Cross Crusade: Alpenrose 1&2, Women’s A

Alpenrose Day #1

The race started with a little rain before and just sprinkled a bit during the race.  The course had multiple off-camber sections that also included turns up and down hill.  There were not too many places that allowed for people to just hammer.  However, there were a few powerful, punchy sections.  It was my kind of race.  I started 3rd row back–I don’t think any of the other races even had a third row!  The first lap was congested, and I learned that many people would come into the off-camber sections very slowly, which meant if there was anyone ahead, I had to prepare for brakes to be grabbed.

There were several crashes throughout the race, ahead of, and behind me, and I spent a lot of time riding by myself.  Once the leaders of my field separated themselves out, the race I could see stayed pretty much in order.  There was one woman who passed me, and I did not take a chance to pass on the straight because she is a very strong road racer.  Unfortunately, as it turns out, she was also able to hold her own on the technical sections.  One other woman passed me, but had the misfortune of getting her cleats/pedals clogged, and while she fiddled with that, I was able to pass her.

So while there wasn’t much inter-racer excitement, the course had more than enough to keep me engaged, and the fans were spectacular.  My take aways: 1) apparently slippery off-cambers are my thing  2) lube the cleats and pedals for maximum enjoyment

Alpenrose Day #2

First call-up ever in a Cross Crusade, no pressure.  The course rode mostly in reverse with a few added features for fun.  It dried out as we raced, and got faster and faster.  My start wasn’t great, but not too bad, probably about 10th.  We hit the hole shot, which was an off-camber drop, and everyone braked hard. . .except me because my front brake popped.  I managed not to crash, and navigated the drop, but something was obviously wrong.  I couldn’t easily see what it was, so I decided to just ride with it.  This made for an exciting 1.5 laps–I couldn’t scrub the speed I needed for some corners and narrowly avoided going off course.  I thought about quitting, but then figured I obviously needed the practice cornering.  I burnt a lot of matches accelerating after painfully awkward corners.  One of my dear Swifties heard me say that something was wrong, and the 2nd time through the pit, they flagged me in for a bike exchange–just like the pros, except kind of awkward.

I got on my other bike, which I had fortunately brought for Nico’s sister to use, and promptly grabbed too much brake, almost going over the top.  Disaster averted, I hunkered down for a chase.  My legs were tired, probably from the previous day’s race and the inefficient start to this race.  There were hills for me to try and attack, but I just didn’t have what I wanted.  Next time by the pit, Bill had my race bike ready; I made the exchange with a little more style, and jumped back in to see what I could make happen.  I picked up a couple spots, and gave one up at the end.  I had a great race, not because my placement was high, but because of a fun course, the challenge of making what I had work, and the incredible support of the team.  I don’t know who all made it come together (Bill, Simon, Nico–who else?), but learning how to pit on the fly was a great experience.

Take aways: 1) if you’re going to have a pit bike, set it up to race–the right tires and geometry 2) anything can happen, so be ready to take advantage when stuff happens to someone else, and when it happens to you, be gracious about being pack fodder.  The people who beat me absolutely rode better races than I did.