US Cup Triple Crown Bonelli Park

or… This isn't the same Bonelli.

My first XC race was at Bonelli Park in October 2007.  I signed up for Sport Women Open.  I knew nothing about training, nutrition, or racing.  I was racing my sweet Dos Niner set up as a 1x9 (special Boone 29T ring, since I couldn't handle a 32T up front).  There was one other woman at the line, and she took off before I had even shifted down on my cassette.  The other passed me about 1/4mi in to the race.  

Yup, that was me in October 2007.

I'll be honest, I don't remember much about the race.  I think I went back and forth with another female about my age that kept passing me on the climbs, and I'd get her on the descents.  I think she crashed 2-3 times and called it a day.  There was a massive cacti patch on the hill that we all climbed this past weekend (the switchbacks) and a bunch of people crashed there.

I did the same race in 2008 I believe in Expert… only female out there.

I think Tinker lapped me on lap 2 of 4!

Since there isn't usually a lot of competition in the local Cat 1 ranks, I requested an upgrade to Pro Women XC in late 2008.  USAC denied the request, asking for more solid results at bigger events, so I set out to put in some solid and smart training, and realized that Chipotle wasn't "health" food.  

My next time racing at Bonelli was a little different. I actually had been training and watching my nutrition a little more closely for about 4 months by the time I got to the race. I was stoked that the Cat 1 women got to start with the Pro's.  It was the first race of the season, and I was on my new 2009 S-Works Epic.  I was super nervous, but shot out of the gate and found myself riding on the wheel of Melanie McQuaid and going back and forth with Krista Park!  It was awesome getting to watch Krista race, and follow her around the course for my 2 laps.

After "bugging" them some more, USAC let me upgrade before the Pro XCT event at Fontana last year, and I was stoked!

Needless to say, I've done a good amount of racing at Bonelli, and have really kind of come full circle from the sport racer that was constantly getting dropped!

Justin and I got to pre-ride most of the Triple Crown Pro course the weekend before the event.  We were tired from racing SRC, and the weather wasn't great, so we didn't spend much time out there.  We got out of work early Wednesday before the race and set out on a few laps to test the bike setups and the tires, and I was stoked to have the course a little more dialed in.

I felt ok but not great Friday on our ride at lunch, and then spent about 4 hours in the kitchen cooking and prepping for the weekend while Justin finalized the bike stuff in the garage.

Got bottles?

Justin made a few "tactical" errors Friday night.  He came in to shower and said that one of my crank bolts had shattered, but it would be okay and we'd get it replaced before Fontana.  No worries.  I forgot about it.

I was up way before the alarm Saturday morning and felt ready to go!  We got up to the venue before noon and I got in the longer than expected registration line.  Had hopped to get in a lap or so before the juniors went off.

Justin had the Team Rock N' Road Cyclery pit all dialed in when I got back from registration.

We got kitted up and I went to clip in to my pedal and my foot fell to the ground.  I thought (new shoes n all) I had missed the pedal, so tried again.  Realized my cranks were parallel (this is no bueno).  Justin looked at them and realized it was not going to work.  I sort of started to panic.  He ran around asking for crank bolts.  

He set me up on his hard tail, and was lucky enough to get hooked up with a way to put my crank rings on his drivetrain, since his crank arms were NOT fitting in my frame.  So, I went out to get used to a bike I'd ridden once and that was a size too big.

It wasn't my bike, but I'd make it work.  I thought about Beth's blog on making lemonade from the week before, and I was just going to make some for myself!  

I got back to the pits and Justin told me that Juan (who is a Specialized demo rep that happened to be at the event with some sweet bikes!) had given up his personal crankset for the weekend for me to race on. What a life saver!

So, I hopped back on my bike and did a short loop around the course after the junior races had finished so I could check out my tire set up and finish warm-up.

