Friday morning, Anna and I loaded up the Subaru for the first New England race of the season (Anna had previously been racing in Texas) and the debut of our LadiesFirst kits. Andrea was a few hours behind us as she planned to meet us in the evening. When Anna and I arrived in Cambridge, NY we completed our first mission, race number pick up, followed by a course preview.
Anna had heard that the first hill was known as a big selection point, so we made sure to check it out. We decided that it was best to be in the front for the first turn as it sent us immediately through a narrow covered bridge and into a hard right turn. After a short dirt road, the course shot uphill. That was the selection hill, from what Anna had heard. From there, there were lots of rolling hills, a couple long climbs, intermittent dirt roads and a long somewhat “flat” section. After two more long, uphill, dirt road climbs, the course ran downhill, flat again and into the finish. The scenery was beautiful and it looked like a great course. Anna and I talked about our race tactics and decided that driving the course was certainly helpful. We were ready.
As I approached the start line, I felt confident. I reflected on my training and how hard I had worked through the winter. I remembered how it felt at the Bow Road Race last spring when I rode away from the pack on the first climb and remained ahead. I was strong then, and I knew I was stronger this season. I lined up in the second row, by choice. I expected to win.
Our pack started down a long, flat road. I immediately noticed that the pace was more brisk than the other two roll out I was part of (my only previous road races were “Tour of the Hilltowns” and “Bow Road Race” last year. I was comfortable though. I didn’t do much work at all and stayed at the front of the pack. I was positioned perfectly by the first turn, zipped through the covered bridge and climbed the first road well. I figured that we would drop half the pack on that first climb, but when I peaked behind me at the top, everyone seemed to still be with us. The second, and one of the steepest, climbs came soon after. Someone attacked and many of us went with her. It happened so fast, that I wasn’t even sure who had initiated it. These ladies were flying up hill! I hustled and gave it all I could. It hurt. I just didn’t have the power up the hill and a group of 20 or so women got ahead. I didn’t lose hope. I figured I’d catch them on the next dirt road section or the next down hill. I could be stronger there. I was solo as I watched the lead group move further and further ahead. I just couldn’t catch them.
I eventually settled into a group with 5 or 6 other riders. We rode the next 25 or 30 miles together in a double pace line. We worked well together. At some points we lost a couple riders and picked up others who had fallen off of the first group. No one attacked. On every climb we encountered, I seemed to be the strongest. Several times, I pulled ahead on the uphill, but nobody followed. So, I waited up to avoid having to ride the next 50 or so miles alone with a crazy head wind. Finally, around 20 to go, I attacked. I didn’t plan it or think about it. I just went. It was on a steady uphill that wasn’t too steep. The climb swept into a left hand turn and I was out of their sight briefly. Up ahead, was a long, dirt road climb. “Great,” I thought! “I’m sure to get a good distance here”. My group just didn’t seem to climb well. So, I hammered up the hills, periodically checking over my shoulder. I could see them behind me, but the gap was growing! The course barreled down hill and took a hard left turn. The group was nowhere in site. I knew I had to keep my pace, though, or they’d catch me. I passed two solo women who had fallen off the lead group, but they didn’t have enough juice to stay with me. I wished they did at that point. I could have used a pull and thought a sprint finish would be fun! So, I time trialed to the end and crossed the finish line uneventfully.
Right away, I was disappointed. I wanted to win. I trained hard all winter and still didn’t make the cut. After a few pep talks, I was feeling better though. For road race number 3 of my career and number 1 of this season, I guess I’ll take it. I learned a lot and at the least, had a fantastic training ride! Lesson #1….train up hill! I will become a better climber!
Soon after my race, I headed to the parking lot to find my teammates. Anna won! She and Andrea worked together the whole race, but Andrea flatted with 10 to go. Still, she finished 19th!
All in all, the LadiesFirst kits had a pretty good debut!