The NICA Wisconsin State Championship was held at the Trek Farm trails in the small town of Waterloo, WI.
Wow! I couldn’t believe it, the Championship race was already upon us.
I had a lot of mixed feelings going into this race, I was ready and excited, but also incredibly nervous. After last weekend’s sprint finish for third, I went into this race hoping to make a bigger gap on fourth and trying to bridge the gap to the leaders.
In the overall standings for the Varsity girls I was currently tied with another girl for third, so this race was the tie-breaker, which only served to add to my nerves, but I tried to put those feelings aside and focus on riding my own race.
We pre-rode on Saturday, the course was fun and fast, with a good amount of climbing and a single-track. From what I could tell during that first pre-ride lap, I knew that I was going to need to be on my best game the next day, not just physically, but mentally too.
From Saturday to Sunday however, the course conditions changed a lot. Heavy downpour throughout the night made for a muddy course the next morning, but thankfully on Sunday it began to slowly dry up and the race was only delayed by an hour from the normal start time. Some changes had been made in the course due to the weather, and a lot of it was still very slick.
Standing at the start line of the last race of the season, I was more nervous than I had been all year, but I felt ready to go and give everything I had, one more time.
So, as the announcer counted down from ten, a million thoughts went through my head, a million scenarios, a million feelings. But there was no time to think about the what-ifs any more, we were out of the start and I was focused and trying to get a position before we all bottle-necked into the single track uphill.
We got onto the first single track section and I was sitting in fourth, and everyone was still pretty tightly grouped together. We looped down through some two-track, passing crowds of spectators cheering for their team riders. Going into a single track section a couple miles into the course, I passed the girl in third and stuck behind second. I was feeling really good, but I knew I needed to keep myself in check so that I could hold up for three laps.
I followed second up until a small hill going into another single track section where we both had to hop off our bikes because of so much mud buildup on our tires. I had planned to stick behind her, but I ended up getting back on my bike first and riding up the second slight rise that she chose to run. I now found myself in second place, and still on the first lap. I kept thinking don’t go too hard Ethel, you still have two more laps. First place had a decent-sized gap on me and third, and I had started making a gap between me and third, so I was now riding alone. I was ecstatic to go into the second lap with a slight gap on the rest of the field, but I was a little doubtful about my positioning, since I had never made a move like this so early in a race before, let alone been in 2nd place!
I held my position through most of lap two until the girl who had moved into third began to catch me. We came through the end of the second lap together, and we went back and forth with the lead position. This race was draining me, in a good way. I knew I had to let her do some of the work too, or I would burn out, and that wasn’t something I was particularly interested in after coming this far. We came into the last single track uphill section, and I knew I needed to get away from third place, so I attacked the hill and made a slight gap, but as we descended into the final turns of single track before the two-track finish, I could hear her right behind me again. I knew it was going to be a sprint finish. I held the lead out of the single track, then around the corner to the finish chute she began to edge me out and was slightly in front of me. We had about 20 yards to the finish. I remember thinking you have to do this. You have to win this sprint. One final push. I gave everything left. We came across the line less than half a second apart. I did it. I won the sprint. I got the best result of my Varsity season so far, second place.
It was an awesome battle and I wouldn’t have wanted to end it in any other way.
This season…wow. It’s been such an amazing learning experience racing against some of the fastest girls in Wisconsin, and I can’t wait to see what next year holds!
I would like to thank my coaches, teammates, and my Mom, for the endless support this season. For believing I could achieve my goals. For standing in the feed zone with bottle hand-ups. For taking jackets at the start lines. For cheering for me while I’m suffering. I am so incredibly lucky to be able to be a part of this team. And thank YOU, for reading! I’m so happy that I can share my experiences with others, and I hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing. Until next year:)