This past month NCVC sent two Junior riders (Clio Dinan and Eric Voigt) to Austin, Texas for the Cyclocross National Championships on January 12th. Clio raced the Womens Jr. 17-18 and Eric raced the Men Jr. 17-18. Below is a quick recap of a fairly hectic weekend of racing. Enjoy!
- - - -
We arrived in Austin on Saturday and the course was already super muddy! Watching the D1 college men really gave us an idea of just how difficult it was going to be. Even the leading group was turning the course into a slip and slide. The second their race ended, a horde of race thirsty juniors and elites swarmed the course for their chance to pre ride in the hour and a half given before closing.
As we hopped on course it was evident what we needed to practice... bike changes. As we rode, it seemed that the mud was just getting thicker and thicker and that we would have to run a lot, especially the whole chaotic pit section. Our races were scheduled for 9:00am and 10:40am on Sunday so we went to bed hoping the course would get a bit tackier overnight We woke up in the morning to find the opposite, as it rained through the night, leaving conditions just as bad in the morning.
We showed up bright and early nonetheless, and were greeted by Austin police officers instructing us to park off site. This was the first indication that Sunday would not go to plan. Being two teenagers, we knew how to scan social media for updates, but USA Cycling was not giving any official word of what was happening. There was news from Austin Parks and Rec and Cyclocrossmagazine about the races being cancelled, but we couldn’t believe it without an official announcement. Finally, at about 10 AM USA cycling posted an official announcement declaring that all races were cancelled, and that police were demanding everyone exit the park. They then announced a press conference would be held shortly announcing the plans to race, where they announced that races would continue on Monday.
So five flight changes later and a boatload of money it was Monday. With the next day's events consolidated, and the course officially opening at 12 PM, we decided it would be a perfect idea to get there at early. Upon arrival at 8am, we noticed we were just about the only people on site. This allowed for plenty of time to walk the course and examine the course changes and conditions of the new day. The changes included nothing too significant, just a lot more clearance given to the infamous Austin heritage tree roots.
As the 12 o'clock pre-ride time approached, the butterflies began to fly. The conditions were a bit frightening. Pre-riding simultaneously with all the racers of that day was chaotic allowing only for one lap.
Before our race was the 15-16 junior men's race with a five minute break until the beginning of the 17/18 groups. As we headed down to staging, butterflies really begin to fly! As your name was called to approach your starting grid, the USA Cycling officials would check your number and your tire width to make sure everything was to regulation. On the grid, the amount of skill was phenomenal.
As the whistle blew for Eric's start, there was one minute until Clio was off (Jrs races were consolidated because shortened racing day, a slightly controversial decision, which is shown later). It was very difficult to hold a position in the start, as everyone was hungry for the holeshot. After just half a lap, we changed bikes, which would prove crucial. The mud was so intense that it had already completely clogged pedals, brakes, and drivetrains, making it practically impossible to ride. A fresh bike that functioned as it was supposed to and made pedaling possible again was an awesome feeling.
As the race carried on riders became more and more spread out. The sheer difficulty of the off cambers and muddy straightaways and turns were a big enough challenge for even the pros, much less us kids. As the race carried on the mud became tackier and tackier, but never enough to be in control. By the end of the race everyone was sprinting to get the best position no matter where they were in the pack.
With the delayed Monday race scheduling, both 17/18 Junior men and women as well as 15/16 Junior women all raced in the same field. This meant that Clio was only able to get in two laps and Eric only three while the leading men of the 17/18 group got in four. But crossing the finish line offered a sigh of relief and some resolution to the chaotic weekend, no matter where you were finishing. The only thing to do then was to sit back, relax, and watch some amazing elite races.
One week later our bikes and clothes are still muddy, but it was worth it and an enjoyable trip to be a part of!
Thanks for reading!