Tag Archives: Road Racing
Kim snags the top step in the CSU Oval Criterium! Read more on how riding a little less may have helped her ride to victory!
This Sunday I drove up to Fort Collins to race the CSU Oval Criterium. Although I had the opportunity to race twice in Arizona for the early season VOS and TBC races, this would be my first Colorado Race. As I was driving up, I made the decision that I wanted to start it off well, with exciting and aggressive racing, risk taking, trusting my training, and mental fortitude. I told Marcus, “I think I can win this race!” This goal was immediately threatened by a bit of unexpected traffic due to multiple accidents, adding a solid 30 minutes to what is typically an hour drive. I had even planned what I thought would plenty of margin for the drive. I began to feel a bit frazzled, compulsively glancing at the clock, as one by one, the minutes remaining before my race start elapsed. I took a breath… this entire year has been a lesson in controlling the controllables, and breathing deep and finding calm in the many variables that are outside my grasp. For anyone who thinks bike racing has no relevance to “real life”, you are mistaken. Bike racing has taught me invaluable lessons about planning well but taking the inevitable surprises in stride, in a way that has served me well far beyond the race course.
We arrived at the CSU campus 45 minutes before my start time, and Marcus dropped me off as close as he could get to race registration before finding a parking spot. Thankfully I’ve now developed quite a streamlined routine, so although 45 minutes from car to start line is far from ideal, it’s not impossible. Registration completed, bibs/jersey/shoes/helmet/sunglasses on and beet juice drinken (why Marcus, equally fluent in the pre-race checklist, pumped my tires and put chain lube on), and I still had 15 minutes to spin around before the start. I returned to my previously set goal, before the traffic and rushed preparation and premature adrenaline rush. Despite all those, I wanted to win this race, and there was no reason why I shouldn’t. One of my biggest challenges in racing has been learning to take risks and push beyond my comfort zone. Trusting that the training I’ve done is enough, and my legs can handle the load. So I decided that today, there would be no giving up. I would allow my body to get to a new level. Far too many people are held back by the fear of what they may not do that they never find out what they can do. I resolved that I would rather fail because I’d exceeded my limit then finish having not even attempted to reach it.
From the first lap I raced aggressively, driving pace, attacking, chasing, counter-attacking. I was in a glorious place of mental clarity, purpose and determination. I timed my moves well, and trusted my training. As the race went on, the field was slowly whittled down, with several riders losing contact with the group, and several more just hanging on the tail end. With five laps to go I was still feeling strong, and began to put myself in position for the finish. I marked two of the other riders, who I judged as among the strongest, and patiently waited, as the familiar cat and mouse interactions unfolded. With one lap to go, one rider went, attacking hard off the front, but my marked riders didn’t jump, and neither did I. We kept the pace steady, and I made sure to stay near the front. In too many races, I’ve been forced to let off the throttle in my finish as I tried to move around riders who’d run out of gas before the line, and I wanted to finish this race knowing that I had given it all. We were closing the gap between the lone rider ahead, and caught her with less than 500 meters before the finish. I began my sprint earlier than I typically do, before the final bend of the oval that the course is named for, and didn’t look back.
In this moment of temporary pain, as I kept my eyes just beyond the finish line, I took my first win of not only this season, but of the last two. My entire being felt a rush of something I can only describe as gratitude, pride, resolution, and acceptance all rolled into one soul-warming experience. It was almost as if in this win, some of the broken pieces were coming back together. This year has been the most challenging one I’ve had in quite a while. A broken neck, sub-par race results, personal and professional challenges and changes, and set-back after set-back left me wondering if everything I was doing was in vain. Despite my best attempts, some of these circumstances and additional time commitments impacted my training, and my volume was slightly lower than it has been in previous years. I questioned whether I would have built enough base or be in form by race season, but I knew I could only do my best, which I had. After the race I jokingly said to my husband, “I guess not riding as much this year served me well!” He gently smiled, and replied, “I think adversity serves you well.” Although the circumstances of this year are far from what I have chosen, I have done my best to take them in stride and become a stronger person. I have been learning that measuring effort solely by outcome will sooner or later leave you feeling uncertain and discouraged. Hard work, integrity, and endurance in the face of trial is never in vain. It may take longer to see why or how, but it will come. This past Sunday I got a small taste of that delicious fruit that comes from never giving up.
