Although the race was only 69 miles, it has a grueling 10,000ft of climbing at altitude making this race a unique one that favors the altitude mountain goats! I’m really neither of those, but I do enjoy a hard effort so I went into Crusher with pretty low expectations and really just wanted a solid workout as I start the second half of my season. June was full of lows and highs - the gut wrenching mechanical at Unbound, the drama and hate at BWR and then USAC Road Nationals. Not to mention the plethora of hours driving and making my way to Colorado as well. I took a midseason break/down week the week before Crusher and just mentally unchecked. It was great, and I know it was needed to prioritize the goals I have for the second half of the season.
With that, I have been known for my details and preparation leading into an event. These things take considerable time, but also a lot of mental energy so I actually opted not to do this prior to Crusher. At a minimum, I studied the climbs and course but my normal race planning I opted to skip. Mentally I had been worn out from the spring races and traveling and I personally know for myself I cannot bring the same level of intensity and prep to every event if I want to be dialed for my A races. I think this is important to share because it’s really an unrealistic goal to bring the same level of preparation to ALL events. We race a lot. I certainly don’t want to get burned out on the details and planning that goes into it all. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to compete or do well, it just means my expectations are a bit lower. Let’s face it, at this level we are all competitive people who want to smash. Those that say otherwise are likely fibbing…
The race this year was drastically different than previous years, including last year. The women start first and historically, the men caught us when we are on the climb and it doesn’t really impact the women’s race. This year however, this was not the case. We need to have the women start AFTER the men. We were caught by the men’s pack on the pavement section which is a false flat. As the women’s field was swallowed by the men’s field, I couldn’t see where the women were at. I was frustrated and annoyed. But since I cared less about this event, I just decided not to force things and make a huge move to get closer to the front. I have very little experience at altitude, and my priority for this race was not to blow up and to pace well.
On the first climb, I just settled into my own pace. I don’t look at HR or power, so I gauge everything off what I would refer to as “all day pace” and RPE feeling. I had no idea what place I was in - 20th vs 5th vs 10th. No clue. Halfway up the first climb, I caught up with Sarah Sturm and we stayed together for most of the next 2 hours. We joked about how much more climbing we had left and tried to reassure each other that settling into our own pace was wise. It was nice to have a friendly competitor to ride with on a grueling day. I couldn’t hold her wheel on the descent, but I was close (which I was so proud of!) and was able to catch back on by the end of the pavement descent. We rolled with a fairly large group through the pavement flat loop, which I was thankful for given the headwinds. It took some effort to get people to echelon together, but eventually we were rolling.
As we hit the notorious sandy and hot pit, I opted to up the pace slightly and try to be at the front of the group we were with since I didn’t want to get stuck behind any of the guys. I created a small gap to Sarah in this section and moved into 5th place at this point. We still had nearly 2hrs of climbing ahead of us, so I just settled in and eventually caught and passed Ruth. This put me in 4th overall, and 3rd for the LTGP. I wanted to maintain this position, but also knew as the mountain got higher it was harder for me to produce power and push. Towards the top of the second climb, Haley came barreling through on a mission. She rode the second half of the day quite impressively and I had no desire to try and match that. I cheered for her as she passed by and just focused on keeping my pace steady as we got higher. I knew there were a lot of other strong women still behind me. Thankfully, I was able to hold onto my position (even though Sarah was close behind) and roll in for 5th overall and 4th LTGP. Not a bad result for someone who’s dubbed “not a climber” by most of the community (an entire topic or blog in itself so I won’t go there today…).
As I finished, I felt pretty wrecked but content in the result for a race that I didn’t pour a lot into. This gives me some confidence in my second half of the season, which was needed after a rough first half of the year. It just felt like a step in the right direction.
I was most proud of my descending. I made a 6 minute improvement on the descent time compared to last year’s segment. I was really proud of that, a true testament to my improving skills and capacity to improve as my experience grows. I hired a MTB skills coach this winter, did drill/cone work to learn body positioning and relocated my life to more mountainous areas to actually have the chance to ride descents. It’s been a scary thing to learn, but seeing progress is really empowering. I know I have more work to do still but for a flatlander I will take it!
Another big debate or decision many of us had to make this year was to wear a pack or not wear a pack. For the lead women, you’d expect to be out there for about 5 hours. This event does not allow any bottle hand ups or feed support on course. Now, there’s always a gray area since volunteers sometimes do bottle hand ups of plain water and water cups along the way but its not guaranteed. Last year, I did not carry a pack and stopped to refill 2 bottles in less than 30s on the last climb. I personally just did not want to carry a pack with the extra weight. When I did my math with the water weight and impact on climbing speed (thanks Best Bike Split), it was more advantageous to not carry the water. Granted, you have to be careful because bike racing is not a time trial and there are factors like group dynamics and pack riding that impact race result and time. For me, since this was not an A priority event, I opted for what would make me more comfortable, which was not wearing a pack (thank you Ruth for this confirmation as I vacillated the day before). I was fine stopping and adding on 30s if needed, and based on the math I still think it was faster. But it’s still hard when we start talking about it and comparing plans with other athletes. I started with 2x24oz bottles and then was able to grab 2x16oz bottles along the way and drink those. I think I had 1 coke cup hand-up at the DNA aid station with the ice socks and let me tell you, talk about a pick me up!
So there you have it! Crushed by the Crusher! Up next is the FoCo Fondo in Fort Collins which is run by Whitney and Zach Allison. Then from there, a heavy race block starts after Leadville that basically goes to the end of the season!
Data & Equipment Choices:
Gearing was made simple with the mullet set up, I ran a 46t front chain ring and a SRAM Eagle 10-50t rear cassette and felt this was perfect for the steep climbs, but also able to push power on the flat middle section
I shifted 1,049 times during the 69 mile race
Trek Checkpoint was a dream with the isospeed evening out that washboard descending
ABUS gamechanger 2.0…..yeah you read that right, new model to be available soon which includes more vents. I wouldn’t normally opt for an aero helmet on a climbing race, but I wanted to test out the new vents and they were great! Otherwise, the PowerDome is a great ventilated option.
HED Emporia GC3 pro wheels with WTB Vulpine 40’s, running 29psi front and 31psi rear for pressure
Voler Cache skinsuit in my custom kit design, repping Rosie and matching my tie dye bike
Fueling: Skratch superfuel in the bottles and SIS gels, 110g of carb per hour consumed