Maria is crushing it and BELIEVING she can. That’s the big difference she says, believing in yourself. A little life lesson we all should apply not only to bike racing but in everything we do. Read how she faired against the pros in Grand Junction (spoiler alert-she did really well!)
This was the college championships. Colleges were represented by CU, CSU, Fort Lewis, Wyoming and numerous other ones including the host team, Mesa State University. Saturday morning the time trials started. They were split up between college team time trials and then individual time trials followed. All races were women open, with the Cat 4’s separated out. This was my second time trial on my new LAAF time trial bike. I placed second and felt strong till the finish. I didn’t go out to fast and blow up my legs half way through (like I usually do).
The Criterium was at night in downtown Grand Junction. I had never raced a night crit before and the college women’s A and 1 2 3’s started together. There were some strong College A riders and some Pro Women as well. We started fast and kept the momentum going the whole time. Because criteriums make me nervous, due to a wreck that left my femur cracked last fall, I placed goals within the race instead of just a broad goal of number finisher. I wanted to move fluidly within the pack. Hang back and recover, move up to the front to control the pace, take the corners with confidence with riders on each side of me, ride close to other riders, and try to be in the attack group when they jumped. It was a little harder to concentrate because the sun had set at the same time as our start so there were shadows and inconsistencies in the road that you could not make out due to lack of depth perception. Overall you had to just ignore such things or else you would be paying more attention to this instead of the race itself. The official was giving us remaining lap numbers. I ignored all of them, honestly couldn’t see them, wasn’t looking hard enough. I had no idea that it was the last lap. I was in second position and all the sudden everyone started sprinting. I had a delay in processing that went something like this….hmm…why is everyone sprinting? Oh! Is it the last lap? Crap! I had a pack finish and placed fourth. I was overall happy with my experience.
The road race started in Palisade at 10am. College A’s and 1 2 3’s started together again. The race consisted of three laps that were 20.5 miles each and went from the town below, climbed up to a mesa, and then had rollers and flats shaped in a lollypop that brought you back the way you came and back down to town. We started out with a parade lap around town and then as soon as the race left the neutral zone there was a 14% climb. The pack mostly stayed together up the first climb and soon after the attacks started off the front. I used to dread attacks, but lately I kind of enjoy them. This race was particularly interesting to me because of all the different team dynamics that were happening. We had college teammates that were riding for each other, but also teammates from noncollege teams. So there were riders with two teams present. I realized that although a rider was wearing a jersey from the college, they may have other jerseys working for them. I tried to hang in the pack and watch the front for signals to see which wheel I should trust to jump and which wheel may be there to block. It was kind of a mind game. During the second lap a CU college rider jumped and pulled away with a decent gap. A few of us started to do a pace line to catch her. Her college team mate kept causing gaps in the line to slow it down. I told her to move up and she flat out said “that is my teammate up there.” We descended into town to begin our last lap. The town was sort of treated as a mini criterium course. I decided, unwisely, that I was going to bridge the gap up to the CU rider. I rode fast through the town getting closer to the rider. Amy Charity, a Vanderkitten, started to help me towards the beginning of the climb. I just didn’t have the push to propel myself up and over the climb in enough time to crest it with the Exergy rider, Vanderkitten, and the CU rider. I was so close (racers remorse). The only rider left with me was another CU rider. I started to chase and she stayed on my wheel. I gave her the elbow to start pulling and she moved up. But then, I realized that the pace slowed way down. Her gearing was in an easier rear cassette number than mine. It quickly became apparent that she was not going to help us catch the break. She had her CU rider up there AND her Exergy teammate up there too. So, she had an invested interest to keep me out of that break. Once I gave into my fate and the break got a good enough lead away she began working with me to keep the rest of the field away. We finished strong and I placed 4th including the College A’s. We were separated out and I placed third behind two pro riders, Vanderkitten and Exergy. I learned a lot from this experience. Blind reading of the pack, watching for signals such as riders congregating, water and GU consumption, that may signal an attack being planned. But most of all, reflection and knowing where and when not to expending so much energy chasing down someone that the rest of the pack should be chasing too. Every race teaches me so much about myself as a rider. It also helps me to do positive visualizations for my future races.