The final race in the Spring Training Series finally came and went. My goal for this race? Well, it was mathematically impossible to move into 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the omnium... but 4th place was definitely in my sites! I needed to finish 3 spots ahead of 4th & 2 spots ahead of 5th place to do that.
I brought my lucky charm, Jake, to the race with me. Thankfully Rich & Bella Hincapie offered to watch him while I was racing. BIG, HUGE thanks to Bella for keeping the pup company all day!
We started out with a group of 35 women. 19 Pro, 1, 2, 3 women... and 16 Cat 4. The officials asked if we wanted to race separate and only a few people raised their hands... so we were back at it with Pro, 1, 2, 3, 4 women all together doing 4 laps around Donaldson.
The race started with a full-on sprint. I knew immediately this would be unlike any other race in the series. We must have dropped 6 women in the first kilometer of the race. And it didn't let up. On "Golf Course Hill" we were out of the saddle still going strong. I knew we wouldn't keep this pace the entire time so I wanted to stay with the pack as long as possible. After the first lap we'd averaged 23.8 mph! The 2nd, 3rd, & 4th laps all were a bit slower. We settled in and people took turns at the front trying to break away. I found myself moving back & forth quite a bit from rear of the pack, to the middle, inside... then outside.
Now that this was the 3rd time racing this course, I had a pretty good feel for where I wanted to be in each section... what potholes to avoid, what bad surfaces mean get on the white line or double yellow. Every once in a while one or two girls would try to make a break for it... and the whole pack would surge to speeds I never thought I could sustain. We catch them then sit back in. This continued the entire race until about 2 miles to go.
At this point everyone started conserving energy for the finish. This is when I marked my former teammate Elizabeth Brady. She was ahead of me by 1 point in the omnium. The person who was in 4th was dropped on the first lap so she and I were both shooting for it. We traded places quite often and I knew it would all come down to who had better positioning at the end.
The bigger pack of Pro, 1, 2, 3 women (there were only 6 in the previous Sunday's race at Donaldson) kept the pace strong & fast all day. By the end of it we'd averaged 21 mph for nearly 29 miles. I have NEVER gone that fast! With 1 mile to go two groups started to form & the paced picked up. One on the white line and another in the middle. I didn't want to take the chance of getting stuck so I sat in the middle pack toward the outside. We hit the 1k to go sign and picked up the pace again. People started blowing up all around us and it was "interesting" trying to get around them. Once we reached the 200m mark it was an all out field sprint and I shifted into a higher gear and told myself not to leave anything in the tank.
From this point on I wasn't going to let anyone pass me. I was in the drops and passed riders to my left and right. Women were leaving their lines completely and crossing over others. I crossed the finish line and immediately threw on my brakes as some women crashed in front of me... My tires left some rubber on the pavement as they skid around to the right of the crash. I was ecstatic with how well I rode but also worried about what happened.
I know at least two women were involved, I think maybe three. I remember seeing two people to my left and a bike to my right as I continued on to cool down. As I came back there was a girl being attended to on the road. I don't know what happened or how bad she was hurt, but she was taken away in an ambulance.
This sport is dangerous... like going 30 miles per hour and hit the pavement with nothing between you and the ground except your helmet & some material dangerous. If this series has taught me anything... it is to ALWAYS be aware of what's happening around you!!
After things calmed down & the Masters racers took off in their race I hung out with Bella & Jake near the officials trailer. People asked how I did and I thought I was top 4. But when the results were posted... I placed 3rd among the Cat 4s in the race with a solid 4th in the omnium! My first podium... one of my major goals for the year was to "place" (ie: 1st, 2nd, or 3rd) in a Women's Cat 4 race... and here it was... 3rd place in early March... I couldn't believe it! The hard work paid off... the training, nutrition, tapering, racing smart... watching other's lines... staying on the right wheels... it all made a difference.
(I was hoping to have some pictures to post here from the race but none have become available yet... so I'll stick with the pix of the results)