As I look back on the most tumultuous season of my lengthy career, I am overwhelmed with emotion. Many competitive feelings swirl around just below the surface (yes, even my feelings compete). As various reactions and emotions contradict and collide, I recognize gratitude at the forefront. In a season punctuated by an injury, a comeback and an anti-climatic conclusion, I feel a deep and genuine appreciation for each one of you that was ready to celebrate my joy and share in my sorrow.
I am generally self-sufficient when it comes to managing my morale I know how to shake it off and solider on because I’ve had years of practice. This season, I needed more than what I could summon from within. I needed reassurance, empathy, encouragement and motivation from external sources. Every single time I reached out – every single time I picked up the phone, sent out a tweet published a race report, or looked around for a friendly face at the finish line – you gave me the support I sought. You gave me far more than I ever expected. Repeatedly.
These past few months would have looked far different without all of you.
My fifth cyclocross season began with Cross Vegas. I had recently returned from racing on the road in Europe. I intended to start the season carrying fitness from a good European training block. Early results suggested that I had accomplished my mission. From Vegas, the traveling circus made it’s way to the first weekend of USGP racing in Madison. While my results weren’t stellar, they were solid. It was a satisfying start to the season.
From Midwest to New England. Gloucester was up next. I got my first podium in my first muddy races of the season. Disaster struck the following weekend in Providence. I broke my hand during a late race crash. It would subsequently require surgery, two weeks off the bike, six weeks on the trainer and eight weeks away from racing. It was a doubly disappointing blow as the injury sidelined me during Pretty in Pink.
My fundraising efforts thrived despite my absence from racing. Through your generosity, I raised $8500 for Hope Lives! The Lydia Dody Foundation. Now in its third year, Pretty in Pink grows bigger, better and pinker annually. “Pink is the New Fast” tees along with matching socks proved to be a huge hit (such a hit that I sold through the first batch of each in a single day). My raffle this year raised twice the funds in years’ past in large part due to the grand prize – one of my Specialized pink S-Works Crux. Companies reached out to me during the raffle to ask if they could be counted among the donors. Once again, I was blown away by the generosity of the cycling community. I love Pretty in Pink every year. This year, it had the added benefit of being a welcome distraction from my recovery from injury.
I returned to racing with CXLA the first week of December. I rode myself into second place on the opening day of racing and slotted into fifth on day two. The race weekend was super exciting on a personal level. I couldn’t have been happier to be back, and I was thrilled at the potential I saw. I had always known that I would be able to return to racing. The question mark was around the level of fitness with which I would return. Would I be strong enough to meet my goal of making the Worlds team for Louisville? Strong results in my comeback race seemed to confirm I had done everything right during my recovery and was on track to meet this long-time objectice.
Naively, I had hoped to see linear progression from there and instead the last two months of my season were more akin to a roller coaster ride – the constant ups and downs a harsh reminder that anything can and will happen in ‘cross.
The final weekend of the USGP series in Bend was disappointing, to say the least. I had no legs and my head wasn’t in the game either. I dropped out on the second day of racing. It was only the second time I had ever elected not to finish a race. I vividly remember how demoralizing it felt to watch the remainder of the race unfold from the sidelines.
At that point, I knew that I had enough fitness to race in Europe – and I knew that if I wanted to show that I was a contender for Louisville, I had to head across the pond to improve my fitness and gain more confidence. As I predicted it would, the block of hard European racing served me well.
I managed 11th place in Namur at my first World Cup of the season. While I was extremely happy with my result, it was also slightly bittersweet. 10th place is an automatic qualification for the Worlds team. 11th place is nothing other than a near miss. Lack of auto-qualifying aside, I was elated to post my best European result (ever!) after only three races back from injury.
Zolder didn’t work out quite as well. I had a string of bad luck during the first lap. I came back from the mechanical issues to ride a really strong race, and I was personally satisfied with how rode although the results don’t reflect it.
Loenhout followed Zolder. Here, I learned that I’m actually fairly savvy when it comes to the tractor-pull style of racing. I fought tooth and nail for my first European top-ten. I followed up my eighth place finish in Loenhout with a pair of seventh place finishes in Diegem and Baal and left Europe satisfied with what I had accomplished and excited about the races ahead of me.
I put in a focused training block back in Boulder before I headed to Madison for the National Championships. My race got off to a strong start, and I was riding solidly in second place. With the silver medal in sight, a mechanical eliminated my chance of riding onto the podium. I was deeply disappointed with the missed opportunity. The day after Nationals, I learned that I made the Worlds team. The announcement served to dissipate some of the residual sting from lost chances at Nationals.
Back in Boulder, I regrouped. I brushed off my experience at Nationals. I refocused my training on Worlds. After two weeks of specific preparation, I headed east for one last pre-Worlds tune-up race. The cold and mud in Cincinnati proved prelude to the conditions we would face in Louisville
I arrived in Kentucky eight days (turned seven days – thanks to the schedule change) ahead of my race day. I enjoyed a fairly low-key and chill week before my event on Saturday.
There’s not much to say about my race at this point. A rider in front of me crashed less than two minutes into the first lap. Unable to avoid her, I somersaulted over my bike and onto the ground. By the time I scrambled to get my bike and dealt with the mechanical issues that ensued as best I could, I was dead last. I was nearly two minutes down the rider nearest me as I went through the pit to exchange my battered bike for a new one. With one lap complete, I pulled the plug. I still feel gutted when I think of the devastating end to my season.
Despite my personal disappointment, I’m grateful that I was able to overcome the repeated obstacles I faced this season and feel honored to have represented the host nation at the first Cyclocross World Championships held outside of Europe. The racing in Louisville was thrilling. The spectators came out in numbers better than projected. The passion at Eva Bandman Park was palatable. Even the Euros had to admit that we had pulled it off – and pulled it off well.
I want to call out Joan Hancsom and Bruce Fina here. Without their vision, none of this would have been possible. USA Cycling stepped in and threw the race organization a much needed lifeline, and they deserve a huge thank you, as well. Everyone involved with the race weekend in any capacity – the volunteers, spectators, racers, sponsors, etc. – had a hand in making this weekend an incredible success. Thank you to everyone who did their part.
Special mention, as always, goes to California Giant Berry Farms and Specialized Bicyclies for their dedication to the sport in general and to me in particular. I always appreciate the support of my team and our sponsors. I was grateful for their support more than ever this year.