For those that have followed my racing for a bit, you’ll know that I’ve been in search of the elusive UCI point for over a year. The UCI point is the secret to MTB success on a national (or larger) level. How do you get one? Well, the easiest way is to already have some. Points determine start positions, and without a start position it’s harder to get a point. This weekend in Colorado Springs I got 4 UCI points for finishing 22nd. After the heartbreak of finishing 17th in Missoula last weekend (a lower class race, where points went to 15th), I’m so very happy to finally begin climbing the ladder towards racing a World Cup.
Missoula last weekend was a tough race, mentally and physically. I’ve not done any points chasing this year (not a single USAC race until this one) so I was fully aware I’d be lining up at the back. But it’s still humbling when 50 names get shouted out, and the shouting stops before you get called. I rolled up after the name shouting was done, and had an atrocious start that involved more braking than sprinting, and a little bit of cyclocross dismounting to get around people that weren’t excelling at Mountain Bikes at that point. From there on, the race got better, and I ended up gaining a huge number of places to finish 17th. Two places and a world of misery away from the 15th I needed to gain my first UCI point. I raced smart and sensible, climbed really well, stayed focused, and it wasn’t enough. In chasing down a rider on the last lap, I rolled in the dirt for a bit, hitting the netting hard and removing some skin from my right side. In a way, the wounds were good for me to focus on, because I couldn’t do anything about the result. I poured everything into the race, and spent a good 15 minutes in tears of frustration afterwards. It was difficult. More than it should have been.
I stewed on that result a lot in the last week, wondering whether the Escher like staircase of points would ever be broken. I lined up in Colorado Springs with a few demons floating around, but a huge amount of burning determination too. The Colorado Springs race had a great start loop to move up on, and a course with punchy short climbs that suited me a little better than Missoula.
I had amazing support from two of Boulder Cycle Sport‘s best people: Des and Matt Ogle drove from Boulder to the Springs in order to watch the racing, and volunteered themselves to serve as pit crew. I couldn’t have achieved the result without them. They were fantastic. Matt stood next to me on the start line with an umbrella, shading me, and then they both proceeded to hand me water bottles and ice throughout the race. I would not have survived without them there. I don’t even know how to thank them! Stepping onto the Boulder Cycle Sport team this year has been so good for being surrounded by community and friendship that asks nothing in return.
After the start loop, I’d managed to gain a good chunk of the places I needed to get into the top 25. I felt strong and confident, and had no doubt at that point that I’d achieve what I set out to do. With another hour and a half of racing though, I began to suffer, and quickly went from aggressive passing to survival, and eventually damage limitation. A spectator shouted “24” at me, and that was enough drive to dig deep in the final couple of laps to hit the line in 22nd. I was elated. Over the moon happy. Des handed me a fresh jersey soaked in ice water after the race, and I sat there and basked in the satisfaction. Deep, hard earned and entirely intrinsic satisfaction.
The elusive UCI points are finally mine! What it means in terms of racing is that I now get the privilege of taking my points to any sanctioned race in the country (or even back to the UK) and starting mid pack. Not a huge jump, but after a year of back row starts and random (actually: picking numbers out of a hat) call ups, I’m very excited.
I’ll be traveling to Boston (Walpole actually – I’ve been informed by a Mass local that they’re very different) in two weeks, and I aim to get into the top 10 and get some more points under my belt. The ultimate goal of all this is to accumulate 20 UCI points in the next 12 months, which would allow me to start a World Cup.
Dream big: I care a lot about racing mountain bikes, enough that people probably ridicule me for it. It’s kind of cool to be able to set a goal, work for it and achieve it, even when few other people can see the value in it.