Friday we drove out to Flat Creek Ranch, located in Johnson City, where the Mellow Johnny’s Classic was held. Carlos hadn’t ridden his full race course yet since the weekend before he rode the UCI/Pro loop with me. So we decided to pre-ride separately and I would do two of the 3.4 mile Pro loop while he did one of the 7ish mile full loop. That worked out well so we were both done at the same time. We both felt really good about our rides. I was going more at race pace and was happy to clear the entire trail without having to dab. He also cleared everything on his lap which was awesome, especially considering everyone we had talked to about the trail said it was one of the gnarliest ever in the TMBRA series! Besides feeling good about my riding, I came across another problem with my bike! My chain wasn’t shifting properly on my cassette. I fiddled with the cables a little bit but knew this wasn’t something for the not so mechanically inclined to try to fix. So I swung by the SRAM tent and the guys investigated the problem and finally changed my shifter cable. This definitely helped and made my bike a bit more rideable, but I knew this wasn’t the final solution. Either way they got me rolling again so I was extremely thankful for that!
We stayed at our good friend Josh’s place which is only a few miles from the Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop in Austin where the kick off party was at. The party started around 7pm with interviews from some of the world’s and nation’s top Mountain Bikers. I was a little bummed for getting there late and missing all the action. So we headed back to his place, cleaned up, and got a good night’s sleep before my big race in the morning. We woke up pretty early because we really wanted to enjoy the WHOLE day and not be rushing (like I normally am) to get ready. We got to the ranch at about 9am. I think the drive over there was the most nervous that I was throughout the course of the weekend. My breakfast didn’t want to settle because I had so many butterflies in my stomach. I think Carlos noticed the ghostly look on my face so we started discussing race strategy and my goals for this race. One of the main goals we had was for me to not ride over my head. This is NOT the trail that you want to try to ride above your skill level because of how rocky and technical it is. The penalty for failure is pretty big, and besides that usually nothing good comes out of it. I really wanted to have fun and treat this race like any other race. This was also the advice Georgia Gould had given me earlier in the week. I am a pro and I deserve to be out there. I needed to just ride my own race. It’s pretty cool when the national champ gives you the same advice as your husband! ; )
As I changed and got my bottles and nutrition together Carlos got my bike dialed up. We prayed and then headed out to warm up. It was the coolest thing ever to be riding up and down the country road next to my husband and best friend while women like Emily Batty, Lea Davidson, and Heather Irmiger ride by us. These are women that I recognize in a flash from watching them in World Cup Races on the internet, and here we were warming up for the same race! : ) About 15 till noon the announcers started doing call ups to the starting line according to your rank. I was pleasantly surprised NOT to be dead last on the call up since I felt like I was the newest face there. I was so calm it was almost surreal. There wasn’t anything that could keep me from smiling and I was enjoying every minute of it! When the gun finally went off I had a good clip on and I tried to get as close to the front as I could. The jeep road quickly turned into a cloud of dust and we were elbow to elbow fighting for position. Going from jeep road into single track we quickly got bottle necked and whatever position you were in is where you would stay until the trail opened up again. I got passed by Christina Smith and rode behind her shortly. After the first long climb I made a move and passed her. The trail started descending with a few sweeping turns that are covered with loose gravel. I was extra cautious here and before I knew it Christina slid out on a turn right behind me. I kept riding and stayed focused on my goals. I caught two other women, one which was having some trouble with the rocks and it forced me to un-clip a few times. I made a quick pass and had the trail all to myself. I cleared every obstacle just like my pre-ride and I felt great! I ended up 18th out of 24, with only 22 finishing. I was greeted at the finish line by my AMAZING and supportive husband and coach along with so many wonderful friends who cheered for me throughout EVERY corner and climb of the trail!!! In my eyes, I won! Two years ago I raced The Mellow Johnny’s Classic as a Cat 3 and it was my second race ever. This weekend was my first, and definitely not my last Pro Mountain Bike Race…this is only the beginning!
I had pre-registered for the TMBRA Race on Sunday also. The distance on this race was going to be 22 miles as opposed to the 15 miles from Saturday’s race. I knew my legs were probably going to be tired from my efforts the day before but we figured I would use this race as training. My goal was again, to not ride over my head, and to pace myself since the distance was going to be longer. I hadn’t yet ridden the entire loop so I knew I needed to be careful especially on my first lap. Heather Irmiger (Subaru-Trek) and Kelli Emmett (Giant Factory Team) stayed the extra day and raced with us on Sunday. The start was pretty fast and I decided to stay back and follow my plan. I did surprisingly well on my first lap without really knowing the whole trail. On my second lap someone called out a time split to me that I was twenty seconds back from third place. I was happy with that and knew I needed to just keep riding my race. There was a pretty sketchy decent with small drop off some rocks that I was headed towards and I was determined to correct the mistake I had made in previous laps and finally take the inside, smoother line. Well, the line had apparently changed from my first lap to the second. This time around a pretty large rock had shifted forward about six or seven inches and it was just enough for my wheel to hit the base of the rock and launch me over my bars with my bike flying over me and I landed straight on my elbow. As soon as I stood up blood was gushing everywhere and I knew it wasn’t good. I moved my bike out of the way of other riders and waited for the pain to go away. I started to get dizzy so I sat behind a tree with my arm elevated. Carlos’ group had taken off behind us and so I knew he would be riding by me any minute. I didn’t want him to stop his race so I had decided I wouldn’t say anything when he passed. As he dodged the rock and made the next turn he saw a bike in the corner of his eye and asked if I was ok, not knowing it was me. Dang it! I was forced to respond so I said, “I’m not sure. Keep riding!” He slammed on his brakes when he recognized my voice and asked me what happened. I told him I went over my bars and showed him my arm. Without a doubt in his mind he sacrificed his race and helped me out of the trail. I’m telling you, I’m the luckiest girl in the world! They sent the EMT’s up the hill to get me and they cleaned me up. They said I needed to get stitches within the next six hours because of how deep the wound was. So we drove back into town and got six stitches.
Funny right? How things can change in the blink of an eye, or we can say, the move of a rock! And this is why we must live EVERYDAY to its fullest! I am truly thankful for all the blessings of the weekend and also for my crash not being worse than it was. Stitches come out in eight more days, so I should be ready for the next race in twelve!