We were able to sleep in a bit on Sunday as my cat 4 race didn’t get underway till 9:45! Pfhew. Per my usual race proceedings, I ventured up with Marianne so we could discuss race strategy, tactics, the course, and who to watch out for. My sister was in tow today for support (as always) and Dawn also began the art of perfecting her crit-spectating abilities as she has done so well at for triathlon. My mom also came down to see me race which made me even more excited!
The course today was a 1-mile loop with just 4 manageable corners. The start finish line was atop a nice stair-step hill which was about 1/4 mile long. The rest of the course was flat with the backside involving a bit of headwind. In general, this was a pretty well suited course for me with a climb as well as some good long flats.
|Marianne and I before the Cat 4 race|
I rode the course with Marianne a few times and got my bearings. Sufficiently warmed up, I made my way to the start line. The whistle blew (unexpectedly) and we were off. The announcer had announced a “preme” on the first lap, which meant people would be gunning from the get go. Not prepared for the whistle, I was hardly clipped in by the time the girls were off and running down the hill. I spent the first 30-45 seconds of the race trying to reel back in the group of girls who had sprung off the start line. I bridged the gap and sat in for a few seconds. The pace was good. I planned to sit on the back wheel for a lap or two, get my head right, and then “make my move” as Marianne and I had discussed. Plan went great for the first 3/4’s of the lap.
|Lap 1 on the hill, where I opted to break|
We hit the hill and it appeared the girls had quit racing. I am not diminishing anyone’s riding ability but the climbing effort was weak. As a result, I opted to go around the group, climb past the 6 girls ahead of me on the hill, cross the line first for the preme, work hard for about 2-3 minutes to bridge a gap between me and the group, and hold my pace from there. It worked! I was able to stay away on my break for the whole race. It made the race more of a time trial vs a crit race as I was just out in front alone, working and fighting the wind by myself. I didn’t know what the gap was really at any point so I just kept working hard. Last thing I wanted was to work my tail off for 27 minutes of a 30 minute race to lose it on the last hill as the group caught me. So I just kept motoring – partially out of fear, partially out of adrenaline. When the announcer called 5 to go, I won’t lie, that felt like an eternity. “I have to climb that hill 5 more times?!” was all I could think. But I just took it one lap at a time, one corner at a time, and tried to stay in my zone.
|Hanging on to the lead- they let Dawn ride in the pace car
to take pictures out the sunroof which was cool!
It was pretty cool to win my first bike race, I must say. However, it was also very anticlimactic and, like I said, more of a time trial. Marianne and I had said that if the cat 4 race went well, I should consider entering the open race (cat’s 1/2/3) which rolled at 11:30 (40 minutes after my first race finished). I drank some fluids and a recovery drink, chilled out a bit, and then decided I should do the 2nd race. I had nothing to lose! I have nothing to prove in the sport of bike racing (or triathlon really for that matter). I set my goals for the open race and got my mind around what exactly I was about to do. My goals: hang on and finish with the front group.
|Start line for the women’s Open race|
The open race was much different. Much. The first lap or two I thought to myself “ok, I can manage this…seems if I sit in this won’t be too bad”. That thought lasted for about the next 30 seconds until some attacked on the hill that time around. It was game on from there. Attack after attack, I did my best to hang on. Find a wheel, lose a wheel, crush myself to get back on a wheel, over and over. But I was doing it. I was starting to feel a bit dehydrated about 15 minutes in to the race, despite having drank nearly 1/2 my bottle already (of an electrolyte/sports drink) and some of my water. I decided to not think about it and keep strong. I pulled up front a bit, bridged some attacks, worked with Marianne on an attack or two, but mainly tried to sit in knowing the final sprint would be brutal.
A girl racing for the US Military bridged a nice gap from the field pretty early on, no one chased her. Little did we know, she’d stay away the whole race! Strong girl – awesome for her! The 5, 4, 3, 2 laps to go came and went. This race seemed to go much faster than my previous cat 4 race as you have to be so much more focused to ride at such high speeds around tight corners in a pack. The final hill approached and I knew it’d be a brutal fight to the finish with about 11 strong riders (all cat 1 and 2) still in tact. My goal was to just be in the mix. I was able to hang strong on the finish for a 6th place sprint – and a 7th overall on the day (including the girl on the solo breakaway). I laid everything I had on the line – I think. After the finish, it’s standard that everyone takes a lap around the course to cool down and catch their breath. All I wanted to do was get off my bike!
|Turn 1 on the course|
I was pleased with today’s performance also. I am pleased to have won the cat 4 race, yes. Winning is nice. But that is also certainly not the icing on the cake. I am more pleased to have hung with the girls on the open race after having essentially time-trialed for 30-minutes prior. I am pleased to have worked with the girls to bridge the gap on the 3 girls that got away until the last lap. I’m pleased to have stayed mentally strong for two back to back races. I am pleased to have not given in when leg craps started to rear their ugly head. Most importantly, I’m pleased to have had a ton of fun and had a great workout while I was at it!
My final thoughts are on how bike racing and triathlon riding compare. I can honestly say, almost not at all! They are practically two different sports – kind of like pool swimming and open water swimming to me. Even within bike racing, there are very different types of racing. I will say they are all tough, but competitive crit racing gets a “very tough” from me. I have never been a “surge of speed” kind of girl, but that’s what crit racing is about…and road racing to an extent. Endurance is required in both events, which I will say is my saving grace, but these girls got fast-twitch if I’ve ever seen it! Something I’m working on and will continue to do so. These races, which go in the books for me more as “workouts” for my triathlon racing, will certainly help to make my fast-twitch a bit stronger, which I think will in turn, really help my running!
So for now, as I continue to get the “do you want to be a bike racer” question…I’m going to continue to answer “yes!”. Sometimes it is nice, as a triathlete, to be able to completely bury myself on a bike and not have to worry about the all-important run thereafter. Until a triathlon team or a cycling team wants to start paying me a decent amount of money to do one or the other sport…then a bike racing triathlete I will be! And that makes me HAPPY!!
|Focused and ready for racing!|