Persistence is key.
On Friday, I left with my teammate, Jeremy, to meet up with Ben Gramling and Adam Barnes for Cedar Hill Race Festival down in Texas. With our bikes and gear strewn about his car we make our way south, hopeful for warmer weather. This race, to me, represented the start of my racing season on a new team, City Title Cycling Team, and was my first road race as a Cat 3. It would also be my first time to race this course and race in a field of 40+ racers. My goal was to gauge my fitness and feel the challenge of being with more experienced cyclists.
5:00 am comes early and Gramling is already up making coffee, shuffling food from one container to another, talking non-stop. Gramling gives us status updates in 15-minute intervals letting us know when we are leaving. I’m ready. I think. Numbers pinned (correctly) we double checked, timing chip properly secured, I warm up. I make it to the starting line, legs shaking, its cold and I’m questioning my warmth level (proves not to be a problem). I look around me and I see one of our local cycling pros, Kim Pettit and her teammate. I must be crazy standing here next to these women. The race director goes over the rules and allows us to decide whether or not we want to race with the men’s 50+/60+ Masters group. We decide we will go with them. The field increases from 12 women cyclists to a field of 48 in an instant. The race director blows the whistle and immediately I’m surrounded by carbon, deafened by the sound of gears grinding around me. Everyone looks the same. I can’t tell one person from another. We’re screaming down the straightaway to the first corner before the climb. Elbows are bumping, breaks are squealing, and we almost come to a complete stop as we round the bend. I see the climb and follow the wheel in front of me. Breathing heavily, legs filled with pressure at explosive levels, the pace ramps up. I made it to the top. Three laps go by and I find myself pushed over into a ditch. I fall to the back of the group. I’m close to the start/finish line and I’m hanging on by a thread to stay on the wheel of the rider in front of me. Hoping he can protect me from the wind just long enough for me to recover and catch back on. I make it. I breathe. I’m back to the hill. Finally, at four laps to go, I’ve convinced myself I’m going to survive. The climb gets easier this time. I begin to see some of the other female racers falling behind. I feel the slightest boost in confidence. In the last lap, I’ve conquered the climb passing Kim Pettit. She comes around me just before the descent and she tells me to hold on. We are flying down the descents, mashing pedals around the corners, and I’m caught by another rider. She jumps on Kim’s wheel and I’m in a poor position. I lose them. Falling back into a bunch. I hit the windy section and remember what Gramling had been yelling at me through the race. “Get to the middle! Stay out of the WIND!” I hide and I make to it the finish line. The taste of blood fills my mouth and I can’t believe I made it. I find out later that I took sixth place. It feels a lot like first place.
Sunday begins almost exactly as the day before. I warm up and my legs feel like they don’t belong to me. I hear from other racers that Team Elevate dominated and swept the podium on Saturday. They’re smart and they know how to work as a team. I’ll have to race smarter than the day before. The whistle blows and I’m the first across the line on the front of the pack. I rotate with the Elevate Team and another rider. I take a short break, and get caught on the climb in the 3rd lap as one of the Elevate girls ramps it up and guns it up the hill. I get ready to chase, but I’m stuck behind other riders and I can’t make it to her. She quickly disappears down the descent. A couple of attacks happen, but nothing sticks. We stay together and on the last lap I hear a coach from the sideline telling one of the Elevate girls to attack. We round the corner to the climb and I hear her shifting. I was ready and when she attacked, I went with her. I stay on her wheel railing the downhill corners. We are on the flat and my legs are getting toasted trying to stay with her. She slowly creeps away and another rider has caught us. She gets around me, but only long enough for me to get behind her. She stands, I stand, we sprint to the finish line. I make it finishing 3rd.
It was a great weekend racing down in Texas. I’d like to thank our sponsors, City Title & Closing, Smithfield, Shoulder Center of Arkansas, The Bike Route, Clif Bar & Custom Electronics for making it possible for our team to travel around the region doing what we love.
Saturday Road Race Pro/1/2/3/4 with Men’s 50+ & 60+ Masters Group
Distance: 24.1 Miles
Speed: 21.7 MPH AVG
Heart Rate: 180 BPM
Sunday Road Race Women’s 3/4
Distance: 13 Miles
Speed: 20.2 MPH