Melissa recaps one of the perks of being Naked Women’s Racing team and club member – clinics taught by the pros! Thank you Jen Sharp and Alison Powers for helping us ride safer and smarter in the races to come!
One of the many benefits of being part of such a great women’s cycling team is having the opportunity to participate in skills clinics. We were fortunate to learn from the best of the best athletes and coaches, Alison Powers and Jennifer Sharp. The two coaches met up with 20 women from the Naked team and shared their expertise with us on riding and racing in a pack out on the road.
There were several ladies there that have been on the team for a few years, but there were also many new faces that participated. It was a great opportunity for us to meet our new teammates and share in this experience together.
There were many skills that Alison and Jen taught us. The most valuable piece of information I took away from the clinic was “protecting your box.” This is the area from your headtube to drop bars to the edge of your front wheel. If you can keep this area clear from other riders, you can be more confident that you won’t go down in a crash. This was valuable to me because I went down in a crit last season and it has been a challenge for me to become comfortable positioning myself in the middle of a fast-paced pack of racers.
We also practiced various types of pacelines through Cherry Creek State Park. I know that something everyone was able to improve was “making your bubble smaller.” We practiced this by riding much closer to one another in the pacelines.
Today was about learning new skills and getting outside of our comfort zones. Most of us agreed that we gained a lot from this clinic and are eager to put it into practice!
Natalia not only raced her first full season, she did it on the road and the mountain bikes! Read about how she dove in head first, what she learned, and what she is taking on to next year!
It’s hard to believe that road racing season is over. To get ready for the season I spent countless hours in the saddle and endured every possible weather condition on the planet. I have ridden my bike in temperatures ranging from freezing to triple digits, rain, snow, hail, gusty winds, sand and thunder storms, but I loved every minute of it. Well, maybe not at the time, but the thought of getting stronger always kept me going. I really believe cyclists must be the toughest athletes out there. We love riding our bikes so much that the elements never stop us and many times when we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere discovering new roads with no cell phone coverage, so quitting is not an option and we have no choice but keep on pedaling.
For me this was my first full year of racing so I didn’t know what to expect. Racing and leisurely riding are two completely different things. I tried all disciplines from road racing, time trialing, crits, hill climbs, and even mountain bike racing. I have been cycling most of my life and I love climbing mountain passes so I thought this would be my strength. I did some mountain biking in the past and bought a new bike not thinking much of it. I didn’t even consider racing it when I bought it. The last mountain bike I owned was about two decades ago and the technology has advanced quite a bit since then. My new toy has huge 29-inch wheels and when I ride it I feel like a little kid again. It has full suspension, disk brakes, and it’s just so much fun to ride so I thought I would try racing it because why not. As the season begun, I quickly realized I didn’t enjoy hill climbs, not only because I would get dropped but it was so painful that I wasn’t able to enjoy the beautiful scenery around me like I did in the past. My goal this season was to overcome my fear of crit racing but unfortunately my first crit ended early due to a crash. Luckily my injuries weren’t serious, my bike was ok, and I was able to race the next weekend. I didn’t want to end my racing season early so I didn’t take another chance. I’m hoping to forget about this unpleasant experience so I will try it again next season. Time trailing wasn’t my favorite but I will definitely do more of it again next year. Road races can be intimidating as they typically are longer, but I discovered that this was my type of a race. I am not a sprinter or climber; however I have good endurance and can push myself after riding long distances. I also learned the importance of working with teammates and even your opponents and how to strategize in order to win. I just wish we had more road races here in Colorado. After taking my new mountain bike for a few short rides I signed up for 18 Hours of Fruita. I never raced a mountain bike, I never rode at night, and my bike was barely broken in. I recruited three other teammates to join me and we ended up winning the race. I was hooked! The race was a lot of fun and not as intimidating as I expected so immediately I started thinking about my next mountain bike race. I ended up doing three more races and I not only loved it but placed well which gave me a huge confidence boost. Now I can’t wait to do more races on dirt.
