Lanier was a pretty big supporter of the Littleton Criterium, rallying our team and half the women’s peloton to come to the race…so she could hurt them! 🙂
I put the inaugural Littleton Criterium on my race calendar as a target race at the beginning of the season. Littleton has been my adopted hometown for 15 years, and I have always thought it would be a perfect crit course, with all the cute shops, curbside patio restaurants and bars along Main Street. Located in historic downtown Littleton and billed as part of Western Welcome Week, I knew it would be one of the best crits of the season, and it did not disappoint! Pedal (our LBS) and the Cannondale Development Team were organizing, with a strong focus on safety and partnership with the community. Spectators showed up in force, their numbers growing as the day went on. I volunteered as a course marshal in the morning, and the local residents and people on their way to brunch kept stopping and asking questions about racing. What a great opportunity to showcase our sport!
The only slight damper to my enthusiasm was that my race would be a women’s open race. That meant I would be racing not only fellow Cat 3’s, but also the elite Cat 1’s and 2’s. Naked had numbers, with my Cat 3 teammates Susan Hersey, Sharon Madison and Brittany Jones preregistered. After finishing my volunteer shift, I rode home to change and eat lunch (what a luxury to prep at home!). I returned to see that several elite racers had signed up, including our own Ingrid Alongi which was a welcome surprise! And after asking the patient registration volunteers to check for the umpteenth time, I found that we had a field of 23 racers. I was relieved that we would have a big enough field to make the race exciting, but with a pro and some formidable elites in the field, I mentally prepared myself to be dropped.
I had the most relaxing warm-up of the season, riding with the ever-cool Brittany on the part of the Platte River bike path I know best. I even bird-watched! Was that a white heron fishing in the Platte? OK, this was getting weird. I am never that laid-back and blissed out before a race, and this wasn’t just any race! So I went to the coffee truck, grabbed a double-shot of espresso and drained it. By the time we lined up, I was feeling appropriately shaky and nervous. Then Susan reminded me it was race official Tim Madden’s birthday. We decided to sing Happy Birthday, which lightened things up and embarrassed Tim sufficiently!
Then the race started. Our goal was to hang on to the big girls (except Ingrid, our uber-experienced elite who knows her way around a crit or any other race). The course was fast: an 0.8 mile loop on smooth pavement, with 8 corners and flat as a pancake. The section to watch was on the backside of the course, after a turn led to a narrower single-lane section. There had been a crash in this section during most prior races. Despite several forays into the gutter, we managed to avoid any crashes. I did my best to stay in good position, follow attacks and most of all stay upright. I watched Ingrid carefully, and followed her wheel as much as I could. There was a little rainshower halfway through our 50-minute race, so my attention was occupied for a bit with watching back wheels slide around on the corners. This was a useful distraction, because it didn’t ever seem to slow down, with many attacks between prime laps. A 2-rider breakaway stayed out for a few laps before it was reeled in. The pace was relentless. I thought I was a goner, but Sharon encouraged me to hang on.
Finally, the lap counter showed 5 laps! I moved up, waiting for attacks. A couple of racers moved up in the next few laps, but I kept my position towards the front. 3 laps, 2 laps, the final lap! Into the last two corners, Meg Hendricks and Laurel Rathbun picked up the pace, and I managed to stay with them. By the time we hit the final corner, we had good speed. I clipped the pavement pedaling through the final turn, but stayed up and went as hard as I could to the finish line, with family & friends cheering! I could not believe I had raced to 3rd place! It was incredibly exciting. I am still thrilled, and not a little surprised!
Congratulations to Ingrid, Sharon, Susan and Brittany for their strong finishes in our race, and to Katie Harrer for her 3rd place in the Cat 4 race. We had a great showing in the 4’s race as well, with Melissa Langdon, Caroleanne Williams, Tami Burke and Jenny Lucke also racing in the 4’s. My family, neighbors, teammates, fellow racers, coworkers – thank you for cheering! I heard you this time!!! And finally, special thanks to Pedal and the Cannondale Development Team for partnering with the city of Littleton to put on a fantastic race. Here’s to many years of Littleton Crits to come!