Minnesota State Championship Road Race - Race Report
Posted Sep 03 2010 4:50am
I had a very busy weekend with back-to-back races on Saturday and Sunday. First up was the Minnesota State Championship Road Race on Saturday. This was the race the Birchwood Bettys decided would be our first team race. The team is in a transitional year. In the past few years, all the female Birchwood racers have moved onto other things in life. We are in the process of building up the next generation of racers. Seana has stepped up as coach and has been literally kicking our Betty asses for the last 2 weeks in preparation for this race.
Saturday morning we all made the 90 minute trek up to the middle of nowhere to race through the Minnesota countryside. Seana, Gabriella and I warmed up for a good 30 minutes while Stef and Meredith warmed up on trainers in the parking lot.
With 15 minutes to go, we all met up to discuss last minute strategy. Fortunately we had Barb with us. Barb has been racing for many years and can tell you everything you need to know about every woman you'll be racing against.
The Birchwood Betties, ready to race!
A little pre-race scheming. Barb's got the low done on everyone!
We rolled out to start the race. The course was two 18-mile loops. The game plan was to sit in on the first lap and then race the second lap. I will admit it is hard to be patient. I came to race! Sitting in for 18 miles was not fun! I did appreciate my teammates and all the work they did to protect me from the wind. It's humbling to know their job is to work their butts off to keep me out of the wind so I will have something left in my legs to sprint at the end. I watched Gabriella and Barb fall off the pack and knew it was because they spent lots of time out in the wind for my sake. Thanks, Gabriella and Barb!
The wind was tough but not the worst I've been in. There was a pretty steady 18mph wind from the south but since each lap was basically a giant square, we also had some time in tailwind. There was one pretty significant hill on the course. It wasn't a killer hill, but the finish line was placed at the very tip-top of that climb. I had a feeling the race would come down to a sprint up that hill. I was right.
We climbed the hill and passed the Birchwood cheering section as we finished the first lap.
Coach Seana watching for Birchies.
Me (white helmet) and Stef (yellow helmet) finishing the first lap
Gabriella climbing the hill on her 1st lap.
The second lap started on some sketchy pavement so no one made a move. Finally someone shot off the front but no one followed. I was getting antsy. I took off expecting my team to follow. I wasn't working too hard but when I turned corner #2, I saw the pack was about 1/2 mile behind me. No one was on my wheel. WTF?! I debated taking off and time trialing the rest of the race, but figured I would probably blow up in the wind with no one around me to work with. I decided to play it safe and go back to the pack.
The pack seemed to be getting slower and slower, or maybe I was just getting antsier and antsier. I wanted to ride hard. We were not riding hard. Everyone seemed to be scared of the wind. No one wanted to pull. I finally got up front because I was about to lose my mind sitting in the pack. I was not working hard up front. It was just that no one wanted to get around me. At one point I wondered how slow I could go before someone would get frustrated and take the lead. I got the group down to 13mph for awhile and FINALLY someone decided to get up front.
At this point there was about 5 miles left in the race. I was nervous. We hadn't even started racing yet! "Should we take off?" I asked Stef. "No, let's wait it out," she replied. We could see the hill slowly approaching us, signalling the finish line was near.
Right as we entered the hill, the pack jumped. I somehow ended up at the back of the pack on the first part of the hill. Thankfully Birchwood has a weekly hill ride that has put us in awesome hill climbing shape. I passed 50% of the pack on the first 0.6 miles of the hill.
Now we just had a left hand turn and 0.3 miles of climbing to the finish line. I couldn't get in a good position, so I took the corner wide and then jumped on Stef's wheel. It felt like we were going too slow, so I stood up, went around Stef and starting hammering for the finish line.
The 1st place finisher... You can see the pack waaay in the background on the right.
Eventually I saw the GP girls start to fall back. I knew I had to keep hammering until the line was behind me. I finished in 2nd place with Stef and Meredith right behind me in the pack.
Me (white helmet) pulling away from the pack to take 2nd.
Meredith reaching the top of the hill.
Barb finishing on the hill
So the team tactics didn't play out as well as we had hoped, but from what I've heard, women's Cat 4 races can be like that. This was only our first team race. There will be plenty more to come.
The best part of coming in 2nd.... Unlike triathlons and running races, cycling pays out money! (Or "cash money" as my husband would say!)
I broke even on the day, learned a lot about racing and came away feeling like Birchwood may have a pretty awesome women's team next year.