Last weekend, Kathryn Cumming grabbed a podium spot at the 2018 edition of KMC Cyclo-Cross Festival. Today, she reflects on the nature of the pavement track course, as well as tactical nature of the race.
by Kathryn Cumming
Sunday’s KMC race was going to feel more like a crit than a cross race. There was a lot of pavement on course and at points we were able to use the entire width of an auto race track. The technical features were fast and short with a lot of off-cambers.
Honestly, the course felt like it just packed all of my weaknesses into each lap. The wide-open, paved straightaways would promote group racing and tactics, and the transitions were comprised of loose gravel. Give me grass and mud instead!
I spent a lot of time pre-riding, doing four or five laps to get my mental outlook in the right place. I needed to switch from focusing on my weaknesses to enjoying the ride. It worked; while KMC would never be my favorite course, throughout my pre-rides I gained an appreciation for the different features and the skillset that would help you excel during the race.
My goals for the race were to make the lead group and practice racing at the front. Races always feel different when you are out front compared to when you are just chasing as hard as you can.
I definitely wanted to contest for the win as well, and I chose my tire pressure accordingly, running significantly more pressure than normal. The racing was going to be close, and I knew I was competing against successful road racers, so I figured I would try to grab an advantage where I could. I wanted my tires to roll fast and decided it was worth it to have less traction in the loose corners.
The race started off on a long, paved straightaway. I battled for position at the start and was able to move up to approximately the top six as I made a few more passes on the pavement. The first feature, which would prove decisive later in my race, was an off camber corner with a high line and a low line. The low line was the better choice to ride. With the leaders going low in a single file fashion, I dismounted and ran the high line to grab a few more places.
We rode as a group until the end of lap one, when there was a bit of crashing and tangling up at the final feature before the short climb to the finish line. Everyone recovered quickly, with a lone leader attacking and our chase group of three forming. I pretty much just stayed on the front and we were able to bring the leader back by the end of the lap and then drop her on the following lap.
At this point, the battle became tactical. With the exception of a bobble or two, I led our group of three for most of the race. Tactics may have said to pull off and let someone else work, but I was trying to play into my strengths and open up gaps where I could.
In general, I am more of a diesel type of racer who likes to gradually pull away, and while I could grab a one or two second gap here and there, I couldn’t quite make a big enough move to open things up.
With two or three laps to go, I bobbled on the first off camber corner of the lap. All in all, I just hadn’t mastered the feature, and the two I was riding with it knew this. I tried to attack as we hit the pavement near the start of the last lap, but it wasn’t enough. They bridged back and attacked me on the off camber, opening up a gap I couldn’t close. I eventually rolled in for third.
While I probably would’ve preferred some slower course features, like more climbing and running, one of the great aspects of cyclocross is that we race on different courses every weekend. This forces racers to be well-rounded and also keeps the results exciting. Combine this with all of the competition in the women’s field and there is never a dull moment in UCI racing.
I try not to focus too much on good days or bad days, as we are all going to experience both, but it always feels good to land on a UCI podium!