My second race as a Cat 3 with one of the larger fields I’ve raced in was at the Sunny King Criterium, in Anninston, Alabama. The weather was misty, cold, and terribly windy. The course was approximately 1k long with four left-hand turns in the shape of a rectangle. I pre-rode the course just before the start of the race taking mental notes. These notes proved to be useless. The first corner was directly into the wind. Stay out of the wind. The second corner shot us out into a down-hill sprint into a sharp third corner. Stay on the outside. Sprint to the fourth corner and attack on the slight up-hill climb. Yeah, right. Time to line up. Feet shaking (pre-race nerves are taking over). I think to myself, “just breathe.” I ask the girl next to me what category she is – I talk when I’m nervous. She’s not having any of it. Maybe she’s nervous, too? The whistle always goes off seemingly unexpectedly. GO! I clip in. I gun it. Making it around the first corner I realize I’m off the front. Leaving myself unprotected and in the wind, but I split the field in half. Ok. Good. I make it another lap or two off the front. I realize I can’t keep this up, so I sit in. Sitting in turned out to be a nightmare, within a lap the girl next to me slides out of control and smashes her bike (and her collarbone) into the pavement. The sound of carbon hitting the pavement is unnerving. Back to the front, it’s safer there. Attack again. Splitting the field up once more. We go from 40 riders to roughly 11. With three laps to go, I ask the girl next to me if she has a teammate. She doesn’t. We work together. Everything is perfect. We have a small gap and I’m feeling like garbage, but I think I can push through it. The final lap and we are railing through the last corner to the finish. I clip a pedal. I shake it off, keeping my bike upright, but my heartrate has now launched into space. I’m caught. I stand to sprint (definitely too soon), and my cleat slips from clipping my pedal. I quickly lose momentum. I finish in 5th place. Fifth place isn’t too bad. I worked hard staying at the front and I animated the race from the start. I’ll take it.
A special thanks to 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.
Distance: 12.4 miles
Avg. Speed: 21.9 mph
Avg. Heartrate: 189bpm