekend with arctic conditions prevailing in Boulder and a proper dose of the cold, rain and snow in Utah. After a night of mixed precipitation and the season's first full dip into freezing temps, the Utah State Champs course at the Mt. Ogden Golf Park was in prime condition. Grassy areas developed a well worn center track and the leafy paths and singletrack sections were greasy and muddy by mid-afternoon when the Men's race started under clear skies.

Here's the play by play from Josh, who finished 2nd on the day to mountain bike ace and Sho-Air Cannondale pro Alex Grant:

From the gun, I made my way up to a front group of 8 riders, and after the second lap we had stretched a good gap on the rest of the field. The course was actually really good, featuring a mix of grassy off cambers, and a few fast descents, a big high step barrier and two steep and divisive climbs followed by some tight singletrack that featured that elusive Belgian-like mud. Still fairly tame by Colorado standards but every now and then the courses here in Utah surprise, delight and challenge, and this was definitely one of them.

By the 3rd lap, two riders were off the front and I began to pick my way up through the 3 riders that were each 5-10 seconds up the course. Power was in the legs and I was super motivated, and was able to latch on to their wheels, sit in through the fast sections or where there was a headwind and then attack, using the climb as a way to bridge to the next rider. With 4 laps to go, I was in a solid battle for the last step on the podium, trading pulls to distance ourselves from the 2 chasers while also trying to catch 2nd place. We both put in some digs but were glued to each other. Then as we hit 3 to go, I saw the two chasers were within seconds of catching us so I gave a desperate attack and suddenly was alone. The timing was perfect, the two chasers were at their limit to catch back on, and had no ability to double dig. With 2 to go I had a 10 second gap and began thinking about whether I could make a run for 2nd place, as he seemed to be fading as I was gaining. Sure enough through the barriers on the last lap I'd caught up and then used the steepest hill to my advantage and completely buried myself nearly fading to black. A few fast and loose corners, staying steady and collected and I surprised the announcers and folks cheering us on to the finish. One hand in the air for a brief salute and a big, deep, cold breath of satisfaction.

Stay tuned for a report from the snow & ice battle at the Boulder Reservoir where Spencer took 2nd to flying young gun Gage Hecht, Ken rounded out the podium and on the ladies side Melissa led our team with a 4th place finish.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Melissa's Derby City Homecoming

Here's Melissa's firsthand account of her trip to the Derby City Cup last weekend.

After spectating the 2013 cyclocross world championships, I wanted to get back to Louisville, Kentucky to race at Eva Bandman Park.

With my husband’s family living a few miles from the venue, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get in two more UCI events in front of a great cheering section.

The twisty, challenging course had two sandpits, a steep fly-over, several tricky off-camber sections, limestone steps, railroad ties and even a jump that racers had to launch.

I lined up in the last row under the lights on Saturday night with a goal to move up at least 10-12 spots in the first lap. With a chill in the air, my Mad Alchemy medium embrocation was just right to keep my legs warm. I rode smart and picked off riders one by one, making a big move in the first sand pit by anticipating a traffic jam and dismounting early.

Photos: Yet Another Bike Photo Facebook Page

I quickly figured out the key to “the jump” was to get as much speed as possible on the preceding downhill and catch enough air to keep from bashing your rear wheel. A loud and rowdy crowd at the jump reacted to each riders attempt.

With one lap to go, another rider crashed into me after trying to pass at a bad spot, causing me to drop my chain. I lost a few places while un-jamming my drivetrain and ended up finishing 20th for the night.

Sunday’s race brought beautiful fall weather on essentially the same course. My legs were tired from the night before, but I rallied and again worked my way up through the field. I cleared the jump every lap with lots of cheers from the crowd and made more passes in the sand.

I truly enjoyed the opportunity to line up with the fastest female cyclocrossers in the nation and was pleased to pull off another 20th-place finish. Overall I had a great weekend of racing and enjoyed experiencing the Louisville cyclocross scene.