Sunday, August 11, 2013

USAT Age Group Sprint National Championships

The USAT Age Group National Championships came to Milwaukee this weekend, featuring an Olympic distance race on Saturday and a sprint distance race on Sunday.  The Olympic distance event (which requires qualification) boasts an incredible field of top age-groupers and also serves as a qualifier for Team USA.  The sprint distance event was open to all age groupers and I had the chance to volunteer at it.  I originally signed up to volunteer on the run course along with the Iron Cheerleader and 3 other members of the Newbie Herd, but when we arrived this morning they were over-staffed on the run course and under-staffed on the bike course, so we agreed to help out there while the Iron Cheerleader stayed on the run course.

Our day began with a walk up the long hill onto the Hoan Bridge - which is normally closed to pedestrian traffic.

Once we were up top, we split into two groups to man the rubber mats covering the expansion joints on the bridge.

These nasty joints suck to drive over and are so wide that a bike tire could get caught and cause serious injury to the riders - especially at the speeds they were traveling downhill.
Our job was to direct the riders over the mats as they traveled both down the hill and back up it and to reposition the mat as needed - we had to do this quite often since all the bikes traveling over them made them move a lot!

From our position on the bridge, A and I had  great views of the swim venue, Lake Michigan, the City, and a water treatment plant.

Before long, the lead cyclist came over the hill.  From there on, there was a steady stream of athletes.  A and I were cracking up as they popped up from their saddles at our shouts of 'Speed Bump'!
Some of the athletes looked like they were hurting, and I didn't blame them. They'd had a rough climb to the top of the bridge and the knowledge that they'd hit the turnaround point and have to climb it again in reverse.  Others had the biggest smiles on their faces - like they couldn't believe that they were actually at the Age Group National Championships!  They were all incredible to watch.
A & I screamed and cheered for every single one of them, complete with an impromptu dance party and singing of Lady Gaga tunes, until the very last athlete made her way back up the hill.  She was last by several minutes, had the sweep vehicle right on her tail, and she didn't quit. That takes a lot of guts (at least in my opinion).

Once she passed us by, our duties were complete, so the four of us made our way back down to the finish area, grabbed a snack, and chatted about our race plans for the rest of the season - and next season!  The USAT Age Group Nationals will be in Milwaukee again next year, and we're all seriously considering going for it.  After all, how many people can say they raced in a national championship in their hometown?


April said...

Sounds like you not only had fun, but you found some inspiration today!

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about the region but the views are fantastic!

Mary said...

Occasionally this place has its moments.

Mary said...

I'm really thinking about racing it next year.