It probably would still be in my best interest to keep my mouth shut but I know many of you are eagerly anticipating a report from our camp, so here you go. 2 versions are to follow (1 long, 1 short). I was hoping to have pictures for you, but I just realized that my camera didn’t make it into the van this morning. It’s being shipped. Stay tuned.
Ali crashed. Ali crashed again. Bernstein Bear crashed and was sent to the hospital in an ambulance. His aluminum frame cracked in two places. Ryan Short crashed. Brian Morra was spotted at the medic with blood on his arm. Brian Morra. So I guess that may just be because that’s his style but I assume he crashed as well. And then Ali crashed hard and had to get stitches. If you tried to race a bike this weekend in Utah, chances are pretty good that you crashed. David stopped for a pee break and got lost. I rode my nipples off and lost.
Long – and slightly self-interested (sorry, I’ve found that racing bikes tends to have that effect on people):
As we speed across the desert of Northern Nevada, I can’t help but feel… angry. Part of this is because we just had a heated discussion about Club Sports’ new funding scheme and the dismal state it has left its teams to try and come to terms with. But I was angry even before that was brought to mind. I think we’re all a bit angry. But let me back up.
I’m unequivocally grateful for this experience. We’ve had an exciting, unique and beautiful trip – one for the books. But it’s been a long road and I sense that we all feel we should have had a lot more to show for it than broken things (mere egos in the case of David and myself). I feel like a bit of a punk right now at the thought of my minor complaints when I think of poor McKenzie or look around me at bandaged and bruised friends (some of whom actually finished better than I did anyway!). Regardless, here is my report.
Day 3 (criterium):
Ali went down twice and somehow still managed to finish within a few seconds of the leader. Kevin Bernstein from Willamette (whose family so graciously housed and fed us) secured our conference its top finish on the weekend, earning himself a 10th place high-five in the men’s D2 race. David brought it home nice ‘n easy, saving his energies for Sunday’s race. I wish I had done the same. My only bottle popped out in corner 4. I cursed and spit and charged ahead anyway. After about 35 mins., the scorching pace and the relatively high altitude started to get to me. Having no water didn’t help. Thankfully I was finally able to spot my parents and communicate my situation to them (my sister got some pretty entertaining pictures of this). At the 1 HR mark, I drifted to the back of the peloton and took a perfect feed from my dad (right handed!) then hopped back on for a middle-of the pack finish. Finally, we ate tacos to celebrate the cinco de mayo holiday that I almost cried about missing back in March.
Day 4 (RR):
I drove Ali to her 8 o’clock start at the reservoir. She seemed a lot more comfortable than she did before the start of the crit. I mistakenly took this to be a good sign. I was impressed as I watched Ali round the corner onto the finishing stretch as our conference’s 1st female finisher in what seemed to be great position. “Seemed to be”. Until I saw the blood covering her body from head to toe and heard the story.
The race course simply looped around the reservoir several times until the finishing lap. That lap entailed an easy descent into Ogden down one of the most picturesque western canyons I have ever seen, a 4-mile category-1 climb to ~6,200 ft., and a descent that would make your mother faint. let me break this down.
Imagine that delusional, wasted, empty feeling that you got after the most grueling climb of your life. Multiply by 2. Add a 40 or 50 mile RR as a warm-up. Add some surface conditions that make Whitman’s criterium course look good (we needed you, Miles). Add the inverse grade from that which you just climbed and some nice sandy shoulders. Top it all off with a national championship title on the line and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to look forward to next year.
Ali crested that climb In about 8th position. Then she kissed the pavement half-way down the descent and took a seat as the nurses patched her up and assessed her brain. 15 minutes later she was wrapped in tin foil at the finish line and dreaming of gluten-free Grape Nuts. But through it all, she kept a smile on her face and a better attitude than the rest of us crybabies. What a trooper. This girl’s going somewhere.
I almost fell asleep on the starting line, waiting for the million or so call-ups. Long nights and early mornings are not the best way to treat your body if you want to compete at that level. To top off my morning, my white kit that I have been dreaming of wearing for the past month for this very event had to be replaced by my dad’s sweaty, baggy black kit (way better than a sweaty skinsuit though). A lack of communication left me with my orange sleeping bag in place of my red clothes bag. Oops. Got team?
Finally the race began. Dave and I chilled out in the pack for the first lap, then jumped for all the wrong chase efforts once it broke up. Oops. Got team? My legs didn’t feel great after Saturday’s efforts anyway by the 4th time around the reservoir, so it was probably best that I sat in. By the time we finally hit the climb (~2:20) I breathed a sigh of relief and shouted some more swear words – this time in thanks.
I followed Jake McA’s lead up the wall for the first bit, passing a dropped Husky with back issues as we rolled. We started out slow but the steady pace paid huge returns by the top. Unfortunately, Jake’s race ended at about the 3/4 mark as his front tire let go. I might have shed a tear or two by the top, but I made it up towards the front of the shredded remains of the peloton. A few terrifying turns later I had landed in the valley and crept up to the train of 8 riders from all around the country that would lead/follow me home. Middle-of the pack once again. Definitely shed a tear or two as I sat slumped in the van trying to get my soul back.
-Nationals is about the money. It’s a showcase event dominated by not necessarily the strongest riders or those who train the hardest/best, but by those who are fortunate enough to have a large team backing them along every step of the way.
-The fields are large and the course is unforgiving, to say the least. Inexperience shows its face. And it hurts.
-It’s expensive. And our school has decided to make it that way without any discussion whatsoever as to why or whether that’s in their best interest.
-IT’S INCREDIBLE. If you are planning to be around next year, I highly recommend that you do everything in your power to find yourself a spot at this event. I apologize if I have weighted this report too heavily on the side of disfavor and ungratefulness. I’m in a rare mood inspired by far too little sleep, far too many heart beats, and bad luck all around. We made some timeless memories, opened our eyes a bit more, and we’re all heading home in one piece.
Special thanks to Taina and Will Raff, Anne and Paul Bernstein, and our support from back home!
P.S. Laura rocks. Unfortunately, Motor Pool vehicles often do not.
*Photos have now been recovered. They are posted at: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.361716023886673.81788.145487595509518&type=1