Ramblings, musings and generally boring stuff. Mostly about bikes...

Monday, June 28, 2010

First Criterium Crash!

photo credit: Eville Mike

I have loved the Webster Groves Crit each of the three years I have raced it. My first year was with Team Revolution and it was my Dad's first opportunity to see me race.
Last year, Alice, Kate and I podiumed for the Women's Cat 4, in one of our first races with the 1,2,3 women.
Year three was sure to be a hot one.
Alice and I worked registration (With Phil, Chris Saxton, Anna Berger) until the Kids race.
We helped run a smooth and quick kids race and even helped get the racing back on schedule for the day.

Quick changes into kits, wheels into the pit and a spin around the neighborhood were up next. Suzanne, Kate and I warmed up together for a bit. I stopped for a quick "nature break" and picked up some ice, which Taylor helped me fashion into a baggie in the sports bra for fabulous cooling!

At 2:35pm I lined up with 18 or so of the best local racers around. Our Cat 1,2,3 field was combined with the cat 4s, including some strong new and not so new ladies. Our race was hot from the start, literally and figuratively! Chris gave a little attack right away to get the heart rates pumping.

It was clear early on that everyone was fatigued from the heat and a little twitchy. There were lots of bumping and comments flying around. There were lots of bumps and potholes before turn 1 and everyone seemed to slow down through turn 2, only to give chase halfway up the climb and slow a bit again for turn 3. Turn 4 seemed good to get into at speed, but not everyone felt that way, which made for more bunching and chasing. After a couple of laps, I was between turn 3 and 4 on the hill, reaching for my bottle while still gaining momentum into Jamie, who was easing up, and unfortunately over my way. I had time to put my bottle in my teeth and reach for my brake but that prevented anything other than a muffled exclamation to Jamie! We touched wheels but separated without incident (I saw something go flying off the road and thought I'd broken the cap on her mavic skewer in half... but later learned that wasn't it).

Suzanne and I bumped once and I think I bumped Jamie again. Allison even commented that I was making her nervous on a bumpy section. I was feeling the heat for sure but gained some energy back thanks to a cool bottle of water doused on me by Jessi!

I survived a prime lap, after Britta seemed to jump for it immediately after the bell!. After heading back into turn one, I quickly realized something was wrong.
To my knowledge, I was too far on the inside headed into the turn at good speed. Jamie was on my left and when I started to exit the turn, I came out too wide and bumped into her. Unfortunately I didn't hit her hand, shoulder, arm or hip- one of the many areas that can be bumped and both parties stay upright. Fortunately for her, I didn't take her down with me.
That part happened fast! I was on the ground with a LOUD crash! A few people swerved around me and Kube narrowly missed my head. Unfortunately, Emilie was a casualty too. We jumped up. I appologized. She said "It happens." and we headed to the pit. I immediately noticed my brake hoods were pushed in and both wheels were stuck. I carried it to the start/finish and Ron met me when I was almost there. He took one look at me, took my bike and sent me to the medics.

The sum total of my injuries were a couple of mild elbow scrapes, a small scrape on my wrist, another on my leg. My shoulder is sore. The doozey of the injuries is where my thigh meets my butt. I noticed this hurting as Donna Thackery and Analyn Howells, our awesome medics tended to me. I had a small hole in my shorts in the back and some great scrapes from the road. After Phil bought my skirt and I changed, it was clear that I had literally fallen on my ASS!

The bike is ok, save for a slightly bent spoke and some of the saddle has been torn off. There are scrapes on my shifters but Im not sure what's new and what's old. My shoe is scraped a bit and the jersey has a hole in the back from a pin getting sheared off. The helmet did not make any contact with the ground.

Warning: Pictures May be Graphic!!

The first post-crash shower was the most horrendous thing I have ever experienced. I knew I was in trouble when the first drops hit my small injuries on my elbow and sent me screaming. Poor Phil hung out nearby, trying to soothe me as I yelled, whimpered and cried. He helped me dry off and appy a Tagaderm patch. I don't know what I would have done without him!
He even gave me a pair of his boxer briefs to wear, since my own underwear just wouldn't cover and protect what I needed it to!

