Following is an example of how to use only brute force, not any smarts whatsoever, in order to do fairly well at a road race. Warning: contains talk of poop and frustrations.
Women’s Woodstock Cycling Grand Prix, aka, WWCGP. I have been meaning to do this race for the past 3 years (it has been around for 4 I think) but between injury and my inability to work a calendar, it has been an elusive one for sure. But man am I glad I made it out for the event. It is a women’s only event in Woodstock, NY (not VT. Very important to know that before you load info into your GPS and head out the door. Get the confusion out of the way the day before). In past years it has drawn a pretty big crowd, but this year there were a ton of races on that day, and it fell right after speed week, and that’s just a bummer for registration numbers all around when that happens.
Seeing a few teams and big names on the pre-reg got me kind of excited for what the day would hold. On Friday I woke up feeling ill, having woken up a few times in the middle of the night thinking I was going to need to run to the bathroom, but never did. I called in to work on grounds of “I should not be far from a bathroom”. I had no appetite. Did not even drink coffee. Talked to Coach Kyle, I had no fever and he had no sympathy. Called my mommy, she said I sounded icky. Validation achieved. After work I felt no better and had to start my 4-hour drive to my host house. BM update, no movement. Nothing had happened except some scary noises and really gross feelings. So what did I do? Took Exlax and chugged a bottle of Pepto and hit the road with a PB&J, knowing I had to eat something. I arrived at the house of William and Joanne without incident. I slept well and woke up still with no appetite, still with no movement on the bowel front and no morning coffee to help. (Joanne made me coffee and I sipped it but I just couldn’t drink.)
Getting to the race venue I run over a cone and myself and two bystanders take a solid 5 minutes extracting it from beneath my car. I am winning all over the place here.
Rain was in the forecast but rolling up to start it was a balmy 50 degrees with just a damp threat in the air. And in my belly. The 23 P/1/2 women roll out for the 3 mile neutral start. Between nerves and chills and I shaking so much it is hard to ride in a straight line. There were a few wild cards in the mix and I didn’t know what to expect. A team from Canada, The Cyclery-Opus, dominated the field with 7 riders; and then there was Emma White and Katherine Maine of Rally Cycling (a professional team for those unknowing. And Emma is the silver medalist for the UCI junior road and TT world championships). Those two entities were the wild cards I knew I had to watch, and there were only 7 riders, including myself, that had no teammates in the race. The general rule of thumb is that those without teammates do no work in the group. Or so I have been told. So I thought I was in for a cushy few miles ahead of me!
Right out of neutral there were some attacks, riders charging hard away from the group. So cool! I knew they wouldn’t stick and the group worked to bring everyone back nicely. It was racing! How splendid! Many races are spent more as a test of patience than racing, you see. I did a little work on the front in those first few jumps, but not much at all – we were all taking turns as we should. Then, at some point we brought back two girls, (I may be forgetting which events led to which outcomes, so bear with me here), and two more countered (two riders attacked the group right when we let our guard down because the chase was done). It was a Rally rider and a Cyclery-Opus rider. I am not sure if it was Emma or Katherine up there, but I knew two things: 1) this break could stick. 2) the remaining Rally rider and Cyclery riders had no obligation to do any work to bring their teammates back.
This left 14 riders to do work: 23 rider field – 2 up – 6 remaining Cyclery riders – 1 remaining Rally rider = 14.
For those that have been tuned in throughout my life, what do you think happened? Let me show you something.
The highlighted section shows chasing the break. Guess who chased the break? I am such an idiot. I should have bridged to them early on or attacked to ditch the leeches sucking my wheel, but I just sat there and pulled and pulled and pulled with my heart rate at 170 BPM, which is into my owwy range. NOT a good tactic. There were a couple other people who did some work, Regina Legge (Green Line Velo) put in a pull or two, and Nina Baum (Stan’s No Tubes) put in a monster effort, but no one else would do any work to bring them back. The worst. But, I truly felt that if we did not get them, they would take 1st and 2nd, so I did it for my own sake.
When we got them, sure enough if it didn’t happen again where two more women countered, this time one Cyclery rider and another rider that I did not recognize, but I think they had no teammates. So, that left 15 of us to bring back that break. Not knowing who was up there, and after the effort I just put in, I let them fade into the distance.
