At the Races with Julie Wright

Seven Ambassador Julie Wright checks in with us after a challenging start to her cyclocross campaign that’s taken in both World Cup races and the other big US events.

We just added a Mudhoney SL to her race day equipment.

For those who don’t know me, here are some random and less random facts about me. I race on a small women’s elite team, Team Averica. We’re based out of Boston, though I live in Western MA. My day job is working in analytics in the health care industry. Chocolate and coffee are two of my favorite things. So are bikes, vegetables and swimming. And riding trails. When I decided to get my Mudhoney PRO, my goal was to have a bike that would elevate my level of racing, be fun to ride and be a source of inspiration to work harder. I found all of that and more! I’m beyond excited to have the Mudhoney SL now, which is proving to be another absolutely amazing bike.

I’m fresh off my first block of racing for this cyclocross season! As is expected, there were some ups and downs. The results weren’t what I hoped for, but I’ve learned a ton from the racing and the women in the UCI field.  Two years ago, during my first full season in the UCI field when I was coming up with my cyclocross goals, my ultimate goal in cross was to race in a world cup one day. At the time, I thought it was a long shot. This year, I got to start my season off with not one, but two World Cups, and both right here in the United States. It was an amazing way to start the season.

I made the trip in my little Honda Fit, packed with two bikes, five wheelsets, a trainer, clothes for racing in any imaginable weather and my work gear. I was gone for a solid three weeks, starting the season off in Rochester. I made my way west to Iowa, for the Jingle Cross WC, then on to Wisconsin for Trek CXC WC and then back again for KMC. I knew it would be a trip where the learning curve was steep, but I couldn’t have imagined how steep. I definitely lean toward the type A end of the spectrum and I really wanted a FAQ on traveling for bike racing, what to pack, how to budget, what to expect at a World Cup, and how to calm all the nerves that had been building up since wrapping up the cross season last year in Belgium. The funny thing about racing World Cups is that you don’t pick up your number at a reg table like you do at any other bike race. For those of us that don’t have a DS, we have to find the US representative who picks up our number for us either at the venue the day before the event, or if you don’t find them in time, at their hotel later that night. It’s kind of like Where’s Waldo, except for that you don’t know what Waldo looks like or what he’s going to be wearing. It was an adventure. It turns out Waldo was very nice and he had my numbers.

Lining up alongside some of the fastest women in the world is incredible and a bit terrifying. World champion stripes have the ability to be a little intimidating. We also had Annika Langvad, the 2016 XC MTB World Champion lining up. It took some practice reminding myself that I belonged there and that it was still pedaling around in circles like any other bike race.

Here’s my bike, post trip. It’s also a good metaphor for how I felt after the road trip back from the Midwest…

This past week, I’ve been camped out at home, enjoying some more of my favorite things: sleeping in my own bed, cooking in my kitchen, drinking coffee slowly, getting out on some long rides and mixing in rolling dirt roads, as well as beginning to work on the long list of things I learned I need to work on from the trip. Lots of turning practice!

Julie Wright Bursts Onto the National CX Scene

Image: Jon Nable

Julie Wright is disarmingly nice and alarmingly fast. We built her a Mudhoney PRO cyclocross race bike last year and watched as she got faster and faster and faster, culiminating in a 12th place finish at Cyclocross Nationals recently.

She wrote us this note, when we asked her to tell her how it went:

Looking back on this past season, it’s a bit of an out of body experience when I think of what I’ve accomplished. I started cross racing when I lived in Phildelphia and had a job that kept me up in New England on weekends in the fall. Coming off of a year of “road racing” where I fell off the back of every single cat 4 race, I never in a million years would have thought I’d race in a UCI field. Somehow, many years later, I made it there, and this past season, in my second full UCI season, I got points in almost every race weekend. I got a few top 5s in C2 races, a few top 15s in C1 races and ended up 12th at nationals. It blows my mind.

