I feel it is important to share the good, the bad and the ugly regarding my first season racing. This Wednesday’s criterium race doesn’t quite fit any of those descriptions — it falls more into the ‘disappointing’ category. The highlight of the race was that Beth came with our whippets and my friend Beth from Boulder came to watch too!
Let’s just say I got off to a bad start. After I found a place to park (…one of the lucky ones!) in front of the Food Share building, I went around to the back of my Subaru to get my bike and gear. Wouldn’t you know it, Pogo had a flat tire. It is no big deal to have to change the tire but I was a little concerned with how long it might take and how much it would eat into my warm-up time. I set about the task at hand and watched several other racers head off to the registration area as I put in a new tube and got everything back in working order. Once that was done, I quickly gathered up my race number, my water bottle, gloves, helmet etc. The registration area is about a quarter to a third of a mile from the parking lot. There was a line, but since my race was up first, I would be allowed to cut if needed. When I got to the front, I was asked for my ACA and US Cycling licenses. DRAT! They were back at the car. Nothing I could do except ride back and get them. By this time, it was mere minutes before my group was scheduled to start. As I was riding back from my car, with my licenses, one of the other racers mentioned that our race numbers should be pinned on the right this week instead of the left as they had to change the start/finish line. Guess which side my number was still on….
I finished the registration process and hustled over to the start line. One of my Blue Sky Velo teammates. John, ran over and started unpinning my race number to move it from the left to the right. Apparently, they were allowing folks to have it on either side, but my teammate didn’t know that. He was still working in moving the number as my group rolled out for its neutral lap. Another 30 -40 seconds and my number was finally pinned back on — but my race group was well down the road by this time. I took off at a sprint to catch up with them (on the ‘neutral’ lap) so I would be in the pack when the race started at the end of the neutral lap. John came riding up along side as I was chasing them down and helped bridge me to the group. I was huffing and puffing though. Oh, and then… the race was on! So much for a warmup!
It took me a few laps to catch my breath and get my systems all running at ‘race’ speed. There was a breeze that made riding the back stretch more difficult than usual for the riders at the front of the pack. That was not me. I found a quiet place in the middle about 3 rows back from the front riders. It was a good position for me. I was within striking distance of the front riders, but protected from the wind. By the third or fourth lap, the men’s SM Cat 4 & 5 riders caught our group (SW Cat 4) . The pack was now 20-25 riders strong. There were some squirrelly riders in the pack (mostly guys!) and I had to be VERY careful about where I stuck my front wheel and how I took the corners. I was extremely impressed by the way the women in the group handled themselves and their bikes.
Before the men caught us, one of the junior riders (also on the course the same time we were) was riding right in front of our entire pack and without warning, or signaling, just sat up. Not a bright move when a dozen riders are bearing down on you at 20 mph!!! The lead women had to jam on their brakes and ride around him — I saw it coming and was able to adjust without a problem. It did catch a few riders off guard though. And then, on one of the later laps, one guy misjudged the corner, had too much speed to negotiate the turn and shot so far wide that he ended up going up and over the curb into the field! Luckily, no one else was involved in that adventure. I am continually amazed at how fast things are happening during the race. It is critical that riders stay focused, alert and loose.
We probably rode a dozen laps or so and with a couple laps to go, I was riding exactly where I wanted to be in the pack. I had my eyes on Michelle Stoll and Cathy Nicolleti and was watching their every move. Michelle rode at the front early in the race and was just behind the leaders as we entered the final lap. Cathy had stayed tucked in on the inside edge near the curb. She wasn’t going to ride any extra distance if she could help it. There were also a couple of other women in front of me who were also riding strong. My plan was to stay put until the final stretch and then cut out wide and sprint on the outside down to the finish. The pace picked up for the final lap as soon as we crossed the start/finish line. We had been riding along at 20-22 mph. Almost immediately, the pace rose to 24-25 mph. I like having my computers during the race — I just love watching the data (I know, I’m supposed to be racing, not watching). I had not expected the pace to increase this much and I found it difficult to keep up with the pack. I did not fall off the back, but neither was I in any position to “cut wide and sprint on the outside”. When we rounded the final turn, I tried to stay with my plan. I asked my legs to sprint…. and they flat ignored me. They had nothing left.
I guess I had gone to the well one too many times. I was disappointed in myself but also knew that it was my body’s way of telling me that it either needed more rest before a race or perhaps a little bit of warmup before kicking it into high gear! Five days earlier I had ridden the Boulder Roubaix, I also rode 25-30 miles each of the next 3 days… guess my body had a right to be tired! It was still a blast!!!!