Today was the start to the cyclocross season - kicking off with the MABRA series race in Baltimore at Druid Hill Park. The numbers and rowdiness of the racers and spectators in attendance prove that cyclocross is hot (and so is the weather) in the Mid-Atlantic and growing.
The women's B field had about 30 racers (the biggest women's B field ever) - including two Velo Bellas - veteran cyclocrosser Marisa Peacock, and first time racer Hillary Styer. Both of them looked great and held their own against a stacked mixed field ranging from first time bike racers to the winner who is a top local road racer and already experienced cyclocrosser. The two Bellas looked great and raced well. Marisa is coming into form and will have a great season as a Bella. Hillary learned a lot from this first race - especially about warming up and what not to eat before races and will continue to get stronger as the season progresses.
Later in the day (after literally 100s of racers had already crossed the finish line) the elite women took off. For the elite women, the promoter was offering a huge payout for the women's purse ($900 total). I think 25 women showed up to take their chance to get some cash. The Velo Bellas (Jen Bodine and I) were at the front and for the most part in control of the early race, growing a sizeable gap with our lead pack of 5 riders over the rest of the field. We set Jenny up for the honorable first lap prime offered by BikeReg.com which she claimed. Mel's race turned into a melee of mechanicals and mistakes brought on by heat and frustration and bad luck and was able to finish thanks to the support of Morgan as pit crew. Jenny rode strong and was always there willing to drag her teammate back to the other riders if needed. The Velo Bellas ended up finishing in the money and in the top 10.
Alicia battled the boys in the juniors race. Some of them may have been faster, but she looked the smoothest going over the barriers. And she's mastered her dismounts and mounts of the bike better than most of the pros! Alicia may be the first junior woman in the MABRA series to ever race. If she keeps it up she may be paving the way for a new junior women's category next year.
Mel, Hillary, Marisa, and Alicia are going to carry the cx momentum in to next weeks MABRA race at LilyPonds in western MD, and will be joined by a few more Bellas - including Kim Wendell for her inaugural cyclocross race.
Jenny is heading to Vegas to join the Velo Bella cyclocross elite team to work at Interbike and to race the UCI cyclocross race Wednesday night, followed by the World Criterium Championship race Thursday (also in Vegas). Needless to say, Jenny will hopefully be taking Sunday off to rest while we are playing with our bikes.