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Editor’s note: VeloNews contributor Judy Freeman opens her 2013 season with the Mellow Johnny’s Classic on Saturday. The event opens the Pro XCT calendar and is offering equal prize money to the top 15 in the men’s and women’s pro categories.
Another race season begins with another flight. I’m sitting in Denver International Airport right now waiting for my flight to Austin, Texas, today for Pro XCT no. 1 at the Mellow Johnny’s Classic. While the year is starting out with some familiarity, there’s a lot of new heading into 2013, including a rock star fantasy or two.
Flying out of Denver has become somewhat of a comfortable routine. I’m sort of skilled now at schlepping 100 pounds of luggage up to the ticket stand. My suitcase doubles as a dolly for the bike bag. And the whole behemoth collection brings the expected wide-eyed side steps from oncoming fellow travelers. The laws of physics bring respect! But long gone are the days when the bike bag could be mistaken for a massage table and checked in without a bike box fee. Sigh
What’s new, Scott!
But 2013 is starting out differently all the same to stave off any ho-hum. Chloe Woodruff and I are still filling out the Race Club roster, but we’ve got some new sponsors on board. Scott has stepped in as our ride for the season. We’re heading to Texas on Scale 29ers. This is my first 29er, so I’m still getting familiar with how it rolls, but am so far loving it. Right now I feel in-between invincible and wondering how I ride this thing. It’s pretty amazing, the rolling and control benefits of a 29-inch bike over a 26-inch. Still, it’s a different ride.
Fitting a 29er to a 5-foot-2er has been interesting. I got my first Rëtul fit to get a better handle on all the variables. My boyfriend Tom was literally doing the math to figure out a stem for me, literally. (Why some companies don’t list the drop, I’ll never know.)
Todd and Garrett at Rëtul hooked me up to LED motion detectors and as I pedaled, a computer generated stick figure version of myself was up on the screen with me. We checked the pedaling efficiencies at various positions on the bike and made some significant changes. From the rides I’ve been on since the fit, it feels really good.
To tip the scales more on the side of invincible, I’ve been riding with Lee McCormack, our team’s new technical coach. Our latest sessions have included a lot of me riding the pump track and Lee yelling cues so I pull up over rollers. I’m learning to pull up earlier with the larger wheel to get the timing down. If it weren’t for the missing gunshots, onlookers would think we were skeet shooting with as much as Lee yelled, “Pull!”
That kind of makes it sound like it’s drill sergeant training with Lee, but it’s not. Simply summed up, instruction and demonstrations come weaved in a martial arts/yoga/use-the-force-Luke philosophy that I don’t fully feel until later. I dig it. The ultimate goal of it all goes beyond riding faster and safer and culminates in the idea of being in the Flow and Riding. (Capital letters emphasized in class.) It has changed the way I ride, for sure.
And then it’s not every season I get to start the year like a rock star. Vail Mountain had its annual snow sport festival with a ton of snow-based competitions. I usually head up for the criterium event, but this year organizers added a snowbike XC event where the winner won $250 and a 9:Zero:7 snowbike frame.
After a solid battle, I won the XC race and frame. I was stoked and thought it couldn’t get better. Then Colin, from 9:Zero:7 asked me if I wanted to get presented my new frame on-stage before the concert the next night. I said no at first, but then I thought, about it. How often do chances to get on stage at a rock concert come around? Don’t people dream of chances like this?
I didn’t ask myself, “What’s the worse thing that could happen?” — because you know that list will get long.
At the stage, I learned I was going up just after the big air winners; the crowd had just gotten all riled up watching the big air comp and John Brown’s Body — a reggae-funk band that brought in a rowdy dance-ready crowd. Awesome. No pressure.
And it was all on a time crunch. So, right after the podiums, Colin and I rushed onto the stage … where everything stopped.
Being on a stage, under lighting and in front of a crowd was surreal. My heart rate soared and a small sense of panic rushed in. Colin and the announcer said some words on the mic, which I couldn’t really hear, and then gave me the frame.
Sweet. Now it’s all eyes on me.
I don’t know what I was thinking, because it felt like my mind went blank, but I hopped atop the empty podium and threw up my arms to the crowd, which gave me a good little roar, even if they had no idea who I was.
And then I pretty much ran right back off stage.
Gene Simmons would not be proud, but at least I made it off-stage without tripping up in microphone cords.
And that was my .02 seconds of rock stardom.
Deep in the heart of Texas
I’m finishing this journal up in Texas. We got in last night. The women race on Saturday at 11:45 a.m. and it’s time to get ready.
It’s back to the grind in a way — but at the same time, a fully new year with possibility.
And I love it.