Shannon Koch goes gold and bronze at Master’s Nationals

With Shannon Koch

Shannon Koch has been winning races since February this year. In August, she crowned her impressive season by contesting her first Master’s National Championships. It’s safe to say it went well: She scored a bronze in the road race and a gold in the crit, almost lapping the field in the latter.

After she spent one final month bagging yet more wins, Shannon finally slowed down enough for us to catch up with her (we should specify it was by email, not on the bike), and she slowed down long enough to share her thoughts on the National Championships weekend.

Refreshed and punchy

Every race begins well before the race actually begins, and Shannon’s Nats were no different, with her coach recommending a change in training to account for the long, successful campaign she’d already had in 2023.

“I decreased my VO2 specific work and increased my volume,” she explained, “which allowed me to recover from an already long crit season and show up to the race weekend refreshed while still maintaining my punchiness.” And, well, it worked – but we’ll get to that later. First, here’s the requisite rundown of equipment and fueling.

The requisite rundown of equipment and fueling

“I’ve been blessed to ride a Pinarello F this year,” Shannon told us. To our understanding, that’s Pinarello’s beat-em-up, big-watt gladiator of the superbike F family, more stable and punchier than the GC-chasing Dogma.

Pinarello’s not super forthcoming about it (their marketing materials are curtly dismissive: “Born to race, no discussion”), but Shannon was open to sharing her thoughts: “It’s fast, it’s light, and it’s very responsive.”

That’s feedback she also extends to the SRAM Red AXS drivetrain and Princeton Carbon Works hoops, which have also proven their reliability by weathering the abuse of touring the continent and bumping bars.

“I’ve loved this set up for crits, especially, but my equipment was pretty much on point, and I didn't really have any mechanical issues on either race day. Super thankful for that!”

Outside of the watts needed to double medal, Shannon said her, “biggest challenge was staying hydrated and cool during (and leading into) the races. It was August in Augusta, GA… what more can I say,” she said, saying more: “It was extremely hot! So hot in fact that our road race was shortened due to the dangerous temperatures; this made hydration and fueling essential both days.”

For the first day, the road race, Shannon was taking two bottles (one water and one EFS-PRO) and two Liquid Shots every hour – a net electrolyte intake of over 2,000mg per hour. For the crit on day two, Shannon took a Liquid Shot on the start line and another LS with a bottle of EFS-PRO on the bike for caloric maintenance. That’s standard for her, but she did make one change.

“Normally I'd take that additional Liquid Shot halfway through the race,” she said, “but since the race was called short due to inclement weather, I never ended up taking that extra one.” 

Competition is competition

Since she just became eligible for Master’s racing, Shannon found herself in an unfamiliar position as she prepared for Nationals.

“This was my first go around at Master's Nationals, so I was pretty unfamiliar with my competition. I've spent a few years now racing against generally the same group of girls on the US criterium circuit, but these were all new faces to me!” Despite the unfamiliarity with the riders she was competing against, it was still competition, and her expansive palmarès proves that she knows how to handle that.

“I had a general race strategy for both days based on my own strengths. I intended to stick to that, adapting as needed based on how the race unfolded. I'd done the training and knew if I raced savvy – and to the best of my abilities – I would be just fine.” And she was, even if the weekend didn’t turn out as successfully as she’d hoped.

Lighting the fire

“I stuck to my race strategies for the most part in the road race, aside from one critical mistake that ended with me settling for bronze that day.” While that’s a result that most of us racers would be very satisfied with, Shannon isn’t a racer like most of us.

“I was pretty disappointed, and I went through the range of whys, what ifs, etc. Yes, a bronze medal is something to be proud of, but knowing you're fully capable of the win but making some silly mistakes can be a hard pill to swallow,” she lamented.

“However, I regrouped, got my head straight and focused on smashing the crit the next day! The way I was feeling at the start, I knew that if I got a small gap I could turn it into a big one. I rode my own race, stuck to my plan and trusted my instincts – and it definitely paid off,” she said. “I knew I was going to win when I got a little bit of daylight on the chasers after I attacked.”

For Shannon, the highlight of the race weekend was during that attack, when so many of her friends and competitors from Florida were there cheering her on. “I felt energized – like I could carry on at that pace forever. The gap kept growing, and that with the crowd just added more fuel to my fire.” That fire burned almost too hot, though, and she pulled up as she approached the back of the field.

“I really was in a groove with no intention of slowing down until I realized I was about to lap the field. I didn't want to interfere with their sprint, so at that point I was able to sit up, enjoy the last few laps and let it sink in.”

The fire still burns

A month on and she’s still singing the event’s praises: “The atmosphere at Masters Nationals is something totally different than I’ve experienced before. There were so many strong women that are hard working, supportive, but still competitive, who all come together to just bring out the best in each other.”

Given that glowing review, it’s safe to say the fire that propelled her during the crit is still burning, and that Shannon will be back to defend her title in 2024.

October 12, 2023 — First Endurance

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