National Championships. They come every year, and with much anticipation. Target them as you will, but hitting the mark with precision is always difficult.
Nationals was held in Augusta, Georgia. Augusta, Georgia known for golf, chicken and waffles, historic Southern homes, haunted hotels, gun powder, and wrenching humidity, felt far removed from disc wheels, skinny cyclists, and challenging races that award the coveted stars and bars. But there it was, for the last year, USA Cycling Elite/U23/Junior Nationals. I could feel the heat radiating all the way from Marin, but I made the trek to Georgia, with my fellow USA citizens to battle out the national titles.
Although you can play putt-putt at the Augusta Regional Airport and we drove by the shrouded Augusta National unbeknownst to us that was as close as I got to golf while there. Who needs it.
The chicken and waffles may be a tempting Southern treat, but I opted for a rocking chair on a porch with my own familiar dinner selections with a Southern twist on a pleasant evening. I always wondered what the attraction to just sitting and swinging was, and I discovered that. A balmy night, nothing to do but rock. It was soothing. It was so Southern. I am sure this is considered immersing myself into the culture.
Our hotel was nestled in the hills of Augusta in an area known for the high profile homes. Homes that were lavish in the 1800’s have proven that they are still holding their intricate beauty, and historic allure. Holding on to the past in such a fashion that our hotel, the beautiful Partdridge Inn, even was known to have a ghost by the name of Emily still living within its historic walls. Yes. Our hotel was haunted, but she was friendly enough, or so we were told. Oh if those walls could talk of the love, the treason, and the passion… Team meetings involved tactics, logistics, and Emily sightings.
I was able to podium in the 30k Time Trial at Nationals, and even though it was not on the top step, I will be there some day. My teammate Kaitie, secured the U23 Natz jersey though, and I am proud of her.
Although I did not compete in the crit, I was able to watch my incredible team dictate the race and deliver TCR to the line to sprint for victory. USA’s new Crit National Champion is TCR and it couldn’t go to a more deserving woman. She is the fastest girl I know, for sure. Random TCR fact: She was a world champion inline skater before taking up cycling. Our paralympic athlete, Greta, won the crit for C4 and is going to London for the Olympics to represent the USA. Talk about incredible. I love stars and stripe kits, but when they are won by women such as these, it bolsters my faith in sport, in zeal, and in drive.
The road race is an undulating course with absolutely no flat sections, and all up and down, up and down. You would like to think of it as a roller coaster, but the air is sticky and the pitches eat your momentum. It isn’t quite as fun as an amusement ride, but it provides a perfect setting to crown another champion. I spent about 90k in an early break, as I seem to do at Nationals. We thought it could work, and it didn’t. That’s bike racing. Shoulda coulda woulda. You just never know.
It was amazing to race alongside not only the juniors but also the paralympians. The future of cycling alongside the professionals, alongside the most courageous athletes I have ever encountered. It was humbling to watch the competition, and encouraging seeing what the sport can offer and evoke.
The kind words I received while competing, I took to heart. Thank you for knowing it has been a hard “comeback”, and I am not back yet, but to be among the top 5 in the US shows I am on my way. The notes brought tears to my eyes knowing you were with me there in spirit, win, lose, or draw. Also a huge thanks to my family, and my coach, Bruce Hendler, who helped deliver me to these races ready to rock and roll. His patience, dedication, positivity and knowledge makes him a priceless resource and confidant! Anyone looking for a coach!?
We will join the pro men in Tennessee next year! Now, how does one target this race…. I have one year to go…