I felt about as prepared as I was going to get, and lined up as the men were just about to head out on their start/parade lap with the other women. The women's turn out was pretty low (11 starters), but it was also stacked! With Lene Byberg, Heather Irmiger, and Kelli Emmett from the World Cup circuit, Pua Sawicki with multiple 24-hour national titles and a Marathon World Cup Pro, Amber Neben who was a road TT World Champion, Chloe Forsman and Kay Sherwood with strong U23 and collegiate finishes, Krista Park who has competed nationally, Rebecca Tomaszewski who is a top-level SS and endurance mountain biker, and new to the Pro ranks Anna Fortner.

This crew was no joke!

I lined up I think on the far right of the first row and managed to hold on to the 2nd pack coming around by the feedzone (shown in Rick Watts' video below). I think the groups came back together while out on the start loop and we all took off up the first steep climb toward the singletrack on the lake side pretty much in single file.

Pro Women's Start lap (thank you to Rick Watt's!!)

I was on Pua's wheel for the first descent, and made sure to stick like glue to her on the short climb back up. I think I was sitting in about 6th place for most of the lap, and we would all regroup here and there, with small gaps forming. On the flats out to the other part of the course I caught back on to Chloe's wheel, and Pua went around both of us.

Photo: Dave Wrolstad

I think I managed to come around Chloe on the next climb and Pua continued to accelerate. I was with Heather on a short paved section in between the rollers and the small climb before we descend to the swim beach flats and climb up the switchbacks. We yo-yo'd a bit with me in front after that through the feedzone, and then she came around on the steep climb, and I think I passed back before the singletrack climb back up. I knew Heather was back there and we were all suffering, and the gap up to the top 3 (Pua, Kelli and Lene) was staying somewhat consistent for lap 3.

Photo: Dave Wrolstad

Lap 4 my legs started to get pretty packed up, but I continued to push. I wasn't sure of the gap from me back, but I knew that Pua was out of my sights for the most part, and that that gap was starting to get bigger. I didn't panic, just kept my pace as high as I could and tried to keep it moving. I knew coming in to lap 4 it was time to take a bottle, and decided to yank my visor since it was acting like a giant sail on all of the flats.

Cycling Videos on CyclingDirt

Thanks to Colt from Cycling Dirt for the killer coverage (as always).

Lap 5 I came around and shifted into my smaller ring on the steep climb at the beginning of the lap. I noticed my thumb shifter didn't seem like it was in the right place, but I down shifted anyway. When I went to shift into the bigger gear at the top of the short climb, what I figured was the case was truly the case… my front shifter was busted. I didn't know what was wrong, but I knew I'd be doing the entire lap in a 26T ring. Not exactly the best situation, but I hoped I had a big enough gap that it wouldn't matter. I was probably spinning about 120 RPMs on the flats and descents just trying to keep some momentum going, but I lost some time. I knew I was in the home stretch, though, so I made sure to smile for the photographers this time around.

Photo: Tom Shao

I was really stoked to have had such a great race. It was a lot of pain and suffering and pushing myself, but it was great to hang up front with some of the leaders for the early laps, and it was such a fun course. I know we've all got a long season ahead of us, and I don't think anyone went in to this race feeling particularly fresh or on top of their game, but it was still a really solid XC race.

I had no idea what was going to happen for Sunday since I hadn't really conserved what-so-ever. We were some of the last to leave the venue Saturday evening, and set out for some blackened salmon, rice, veggies, and a glass of vino. Yeah, so Justin and I also had dessert…

We checked in to the hotel around 8, and I sat on my butt while Justin fixed himself up with a new rear tire. My body utterly was in a state of disarray and had no desire to sleep. When we finally laid down around 10 pm (with the clock turned forward so it was actually 11 pm sort of) there was a lot of hotel noise. Justin requested nicely that the people outside quiet down, but it didn't really work out. Then it was about 85F in the room, so we turned on the A/C, and then it was about 65F in the room.