(That's not a pimple, its a piece of tagaderm stuck to me)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Midtown Alley Grand Prix & Tour de Grove

Photo credit: Elizabeth Rangel

Midtown Alley Grand Prix Women's 3/4 race started at 11:45 am on Saturday. This seems to be a bad time of day, in the heat of summer, to start a bike race! I was sufficiently warm before my warm up. Thank God for the CycleOps Power Tent! I didn't have to worry about lugging my trainer to the race! After about 45 minutes of warm up, a couple minutes of Kanye to get us motivated (courtesy of the Verizon wireless booth!)

14 ladies, including myself, lined up. Some of the strong regional racers were here, including Vanessa McKenzie, and Emilie Duchow. Teresa and Allison rounded out a group of really strong Cat 3s. Since this was a 3/4 race, on a flat, traditional four corner crit course, I thought I could hold my own, even do well. The Hub ladies (Alice, Kate, Ashley and myself) even had a pre-race meeting to talk strategy.
The race started fast but I felt good about my position and my teammates. A few times during the race, "The Hedge" was in effect, with all four of us at the front. Teresa later commented that she wasn't sure how she was going to get around us.
There were a couple of attacks but we chased well. It seemed everyone took a turn pulling, chasing, etc.

The heat was starting to wear on me (heat index of over 103). As the prime bell was rung, the pace picked up into Turn 1. Someone attacked and before Turn 2, I watched a gap form. I had a clear thought that if I didn't go, that would be it for me. Despite that, my legs told my head, "oh, just a little break! please!" and my head allowed it. Suddenly, I was off the back.

On that same lap, Vanessa ended up breaking some spokes. Fortunately, she didn't crash herself or anyone else. As I caught up to her, she was pulling off to the left but continued around the course. I yelled to her to cut the course to get to the pit ASAP. Since we were outside of 5 to go, I thought she'd get a free lap for sure.

I found another racer on my wheel and we worked together but she was more fatigued than I was. I'd pull about 3/4 and she'd give me a breather. We gained on the field but never gave it the full gas needed to get back on. With 2 laps to go, Vanessa came up behind us. I thought she had broken away from the field (after her free lap) and was lapping us. I told her that we couldn't work for her (since she was lapping us) but we could sit on her wheel. As we rounded the course into the start/finish stretch, I realized that if she was lapping us, This would be our finishing lap. I pulled up even with Vanessa, careful not to get in front of her (clear enough that the officials wouldn't relegate us) and finished my race strong, only to realize we had one more lap to go!
Vanessa hadn't lapped us at all. She chased back to us after getting a wheel but with only 3 to go, she didn't get a free lap. UGH!. I was done. My legs screamed for mercy and I sat up, taking 12th out of 14. To make matters a little worse, I was scored in 13th, with the rider ahead of me really a lap down from me. Double Ugh.
I was able to protest and the results were corrected (but the wrong ones have been posted to USA cycling... hopefully they'll be corrected soon).

I was demoralized (again) for my poor performance and stupid mistake, but really proud of my teammates - All three finished TOP 10!! and got CASH!

Tour de Grove
Our race was scheduled to begin at 9:35am. I arrived at 8am to free Valet parking (Sweet!)
I started to warm up and since the races were delayed by almost 1 hour, I was able to warm up under the awesome CycleOps tent AND ride a lap around the course, all before the first race even started! My warm up ended up being pretty leisurely and long. Suzanne's children and Christy (Podium girl!) kept us entertained!

With 10 minutes til our start, I sought out a good place at the barriers (in the shade!) to ensure I could get a good start position. With only 16 in our field, it wasn't as crucial, but it's all good practice.
The Hub "Hedge" lined up on the front. Soli Johannes joined the team for today's race! She's a bad-ass track racer. With 5 racers, we were clearly the dominant team (Big Shark was Second with 3- Suzanne, Teresa and Courtney). From the start, Vanessa and Emilie were putting on the hurt. Vanessa launched the first of many attacks after the second turn of this 12 turn course. I positioned myself well and focused on staying within the top 1/4-1/2 of the field. I think I did a pretty good job b/c I saw the same handful of people throughout the race. I fell back on a couple of attacks but made sure to give it 110% until I was securely back on. A couple of times, I noticed my legs suggesting to my mind that I might slow down, but I did NOT give in!

