What a difference a week makes! Last week's Tour de Dung #1--rain, freezing cold, and gale force winds. Today's Tour de Dung #2--still a little cold in the morning, but sunshine and not too terribly windy!
Before I get to the Trifecta of Awesomeness of the Cat 4A Women's race, a thank you and Debbie's own moment of awesomeness are in order. A big big thank you to Terry and Krisel for hosting us again for Friday night--allowing us to get a good night's sleep before today's race! It's the things like this that help us do our best in this adventure of bike racing.
As for Debbie, she raced again with the Cat 4b Women (a mentored race). Don't be thinking this was a walk in the park. Nooooo, these gals were working just as hard as every other racer out there today! The mentors coached them on skills and strategy, but no amount of coaching would help if they didn't have the strength and guts to try those skills. Last week Debbie finished in a most-impressive 5th place. This week, instead of resting on her laurels, she used what she had learned, made her own personal plan (afterall, she was the only OOA Team member in her race), and executed a resounding 3rd place finish! She was spot-on with her sprint, and we were ecstatic! (The video I did of her finish has large amounts of screaming on my part!)
Us Cat 4A women raced last (again). The wind had picked up a little, but still nothing like last week and, the sun was out in full force. Sunglasses time! I even took my number off my vest and pinned it straight to my jersey. No need for that extra layer today! Some gals were even sporting bare legs! I left the arm warmers and leg warmers on (and I was just fine). Spring weather at last!
We rolled out after the usual instructions (this race was officiated much better than last week). I noticed right away that the wind was different. More than just less of it, it was also coming from a different direction. Hmmmm...no great tailwind action. Maria, Jean, and I had sort of planned to try to do what we had planned for last week (that was wholly unsuccessful). Just like last week, we were doing a pretty good job of staying together at the beginning. Awhile after we made the second turn, I started hearing a clicking sound. I thought it was the bike in front of me. Then all of a sudden, it got really loud. Maria came up beside me and I said, "What is that noise?" Maria yelled that it was "the thing" on my wheel. I looked down and realized the magnet for the computer was hitting the sensor with each rotation of the wheel. I drifted out of the pack and reached down to fix it while still rolling (this was the tiniest bit dangerous as I could have tangled my fingers in the spokes). In the meantime, the pack was moving ahead. Later, Maria tells me she was thinking, "Oh no! We need her!" The first time I reached down, I was able to move the sensor out some, but it was still clicking. I reached down again (being oh so careful to keep my fingers out of the fast-moving spokes) and pulled it out more. Ahhh...silence! Back in business, I sprinted up the left side of the pack back to Jean and Maria. As I came up to them, I said, "I'm back! I fixed it." Maria was a little surprised and told me I would have to tell her how I "fixed it"--without stopping (quite honestly, it didn't occur to me to do it any other way)!
We spent the rest of the first lap doing a good job of staying together and either, near the front, or on the front. By most racer's standards, I'm still spending too much time on the front. But, I like it there. I can relax and go the pace I want to go. Yes, my legs are strong, so that pace can be fairly fast, but I am relaxed and generally breathing pretty easy. It is far more stressful for me in the pack. Of course, gals go by me eventually, but I always seem to end up back on the front. In this case, Maria, Jean, and I took turns working for each other. We were doing our plan!
As we were coming up on the last corner of the first lap, another gal came up beside me and said, "Do you want to punch it once we get around this corner?" Not knowing exactly what she meant by that, I said, "Uh...okay." So we came around the corner and I sped up (not really a lot though, because...well, we still had two laps to go). It didn't really matter because, as we started up the first rise on the second lap, we got neutralized. This time the lead car did what it is supposed to do, and slowed us way down so the guys could safely speed past us. As soon as they were past the lead car a sufficient amount, the lead car sped up and gave us a hand wave to let us know we were racing again. After the first corner, we got neutralized again. We were slowed even more as there was some idiot driver coming in the oncoming lane as the Cat 1/2s were going around us also in that lane. The car finally pulled over to the shoulder as the wall of cyclists was bearing down on it!
Once we were back to racing, Jean, Maria, and I continued sticking together most of the time. Curiously, I was on the front in the same places as the lap before. Déjà vu?
I was having a great time taking the corners fast and controlled. The third corner of the second lap I was able to take the corner, holding my line (nothing sketchy here), and pass several gals. That was fun! (Don't get any ideas, fellow racers reading this. I'm still not enthusiastic about doing a Crit!)
Finishing the second lap, I was on the front again (also, I had made note of the fact that the finish would be in a slight headwind...better than a crosswind!). I thought to myself...12 more miles and I'm good to go to Austin (for my bike tour)! It was the final lap and the three of us OOA gals were still hanging together (HOLY SMOKES! This plan just might work!). We were also doing a bang-up job of communicating our whereabouts with each other. On the backside, where the rollers are, I was on and off the front. A few would go by me, then slow down, and I would go by them. Maria told me later I was doing a great job of controlling the race. As we made the final turn onto Kitchen Dick Rd., I was on the front. At the 1km sign I picked up the pace, just hoping Jean and Maria were close behind me. At the 200m sign I was still on the front, but I could hear the whir of wheels fast approaching. Please be there Jean and Maria! BE THERE BE THERE BE THERE!!! Then, I see Maria go flying by on the left (with a bunch of other gals trying to outsprint her), just as Jean goes by on my right! YES!!! THEY WERE THERE!!!
Maria won the race and Jean and I came in 10th and 11th! WE DID IT!!! It was a TRIFECTA OF AWESOMENESS!!!
So I didn't get a top 10 finish, but I was a Team Player, and it was the best race I've done so far!
One final note, the "merchandise" prizes for this race were...unusual. Mostly baby things. Maria got three sets of plastic (but colorful!) baby spoons and forks for her Women's Cat 4A 1st Place finish (okay, she also got a pair of L/XL Michelin Bike Tire socks--suitable for Men's size 10-13 feet!). She gave Jean and I each a set. I think I'll take them on tour, just for fun--look for them in photos!