The Last Last Race Report of the Season: Iceman Cometh, XC in Ecuador, and CX in the Mid-Atlantic

Iceman

XC in Ecuador with Abbey

While we’ve all been wiping salt off our bikes after icy road rides and popping vitamin D tablets, Abbey Alexiades has been enjoying life along the sunny equator. On the other hand, it sounds like it’s kind of dusty and the air is a little thin. Here are three reports from Abbey about races she’s competed in recently.

Tour Aventura: Guambras Strava Challenge

strava route

Each month Team Guambras, a women’s adventure racing team, and Powerade Ecuador do a Strava challenge. The Guambras girls pick a route somewhere around Quito and you have a month to complete the challenge and faster person will win a prize. For October, the challenge was to ride up to the antennae above Quito and the prize was a Nike Fuel Band.  This route was short, only 7.5 miles but in the 7.5 miles you gain 4500ft and finish at an altitude of 3800m!

Strava selfie

I talked to my coach about wanting to do this so we scheduled it early in the month. I did the route twice because the first time I took the chicken way, instead of riding straight up a steep section. The second time, I got the route correct and was able to ride it in 1 hour 25 minutes.

In the previous challenges, the prizes have gone to the fastest three people, men and women combined. This month they decided to only count the women that completed the route. This meant that even though I was 5th overall, I was still able to win. I was really excited to see their post of facebook, because I was not expecting it.

Strava win

Links: Check out the strava route here, or visit Powerade Ecuador’s facebook page, where the challenges are promoted.

La Ruta de Los Rios

For a complete change of scenery, I decided to head down to the Amazon jungle to race in the La Ruta de Los Rios. A two-part race in a small down called Tena, about 200km and over 2500m lower then where I live in Quito.

Abbey on the starting line for the first stage of La Ruta.

The first race was an urban night race through downtown Tena. It was a 1km loop with a mandatory hike-a-bike section down a long staircase. There were four women racing and we did seven laps. Our race was started 30 seconds behind the Provincial Master B men (Beginner Men age 40-50). I didn’t like having to start behind the men so my goal for the race was to pass as many of the men as possible. I was able to pass all but 2 of the men, which wasn’t too bad. It was a lot of fun riding and trying to pass the men! I won the women’s race and received the leader’s jersey to race in the following day.

Leader’s jersey!

Sunday’s race was 40km marathon race. The course was one big loop that passed through many small towns. The route was either on dirt roads or paved roads with about 2km of single track. The crux of this race was dealing with the heat; it was over 100 degrees for most of the race! Living in Quito I am not use to the heat, it is a perfect 70 degrees in Quito nearly every day!

To help with the heat I tried to ride in the shade as much as possible and I also rode through all the puddles just to try and cool off a little bit. The best part of the race was riding through the villages and having people throwing water over me! This was a huge help! The race organizers also had water stations nearly every 10km, and were handing out half-liter bags of water. It was the perfect amount because I could drink my fill and then pour the rest over my body.

La Ruta podium

Abbey takes top step on La Ruta de los Rios Pro Women’s podium!

I ended up winning the race and coming 6th overall in the 40km course. I really like racing at low altitudes again. It felt so good to be able to breath when riding up hills!

Cactus Trail XCO – Provincial Cup Final

On the starting line with the pro women.

The Cactus trail was a brand new course created just for this race. It was located north of Quito in a small desert microclimate. The trails were dusty and steep. Some of the hardest sections of trails that I have ever raced.

The cactus trail was causing a lot of trouble for me. There was a long downhill with two big drops one after each other. No matter how much I practiced I just couldn’t get the second drop. I went into this race with really low expectations.

Race day came, and the dusty trails were now 6 inched deep of fine dust! The first lap was a mess, the women started in front of the men and there was not a lot of passing opportunities. So there were a lot of frustrated people trying to pass each other.

Abbey takes on the rocky drop.

cactus rocks

Once all the men passed I was able to ease into a good pace and just ride the course. I let myself get discouraged with the lack of passing opportunities and lack of people walking moving out of the way of people on bikes. It was a very new experience. I definitely need to learn to be more aggressive like the other riders, instead of getting discouraged.

Cactus podium

The Cactus Trail XCO Pro Women’s Podium with Abbey in fourth place.

Overall it was a good race. The track was a lot of fun, with big pumps, a pump track-like section and rock gardens.

Flaten Takes On The Iceman

Did I say that most of us in the Mid-Atlantic have switched from MTB to Cyclocross? Okay, well, maybe some, but definitely not all. David Flaten couldn’t put his XTC away and decided to jump into one last XC race for the season.

Bell’s Beer Iceman Cometh Challenge. Kalkaska to Traverse City, Michigan.

Iceman

Thirty-five degrees, mix of rain, sleet, and snow made for one of the gnarliest races I’ve ever participated in. Iceman Cometh was sure to be a memorable race. I started 2nd row behind Brian Matter who was a 3 time winner, and now 4 time winner! Not being able to pre ride the entire course was detrimental to positioning before the first section of single track. I was sitting around 20th place going into the single track when people started crashing, sliding out, and taking other riders out. I tried to take a sip out of my bottle, however when I bit the cap of the bottle, I pulled the cap off and dumped my entire bottle all over myself. This played a psychological roll during the race as I realized I didn’t have anyone in the feed zone, and that was my only bottle. 2 hours of racing with one sip of water is not ideal, even in the cooler temperatures.

