Team Group Health was represented at the 2016 USA Cycling Cyclo-Cross Nationals that took place in Asheville, NC from January 4-10th by Amanda McNabb, Niki Weiss, and Lisa Coyne. Lisa Coyne had a great race leading her to a podium finish in the Master Women 55-59 category. Here is her exciting race report:
It was 22 degrees in Asheville and Niki and I puffed out steam as we began the first of 2 climbs on frozen ground. We were on our first reconnaissance of the course that was touted as being the most technical ever set. The climb got progressively steeper, culminating in a stout run-up. From the top there was a great view of the river valley below from which we climbed and the Blue Ridge mountains beyond. Niki coached me through the off-camber slalom that began the descent, and then we rattled down the rough, straight gravel road. After a tour of the lower land that featured red North Carolina mud frozen into ruts and 2 flyovers, we ground up a steeper 2nd climb that sidled up the hillside terraced by cow paths. There was a shockingly steep drop through the woods. It took me several tries and 2 trips over the bars to find lines that would get me down the turns cleanly! After this recon and 2 other visits to the course I was no longer terrified of its steeper features and felt ready to race.
By the time I raced at 2:30, it had warmed to 55 degrees and the sun and wind had almost dried the course. After a #1 call up, I missed my clip at the start and had to work my way out of mid-pack at the hole shot to be back in medal contention. I worked my way into 3rd, but on my 3rd lap when punching up a riser that led to the first big climb, my quads began cramping up. I backed off a bit and was able to continue racing, though I couldn’t generate full power without the legs locking up. Three people passed me on that climb and I felt the chance at a medal slipping away. But on the 4th lap when turning through the last descent I saw my nearest competitor, Karen Nash, putting her chain back on her bike just ahead. She jumped on her bike just in front of me and we accelerated down the hill and onto the flat stretch that led to the barriers and the last turn to the uphill finish pavement. I caught her at the barriers, pushed my bike hard to remount just ahead of her and stomped on the pedals. Knowing she was right behind me, I fully expected her to sit on my wheel and pull around before the finish. My legs were toast and efforts at sprinting weren’t yielding much speed, but I yanked on the bars and crossed the line in 4th place with her still on my wheel.
Luckily the podium at Nats is 5 deep, so I got to stand up there on a beautiful evening, at a beautiful venue under the last of the day’s bluebird skies with 4 great riders. We all wore giant smiles as Georgia Gould placed medals on our necks. What a wonderfully gracious woman Georgia is! She said something kind to each person as she presented the medals, spent the day co-announcing the women’s racing and came to the women’s wine event that evening to be interviewed (or was it roasted?) by the other race announcer along with a few other up and coming notable racers. Hopefully you too will get a chance to meet or cheer for her. Hearing these women speak and chatting with other racers who ranged up to age 66 was an affirmation of the quality and camaraderie of the USA women’s cyclocross scene.
Next year’s event is in Connecticut, but the Colorado women have given me pointers on racing in the snow. So Niki and I think we should rally a contingent of TGH to attend in 2017!