I wasn’t sure I was still going to be alive to race in the criterium, but by some miracle, I survived the road race and my reward was another race!
The weather in Steamboat Springs in the fall is really unpredictable. The forecast was for some very chilly temperatures for the start of the senior women’s category 4 (SW4) race. Perhaps it is because there is not the same spectator crowd appeal with a women’s race as there is a men’s race — but it seems as if the women are always one of the earliest starts on race day. This was no exception. I arrived at the start early so I would be able to find on-street parking. No problem. When I showed up 45 minutes ahead of the start time, I was just about the only one there. And, with good reason — it was COLD! I was dressed in my cold riding gear – long sleeves, over my base layer, a wind jacket, tights, long fingered gloves and my turtle fur helmet liner. Another layer would have felt nice as I was getting ready. I knew that once I started moving that I’d warm up some and that by race time the adrenaline would probably be thinking about shedding layers.
The course was a big rectangle, that ran along side the main drag – so no one driving on Main Street was inconvenienced by the racing. The course was probably a little less than a mile in length and went counter clockwise which was nice because if there’s one thing I’m comfortable with – from my days riding track – it is left turns. At one end of town the course had a one-block climb that was not awful, but one that certainly got your attention (especially on the fourth or fifth time around!). After the climb you were at the high point of the course and got to cruise downhill to the other end some 5-6 blocks away. Then a 90 degree left hand turn, a 2-block straight-away then the 5-6 block incline back to the original climb.
I warmed up slowly and took careful note of the road conditions along the course. I made several passes. There was a short row of port-a-lets on the far side of the third corner. They were bright purple – hard to miss. About 3 minutes before the start of the race I was coming around the third corner for the last time. I knew it was gonna be close, but I stopped anyway. I’m sure it was just nerves, but I had to pee. I rolled up to the start line with less than a minute to spare. Before I knew it — we were off! I had lined up at the back of the pack since I suspected that the younger SW4 riders were going to be considerably faster than me. I figured I would do OK in my age category, but knew I was out of my league riding as a SW4. The way the race was organized, although we were all riding SW4, the SW25+, SW45+ and SW55+ (that’s me!) cyclist were given places and points as far as the Colorado Cycling Association was concerned. So, for me, all of the Steamboat Springs stage races were between me and the two other SW55+ racers. Neither of them were comfortable in a criterium setting. I actually am very comfortable riding close and fast and for the first couple of laps I hung with the younger riders. After that though, I started to fall off the back, as did several of the SW45+ riders. Around and around we went. I joined two of the SW45+ riders and we made our own little pace line. We shared the work and kept the lead pack in our sights for another lap or two. The lead group was flying! With 3 laps it looked like the lead group was going to over take us. We fought hard and held them off for one more lap. But, as we came down the home stretch on the next to last lap, it was over for us. They did, in fact lap us.
It was a great race. I beat the other two SW55+ racers and took the win (for our age group). Since there was no recognition of the age categories by the Steamboat Springs race organizers, I was done. I’d had my fill of racing so I packed up my bike and headed out of town. It was a gorgeous fall day and I drove the back way home, down Poudre Canyon. I spent the entire drive reflecting on all the fun and success I’d had racing over the last three days. What a great way to end the season! Can’t wait until next year!!!!