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Spooky Cross - Altoona, IA

Zealous Racing puts on a great racing weekend called "Spooky Cross."  The last few years it's been held in Altoona, IA, adjacent to the Altoona Aquatics Center and the courses have flat bits and seriously hilly bits, but all the bits are linked together in a fast, fun, flowy, yet challenging way.

Sunday's big climb Part 1

Sunday's big climb part 2 where you needed to keep your
momentum in order to hop the 2x4's and ride on to the top.
Besides fun courses, another nice thing about racing in Iowa are the larger field sizes and higher quality of the races in terms of competition. For example, Sunday's women's 1/2/3 field had 21 starters.  Of these, seven were cat 2's, so if you want to improve your ranking, but racing higher quality races, the closest place to do that is the Des  Moines area.
Saturday's racers wait in the chill for the race to begin. A few sport costumes,
but with the exception of Suzie Goebel, the front two lines are pretty serious. 
Racing for GPCTCX this weekend were Cristina, Paul, Sara, Licki, and Sydney.

Paul and Cristina truly embraced the spirit of the day and sported costumes.

"I found the Spooky Cross course to be a fun new experience. I am not used to hills like that in Lincoln. The rain made the course super slick and muddy, but sliding out on the 2nd lap did make me extra cautious of the sharp turns. I wish I didn't run so much during that race but I was highly doubtful of my bikes ability going up some of those hills with my slick skinny road tires. Probably my favorite part was racing in a hot dog suit. I got a lot of attention and heckling for it, but it was worth it. I only wish someone else dressed up too. I would definitely go back next year! I got 29th of 58 starters in the Cat 4/5 race."

-- Paul

"I enjoyed racing Spooky Cross while wearing a french fry costume and watching Paul race as a hotdog. The course was really slick and muddy which made for an exciting 40 minutes. It was a lot of fun and definitely worth getting up at 6 am to drive to Des Moines. I placed 2nd in the women's cat 4 division."

-- Cristina

Licki also raced the cat 4 women on Saturday and finished 8th of 11 starters.  However, when she faced the big climb on Sunday, Licki showed her mettle.

"Day one of Spooky Cross was so so cold! The course was a ton of fun with lots of up and down and going through stands of trees. The ground was a bit muddy and I botched every single remount. I would gain time and pass... and then lose it all whenever I got on and off my bike. I think I wasn’t being patient enough - I was rushing through getting back on my bicycle and I wasn’t being strategic as to where I was remounting (as far as terrain went). All in all the course was a blast (though the person in the Olaf costume was terrifying) and I got 8th out of 11 riders in Cat 4 Women’s.

Day two was hot and drier! There were some changes to the course and more things to hop over so I really tried to take my time getting back on my bike so I didn’t have a repeat of day one. I think the relative heat (compared to yesterday) was getting to a lot of racers - I would see some racers really tiring at the hill or the barriers. So I just kept trying to push through and pass them even though I was hurting too. Through pure stubbornness (and the great supportive words I got from spectators) I managed to finish out the race. I found out later I had somehow finished 3rd of the seven Cat 4 racers who started. So I got to stand on a box! Boy that was a strange feeling, but good too."

-- Licki

Sara also rode Saturday.

"It was cold. So, I was dressed warm. I picked the layers well. Didn’t get too hot, other than my head and I couldn’t really go without something over my ears anyway. My hands were a little cold. So, the gloves I tried won’t work well below 50.

It was slippery. I LOVED that. I’m daring and it gave me a LOT of time over the competitors around me.

It was challenging. Lots of steep little hills that, by the last lap had me wanting to take a little coffee break before continuing: power areas. No lost time and no gained time here with those around me. But, did sap my muscles by the end.

All of the twists and turns slowed people down, a GREAT advantage for me. Gives my old lungs a chance to recover. Sadly, I wiped out with only a few minutes left and dropped a chain as I was nipping on the heels of 12 and 13 and plotting my attack. I went from a second behind them to 30+. To not get that chance leaves me VERY hungry. At this same time, the lead Cat4 rider passed me. She tossed me some “Come on! Go get ‘em!” I later told her I appreciated that.

From the hole shot to the finish I took around 6 racers and lost position to 1…the Cat4 winner.

I’ll keep working on my muscle strength, and may have to learn how to put on a chain faster. LOL"

-- Sara

Sydney's weekend aim was to podium both days in order to improve her USA Cycling ranking.  

Sydney's mom, Nancy, has been helping her race for a long time, both through
her steady encouragement and by her capabilities for managing everything
from equipment to bike changes in the pit.
"She makes it so much easier and more fun. Until you have someone to help you,
you don't realize how much time and energy you spend taking care of everything
and how that impacts your racing. I'm incredibly grateful for her help." --Sydney
"My mom and I are heading to Nationals the first week of January and hope to do well.  However, one's starting position is determined in part by one's USAC rankings and I would really like to be among the first three rows.  Unfortunately, because this is my first season back after a long hiatus, I didn't have a ranking this year and have been working up from the bottom as I try to develop some race fitness again.  This process has been challenging, but fun. It has also made me keenly aware of the advantages conferred by a front line start. This weekend I made it on the second row, which wasn't too bad except that the rows were only five women wide and if the people in front of you bobbled at all, you were slowed."
Sydney watched Koppenbergcross before the race and said
it inspired her to ride Sunday's climb. 

"I really didn't know how I would do this weekend.  I had ridden only once during the week because it was a designated rest week and I was a wee bit worried about my legs.  However, they were fine and I was able to ride to third on Saturday and take the win on Sunday.  I suffered a fall during Saturday's race and if I ever hope to beat Trek's Kaitlin Neary, I mus'n't give her any gap at all.  On Sunday, she had quite a lead and I had ridden up to third from seventh at the hole shot, but then she hit a barrier wrong with her front wheel and flatted out of the race. With Suzie Goebel ahead, I knew my work was cut out for me, but I felt pretty good and kept pushing and focusing on riding smoothly. On the final lap, we came into the hill climb together.  She attacked, but bobbled the first barrier, coming to a complete stop and the opting to run the rest of the hill.  Because I was right behind her, I also came to a stop, but stayed on my bike and finished the hill that way.  I felt this was the better option and did not push me into the red as much as a run. At the top of the climb, the course turned left and then a sharp off-camber right.  Suzie took a lower line, leaving me a smoother higher line.  I used this to attack as hard as I could and drilled it for the finish line which was maybe 100-130 meters of combined grass and pavement. Suzie followed in second and the incredible Lisa Vetterlein, who had had to start on the rear-most line since she was a day-of entry, came in third."   -- Sydney

Sydney's heart rate profile for Sunday's race.  Analysis from Strava. 


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