Sandrine McFadden joined our team this spring and has kept a very active training and racing calendar so far. Her main race focus is cyclocross, but she has been getting more involved in mountain bike racing this spring. Check out her race reports from three big events!
Since joining the team I have done a few races, all for fun in preparations for cyclocross season. The most memorable ones so far are the Sea Otter Classic, Northwest Epic Series Race #1 “Stottlemeyer”, and the Oregon Enduro Series race #1.
The Sea Otter Classic was a blast, even though it did not go as I had planned. I went to Sea Otter primarily for the cyclocross race, but since I was going to be there for an extended weekend, I ended up signing up for the circuit and the mountain cross-country races as well.
Day 1 – Friday: Circuit. The Circuit race took place on the Laguna Seca racetrack. Though the course had a nice long steep hill (I am a climber so “yeah, bring it on!”), it was fast and the heat gave us a beating. I was ready, and had a new pair of sweet wheels! … Zipp Firecrest! Those wheels rock is all I can say. Anyways, I was signed up for the master women 35+ and the race was to last a period of 50mn. At the starting line, our group was lined up to start behind 3 other groups; there was a 30 second gap between each group. My race strategy was to keep calm and in contact for the first half then just go as hard as possible for the second half — and hammer the hill. Unfortunately, my strategy failed as most of my group and many other racers were pulled at about 22mn into the race. What a shame! The only reason we were pulled is because the Pro Men group, who started 1mn30seconds before our group, had gained 3mn on us. Yeah, a minor detail/rule that was not announced at the starting line; if we were to be 3mn behind Pro Men, then we were to be pulled. Upon getting pulled, many women were furious and rather vocal about it. I kept my calm and thought, “lesson learned.” Though it was a super short race, it was just awesome. I look forward to giving it another try in 2014. I did finish in the top 10, 9th place.
Day 2 – Saturday: Cyclocross race. Though the course was not “created” until about 30mn before my start time, I did get one pre-lap. Once again, the course was in my favor as it was more of a roadie type of course. This was the master 1/2/3 race and a couple “stud” junior gals. It was a fast race. I got a great start and did get the hole shot. Unfortunately, just before the first rideable run-up, when I shifted down to my smaller, front ring, my chain jammed-up and I lost all pedal stroke. It was a sudden jerk and nothing. I quickly hit the shifters a few times but it was too late. I had dropped back to 7th place already, and we were entering the single track. The race was not over yet; time to use plan “B” … each lap did include a couple fast sections on the racetrack, hence opportunities for moving back up. So, I just relaxed and waited for that opportunity to come up. Well, the track section came up and no matter what I did, I could not shift back to my big ring. The gals took off, I spun as fast as I could and hung in there for the first section on the track. I kept contact through the single track, then the second section on the track came up. This time, it had a very slight down slope; with my only small gears I got dropped. So disappointing. I just kept working and went to plan “C” … plan “C” worked pretty well as I still finished in the top 10, a 7th place. If anything, not giving up but using plan “b” and “c” can still make one’s race all worth it and rewarding. I have to mention that as soon as I crossed the finish line, the SRAM mechanic booth waved me over. They asked me what happened as they could tell I was rather disappointed. I told them and they gave my bike a full check. It took them at least 30mn to fix all of the problems with it. This is what they found: loose headset, loose front hub, and poorly adjusted derailleurs. What the “Hxll!!” I had my bike fully checked before I headed from WA to CA including the wheels; I know which bike shop not to trust again.
