Charm City Cyclocross is one of Jalapeno Cycling’s perennial favorite races on the cyclocross calendar. Not only is the course tough, but it continues to get more interesting with each year. Charm City holds plenty of memories, too. It was the final 3/4 race Kate competed in before moving up to the UCI fields, and two years later, it was the first time she landed on an UCI podium in the United States. Today, she reflects on what makes the race special, looking back at her performance from last weekend.
by Kathryn Cumming
Charm City Cyclocross is a race weekend like no other. I cherish every aspect of the weekend, from the punishing but fun racing, to the competitive fields, to the social and uplifting atmosphere.
This year my parents made the trip, only adding to the enjoyment. They’ve been selflessly supporting my passions since I was a kid, and they make the experience better in every possible way, assisting with coffee runs, dog walking, pit support, and cheering.
The Charm City event continues to impress me every year. They have grown into one of the biggest race weekends in the country while still maintaining a grassroots feel. Course features have become more demanding but are still safe and doable for the entry level fields, and the promoters continue to give prime tent space to club row rather than focusing solely on the pro teams. As a faux pro team, we fully support this move!
Many racers, myself included, were scrambling to make sure the mud tires were ready when we arrived to discover a waterlogged course this year. Pre-riding was interesting because I wanted to inspect the sloppy course sections, but the limited number of hoses and power washers meant it was difficult to get my bikes cleaned up. I resorted to one full pre-ride, several partial laps on the dry sections of the course, and a significant amount of time spectating to determine the best line choices. I hate being rushed on race day, and knowing my bikes were washed well before my race puts me in a better mental state.
With a star studded front row featuring the most recent World Cup winner, Kaitlin Keough Saturday was full gas from the start. I actually made good use of my call-up, and thanks to some practice sessions with Andrew, I was able to slot into the top ten or fifteen right away. From there I used the running sections and long climbs to move solidly into the top ten.
I must admit I was surprised when someone ran the stairs with me and then accelerated past me on the climb, leaving me in eighth place. I take pride in making passes on the run-ups. Then I realized it was Georgia Gould (two time mountain bike Olympian) and it all made more sense. I’m targeting for her next time, though.
Ninth place was charging hard behind me. She had me on the limit as we hit the final mud pit of the second to last lap and I slid out and found myself laying on the ground. I was able to recover before she could bridge and went all in on the final climb to solidify the gap with a half lap to go. Erring on the safe side, I dismounted and ran the mud right before the finishing chute to ensure I didn’t crash myself out of eighth.
This was not my best race as far as formal result, but based on the competition and the way I felt on course, this race felt like one of my best ever.
Sunday was a different story. I have struggled in the heat and humidity this year, and day two of Charm City was no different. My start was not great, but I was able to make up some places on the long grass climb that was part of the prologue. From there, I settled in until the scaffolding stairs when I made a big move to pass four women. I knew this section was a strength, but after I jumped the group, my legs blew up.
This is the same reaction I had in Roanoke when I pulled out of the race on day two. In the heat, my body just couldn’t recover from a big effort like it normally can. My legs were powerless like they were in Roanoke, but unlike Roanoke, I was not experiencing symptoms of heat-related illness. Knowing I was not risking my health or safety, I stuck it out to roll in for sixteenth, bleeding places until the very end.
As awesome as it is to have a great race like I did on Saturday, it’s uplifting to feel the support from the cyclocross community when the race doesn’t go as planned. The hugs, high fives, and watermelon slices meant more on day two. The cyclocross community shows respect for everyone who races, and it’s one of the many components that keeps me coming back every week.