Quick entry just so my racing journal is complete.
I left work early (for me, anyway) and headed north as if I was going home. But, instead of going home, I turned off at Hwy 52 and headed west towards the big IBM plant. I was headed for a small industrial park and the first in an 8-week series of criteriums sponsored by Ideal Market, Whole Foods market and Primal wear (cycling apparel).
It has been on the order of 25 years since I raced in a criterium for AT&T at the Denver Corporate Games. I vaguely remember the excitement of the race, the intensity of the competition and the pain associated with riding ‘all-out’ for an extended period of time. Today, more vividly, I remember the thrill of speed, tight quarters, turning sharply and jumping out of the saddle after the turns to get back up to speed as quickly as possible and the sense of accomplishment after it was all over.
Let’s be honest — I had butterflies as I drove to the start. I was downright nervous. Would I be fast enough not to get dropped, or even worse, lapped!? Could I dig deep enough and push myself hard enough to be competitive? Once there, I found the registration area easily and waited in line with all the other racers. There were several categories — I would be racing in the SW-4 category. No age category this time. I would be up against 20, 30 and 40 year-olds. I also saw a gal who is in her early 60s. She takes her racing seriously — races at the Boulder Indoor Track and has already gotten 2-3 other races under her belt this season!
Finally, time came for my group to race. Our group went a short time after a group of junior riders and ‘Newbie’ men. All of us were on the course at the same time — and it was crazy! We started with a neutral lap and then the race was on. The pace ramped up quickly and hovered around 20 mph. I drifted towards the back of the pack and tried to get a feel for what was going on around me. I knew that the Rocky Mount-Izzie riders would be working together and were probably would dictate the outcome of the race.
The men’s group came around and lapped us on our 2nd or 3rd lap. Not knowing that maybe I shouldn’t, I took the wheel of the tail end of the men’s group and joined their pace line. A few other women did the same thing and we were quickly swept away from the rest of the women. I stayed on the back of the men’s group for a lap or so and then realized that the pace was unsustainable for me. I sat up and drifted back towards the women’s group again — but, in doing so, I made a critical error. I lost too much speed so that when the women’s group came up on me, the Rocky Mount – Izzie riders flew right by me. It happened so fast that I didn’t have time to react and was left off the back. I spent the rest of the race chasing them down. There was one other rider, Wendy, who was also caught in no-man’s land (or no-woman’s land). I caught up with her and stayed on her wheel long enough to catch my breath. Then I suggested we work together — since she was pulling and needed a break, she was all for it! The lead group was too far ahead by this point — we were not going to catch them. I decided to sit on Wendy’s wheel until the last lap and then make an attempt to out-sprint her to the finish. I never got the chance though. When I thought there was still one lap to go, we crossed the start/finish line and the race director signaled that the race was over. And there I was, tucked neatly behind Wendy…. finishing 6 instead of 5, instead of being a contender in the lead group.
Today was full of lessons. Patience being the biggest one. Next week, I’ll be staying with the women’s group the entire time and will be watching the Rocky Mounts-Izzie racers VERY carefully!