I had decided not to do this race back in August, stating that the Red Kite Crit Finale was going to be my last race. I was tired from a long season and had a lot going on personally. My race buddy and one of my biggest competitors, Jeanette, convinced me to do the race and go for the championship. I knew the route because the course goes around my office at Pandora. So I decided to go for it since it was a hometown race for me.
It was interesting coming into a race with 2+ weeks of "rest". I was one of three women that pre-reg'd. Knowing that the reg was low, changed how I approached the race. My normal strategy is to hide and sprint for the win. With a smaller field, I had to mentally prepare to be isolated and work. Its rare that I come into a race ready to thrown down a gauntlet, but thats what my plan was. I convinced myself that I was going to animate the race and go big. Based on other technical courses I plotted out my spots to attack. (up the hill before the hairpin, on the straight away before the chicane)...
I was happy to see more women at the line that the pre-reg list, especially some of the local pros. Mary Maroon, Marissa, Sofi, Kim, Laurel, Martina...I was glad I was prepared to work. There was an attack on the first lap and stayed away for few laps. I didn't want to go out too early, so I let others chase the racer. Then a few laps in, I attacked on the long straight away. I wanted to test the legs and get the field moving. I let off the gas after the hairpin and caught my breath.
I stayed patient and tucked myself behind Mary. Two laps later, I sensed Mary was going to go. I jumped with her and we were off. We rotated for a little bit, she instructed me to blow right through the lead group which is what we did. The lead group jumped on our wheels and we started to rotate. Unfortunately, our break away feel apart quickly and we were caught. I kept myself near the front and would apply pressure when I sensed the field slowing.
With about 10-11 laps to go, there was another attack coming through the start/finish. The field caught her on the slight hill on the backside of the course. I was unfortunately coming up behind the racer as she was slowing significantly. I glanced left and saw an opening so I subtly moved left so I wouldn't have to break or ram into her. Unfortunately at the same time I was doing that another rider was trying to put herself in the same spot. We bumped into each other and just couldn't keep it up. We both went down pretty hard. To be honest, I'm not sure who was at fault for the crash. We were both trying to wedge ourselves into the same spot. I feel bad that she went down and wasn't able to finish the race. I checked myself out and my bike and decided to get back in. To be honest, if my girlfriend, Arriel, wasn't there watching I'm not sure I would have gotten back in.
I rolled to the pit in a substantial amount of pain and got back in the race with 8 laps to go. While I was waiting the announcer said that the field seemed to have let off the gas in order to let the riders involved with the crash back in. I'm not sure if it is true, but if it is, I appreciate that they respected me that much to do so. I took a lap or two to settle back in. Every pedal stoke hurt, but I stuck with it. I stayed towards the front, went with the the attacks and committed to finishing the race.
With 2 laps to go, Mary, Laurel, and Martina attacked. I went with them, just hanging on. With one lap to go, they slowed up on the back side. Laurel attacked and had a small gap. I stayed on Mary's wheel until we were close to Laurel. Then I countered, right at the spot I wanted. I jumped on the straight away right before the chicane. I took the left as tight as I could to maintain my gap. Then I did the same with the right turn and blasted up the hill to the finish as fast as I could. And, I won!!!!
As weird as it sounds, I think crashing in the race was a good thing. Mentally, I was able to commit to taking a chance and attacking on the last lap because no one expected me to win. It took some of the pressure off. Anyway, it was a nice way to win a race and a great way to wrap the season.
Looking forward to some mellow rides and a visit to the doctor.