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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

State Road Race

Well I think it’s safe to say that I surprised more than myself at the State Road Race. I’m still not quite sure how I ended up on the podium… My goals going into the race were to a. survive the 64 miles, b. work for the team, and c. maybe stick with the lead group. I guarantee that ending up in third place never crossed my mind! 

Robin and I leading out the Women's P/1/2/3 Race - Photo By Mark Considine
As we rounded the turn at about mile 20 to head back towards the start/finish, the group was still all together, except for Sandy. She had made a break several miles earlier but half the group didn't know (me included)! We are going to have to add Stealthy Sandy to her list of names - although Euro Sandy is still my favorite ;)

Vanessa and Kim were taking turns attacking the group but were chased every time, they were obviously marked riders. Up until this point I had only taken a couple of pulls on front, and I really wanted to do some more work for the team. I decided to help out and throw a few attacks myself.  I made my way to the front and went for it...after a minute I looked back and no one was chasing!
It would have been quite hilarious to read my mind at this point. Everything from “um guys, aren’t you going to come chase me down…please?” to “oh dear god what have I done?!?”  was flying through my head once I realized that I soloed off the front with about 40-45 miles to go. I guess if you are going to attack you've got to be prepared for it to work! 
After the initial panic I reminded myself that this was no different than the mountain bike races that I’ve done this year. If I could be out on my own during those races then I could do it here- at least until the group caught back up.
I hunkered down in my drops and the miles ticked by. I made it back through the start/finish which marked the halfway point in the race and headed back toward Old 218. The group was nowhere in sight. No one wanted to chase me down. I don’t really blame them, I didn’t think I would make it out there on my own either! 
I was getting within a few miles of the next turn when I finally spotted a rider behind me – it was my teammate Kim!!! She bridged up and I was hoping I could muster enough strength to stick with her for the last 20-25 miles. She watched out for me and had me sit on her wheel as she kicked it into high gear on the tailwind section. I finally learned from her that Sandy was ahead, so if we could hold off the chase group we would lock down 1st-3rd place!
Those last miles were really tough but I hung on to Kim's wheel. It felt great to cross the line right behind her and to see Sandy on the sidelines as she already came in first! To top off the day Vanessa won the group sprint and took 4th. It's not a bad day when your team takes 1st through 4th place!

I am incredibly proud of the hard work that all my teammates did- that was a long and tough race. It was awesome to have such a large representation of the Iowa City Women's Cycling club!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Going the distance – Black Partridge Classic

Normally I balk when XC mountain bike races have the women doing the same distance as the men.  But my opinion is starting to change a little bit. Yes it might take a little longer to finish, but that certainly doesn’t mean women can’t go the same distance. And in fact this past race we did – and you know what, Beverly, Melinda, and myself crushed it – way to go ladies!

The women’s distance is normally less, because cross country races are based on a suggested finishing times between 1:30-1:45 , not on distance. If we go the same distance as the men, our times start to mirror more of an endurance mountain bike race instead of a cross country race. And while I’d prefer a xc distance when I sign up for an xc race, it was a nice chance to prove just how strong we are, that we can compete at the same distance as men.

My opinion started to change after reading about Evelyn Steven’s successful attempt at putting together a 17 stage road race to prove that women are capable of competing in a grand tour like the men (a la Tour de France). None exist for the women (the rules actually prevent it) so she strung together a couple of smaller tours to simulate a grand tour – and she killed it!  

Because of what she accomplished, I went into the race thinking "I can do this" instead of "wtf - this is too long". I was a little worried about some the technical areas of the course with tall logs across the course and plenty of exposed roots, but at least I wasn’t panicked about the distance! And I actually felt the best I've felt all season during a race, even when I crossed the finish line after 2 hours and 9 minutes of racing. Usually there is some point where I have to remind myself to push through the exhaustion and keep racing - I didn't have to remind myself to keep going hard this time, I just did.

Cycling has come a long way for women, but it still has a long way to go as was evident as this race. It was pretty disappointing to see so few women lining up to compete. Illinois has an excellent mountain bike series and I just don't understand why there aren't more women that show up. The race promoters and volunteers really know how to put on a well-organized race and they are friendly beyond belief. The courses are always super fun with different challenges sprinkled in to keep things interesting. And while challenging they are some of the most fun races I’ve done. I wish there was an easy way to get more women out there! 

If only I could find a solution to that and my fear of going over tall logs. I see a skills clinic in my future! 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Racing to Win or Racing to Not Lose? - State Championship Crit

Can I just say I love my teammates!? It was so much fun to get to race with teammates Brittany, Vanessa, Alijah, and Ingrid at the State Crit. We even got three of us in the top ten (I was 10th)! I was a little apprehensive about missing out on a mountain bike race (part of the Illinois series that I'm competing in) to race the crit, but it was a fun day. There is definitely more of a team feel to road racing, and with the State Road Race coming up I need all the practice I can get!

Photo by Natalie Rekemeyer
The race started off fast with everyone wanting a spot on the front for the first downhill. I managed a quick start and was toward the front the first few corners. Once we got to the second half of the climb (back toward the start/finish) I was swallowed back into the group – I have to work on keeping the pace up on inclines!

A small gap opened up and I did not make it into the lead group. A couple more laps into the race a spectator ran out into the street and yelled at us to keep right (at a left-hand turn). I thought they were just being crazy until we rounded the corner and saw Lisa and Vanessa getting up off the ground after a bad crash. Thankfully they were ok and both able to jump back in the race.

There were a couple of solo attacks from my group, most of which were chased down, but a few were able to get away. There was one point in the race where I was so close to catching onto a group ahead but I just couldn’t get myself to go hard enough. I will work my ass off on a group ride to not get dropped from the main group, but for some reason I seem to lack the same ability or determination in a race. Completely backwards, I know! Especially considering the opposite is true when mountain biking.

For most of the race Dee, Sarah, and I rode together. Dee and I both had teammates ahead so we didn't push to the pace too hard, just enough to keep anyone from behind catching up. With just two laps to go I was certain it would come down to the three of us at the finish. And on the final climb towards the finish line I again just couldn’t get myself to go hard. Dee and Sarah both got out front of me, but when I was worried someone from behind my try to sprint me, I was able to conjure up all my remaining strength to spring to the line. What the hell, why couldn’t I have done what like 30 seconds earlier?!

...And it's taking me all week to try to figure this out; I've been racing to not lose, not racing to win.