Race report by Crystal Anthony
“You have to win in your head first.” Tim Johnson’s advice from the clinic he conducted for us echoed a experience I’d had the day before. I got home from work, tired and unmotivated to ride. Immediately, the typical train of thoughts started chugging down the track… “Well, maybe you should just rest. Don’t overdo it. It’s not going to hurt you to take it easy. Take a nap.” However, I knew it actually was a good idea to ride, and with Gloucester coming up on the weekend, I knew proper preparation needed to start already. Being tough is a habit, something to practice every day, not just on race day. “Just get out there, and ride. If you really still don’t feel it, you can turn around,” I put the brakes on that train, got ready and set out. Within 10 minutes, it began to rain, then pour. However, the air was warm, and I found myself welcoming the experience. My legs actually felt fine, and I got into a rhythm, plowing through the downpour. It took some squinting here and there, making a visor with my hand at times, but it felt like an adventure. A knot inside unraveled. It didn’t even occur to me how tight and constricted I’d felt until that happened, because suddenly I felt strong and capable. I could push through challenges; I could push myself. Bad experiences with overtraining in the last year had left me skeptical of my ability, timid about pushing, and uninspired. Rest was helpful and necessary and I did need time to recover mentally and physically before regaining that inner confidence and strength.
It poured for 45 minutes, and rained the remainder of the time. I had to be alert, aware of my surroundings and potential dangers. Yet, I came back from the ride a new person, elated. My housemates thought I’d gone completely mad, “What do you mean that was the best ride you’ve had in a year? It’s raining!” But I was smiling because it was all about a shifted perspective. A new permission to really go for it, to stop underestimating myself.
However, confidence is not something gained on one sloppy ride in the rain. Winning attitude is something built every day, and over years of experience. Sure, it was an epiphany of sorts to realize “Duh, you can do more than you’ve been letting yourself believe!” but that is just the beginning. Showing up to Gloucester, I wasn’t ready to win, physically or mentally. Some of the best in the country would be racing. In my mind was a dance between a belief that I can compete with the best, and a realistic assessment of where my fitness and experience fit in with the other competitors. I was excited to throw myself into the challenge, gain more experience, and push as hard as possible with the support of home crowds.
LadiesFirst had a great showing at Gloucester. Andrea took the hole shot off the start and battled with the lead group before Miller, Van Gilder, and a few others separated off the front. I worked my way up to Andrea and Mo by the final laps, with Anna, Ann and Christina all fighting for spots in the top 20 and Allison not far behind. Flats, crashes, and other mishaps were constantly mixing up the positioning. After the first laps I was redlined, the pace was pushed so hard by the lead women. However, I also saw that with some tenacity and smart handling, I could capitalize on the strong parts of the course for me and take advantage of mistakes that were taking down many riders. In the last two laps, Andrea raced just ahead of Mo while I rode Mo’s wheel, then when I was sure I could bridge up solo, I made a move up to Andrea. We sat in 7th and 8th until I flatted in the last half lap, had to run the off camber section, and got passed by one woman to finish 9th. The race was part willingness to suffer, part patience (letting stuff happen to other riders and capitalizing), and part constant alertness and smarts to avoid the crashes and mechanicals as much as possible on a very sharp-object-littered and loose-gravel course.
Andrea Smith 7th
Crystal Anthony 9th
Ann D’Ambruoso 13th
Anna Barensfeld 16th
Christina Tamilio 17th
Allison Snooks 27th