Mental Battle at US Open of Cyclocross

(photo credit: Dejan Smaic)

The Noosa CX team race report copied/pasted below perfectly captures my disappointment on the day. Not sure that I have much to add – aside from the obvious: I’m hungry for a MUCH better result tomorrow at Boulder Cup.

The crowd applauded loudly as Meredith Miller made her way to the finish line on the final lap of the elite women’s race at the US Open of Cyclocross. It was a fitting show of appreciation for the CrossVegas winner despite her seventh place finish on Saturday. The result belied her effort. Miller fought back from a poor start, nearly making contact with the chase group for second place, before a rear flat derailed her chances to finish on the podium.

“This morning, I finally caught up on all the messages I received on Facebook and Twitter about CrossVegas over the last couple days,”said Miller. “I read so many tweets that were like: “We woke up the baby screaming so loudly.” or “I had to wake up my husband to tell him you won.” or “I woke up my wife with my cheers.” People came up to me today with more stories and comments and congratulations.”

“It means a lot to hear all that,” said Miller. “To know that that many people were watching and cheering and wanting me to win – that’s something special. I really wanted to perform well today to back up my win. It’s disappointing not to have the result but people saw that I was riding well and on the comeback before my flat, so hopefully that counts for something.”

Miller admits that today’s mental battle was as fierce as the physical one. While thrilled with her coup in CrossVegas, the win added pressure.

“I’m excited to have won CrossVegas, of course,” said Miller. “It also made me really nervous today. I put a lot of pressure on myself. I had just won, and I knew that there would be big expectations this weekend. Today as I was racing and fumbling around and off the back, I kept wondering – Are people thinking: ‘It figures. CrossVegas is just for roadies, anyway. She really can’t handle her bike. It’s not a surprise that she couldn’t cope today.’ That’s what I dealt with in my head today during the race.”

“Even before the race, I was off my game,” she added. “I wasn’t feeling it in the warm-up, and I was a lot more nervous than I normally am when I got to the start line.”

(photo credit: Dave McElwaine)

A missed pedal proved decisive. Miller went from the frontline to mid-pack in an instant. She had made only small gains when the splits began to form on the front.

“I completely missed my pedal,” said Miller. “It took me way too long to get into the pedal. I was really concerned about moving myself up before the gaps opened, but while I attempted to do that, I was making a lot of really stupid mistakes. I got chopped. I was forced to run through the sand. I flipped over my bars. It was embarrassing.”

“I finally got my act together on lap two,” Miller continued. “I started to pick people off pretty consistently from that point. I got into a better groove and calmed down a bit. I was riding alone, so I could pick my own lines rather than follow wheels. As I passed riders, I was able to recollect myself and take a deep breathe.”

Despite her gains, the mental battle continued. It took a concerted effort on Miller’s part to stay on the gas over the bumpy, twisty course.

“I knew I had to keep pushing to try to catch people,” Miller explained. “It was really hard physically and mentally. I had to stay focused and fight the feeling that I wanted to give up. When you’re hurting that bad, sometimes it’s easy to trick yourself into feeling content with a less than your best performance.”

(photo credit: Dejan Smaic)

Katie Compton (Trek Factory Racing) had all but won the race with one lap remaining. Caroline Mani (Raleigh Clement) led a chase group of four. Gabby Durrin (Neon Velo) had Mani’s chase group in sight as Miller shutdown the gap to Durrin.

“In the last lap, I had passed Gabby,” said Miller. “Caroline’s group had split to bits, and I was closing in on Crystal in fifth place when I got a flat tire. I was lucky that it was a rear tire, so I could keep pedaling –although certainly not as fast as I had been going. If it had been the front wheel, I probably would have had to run.”

Miller went into the pits to pick up a new bike. While the bike exchange was swift and efficient, it allowed Durrin to overtake Miller. The CrossVegas winner was back in seventh place.

“I lost the wheel in front of me, and I lost my momentum,” said Miller. “The gaps were small, but they were really hard to close. I ran out of steam.”

“It’s unfortunate but hopefully I got my bad race out of the way for the weekend,” Miller added. “I’m hoping I can have a better day tomorrow. It’s the race that counts more. It’s a C1, which means more points and more money.”

“Of the two courses, Valmont suits me better anyway,” Miller concluded. “The atmosphere is a lot more fun because there are always bigger crowds. I’m looking forward to having a better day and showing up with a better head on my shoulders.”

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