Iceman Flaten

I got into a group with Tyler Gauthier, Cole Oberman, a Bissell Pro road team racer, and a BMC pro road racer. We took turns trading pulls with aspirations of catching the lead group who at this point, very early in the race was already 20 seconds up the road due to the very greasy, and selective nature of the first section of single track. World Cup winner Dan Mcconnell of Trek Factory Racing bridged up to our group and seemed to appreciate the free ride as he decided to just sit on.

Iceman mud

Heading into one of the bigger hills in the other wise flat course, my back tire slid out and I had to get off and run. I was just tailing off the first chase group. I rode in no mans land for a solid portion of the race. About 15k from the finish I was caught by the 2nd chase group. I sat on for a few minutes and decided to attack the group. I got away, however shortly after I established a gap by myself, I was crashed out by a spectator who was riding in the middle of the trail. When I said “Rider back, on your left” he moved left. The chase group caught me, but with a surge of adrenaline, I decided to attack again! I stayed away for the rest of the race and rolled in for a top 20 finish. Not a great race, but all things considered, with course conditions, and very fickle occurrences during the race, I guess it was not all that bad. I’ll be back next year!

Check out the Iceman Cometh website here.

Crossin’ in the Mid-Atlantic with April

PACX descent

Though I took some time off from racing mid-autumn for family things, I decided to come back for one last CX push before I got too busy with work during the holidays. My original goal had been to focus on the MABRA Super 8 series, but my decision to take some time off required me to throw that goal out the window, so I sampled races from several series, instead. I was hoping for mud and snow like last season, but the weather was actually kind of nice. Oh well!

MABRA Super 8: Rockburn Cross. Elkridge, MD.

Rockburn podium

Rockburn, Women Cat 1/2/3 Podium.

I love this course. It features a nice stretch of single track, some good climbs, obstacles, chicanes, and a sandpit. I had a really good start and spent the first lap and a half fighting back and forth for third place with another rider. With a field of strong riders chasing us, neither of us wanted to settle in on the other’s wheel and risk getting caught by the field. She would pass and take the lead, and then I would pass back, and then she would pass back. At some point I took a corner too fast and went down; by the time I was back on my feet I’d dropped back to sixth place.

Rockburn

On the last lap I made one of the first tactical decisions I’d ever made in a CX race, which was to plan an attack in advance based on my strengths and the layout of the course. All went as I hoped and I was able to close a gap, attack for a podium position, and then open a gap before descending into the last technical section. I was able to regain a spot on the podium and was pleased with my race.

PACX Series Finale. West Chester, PA.

I love courses with lots of ups and downs and at least one good run-up, and this course did not disappoint. Last year I won the Cat 3/4 State Championship on this course, so I was looking forward to a good race. I hadn’t been racing many PACX races, so I knew only a few women in the field and didn’t know what to expect from the other riders. I had a great start and rode in second for the first lap. On the second lap, a rider passed me to join the leader and I rode in third for the rest of the race. I focused on staying clean and using my momentum to my advantage and exploiting the natural swoopiness of the course to fit in as much recovery as possible between efforts. I was psyched to finish 3rd out of more than a dozen riders.

PACX podium

PACX Women Cat 1/2/3 Podium

MABRA: Sportif Cup Series Championship. Taneytown, MD.

I knew from racing at Taneytown last year that the course would be fairly flat and that I would have to double my efforts to hold any ground at all with the stronger riders. I was hoping for muddy conditions, since I tend to do better on technical courses, but the course was in great shape and was actually missing several of the more technical features from the previous year. The course had two slightly-uphill sections on gravel and pavement. My plan on the starting line was to go hard and get a good spot for the off-road sections, then to draft behind a stronger rider on the road sections.

After one of the road sections was a muddy, uphill corner. Before my race I watched the junior fields dismount and run the corner. Then I watched the B men choose to ride it on a wide, outside line. I wasn’t sure what my plan was, but the day before I had watched the Milton Keynes World Cup in GB and observed Sanne Cant make a pretty wicked pass on KFC by running up a seemingly innocuous corner while Katie rode wide. So I kept that in mind.

MABRA podium

MABARA Sportif Cup Women Cat 1/2/3 Podium

I had a good, clean start, took the hole shot, and led the race through the first section of dips and corners until getting passed on the first long, gradual descent. My plan worked well for the first two laps: I would draft behind stronger riders on the road, and then run up the inside of the muddy corner and sneak a position or two back while the other riders rode the wider outside line.  The other riders were really stronger, though, and eventually I got detached and found myself riding mid-field in fifth place and feeling a little dejected. I didn’t feel any better when a rider ahead of me had to abandon with a flat tire, but I did notice that suddenly the third-place rider was back in my sights. I decided I may as well attack, so I did, and was able to pass her. I pushed hard down the slow descent and really put my head down on the long climb. From there on out, I was pretty sure I had it. Finishing third in that race was one of the most rewarding finishes of my season.

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