Here’s why the our trip to the US Open of Cyclocross in Boulder is so important to our entire team:
- Tanner, Sam and Elijah are now much more confident about their rankings and abilities compared to the other fast juniors who make this event a priority. We can extrapolate that out for each of you on the team to have a better sense of which riders you’ll be matched up against at Nationals so we can set more realistic expectations.
- We talked to so many good folks involved with Cyclocross from Juniors to Pros and all of those conversations fuel our program and ensure we’re on the right track for success, plus, it’s really fun building those relationships because Cross is so supportive and welcoming that everyone really is cheering for all competitors and having a great day at the races.
- The racing was really hard. The efforts these riders had to produce pushes their boundaries and when they return to practice you will see they have changed. Follow their lead, learn from their lessons and you, too, will change, grow and go faster!
One of the best things from the weekend was having friends and alumni hanging out with us the entire time! Katie Ryan (CU Boulder and raced Saturday), Sophie Russenberger (Ft. Lewis racing PRO Women), Joe Lukens (CU Boulder) and Henry Jones (Colorado College) were all there to encourage our riders and make it fun. Special thanks to the Rage Cycling Team for always helping us out with tent space and sharing their passion for developing juniors when we’re in Boulder!
- This Cyclocross Race Predictor is quite accurate so you can check your ranking there to get a baseline sense of where you are nationally — even if the race is not predicted you can just go by their points scale, with lower being better.
- Everyone Faster: There are fast Juniors in every age group for boys and girls and the level of riding is always creeping up so it’s important that our younger riders ride with our older more experienced riders to benefit from their lessons learned and application of skills.
- U23’s = PRO’s: The pro men field was dominated by the U23 riders and it’s similar with some younger women making the top ten, so the positive way to see that is that younger riders are coming to the Pro ranks with very good skills and fitness because their programs and training are serving them well. But a negative reality is also that it’s very hard to make a living as a domestic pro right now and many “pro’s” are giving up after a season or two so the field is not actually growing year over year. Even talking with Lance Haidet after he won Pro Men on Saturday it’s a big concern of his for next season; once he’s finished with college he might have to get a real job and be done racing pro because winning races won’t pay his bills.
- Tactics: Sam, Tanner and Elijah all used slightly different tactics for pacing, racing and warm up. There is no right answer, but what makes me proud is that they’re becoming more autonomous every race and can advocate for themselves by listening to their bodies, pushing their limits and reading the race from start to finish. All you must keep discussing your tactics and learn from other because often these things are not apparent until you verbalize it.
- Our Reputation in Bend: Once again it’s clear we’re doing something right when it comes to skills and fitness that our riders have so don’t stress the details, just follow the plan, have fun, listen to your body and good results will come. I received many compliments from other team directors on how smooth, strong and personable our riders are. Your team’s reputation precedes you 😉 so enjoy it, say hello to everyone, be outgoing, make friends at the start line, and remember that the race is temporary but the friendships can last a lifetime.
- George and Elijah drove our bikes out so that Tanner, Carrie & Sam and I could fly direct on Thursday to make logistics pretty simple and affordable. We arrived to freezing temps and snow in Denver.
- Friday we slept in, ate good food, rode bike paths around town, watched the snow melt, fixed bikes, walked the track and had a really relaxed day. We discussed tactics and warm ups based on the course and picked some riders to mark and follow in the race.
- Saturday morning, Carrie finished 3rd in her race! The rest of us took it easy and rode to the venue by noon, met up with Joe, Katie, Sophie and a few other Bend riders, then Tanner took 2nd in his race and Elijah was 5th and Sam 12th. Sam and Elijah won cash and Elijah earned 6 UCI points, which was the reason we wanted to attend. This allows him a much improved start position at Nationals. Sam crashed on the gravel coming into the finish so adding that impact to a very hard effort at elevation put him in a pretty big hole but he pushed through and recovered by the next morning. Tanner played his timing very well and out sprinted two Boulder locals at the line. Elijah had to dig deep after a mediocre start but because the top-ten were pretty spread out he rode a lot alone and didn’t want to push to 100% so he was ok getting out-sprinted for fifth. Course was dry, fast and lots of turns that shut down speed with a staircase that loaded everyone’s legs and lungs to the max. Direction reversed for Sunday which made the flat sections a little slower and loaded the hills & stairs all at the end just before the finish.
- Sunday same schedule, Carrie placed 3rd again and Henry came up from Colorado Springs to help cheer. Tanner had a few more riders in front of him at the start but by the end of the second lap had passed most of them and was riding in 4th. He paced very well and had to give a very deep effort to push through being tired to keep his pace high. Sam’s plan was to smile at the start to stay calm, push a bigger gear on the flats and not blow up on the hills so he could push faster across the flats and it worked very well for him. He lined up 14th and finished 14th, which is what the race predictor said, but his improvements in speed and confidence were huge and he was much faster and consistent despite being a little tired from Saturday. Elijah didn’t have a call up, started 3rd row, and worked his way into 7th by the end of the first lap. Two top-ranked riders who had mechanicals on Saturday were fresh and on the attack. Second place rider from Saturday looked very tired and Elijah passed him on lap 3 and another to move into 5th. He managed another pass, moving into 3rd, but now he was absolutely giving 100% on the hills before the finish and rather than puke on the stairs he said he had to back off for a few seconds — so he finished a very amazing 4th and earned another 7 UCI points and almost $70 cash.
- No mechanicals, no bike exchanges, no complaints, no excuses. These guys handled themselves with grace, appreciation and respect that made this a super great experience.
When I first drove to Boulder in 2010 with a few juniors we had very little experience at that level, it was a huge deal just to pull off the trip, and we had respectable results but it ultimately set the stage for how we wanted to approach our training and goals — so to see it coming full circle with Sophie and Lance in the pro races, Henry (who finished 4th and 2nd there as 15-16 Junior) cheering on and helping the guys, I’m super proud of all of them for being such rad people and I’m glad they enjoy this sport that pushes riders through total agony into new realms of personal discovery, friendships and adventure.