After reflecting on the entire season and analyzing each race and its outcome I really surprised myself. The races I thought I would enjoy the most and do well at, turned out to be my least favorite ones, but I always try to find a positive in each situation and I treated them as training rides for the races that mattered to me. The races that intimidated me the most turned out to be my best ones and most enjoyable. I also participated in several organized rides throughout Colorado. Even though they weren’t timed, whenever I wear my Naked kit my brain tells me it’s racing time. Therefore I have to remind myself that it is ok to slowdown, breath slowly, take in the scenery, chat, and make new friends.
If you are new to racing or intimidated by it, don’t dismiss it as you won’t really know until you try. It’s better to fail at something than to miss out on something that can potentially be your strength only because you were afraid you would finish last or embarrass yourself. I remember how nervous I was just pinning my first number to my jersey. I stubbed my fingers several times and now I get less and less nervous each time I do it. Soon I will be able to do it with my eyes closed. But don’t get me wrong, I still get anxious at the start line but I just focus on the finish.
Natalia and Melissa worked the State Road Race Championships to bring home a jersey! Here’s the story of how they got the top step on the podium at Deer Trail.
Deer Trail is a small farm town on eastern planes one hour from Denver. The area is famous for its rolling terrain and crosswinds. I like to think that long, endurance races are my strength but you never know what can happen while racing, and as I was driving to the race all I could think about was getting dropped and time-trailing the entire 42-mile race. I arrived at the race with no expectations.
We lined up at the start line and were led through the town by the official on his motorcycle. Once we turned onto the county road the race was on. The SW4 field was relatively small, only 18 of us, and just one other girl from Naked. The pace was moderate and the field stayed in a close pack so the wind didn’t seen as strong. Melissa and I talked about strategy and even got few girls from other teams on board. About 25 miles into the race one girl from Primal team attacked. Melissa and two others followed but I got stuck behind a girl who had to get off her bike when turning around the cone. I knew this was my only chance so I pushed really hard and after fighting the wind I caught up with them. The five of us sprinted until we were far enough from the pack and felt safe. We formed a pace line and worked really well together. After few miles one of the girls dropped off and I started to feel fatigued and wanted to drop off as well. What kept me going was my teammate’s encouraging words and the scary thought of being left behind in the wind all alone. Melissa and I kept pushing each other and if it wasn’t for her I would be left behind.
It was only nine miles to the finish line when it was only the three of us. I looked behind and I saw nobody and I couldn’t believe how the race turned out. We knew we were safe so we slowed down a bit and gave our legs a little rest. At that point we knew we got this, but we still didn’t know who would win the final sprint. When we approached the 1km sign Melissa took off and I knew I couldn’t catch her. Margot from Boulder Running Company team and I raced to the finish but she was just a little bit stronger and I finished 6 seconds behind her. When I crossed the finish line I still couldn’t believe what just happened. For me this was my first podium road racing this season and I couldn’t have asked for better company on the podium. I was so proud of my teammate winning the State Championships. This by far was my favorite race so far this season, not only because I got my first medal, but because we strategized, executed, and won. This truly was a team effort.
Already three races deep in the Spring Classics season, and just like that, the road season is upon us! Channeling her inner Boonen in Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne today, Rachel is going to share with you some early season road racing tips in her Roadie Series. Any you have to add?
EARLY SEASON RR (ATTACKING AND COUNTERATTACKING)
a) recognize which breaks to go with;
b) how to share the workload in covering attacks;
c) how to try and conserve energy while in breaks.
WHICH ATTACKS TO GO WITH? WHEN SHOULD YOU ATTACK?
OK, first thing to remember is that EVERYONE is fresh and fast in the first 5 minutes of a race. If a break goes right from the gun and they stick it to the end … well, they deserve it. But, that’s very, very rare – so, my suggestion is to play the odds and try and be as relaxed and cool in the first couple laps as you can. Get to know your competitors, get to know the course.
Now then, you MUST recognize which teams have larger presences and that if they attack – they are likely interested in forming moves. If a single rider attacks – it’s often ok to let them go off the front; however, you then prepare yourself to follow the NEXT person(s) who try to bridge to them. In the end, racing is a lot of math (with knives). If your pack can average 23mph – you know that a breakaway will have to average higher than that. It is rare that a single rider can do so – but, 3 or 4 riders can do so with much more regularity. And so, if you see a move of 3 or 4 riders going off the front, that’s when you need to make sure your team is represented.
