|Dirt don't hurt!|
We started neutral until the first turn, at which point two of my teammates regulated the pace at the front. We took turns attacking and countering, while Bike Rack and NCVC chased us back. The RCV racer picked up the pace going into the gravel turn, but everyone took it easy and kept it upright through the turn itself. The gravel had two decent lines, one on the left and one on the right. One of my teammates had done recon earlier in the week and said the left line was better. I followed an NCVC racer up that left line. She drilled the pace and we left the pack behind. Before we lost touch with the peloton, I heard a teammate call out "Flat!" So I knew that VWS was down to 5.
My NCVC companion kept the pace high through the gravel, and we briefly traded turns on the front once we were back on pavement. The pack quickly reeled us in. I looked around and realized that our A rider was missing, so we were down to 4 VWS riders in the pack. My memory gets a little fuzzy around this point, in terms of sequence of events. I know I attacked again at some point and was pulled back. I remember the racing felt hard, and I spent a good amount of time recovering in the back. I remember covering at least one attack.
The critical move came when one of my teammates attacked and got a good gap. A woman from the Bike Rack followed her. Nobody else did, though, and two of my other teammates went to the front of the pack and rode tempo. The peloton let them sit on the front; I think everyone was happy to ride an easy pace for a while. Off in the distance, I could see the Bike Rack rider with a gap on my teammate. When we came through the start/finish line at the beginning of our second lap of three, one of our male teammates mentioned that she had almost bridged up to the break. I was nervous about that; was she struggling? Did she have the legs to stay with the Bike Rack rider? Should we try to bring the break back and try to attack again later?
My teammates started to accelerate the pace on the front at the beginning of the second lap. They weren't chasing the break back; they were trying to shake a few more riders out of our group. It certainly worked! Our group went down to about 8 riders, and some of them were just barely hanging on. The pace picked up again on the gravel thanks to the same NCVC rider, and I stayed with her. Everything came back together on the pavement, and shortly thereafter I felt my handling get squirrely. I had a flat tire. I kept the bike upright and sashayed along as best I could on my rear rim until the sweep vehicle came along to give me a ride back to the start. I cleaned up a little, put on warm, dry clothes, and then headed back to the finish line . . .
In time to see my teammate win! She had stayed off the front for most of the race and dropped the Bike Rack rider on the last corner. A second teammate came out best in the field sprint to take third place. Another multi-podium for the VWS Ladies! Tactically, the real stars of the show were my two teammates who controlled the pace in the pack from the time the break went until the end. Without them keeping the pace slow, our winner probably couldn't have stayed away for over 20 miles with only one other rider.
I was disappointed to flat out and DNF, especially since I felt more than able to hang with that second group for the rest of the race (one teammate described the pace they were setting as "tea party pace"). But I was able to do my job in the first lap and a half, and the result came out exceptionally well for our team. It was a fun day on a challenging course, made more challenging by cold, wind, and wet. Out of 15 starters, only 11 finished--two flats, one broken spoke, and one broken rear derailleur hanger. Pretty epic race, if you ask me!
Next weekend, I'll be heading to BikeJam in Baltimore to race the Kelly Cup. It's a criterium, and I'll be bringing pit wheels so I don't have two DNFs in a row!
|Trusty steed after the race. Notice the squishy rear tire.|
|Trusty steed after a bath. Much better!|