Even before the start of Friday's Masters Women 40-44 race at Lakewood Nationals, the experience of racing hometown Nats was already a special one for Tricia Fleischer (Trek Cyclocross Collective). On Thursday evening, the Seattle resident got to share the stage with Katie Compton at a live podcast session at a local Trek store.
"I don't think I taught her anything," Fleischer said with a laugh about sitting alongside the 15-time Elite National Champion. "That was a bit surprising and intimidating, but I answered all the questions but one without botching them."
Fleischer followed her Thursday evening in the spotlight by taking the start line at Fort Steilacoom Park on Friday with the chance of capturing a national championship of her own. Adding to the experience was the chance to do it in front of a healthy number of family and friends.
"I knew I would have some friends out here, it was the ones I thought would be here," she said.
Fleischer did her part early on, taking the holeshot and earning an early lead after the first run-up and descent chute.
On the flats before the second run-up, another local rider in Kenda Super (Thrive) bridged to make it a local duo at the front.
"I knew that if I could get into the technical stuff first I just wanted to control that," Fleischer said about her fast start. "I'd ridden the practice course here, and I knew it would be hard for some people. I felt confident there so I just wanted a clean shot."
The Friday afternoon race was not to be a friendly group ride, with Fleischer opening up a gap on the climb to the top of the orchard and pressing her advantage after the second descent.
One lap into the race, her lead was up to 9 seconds on Super. Super, in turn, led Melanie Carter (Feedback Sports) by 16 seconds.
In the second and third laps, Fleischer stayed on the throttle and quickly extended her lead. At the bell, she led Super by 1:04. Carter sat another 8 seconds behind the Team Thrive rider.
After two straight races where the race leaders almost gave up last-lap leads, there would be no nerve-wracking moments for the Trek Cyclocross Collective rider. Fleischer cruised to the win and celebrated her impressive Stars-and-Stripes ride.
"I just wanted to ride smart and safe and not ruin my equipment because I need it again on Sunday," she said. "My legs were a little tired out there. So I was like 'Ok, apparently we need to conserve some energy for Sunday.' I just wanted to ride smooth and be clean."
And who knows, maybe Compton was watching her age group cohort and picked up a tip or two from the rider who has ridden the Fort Steilacoom course more than once.
"I think [racing here before] took some of the intimidation out of the downhills," Fleischer said. "Those are totally different when you’re on a mountain bike versus a ’cross bike. I think that helped, getting some of the butterflies out a couple of months ago."
Super wrapped up second in the last lap and Carter finished third. Sierra Domaille (Mettle Cycling p/b Leave It On) and Evie Edwards rounded out the wide-angle podium.
For more from the Masters Women 40-44 race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
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Tricia Fleischer: Masters 40-44 Winner Interview