We could not have asked for better weather at the first race in the American Ultracross Championship Series – Southern Cross in Dahlonega, Georgia. The 300-rider field rolled out under sunny skies, upper 50’s temperature.
The race start was a bit hectic since the women were directed to start one minute behind the men. Not all women heard the instructions and some left with the men. Others, including me, started staggered, quickly catching the end of the men’s field. We came to a standstill within the first 500 meters of the race, behind numerous bottlenecks and crashes which occurred in the taped-off cyclocross course leading out of Montaluce Winery – the start and location/sponsor of the event.
Stuck behind so many riders, all I could do was wait for the clogs to clear and hope to catch women ahead of me when the course turned out of the winery onto the open road.
When I got to the asphalt, I found that despite the cold weather and limited outdoor riding of a Pittsburgh winter, I felt light and snappy on my bike. Picking off one rider after the other, I had caught all but one woman, Meghan Korol, by the top of the first major gravel climb.
The second major climb (of two) was more gradual and I settled into a steady drive forward, but wished there were some other riders to work with. By starting staggered, the men I sometimes ride with at these events were further up the road.
At the bottom of the second climb, after a twisty gravel descent, I caught up to a male rider, who told me the third woman, Lisa Randall, was just a minute back. (Lisa is a champion mountain biker and adventure racer, who also promotes races in the Georgia area through her company, Mountain Goat Adventures.) She finished ahead of me the two previous years at Southern Cross so I was very concerned she would catch me. Between the scare of being chased and the knowledge that the finish was less than 10 miles away, I got a late-day surge of energy that got me to the line as the second woman overall, looking behind my back all the way to the line!
Southern Cross was a great kick-off to the 2014 racing season. A welcome break from riding in sub-freezing temperatures, and gratifying to feel good on my bike after so many indoor trainer days.
Congratulations to Gerry Pflug, who took the single speed win at Southern Cross, to Selene and Roger for their wins at Monster Cross, and to all Rare Disease cyclists who started the season with a “Bang!” this weekend. I’ll take the team’s successes as a harbinger of more good races to come and say – it’s going to be a good 2014 for Rare Disease Cycling.