Knoxville, Tennessee (6/17/20-6/20/21)
It’s crazy to think it had been two years since I last raced Pro Road Nationals since it was cancelled last year due to COVID. It had also been over a year since my last TT, criterium, and road race. Needless to say, I was especially excited for the opportunity to race on the road again after nearly a year and a half hiatus. This was my fourth year racing Pro Nationals and I always love racing in the amazing town of Knoxville in Tennessee.
The first day of racing was the time trial. I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the time trial discipline. It’s never something I’ve particularly excelled at, but it’s something I have a lot of respect for and would like to improve at. Due to focusing on gravel and Zwift throughout the year leading up to Nationals, I honestly hadn’t put much time into preparing specifically for the TT. However, I knew I was physically stronger than the last time I had competed in a TT and I went into the race with a goal of finishing in the top 10. The course was the same as it had been in 2019 and consisted of two laps with a couple out-and-back sections, and a hilly/technical section before the home stretch to the finish. I personally loved the course due to all the turns and punchy climbs. During the race, the temperature was quite warm, but nothing compared to what I was used to with the Florida heat and humidity. In the first lap I found myself setting a decent pace, but detonated on the second lap by gradually losing the ability to keep my target power. Overall, I rode a smooth race (except for overshooting the second U-turn on the first lap), but unfortunately it wasn’t enough to land in the top 10. However, I can’t be too upset with 13th place, especially after coming off of Unbound (206 mile gravel race) less than 2 weeks before! Also, congrats to my teammate Paige on 11th place in her first ever time trial and National Championships!
The following day was the criterium in downtown Knoxville. Like the TT, it had been over a year since last raced a crit, and I was ecstatic about finally being able to get some high speed and major adrenaline back in the system. I particularly loved this course because of the technical aspect of it (especially in the second half with back-to-back turns), and the fact that there was a punchy climb just before the finish straight — features that suit my riding style quite well. The 60 minutes of racing honestly went by super fast and I found myself near the front of the race almost the entire time. Without any teammates in the race, I decided to let others do the work and sit in to conserve energy as much as possible for the finish or if an opportunity arose to make a key break. There were many attacks during the race, but nothing stuck, and it all came down to a sprint at the end. On the last lap I was feeling great, sitting in fifth position, when all of a sudden I accelerated going into the third to last turn, and my bike slid right out from under me. It happened so fast that I wasn’t really sure exactly how it happened at the time. However, looking back, I think I just hit the turn too hot and slid out on some loose debris. Thankfully I was okay with just a bit of road rash but as soon as I tried to get back on my bike, my derailleur hanger snapped and I had no choice but to walk the rest of the way to the finish. Overall I was super bummed with how the race ended up, especially with how well I was feeling, yet I’m thankful I wasn’t seriously hurt in my crash and didn’t cause anyone else to go down.
A couple days later was the road race: the race I was most looking forward to all week. The course was the same as it had always been in years past with a fairly straight forward layout that included some challenging punchy climbing (my favorite kind of terrain). Similar to the crit, I didn’t have any teammates in the race, so I went in with the strategy of saving as much energy as much as possible (for key moves and/or for the finish) by sitting in and letting other teams do the work as much as possible. During the race, the 72 miles seemed to go by fairly quickly. I found myself feeling decently well (though not amazing), and didn’t have too much trouble staying at or near the front of the race for most of the way, including each time we went up Sherrod Hill (the famous longer, steeper climb of the course). However, with 2 or three laps to go I found myself especially struggling to keep up the fast pace on the climb, and lost contact with the front group. After that, I rode with a chase group the rest of the way, but sadly we were never able to catch the front group. In the end, our group had a bit of fun and sprinted to the line where I ended up crossing in 15th.
Overall I’m not too bummed or too pleased with how Nationals went. I am however satisfied knowing I gave it my all and I really had an absolute blast racing on the road again. With that said, I can’t wait for more road racing later this year! Also, thank you to Team TWENTY24, Nicola Cranmer, Doug Torres, my teammate Paige and her husband Rob, my fiancee Eli, CoreFit Training and KX3 Lifestyle + Coaching for all the support throughout the week.