Or, how to be stupid and still win a bike race.
So I didn't really want to race yesterday but I knew it was a decent sized field so there were points up for grabs. I am a points slut now that I got a taste of them! For those who don't know what I am talking about, here's a link to the USA Cycling rules. But basically in cycling the way we race is in categories. 1 is the best category, going down through 4 for women and 5 for men (there are way fewer women who participate in bike racing). Everyone starts in the lowest category and the way you move up is by amassing points by placing in races, or participating in lots and lots of races. With my win the other week I started accumulating points towards a Cat 3 upgrade, and now I want to get the rest of them as quickly as I can to become a Cat 3. Not any big deal but it would be cool, it's been a goal of mine once I kind of knew how cycling worked.
But anyway I digress. So this race was up near where Tour of the Catskills was, and it wasn't too far, and three other girls from my team were going so I decided to go. I am so, so glad I went! First of all we had a great time. Two of the girls had done GMSR (a big stage race in Vermont) the previous weekend when I was in Colorado and I wanted to hear EVERYTHING about it!!! It sounded amazing, I can't wait to do it next year. Also they are generally a really fun and entertaining group of friends and I just love them. So it was great.
We left the city around 7:15 and got to the race right around 10:00. With a 10:40 start time this didn't leave a ton of time for a warmup but I figured the neutral rollout would serve as a warmup anyway. It was a 39 mile, one loop road race with one not insignificant climb. If you want to see how it looks on Strava click here. Not bad though, nothing like the crazy climbs we had to deal with in the Tour of the Catskills thank heavens. So we started out and the pace was pretty nice and mellow. I tried to stay about third to fifth wheel back for the most part to avoid squirrelly behavior. There's always someone who can't ride in a straight line in these races. I like to keep out of trouble. We started trying a few attacks but nothing would stick, partly because it was really windy, partly we just couldn't get any separation. But it helped to drive the pace a little better than just kind of cruising along which gets boring. I knew if we just rode all together until the end and left things to a field sprint I would not get points!
About halfway through we started the longest and steepest climb of the day. Now why I said I am stupid is that I had no idea how long or steep the climb would be, but I decided to attack anyway. So I break and no one goes with me. What the heck?! No idea how that happened. So I just rode as hard as I could until I got to the top of the climb which I believe took about 20 minutes. It was brutal! I was so tired and my heart was beating out of my chest. But I looked back and I couldn't really see the pack anymore so I just told my legs to shut up and I kept going. Once I got to the top I was so relieved but I knew I had to keep pushing the pace if I didn't want to get swallowed back up into the pack again, which would have sucked. After all that work I'd have been spent and useless in a sprint.
The moto (a motorcycle who has to stay with the leader) kept telling me how much time I had up on the pack so at 25 miles I had 30 seconds, at 30 miles I had 48 seconds, and then at 35 miles I had over a minute. So I knew by then I was in good shape although I was really surprised because around mile 30 I turned into a massive headwind which sucked. In that type of situation a pack is going to have a huge advantage over one person because the pack can take turns leading whereas when it's just a solo rider, you have to take the beating from the wind all by yourself. But I just got as low as I could and pushed as hard as I could. And I guess it was enough! I ended up winning by about a minute over the rest of the field. I was super happy and excited. I knew this was a bigger field so it meant MORE POINTS. Awesome. Also my teammates ended up in 5th and 6th I think (or 6th and 7th), either way very good for them. One of our girls had to DNF due to a cramp which sucked so much for her, I feel terrible she had to go all that way! But overall it was a great day and I had a fabulous time. I am very happy with the results. Solo breaks are a hard way to win a race and I don't recommend it, but it is effective!
Now I am chilling on my couch after a nice but somewhat tough ride with my friend Sydney this morning, it feels like ages since I've had time to relax on the couch so I am really enjoying it. What a beautiful late summer weekend!