Some of my regular readers will have seen this report on the NEBC mailing list already - sorry for the duplication (there are a couple of updates at the end of the report) ;-) This race turned out to be pretty difficult for a number of reasons outlined below...
35 starters (Cat 3/4 and 40+)
10 NEBC starters - all DNF
About 10 miles into the race, after turning off of Route 20, we started to dominate the racing in the pack. Loraine attacked right out of the corner, and when we caught her, I countered with another attack right away. We had four strong climbers in the pack and wanted to be sure that they were protected, and had legs left for the final climb to the finish. Loraine attacked again in a few miles; I asked her to go once more, which she did, and at that point, the pack was happy to let her go, knowing that they would quickly reel her back in. On the next hill, I attacked again, and was left to dangle off the front of the pack for about 2 miles - I also knew that as much as I like to TT, I couldn't do it for 18 more miles.
Once the pack was back together, a group of five of our teammates moved to the front of the pack, and controlled the pace - working well together so that not one was doing all the work. From my place near the front, they were doing a great job! The team worked EXTREMELY well together, and should be proud of their efforts. They all commented later how much fun they were having.
From the outset, the women on the team felt that our race was not supported. On the start line, we were told that the prize list was being cut in half because we didn't have a minimum number of racers (min was 40, 35 on the line, 27 pre-reg). In his defence, the promoter told me that he also cut the prize list for the 30+ men for the same reason.
We also had no neutral support for the race. Of course, this meant that if any of us had a technical while racing, we would be done. As far as we knew, there was no follow car either. I later learned that Chandra did end up with a flat, and due to the lack of support, had to rely on the kindness of strangers to get a ride back to the race start.
Starting out, we did have two lead out motorcycles. Sadly, the first thing they did was take a wrong turn, getting the entire pack lost, and taking us off course onto very narrow roads, and having us face some dangerous conditions. Once we finally did get back on course, it was clearly evident that these "pace riders" did not know the course at all, as they were slowing at every intersection on the route, and pulling back into the road as the pack approached, causing a lot of unnecessary and abrupt braking. I have never used my brakes so much in a race, simply to miss hitting the pace vehicles.
As I was out on my "flyer" on a flat section of road, I actually had to yell at the motorcycle to move! They had no idea how to pace, how to approach intersections, or where the race course was. This was really unacceptable, and dangerous.
Sadly, at mile 22.5, a squirrely racer caused a significant crash, taking down 7 riders, with 3 transported to the hospital by ambulance. Two of my teammates were included in that transport, both being taken away on backboards. Shannon had tried to go to the right to avoid the crash in front of her, and ended up launching over the guardrail. She was bleeding, and we were worried that she had hit her head as well. Thankfully, a cat scan and x-ray later, she has a fat lip (but you should see the other guy ;-)), abrasions on her neck from her helmet strap, a cut and goose egg behind her right ear and some small cuts on her shoulder and arm. She'll be sore for a few days, but is doing fine. Her bike also escaped unscathed.
Erica ended up being the person that the racers from behind ran over. I have, of course, witnessed this on VS., but seeing it happen to a teammate from behind was pretty scary. Although a nurse offered to cut off her team bib shorts, we managed to save them completely intact. She has a good amount of road rash (and a REALLY UGLY patch on her hip) and will also be sore for a few days, but is fine. Unfortunately, her carbon Look didn't fare quite as well - the top tube is cracked. All of the components, however, including wheels, are fine and can be swapped to her next ride.
Being behind the crash, I actually managed to get stopped completely before impact. Unfortunately, my bike handling skills didn't transfer to those riding behind me, and I was rear-ended/side-swiped (I think in stopping so quickly, my bike may have been sideways), causing me to take a tumble as well. I didn't need medical attention, but will probably take a little longer than my MUCH YOUNGER teammates to heal . Both knees have contusions and/or road rash, but I (and my bike) am fine. This is my first crash in over 20 road races - I hope NEVER to repeat it, and I was lucky!
And the kindness of strangers is sometimes amazing. Immediately after the crash, a motorist coming from the other direction who had witnessed the crash checked all of the injured riders and called 911. His kindness and quick actions were a big help to all of us - we didn't get a chance to thank him, but I hope that he knows we appreciated what he did for us.
Our entire team pulled together completely to help out in this situation. While we all DNF'd, everyone helped to shuttle bikes/cars/people, and to call emergency contacts and let them know what was happening. I am proud of them for the teamwork they displayed today, making a difficult situation much less difficult.
The big lesson we learned as a team today was that we needed to put together a list of contact info - our own and an emergency contact, and to carry phones and insurance cards while racing.
I did send a note to the promoter about the lack of support we felt we had in this race, and the issues we encountered. I received a response back from him, and next year, there won't be a women's field at Monson...
Update: I have also received an email from a member of the IBC team who was involved in the crash. Julie received bruising along her torso and ribs, but is doing fine. She and her teammates were also contemplating sending a note to the race promoter about the "negligent and dangerous" nature of our race.
Also, a NorEast racer (Alison) was transported to the hospital with a suspected broken wrist. The last I heard from the EMTs was that it was likely not broken after all. I hope that Alison heals quickly and is back on the bike soon.