Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nationals: The world according to Mark

Here is the race report according to Mark. I think his version is much more coherent than mine... I was too busy taking out spectators, course tape, my bike and myself all weekend. No, it did not go as planned. Yes, I am extremely lucky to have such a supportive husband.

Cross Nats review from the coach/husband point of view...


This was a rough weekend...for many reasons. I knew we had Kym's fitness where it needed to be to reach her goals. Those were the podium in her Master's race and Top 20 in the Elite race. She has been racing strong all fall, and continually getting stronger. When we arrived in Bend, the temps were in the negatives in the morning, with mid-afternoon temps only getting to just above freezing. This was creating a problem. That was the snow was just melting enough to refreeze into ice by the following morning. This was not only going to be a handling course, but probably one of luck as you just couldn't tell where the ice was or where it was melted. The first day saw so many crashes it was crazy. One guy got a compound fracture of his tib/fib and I know some of those pics made the Internet. Because of that, the race promoters changed the course to try and take out some of the more dangerous areas.

By Friday, the course had melted a LITTLE bit by the women's race, but it was still a course that, in most spots, only had one true line on it. This became problematic because the fields this year were huge. That in itself wasn't SO bad, except USAC decided to run multiple age groups at the same time. In the 40+ fields, which there was 4 or 5 of them, they separated the fields out by 5-10 second starts. In the 30+, there were just two fields, and they separated them out by 30 seconds. In both cases, you had people integrating with other age group fields almost immediately in a race that was determining the National Champions. This was/is totally unacceptable as you now have people you aren't racing against possibly determining the outcome of your race. Not a big deal in your typical weekend races, but this was the National Championships. In Kym's race, for instance, the crash she had that put her chain and rear derailleur into the spokes was caused because she was forced to take a bad line to pass a slower rider walking up a hill that Kym had been riding. That rider was from the younger age group and Kym hit a patch of ice trying to make that pass. If that choice had been made because that girl was someone she was actually racing against, then that is fair would have still sucked, but that happens. However, to have to pass someone walking up a hill in the only rideable line there is, and then crashing because you are forced into an ice patch is unacceptable when that rider wasn't even in your own race. This was common for the entire day. I have already had conversations with USAC officials while we were there and I believe they are going to try and add an additional day next year to fix this problem. Kudos to them for trying to address it going forward. I heard from one official they had literally hundreds of complaints on Thursday and Friday due to the mixed fields. This was made worse by the fact the course was just too short, time-wise. The master's women were turning 7 minute laps, with some of them faster than that. People were getting lapped within the third lap of the race. Chaos does not come close to the chaos that was out there.

By yesterday morning, the course had started to thaw out. That was both good and bad. It was good because on a lot of the course, the ice was gone, replaced by mud and water. The bad was you couldn't tell by looking at a section you were coming into which it was. The temps at 11:00 when the Elite women went off were around 34 degrees.

The women lined up over a 100 racers in their field...Kym was called up 23rd, I think. Third row regardless. Good call up. At the start she drilled it and came out of the first corner sitting 27th. That was a perfect position since anyone after about the top 30 was off their bike running the first big corner because they were so stacked up. I was doing pit duty again, so I only had a limited view of the course. Since it was a double pit, Kym would come past me twice each lap. By the time she came past the pit the next time on the lap, she had moved up to 25th and was in a group of about 14 girls and looking great. As she went out to the other side of the course I could only wait and hope. She was still holding strong the new few laps, moving up in the group. Then she came through and was back around 30th. I looked at her and the bike and she seemed ok, so I was perplexed and worried as to why she had slid back. Come to find out, she had slid out on an icy, off-camber patch that was claiming lots of riders at the front and the back of the field. She had lost about 10 places, but had fought her way back when she went past me.

With 2 laps to go, she suddenly didn't come through where she should have been....25,26,27,30,32,32,33..40, oh crap, where is she? She came through in 49th and I screamed at her if she was ok. She said no that she was hurt. Gulp...husband's worse nightmare to hear that in the pits. Especially knowing how high a pain threshold Kym has. She will race in extreme pain, regardless of how it may actually be hurting her physically, because she doesn't give up....EVER. This is one of the things I truly LOVE about my wife, but it scares me to death sometimes. She will put her well-being aside in order to finish or win a race.

Anyway, so she goes past, I can't see blood, but I can tell she is pedaling a bit erratic. When I get to the finish line, she about collapses in my arms and can't stand up. A definite tear moment...ouch...I don't do those so well. She had crashed, really hard, in that same, stupid off-camber section. Hard enough that she didn't move for a minute or so and spectators were trying to help her off the course. She had hit her hip and knee hard. Hard enough that she would have been justified in going to first aid and calling it a day. In fact, that was recommended to her. Again, she is hard headed and doesn't give up. She got back on her bike and dug deep for the last two laps, in spite of the fact her knee had now swollen to twice it's normal size. She told me it was the National Championships and she wasn't about to quit. She finished 41st.