The pattern for this race was attacks. There seemed to be several on each lap. The three mile course allowed for plenty of time to attack, recover, counter attack and attack again. I was surpised that the only place that an attack did not occur was the one place I thought one was sure to- The beautifully blacktopped stretch of Clayton on the back side of the course. Emilie and Vanessa seemed to be taking turns attacking on the little climb on Vandeventer. Emilie's shifting was audible enough to be her "Tell". Courtney wins the work horse award for the day - pulling, covering attacks in one of her first crits! The sneakiest attack was on the last lap. Vanessa or Gina attacked and then quickly sat up, causing us all to continue to propell into them with momentum. As most of us slowed, Tara Flaig kept going. She rocketed past us and a true chase ensued. She could not hold us off through the next turn and but allowed some good shake up of the top positions.

As I realized with elation that I finally stayed on for a WHOLE race, I also realized that I was already 8 or 9 wheels back going into the final two turns - too much to make up ground. Ashley passed me in the sprint and Alice nearly got me at the line. I ended up in 10th - the last money spot! Most importantly, I feel like I got my groove back (in the Grove, how apropos!).

As an aside, the funniest moment of the race was about 2 or 3 laps to go, when Suzanne J asked us to keep an eye out for her dropped waterbottle, while we were racing. She's lost several and was really concerned about it - enough to take her focus off of the race for a moment!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tulsa Tough 2010

I wanted to go to a race in the New Orleans.I imagined that's where they'd have a race called "The Big Easy." Instead, I participated in Tulsa Tough 2010.

My racing continues to be mediocre at best, so I won't go into details about the race. I won't pick apart every missed moment and failed attempt. I stunk it up pretty good in the mid 90 degree heat on Saturday and again on Sunday on "Cry baby Hill."

Despite my lack of racing ability at this time, Tulsa Tough was excellent! The courses were fun and challenging. The fields were HUGE. The crowds were even bigger and full of excitement even during our women's III/IV races.

We arrived Friday night just in time to watch the Cat III men's race, featuring Hubbers - Chris, Drew and Dave! Chris finished in the money! Next up was the Pro, I,II Women. What an awesome race! Carrie took the first prime!

Our accommodations (The Doubletree) were excellent, humongously welcoming of the crowd of cyclists and centrally located among all three race courses! They even let us ride right into the lobby on Saturday.

Tulsa Tough does it right! There were huge jumbo trons all over the place with cameras to capture nearly every piece of the race. On Saturday, at one point when I was off the back (go figure!) I could see the breakaway group's finishing sprint on the screen on the back side of the course. Very cool! Despite being far from home, I had some awesome cheerleaders on the course. I could hear Carrie, Jessi, Courtney and Justin cheering for me on each lap. Justin even tossed a wave of cool water on me toward the end! (THANK YOU!)

My teammate Alice did well on Saturday. My teammate from another team, Suzanne (Big Shark) did well too. She took a $50 prime on Saturday in the chase group. The three of us successful avoided two crashes.
Jamie (Momentum), Teresa (Big Shark) and Allison (Momentum) weren't as lucky on Saturday - crashing both times. The second of which caused Jamie to DNF. Overall, they were ok but I'm convinced Allison's bike is cursed (2 crashes in 2008 right after she got it. Cracked from after Belleville, crashed again in Tulsa and then after the race some guy just fell over into her bike!) Fortunately, I hear she has her eye on a Project One!

Sunday's course wasn't as scary as I thought it would be. Crybaby hill is short but steep, reaching 16% before a right hand turn and a little more climbing. The crowd there was awesome and I hear they got even more outrageous as the day went on!
The descent was a little scary, sharp, off camber turn. My legs and heart just weren't in it, so I didn't have to worry about being in a crowd as I descending.
Unfortunately, judging from the Cat 5 race, I knew it was just a matter of time before I was pulled. They were pulling anyone who was not in contact with the field.
In the end, only Jamie was not pulled. She won the QOM and took 5th!

I was sad to leave after our race. Although I was disappointed with my standings, I was having a great time and wanted to watch Carrie and Team VBF tear it up on this challenging course. Their race was not until afternoon and the 6.5 hour drive was beckoning. We showered up, loaded up, grabbed some lunch and headed home.

Tulsa, I am tougher having experienced you!