It was a beautiful day for racing yesterday!
I decided to (or Mike talked me into) go and do the Masters race to practice my pack skills. After last weekend's [not so great] performance at Turtle Pond, I realized that I really needed to feel more comfortable being in the middle of a pack. What better way to practice than with some smooth (or so I thought) Masters men?
Before the race, my teammate Michele introduced me to some of her ECV friends in the race. We kicked off, and I did what I set out to - rode with the lead pack, in the middle and surfing throughout for the entire 20 miles. Some of the men made some pretty sudden moves in the pack, causing me to have to brake seriously on more than one occasion - this made me think maybe I hadn't done the right thing thinking these guys were safe! One of them even blew his nose in the middle of the race, landing snot all over my arm. Yuck. He did apologize though ;-).
Coming into the end of the race, I even sprinted, finishing ahead of a couple of my packmates for a great finish - 11/20. I felt great about my performance and result. One race down, one to go ;-).
I had just enough time to change my jersey in between the Masters race and the Women's race. Having put in a fairly hard effort for the first 20 miles, I wasn't sure what kind of legs I was going to have left, but I lined up with 10 other women (2 Cat 2s, 2 Cat 3s and 6 Cat 4s) anyway.
We didn't really have a team strategy, so when the race started, Katherine took the first run up the road, with the rest of us blocking on the front. After she came back, Kristen put in a great attack, and stayed away for quite awhile before also coming back. It was at that point that I figured I felt pretty good, so why not take my turn? I signaled to Katherine to back it off as we caught Kristen, and launched from there. The team did an AWESOME blocking job, and I was away for almost 2 full laps. I kept looking over my shoulder expecting to get caught, but eventually gave up when I couldn't see any chasers for a good deal of time.
As I crossed the start/finish area, I asked other teammates/friends watching for time gaps, and learned that I had about a minute advantage on the field. I still felt great, and pushed forward. I knew I was racing strong, and the mental conversation today was non-existant. I was just riding as hard/fast as I could to try and maintain my lead.
The chase group of 4 caught me on the third lap, after being on my own for almost 2 full laps. The catch came as the Cat 4 men passed by (there was a protest about this afterwards - according to some I had a 1:20 second gap on the field, and the chase were using the men's field to catch me. They denied using their draft, and the results stand). Unfortunately, they caught me at the top of the only hill on the course, and I was promptly dropped. Determined not to let that happen to me a second week in a row, I chased until I finally caught back on. At that point we were a group of 5 with one lap left to race. We ended up in a group of three (two of the chase group went off the front), and a game of cat and mouse ensued. Not having patience (and not wanting to get caught by the rest of the field), I tried an attack that didn't work and ended up pulling my group into the sprint finish, and crossing the line 5th.
I really needed the ego-boost that these races gave me. I raced well on this course last year as well, so now I think this is one of my favorites, but I don't think Mike would agree...