I was a little nervous, pre-riding the course, because the first half was pretty technical. There was a loose W--steep down, then steep up--which I tried to ride once and crashed out on. Then there was a really steep drop-off that took me a few tries to get over (but once I rode it, I realized it was fine). There were some S-curves that I had to hit just right, followed by a barrier at the bottom of a hill that required a dismount and a loooooong run-up before remounting. And there was sand, which I figured (after the first crash) was faster to run than to ride. The rest was flowing turns around the lily ponds with a few long, straight, flat stretches interspersed, and a paved, uphill start/finish. I was concerned about the technical stuff in the first half of the course, though, because I knew we would probably get jammed up behind the back of the men's cat 5 field.
For that reason, I didn't work too hard for the hole-shot at the start. I went into the first turn third wheel, and stayed within touch through the barriers. Going into the loose W, we could see the men backing up through the tricky stuff. The two women in front of me both tried to ride the W, while I dismounted at the top to run it. They both crashed, bottled up behind a man who couldn't quite make it up the hill and put a foot down. I tripped over them a little bit, but managed to get around. I called out a pass to the man in front of me, and he let me around him before the drop-off. I kept the lead all the way through the sand, then came around a blind corner to find a cat 5 guy sprawled across the trail. I tried to dodge him and end up crashing in some thorny bushes. A woman from Baltimore Bike Club made it around me while I was extracting myself from the thorns. It's like they say--if you live by the crash, you shall die by the crash!
|Attacked by a thorn bush!|
I'd managed to tweak my ankle a little when I crashed into the bushes, and I rolled it again when I stepped off my bike into tall grass and hit a hole. I was concerned how it would feel for my second race, but it ended up just fine. I have been starting from the third or fourth row on these cat 3/4 races, but I somehow ended up with a front row call-up. I have no idea how that happened, but that changed my strategy for the race. Where I have been sitting in and letting the race develop, it felt like it would be such a waste of a front-row start not to gun it from the word go!
So I gunned it at the whistle, trying to stay as close to the front as I could. I think I made the first turn around fifth wheel. I tried to use my course experience from the earlier race as much as possible (riding smarter, not harder). I got through the W without any trouble, still running it every time. I got passed by a rider or two somewhere around there, maybe just before the drop-off. I gained a spot or two through the next six laps . . . I don't remember much about the race, other than that I rode really, really hard. Erin, from Sticky Fingers, was right in front of me, and she's usually well ahead of me. I would have loved to catch her, but she put the hammer down on the last lap and totally gapped me. The 1/2/3 winner passed me within sight of the finish line; I was so close to not getting lapped this time. I ended up doing 6 laps total.
I did crash on the first lap, when I tried to ride through the sand pit. I was right about running being faster! I fully fell over off the course and into the ditch. At least I didn't go into one of the ponds, though; I heard that someone did that. Everything else was smooth and clean. I didn't drop my chain (I don't think).
I finished in 10th place--top ten in the 3/4 race! That's top 10 out of 30+ riders, too; it's not like I was 10th out of 11. I think I'm prouder of my performance in the 3/4 race than my win in the 4s. It was tougher, it was faster, it was longer; I rode hard and I rode smart, and I got my best result in a 3/4 field to date! I think it may have been my best race ever!
So to sum up, a first place and a top ten. I had a really good weekend!