The key to being represented in moves throughout a race is to share the workload. If you have seen a teammate just attack or follow an attack, you MUST ready yourself to follow the next one. You MUST extend the energy needed to position yourself near the front of the race … but not AT the front of the race. Riding in the first 10-20 riders almost always allows you enough space and time to attack out of the pack. Don’t be nervous about positioning, you can do it.
Remember, even in races with “lower category” riders – there will be attacking riders. But, there will be some CHASING riders, too. There will be big, strong girls who won’t really know how to race bikes – but will know how to go hard. If you see these women going to the front and setting a hard pace – let them. You don’t need to attack them, be patient and see what happens. The time to attack is when the speed drops – it’s speed differential that makes the gap, makes the race. But getting the gap is only the first part – keeping the gap is the second.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. It’s fun. Have FUN!
Remember which direction everyone is pulling off, and flick with the INSIDE elbow to signal that you’re coming off. Then, move slowly in the direction the group has been pulling off. Now, if no one pulls through – just keep slowing down. Remember – you have teammates behind who will follow the next attack if your group gets caught. That is SO IMPORTANT to remember – you MUST be willing to let your group to get caught. If your breakaway mates aren’t going to pull, the move is doomed and there is no sense in your killing yourself in it.
Don’t surge! Keep the same speed as your break’mates. If you surge in speed, it will decrease the likelihood of them continuing to work with you. And remember, MANY riders will surge with their pulls – so you’ll need to be fresh to be able to accelerate with them. Many riders do not have experience in breaks and will do a lot wrong in them. You must be able to anticipate and adapt.
Many times the finish of the race is on the top of the hill (short or long like our Bannock Criterium team race); it helps the officials to sort out the group also.
If you are in a breakaway, you need to remember that hill will be taxing and you can get dropped faster than freshman chemistry. If you attack, or you follow an attack – be sure to regulate your effort as much as possible so that you have some juice in the tank for that long effort up the finishing hill. Now, how does one do that? You still need to pull in a breakaway group, right? YES! and no.
A very good skill is to learn how to take quick, short pulls in a breakaway. In a criterium – it’s all about recovery. So, taking short, 4-8 second pulls where you keep the speed the SAME as the group is going to be very beneficial. Be sure to signal that your pull is ending a second before you want to drop your speed.
Kimberley had a great start to the 2014 racing season due to her hard work over the winter. We think the rest of the year will be very similar for her! Read about her first race of the season, Valley of the Sun.
While I fully intended to post throughout the fall and winter, chronicling the ups and downs of winter training, that just did not happen. Between taking on a new position in one of the three jobs I juggle, putting in ungodly hours on the trainer each week due to the bipolar weather tendencies of Colorado, and trying to stick to my new years resolution of keeping …READ MORE ON HER BLOG
Last report from Israel from Sharon at the Macabbi Games Road Race…and spoiler alert! She brought home the gold!!
It’s time to drink, celebrate and tour the country.
Today was the road race. 6 laps over a 6 mile course. The course was very hilly (perfect for me) with fast downhill’s and sharp turns.
Only 9 girls raced. 8 Israeli’s and me. I have no clue what happened to Australia, Argentina and Canada. I think the course scared them. So many of these people, both men and women, do not race or train on hills and it was a very tough course.
We started a couple of minutes after the master’s men. It was balls out from the start. I told myself to hang on. I knew they were all going to blow up because there was no way we could hold this pace for 6 laps. We were even passing several of the men.
Once we got into the second lap, just as I thought, everyone blew up. A pro athlete and a junior took off but I couldn’t hang on. A 30’s master tried to hang on but she couldn’t so I said to her let’s work together. You’re ahead of your competitor and I’m ahead of mine. She was lovely. We worked together for the whole race. I would not have wanted to be on this hot course alone.
She knew people all over the course so we were constantly getting handed water to drink and thrown on us. We knew the time gaps because they kept us informed. There were people cheering for USA all over the course. It was such a great feeling. USA men and several of the other men from the other countries were dropping like flies. The heat was hard on so many of the riders. I trained in the heat before I came here so I was prepared.
