Today was the final stage of the Capital Stage Race--the road race. Overnight, we lost 4 of our Cat 4 Women riders. One was my teammate Maria, but we knew about that one. Don't know what happened to the other three. We were down to 14.
The road race started in Rochester at Grand Mound Elementary. For us Cat 4 Women, it was a 47 mile course that took us up two major hills, each twice.
The roll-out for this race is pretty long, about 3 miles I think. We were all quite chatty throughout the roll-out. Once we got the beep from the follow car, we were racing. However, the pace was still quite slow and chatty. This is a trait of the Cat 4 Women. We don't let a little thing like a bike race stop us from talking!
We negotiated the flat, with a few rollers that is Independance Valley Rd, without a lot of effort. Everyone seemed content to just roll along. No real surges or attacks. Of course, this probably had to do with the upcoming hill known as Manners Rd. once we reached the base of Manners, the strong gals took off. That left me, Debbie, a couple of Starbucks gals, and, eventually, Jean, dropped off the back. The follow car even went around us (first time that has happened to me in a race).
I kept working my way up the hill (it's rather long). I, unfortunately, left Debbie behind. I wanted to catch up to Jean, which I did just after the turn at the bottom of the hill. We worked together to catch up to the follow car. We did it, and got back in the race! We just sat in the rest of the way to Michigan Hill. I knew we would be dropped again--Michigan is even steeper than Manners. Jean is much better at hill climbing than I am, so I was, once again, chasing after her. I caught up at the bottom and we worked again to catch the group. We could see them, but never quite reach them. We were gaining, but then we were back to Manners, and climbing again. This time Jean stayed with me and paced me up the hill. She would remind me of what I should be doing--spin it out, shift into a bigger gear now, etc. We made it up and over, but the rest of the group was now out of sight. We went back to working together on the flats of Lincoln Creek--taking turns pulling. We work well together because I can pull for a long time and recover quickly. Jean maintains a great pace, but tires more quickly. She is able to stay on the front long enough for me to recover.
We continued, but we could still not see the follow car. Then, at the expense of a Men's 4/5 rider's extreme misfortune, we got lucky. The poor 4/5 rider had taken a severe spill on the course ahead of us. The emergency response vehicles were blocking the road. The Women's race had come to a standstill. We joined the group waiting. Debbie and one of the Starbucks gals also rejoined us. We were stopped long enough to be able to eat and do some stretching.
The ambulance took the guy, and the rest of the road was cleared. The race official let the accumulated traffic go, then we were back to racing. We just had one more trip up Michigan Hill. Again, Debbie, Jean, the Starbucks gal, and I got dropped behind the follow car. This time there was also one of the Portland gals. Jean was doing a great job up the hill with Susan, the Portland gal. I was happy to just get up as fast as I could without killing myself! I thought I would catch them on the bottom. Not quite! I could see them, so I just kept working to close the gap.
Finally, with just a few kilometers to go, I caught up to Jean and Susan. We sprinted together across the finish line. Susan was the gal I had finished the Crit with yesterday. Even though we spent about half the race trying to catch up, we managed to finish not that far behind the group. That was due to perseverance and a bit of luck. As Jean and Maria like to say, That's Bike Racing!!! And, best of all, I maintained my 10th place finish overall!