Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Great Weekend for Racing

It seems that winter has finally ended in New England, bringing not Spring, but full on Summer this weekend. It was delightful to be outside in the sun, and 70 degree temps, especially with my first two road races of the season on the docket.

Turtle Pond, Loudon, NH
Saturday, June 21

3 laps, 35 miles
22-ish starters
Finished 9th

This was a HARD race. From the start, we immediately had to climb a nasty grade to where the finish line would be. In typical Cathy fashion, I went off the front of the group, and crested the hill first thinking that I would be able to recover once we started back down. Of course, this backfired (it always does), and once I was on the front, I had a hard time getting back into the group, and out of the wind. Myself and a couple of International Bicycle Center riders did most of the pulling on the first lap, where the entire back half was into a headwind.

I did attempt an attack from the group on this lap as well. Brooke (the NEBC Elite Women's team director) had spent a good deal of time explaining to me the mechanics of attacking. I did exactly as she said - went out from the middle of the pack on a slight hill to see if I could get a gap. I did for a couple of minutes, but the field quickly brought me back. It was a good tactic for me to practice, though.

On the second climb up the hill, I was tired and couldn't keep the pace with the climbers. I have said before, and will say again that I am not a climber, nor have I ever played one on TV. I did manage to connect with two other riders (and soon a fourth), and we all worked together for the second lap (one of them did CALL me a climber, but I told her she was mistaken ;-)).

I managed to climb the hill the third time ok, and Mike yelled that I was in 8th place. I felt that was pretty good, but also knew that we wouldn't catch the leaders of the race. We did catch another woman who ended up working with us for the final lap of the race. She definitely had something left on the final climb though - as I tried to match her, I was unable to, and finished behind her, but ahead of my other two compatriots for a 9th place finish.

This was my best RR placing to date, so I was really excited! Especially since the other two women in my group were about 1/2 my age - both collegiate racers. It definitely helped to have Mike and others cheering as I climbed that blasted hill, too - thanks! The rest of the team was also successful, and met their stated goals. Congrats to Libby, Teri, Loraine and Zoe for a great showing in what was the first race of the season for most of us.

A hearty congratulations also to the NEBC Elite teams in this race - they took 1st and 8th in the Men's Cat 3 race, and 1st and 7th in the Women's 1/2/3 race. A strong showing by the club.

Myles Standish State Park Race, Plymouth, MA
Sunday, June 22

3 laps, 15 mi
12 starters
Finished 3rd

This was a FAST course, although bumpy. The pavement in Myles Standish is nasty - lots of potholes and heaves throughout, so you have to be careful. We bike through here on the Great Mass Getaway (click here to sponsor me for this year's event), so I know what to watch out for.

NEBC turned out to be the dominant team in the Women's Cat 4 race, with myself, Loraine, Julie, Jean and Libby on the start line. Today, everyone had different goals from yesterday's race, and mine was not to pull - oh well ;-).

Now, I DID start out ok in the race, hopping onto Jean's wheel off the start and around the first couple of corners. There were a couple of other women in the race who were strong, and were testing their legs to see what they could do. Of course, I couldn't just let them go... A couple of us tried attack after attack on the group, but it never really amounted to anything.

As we came into the finish hill after the first lap, I decided to try another attack and see what happened. Much to my surprise, it STUCK! I looked back and had a clear gap on the group, so put my head down and went as hard as I could. I knew I wouldn't be able to stay away for almost two full laps, but as luck would have it, two racers were able to bridge up to me, and we worked together to sustain and build our advantage over the rest of the field.

One of the women in my group had been in my group racing at Turtle Pond - a Harvard cyclist. She will have a great racing career ahead of her from what I have seen.

As we came up one stretch of the course, the Elite Women's team were pulled to the side of the road to let us pass. It was very heartening to hear them cheer as I went by! Shortly thereafter, however, we were neutralized as the Cat 3 men's field meandered past - at least it felt to us like they were meandering! Thankfully, our breakaway didn't lose any time, and the pace car indicated to us that we had a minute gap on the rest of our field.

Knowing this, we kept smart and worked together through the final lap of the race. Coming into the sprint finish, the other women were both stronger and faster than I, and took the sprint. I was happy with a third place finish in the race, and the fact that we finished almost a minute and a half ahead of the rest of the field! Thanks to Loraine for working to block (and congrats on 5th place!), and thanks, too, to the rest of the team for their hard work and support.

I guess I have learned now how to attack - thanks, Brooke, for the patience and advice (and the cheering and kudos as well).

1 comment:

Carrie said...

Congratulations Cathy! Great job in both races - what a way to start the season! Nice Attacks! Wish I could be on my bike!! I'm jealous. Will try to convince myself that walking around the neighborhood during my doctor's order of two weeks with no strenous exercise is fun. - Carrie