I passed my other master lady around 3 laps so I knew I had the gold if I stayed upright. They were suppose to pull her from the course but didn’t. The other 2 juniors got lapped and were pulled.
I pushed myself up the last hill and sprinted to the finish to win the gold. The girl with me who was in the 30’s came in 1 sec. behind me. I was 1st in masters and 3rd among all the women.
It was amazing to see all the people at the finish and all the USA men who were thrilled to see me pull off another great race.
This has been a great experience. I have met so many wonderful people but I am excited it is over. It is very hard racing in a foreign country and it makes me appreciate what we have back in the states.
Thank you all for your support, encouragement, and love you have given me over the past year.
Melissa won her first race! We knew she could. Here’s her report on the steep and beautiful pass of Guanella!
It will be difficult for me to top the amazing year of cycling I have had in 2013. So far this year, I have pushed myself outside of my comfort zone by joining a bike racing team, I was blessed with the amazing opportunity to do a week long climbing camp in the beautiful Santa Monica mountains in California, I participated in the longest Ride The Rockies in history (545 miles in 7 days) and I got first place in my first hill climb race at Guanella Pass this past weekend. I am having so much fun! In years prior, I never would have imagined myself doing any of those things. I have always loved cycling, but I had never been part of a team before (not even as child) and competition didn’t really fit my personality. Being part of the Naked Women’s Racing Team has certainly opened my eyes to a whole new world.
I joined this amazing team because of my wonderful friend Sharon Madison. She saw something in me that I didn’t realize was there and she has pushed me further than I have ever dreamed. I met Sharon on Ride The Rockies in 2011. I was sitting by myself at the St. Anthony’s medical trailer waiting for my Uncle Rodger to finish his shift for the day. (He owns and operates the ambulance company, Stadium Medical, that follows and cares for the cyclists during Ride The Rockies each year.) When Sharon realized I was riding alone all week, she immediately invited me to join her group and ride with them for the remainder of the tour. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I had never ridden in a group before and if I’m being completely honest, my cycling clothes were hideously goofy and I looked like a nerd. I can’t believe Sharon even wanted to be seen with me. I knew very little about cycling at that time, but she took a chance on me. She said “You should ride with us tomorrow.” So I did, and it was the best decision I ever made. Sharon has been my idol and my mentor ever since that day. We rode together during Ride The Rockies again 2012 and 2013, and our friendship has blossomed each year.
I will never forget the first bike race that I went to in 2012, to watch Sharon. It was the Sonic Boom Crit and she was AMAZING!! It was one of the most exciting sporting events I had ever been to! I was hooked instantly. After the race, Sharon invited me to ride with she and a few of her teammates. I remember being terrified. I surprised myself that day, however, when I was able to keep up with everyone and I even pulled a few times. At the end of the ride Amanda Cyr said to me, “The way I see it, you have two choices. You either join this racing team or I will punch you in the face.” How could I say no? lol
Racing has been quite the experience for me so far. I don’t think I was as nervous on my wedding day, as I am before each race. The feeling I get at the start line is like no other feeling I have ever experienced. It’s a mixture of adrenaline, nerves, excitement, and fear. So far, I have participated in a road race, a team time trial, three crits and a hill climb. I have learned something new in every race and I am always so happy once I have finished. My goal this year has been to push myself outside of my comfort zone, and I have done that each time that I have signed up for a race. I absolutely LOVE being on The Naked Women’s Racing Team!! I feel so lucky to be part of such a neat group of women. It amazes me how helpful and caring my teammates are. I love the “No Drama” motto and it is so inspiring to watch my teammates succeed and know each and every one of them will help me do the same. I love the unity of this team. I love that I am learning how to race, but most of all, I love that I am learning what it means to be a teammate.
Speaking of teammates, there were Naked Ladies everywhere at the Guanella Pass Hill Climb! It was actually the first time my nerves didn’t eat me alive at the start line and I know it’s because I had so many friends right there with me. Now that was a fun race! Here is my little recap:
I started my morning riding to Georgetown in the team car with Rachel and one of our newest teammates Maria. I can’t lie, at this point I was a ball of nerves. It was nice to talk to Rachel about racing, however, and she answered a lot of questions for me. When we arrived in Georgetown it was a bit hectic. We didn’t have a lot of time to check in, pin numbers and warm up. Before I knew it, it was time to start lining up for the race. Typically, at this point I’m ready to hurl, but I vividly remember looking around me and feeling a sense of peace, knowing so many of my teammates were right there with me. It was awesome.
