by Lindsey Fahey
Last year I knew I was attracted to cyclocross since I love fall in general, like the cold and love to be dirty. Cross sounded like a sport that was right up my alley, but I needed a bike which I finally purchased this spring.
After really enjoying my first two cross experiences at Jackson Park Relay Cross and then Patriot Cross in Rantoul, IL, Nate Miller suggested I sign up and carpool with him to the Trek Collective Cup in Waterloo Wisconsin. I knew I wanted to race once between Patriot and Hopkins Park to make up for missing Jackson Park (first CCC race). I was at work when he mentioned it so quickly looked at my calendar, saw I was free, checked out the website, thought the logo looked pretty cool, and registered myself.
I told the reigning Cross Boss Kelly Clarke about what I had done and she said that’s cool, but that’s a serious race……….she probably would not have done it her first year. Crap, I thought, what have I gotten myself into??? I figured I would just do the best I could and would have my usual goal in crit racing: beat 10 people, and if that doesn’t happen try (TRY) to avoid coming in DFL). I watched the official course pre ride video and thought I it was probably way scarier in person. I was right.
After making sure I had all the stuff I’d need for the day 10 times (sports bra, on body so could not forget this time, although did forget an actual bra for after race) and leaving bright and early in Nate’s fully loaded Subaru (mostly with Trent’s stuff including a bucket, scrub brushes of various sizes, 2 bags and many wheels) we arrived in Waterloo, WI. I quickly realized this was a VERY fancy race complete with huge start area and announcer booth. We went into the fancy Trek factory and got our numbers and picked up our fancy party favors for doing the race (nice glass, nice beer coozy, nice poster, a cowbell, some lube). They even had set up a bunch of sweet Trek cross bikes for racers to ooogle over as they got their numbers. This was already way different from the other races I had done. I raced first so suited up to pre ride………..and came to a screeching halt as soon as I saw the first massive downhill with a 90 degree turn straight into a muddy run up. YIKES STRIPES, I thought maybe this is what KC was talking about! Trent rode down and survived so I let go of my brakes (and quickly re clenched them) and was off, turned out to not be too bad. Very hard, but I made it through 2 pre ride laps in one piece.
I was not totally sure how to warm up for cross so ventured off down a country road, climbed a hill and sprinted around a parking lot a bit and then sprinted up and down a road near the course some as well. Feeling as good as I was going to, I headed to the staging area and got called into the start grid. I was really nervous at this point, and wondering if KC was right, maybe this WAS too big of a race for my second real cross race in life. Too late, self, I thought, it’s the same thing, you have started many bike races, this one may have fancy stuff, but you still just pedal along and try to stay on the bike like always, pretty simple. I took some deep breaths, ate a gel, said a few Hail Marys since I couldn’t think of anything else to repeat to myself, and sat there in the start grid. I was glad that Rosette Reynolds from Roscoe Village Bikes was in the field; at least I knew a familiar face.
After an eternity we were off and I gunned it as hard as could, getting a good spot mostly clear of traffic heading onto the grassy part of the course. I wasn’t sure how to take the curbs that came first with 2x4s stacked against them in a good way so just sort of rammed over them……………..nothing broke and I stayed on bike so I figured that was as good a way as any. We came to the first swirly twirly thing where you went down a steep part and had to get enough speed to wind up a quick swirly hill over a culvert. The girls around me lost control and ran into each other on the downhill, I avoided the pile up but couldn’t get up the hill right. Lots of swearing ensued, but Rosette and I scooted out of the mess and got going again. I passed a lot of people right away and then came to the drop off. Bombs awayyyyyyyyyyy! I thought and skidded my way down, hopped off (trying to avoid deep mud) and sucked it up, powering up the hill. I jumped back on my bike and clipped in ok and kept powering along into the turny sections of the course. Later in the race my cleats filled with mud after the run up so I kind of rolled around on my bike after the run up part, banging my feet on my pedals to get the mud out. I was so thankful we had practiced cornering over and over the Thursday before because I could confidently and quickly take the corners with minimal braking and kept gaining ground, passing a few more people and Rosette at one point. Dang I thought, Rosette is a beast, I won’t be DFL at least!
I kept going and hit the barriers fine every time, being tall helps a lot to get over them I have found. A while later Rosette got me again along the start area, which I was fine with. The field stretched a bit and I was alone, but knew there was a girl not too far behind. Keep the hammer down I thought to myself. It helped to see Trent, Nate and Brad cheering along the course. As the laps went on I learned (sometimes the hard way) where to shift and exactly where I needed to be gear wise or course wise to take the next tricky part the best way and where the parts were that I could go particularly fast on, so made sure to power through them as fast as I could. There was a particularly tricky off camber area into a small swirly descent that led to a short but very steep hill. If taken right you could ride it but if taken wrong you tipped over. Throughout the laps I handled this with varying degrees of success, nailing it once, scooting up a bit once, running it once and tipping over once.
Last lap things got a little fuzzy and I remember thinking that there was a dead chipmunk on the course, and at least no one had run him over again so he was still in one piece. (SELF! Who cares??? Concentrate!!!) As I came around the last winding turns I kept thinking (or saying out loud maybe), you are almost done, just stay upright, nothing new here, watch the gravel, please oh please just stay upright. I finished and heard the announcer say “Lindsey Fahey with Spidermonkey Cycling coming across the line……and she’s…….smiling?? maybe she wants to do another lap?” I was like oh crap 1) you are smiling like an idiot (should look more badass in cross) and 2) do I have another lap???? I may die. Not sure what to do, I saw Rosette stopped up ahead and decided if she stopped I’m stopping.
I pulled up by her and was like oh lord, how did we do?? (pant pant, cough cough). I looked back and saw some girls trickling across the line. She was like oh like 6th maybe? I was like WHAT??? You are nuts no way. She was like yeah we did good, great race! Not believing her we went and rode around to cool out and got our stuff to change. I got out of my sweaty clothes and checked the results. Sure enough I had come in 7th place out of 23 ladies. I was so happy I had finally done something somewhat decent in bike racing after my lack luster first road season. I immediately reported in to Capitan Clarke on how I did and that I loved cross and wanted to race it every day.
After my race more fun ensued as I cheered on the male Monkeys and enjoyed a band, some New Belgium beer and a pulled pork sandwich. I went home happy and excited for the rest of the cross season. Congrats to Trent Williams, Mark Z, Nate Miller and Brad Erickson who also got out there and did some damage in Waterloo! It is a do-not-miss race for the Monkey CX-ers next year!