|Posted by Christina on May 19, 2017 at 4:40 PM|
I am writing this on my return flight home from Speed Week with my new team for 2017: Papa John’s presented by Trek. (No, no, I am not eating the pizza quite yet but soon they will be introducing a gluten-free option.) Each of the women on my team are really strong riders and I’m leaving the start of our season excited for what is to come. Our time at Speed Week was fairly successful, however, we didn’t get the overall win. In my mind, that gives us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes and to continue to grow as a team.
Speed Week is a series of crits in South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. There are podium presentations after each day but our main focus as team was to have a rider take the overall victory. Points towards the overall are awarded during the week on specific laps as well as for the final finishing place for each race.
The racing began in Charlotte, North Carolina at the Rocky Hill Criterium, a new venue situated on a racetrack with a switch back climb. The course was wide open and unprotected from the strong winds making it easy for protected riders or really difficult for riders on the front. I spent a lot of time on the front, followed attacks from other riders and lead my teammate out for mid race points. After all the work I had done during the race, I felt completely spent on the final lap. Thankfully, one of my teammates was able to cover for me and lead out our sprinter, Tina Pic. After they went around me, I looked back to see a huge gap between me and the rest of the field, but by the time I rolled around the final corner, it seemed like 100 girls flew by me. However, we got the win and that’s what was important.
Based on last year, I knew day two in Belmont was going to be a tough course. Erica Allar always nails it from the start so I was ready for the race to go from the gun. But today the first move would be even more decisive as wet roads and pouring rain became a factor. I lined up at the start, ready for the whistle. As expected, Erica immediately drove up the pace. Even though I started in the back, I was able to quickly move into a good position, but Erica had already rolled off the front. Since we held the leader’s jersey, our team had no choice but to chase. Tina and I were the only ones from the team left in the field when I heard our director, Crater, yell from the sidelines, “12 seconds.” I continued to pull, but now we were getting attacked and riders from other teams were getting across to the break. About four to five laps were left in the race when my teammate, Sara Tussey, who had been sick, surprised me and came to the front of the pack. I was so relieved to see her. She helped me chase until the last lap. When some of the riders started to dive to the inside on the final downhill turn I sat up not wanting to partake in the wet roller derby. The risk outweighed the reward that day and we lost the overall lead we had gained the day before.
The first two days were extremely tough and I did a lot of work that was made harder due to an unknown problem with my bike. Ailton De Souza was rooming next to us in Walterboro and after looking at my bike exclaimed, “No, you can’t ride this.” Puzzled, I responded, “Well, I’ve already done two races on it. What are you talking about?” He showed me that my chain guard had been catching on the bolts of my chainrings, creating massive resistance every pedal stroke. This would explain why my intensity factors were well over 1.0 for both days of racing. If you aren’t tracking with me, this essential means my efforts during both races of racing were much harder than a normal hard workout.
We had a few days rest before the next race in Waltoboro. My bike was now working correctly and I was looking forward to the race as the technical course suited my strengths. Debbie, Tina and I were on the front going into the final lap so Debbie could take the gamblers prime, right after there was a crash somewhere behind me and the race was neutralized. We got restarted with two laps to go. Not a good decision considering the course was only a kilometer long. I didn’t get to line up at the front and it was a struggle to move since most of the racers that were previously off the back were allowed to restart with the pack. Payton had put a good effort in to move Tina up since she got caught at the back on the restart. Another crash right in front of me on the second to last turn. I touched my brake to avoid it and we lost what would have been a win. Tina ended up in 4th.
Day four of racing found us in Spartanburg. I stayed close to the front and we tried to grab mid race points throughout the race. Because of this we missed a counter move from Peta Mullins and had to chase. I was blown after chasing for several laps and then towards the end of the race, Rachel from Fearless Femme got away off the front. Luckily, Tina won the field sprint, collecting more points towards the overall.
Sunday was the big day, the famous Athens Twighlight on the original course, a four corner crit with an incline on the back side. This race has over 25,000 spectators who come out to watch, making it extremely loud and a lot of fun. They were announcing primes on every lap so the race was fast from the gun. My goal was to stay at the front and go with moves but not to go for any mid race points so I would have something left to lead Tina out at the end. It always seems that when I cover a move, the counter follows my big effort. My teammate Sara was able to get on the front to help chase a move we missed. She is like a freight train in her ability to chase, she spent everything she had left but it was enough to pull the race back together. We were going into the final lap and I knew my competitor Peta was behind me so I was waiting on my teammate Tina’s wheel. Peta jumped and I followed, yelling at Tina to get on my wheel but the crowds were so loud that Tina couldn’t hear me and I gapped her in the process. We missed the top two spots that day but grabbed 3rd and 4th which put us in 2nd overall and 2nd in the team overall.
Roswell would be the final day. The course had a very long start finish and today it was in a head wind. After going with some moves and short lived breaks, the counter came when I was boxed in, most likely a strategic move by the Fearless Femme riders. Again, I missed the move and had to chase. We had help from LA Sweat who had been putting on an impressive performance all week. Two laps to go, I yelled for my teammates to get to the front and Kim Pettit made her way there to help Debbie. After Payton and I worked hard in the chase group, we closed down the gap but we still weren’t quite close enough for the long sprint finish. Tina ended up in 3rd for the day and we finished Speed Week 2nd overall and 2nd for the team overall. We have our homework to do and I am very hungry for the rest of the season.