Day 3, – Sunday: MTB cross-country. I was a bit nervous, as I have less than a year of experience in riding MTB but I was determined in giving it a try. My “daughter” kept telling me that I was going to kill it and was ready for it. I was signed up for the beginner cross-country MTB course. I was told that is was a super hilly course (sweet for me!), not too technical. I showed up for my 9:30am start time only to find out that there was a misprint on the schedule … it was 9:30am for the first group heading out … darn it. I was all warmed up. My start time was not until ~10:30am. Eventually, we lined up. While waiting, I was told to be ready for “the wall”. “What”, I thought to myself. I know about “wall climbs” for Road Racing, but not for MTB. The gun went off, and the pack quickly broke up before we entered the singletrack. I was in a good spot, top 10. The heat and loose dust made breathing interesting. We quickly caught up and passed many riders from groups that had started before us. Then the “wall” came up … you could not miss it … it was a line of riders pushing their bikes, sweat dripping and a few nice words could be heard. After the wall, it was a lot of “up” and “down”, very little shade if any; the “downs” were steep and the “uphills” seemed to get steeper and longer as we proceeded through the course. I was surprised to see the number of riders pulled over due to cramping. Eventually, we reached the end and it was another top 10 finish. This race was a great experience and gave me more confidence in my MTB technical ability, so I proceeded to sign up for Stottlemeyer, the first race in the Northwest Epic Series.
Northwest Epic Series Race #1 – “Stottlemeyer” (30 miles)
As race day got closer, I began to get nervous. Last year, when I raced Stottlemeyer, I ended up finishing well behind most racers. I kept telling myself that my skill has improved and to just focus on my personal goals, rather than the other racers. So, my goal was to finish the race faster than last year, walking ONLY if absolutely necessary, and riding across all the bridges. Last year, I only had been riding MTB for a week hence this race was definitely an Epic race for me. Well, I finished it 48mn faster than last year, placed pretty well, rode at least 95% of the course and rode all the bridges — so I met all my goals. As a matter of fact, it left me wanting more … so my “daughter” and her teammates talked me into signing up for an Enduro race.
Oregon Enduro Series # 1
This was my first Enduro Race. This kind of racing is crazy but super fun. We arrived Friday morning so we could attend a clinic with awesome pro race Lindsey Voreis. The clinic was excellent and was a nice refresher of what my other pro racer friends/coaches have been teaching me. Post the clinic, we decided to go pre-ride the Saturday stages. What did I get myself into??!!! It had been raining the previous days so it was super muddy–deep mud that would just grab your tires and yank you. By the time we were done with pre-riding stages 1-4, we were covered in mud. Four out of the five of us had taken a roll in the mud at least once.
The next day we got up and it was hot! Amazingly enough, the trails had pretty much dried up, with the exception, of course, of the Rock Garden. The Rock Garden was Stage 2, and the one stage I was most worried about. I was told to just walk it. Well, walking on super slick, wet, sharp “rocks” on a very step down, twisty slope, with roots, trees of course, and a huge drop in the last turn was a challenge in itself. I did ride the first ~200 yards then pushed/threw my bike for the rest. The drop at the end of this stage was taller than me, and it started with having to roll off a large tree log. How bad was it? There were numerous crashes at this stop throughout the day, and a warning sign saying, “DROP!” Then there was stage 3. It was probably my fastest ever downhill ride of this type. It was a blast, though I did scare myself good because it was a good 8mn of huge banks (bigger ones than I have ever seen or ridden) followed with double “humps” … I hit the first set of “humps’ too fast and caught some good air then somehow managed to land without crashing. Then, to finish day one, there was stage 4. It was another single technical track course with super steep down slopes. “What did I learn from this amazing experience?” If you are going to race Enduro, you need a bike that will allow to pull the saddle all the way down, preferably a bike with good clearance, flat pedals if you are new at it, and if it is going to be muddy, then plan on mud tires. I was told, at least twice at the start of each stage, to pull my saddle down … well, my saddle WAS all the way down! My bike is setup for cross-country racing and the seat-post was replaced with a longer one to allow for a proper fit. Would I do it again? Yap, especially because I loved the transition stages.
This pretty much sums up what I have been doing in preparation for cross season since I joined the team. Before joining the team, I did a The Carnation TT (2nd place in the Master 1/2/3/4 35-49 age group), Mason Lake #1 CAT4 RR (was the wheel for a friend but still took 4th), a couple BUDU series races. Took a first place in the CAT3 one, which lead me in up-grading to CAT2, then finished 7th in my first CAT2 race. I would of had a better finish but I stopped to help an injured racer. J
What’s next you may ask? Well, cross season does not start until August, so I plan to do a couple of the FAT Tire Revolution series MTB races, possibly the “Little 150” with the team, and the WSBA TT championship in August.