Last weekend marked my *first* race of the season, Louisville Criterium. Well, I’ve done the Lookout Hill Climb and Frostbite TT, but this would mark my first mass start race of many for the season. Luckily, I was so busy that day there wasn’t much time left to be nervous. Morning came early, as Vera, Ingrid, and Julie from Primal Treads helped with mentoring the beginner women (Category 4 riders) for the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado’s Women’s Mentoring Program. We showed up at 7:30 am to get checked in and suited up in our safety nerd vests….and yes I was a safety nerd in elementary school. Also, got to test out my new GoPro Hero 2 that day. Judge me not please–I’m a bike racer, not a video editor. And my computer is beyond slow.
We took the first 10 minutes of the race to explain a few key things about crit racing: no overlapping wheels, ride in your drops if you’re comfortable there, inside leg up when cornering, weight distribution on outside leg/inside arm when cornering, stay relaxed, etc. Our first lap was neutral-meaning we led the lap and had 40 female Cat 4 riders follow us through the lap. As soon as we finished the lap, the race began.
Over 40 minutes on the nearly 1-mile course, Vera helped lead girls through lines in the front while Ingrid, Julie and I helped riders of varying abilities all over the place. All of us spread out over the fun, three corner hill course. With wide open, fast, smooth downhills and sprint after the top of the hill, it was enough to keep us separated until the last three laps. We all pulled off so as not to interfere with the finish of the race.
During the laps, we all worked with them on cornering, learning how to work together, and pushing through uphill, pedaling through corners, drafting, how to get back in the pack after getting lapped, and much more. Also, both Amanda B. and Amanda C. were out there representing us too in the large Cat 4 field. After watching the finish, we stuck around for questioning. Lots of great questions from enthused women about bike racing-woot! Got me thinking that we need to include a Women’s Racing 101 section to our website. Stay tuned for that! Thanks to Ingrid, Vera and Julie for helping out-you ladies were awesome!
Vera and I stayed to cheer Kat on in her Cat 3 race. While she was the lone Naked racer out there, she managed to sprint for a second place finish and avoid a horrific crash in the last few laps. Go Kat!! And yes, we totally high fived when she crossed the line. Instead of sticking around for another 8 hours until my race, I figured I’d be much more productive if I hung out at Jeff’s and took a nap. It’s hard racing at 4 pm because you literally sit around doing nothing all day-unless you’re mentoring of course at dawn:).
I decided to meet up with Ingrid and ride my bike there with her for a warm up and get the prerace nerves out. As soon as we rolled up, we found Joan and Kimberley and devised a plan, and then proceeded to gawk at the competition: Alison Powers (who podiumed at Redlands), Flora Duffy (representing USA in triathlon in London), Meredith Miller to name a few. Trust me, there were many other strong women in that field too. Nothing like being in the best shape of your life and then feeling completely demoralized before you even get on the starting line. But, this is what Colorado racing is about! Where else (besides Northern California as Vera points out) can you race against such stiff competition. It’s humbling but also can provide a bit of an ego boost if you can actually hang in the pack.
So we lined up and had to wait for a crash in the Senior Men’s Cat 3 field to get cleared off the course prior to starting (there were several crashes throughout the day that delayed the race a bit). So while waiting, I didn’t really have a thought in my mind nor the nerves that normally accompany a crit. Maybe I was tired or expected to get shelled in the first lap considering who we were racing with. Either way, I was going to give it the ol’ college try. I’m not paid to do this-in fact I spend a lot of money to do this, so why not have a little fun, eh? My start was less than stellar considering the whistle was blown while we were chatting at the line. I got maybe 4th or 5th wheel at the start and then began the surfing routine that is crit racing. If you’re not making your way to the front, you’re cruising to the back. It’s a vicious cycle.
The crit went by in a flash. From what I recollect, this is what happened in my brain:
- Ingrid got right up to the front and pulled a lap
- Kimberley closed down a gap so after seeing that, I made sure to get up there and help
- I worked to close a gap with Joan coming in to relieve me since we didn’t have anyone in the break
- We grouped together but Julie Emmerman attacked and Meredith and I got on her wheel. We worked together for about 2.5 seconds until it grouped back together again-wish we could have made it stick!
- Joan worked in the last couple laps up the hill to keep the pace high as did Julie
- The sprint literally started in the last turn of the course ALLLLLLL the way up that stupid hill, but I did discover I can get my heart rate up higher than I thought
- Got a 10th place finish and Joan with a 12th place finish, even after all that work
- Apparently after I finished I didn’t realize that Alison took off with 4 laps to go and had a solo victory-damn that girl is strong
- I am also wondering how part time staff can work 14 hours a day on Saturday and repeat on Sunday (and unpaid volonuteers), then work throughout the week UNDER 20 hours. Hint-it’s impossible. Big thanks to Yvonne, Lynn, Chris, Peter, Clint and others out there making sure timing was working, questions answered and many other things to make the race day run as smoothly as possible.
I was not necessarily happy with my finish, but I was most certainly happy with my fitness. Last year, I burst blood vessels in my eyes and tore hamstrings in the middle of races to simply try to keep up. It literally took everything I had and didn’t have to finish at the back of the main pack. This race was a little victory; I didn’t want to die during the race at any point. I actually felt strong and was able to race competitively instead of yo-yoing at the back. If I only possessed the confidence that I belonged in the top spots then I’m certain my performance will improve. Comes with time.
Unfortunately, because Kimberley got an asthma attack in the middle of the race and Ingrid did a ton of work that morning mentoring and in the beginning of the race, they didn’t show in the results. But they worked hard, it should be noted, and without everyone’s work it could have been a much different race. Racing is in the story, not in the results. Very thankful for my teammates out there, especially four strong ones. Looking forward to Boulder Roubaix this Saturday with many of them again and keeping my fingers crossed that the dirt will be kind to me that day. Got a chance to preride the course with Susan the day after the race, followed by climbing with the Curve Inc guys up to Jamestown and Lee Hill. I need all the hills I can get before the Gila!