|Ready to roll!|
A surprising number of women showed up for the race, so the cat 4s had a great field, with lots of first-timers! Monica and I were representing Specs for Wichita. GP Velotek and Free State were represented, and Big D Cycling was very well represented, with around 8 women, most of whom were doing their first-ever road race!
Cat 4s started last, along with the female masters and the juniors. Our course was an out-and-back, 16.3 miles into the wind, then back along the same route. I started out squirrely, unable to get my right foot clipped into my pedals. I quickly caught up to our main pack, and tried to stay near the front, able to cover any attempted breaks and out of the way of the green horns. It took several miles for the pack to settle down, and there was one minor crash. After two or three miles, we were finally able to get a paceline going, and the newbies were able to settle into that fairly well. I still tried to stay near the front of the pack, though, because I didn't want to get stuck behind inexperienced riders if a break went off the front.
The good pacelining didn't last for very long, unfortunately, and was still in a shambles when one of the juniors jumped off the front as the road climbed into an overpass over some railroad tracks. A few of the women went with him, and I got caught in the middle. By the time I realized what was happening, it was too late, and with the wind blowing a steady 25-30 MPH, I had no hope of catching them by myself. There was one Big D woman in front of me who also wasn't able to grab the breakaway, and we started riding together. Another Big D woman managed to bridge up to us. Then we picked up a Velotek woman who couldn't hang with the breakaway. So there were four of us sharing the load, riding straight into that hellish Kansas wind.
We got a good paceline going, and I had the awesome opportunity to coach the two Big D riders in their first race! They learned about pacelining, taking a short pull so as not to get too worn out, and how to ride in an echelon formation. Cycling quickly through a paceline and talking them through the technique of it all made the wind bearable, and the time went pretty quickly. Even so, hitting the turn-around was one of the most wonderful feelings ever in the whole world.
As soon as we hit the turn-around, the Velotek rider jumped, and sprinted off, dropping us all. I said, "Are you kidding me?" accompanied (probably) by something un-repeatable and took off after her. I caught her easily, and we rotated through a couple of times pulling before settling in to a comfortable rhythm. Aside from having a 30 MPH tailwind, the course was cumulatively downhill for the second half. I was in my biggest gear, spinning about 100 RPM, and riding comfortably at about 30 MPH. We rode side by side and talked for the most part. There were a few uphills (which I dominated) and a few downhills (which she dominated). In the last five miles or so, the road turned slightly, and we had a little bit of a crosswind, so we started sharing the pulling duties again. Coming on to the overpass (the one where I'd gotten dropped earlier), I was pulling, and I was pretty sure that I could drop her going over the hill. But considering all that we'd gone through, I didn't want to do that; I was more interested in leaving it to a sprint.
So coming off the other side, she started pulling. I knew that the finish line was close, and I wanted to stay fresh. She seemed willing to do the pulling, so I let her. With 500 m or so to go, I started to accelerate into a finishing sprint. She responded so immediately and so decisively, that I literally said, "Okay, girl, you got this!" And she did. She beat me by a good 10 m, and I was gassed. The two Big D girls came through a few minutes later, and thanked me for helping them out so much. They both did great.
I ended up 5th out of a field of about 10. Monica took 1st. Once again, I find that my sprinting and accelerating is my weak point. You know how people say, "Well, I'm really more of a sprinter"? I have new clients say that all the time. What they really mean is that they can't run very far. I used to say that. And while it's true that I am built more powerfully, that doesn't mean that I've got a great sprint. Probably I should, but I just haven't worked on it enough to make it happen. So if I want to work on something, then that's probably what I should be working on.
However, I have something new going, which I'll post about soon, and so cycling may take a backseat, soon.