If you've been following my cyclocross shenanigans for the past couple of years, you know that I've made it a point to race fast and strategically, accumulate UCI points, and head across the pond with my World ranking to Belgium to race the Holy Week of cyclocross known as "Kerstperiode" - Dutch for Christmas Period, for the uninitiated. I will teach you the secret handshake later in this post.
All this is to say, that if we had anything that could compare to Kerstperiode for cyclocross on U.S. soil, it would be the pair of back-to-back week-ends of the Trek and JingleCross World Cups. This comparison is even more prescient given the "Grinchy" nature of Jingle Cross, which this last week-end, had us huddling in our puffy coats, pitting almost every lap, and wondering if we had been good or bad boys and girls this year (muddy = good).
My start in the WC was going amazing, until it wasn’t. A side slide into a rut at the end of the starting straight had me turtling in the mud (📸D. Mable managed to capture my surprised face). When I jumped back on the bike, the saddle was wildly crooked (ouch!). Not a huge deal as the pits were so close, but getting stuck running behind the pack on the off-camber slowed my recovery. And after handing off my bike to @DougEFreshCX in the pit, pretty sure I was in last for the run up Mt. Krumpit. Made the highlight reel, though, twice! You can watch it on NBC Gold, and the Olympic channel, and probably youtube by now. It was also enough to inspire my friend's Jim and Susan to exclaim on my FB page "Oh Sunny". Oh Sunny, indeed.
It's a good thing that I like running. Mostly. If you can call high stepping through ankle deep mud carrying your Van Dessel Full Tilt Boogie (Potential heckle: "That's a nice bike you're carrying"), "running". There was no length of toe spike that I could screw onto the bottoms of my shoes that would have kept me on my feet for the entire race. Instead, I channeled my inner cross country runner, and plowed the field! But, be careful, one misstep could have you mud wrestling your bike on the ground, or doing a 100% impression of the "Bend-and-Snap".
My starting line crash was not my last of the race. It was a World Cup after all, and I was going to be damned if I crossed the finish line without knowing I had left it all out there on the course. I attacked every feature. I sprinted every run. I hammered every straightaway. And, occasionally paid the consequences for my zealousness, sending my bars askew twice (and winning the SAT prize for vocabulary for using what my Dad calls "$10 words")! Slowly, I was working my way up the field. And, at my one moment of doubt, a unicorn wearing a World Champion jersey, looked directly at me, and cheered my name from the sidelines. 🦄🌈
Towards the end of the race, I found myself in the battle for the final U23 podium spots. Let's keep in mind, when I was "under 23", I had no idea what cyclocross was, had never ridden a mountain bike, and still wore underwear under my chamois. Yeah. No one told me! Claire Honsinger (Team S&M), Emma Schwartz (Trek), and Fleur Naganast (Telenet Fidea), were duking it out for 2nd and 3rd, me oblivious to the significance of this race within a race, as I duked it out with them. Unfortunately, Claire would go down midway through the final sloppy descent, riding the bumper home for this battle. I was slightly forced off my line as a result. And, as I was not yet clipped in, a common problem for the entire race, I bobbled at the bottom and slid down in the mud one last time. Bars sideways, I awkwardly navigated the final corners, and hit the line in 18th.
Mucho Gracias: To @DougEFreshCX for keeping me on clean, working bikes then and always. To @Van_Dessel for taking the Pulitzer for Creativity in Bicycle Naming ("Ready to Boogie"???). To @Feedbacksports for your Christmas present. To @SnowyMountainPhotography -"May the light be with you". And Kip and 🌶, for pit support and comic relief. And my teammates Cassie and Frenchy - let's go ride bikes! Like, 👍❤️😂