For this race, the Veloworks-Spokes Etc. women had 4 racers and a plan: Beth and Robin cover breakaways and attacks; Kim and Jamie sit in and shoot for a mini lead-out on the last 3 laps; Jamie stay safe on Kim's wheel and sprint like the dickens at the end. We met around 7:00 in Hyattsville and waited together for check-in/registration to open for the women's cat 4 field. We rode together for a little bit to warm up.
The course was about a mile long with 4 right turns. The start was slightly downhill, with a fairly narrow turn at the end. After the turn, the road slanted up slightly. Another turn, and a full-blown hill (according to Strava, the gradient is an average of 3.8%, although the race flyer claimed 14%) to break up the field, then around another corner into a fast downhill (with speedbumps), another right turn, then the finish line.
We lined up in the front and to the left, to get the best line into the first corner. Beth and Robin helped to take the race out hard through the first 2 or 3 laps. I didn't look back much, because I was holding on for dear life, but apparently we broke the field! We took a group of about 10 off the front with the fast start, and all 4 of us were in that group. Beth and Robin did a great job of setting the pace early, but no one else stepped up to help keep the pace high after those first few laps, so the field came back together.
I almost got dropped on the hill during those first few laps, but always had the speed to catch up on the downhill. Robin got cooked after the hard start, and settled back in the pack for a while. The pace slowed down--especially on the hill--for the middle of the race. I was grateful for that, but it allowed the field to come back together. Or so I was told. Again, I didn't look back much.
The few times I did look back were to check to see if a group was getting away. There were a few times where a small group got a break. One time in particular, a woman tried to go off the front, with another tailing her. I went with them because I didn't see Beth or Robin nearby, and we got maybe a 30 meter gap. I think we could have gotten away. I was trying to communicate that to the other two girls, but by the time they heard me or understood me, the pack was already coming back up to us. That was a match I could have used later.
We had a prime lap with 4 to go. The pace picked up a little bit, but no big break. Beth covered that attack nicely. I was more interested in the win than the prime, so I mostly ignored it. And the pack came back together after that.
With 2 laps to go, a woman (I think from NCVC) launched an attack coming around the second corner (I think?) into the hill. She got a good gap on the bunch, and I encouraged Beth to try to cover that attack. By that time, Robin was suffering from the work she'd done earlier, and Kim and I were trying to sit in and save up for the sprint. Beth got up the road with a group of 3 or 4 other women, but they never caught the woman who launched the initial attack. She went on to win. On that last lap, another NCVC woman put in a little surge on the hill, probably trying to bridge up to the breakaway. But by that point, there wasn't enough road to catch them. I launched around Kim on the downhill going into the turn to try to catch her, but she was too far ahead. I sprinted to the finish for practice, but I was alone in it. Kim came in right behind me. There was one other woman, then Robin.
Beth ended up getting 4th place, good for one upgrade point! She had a great ride, very strong, and was really good at covering breaks. I got 6th, Kim got 7th, and Robin got 9th. I think we did a great job of working as a team; we even got compliments on it from other racers! And it's still early in the season, so we'll all get stronger. The VWS women are well-positioned for an outstanding season.
Personally, I need to work on trusting my team more. I lost Kim's wheel for about half of the race. I went with that potential breakaway instead of trusting Beth and Robin to bring it back while we sat in. I'd like to do better next time on sticking to my role and trusting my team. We communicated pretty well, and we're going to continue to work on that. We have a few ideas about how to improve on it, but I'm not going to tell you about them. They're secret.
It was a fun race! I'm glad we were able to get such a good group of women together for this one, especially on short notice. Big thanks to Kaitlynn for keeping an eye on the registration, and encouraging us to do this race as a team.
Thanks also to Veloworks Cycling Development, Spokes, Etc. Bicycles, and our other great sponsors for supporting us!