Katie started racing this year and she’s now your Cat 4 State Criterium Champion. Amanda, Emily, Tami and Jenny did everything they could to get a win for the team and whadayano – it worked!
If you told me at the beginning of the race season that I’d get on the podium in a crit this year I would have laughed at you. My first race ever was four months ago, it was a crit and it was a mess. It was fun, but I had no idea what I was doing. Luckily, I landed on the best team ever. From that first race I’ve had teammates generously sharing their knowledge and strategy, giving me pointers and feedback. “Don’t be the sacrificial lamb”, “Don’t burn all of your matches”, “Feather your brakes”, “Look through the corners; wide, apex, wide”, “Stay in front but don’t lead”. I was listening but it took me a while to execute because I like to learn things the hard way.
The crit is a tough race in general because there is strategy involved, it’s fast, it’s crowded, it’s technical and position is everything. The crit is a tough race for me mentally because all I want to do is attack, and that’s not how it’s done. I continued to ride crits all season specifically to improve my bike skills not because I was particularly good at them. Along the way, I learned how to be patient. It wasn’t until Dead Dog that I finally “got it”. I had no cat 4 teammates at that race and I had to rely on what they’d told me in the past. I won a prime that race and finished 4th. I was pretty proud of that performance because it was finally a smart race.
Fast forward to this weekend. Tami, Jenny and I showed up to race the Firestone Crit on Saturday. As we were warming up, Tami commented on how strong she thought I was and instead of brushing off that compliment maybe I started believing it. I surprised myself with a 3rd place finish that day. Whoa. How did that happen? That gave me a little boost of confidence going into the State Championship.
Tami, Amanda, Emily, Jenny and I were all prepared to ride Longmont. I was feeling very fortunate to have that many teammates present. The race started and I dropped to the back. I like to start crits this way so that I can watch how everyone else is riding, I can get a feel for the course, get comfortable and get rid of the nerves. I said to Tami at one point, “What’s going on here, are we racing?” I was joking…of course we were racing but I was feeling pretty relaxed. She fired up and pulled me into the pack. “Here we go…” I thought. I found myself in the middle of the pack and I hate being in the pack. So, I did what any smart rider would do and I looked for Amanda Bye. She is arguably one of, if not the best technical rider out there. I knew that I was not going to get in trouble if I could stay on her wheel and follow her lines. When I could find her, it worked.
Prime lap. There was a free week of cross fit on the line. We were approaching the line and no one was going for it so I thought to myself, “Hey, I like cross fit!” and made a last second effort. I thought another rider edged me out but she did not. I came away with it. I was planning on getting reeled back in by the group, but another rider attacked and I was not about to let that happen. It was on. We had a gap and we went with it. We rode together for a few laps and that’s when I realized it was too early. I looked back a few times while we were out in front thinking, that this was not a good plan. I started to soft pedal and was relieved when we got caught. It was a mistake I’d made all too often in the past and this time I knew better. During the middle of the race I tried to sit back and recover as much as possible. It takes every ounce of self-control I have to sit back and let someone else do the work.
3 laps to go. I had Zinn to the left of me and Bye in front. Zinn says to me, “We have to get organized” and by organized she meant “I’m going to run everyone into the ground”. She and Amanda took off and the pace quickened. I was not in good enough position to go with them, or I would have. They lead for a few laps, putting the hurt on the rest of the field. They successfully tired a lot of people out which was key going into the last lap. I knew I still had some gas left but I’m not sure very many other people did. Emily and Amanda had done an amazing job and I seized the opportunity that they had just created.
Last lap. Part of having a good strategy is knowing what your weaknesses are. My weaknesses are cornering and descending. Not that this crit had any big descent, but there was a downhill with some turns that were just enough to make me uncomfortable in a pack. I knew if I had any chance at all I’d have to be in front and alone, picking my own lines without dumping speed. If I could emerge in front after that section, it might be enough to power down the flat and up the hill to the finish. So I decided half way through the race that I needed to try to lead the last lap, and luckily my teammates set me up beautifully for this purpose. When I went, it was no longer a crit in my head; it was a time trial. After all, if you’re going to go, go hard. I was still in front at the end of the downhill, as planned but still a surprise. At this point, I fully expected to happen what usually happened to me in almost all previous crit races. The Woosh. The Woosh is what I call the sound of multiple riders flying by me going into the finish after coming off of a downhill. But, there was no Woosh today. I jumped out of the saddle and started the sprint. My bike was rocking back and forth so hard that I almost dumped it. I could hear someone grunting behind me and I could hear someone screaming at me from crowd to go, and all I could see was the finish line. I realized I was going to win it if I could hold on. I crossed the finish line and heard my name called – in shock. Are you serious? Did that just happen? Where are my teammates? Surely we have one more lap to go…
The girls started calling me “State Champ.” That’s weird. I won a crit and it happened to be a big one. That’s not my win that’s the team’s win. Thank you ladies, for everything!