FRONT ROW!!! © Sue Butler

FRONT ROW!!! © Sue Butler

Last week, Sue Butler’s report from the Aigle World Cup was titled “The Opposite of a Holeshot.” For World Cup #2 she found herself in the front row, thanks to an update in UCI points, and she took full advantage.

by Sue Butler

This weekend was a whirlwind. My head was spinning – somewhat from the crazy coincidences and the noticeable change in scenery, but also from the head cold I was suffering from all week. It had gotten worse, not better. Saturday morning, I drove with my Czech speaking German “sister” (my exchange student from high school), Margaret, to Plzen. We arrived at our hotel right across from the Pilsner Urquell Brewery. Very cool. Then off to the course to pre-ride. While standing at my car, two guys approach me. Two very familiar guys. Two guys from Portland, Brian Witty (Cross Crusade compatriot now living in Germany) and Clark Ritchie (current Portland resident, race organizer and cycling guru). With plans to meet up later for dinner at the brewery, I rode the course. Although I felt horrible, the course put me in a good mood.

Sue with her Portland pit crew © Sue Butler

Sue with her Portland pit crew © Sue Butler

So much fun. A random location in a field below a block housing neighborhood, it had good flow, some very difficult aspects (23 stairs followed by a short, steep uphill after remounting.) It was going to be tough. I was slightly bummed that for my first World Cup front row start that I was feeling worse than I had all week, but I put it out of my mind. Scientific evidence has proven that a cold doesn’t affect your performance. I kept telling myself that over and over again. Then on the pre-ride, I rolled my rear tubular. Good thing it happened Saturday and not during the race, but the thought that if it rained, I was semi-screwed did enter my head.

Suffering with the effort © Sue Butler

Suffering with the effort © Sue Butler

I woke up Sunday to wet ground. I cringed. But arriving at the course, I was reassured that the course was really not muddy enough to need mud tires. One short steep climb was a bit slippy, but balance took care of that. Nerves were building. I conserved energy while warming up, saving it all for the real deal.

With my head about to explode, I headed to the line, fourth call up. It was awesome. I was sandwiched between Katerina Nash and Amy Dombroski. It felt like home, being the middle of a Luna sandwich. But once that green light went off, I was reminded it was anything but home. I had a great start, but tried to settle in behind someone on the uphill headwind section. Elbows came flying by the first corner, but I was still in good position. I just had to dig to stay there. The first lap was good, and then on the second lap through the start/finish, the wheel I was on started to slow. I had missed the group in front of her, but I was fine. I dug deep.

The latter half of the race, I found myself fighting with two other girls. We were 14th, 15th, 16th. My awesome pit crew (Brian and Clark) were keeping me apprised of my placing. I had to sit in for a while and conserve. One mistake on the barriers from which I recovered from instantly, I stayed with these two. And then I tried to get them to work with me to get that next group. I was hungry, cold and all.

Instead of slowing to their pace, I sat on the front and pushed, and one dropped anchor. We were down to two. On the last half lap, I did my best to push through. And it worked. I hit the stairs smooth, had a great remount and was able to power away for the finishing stretch, finishing in 14th. Not quiet enough to catch the group in front. Relieved, I just about keeled over. It was done. I had gotten my top 15 even sick. But then the brain starts working and you think, what if? Hopefully I will get to join the front row club again, healthy. It’s nice. I could get used to it!!!

I would like to thank my sponsors for the great ride: Ridley, Reynolds, Rotor, TRP,Vittoria, Lazer, Sram and of course, Hudz and Vista AutoGroup Subaru and everyone else that makes it possible for me to chase my dream. I hope to be chasing it faster and faster…

See also: CXM’s coverage of the 2010 Plzen World Cup

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