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!