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Jessica Prinner’s Collegiate Nationals Report

Jessi wrote this up for her personal blog, The Prinner Posts, and we couldn’t resist sharing it.

“For the second year in a row collegiate road nationals was to be set in Ogden, Utah, home of mountains and Mormons.  I love travelling to many different places and seeing different ways of life, and the Salt Lake City area was certainly a cool one.

It took us three days to drive from Wichita Falls, TX, to Ogden due to a snow blockade on I-70 through a Colorado mountain pass.  We were stuck up on the mountain for hours, not sure if we’d have to camp the night.  Luckily we wouldn’t have to drink our own urine as the pass opened and we carefully drove down the mountain.

The first day of racing was going to be a challenging one for me, as I’d have to race two time trials in the course of three hours.  Up first was the team time trial, a 30km, out-and-back course along Antelope Island, a mass of land in the middle of the Salt Lake peppered with herds of bison.  In fact, we were all a bit concerned about bison wandering across the course.  I don’t know about my teammates but I wasn’t stopping for anything, especially during my individual time trial.

I only had about 2 hours of down time between the TTT and ITT, which I spent stuffing my face with sugar and re-warming up.  I also got to wear a really cool speedsuit from Vie 13 which was just half a step above nudity, but was crazy fast.  I didn’t feel too tired from the TTT going into the ITT, which was good.  The course was the same except only 20km instead of 30km, and I was to go off last according to the USA Cycling race predictor rankings.

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In the first few km there was a painfully long hill, and I almost caught the rider in front of me, who dangled there for the majority of the race until the final few km when we hit the backside of the nasty hill again.  I must have felt way better than most racers at this point because I started passing a bunch of girls a warp speed on the ascent, and held my position down to the finish line.

It took me a while to figure out I had won (only after the drug testers chased me down, put a bag over my head, and dragged me by the scruff of the neck to a small tent and port-o-potty).  Apparently I was so overjoyed I couldn’t pee for hours, and when I did finally decide to go, I just barely made the minimum pee requirement line of 90mL.  In the doping control process, you have to pour your own cup of pee into two glass containers, one marked “A” and the other marked “B”, and usually it isn’t a problem filling to the line. But since I barely made the minimum pee requirements, I had to carefully shake out every drop of pee I could into the glass containers.  It was as if suddenly my pee had the value of gold.  That last drop was worth $1 million because it would decide whether I had to sit there for another decade and pee again or if my team and I could finally go home. Luckily the amount passed inspection and we got to go home.

The next day was the criterium, a wide-open, turney course with a slight blip of a hill that really didn’t do anything but cause everyone to swarm you every single lap.  The swarming was a problem because it was a super sketchball field, probably because many of the riders competed in small conferences and had little experience racing a 70 rider field.  Nonetheless, I feared for my life and tried my best to stay at the front and out of the way of kamikazes, as crashes happened randomly and seemingly without reason.

The final lap was a panicked frenzy for most of the field where I weighed my risk of flinging elbows with riders that aren’t so familiar with flinging elbows.  To put it simply, I had a hard time trusting that most of the riders wouldn’t crash if I raced aggressively, and the final lap didn’t string out the field so I had to navigate around riders carefully.  I was top ten around the last turn, but took the inside line where I was held up behind a slow turner and got swarmed on the outside.  I settled for 17th, dissatisfied because I was hardly tired.

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The road race demanded an early 8am start the next day, and my body was tired from consecutive racing.  The first part of the race consisted of a couple 17 mile laps around a lake that had mild rollers. There were many futile attacks that dangled for a while, but nothing threatened.  Finally we veered off the short loops into the large loop, where I made sure I was top ten entering a narrow, curvy, construction-infested canyon road.  Out of the canyon the wind was super blustery, and we made our way toward the final 3 mile climb.

I was in perfect position going into the climb, top ten and sheltered from the vicious winds that kept blowing riders around.  As the grade increased, I settled into a rhythm in the top five.  Within a half mile though I was struggling hard, and I realized I’d have to back off the pace a little or I would red line and blow up.  I settled into a group of about 15 riders, just within view of the five leaders up the road.  The altitude was testing my cardio system as I struggled to breathe.  By the time I reached the top of the mountain, my group had dwindled to maybe five or six riders.  I accelerated over the top and descended quickly, only one rider keeping pace.

Eventually three other riders joined us, and we pacelined the final 8km to the finish. When I saw the finish banner, I started my sprint early, probably from the 350 meter line (maybe further), but by the time I realized this there was no going back, I had to commit.  So I sprinted for forever.  And so did the riders behind me.

I was going and going and going and started to wonder “why isn’t everyone coming around me?” so I looked back and the closest rider was about half a bike length behind me, sprinting full kilt.  Then I was going and going and going and began to wonder again “why the heck isn’t anyone coming around me????” and so I looked back and saw the same rider about a bike length behind me now, flopping around in something that resembled a half-dead sprint.  I really don’t blame her though, my sprint was turning ugly, too.  I managed to win my group sprint, though, and capture 6th place on the day.

I was out of breath for a good 30 minutes after my race.  I think my lungs are still holding a grudge against me.

Overall the weekend was a success: a win, a 17th, and a hard-earned 6th.  The team was satisfied, too, with a 12th by Tony Baca in the road race for the men, and a 6th in the men’s team time trial.  My celebration was short lived, though, because I had finals to cram for on my return to Wichita Falls, TX.  The life of a student cyclist.” – Prinner

Thanks Jessi