It's early Wednesday morning, I'm looking out over Las Vegas from the 54th floor of Trump International, one of the few casino-less hotels in the city. "It's a velly clean, velly quiet, velly nice hotel...no casino," my cab driver assured. Here's the view over Treasure Island, The Mirage, and beyond to the Eiffel Tower and still sleeping Strip. Incidentally, they don't let you open windows up this high so it's a pretty bad photo.
Despite my leave of absence and scheduling freedom, this trip had begun much as usual per last year: with a night flight getting into Vegas at 11pm. Whether this was lingering Stockholm-esque syndrome or a smart decision is questionable. Theoretically, it was in order to have a non-stop flight and to conserve energy by staying home as long as possible. However, and ambitions for respite were crushed at the gate as the agent assigned me a middle seat on the very last row of the plane.
To my left was a fidgety man who took up his seat as well as a good portion of mine, and every time he shifted and fiddled with his TV controls he shook our entire row of seats. To my right was a man who farted every few minutes, prompting the woman in front of us to spritz some very pungent coconutty sanitizer in the air. He also sprawled his limbs into my space, wedging his foot on top of my carry-on under my seat and smushing my bunch of bananas.
Here are the poor bananas.
Dazed with a kaleidoscope of sensory input, I certainly didn't sleep a wink. But, ah well, there was no rush Wednesday morning, and I was able to have a lovely breakfast with my good friend Andrea (left) who along with Nikki (right) who couldn't make it, were my best cross buds when I first started racing.
Later on, I met my new teammate Kerry Werner and the new mechanic Taylor. We headed off to the course around 5pm and Eric had our bikes in tip top shape.
Our warm-up tent was convenient to the race start but out of sight of the other tents, which I found helpful to focusing on sticking to my routine without worrying who else was warming up when or how.
Testing out our Challenge tires was the first order of business; for cornering, both the Grifos and the Chicanes both had excellent grip, but the new Chicanes definitely felt much faster in the thick, slow grass. The 11-32 cassette with the SRAM CX1 set-up also provided a good range, and I liked the simplicity of the 1x. Finally, it was super fun to try out the Diamonback Steilacoom on a race course, it has a nimble geometry and a great feel in action.
All was going well, Andrea and Kerry and I passed the time chatting and before long it was time to warm up and then head over to the start and catch up with more CX friends like Caroline Mani. We'd met years ago at Gloucester, when I accidentally smashed her finger in a clamp when trying to help her fix a tubular. Since then we've had less painful adventures like riding up Pike's Peak, well ok, at least more collegial adventures.
Race time finally arrived, and off we went. The race itself doesn't deserve much mention. The thick grassy course morphed into the man in seat 25F and my legs were the poor bunch of bananas that he smushed under his foot. On lap two I became convinced that I should never be allowed to pedal a bicycle again, but I fought it out and didn't quit. So. Job done.
Meredith Miller pulled off a spectacular win with Katerina Nash and Katie Compton rounding out the podium.
Huge thanks to Optum Pro Cycling for the stellar support, and it's onward to the races in Boulder this weekend.