|My teammate, Sean, got a cool picture of us lined up at the start|
This race went much better for me than last week's. Course was 4 loops with a few rollers and one long-ish stair-step climb after the first turn (Mt. Nebo). I lined up early to get a good spot, after last week's debacle getting pinned in the back of a slow combined field. Positioned nicely and had no trouble hanging on through a strong first few miles. First time up the hill was no big deal; I held my position well. A break tried to go up the road, but was brought back before the end of the first lap. Second lap, I found myself almost on the front, right behind a Sweet Spot/Cutaway rider who did a ton of work throughout the second lap. Pace stayed fairly low on the hill through the second round. More women pulled around us to take over pace-setting on the front.
A break went from the left side at the crest of Mt. Nebo on the third lap. I was blocked inside and couldn't go with the group. I was already riding the edge pretty hard from the hill, and almost got blown off the back from that move. I chased back on, though, and managed to work myself back to middle of the pack as the main bunch was bringing back the chase group. NCVC riders made up about half of the field. They were well-equipped to block for their riders up the road. It took multiple women bridging up to the break for them to work to bring it back. I sat in the group throughout the move, still recovering from chasing back on.
Last lap slowed down quite a bit, and I found myself near the back of the bunch with the slow-pokes and opportunists. With narrow, rough ("rustic") roads, a centerline rule, and 40 women, it was difficult to move up. I stayed on the inside line and sniped places where I could: gained a few places by following another rider up the gutter at a point where the road branched to the right; gained another few places on a left-hand bend; gained another place or two by riding up the gutter. At one point, I got pushed off the road and into the mud, but handled it with no problem. Coming around the last turn, I was positioned on the inside line 3 or 4 wheels back.
After the last turn, the road was closed and the centerline rule no longer applied. The attack went on the outside, and I was blocked in. I missed that move, which I think turned out to be the crucial one. I had to break a lot of wind to try to get on the back of that group of (maybe?) 12 girls. I found a wheel to follow, but I'd done too much work to get on it, and by that point I was blown. I sat down and hammered to the finish, but I didn't get a sprint in. Looking back, I should have pushed harder. C'est la vie. Next time.
Ended up 6th place, just off the podium and out of the money. But I felt really good about how I hung with the group, and my ability to position myself late in the race. There were some squirrely wheels in the group today (one girl, a junior, leaned into me twice and ran another woman into me another time), but I don't think I was one of them this time. I felt confident in my handling, stayed relaxed, and held my line (for the most part). After last week's performance, this week feels like redemption!
My teammate, Cinnamon, had a great result, too. This is her second race of the season, and she finished 7th, just behind me. She hasn't had as much practice with really tight groups like that, and she handled it really well.
Lessons learned . . . I want to get better at positioning and holding a good position in a tight pack. I'm not sure how to do that. Comfort level and experience are key, I'm sure. I think the more I race, the better I will become. In the meantime, I will take any advice I can get on that point!