Since Justin's race was at 8:30 on Sunday (meaning getting there by 7 to set up and for him to be able to warm up before the race) we got up at 5:45. I think we wound up with about 3 hours of sleep. With coffee Sunday morning we got to the venue and I was HOPPING! Dancing around to music playing on the loud speaker and raring to go. My race, unfortunately, was still 6 hours away!

I supported Justin in the feedzone and by cheering and taking crappy pictures.

When Justin came around to the finish he was sprinting with 2 other guys. I knew that Gary Douville most likely had first (but a smaller gap than normal!), so I thought Justin had sprinted for 4th. When we looked at the results, though, 2nd place finished just ahead of him, and he was 3rd overall! He actually was in the way of a sprint for another age group (AG). Was super stoked for him! I think that was his top finish for that many guys in his AG, which is awesome. The hard work is paying off.

I got a short little warm up massage and felt utterly relaxed. My warm-up for short track wound up being a lot shorter than I would have liked, but my legs were feeling the effects of the day before and very little recovery or sleep. I had no idea how it was going to go, but I figured it only being 10 minutes plus one lap was better than it being 20-30 minutes.

As expected, it was utterly brutal. I had half a bottle of water, but never had a chance to drink any. It was all out with yo-yo's like in a big group road ride hammer fest, and I never knew when the group was going to go or when they were going to sit up, so I pretty much just "went" the whole time.

Bell lap there was a bit of a gap between Lene, Kelli, Heather and Chloe and then Amber, Pua and I. I made the tactical error of trying to pass on the only short rise in the course and wound up in a big rain rut at almost a complete standstill. I spent the rest of the lap to the grass sprinting to catch back on, running out of gears and legs in the process. I caught the tail end of Amber and Pua as we all entered the finishing sprint, and Pua outsprinted Amber with me falling a little ways back.

Super cotton mouth and I don't think there was any way to rehydrate from that! Felt like I'd been in the sahara desert for about a month with no water! I tried to spin around a little, and instead just kind of sat around in a daze. Justin was snacking on some sweet potato chips, and I realized all I wanted at that point was to snack and take a nap.

Instead we headed out in search of the Super D course, and wound up pedaling out there with Chloe and Pua, and catching on to the train of Kelli and her teammate Carl Decker. We had a fun run down the course while the Pro Men were warming up for Short Track.

I kind of sat around for awhile, and quickly it was time to pedal off to the start. I think a few of us women were kind of tired from the weekend and looking forward to finishing up. I sat down in the shade of the weeds near the top with Krista and Chloe as we waited for the Pro Men to go off. A few of the pro women chose not to Super D, so we got through our class pretty quickly.

I felt actually pretty good throughout. The one big climb I felt kind of slow on (in too big of a gear), but got through the rocky descent, crossed the road and felt pretty spent. Justin was standing on the sidelines cheering, and I tried to put in an effort for him, but had nothing left.

Just after I was out of his sight I came to a fork in the fire roads. I'd only done the Super D course one time, so thought I was out to the last descent and started to veer left to go down the hill. Just as I got to the course tape someone yelled "You're going the wrong way!" I scrubbed all speed, stopped, and veered back on course just at the bottom of a steep hill. Totally in the wrong gear I cranked up it really slowly, and hammered my way to the finish line for 4th.

Overall, I was pretty stoked on my 5th place for the weekend.

XC podium:

Super D podium:

I learned a few things in short track and super D, and hope to race a few more of those this season! I made two tactical errors that cost me (who knows how much?), and hope to take the lessons learned to make better choices next time around.

Still feel super beat from my efforts this weekend. I need to sleep!

Thanks again to everyone that was out cheering all weekend. It's great to hear people calling your name and ringing the cowbell when you're deep in the pain cave and suffering!

Not sure I will make it out to Rounds 2 and 3 of the Triple Crown, but I do highly recommend it to anyone that can make it!