Monday, June 24, 2013

A Return to Local Racing

Well this weekend was my first time racing in Indiana since the two races I did last season (not counting collegiate). It brought me back to the very first race I ever did three seasons ago where I got lapped by the breakaway, not once but three times at Eagle Creek. Fun times.

A break between Tulsa and the local races had led to a 20 hour week on the bike, and with summer classes being out and house sitting away from my roommates I had a little too much time to my own thoughts. This led to coming into this past week full of doubts, little self lies, as well as being physically exhausted from a big training block. It hit the point that on Tuesday I ended up taking an unplanned day off, struggling mentally and knowing that no power in the universe was going to get me on the bike. The week shaped up though and Thursday night I was up at the velodrome getting smashed by a couple guys who are Cat 2 on the road. Made the finals of the Win and In, but that was one of my few results of note. However, although it may not have been a successful night it proved to be the push I needed to clear my head and go into the weekend confidently as well as remember why I love cycling so much.

I’m currently taking care of a dog (Luxa) and cat (Peep). They are great animals but have an affinity for waking me up in the middle of the night, particularly Peep who seems to enjoy laying on my face. This, combined with the usual pre-race jitters led to a poor nights sleep Friday night. Combined with having to get up early to drive to South Bend I was not exactly in a great mood and the start list was making me nervous with some Cat 1/2 racers who I really look up to.

Katie and Rose from Melanzana (Little 500) in the Women's 4 field!

Race the Bend was on a course similar to the Notre Dame collegiate race as far as road quality (poor), and fairly wide open other than the second turn before the finishing straight where it went from four lanes wide to one (yikes!). I went for an early prime but was nabbed at the line by Sierra who I believe took every prime (I will never bet against her). Although I did a little work at the front I was conscious of the strength of the other riders in the pack and tried to save my matches. The last two turns into the finishing straight were making nervous and I was not looking forward to the idea of going through them with a group, knowing I would have to overcomes nerves as well as try and position myself well. With three to go and the pack still together I decided to test my luck, sprinting off the front to try and avoid a bunch sprint. I managed to hold it for the final laps, taking the win.

First time I've ever actually gotten a podium photo, I always seem to forget my phone after the fact.

I was really impressed with the level of support at the crit. For a local race Spinzone really did well with payouts for both men AND women, as well as providing perks that you don’t usually see at this level like a warm up tent, a women’s support area as well as gift bags for some of the female riders courtesy of 574 cycling. Huge thanks to the women who set that up, and I think that was part of why it was a larger field than in years past. People always ask what it will take to get more women racing and events like this are key.

Sunday was a shorter drive with a jump to Ohio for Tour d’Burg for the 1/2/3 race. It was a different situation in that most everyone had a teammate or two, with Secret, Riley as well as a few other programs showing up strong. A twisty course, featuring a cobble section, a funky s curve as well as seven actual turns, it became clear that nothing was going to get away although that didn’t stop several teams from trying. I went for an early cash prime, taking it before settling back into the front of the pack. This would prove to be a blessing as we came around for the final lap and a large wreck happened towards the front middle. Barely edging it out I tried to follow the Riley train but lost the wheel, coming in for 4th.

Overall I’m very happy with the weekend, it was good to see some friends from Purdue, Notre Dame and Lindenwood, as well as see where I am on the local racing scene after two years of getting dropped and pummeled into a pulp. Next week I will be doing two of the Ohio races and I look forward to being in a consistent rhythm again.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Glencoe and Tulsa Tough

Well, it has been a few weekends. After the craziness that was the Memorial Day races in Iowa I headed back home and then to Chicago for the Glencoe Grand Prix. It would be my first time racing with teammates in a very long time and with Ashton of the Scholar’s Inn women having just achieved a three upgrade we were looking at a strong group of four in the race.

One thing I truly liked about the Glencoe course was staging. They set you up according to your race number and your race number was given in order of your USAC ranking. At the time I was ranked 4th in the country and so had the lovely pleasure of wearing number two for the race, and the wonderful starting position that came with that. It was one of the larger fields I have been in for a 3/4 race and so it was nice to start at the front, a position which I easily maintained and was glad to see my teammate Emma join me at. About four laps in I had just started to attack off the front and gapped the field when the red paddle went out and the race was neutralized, then stopped. We were held at the start/finish for roughly twenty minutes due to a wreck on the backstretch.

We were started again with four laps to go and so about half way through the lap I went again on the incline. At this point the field was stretched and snapped, with me a few bike lengths off the front, a small group of four riders behind that and then the field. As we came around to the finish line though, they again stopped us due to a wreck in the back of the pack. In the end, the race went unfinished with twenty minutes of racing for an hour of time spent. However, I did get to stay and watch a good friend of mine, Beth, race and the two of us cheered on the guys as they dealt with mother nature through the Pro/1 race while she tried to convince me that track racing is the best thing ever. 

Beth at the start of the Pro/1/2 Race. 

The following Thursday was spent at the Velodrome, with a Chariot Race, Elimination Race and a final Points Race for the evening. I was murdered in the Chariot Race, pulled fairly early in the Elimination Race, but for the Points Race after taking the first points sprint pulled away for the remaining five laps, finishing about a half lap ahead of the field.

Neutral lap of the points race. Photo Credit Chris West.

Up next was Tulsa Tough, where my teammate Emma and I would be contesting the 3/4 race with 60+ riders both Saturday and Sunday. It would be the biggest race she had ever done and one of the larger ones for me. After the stupidity that was Glencoe I was looking for a few good finishes.

Tulsa Tough has to be one of the coolest venues I have raced at. The crowds were awesome, the races were well organized and the courses were amazing. Saturday’s course featured a wide open, six corner, L shaped course. I managed to get to the front easily and stay on the front for the entirety of the race. Stealing someone else's lead-out I was able to pull out of the field for the Saris crowd prime, and though I attempted to get away on the last lap ended up sprinting it out for 5th.

Sunday’s course featured the infamous “Crybaby Hill” and after being in the sun all day Saturday both Emma and I were feeling a bit off and dehydrated. Although you could do it in your big ring by the end of the race I found myself needing to slip into smaller gears and spin up the climb. Both Emma and I stayed with the main pack and I again attempted to go for a prime, however I pulled a woman with me who then countered the attack. My legs were not there and I had to fall back to the pack where as she would stay away for the rest of the race and take the win. On the last time up the climb I was not geared right and did not have the pop I needed. Losing a few places I would spend the remainder of the last lap fighting to get back up to the front, again taking 5th with Emma coming in with the pack as well for 12th.    

The crybaby hill insanity. Photo Credit: Emma Caughlin

Overall my impression of Tulsa Tough was wonderful, there were amazing levels of support, including ice cold water EVERYWHERE, neutral support, a Cycleops warm up zone (which Emma and I appreciated) as well as the insanity of Crybaby Hill (I felt like I was riding through a giant block party, and it only got more insane as the day went on). Although I was a bit disappointed with finishing off the podium both days, it was fun to do another set of big races and I look forward to returning next year. I really owe so much to Scholar's Inn Bakehouse for making it possible for me to travel to some of these amazing races, as well as a huge thanks to Ryan Shean for driving the entire way to Tulsa and most of the way back!

Emma in the Cycleops warm-up zone.