Monday, June 23, 2008

Giro d'Grafton

Saturday I tried my first women's road race and rode away with it. Not even kidding. In the above picture there are a few people ahead of me, but they're either getting lapped or not in my category.

Now that everyone is thinking 'What an egotistical jerk' I guess I'll begin the race report. I was really nervous for this race. Like, couldn't-even-eat-breakfast nervous. I had two bites of a Clif Bar and had to choke the second bite down and set the rest aside. There were a few people who were expecting great things from me, so the heat was on. I had a bit of a scare signing up last-minute, but got in a few warm-up laps and then lined up with the rest of the women. I recognized Amelia of Crono Metro, who I raced with last year in Cyclocross, and chatted with her while we waited for the start.

We started with little fanfare. I wasn't ready and got stuck about mid-pack right off the line. In the next few laps I moved up and got myself into the top 5 or so. So as to not get long-winded on you, I'll just sum up what tended to happen in the race. The other women and the juniors took the corners too slow and wide for my liking (as evidenced in the first 2 photos up there). I was putting on the brakes when I followed behind people, so I started just taking the corners to the inside and going at my own speed. This worked out well but then I was stuck outside with no one to draft off of. I considered it a good trade, though, because I didn't have to slow down and speed back up again.

The other thing about the corners is that it tended to break up whatever peloton we managed to cobble together. Even though I was without a draft when we were going through the corners, if I wanted to hop in after the first or second rider, I would wait until a corner when the line opened up a little bit and then bully my way in. I couldn't/wouldn't have done that on a straight, but the corners made it possible.

I led for a little while. I think there was a good mix of people leading the race, so no one really got burnt out from that, as far as I could tell. My strategy was to stay behind a few people and lead at a decent pace when I was put out there. I did this so I could catch any breaks that were happening, and save my energy for the final lap(s). Only once did I discern a break attempt (there were probably more), but I was right behind the junior and sprinted to bring her back in. Other than that it was pretty calm.

I had planned from the get-go to start the sprint early. I don't have a lot of confidence in my sprint, so the idea was to get the pack sprinting early. If there's one thing I have confidence in, it's my ability to push it at higher speeds for a good amount of time. (I have to work at shaking people off right after I kick it in, though. Otherwise they draft and get a free ride from my formidable form.) I paired that plan with cutting through the corners quicker and more efficiently than the other women. Planned and executed. I started really kicking it in a little less than half a lap in, and just turned it up more in the homestretch. I got down into the drops and pushed as hard a gear as I could. My thighs were burning with the effort, but it felt good.

In the last bit, two juniors came out from behind me. They had been able to hold on when I started to go, and were drafting behind me for most of the homestretch. While it would have been nice to be able to have the finish line to myself, they weren't in my category (the girl also races Cat 3 women) so they weren't of any concern. I never looked back to see where the rest of the field was, even after finishing, but Cale told me they were 'like, 100 yards back'. Being biased and prone to exaggerating, I wanted to see some photographic evidence before believing his version of the story. But sure enough, they were a ways back.

The really funny thing is, I was interviewed after the race. I must have seemed very rude, because I thought the guy with the video camera was just taking stock footage of 'people having fun, woo hoo Giro d'Grafton!' so I was just doing my thing, trying to ignore him. Turns out he was waiting to interview me, which was totally unexpected. I did pretty badly ("Would you like to say some words for your sponsors?" "Um.... yes?") and was looming over the camera by the end, but you've gotta start somewhere, right? Nowhere to go but up in my film career.

I'm looking forward to doing more crits. Why? Because they pay out. I finally understand the draw. I'm planning on doing some local Superweek crits and seeing what I can do there. I think they pay out bigger, too. The Giro d'Grafton was really nice and a good time, but the payout was not that good. I'm sorry if it sounds ungrateful (because I know a lot of races don't pay out anything) but I wasn't even able to win back my entry fee by winning. I had hoped for at least that. On the other hand, maybe that will give me the kick in the arse I need to upgrade to the 3's when/if the time comes.

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