I’ve had some of the best races of my life at Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI. At the 2005 Cyclocross National Championships, I won the Master’s 30-34 National Championship and earned a bronze medal in the Elite Women’s race the next day. I’ve also had some of the worst races there. It all depends on the weather and the course design that the promoters are using on a given year.
Truly amazing cyclocross racers can race any course in any conditions with the same results. I aspire to be that well rounded, but truth be told, I lack mass and power and sometimes get a bit bored on courses that aren’t technically challenging if not at least muddy. I’m much less interested in learning race tactics and playing games than I am in simply racing my guts out. As American Cyclocross develops, there is a trend towards a style of course dubbed “American Style” which for me means I have to change my stubborn ways and learn to race properly on whatever course comes my way.
The forecast called for lots of sun and 80 degree temperatures. It was unseasonably warm for a ‘cross race and the preceding dry spell meant that the course would be fast and dry. I had a decent start and sat behind the race leaders until the high pace caused a small gap to open up. I found myself with three other riders chasing the lead three and we were closing in on a tiring third place. My legs felt good and I was feeling confident that I would be able to put in a good fight for at least fourth place.
Racing in a pack involves anticipating the moves of the other riders and finding out where you have the advantage over them. There were enough turns in the course that might allow me a gap if I could be patient, find the right time and make my move…..but wait! A 20-foot section of course tape, broken by a crashed rider on the first lap, had been flapping around for the last 30 minutes and when I took a corner wide, it was sucked into my rear cassette and jammed my bike completely.
Not only was I out of my group, I was passed by three more riders as I attempted to free the tape from my wheel. Rather than run ¾ of a lap to the pit, I rode my bike with one gear that was skipping all the way around to the pit. After swapping bikes, I gave it my all but it was the last lap and I was unable to gain back any of the spots I had lost. 10th. I was really hoping the promoters would go back to one of the older style courses that was more technical for day 2!
No such luck on getting a more technical version of the course for Day 2. It was actually the least technical course I’ve ridden to date with about 1.5 km of pavement (roughly half of the course), which is far more than the norm. Later, we had heard that the park arborist requested that the course not be routed too close to the trees both days due to erosion from Hurricane Irene the previous month. The ENTIRE park is filled with trees.
I had a solid start and for the first three laps I was in a group of about ten riders in a paceline like a road race. I was even running out of gears where the pavement went downhill before coming onto the grass.
Needless to say, 80-degree temps and non-stop fast pedaling took its toll and the group began to pull apart. I gave it what I had but was passed by one rider in the last lap and ended up 7th.