Wednesday, October 8, 2008

PART TWO: Goodbye, Cat 3

Here I'm doing the hill run-up and remounting (but not very well). Both photos by djonn mcneill.

That brings us up to this past weekend, a mere FOUR DAYS AGO! This race at Cam-Rock was my first race last year, and my very first CX race. We got up pretty early to make the trek to Madison. I got in a little food and then started to feel a bit nervous. It progressed in the car ride, and I was feeling sick by the time we got to the venue. I also happened to be feeling sleepy, so I decided to ignore the races going on and take a nap in the backseat.

And that worked fantastically! I think it was a combination of a lot of things, but for whatever reason, when I woke up I was not nervous anymore, and was so dopey from my nap that I failed to get a good feeling of panic going, even after registering. Hah!
I amended a few things for this race. The Sunday before I had tried my favorite method of the slow start followed by passing people up, and it had let me down. I also knew that it wasn’t the correct strategy for cyclocross races. Ever. So I decided to get a quick start this time.

I lined up and stayed right up with the pack in the sprint at the start. I wasn’t going to lose any ground in this race. It was a fast pace from the start, and I wondered if I could keep it going, or if I would burn myself out trying to stay with the leader. I settled for being ahead of most and keeping an eye on the leader, a rider for Planet Bike named Diane. I was ready to put some work in if I saw her pulling away too quickly, but was busy battling some other women.
Maybe about halfway through the race, I was riding with Sarah, who’s gotten a lot stronger after having taken a month off. I tried passing her on the hills a time or two, but she responded and stayed out ahead of me. She responded so strongly, in fact, that soon we were gaining on Diane.

After a lap or so, we formed a pack- me, Diane and Sarah. Diane and I traded off leading every once and a while, while I went over the weaknesses of the women I was riding with. Sarah was getting slower up the hills and was slower over the barriers. We would gain about 7 yards on her, and she would have to catch up. While riding behind Diane, I noticed that she would power up the hills but then slow to recover once on top. I knew that I would have to make all of these areas count if I made a move.

It’s funny, I’m all about strategy in CX, but couldn’t ever get it down for track. I wonder if people watch me on the CX course, and what I’m telling them. I hate to show weakness, because I feel like I’m under the same scrutiny I subject others to.

Back to the excitement! With two laps to go, Diane questions if it’s really one lap to go. I don’t think it is, but just in case, I want to be the first one across the line. The three of us are riding together, with some other women pretty close behind.
On this lap, at the hill with the run-up, I foil a move that Diane’s been getting me with. Just after getting over the barriers, she’s been hopping on her bike and riding the hill while the rest of us run it. She’s slower than running up the hill, but she’s faster through the whole thing. That is, I pass her on her left, and while I’m remounting on flat ground, she’s gaining speed and slips to the right of me and gets past. Well, I decide that on this lap, I’ll pass her on the right and inconvenience her. Note: I would not cut someone off, and that is not what I did. I simply held a steady course from top to bottom and took the inside line. I was able to keep ahead of her, and stayed ahead of her for the rest of the lap.

I powered up the slight hill to the finish line to see that there was still one lap left. I was out front: I sighed (it’s possible to do while panting) and prepared to defend it. I focused on going quickly through the places where I knew I could gain a little ground: hills, barriers… hills. I rode hard and finished a handful of second ahead of the rest of the field. Thus ended my career as a Cat 3 CX racer.

It felt good do be both mentally sound and first place. I spent the rest of the day on ‘Super Fan Hill’, the hill with the run-up. Lyle said “Someone’s going to find out how much fun we’re having and make it illegal,” and I’d have to agree. We did beer and dollar hand-ups, and were yelling and ringing cowbells like mad.

It gave me an idea for my upcoming races. As a Cat 2, I don’t think I’ll be winning any races. I’ll have good races within the pack, but I don’t think I’ll be a true contender for first. I’m really hoping that it’s a permanent solution to my nerves going into these races. Rather than get uptight, I figure this is a chance to really have fun. How come women never (or rarely) get dollar hand-ups? I would like to change that up.

I'm on the far far left, and we're all celebrating at Super Fan Central on Super Fan Hill after the first recorded sports bra dollar hand-up. Photo by djonn mcneill.

1 comment:

d*pow said...

dolla bill hand ups for women?