Monday, June 27, 2011

Race Report: Webster Groves Criterium

I am not a huge fan of the Webster Groves crit.  Both women's field start together and the race attracts a lot of first time women racers and it's always super humid.  It took a lot of self-talk for me to race and stay in yesterday.  It was sunny and 84 yesterday, with high humidity.  I got a 30 minute warm up in, but I stopped riding too soon.  As a result, I struggled the first lap.

We had 25 women in the combined field, with 12 women in the 1/2/3 race.  My goal was to sit in and finish.  The race started off at a good pace, but a slight surge on the back of the lap had me fighting to hold on . . . hence why I think I needed to time my warm up better.  By the third lap, I was sitting in the group comfortably and feeling ok.  With the field as large as it was, holding a good position in the pack was tougher than normal.  Our first prime was about six laps in. I had no intention of going after it, but I was able to work my way up to the front of the group.  Emily jumped early on the sprint for it, so I just chased to stay with the front group.  The second prime was somewhere around 20-25 minutes in, I wasn't able to get as close to the front for it but stayed with everyone easily.  Most of the race truly went by in a blur.  A good number of attacks went off, but the group was large enough to cover them easily.  There was some squirreliness, but nothing that caused me too much panic.  We got to five to go and I was estatic.  I was truly ready for the race to be over.  I continued to sit in and make sure I had a strong wheel on the hill on the backside of the course.  With two to go I started thinking about positioning.  I made sure I was mid pack.  We got the bell for the final lap.  The group made a slight surge and then slowed down.  As we hit the hill on the back side I decided to see how close I could get to the front.  I moved to the outside and rode up.  I was sitting third wheel, but the pack was bunched.  Chris took off with about 600k to go.  I saw it and was ready.  Eight of us broke off.  As we rounded the last corner, the sprint was on.  I wasn't able to gain position on the 1/2/3 women, but still finished sixth for my field and seventh overall.

My infamous smimace (smile-grimace).  I was not having fun. *Photo credit:  Michael Dawson

Trying to make sure to stay on a wheel.  *Photo credit:  Dennis Fickinger

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Race Report: State Road Race--Le Tour de Ste Genevieve

Weatherwise it was a perfect race day--temps in the high 70s/low 80s, light breeze, partly cloudy.  The course ( was a challenging one--two loops, each about 34 miles.  The first 20-23 miles of the loop were rolling hills, nothing obnoxious.  The three tougher climbs were on top of each other in miles 23-29.  The first was pretty short, just steep.  The second was about a half mile climb, again steep.  The QOM climb was a little over a mile and had a few big pitches in it. 

There were five of us in the 1/2/3 field--Pam Hinton, Maureen Connelly, Liz Heller, Lynne Anderson.  I've raced against everyone but Lynne.  She's just getting back into racing.  All of them are very strong ladies though.  I didn't have anyone in the feed zone, so I carried two bottles in my jersey to make sure I was prepared.  We rolled out on time and quickly fell into a rhythm with each of us taking 1.5 to 2 minute pulls at the front.  The order would change up after some of the hills, but everyone was doing their part in the group.  I took notice of two things--first, Pam definitely wanted to be "in charge" of our race.  Second, Liz was having trouble getting her gearing right.  She seemed to be spinning way to fast on some climbs.  I paid close attention to my hydration and nutrition, making sure I drank at least once every 10 minutes and took Gu every hour.  The race changed on the climb at mile 23.  With seemingly little effort, Pam, Maureen, and Lynne dropped me and then Liz on the climb.  I saw the gap start, but couldn't close it.  I tried to make up ground on the downhill and couldn't close it completely.  Within minutes they were out of sight.  I caught Liz between the second climb and the KOM climb.  She said she wanted to work together, but kept coming alongside of me.  She asked me if I had enough left to work with her.  The irony of that question stood out on the KOM climb.  I was bound and determine to conquer the climb this year because it got the best of me last year.  I adjusted my gearing on the approach (34/11) and concentrated on spinning on breathing.  By halfway through I was up to 27 in the rear, but was still seated and comfortable.  I was up and over with a lot less effort than I expected, it almost seemed easier than the previous climb.  I looked back for Liz and couldn't see her so I kept going.  I was passed by the a couple of the Cat 4 leading women as I came into town.  I watched them turn to the finish as I headed back out for lap 2. 

I tossed my first bottle at the feedzone and replaced it with one from my pocket.  I was getting warm so I increased my fluid intake to once every five minutes.  The second lap went by much more quickly than I expected.  I rode the entire distance without seeing another rider.  (Ours was the last group to start that had to do two laps.)  My goal was to finish the race in under four hours, so I found a comfortable pace that would allow me to do that with a little cushion.  I got to the first of the three climbs and struggled a little.  I could tell I was tiring.  I GU'd after the descent and started talking myself through the next two.  The second one was hard, but I didn't struggle at all.  I hit the bottom of the KOM and was ready for it.  By this time I didn't have any of the bottles in my pockets, so I was more comfortable being out of the saddle.  I sat for most of the climb, but stood a few times to stretch my back and change position.  Towards the summit, there were still some volunteers out.  They turned on the music for me and began cheering.  One of them came out with cold water and poured it on me when I nodded at him.  I got over the top and concentrated on finishing out the next few small climbs.  When I saw the Ste Genevieve water tower in the distance I knew I was close.  I came into town and was able to finish without looking like I was going to fall over.

I still continue to say I am not a road racer and I do not like road races, however overall, I really enjoyed this race.  It was definitely challenging, but fun.  After I got dropped, I looked at the remainder of the race as a chance to do a beautiful, quick-paced training ride.  That mindset, in combination with good nutrition/hydration, made it a much better race for me this year as compared to last.  My average for the first lap was around 19.2, the average for lap two was about 17.8.