So...not quite the weekend we had hoped or planned for, but her knee and hip have stabilized and it appears to be a soft tissue injury. She will recover. And she wasn't the only one who crashed hard this past weekend...there were lots of them. It's something that is out of a coach or non-racer's control when that person is out racing. You can't plan for it, and you just have to pick yourself up and try to keep going. That's all you can hope for. The same thing happened to Jeremy Powers in the Elite Men's race. He was off the front, looking incredible and it was his race to lose. He did just the very exact spot Kym crashed. He hit the deck and was down for a bit. That took him all the way back to the high-30's or low-40's. He was able to fight back to the podium, I believe, but it happens. Sometimes, in order to be a champion, you have to be aggressive and take risks. That's what makes one a champion. You'll never be great sitting back and hoping for the have to make your own luck in a race. When it works out, you're the hero....when it doesn' sucks, but at least you tried and gave it your best. That's all a coach can ever expect/want...and its the standard I get from my wife day in and day out...

And that's the look back on the weekend....I am happy we came out here and it was a great experience, minus the crashing part. We'll be back here next year for sure!! It is an experience you just can't describe well enough unless you experience it.

Kym and I both did presentations for USA Cycling and we got to see friends while out here. It was a super trip, but I'm ready to be back in TN.

Nationals: part 1, Masters

After an uneventful but long trip to Bend, OR it was time for racing. Was I ready? Was the course going to cooperate? So many questions...

Bend had gotten a ton of snow the week before the race and the temperatures had been below zero until the day before we arrived. It was going to be interesting. Things were a bit snow covered. Thursday I pre-rode the course with about 1,000 other riders (not a lot was accomplished) and my assessment was that it was going to be slick. There was ICE and snow everywhere. I guess we'll see how race day goes.

I rode well after a not so stellar start and was riding in 5th when things got ugly. Things did not magically dry up by Friday. The course was snow/ice covered and although it was "almost" thawing during my race, there were some really slick areas. No one raced without a few slide outs. I was passing a girl from the field that started in front of mine and took a line that I had not ridden before. It was ice. the bike slid and I recovered fairly well... no big deal, run up the hill and keep going. WRONG. My derailleur had gotten smacked into my rear wheel and jammed into the spokes. It was NOT coming out. I was as far from the pit as I could be. So I ran. And ran. And then jogged. And then walked quickly. They announced me as I ran past the finish "And there's some bad luck, there goes Kimberly Flynn, who was riding in the front of the field earlier in the race, headed to the pit with a mechanical". Thanks.... I got to the pit, got my pit bike, and rolled around one more lap to the finish.

I have not finished a lap down in ANY race this year, not even when we start behind the men. Today I did. At Nationals. OUCH. Granted I ran a half of a lap and had really bad luck, but it still stings. I rode really well and I did not quit (I don't quit races EVER) but it was not what I came here for. Sunday is the Elite race and I am fired up. I have a score to settle with Bend. I will not be crashing and messing up my bike. I have a 28th place call up out of over 100 women. They had better be ready...

Thanks again to everyone who has helped me get here this season, especially Mark. He was a PHENOMENAL pit crew today. He got my bike back running again in 1/2 lap so I got to finish on my own steed.

As a side note: the promoter had TONS of complaints about how racers need their own race at Nationals. I was not the only woman whose race was determined by someone that was not in their category. Yes, I took the line that I crashed on, but I was forced to do so by someone that I was not racing against. I REALLY hope that problem is fixed by next year.

Thanksgiving to Nationals

Whew. Talk about a whirlwind push to the end of cross season. After Mercer was the UCI NC Grand Prix and then two weekends in GA for the series finals.

North Carolina was tough. The course was flat and non-technical, not my favorite, but it's cross so it's always fun. And anything can happen. Saturday's race was challenging for me. I was still tired from the whirlwind drive to Mercer and it showed. I struggled to find my mojo and finished 8th. Not a bad UCI finish, but not what I was hoping for. It was way too much of a road race for me. Sunday it was cold and rainy and I was looking for redemption. I got it. The mud turned the course into something worth racing and I raced well. I was even in 3rd for two laps. An unplanned dismount took me back to 5th. Still a very respectable finish. The weekend was a success. As a side note, Mark was AWESOME Sunday, taking the win from a 7th row start. Killer!!

Also, a HUGE thanks to Scott Wagner, friend and team sponsor, for the cabin and fun times. Scott, it was so good to see you!!!

Thanksgiving weekend we went to GA and raced the "make-up" race for the series. It was a blast and we even got Amanda out on a cross bike. She rocked it. She won the Cat 4 women's race on her FIRST RIDE ever on a real cyclocross bike. You go girl!!!! I won the Elite women's field. A good time was had by all.

And then it was December...

Star and I did a girl's trip to Conyers, GA for the GA series final. She raced a really exciting race, coming from behind with tow laps to go to take the win. In my race I took the lead at the start and never looked back. Two more wins for Vantaggio. The win gave me enough points to take 3rd in the series, even after missing 3 of the races. Star was 5th having missed 4 races.

Now we are done in the Southeast and it is time to head WEST. Yikes. Let's see if all that hard work paid off.