Words: Diana Sjol
When you come to a fork in the road, how many paths do you see? Some see two and may choose the path of least resistance while others will choose the path that will test their limits. Some will only see one path, the easy path. Then there are those that only see the hard line, the path that will test their strength, a lonely road where despair lurks but the outcome is glorious.
After a disappointing cyclocross season I knew it was time to face some fears and get on a mountain
bike, for me this was no longer a choice but something that had to be done. My problem? I was scared. Everything about mountain biking scared me. Steep, technical, rocky single track wasn’t for me.
In March I bought my first mountain bike, a 28 pound steel Kona. I hated it! It was heavy, it forced me
out of my happy place. I got in a couple of rides on familiar fire roads before signing up for my first
mountain bike race that same month. I went out and pre rode the course the day before the race and I was freaking out. The course took me through rocky and technical single track along some mountainside cliffs. I was sure I was going to die. After that ride I couldn’t imagine ever riding those trails on my cross bike and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to race the next day. It was an unfamiliar fear because I’ve mostly avoided trails like these and now they were hitting me smack in the face. That whole night I had to reassure myself that I could do it, I could ride the trails, and I would race.
The next morning I did just that. I raced three whole laps that tested my strengths, weaknesses, and
fears. Looking back, I know this race is where everything began to change for me. I went from someone who was afraid and didn’t even want to race mountain bikes, to racing three laps on a course I never would have imagined doing before.
Since that first race I have continued to test myself and have ridden trails and overcome fears I honestly didn’t think I ever would or could. Reflecting on all my accomplishments these past few months, I know they have stemmed from a desire to be a greater athlete than I was. Along the way, there have been plenty of frustrations, cuts, bruises, and setbacks, and I’m certain there will be many more in the future. But I’m okay with that.
Be relentless in your pursuit for greatness.
Photos: Kyla, Ana, and Susie
Over the past few years I've fallen in love with bike packing and try to explore new routes when ever I get the chance. There are so many great options just outside of the LA. I'd been promising to lead a beginner friendly camp out/intro to bike travel overnight for SWAT. I wanted to make it "mild" and not a total suffer fest, but also take folks somewhere they probably hadn't been before. Somewhere that you can only access by foot or by bike. Crystal Cove was the perfect destination.
Riders borrowed gear and made it work. Lynn carried all her stuff in her giant roadrunner backpack which Taylor nicknamed "the mini fridge". Jenn strapped a water melon to her rack. Rita aka Mary Poppins (another Taylor nickname) kept pulling everything and anything anyone asked for out of her magical panniers. Diana sewed her own frame bag following a DIY tutorial.
The Crystal Cove trail head leading to the back country campgrounds is only 25 miles south of Long Beach.
We stayed at Lower Moro. A three mile (not so mild but worth it) climb up from the coast on a well maintained gravel road offering 360 views.
This was the largest group of WTF folks I’ve ever camped with and the energy was contagious.I have Mad love for all of these riders. It was such an AMAZING group with nothing but good vibes. A mix of first time bike campers, bikepackers and tourers. Old friends and new ones.
Stay tuned for a lot more of this in the future!
Plan your own trip and take our route! Make sure to pack in water and pack out your trash.
Ride with GPS route ridewithgps.com/routes/28103312
Ride Zine with Cue sheets
Crystal Cove Back country site info http://www.crystalcovestatepark.org/camping-in-the-backcountry/
Our first CX NATS was tough, terrifying, freezing, intense, liberating, motivating and an all around amazing experience. The trip, the racing, and the CX community went above and beyond our wildest dreams. We are ready to continue to grow the LA CX scene and keep the stoke alive for the rest of 2018!!!
DIARY OF A DFL DIRTFOO
I came into this season with no game. I'd taken a job out of town in August and didn’t get back until mid November, causing me to miss the first half of the season. In the first few months on the road I got in some weekend MTB rides and even a race (hell yeah wild west CX!) but it was impossible to ride during the week. I got back on a Friday and showed up to race that weekend. It happened to be our LA UCI race. I sat out the A race and decided to just race single speed. In my head I thought even though I wasn’t in race shape my handling skills could still keep me in the race. I had a good start but could only hang with the lead group for half a lap. Slowly I got passed by the rest of the pack over the next 3 laps until I was DFL. So that was humbling AF.
The next week at Turkey Trot I jumped back in the A race knowing I was going to get destroyed, but still feeling like I’d be sandbagging if I raced Bs. By the end of the first lap I was alone. Lynn was leading the B race and caught me in the second lap. We stayed together for a full lap. I yelled at her not to slow through the technical stuff and she motivated me to push hard even though I was already DFL in my race. She ended up beating me by almost 30 seconds but no one else from her race caught us. Then the whole team rallied for a single speed party to race for handups. A high point of the season for sure.
The next week in Griffith Park, at Districts I would hit my low point of the season. Usually I do great at the Griffith course because it’s an endurance course, but I had no race legs yet and was in the pain cave bad by lap two. Staying in the race when my mind, legs and hecklers were telling me to quit was a battle. I was racing against the fastest women on dirt in SoCal and getting destroyed. I finished and just kept riding through the park. My emotions, pride, and the heckles got the best of me. I was a wreck. I was done with racing this season. When I made it back to the team tent I told Diana that I might be done. She wasn’t having any of that. Pop tarts were almost thrown. This is why we need teammates. Seriously I would not still be racing if it wasn’t for the amazing womxn I'm lucky enough to call my teammates and friends.
