Photography from Trek Cup by Kevin Scott Batchelor
With Abby Watson & Anna Lisa Fish
Intro by Julie Krasniak
At The Athletic, we have been growing our cyclocross super amateur team for the last 3 years, and wait for it — that's about how long we have been in business. I know, we are babies. Cyclocross has been a big part of why we are here and do what we do.
Three years into our cyclocross program Abby Watson and Anna Lisa are the result of this excitement around Portland, and when I realized my schedule couldn't allow me to go to Wisconsin, it was no surprise that Anna-Lisa and Abby stuck to the initial plan we made, go to Madison, race the Trek cup, distribute high fives and have some fine beverages.
This year was extra special because we had just designed our best to date skinskuit and after three year of coordination everybody have the right bike and tires to race! Yes, we are just like you, we often end up racing a really muddy race with dry tires because we can not have 8 pairs of wheels storage in our garage for the just in case - so I’m really impress that Abby jumped in the UCI race, it’s definitely an experience anybody which is walking on the line of ‘’recreational pro’’ should do despite the lack of training or material support. In fact, I think if you line up at the start line and your biggest strength is fun, you are already winning. Here are her words with some Anna-Lisa side notes added for flavor!
ABBY WATSON: In the weeks leading up to the Trek CX Cup, Annalisa and I must have asked the question “why are we doing this?” at least a dozen times. Our questioning was rooted in different elements of the trip: with busy schedules outside of cycling, why was she bothering to travel from Oregon to race in Wisconsin and why was I bothering to race in the Elite Women’s field against pros when I’m decidedly an amateur?
ANNALISA FISH: The weekend was a big event where people came prepared to race bikes, but I certainly wasn’t prepared. My business — Endurance PDX — has been growing all spring and summer and that had been my focus. I’ve been riding some, but not nearly enough to compete at the elite level. I told Abby long ago that I’d race the category 2 race and that too, would be a stretch. Going into the weekend knowing that my attitude and self-satisfaction mattered, but results didn’t, was a different kind of pressure. I wanted to race my bike with little training, go hard, have a good attitude and be stoked for those who raced better than me; what a tall order!
AW: For me, the bike race was really an excuse to go to Madison. I’d lived there for a short but fun period of time and hadn’t been back in four years. Having the chance to ride some old routes, hang out with friends and see how Trek, my former employer, has reinvented itself as far as cyclocross goes was enough to spark my interest in this race. I was confident in the trip being a good idea, but less confident that I should be lining up with the Elite Women for an early season UCI C1 race. But let’s get real - I love the challenge and relish an opportunity to surprise myself. With nothing on the line, I had nothing to lose (except some money on a UCI license). Or so I convinced myself.
Editors Note: At least the three nerds in the back row look like they're having fun.
How it Went Down: Our plan for this trip was to race bikes, but also to have a fun vacation. A bike racing vacation, if you will. The balancing act between having fun and being serious can be tricky if you’re in the wrong company or at the wrong event. But everything about the event and the people contributed to this weekend of cyclocross racing in Wisconsin being my favorite bike race vacation to date.
AF: I wanted to check out Trek, meet some solid people (ahem Emily!), watch some world class bike racing and have a good attitude about my own race. I had no idea it would turn out to be one of the best weekends of the year.
Riding with the EURO PROS - when you pre-ride with Sven Nys - NBD
AW: We got the trip off to a solid start by riding out to Trek from Madison and, with some trepidation, crashing an "employee only" skills clinic on the course hosted by none other than Sven Nys. In addition to Sven, Ellen Van Loy and a bunch of riders from the Telenet-Fidea team were in attendance. After checking out some features on the course as a big group and receiving some tough love Euro style advice, Ellen pulled the women aside and asked if we wanted to ride laps of the course with her. We all nodded very enthusiastically and proceed to follow her around the course, working harder than we realized, and rendering ourselves tired, hungry and thirsty in no time. We took photos, laughed a lot, and talked excitedly about how fun and hard the course would be to race. Still high off the excitement of being back in Madison, riding the course with legends and seeing friends that I’d missed, we went to dinner and drinks and ended the night with belly aches from laughing.
AF: What a great way to kick the weekend off, a course preview and practicing lines with some of the world’s best cyclocross talent. My legs were a bit cooked after that afternoon!
AW: Friday flew by. We rode a few miles around town, got ourselves organized for the weekend’s racing, and geeked out on bike stuff with people at Trek. Midwesterners sure are nice; with merely a mention of toe spikes we had three people volunteer to help us find some. And, not just any toe spikes, but some crazy CX specific spikes that Bontrager came out with last year aptly named the Sabertooth. Before we knew it, Annalisa and I each had a set and were well on our way to race day.
AF: Trek is a bike nerd’s playground. I had a bit of a sensory overload with all the sweet bikes and new technology. I was so excited to check out the fit studio and geek out about saddles and biomechanics.
AW: I’ll spare you the race report blow-by-blow from Saturday and Sunday, but both Annalisa and I held our own and were happy with our races. The course was hard, it was hot, and the competition was great. The only bummer for me about racing in the Elite field was not being able to actually watch the Elite Women’s race. But, I hear that Katie Compton looked super smooth, Ellen Noble rode like a bat out of hell, and the rest of the field was stacked, strong, and fun to watch. So if Trek winds up posting the videos on their site or on YouTube, I’d be excited to see the race from a different perspective. Not only was the women’s race allegedly super fun to watch, but they had equal payouts to the Elite Men on both days, so that’s worth supporting as a racer, a fan and someone that wants to see the sport grow.
AF: The race itself was no doubt memorable, but not quite as memorable as the time spent out of competition. Approaching the weekend with a different perspective allowed me to enjoy the company of folks that make up our cycling community like never before.
AW: I did get to watch the Elite Men’s race, which was amazing. We dove right into some spectator silliness while cheering for some local guys (keep an eye out for a video where we may be featured carrying around some signs for Bontrager Saddle Product Manager, Kyle Russ), and watched current world champion Wout Van Aert fly around the course. It was pretty nuts to see the speed of the euros and to have such big names in the tiny town of Waterloo, WI.
Looking back to our initial thoughts on why we made the trip to Madison, I feel like our experience at Trek CX Cup couldn’t have gone any better. Being able to line up at the start of a race with some of the best in the world on a Sunday and go back to a busy life and a full-time job on a Monday is a bit of a balancing act, and it helps to be in the company of people who keep it all in perspective. Because we do this for fun. Big hearts to Emily, Andrew, and everyone else from Trek who made us feel like part of the family, and to Annalisa for being such a great travel bud.