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The latest report from Velo Bella, Melodie Metzger in the USA


9 - 11 December 2005 - US National Cyclocross Championships


Bombogenisis, hot chocolate and crashes


Melodie has included some links to photos - simply click on the links in the story to see them

Every year, US Nationals provides a dramatic end to the season leaving me content to put away my cyclocross bike (usually still covered with mud) till next year.  This year was no exception.  After a snowy and ridiculously cold weekend in Rhode Island, my bike is still sitting in the bike case waiting to be put back together and it is almost Christmas… 


Opting for a more sane departure this round (versus my usual 6am flight time), I scheduled my flight out of San Francisco with several of my teammates to leave Thursday morning at 8:45am.  Unfortunately, my alarm did not go off and I woke up an hour and a half later than planned.  In a panic that probably shed years off my life, I somehow made it through airport security in the nick of time and settled in for a long five hour flight to Rhode Island. 



Seeing snow around the holidays is always somewhat uplifting for me.  I am not sure if it has something to do with my being born and raised in Ohio where we get piles and piles of snow every winter, or if everyone gets that warm feeling when the trees are adorned with a fresh layer of white snow, but Rhode Island sure was beautiful.  Although, having to race in it rather than just looking at it through a window while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate sitting next to a fire puts a different perspective on things…. 

I brought all the cycling clothes I own and was still chilled to the bone for the warm up on Friday.  The temperatures started just above freezing, but dropped rapidly after a single lap on the course, and I was content to call it a day doing the rest of my pre-race day training on the trainer when it started hailing. 

My friend Simon, a fellow sunny San Franciscan, was supposed to race later that afternoon, so I waited to watch him do his thing.  As my teammate Ann and I huddled around the minivan heater marinating in warmth, Simon rummaged around the back of the van stressing over what to wear, and muttering something about it not being this cold back in California.  Turns out his race was cancelled along with the rest of the afternoon races do to dangerous conditions, but not until AFTER he had spent 30 minutes on the trainer outside with four people holding back blowing tent walls to allow him to warm-up in some form of shelter.  The winds were up to 56 km/h at that point, and we were all glad to call it a day, especially the support staff who never has time to stay in the van…! 

American newspapers being ever so informative, we learned we had experienced “bombogenesis” – a unique storm condition that is characterized by “a rapid or extreme drop in pressure” by spending $.50 on the local paper the next day.   Thanks, yeah, it got really cold and awful quickly.



It was a pleasant surprise to awaken to blue skies and a gorgeous dawn, although this was a bit deceiving considering the thermometer was reading well below -6oC when Alex, our fearless team manager, came to pick Simon and I up for our morning races at 0700.  The course was completely covered in snow, but would turn out to be the best conditions of the weekend.  Snow isn’t nearly as bad as mud and ice, which is what it turned into the following day, but more on that later… 

I raced the collegiate division and won by a nice margin, repeating my stint as US National Collegiate Champion from 2004.  The key was to stay calm and relaxed while keeping the bike up right.  Simon got a spot on the podium with his 5th place finish in the Masters 30-35 race, which was supposed to have been run the day before.  Our newest and cutest Bella, Kirsten Inserna, had a great race as well coming all the way from Texas to slop around in the snow with us “big girls.”  (Kirsten)

After the races, our tent became very popular with the hot chocolate, pizza and cookies Barb’s mom and dad had brought for everyone!   



After getting a good night’s sleep, we piled in the minivan for another fun filled day of racing in extreme conditions.  Barb, Ann and I did a warm up lap on the course that was reminiscent of last year’s nationals conditions except much colder.  After two laps we made our way back to the tent and found that both our persons and bikes were completely covered in mud.  Fortunately, Alex and his band of merry Velo Fellas helped get us and our bikes cleaned-up and on the trainers, but most importantly, they made us laugh.

The start for the racing was crazy.  Everyone knew being ahead of the field was important to prevent getting behind crashes and all the mayhem that was destined to occur on a course that was as slick and technical as the one we were presented.  Well, I had an awful start and was stuck behind several crashes.  I then panicked to get back into the top 15 and unlike my zen-like ride the previous day, found myself crashing all over the place. 

The more I panicked the more I crashed.  My last crash, I hit pretty hard and found myself with a large baseball-sized bruise on my leg and a broken shifter cable on one particular off-camber section that was a sheet of ice.  I carefully crawled off to the side of the course and watched riders slide all over as I contemplated what to do next. 

After a couple of guys helped me up and got my bike off the course, Simon came rushing over, put warm gloves on my hands and helped me back to the car.  On our way I cheered Barb, Ann, Erin, and Sami as they came around the course. 

Barb pulled off an impressive 6th place for not having raced in such conditions in almost a year.  Ann put her downhilling skills to use and had an excellent race placing in the top 15!  Erin and Sami hung-on to finish strong, which is better than Christine and I (as well as a good chunk of the field) could say…   

In what is now becoming a US Cyclocross Nationals tradition, all the Bellas, our host housing, and Fellas had dinner, and went on to party till the wee hours of the night.  I made it home to get one hour of sleep before Alex (he never sleeps!) picked us up for our flight back to California….   

I had to take final exams when I returned home the next day, so sorry for the delay in reporting and thanks for reading J

All my best,







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