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Digging deep at collegiate nationals

Well, the 2010 Collegiate Nationals are long over with, and I'm just getting around to writing about my wild adventures. This season, as it was my second collegiate, it was the first season that I actually had a full year. Last year, I was in a full arm cast for 4 months, so my riding started in March, when our season is fully under swing. But this year was different.

For 2 months, the Fort Lewis College Cycling Team drove up to the front range of Colorado every weekend. I don't think I've put enough emphasis on this. EVERY WEEKEND we drove 6+ hours there, and 6+ hours back home. To say the least, I was very thrilled when we had our home race, where every school from the front range got a little taste of what it is like to drive Wolf Creek every weekend. My favorite part about that is listening to them all complain, and then realizing who they are complaining too, and they suddenly swallow their words, smile, and turn away.

Throughout the season, I made videos of our travels, and a majority of it consists of driving, but that is what we did. I got some good race footage as well of most of the men's racing. You can watch them on the FLC Cycling Website, or at my youtube channel.

But that's besides the fact.

I had a few goals this year. I wanted to place in the top 5 in the RMCCC (Rocky Mountain Collegiate Cycling Conference) series, I wanted to place in the top 50 in the National RR, I wanted to finish the FLC home race RR, and I wanted to win a crit, not to mention, place very well in the Nationals Crit, if not win it. Well, some of these I achieved, and some of them, I did not. But I've had some of the most proud moments I've ever had in cycling.

I did, in fact place 2nd in the RMCCC series this year, which I am incredibly proud of. I didn't win a single crit this season, but I helped my teammate win a majority of them with solo breaks, and I won many of the field sprints for second place. I not only finished the FLC Road race, but I stayed with the main field for 3 laps, up the notorious front hill to our campus.

And this brings us to nationals. Let's talk about the Road Race. With 6,000 ft of climbing, in lovely Madison, Wisconsin, with 40 degree weather filled with winds, rain, and a heavy fog, well, doesn't that sound like a day for a bike race?

The morning of the Road Race, my family arrived while I was warming up, and I was very excited. To have my family at collegiate nationals meant a lot. They haven't seen me race for quite a while, and it was good to have their support. Having them there definitely kept me positive for the hell that I was about to put myself through.

The call up was done, I was at the back of the field at the start, and descending down the nuetral start, that was very interesting. I watched as, only in the neutral start, girls were already off the road, and having technical issues as they ran into each other, and luckily enough, I was not caught up in anything.

I rode towards the front of the pack, but staying out of the wind for the first lap, and then we came to "the climb". I never looked up, because all I would see was more UP. We did 4 laps. Each lap, at the top of the climb was the feed zone. I remember passing the feed zone, knowing that I had a nice descent on the other side, but other than that, everything began to blend together. I rode two laps by myself. Occasionally I would see some girls on the side of the road with flats, and I was familiar with this, as our men's team had over half of the guys experience flat tires.

The rain..fluctuated. It would stop, my glasses would fog up, then it would downpour, my glasses would go back on. Then climbing, they would fog, take them off, then on the descent, put them back on. It was a process. By the last lap, I had it down.

Many times, I was discouraged in this race. It was a mental game for me. I knew going into it, as I hadn't done the road race the year before, that I wasn't going to be in the top 10, and I may not be in the top 20, but I was the third woman rider for FLC. I HAD to finish. And I wasn't ready to give up. But, as every cyclist has been in that position, it was the most miserable, hardest race of my life.

When I went through the feed zone, I didn't even want to look at anyone, I knew if I looked at them, I would lose the little concentration that I had. I had to work as hard as I could to keep my legs rolling over, and over.

The last lap, I was with 4 other riders. And I can't explain where this power came from, but as I was dropped on the "climb", at the top, I had this sudden push. The only way I can explain it as is, the hand of god pushing me up the final climb to the finish. I passed 6 girls up that short final climb, and I came in 50th. I had reached my goal. I was delirious. I was exhausted. And I just wanted…I didn't even know. I was more proud of myself that day, then I have ever been of myself.

This was an example of a day that the result didn't matter. It's like a day on those rides, when you get shelled from the group immediately, but you work as hard as you can, you catch back on, you get dropped again, you catch back on. And you might not score any points on that Tuesday night worlds ride, but you finished the ride, you did better than you've ever done, and you are so excited, and most people don't understand why.

Most people didn't understand why I was thrilled, but I didn't care. I finished. I scored points. And I just climbed 6,000 feet.

Thank you very much.

But that wasn't all. Then we had the crit. And it was, a crit. Very basic. Four corners, with a slight uphill in it, with a downhill on the parallel side. And you know when you all have those days, where you just can't clip in, well, of all days, I had it on this starting line. I started dead last. And I mean, dead last. Great!

The race was a good one, I attacked when breaks went, pulled them back, rode in the front for a majority of the race, faded back at times to recover. It was hard, it was fast. It was fun. I love crits. There were a few crashes, but thankfully no FLC riders were involved, and we all made it safely.

With 5 laps to go, I got on the front of the race and controlled it, strung it out, and tried to stop any attacks from coming. With 1 to go, a group of 10 of us went for it. But coming around corner 2, a group of girls we were lapping scattered across the road. Instead of staying on their side of the road, they forced us to split up, spread across the road, and in my case, completely slam on my brakes and lose the group. I turned in 11th place, which is an improvement from last year, after being involved in a crash. It was a good day! My team rode very well, and the ladies pulled it off!

But I must saw, the highlight of the day was Randy (our skyhawk mascot) making a grand appearance. That night we had the banquet for the road race and criterium award presentations, and Randy, again, appeared and made a dance show onstage, only to be chased off by our team manager, Dave Hagen.

The following day wasn't just the Team Time Trial, but also my 20th birthday. Not my choice of event on the birthday, but I can't complain, I mean, my mom was there, and it was also Mother's Day!

Unfortunately, my teammate Sage Wilderman was unable to race all weekend, so this left the FLC ladies with a three man crew. My other two teammates Sarah Sturm and Magen Long were great. They were dominating life, and I on the other hand, had a rather rough day. We encouraged each other the whole way, and even though they encouraged me more throughout that horrid ride, we finished as a team, and came out in 7th place. I descend very well, but going back up is another story.

So, that's the wrap. We finished 4th overall as a team, which, was disappointing, but at the same time, we did what we could. Both men's and women's teams pulled out the best we could. It was a great weekend in Madison, with my family, and celebrating mother's day with my mom and grandmother, along with my birthday was great.

So as we all depart, with school finished, and collegiate cycling done, I have embarked on my own journey. I have made the move to Colorado Springs for the summer where I am training on the track. I've got big dreams and big goals, and I believe that the moment I decided to make this move, I finally started them. I can finally say, that as of today, May 21, 2010, I finally found myself a place to live, and I'm still looking for a part time job, but I've already got on the track this week, and I've never felt more at home. I'm excited to spend the summer on the track, which I was first introduced to by Rick Crawford in September of 2008.

I plan to race the Minnesota Fixed Gear Classic, as part of the Minnesota Bicycle Festival in June, and also the National Qualifiers to hopefully race at Elite Nationals in September. This is a new journey for me, one that I've never experienced before, and I couldn't be more excited.

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