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Life as a bike jockey: The (near) victory salute

Strong finish

Road racing has a colorful cast of riders giving victory salutes. There’s more than a few cyclists out there miming something like an archer, a gun-toter or a mathematician showing their win count.

Mountain biking gets overshadowed in the victory salute department. There are a few riders who style it up, but most times it’s a celebratory “It’s a stick up.” Sometimes it’s even just best to keep hands safely on the bars to ensure an untimely rock doesn’t assist with a victory face plant.

But I always wonder how riders decide what they’re going to do when they finish. Do they practice in a mirror? Do they walk up to friends and ask “What do you think of this?” as they strike some victorious pose – all clad in Lycra with legs bowed to simulate keeping balance.

Whatcha gonna do?

However any of these cyclists decide, it’s apparent they have a plan. Because it’s not like you’ve got time to think about it at the finish. Shoot, you may not even have control over the intense joy from a stellar ride. And with no plan and supernova happiness coursing through the veins, who knows what could happen? At least I had no idea till I got to Texas.

Texas roundup

The ProXCT season started earlier this month with the Mellow Johnny’s Classic in Texas. It being my first cross-country race of the season, I didn’t know how I was feeling going into the race. And the women’s field was chock-full o’ champs: a world champ, a few national champs and the reigning ProXCT champ.

I was at the start line thinking that I could be in good form or I could be getting ready to stink up the joint. Fitness can be that fickle. All I really knew was that I wanted to be in good position going into the singletrack just ahead.

So after the gun went off and I found myself in fifth position going into the first lap, I was pre-tay stoked. The course was tight, twisty and punchy. Room for passing wasn’t in ample supply but opportunities to goof up were, so it was my goal to stick to the wheel in front of me.

The entire first lap was lead by Georgia Gould. She was followed by Emily Batty, Katie Compton, Catherine Pendrel and then yours truly. The order changed up a bit heading into the second lap when Catherine took the lead. I stayed in fifth, mostly dangling off the back until late in the second lap when things started to get interesting.

I rounded one corner to pass Georgia who had just run off the course. Then I came up on Emily who was pedaling on a flat tire. Later on the same lap, I passed Katie on a climb. This put me in second and in a place I had yet to be on the national circuit. I carried on to the finish and started lap three in second place; about 30 seconds behind Catherine. For the next three laps, it was all pedal-pedal and no looking back.

Judy? Judy!

Sitting in second behind the world champ and just ahead of the national champ was, let’s just say, the best I’ve ridden to date. And I wasn’t the only one to see this race progressing differently.

The cheers from the second feed zone at the half-way point kinda told the story. At first there were “Yah Judys!” Then, when I came around again still in the lead group, it changed to “Judy? Yah, Judy!!” As I pedaled through later on laps three and four – this time in second place – you’d have thought someone there saw a unicorn named Judy. And by lap five, when I had held on to second and was going toward the finish, it was a Forrest Gump-esque, “Go Judy Go!” It was clear I was having a breakthrough race and awesome to hear the support for it.

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