23 miles, 1 lap
It was fine weather for racing today in New England - full on rain and 45 degrees! Despite the weather, our field started out with 22 women, including 9 from NEBC (go team!). At just after 9:30, we were off to make our way in the rain, around the lake... The race starts at the Sunapee Ski area, and makes it's way 23 miles around Lake Sunapee. It is relentlessly hilly, but a beautiful (in non-rainy weather) course.
At our team meeting before the race, I told everyone that their primary goal was to keep both wheels firmly on the pavement today. Unlike last week, I didn't develop a sound strategy, but did have a finish strategy in mind if two of my teammates could stay with me.
Last year, this was my second road race. I foolishly got on the front of the pack immediately, and pulled, HARD, for the first 7 miles of the race. Then we hit a hill. I was all done after that, and had to work feverishly, by myself, for most of the rest of the race.
Some will say that I haven't really changed my ways since then, but they would be wrong. I stayed in the front of the pack, comfortable (but COLD), riding to the base of the first hill. There were a couple of quick accelerations, but nothing that anyone was letting get away at that point. By the time we reached the first hill,, I was ready to go, and Brooke had told me that I should use that to test my legs and see how I feel. I snuck out and around the field heading up the hill, got to the top and realized that I had a gap on the field, but that I had some company as well. After the next hill, we were a group of five with enough of a gap that I told the women we all needed to work together to keep the gap and stay away.
The rest of the race, four of us managed to stay together - none of us with teammates to help (we dropped one of the five on a second hill climb). We rotated in a paceline nicely, although I seemed to be at the front on all of the climbs, not because I wanted to, but it appeared I had more power. At one point, I wondered what my break-mates would say if I told them I really wasn't a climber...
As we came into the final two miles, I positioned myself third wheel to take a break before the final climb and sprint. I followed my two break-mates through the rotary, and then both peeled off as we started up the hill. I knew I had a rider on my wheel, but Cris and Brooke had told me in advance how to play the finish - small ring to the false flat, then shift to the big ring and go for the final sprint. I did this exactly, but TOO SOON! I ended up running out of both legs and gears, and getting passed by the woman on my wheel. My head wanted the race win, but my legs just wouldn't cooperate.
After crossing the line, Marianne S. from IF came over and said, "Nice job, but that was a really LONG sprint!" She was right, but now I know for next time.
My original finish strategy? It fell apart on the first hill where I attacked. I dropped one of my teammates here, and the other racing for the first time today, ended up getting a flat at the bottom of the first hill and watching the field ride away from her. She got a wheel change from support, and managed to CHASE DOWN almost the entire field, crossing the line in 5th, and in the money! I think she's hooked on racing now ;-).
After the race we had a team debrief, and it was so much fun to look around at everyone smiling, despite the cold and wet we had just raced in. Everyone admitted that the race was "fun"!