Lodrina Cherne is in her third year racing for Geekhouse Bikes. In a previous life, she was a member of the Junior National Climbing Team. She is the current New England IPA weight class record holder in the deadlift and is putting her world record attempt on hold to chase down more Verge points. She lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Preparation for my trip to Burlington, Vermont, and Nor’Easter ’Cross came with a lot of expectations. After a weekend where I went flying off my bike like Joey hitting a barrier, I was ready to make the three-hour-plus drive to Burlington worthwhile. I wanted to get a Verge point, which would earn me call-ups at series races for the rest of the year.
All I had to do was finish in the top 25 on Saturday to get points in the Amateur Women’s series – seemingly easy when the preregistered riders total around 30, but not guaranteed in a region where next weekend’s race will have over 100 amateur women competing. A call-up in a 100 woman field would be amazing, so I made sure to do my homework on the Nor’Easter course.
Friday afternoon, I hopped on the end of the Pre-Ride with the Pro’s event. I was glad to be at the back of the line of riders as we approached the most technical element of the course: a short, steep chute with a sweeping right hand turn at the bottom. My handling skills hadn’t improved much from the previous weekend, and I ended up sliding down the descent on my side. I spent another hour on the course, practicing on the off-camber turns, sand pits, and riding the chute until I had it down.
Thrilled with that accomplishment, I took the rest of Friday afternoon to head over to the rest of the Nor’Easter Fest a few minutes towards downtown on the bike path. While there was a lot going on at the festival (climbing walls and music could have kept me busy all weekend), I headed to the number pick up party at Maglianero and tried to focus on how much I had to get excited for about Saturday’s race.
The course was amazing the next day even when rain overnight and through the morning turned an already wet course into a mud pit. Giant puddles before and after the barriers meant that no one was escaping with dry shoes.
The rain let up right before the start of our race, and before I knew it 35 of us were charging down the pavement. I sailed through turns that made me nervous the day before, ran the sand pits and then slowed down. A lot. The back side of the course was inches deep, thick, slow-going mud, and I was struggling in my little ring on flat ground. The rest of the first lap was a blur except for the chute where I stayed upright and rode through more soupy mud while others around me walked the descent and were forced to run the next 50 yards until dry ground appeared again.
Lap two I was feeling good and in the middle of a thinned out field. What happened next summed up my race (not the grapefruit of mud that was left behind the down tube of my Geekhouse and in my derailleur when I was done) — it was almost halfway through the race and I passed someone! Half a lap later, she passed me back when I took a turn too wide and got stuck in some muddy rut. After going back and forth, I blasted past her at the barriers and started to put time into the gap. I couldn’t hold off the woman who ran the sand section and the next six turns while I remounted and spun but did maintain my position when I slid out in the second to last corner, holding off the next racer by two seconds.
And that, besides the mud, is what I remember about this race. I’ve dabbled in road racing and never could hang with the peloton — every race ended up more like a lonely time trial. In cyclocross, I usually finish in the bottom half of the field, but there’s so many women that there’s always someone nearby to race. Even when you’re seven minutes off the leader’s pace, slowing down isn’t an option because there’s the group 10 seconds up to catch and another five seconds back to hold off.
We’ve formalized these mini races thanks to crossresults.com – where the shuffling rankings between your dozen nemeses and victims is calculated for everyone to see. Racing’s no fun when you’ve got no one to race, but when you can catch that one rider, the one who was your nemesis all last season, that can be just as satisfying as getting on the podium.
In the end I finished 19th, earning seven Verge points and maybe a few more nemeses to chase. No matter that the leader of the women’s amateur series already has 180 points to my mere seven, getting any points makes washing your kit multiple times to get all the mud out and the seven hours on the road just a little more worth it.