Sue Butler opted to skip racing the SSCXWC and defend her claim on the Golden Speedo to instead race for UCI points in France. Would she regret it? The Portland-based rider from the Monavie-Cannondale Team checks in with a diary entry below.
Perhaps I chose to go to Nommay to avoid racing in the gold bikini. And to have to get another tattoo? No Way!
But I really didn’t know the dates conflicted when I booked the ticket. Seriously.
Traveling to Europe for the weekend is never easy, but going a second time helps. And having Katie and Mark and their wonderful host family join you is another bonus. And then to have Geoff Proctor be there unexpectedly? Heck, life is good. And I think racing a mid-season World Cup (only #2 for women) is a great gauge for me, as it reminds me how racing in the U.S. is very tame and helps me overcome my fear of Euro starts. Yes, it is different and today was no exception.
I had a great call up, so I planted myself right behind Katie and decided that I would not give her wheel away and then all would be fine up that paved straight away to the 180 degree turn into the stairs. Sounded great, but my plan did not work from the start. The crowding to the front of the grid was ridiculous. Katie actually had to shove the girl to my left back, because she literally had her handlebars on her hip. I had two handlebars on my hips as well. It makes me seriously uncomfortable, but I had Katerina Nash to my right, which was nice and reminded me of the some of comforts of racing at home. Breathe and relax. All would be fine.
The light turns green and the chaos begins. My start sucked. I did not follow through with my grand plan. Where did that wheel go? How did I lose it instantly? Lots of yelling, sudden movements and my goal became to stay upright and just be safe. The stairs were chaos as usual, but I relaxed and knew the wide open course would give opportunities for passing. I tried my best to fight for a spot and then when it settled out, the gals in white (Katie in the World Cup leader’s jersey and Marianne Vos in her World Champion jersey) just rode away and I was “stuck” in my group.
Another aspect of Euro CX racing is that no one wants to work at the front of a group. This is not road racing people! The speed slows exceptionally on straights and any windy sections. I learned my limits, tested them and found that even when I would try to break free and race my race, the group would be back in no time and I had wasted a lot of energy. Being a smarter racer, I hung with that group, struggled on the run up, slipping and losing ground, riding the side hill almost problem free and yo-yo-ing occasionally on the back where I knew I didn’t want to be (no one does).
Geoff yelled to let me know that the group was fighting for 11th and I really wanted it badly. My best World Cup finish was last year at 14th at the first one, so this would be great. I was fighting hard, but you let up one instant, you are off. It was a continuous struggle, getting dropped, getting back on, getting up towards the front, getting passed and in the back again. Laps of this until on the final lap I slipped to my knees on the run up and then found myself at the end of the group going into the side hill. I struggled but I made it, but there was enough of a gap from the run up that I could not close it down. I cracked, dangled and by the time we hit the road, I couldn’t sprint and it wouldn’t have changed my result anyhow. I was going to have to settle for 17th. Yes, an admirable result and much better than last year in Nommay, but as some know about me, I am never satisfied. I always want to do better. I guess unless you win, there is always room for improvement.
I was informed at the finish as I struggled to catch my breath that Katie indeed did win, so at least there was good news waiting! And Nash in fifth. It’s good to know that I’m racing both domestically and abroad with some of the fastest ladies in the world. And now I don’t ever have to wear that darn gold bikini ever again!