What a day for the NEBC Women! In the 3/4 race, we managed to capture 5th (Cathy), 6th (Shannon) and 7th (Susanne) place with three other teammates racing well. In the Elite race, Cris won a 4-up sprint to finish 4th, with Sally solidly in the top 10 with an 8th place finish. NEBC women ROCK!
I have to say that when I got up on Saturday morning and saw that the temp was a BALMY 17 degrees (that's Fahrenheit for all my Canadian friends), I really just wanted to crawl back under all of the covers! Instead, Mike and I left EARLY to head out to Sterling, MA. Tom Stevens does a great job designing really challenging and fun 'cross courses, and this was not a disappointment! I did wonder, though, how I was ever going to pedal and shift with so many layers of clothes on ;-).
Before the race I talked to some teammates and friends who were really burnt out on the season, had no motviation, and didn't really want to race. In fact, one of them pre-rode the course, and decided not to race at all. This certainly didn't help my motivation, but I figured since I was there, already cold and had paid my money (and had a front row starting position - hooray!), that I was going to do my best. This was a UCI race, so I couldn't race Elite, and lined up instead with my 3/4 teammates and friends, hoping for a decent showing.
The course started out on the cinder track, which unlike Lowell, was not muddy when I raced - more like frozen! We exited the track to ride up to a steep run-up, the top of which was also frozen, and VERY slippery (as I later found out the hard way). Back downhill into a horse barrier - this particular feature is NOT a favored of the more vertically challenged women racers, and it even gives me, at 5'10", a really hard time. From there, it was out into the field, onto some pavement for a bit of recovery (or passing), back into the field for some swoopy ups and downs, before riding an of-camber hill down into the barriers. Remount, head back UP to the off-camber, out the backstretch near the pits (with a VERY tight turn - every lap I thought I would end up riding THROUGH the pits...), up a bumpy section of dirt and back onto the track. Fun, fun, FUN!
The women lined up behind the juniors. Thankfully, the under 19's were going to have a 1 minute head start on us, which meant that they MIGHT not lap us - at least not too early. Unfortunately, the cub juniors (10-14) started between our two groups...
I got a great start on the track, and wound up going into the grass towards the run-up about 4th wheel when Libby crashed in front of me. I somehow managed to make my way around her, but then got caught behind some of the little juniors running up the hill, and they were having a TOUGH time. Caught a few more of them at the horse jump, and actually lost some time there. They were so little, they couldn't even lift their bikes up over the jump! One of them was almost in tears, and even cursed as a friendly spectator (his mom?) helped him get his bike up and over...
I knew I was sitting in a good position, but eventually heard that I was 4th. Woohoo! But man, did it hurt to try and maintain that! My teammate, Shannon, and the "good doctor" (aka Mrs Zanc) and I raced together - HARD. I flubbed my dismount on the run-up one lap, causing Rebecca to hit my rear wheel, and Shannon to blast ahead of me. We were still all three together, but now I was on the back... Shannon and I managed to get ahead going onto the track, and she did a great job pulling me about 3/4 the way around before letting me know she wanted me to pull. I'm not sure exactly where, but somewhere on that lap, Rebecca and I lost Shannon - I think it was on the up, 180 turn, down hairpin section.
In the final lap, Rebecca and I were battling really hard. As we were about to crest the run-up, I had the better line and could see I would get ahead of Rebecca, but my foot slid on the frozen ground, and I went down. Frantic, I got back up, didn't check anything, and was off, chasing hard - Rebecca was in 4th, and I was in 5th. I caught her again in the field, but then she put in a good surge through the swoopy up/downs and off-camber/barrier sections to gap me just a little bit. At that point, I didn't have the juice left, and a small gap opened between us. If I could just stay on her wheel, I knew I could get her in a sprint.
Rebecca, I think, wanted that race bad! She put in a huge effort to increase the gap just enough so that I couldn't out sprint her on the track. She had a terrific race, and clearly, deserved to beat me in the end. I congratulated her after the finish, and we were both glad to be done, but also to have had such a fun race, and my best Verge/UCI finish ever!
I waited for Mike's race to start then, and watched as he lined up in the second to last row of about 65 men... Of course, by the time they raced, the sun had warmed the track enough that they had the muddiest race of the day - AGAIN! He managed to work his way up through the pack, and was racing with a small group of about 4, including Wayne, for a long time. In the end, he sprinted for the finish with Brian from Bikeman, and finished 40th. He had mor bike trouble at this race - bars slipped twice, and his shifting was still an issue. We need to make sure that all gets worked out before Natz!
It was also fun to hang out afterwards and watch our other teammates in the Killer B (2/3) race and then the Elite Women. Cris and Sally looked terrific, working together to maintain control over a small group. Cris played the finish of her race perfectly, crossing the line ahead of the other 4 women in her train thanks in part to the blocking tactics of Sally! So fun to watch.
Next week the MRC race in Wrentham, and then it's off to Natz!