Image: David Foley

I started my list of goals for the CX season before the 2015/2016 season was over. I tweaked my goals and tiered them throughout the year and finalized them right before the start of cross. Most of them made my palms sweat, so I knew they were goals I had to work for, which meant staying mentally engaged through the season. Staying engaged for me equals staying honest and listening to my body. It’s funny how the things I learn through bikes run parallel to the non-cycling aspects in my life.

Image: Jon Knable

One of my favorite things about cross is that it seems like an individual sport at face value, and for my first few years, that was my experience. But as my results have improved, so has my community of support. There’s no doubt in my mind that the community came first. It’s hard to show up to a race, or even a workout, and not give it your all when there are people who’ve worked just as hard beside you to help you achieve your goals. Or when people are genuinely excited and supportive of your improvements. When you’re on an inspiring team of driven and hardworking individuals, when you have a coach who encourages you to push your limits, when you have Seven Cycles fix a bike post crash, within three days, and then hand deliver it to your house. I feel so fortunate. This season has been a dream in so many ways.

Thankfully, it isn’t over yet! My Seven Mudhoney PRO and my persistent stutter step are heading to Europe to try out Belgian racing, along with one of my teammates, Erin, and our team mechanic, Gary.

If you want to follow along with Julie, Team Averica will be keeping everyone updated on IG: @team_averica and on twitter: @teamaverica.

Her 2016/2017 Season by the numbers

22 races in the US, 5 races (still to happen!) in Belgium

19 US UCI races, 24 UCI races overall

69 UCI points

12th 2017 USA Cycling Elite Nationals

18th USA Cycling Pro Cx Standings

6 vacation days used, pre Belgium trip

8 US states, 3 countries

2 awesome teammates and 1 incredible NECX community

Snowbeard: The Legend of CX Nationals

Brad smiles a lot. He’s a good natured guy. So the snow and bitter cold that visited Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford last weekend didn’t dampen his spirit. It only excited him.

“On race day,” he says, “I got to the course around 10:45am. It was 20 degrees out, with clear skies. By 11 am, it had dropped to 18 degrees with snow flying, but it was so cold that the flakes just fell and didn’t stick to anything.”

“I got three pre-ride laps in,” he continues, “with each one being 100% different than the last time I’d been through. It was a variable I had no control over, but nobody else did either, so I was getting stoked! I pretty much had a smile on my face from 11am until…well, I still have it.”

“At 2pm, it’s still 18 degrees. It’s still snowing. I kept warm and loose until the call ups. I didn’t know where I’d be in a national field, but I landed in the 4th row out of 146 starters. Looking around me I could see maybe four people I have raced against all season. Everyone else was new to me.”

“The excitement kept me warm until the race was on, and then it was basically mayhem for the first part of lap one. The snow covered up the frozen icy ruts that had formed throughout the week. Any line you wanted to take, you couldn’t get to.  The snow never got worse nor let up, so each lap you’d search for the lines everyone else was taking, but they were covered by fresh snow.”

“Everything was a gamble and a scramble. “Every time you had to turn or ride an off camber, you wouldn’t know where you were entering or where you’d exit,” he laughs.

It’s hard to explain what keeps a racer’s mind off the pain in his or her legs, what keeps them going when they’re exhausted, but cyclocrosses heckling tradition might be part of it.

“After a few laps I honed in on people yelling something about my beard,” Brad says, “but I was moving just fast enough not to really understand it. It just kept resonating in my head that something was getting people talking.”

At the line, he finally put it all together, saying, “After 45 minutes of slip sliding and scrambling I crossed the finish line in 21st with my eyelids frozen open, eyebrows caked with ice, and my beard as white as Santa’s. The smile was frozen too.”

Bradford Smith is a full-time bike builder at Seven, and erstwhile leader of the Drifters.

At the (CX) Races, II

Our buddy Geoff has been at it again, this time taking in Orchard Cross and the Shedd Park races. He really captures what it’s like to race cyclocross in New England, although this season was warmer and drier than your typical autumn mudfest.

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