I knew the wheel I wanted during this race and I never let it out of my sight. In the very beginning I was nervous about my position at the start, but as we began to climb, I quickly realized I could move up to where I wanted to be. My goal in this race was to be in the top 10. It was surprisingly steep in the beginning and I remember thinking to myself, “Uh oh. This race might be harder than I thought”.
As we kept climbing, however, I noticed the group started to break apart. This was my first hill climb race, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know from my years on Ride The Rockies, that everyone has their own climbing speed and I wasn’t sure how that would play out at race pace. I was able to move my way up to the front where I wanted to be and I noticed that the group was much smaller. I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the racers behind me because I had my sights set on that certain wheel, but I could tell there were not as many of us anymore. I was getting excited because I felt like a top 10 finish was actually attainable.
Before I knew it, after a few more hills, the group was down to about 5 and then I was REALLY excited because I had not had a top 5 finish before and it was something that I really wanted. I noticed one of the racers next to me was breathing very hard and it prompted me to check my heart rate. I was surprised at how I was feeling. I was recovering when I needed to and I felt like I had the strength for the next hill to come. I was soo happy about that but I was afraid to get too excited.
Then it happened. There were only three of us.
I can’t even begin to explain how I felt at that moment, when I realized that I could possibly get on the podium. For some reason, that just seemed so far out of reach to me. Especially being so new to the sport and this being my first hill climb race. I tried to keep my composure but the butterflies in my stomach were doing cartwheels. Then suddenly, it was just me and the wheel I had chosen from the beginning. I thought to myself, “How could this be? Is this really happening?” Then I told myself to stay calm and focus. I followed her wheel for awhile and then she dropped back and got behind me. I knew it was my turn to work. I asked if she wanted to work together, and we did for quite awhile and suddenly I didn’t hear her breathing anymore. I never looked back. I just kept climbing.
I didn’t know what kind of turns were ahead of me and I was terrified of blowing up. I kept a steady pace and was fully expecting other racers to fly past me. But that never happened. Switchback after switchback came and finally I asked a man on the side of the road “Where is the finish?” I will never forget, he said, “Honey, look up. That blue tent is the finish.” I think I felt my heart drop into my stomach at that moment. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that I was first. No way! Not me.
So, I crossed the finish line in this very strange state of euphoria. I pulled over and kind of sat there for a minute. I thought to myself, someone must have passed me that I didn’t see. This was nothing like the crit finishes I had experienced before. I just could not believe it. Michael Hanna came over to me and asked me how I felt. I think I told him “I feel pretty good”. Then he said, “Well you should, you just won.”
I couldn’t hold back the tears. I was a big nerd and I cried. He smiled and told me it was ok to cry. It was a moment in my life that I will never forget. Then, the icing on the cake……I waited at the top for Sharon to complete her race. She pulled up with a big smile on her face because she knew she was on the podium. We spoke for a moment and then she said, “How did you do, Princess?” I just looked at her and whispered, “I got first.” She screamed, hugged me and tears filled both of our eyes. How can I ever top that? I would NEVER have been there if it wasn’t for that amazing woman. She believed in me and she gave me a gift that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Not just a first place win, but the gift of believing in myself.
Kat and Ingrid (arguably two of our best corner takers on the team) led a cornering practice at the Louisville Criterium course this week. Here’s the quick and dirty on each tip. Now get to practicing!
1. Keep your upper body relaxed. No locked-out elbows.
2. Your outside foot should be down, always. No exceptions to this rule, ever.
3. Weight should be on the inside arm and outside foot.
4. Brake before entering the corner. Never break while turning in the corner, unless you want your front wheel to buck you off your bike.
5. Look through the corner. Do not fixate on the wheel right in front of you.
6. Approach the corner wide, cut into the apex, and exit wide.
7. The accordion effect – why you want to be near the front.
8. Don’t cut under the riders in front of you. You will make no friends if you do.
9. Turn with your hips, not your hands.
And the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwcLwK6Rj90
Megan and Kimberley raced this weekend in Fort Collins and both not only kept rubber to the road, they kicked butt and got a podium finish. Great job to represent the Naked ladies this early in the season.
