U.S. Cyclocross National Championships, Cris Rothfuss, 12-21-07
U.S. Cyclocross National Championships
Masters Women – 40-44
‘How I Got Beat By A Ballerina’
I won’t lie. My goal for this race was to win. The Kansas City course would have been a lightening fast, grass crit but for the absurd weather mere days before the event. As it turned out, on the day of my Masters race, the course was wire-to-wire, tape-to-tape life-sucking mud. All of it, except the extremely long paved start/finish stretch. There were sections that were faster to run even though they were flat. Remounting after the barriers was almost impossible because the bike would come to a complete stop in inches of slop in the second it took to jump on. It was truly epic, and I was ready to have it.
I punched it at the gun and went into the hole shot pretty much side-by-side with Shannon Gibson (Velo Bella), the eventual winner. Shannon who? I had expected Anne Schwartz to be my competition, but it turned out to be Shannon â a first year crosser, but MTB pro and former professional ballerina. Yep, I said ballerina. The hole shot was a slick, short rising bank of mud. With a full head of steam from the opening sprint, we basically slammed into it. I had practiced it several times, but nonetheless felt my bike explode sideways when we hit it in the race. I stayed upright, but was thrown what felt like 10 feet off the preferred line. Shannon took the lead and I spent some time literally bouncing off people getting back to her. During the first two laps of the race, she and I got well off the front. She was better on some corners and in certain other places, and would gain some bike lengths on me. I would bridge back easily where some power could be applied, especially on the pavement. I made several attempts to pass, but couldnât quite pull it off, so made the decision to ride the final lap on her wheel, taking care not to let a gap open. I felt that I could easily outsprint her, and with 500 meters of uphill pavement, wasn’t too worried about the cross rule of leading into the last obstacle. That being said, I may have still made one more attempt to get ahead prior to the last obstacle to fully control things. But that chance never materialized. With half a lap to go, we were riding atop a long off-camber, right along the tape. I slid a bit and suddenly had my handlebars pushing into the tape. Not good. And then the barrier stake arrived. I’m sure I’m being melodramatic here, but my recollection is that the stake sprang to life, grabbed my handlebars and body-slammed me to the ground with a WWF championship move. Bam! Down! Then sliding sideways down the muddy off-camber. Then getting up, only to slip again running back up the hill. Then remounting to find my chain off. Then wrestling with the chain. Then kissing stars and stripes goodbye. As I rode by him, Richard Fries covered his microphone and urged me to keep plugging, that she might make a mistake. He was right, so I kept plugging, but she made no mistakes and that was that.
Drat, right? Well, yes, for sure, but I subsequently read this in cyclocrossworld.com and have to admit that I got beat by someone who rocks (ballerina or not):
Despite taking onboard a course barrier stake and some tape on the first lap, Shannon Gibson clung desperately to leader Cris Rothfuss in the Masters Women 40-44 category.
Incredibly staying upright through the greasy mud, Gibson plucked the tape from her wheels and ejected it – and the stake – with a javelin-like throw to the side.
Gibson, a former ballet dancer, matter-of-factly compared the incident to a recital.
‘If your costume falls off in the middle of a performance, you just keep dancing,’ she said.â
U.S. Cyclocross National Championships
The muddy ruts froze for our Sunday race, rendering the course barely ridable. Or so it seemed. I picked my way gently around the course during warmups, wondering how exactly I was going to go any faster without killing myself. Three inch deep frozen ruts, with a thin, slick icy/muddy covering, were laced all over the ground. What would appear to be a good line would suddenly disappear, catapulting you off your bike. Sally saw Georgia Gould bite it hard in warmups, and our friend Marci Titus Hall (a pro MTBâer) landed so hard on an icy rut, she thought she may have broken her tail bone. A pierced and tattooed angel saved my race, however. As I finished my one and only warmup lap, Adam Myerson rode up and explained that I couldnât try to steer through the ruts (as I had been doing). He told me to un-weight my front tire and simply power over them. Basically, flip on kamikaze mode. Nothing to lose, right? Except maybe some ribs or teeth.
I lined up in the fourth row of the largest field I’ve ever been a part of. Found good space along the left edge and turned on the afterburners. Went through that tricky hole in a very good position (felt like top 15 easy), and was aided further by the fact that the hole claimed some early victims. Several minutes later, I went down hard on my side. No idea why, as I donât recall hitting rut. Sally went by, urging me to get up. I got up as fast as I could, but many riders streamed by. So much for the great start. Nothing to do but flip on kamikaze mode. Which, incrediblyâ¦worked. It felt death-defying and harrowing, but I flew over the ruts â bouncing all over the place, but staying upright. I started to pick people off, aided by crashes and flat tires that were happening all over the course. Toward the end of the first lap, Sally cheered me on again, this time from the side of the course â victim to an ill-timed flat. Ah, crud. Wow, the course was brutal. People were down everywhere. Stakes were broken. Tape was fluttering. One bit of tape caught my leg as I rode by, but lost its spirit and grip when I yelled ‘Let go!’ Anna Milkowski’s front wheel fell off. While she was riding. Twice. I got hit in the back of my throat (mouth wide open) with a sizeable clump of frozen dirt, which shot straight down my gullet. Then I was muddy inside, too. Despite all of this, I have to admit that I was actually enjoying things by the last lap. I felt strong, was managing to stay upright, had passed a good number of people, and had let go of my fear. I crossed the line in 24th place for the second year in a row â but this time in race for which 102 women had registered (only 65 finished; some never started). In addition to being bigger, the field was stronger this year, and I was, too. Thanks to Dave Chiu and Chris Smith, who were absolute darlings pitting for me (and to Jean Cunningham, who was ready to fill in). And extra special thanks, Todd, for being an indispensable coach, for carefully crafting my training plan, for making me strong, for teaching me how to race like I mean it, and for being an all-around great guy and friend.