Neither of my usual racing companions were racing today. Instead, it was just Cindy and me. This was Cindy's first go at a road race. We arrived and did all the usual pre-race stuff. As an added bonus, the race organizers were giving out free packages of Shot Blocks! How nice!
It was a pretty big field for Cat 4 Women. There were 30 of us. This was also a mentored race with Sarah and Jen from Starbucks (Jen, formerly of OOA). Sarah was in the lead car, and Jen was in the follow car.
Since Tessa was still suffering from a cracked front fork, KITT got to race today. I, of course, took off his fenders, thus turning him into a racing stallion. He was very excited to try this thing called "racing". I was interested to see how he would handle.
We rolled out neutral for the usual stretch to the first turn. When we made the turn, it was kind of funny because the follow car beeped the horn, and it was as if everyone "startled". The group kind of instantly slammed on the pedals, only to, not 5 seconds later, settle down to our usual slow pedal up the hill. I'd say that was the last time we went slow. Once we got to the top, the front girls ramped up the speed, and never seemed to slow it down. I had one plan, and only one plan for this race--stay off the front on the front side! In the past, I have gone to the front (easy to do with the downhills), then had trouble getting off the front, thus spending a lot of energy, and not having anything left for the rollers on the back side. I was successful in that endeavor.
Coming into Turn 2, I knew there was a good chance the front gals would take off down the hill. I did not want to get dropped, so I made sure to sprint right out of the turn to stay with them. Again, I was successful. By this time, we were down to about 18 of us.
I stayed tucked in through the rollers. We were moving so fast that no one was able to get away. I could see Sheila trying, but everytime, we caught her. Her teammates were working with her, taking pulls so she could recover (we all know it's not good to let her recover, because then she just takes off), but we were all staying together. The Starbucks gals were keeping the pressure on too (although, in the end, they didn't take it away).
Into lap 2, there was a surge up the hill. I managed to stay on. Then, a group of about 5 or 6 staged a breakaway. I didn't have enough in my legs to bridge alone to the break, but I took turns with a few of the others to get us back to them. After that, according to the mentors, there were 11 of us. Into Corner 2, I again made sure to not get dropped going down the hill.
On the rollers, I found myself at the front for a couple of short pulls, but we were rotating pretty good. I wanted to mostly stay in the middle of the pack so I'd have something left in my legs for the finish. None of this go-to-the-front-and-pull-everyone-along business of last time! I'd see Sheila get out of the saddle at the front, but by then, she couldn't sustain it long enough to get a break. She would sit down, and we would catch up to her.
We passed the 1 km sign (didn't even see it on the first lap). We were flying, but still as a group of 11. No rash moves were being made. We hit the zoom (200m). There was still no massive sprint because we all know it's more than 200 m. Soon enough though, we were all sprinting our hearts and lungs out (seriously, I think I left a partial lung on the side of the road)! Even though my lungs were gasping for air, and my legs were shooting flames, I stayed out of the saddle until I crossed the finish line. I got 9th, and was the last for the pack finish time of 1:02:50 The next 2 gals were just 4 hundredths behind me--good thing I kept sprinting! As I was trying to suck in gallons of air between coughing and gagging, I quickly glanced at my average speed. It was over 22mph! That is the fastest average I've ever had!
As I said at the beginning, this was my best race so far this year. But, why? There were so many variables. First, the obvious change was racing on KITT instead of Tessa. KITT is a little bit heavier, but has 25mm tires vs. Tessa's 23s. I've been reading about how 25s are actually being found to be faster/better than 23s. Is that it? Should KITT be my new race bike? But, what about the fact that I didn't ride at all on Wed., Thurs, or Fri. of this week? Was I more rested? I did do a gravel ride on Mama Cass yesterday with over 2900 feet of elevation gain. So, was I really that rested? Or, as Kirk seems to hypothesize, am I actually getting stronger??? Of course, maybe I just raced smarter. Maybe I have finally figured out that pulling at the front really does me no favors. Regardless of why, I'm still on my track of steady improvement. Although, it would be nice to know which variable it was. Maybe it was all of them put together, an alignment of the planets...so to speak.
Here's Cindy and I--all smiles! Cindy did great! She worked her butt off, and stayed with the group as long as possible (for her first race, and a very fast one at that)! I'm very proud of her effort! Way to go, Cindy!
The results. As you can see, we actually had a DQed rider. Apparently, she jumped before the 200m, crossing the center line, then proceeded to cross the finish first. They frown upon that.