They got a good gap, at least 30 seconds. And no one cared. I sat in for quite a while, then got worried as the climb was coming up, so I got on the front and did what I thought was my fair share of work, then tried to wave people through. No one would pull through and take some wind for me. I even verbally asked someone if they would do some work to bring them back, they agreed, and as I went to pull off the front she was 6 wheels deep. What the actual hell. A road race, where sometimes competitors work together for the greater good. But, when no one felt the need to work hard, I literally put on the brakes. It was the only way to get off the front. And you know what? Everyone else was happy to come to an almost standstill behind me.
But fret not, I buried myself deep in the group just in time for the climb. So, I hit the hill at the back of the group, which is not ideal. But wouldn’t you know if the two that were up in the break exploded spectacularly and were easily passed during the 2-mile climb (averaging 10%). This proves that my (albeit sad) chasing efforts and frustrations were for not. DID EVERYONE ELSE KNOW THIS WOULD HAPPEN? Seriously, if you people assumed they would explode and come back on the climb, why not tell me instead of letting me assume you were just lazy assholes!?!?!? I will assume everyone in the group was insanely good at reading the race and was letting me kill myself time and time again, thus smart racing, and not just total jerkwads as I felt out there in front all alone.
I took the climb at my own speed, trying to keep out of my biggest cogs for the sake of forward momentum. With just under a mile to go it was only Emma in front of me. I could see her, and if it were flat I could have caught her with two hard pedal strokes, but on something like this she was just tauntingly close. I really should not have been so far back from the group at the start, and I should have treated the hill like a race. I didn’t ride smart before that point, and I didn’t want it enough during the climb.
Emma took the QOM and we descended as two individuals. I got her wheel a bit after it leveled out, and after sitting on for a few minutes we mutually agreed to work together and go. Our pulls were long but strong, and our gap grew from 30 seconds to a minute, and then to just under 2 minutes. My legs felt heavy, my arms were burning and my belly was brick. I didn’t have the usually excitement I do when I am in a break, I just wanted it to be over. Towards the end, we got news that the distance between us and the group was lessening. Looking back, I don’t think that was true, but we picked up the pace. Up every hill I swear Emma was attacking, and she was almost successful. I kept wanting to give up, and I have never wanted to give up during a race. I was not myself. But, I stayed with her and I was counting down the miles. Then, finally, much sooner than I expected, I saw the 1k to go mark. Dammit. I was on the front. I put in a feeble flick of my elbow to tell Emma to pull ahead of me. Given two equal riders, you can’t win a sprint from the front. At least I told myself that, and maybe that is where I lost it, telling myself I couldn’t win it. Plus, it was a downhill finish. I am good at uphills (though maybe not next to Emma) but that downhill…. I heard her winding up and come whooshing passed me. I don’t know how hard I tried, but I couldn’t pass her. Could I have tried harder? Could I have done it from the front? Maybe I should have attacked sooner. Maybe I was in the wrong gear. It doesn’t matter now, as I crossed the line in second.
Video of the finish by B2C2 !!
Can’t lie, I am disappointed as I race to win. But it was a good hard race, and I would rather take a hard fought second than an easy win any day! I raced like an idiot, Emma is smart and strong, and was for sure the better racer on this day (and likely most days, but we will leave that up to question until we meet again). We finished only 3 minutes ahead of the chase group, which shows that they ran a charge behind us.
Glad to be done, I packed my stuff away and hung around the expo. My favorite part was at the podium presentation when the announcer asked me who I rode for, I said myself. He tried to console me that I would wear somebody’s jersey one day. Silly man. I may not wear a jersey, but I have a team: It is Nick who fixes my bike when I literally don’t even know it is broken. And it is coach Kyle who makes me go to races even when I want to piss out my ass. It is the feeling I get when I am so angry that no one seems to want to hurt as badly as I do.
My wonderful hosts William and Joanne let me hit up their place for a shower after the race, which I am so thankful for. They were the icing on the cake of a wonderful event! They were very hospitable, the event ran smoothly, the volunteers and staff were friendly, and the competition was fierce.
And in a belly update, the rage inside my belly was fierce, and I stopped 4 times at rest stops on the way home from the race. Nothing like the anonymity of 30 fellow stalls to quell your shy bowels.
Fun, fast, smart racing from the group.
I am not good at road race tactics.
Do not take laxatives before a race.
I will return to this event.