I worked my ass off the whole month of December even after the series ended trying to get my fitness back for Nationals. Then over new years, just when I was feeling good about racing I crashed my mountain bike. Nothing serious but a very bruised lower back and tail bone that made it really painful to ride my bike. Nationals were two weeks away. The universe was telling me not to go, but thankfully I decided to ignore it. CX Nats went above and beyond any expectations. It was such an amazing and inspiring experience. I raced my age category Friday and single speed Saturday getting my legs ripped off by shredders from all over the country. The crowd at the sandpit was out of control giving me all the extra watts I needed to get through it every lap and up the next hill. 10 out of 10 would do the whole suffer season again just to experience that.
So much stoke. So many memories. Lesson learned, never quit. DFL is always more dope than DNF.
Meeting and watching CX Queens Katie Compton and Ellen Noble battle it out was also dope AF
This past cross season I felt really strong coming right into the season from racing track and fixed crits. The entire season racing the SoCalCross series I was placing in the top 5 consistently in both womens B and womens single speed categories both on my single speed cx bike. I ended up 2nd overall in womens B and 3rd overall in womens single speed even missing a few races in the series.
Going to CX National Championships for the first time was quite the experience. Never have I been so nervous. Before my masters race I felt so nervous at the start line that I felt like I was going to cry. (that has never happened to me before) My field was of 13 women. I was on my single speed because that is all I have to race on. I ended up placing DFL and was pretty bummed about it.
The next day was the single speed race. The womens single speed race was the largest womens field at Nationals consisting of 42 women. This race started off fast and much more aggressively with women putting their elbows out and cutting each other off to get a better starting position. My adrenaline was high and I had a smile from all the chaos and fun from the start line. This race I wanted to do better in to make up for not doing so well in my masters race. The course was full of false flats. During the entire race I felt like my lungs were going to explode. There was a double climb that became steep where I had to unclip towards the top headed into a drop-in off camber section with a sharp right turn into more off camber.
I was making the drop-in fine and running the rest of the section until the last lap... I flew over my handlebars and slid on my chest. The announcer even called out my crash mentioning my first and last name and team name as the leader of the race, Meredith Miller, was passing me while I was on the ground. It made it on the live feed of the race. I was a little embarrassed, but was assured by spectators that my crash was epic and badass. I ended up getting up and finishing the race. I met my goal of doing faster lap times by 1min than in my masters race. In the end I placed 29th out of 42 racers and was stoked about it!
Aside from racing it was super rad to travel road trip style with my friends/teammates. There is something special about spending 8hrs together in a van. Also we made sure to party extra hard after we were done racing. Our team is totally about racing hard and partying hard. Already looking forward to next season and hope that we have the opportunity to go to nationals again and do even better.
CX Nats Race Photos by Jason Shanney
This season for me began and ended in Nevada. I started off strong with a 3rd place finish in the Wheelers and Dealers race at CrossVegas and capped it all off with my very first CX Nationals in Reno. In between and along the way I made my way up to Sacramento where I got my first taste of gnarly NorCal racing, raced my heart out, got on some podiums with super strong Elite Women A racers in our SoCalCross Series, but also shed many tears of disappointment. This season did not go as I had envisioned. I came in strong and somewhere along the way as the season continued, my fitness began to fade. After training my butt off for months and months, to see my season spiral downward was a huge blow to me. I knew I just needed to focus on having fun and continue to work on improving my skills at each race. To me, racing is only one aspect of the season, the other is the time spent with friends. This season was amazing and my heart is happy from the camping trips, costumes, sitting on the grass drinking beers, cheering on friends, giant champagne bottle balloons, conquering fears, and racing and experiencing my first Nats with people I love.
SoCal Cross Prestige Series packed in 16 races this season. A dusty, sweaty and amazing 3 months of racing, camping, and handups. Each racers best 8 races count towards the overall series podium. All races count towards the team podium. This year SWAT ended up 7th overall in the team standings. We're pretty damn proud about that 7th place, especially as the only WTF team. Diana, Lynn, and Rhea all made the series podiums for their individual categories. Susie placed 7th in SS and 9th in A's. Meg placed 16th in B's and 20th in SS.
The season had lots of ups and downs. It was Diana and Susie's first season racing A's and getting their legs ripped off week after week by pros. Lynn was consistently in the top 5 in B's and single speed winning a number of races and getting her Cat 3 upgrade. Rhea dealt with a hip injury all season and powered through it staying competitive in the B and SS fields. Meg got her first taste of racing B's in a stacked field. Arin played dirt foo race Mom and perfected her heckling and handup game. Ana even came out for a few races and had a blast getting dirty.
We had so much fun this year we decided we didn't want the series finale to be the end of our season. With CX Nats being only 8 hours away in Reno our Cat 3 Killers decided to take a road trip and end our season in January in the biggest little city. More on that next time...