The First Big One: Reliving JingleCross & CrossVegas

The season opening race block for Team S&M CX wrapped up just over a week ago.  We came away with a smooth operating dynamic and some excellent experiences, both on and off the bike.  Riders Beth Ann Orton and Clara Honsinger also earned some excellent results in the UCI Elite Women's races.  Here's a two-part recap of our first trip, from the voices of both riders. 

  Cruising to the CrossVegas course with our host Ben.

Cruising to the CrossVegas course with our host Ben.

Team S&M CX’s first big racing block has come to an end and we’re all back in Oregon training and eager for more!  Our inaugural trip was a large success, and I couldn’t be more excited to be part of this racing family.

Our trip began by meeting Erik in Minnesota, his home state, where we rendezvoused with the team van for a long but scenic and enjoyable drive to Iowa City for Jingle Cross. I arrived in Minnesota one day early to stretch my legs along the Mississippi River, and to catch up with some of Sellwood Cycle Repair’s extended racing family in Minneapolis.

Unlike the last time I visited Iowa City for Jingle Cross in November, temperatures hovered in the mid-eighties at the course, with very dry and fast racing conditions Friday and Saturday nights. September cross racing is always a bit of an experiment for me, especially when road season runs late into the summer, and this year is certainly no different. Although I wasn’t particularly happy with my performance, I came away from the weekend with points in the bank and a fresh look at this season’s long game. Support from Brenna and Erik was uncannily good, and Clara rode away from the weekend with two U23 wins and a 2nd place elite women's podium on Saturday. I will not admit it readily, but I cried freely when I saw her at the finish line after that race: there is something remarkably satisfying about watching Lil’ C come out of the gates on fire this year.

Our trip to the midwest ended much the same way as it began – sharing a meal with friends in Minneapolis, and packing bikes for our next race and sponsor events in Las Vegas, where we were greeted by Cross Vegas’ signature dry desert heat, crowds, and very deep…grass.

I had some reservations and fatigue rolling into this race, which started hot and finished early: A decision I don’t love, but don’t regret.  The season is long and this was not my day to blunder in the heat. While I don’t think DNF’ing races is a good or professional habit, sometimes it happens; then you move on and determine how to make things better. Best to get the “bad” days out of the way early and get back to the drawing board. Clara continued her good form to get 6th on the day, and we spent the evening visiting with some of our favorite folks from CLIF Bar and BikeFlights, as well as team and shop friend Renee Pype. What a wonderful way to cap off our first trip!

The good news about September racing is things can always get better! Sometimes early races go well, sometimes they go poorly, and always, there are four more months of racing ahead. For me, this trip was an important return to cross, regardless of results. If I can be honest with myself, I felt a bit like a fish out of water after three long seasons on the road, but I’m exceptionally happy to be back on the cross course as a part of this team.  It will take a little while to feel comfortable racing again, but every day feels a little more natural on the bike, and I’m having more fun than ever training in Bend.

If you don’t know much about cyclocross teams or the general availability of support in our sport, I can tell you that this team is very special. Erik Tonkin and Sellwood Cycle Repair have taken a major leap supporting a fully professional cyclocross program, and what started as notes on a napkin many years ago has emerged as a successful and carefully executed team.  It is a gift to travel with colleagues who I consider family off the bike, and I hope you’ll follow along as our season unfolds.

Next on the calendar is Sacramento Grand Prix, followed by a trip to New England for Charm City and Gloucester!  

- Beth Ann

  CrossVegas 2017, courtesy of Hoffman Cortes.

CrossVegas 2017, courtesy of Hoffman Cortes.

In bike racing and in cyclocross especially, there are two races happening simultaneously. The first and the more obvious, is the literal bike race: when all competitors line up at the start, a whistle blows or a light turns green, and riders battle it out until they cross the finish.  The second is the race of preparation: this race is often neglected in race reports because it begins in February and involves the entire team, not just the athletes.  It starts with securing sponsorship and building a budget, then continues with acquiring equipment and planning a season schedule.  In the hot summer, there is intense training and endless tubular gluing.  For getting to the races, there are late nights of negotiating five bikes and eight sets of wheels into only three bike cases, then followed by long days of travel.  At the races, there is tire pressure, race gearing and a handful of mechanicals to cover.  Just before the race start, a teammate rolls a bike to the pit and another waits to grab a bottle at the start line.  And when the whistle blows and the race begins, the riders are fully prepared to do their job.

Last week, I managed 13th place at Jingle Cross C1 and a 2nd place podium at the C2.  I followed it with a 6th place finish at Clif Bar CrossVegas.  Only with the help of my teammates, Brenna, Erik and Beth Ann, was I able to secure these solid results.  In contrast, my job as a rider is exceptionally easier than all the hard work they have done in preparation for this season.  There are also our extraordinary sponsors who have helped us: Sellwood Cycle Repair, BikeFlights.com, Castelli, Kona Bikes, Lazer Sport, Stages, Stensvad Dental, Mighty Lucky, CLIF Bar, HiFi, Yakima, Endurance PDX, Shimano, Oakley, Renee & Jonathan, John Brown, and my personal coach, Kendra Wenzel. And with these results so far, I am excited for what Team S&M can accomplish further this season!

-Clara

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