After an exciting weekend in Moab with the Naked team, I was primed and ready for my first race of the season, which happened to be Cobb Lake Circuit Race in Fort Collins CO. I was nervous because it was my first race in the SW Open field, which meant any female of any category in the region could show up. I was nervous about getting last place and letting down the team. I was nervous because I just had my hardest week of training in 6 months and was fatigued.
However, the race ended up being a lot of fun. And there is nothing like racing to make you stronger, or to teach you how to be a better racer! Here is my recap as well as lessons learned:
- Entrants: 18 women, 6 Cat 1-2, 6 Cat 3, 6 Cat 4 registered.
- Course: 48 miles (6 x 8 mile loops with a 1/2 mile finishing climb on each one, plus ~1 mile section of dirt to boot).
- Finish: 8th. 3rd Cat 3. (Top half finisher)
Within the first lap, one girl had attacked the field, and launched a tremendous pace on the rest of us. We ended up all grouping up in the 2nd lap into smaller groups of 1-5 riders. Luckily I found a group of 5 to work with, though we were sitting 8th-12th in the field at the time. Each lap was harder but I had to concentrate on the race within the race. Rotate, eat, drink, hammer, etc. On the first race of the year, it is hard to pace, so there is always a learning opportunity! Eventually the race ahead was won by my teammate Kimberley in a sprint to the line. My group of 6 broke up in the final 2 miles (on the dirt!), so there were 4 of us going up the final climb. I tried to sit on the 3rd and 4th girls’ wheels and went around them both on the final steep section to finish. I was lucky to finish 2nd in our group the line. For once I made a “move” at the right time. It was fun! The rest of the field trickled in over the next 10-15 minutes.
- Cat 1-2 women are really strong! They all but one dropped me within 30 minutes So proud of teammate Kimberley who won the race!
- Whatever you do, find other people to work with. Even if you are racing for 7th place! The race was over two hours long and it was extremely beneficial to have a “pack” of 4-6 riders to work with, in the wind, up the hill, etc. It helped with focus, and definitely helped with speed.
- You might like what you least expect. My favorite part of the course was the dirt! I have always hated dirt, but I powered through it quite well and used it to my advantage here. I found myself less tired than those around me when I got to the hill each lap. Which was helpful for the finish!
- Never underestimate a sprint! Going into the race I had no particular goals for finishing, except don’t come in last place By the last lap I was thinking it would be Awesome to finish in the top 3 of my “Group” of 5-6 girls. I out-sprinted a few on the steep uphill to the line and finished 2nd in the group, which was a small victory for me. This really helped my confidence for standing uphill and for sprinting, which in turn made me more excited and confident for future races.
- Every race is a great workout, and is great recon for future races. You learn who is fit, who is climbing well, who doesn’t like to corner, who Really likes to pull into the wind, who is the best sprinter etc. It helps so next time you know who to best draft where and how they can make you a better rider. We all have strengths and weaknesses and can learn from each other.
- Hydration and nutrition is always tricky in a 2 hour + race, especially when it is during lunchtime! I was VERY hungry and thirsty by the end, and wished I hadn’t skipped lunch. Cramping hamstrings reminded me of such throughout the race.
- The best bike racers can respond to attacks. This is something I’m not great at and need to work on if I want to keep up in Cat 3. I especially have trouble going hard in the first 10-15 minutes of races, so I was hurting BAD early on, and wished I had warmed up more, or done some openers the day before!
- You never know What will happen to others (or you) in the race. In this particular race day I saw the following occur in various categories: DQ’ed riders for crossing center-line (on the dirt!), DNF riders that dropped out, DNS rider that missed race start (almost 2 miles from registration!), riders with flat tires who got behind, rider who crashed out and broke his fork. The list goes on! So even if you think you are doing poorly it can always come back to you so never give up.
I love road races and the challenges and the teamwork that is required (across teams too!), and this was a fun way to kick off the season. I encourage you all to do some road races in 2013!
Thanks to Dejan Smaic for some awesome photos: http://www.sportifimages.com/RoadRacing2013/CSU-Cobb-Lake-CR/Pro-12