So the first real weekend of racing has come and gone. Technically I did two crits in Beloit last weekend but I considered those more training than anything else. They were good races and I was in a break of 4 in the womens race (finished third after a failed solo break attempt on the last lap) and had a good hard race with the 30+ 1/2/3 men. One advantage of being 30 is I can race with the fast guys who usually race with a bit more attention to safety than the Pro 1/2 field. Fun to race in a big field and get in some solid efforts. And it was great to see Bob Downs of Planet Bike take the victory. The weather was cold (mid 30s) and blustery and somehow I forgot both knee and leg warmers. Luckily I threw in some ridiculously warm windproof tights so needless to say I was a bit overdressed . . . but better than freezing. Guess I'm a little rusty with my race bag packing skills after the off season!
So this past weekend was the first "big" Midwestern race of the season. Down in Hillsboro, Illinois (an hour outside St. Louis) the race is billed as a spring classic. A 22 mile circuit that winds through rural farmland on narrow, gravely, beat up roads with plenty of exposure to the wind. A decent little hill in the last mile followed by a fast descent on bumpy cobbles all add to the "classic-ness" of the race. It's a pretty ridiculously long drive (5 hours) down there but the race always draws the best riders from the Midwest and it's a fun race to start the season with.
Team Kenda out in full force this weekend with a crew of eight 1/2/3 riders (Catherine, Christy, Jess, Jill, Monique, Shelley, Theresa and myself) and a couple (Morgan and Megan) in the 4s race. I was super excited that so many girls were going to make the trip for the race. I rode down with my two teammates Jill and Mo and we filled the drive with lots of games of 20 Questions - it's this little crazy electronic ball that asks you 20 yes or no questions and then often shocks and amazes you with its ability to correctly guess what you're thinking of. Good for car trips!
We stumbled into our hotel rooms at nearly midnight and tried not to wake up our sleeping teammates! It was so fun to see Christy and Ben again and I was impressed to see Ben flipping corncakes in the hotel room with his electric griddle that he brought along - I wish I had taken a picture! We bike racers have serious routines with our breakfasts!
It was a beautiful day for a bike race with sunshine, temps around 60, and the farm fields nice and green. We organized ourselves as a team and laid out our plan for the day. To succeed as a team we were all going to have to play our parts. In a field of 40 strong riders we were the largest team and the pressure was on.
Madeleine of Team BH started out the race fast and had us strung out on the first stretch. I knew positioning was key on this narrow course so I carefully and quickly moved myself into the top 10 riders. A slight lull in the action caused Jill to move up and keep the pace high just as we had planned. With a small hill approaching and the crosswinds blowing I attacked hard and hammered up the hill. I kept the gas on through the corner when Rebecca Much from Webcor came past me with Sydney B of Mercy Girls on her wheel. The three of us began working together. These girls were fast. I was a bit blown from my attack and was trying desperately to stay in the rotation. Next thing I know my teammate Catherine had bridged up to us - perfect! I pulled through a few more times but I could feel myself reaching my limit. Up a small incline I lost a wheel and watched as the trio slipped away.
Looking back I saw a group of 4 riders chasing - maybe 30 seconds up on the main field. I tried to catch my breath and sat up to wait for them and integrate into the chase. I was very happy to see who was in this group. Superstrong Bri K, her teammate Katie W, my teammate Christy, and teenage powerhouse Jessie P. We began working together to hunt down the break and keep distance on the chasing peloton. A great group to be in, everyone was encouraging each other to close the gap. After about 7 miles we finally caught them but lost Katie in the process.
We were now a break of 7 riders. Having 3 Kenda riders and 4 solo riders was exactly what we wanted. Everyone was riding incredibly strong, especially Rebecca and Syd, and we all worked well together. Again a very positive, encouraging group of women. We knew there were plenty of teams not represented in the break and that the chasers would not give up easily. I was hoping the remaining Kenda riders were doing what they could to block for us.
Coming into the finish of the first lap the girls upped the pace on the climb and unfortunately we lost Christy. Down to 6 of us we continued to work together and rode hard the second lap. My legs felt like lead and there were several instances where Syd or Rebecca pushed it just slightly and I thought I was going to be gapped off the back. Never one to try to just sit on, I missed one or two pulls to regain myself and then continued on with our rotation. The winds were mildly annoying but they could have been much worse.
With about 5 miles to go Sydney got a flat tire. We sat up initially but in a race like this we knew that a flat fix could be a 5 minute ordeal and that we couldn't risk the field catching us. We slowed the pace slightly for several minutes but as we approached the finish we ramped it back up. At the base of the last short climb Rebecca attacked hard. There was a vehicle from a different race in the lane and we were forced to zig zag through the cones and around the car to try to follow her. I was hurting and the legs were not feeling very snappy. Catherine and Bri chased after Rebecca who had opened up a big gap. I sat on Jessie over the top and down the cobbles and apologized to her that I wasn't going to pull the two of us up to Catherine and Bri who were maybe 10 seconds up the road. She continued to ride hard and once we got closer to the final corner I jumped hard around her. As I rounded the final corner I was a bike length behind Catherine who was sitting on Bri's wheel. I pushed to try to get her wheel and prepare to try to be a contender in the sprint but I was toast. Catherine came around Bri at the line to snag second and I was just behind them for 4th.
Whew! What a race. It was a great fast race and an excellent way for Team Kenda to start out the season. We were very pleased to have two of us on the podium for the day and congratulations to Rebecca on her well deserved win. It's great to have a rider of her caliber show up to a Midwest event. Syd's ill timed flat was unfortunate and I have no doubt the podium may have looked a little different had she been with us at the end. It was an honor to ride with all my break mates and kudos to everyone on a great race. Complete results here.
All of my teammates worked really hard to get Catherine and I up there. Jill and Jess were working really hard to block and disrupt the chase and I had several other riders compliment Kenda's teamwork and tactics in this race. It's such a thrill when the team's plan goes as hoped and the unselfishness of teammates creates opportunities for other riders. I was so proud of how all the girls rode. And then to top it off Jill took second in the field sprint to pull off 8th! Not bad for the first race of the year! Christy suffered like a dog out there solo for the second lap and was reeled in by the main group with only a mile to go to the finish. Definitely a valiant effort! An excellent way to start the season and proof that we've got a solid Midwestern team assembled this year. Can't wait to race more with my great teammates!
It was fun to hang out with everyone after the race although with the long drive ahead of us we quickly packed up and hit the road. Got in several more quality games of 20Q (two of the games favorite questions - is it heavier than a duck? is it bigger than a bread box? . . . seriously!) Sunday's race in Madison was cancelled due to the predicted snow so yet another day in the basement on the trainer.
No school this week with spring break so in addition to a couple of days of work at Planet Bike I hope to get out and get some solid training days in. Hopefully the weather will cooperate!
Thanks for stopping by!