The North Star Grand Prix Stage 6: Stillwater Criterium

This week I should've worn a nametag that said "Murphy" cuz that law was about me. 

Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
— Murphy? Maybe?

I don't know if I'm just completely naive or out of my mind, but not once this week was I upset with my circumstances. Thank goodness because I do not do well with stress. Today started of grand, very much like yesterday. I ate early, chewed my food into submission, did a bit of yoga, got to the race 2 hours early, warmed up till my muscles felt all buttery and smooth, and got to the line super early. I was on it! 

I had a nice exchange with Hugh G., the race volunteer/national anthem singer,  then they did the call-ups, Hugh sang, and FINALLY we were off!

We all surged at the hill, up, up , up. Around the corner, around another corner, maybe even around another corner? Up a little bit more, and then, down, down, down. I'm not sure which lap, but before I got there, someone slid out on the off camber turn at the bottom of the hill. I came whipping around the corner heading straight for her. Of course I pulled a "Not Today Satan" maneuver, and missed her wheel by millimeters (I'm not exaggerating, I promise it was really close). Either way, I didn't hit her. Phew! I tried to build up my speed again to get some momentum going back into the hill. I went up, down and around a few more times. 

I was making up ground, sticking with it. Folks that made it up the hill before me the previous laps were losing steam. I was climbing that hill like it belonged to me. It felt amazing!!!! Then my chain dropped and jammed again (I think I  need a new chain, I'm going to make that happen before my next race. I promise).  This time, the chain somehow folded over on itself and was beyond what my race brain could handle. I asked the marshall how to get to the nearest pit. 

I had two choices, go down, down, down, or go up, up, up. I chose up. The way my cleats are set up, down, down, down would've ended up with me on my face. Trust me. The bike wasn't willing to roll, so I shouldered my bike (it is customary to yell CYCLOCROSS! in these moments) and ran up the hill (not Chilkoot hill, but a different hill). I was on foot running uphill reverse on the course, staying out the way. I am positive I looked absolutely ridiculous. Have you ever tried running in bike shoes? 

I made it to the top where the neutral support guy asked what was wrong. He took one look at my situation and asked "what size bike?" I got closer to the pit and the official saw me sighed and said "No?" with the most disappointed/ sympathetic look on her face. By this point most of the officials and volunteers knew my name and number and were all rooting for me to have good luck today. (that's the type of week I'd had). I could only laugh. They set me up with a pit bike and put me back in the race. "What's this? Shimano?" I asked. "I can do that, I've ridden Ultegra before, same deal..." LOL not same deal.

The handlebars were super wide, it felt like I was steering a boat, but I had a bike that was working, and I was happy to keep going. Down, down,down, around and approaching Chilkoot hill. It wasn't until I was almost on the steep part that I realized two things.

  1. This bike was equipped with Di2
  2. I had NO CLUE HOW TO USE Di2.

I was already on the hill in a very unfavorable gear. Dani Moorsehead was passing me on the hill and yelled out "Tap on the right" (thanks for trying Dani!). It was already too late. The crowd was yelling at me to keep going, so that's what I did. I was certain my legs were going to stop from being in too hard of a gear, but I was not going to give up without a fight. I made it up the hill. 

When I got to the top, I kept pedaling while fidgeting with the doodads to figure out how to work the bike. Aaaah... little knobbies in between the big knobbies and the brake lever! (That is the proper terminology, i'm sure of it). Light taps, Got it. I was good to go. I went down, up, down and around a few more times, and then they pulled and placed me. 

What a freaking adventure. No it wasn't perfect. No it wasn't my shining moment. But I've learned a ton, met a lot of great people, and I can't wait for the next one.

I mean... I've gotten all of my bad luck out of the way right? That means I'm in for some good stuff in the future! I know it!

Thanks to everyone at the North Star Grand Prix for returning my smiles all week, thank you to Tammy, Louis, Anthony, Michael, Eileen, Nelson, Carolyn and everyone at Major Taylor for helping me get to my races, having dinner with me, keeping me company, and cheering like my momma would. I love you all! Thank you to all of the women who showed up and raced their hearts out every single day. It was a wonderful thing to be a part of. 

Next stop? Milwaukee. Let's go!

BONUS: Just for fun, this still cracks me up. I'm the dot that didn't make the turn in Stage 3... Thanks Matthew for helping me laugh even harder at that ridiculous day. 

Ayesha McGowanComment