01/12/03 - Early Bird Crit #2
by Jeni Udall
Well, if you read Julie's awesome race report and you just can't get enough of the crit action ...buckle up buttercup cause I'm gonna give ya more....
It was a beautiful day despite the gloomy reports and boy was I glad to hear it. I'm no wussy but I'm still figuring out how to tackle those corners without tangling up my wheels when they're dry....I'm not ready to try them wet!
My race experience was great thanks to my awesome teammates and also Sherri from Le Matin. Oh and not to be forgotten my awesome one man pit crew Roo. I showed up at the race frazzled, late and with only one glove. Julie jumped to the rescue and loaned me a pair! I must say Julie you ROCK!! (I heard you yelling at the corner..thank you!!) From there we rode off with Sherri to warm up a bit.
During the warm up we chatted about putting together some pacelining and trying to set an example in the pack with the hopes that others would follow suit. I am still learning and don't know much but I am willing to echo Julie and Monica's sentiments regarding organization in the pack....there was none. I was not sure how to help organize a paceline when I was fighting not to get squeezed out or knocked over in a turn. After that I just clung to Sherri and/or Monica's wheel for the rest of the race. Monica is sooo strong and sooo smooth. That gal can suffer all day and smile doing it! (she finished 4th and Sherri was 5th by the way!!) Thank you Monica, Sherri and Julie for your guidance and patience.
I know Julie was with us for the first half to two thirds. I thought the crash happened right in front of her. I owe her an apology I think....I should have been keeping an eye out for her. I also probably should have communicated and worked with her more. Sorry Julie...I'm still gettin' all this figured out. I am so excited to learn more though...boy this crit stuff is addicting.
When they showed lap cards I jumped in the pack and got a chance to catch my breath. I knew I would need it because the pack started to build speed. (did I mention how fun it is to go really, really fast!!) I was feeling good near the end but made the mistake of trying to pull in the front too close to where the bunch sprint started. I bonked and fell back in the pack a bit and did not get a chance to regroup and get in with some fast gals. I kinda got stuck in the jockeying of the pack which is like gooey quicksand. That's how ya learn though!! All in all it was a great race and I was glad I finished without being in a wreck or causing one!
Little disclaimer...please please...if you are thinking about racing the early bird crits do not be discouraged by our grumbling about organization. It is pure exhilaration on wheels, trust me!! I am thankful that these races exist and since so many of us are new some disorganized silliness is to be expected and understood I would think. The mentors often ride alongside the pack and give suggestions and try to keep everyone safe. Nobody out there is going to bite your head off for making a mistake, we are all there to learn and build fitness. The goal is to get us newbees all smartened up by the time regular season races start right!!
Aghhh...at long last I am off to bed to pedal in my sleep dreaming about the next race.....
PS I would like to throw out a thank you to any mentors who might be lurking in the list...thank you for giving you valuable time and expertise....mentoring 30-50 gals on wheels has got to be like herding cats on rollerskates!!!
01/08/03 - Early Bird Crit #1
by Julie Starling
Conditions: Sunny, warm
Race: 50 minutes, Women Cat 4, Noon, roughly 20 women?
Average Speed: 20.5 mph
First, let me say, I HIGHLY recommend these early birds to any women but especially beginners. There are PLENTY of mentors, all excellent. And if you fear that you'll be dropped, they let you take a rest lap and pop back on the pack. So it's really laid back, but the pace is still challenging!
Each year before, I shied away from the Early Birds, thinking I wasn't strong enough or it would be too technical for my skill level. I had done 3 San Jose Crits in 2000 but never considered it a real race experience since I always dropped after 3 laps. I just couldn't get the hang of cornering, and had that "sling shot" effect going each time.
This year I committed (hell or high-water) to the early birds, knowing that they'd be a terrific learning experience and that I could leverage some bike skills for MTB racing this year. My only goal for the entire series is to improve my cornering and stay with the main pack. Not exactly ambitious, but what the hell…baby steps.
I attended the mentoring session at 10 a.m. specifically to work on cornering. We headed off with 2 mentors and 10 riders per group and worked on pack riding, pace lining and cornering. All through the mentoring ride, I just couldn't keep my fingers off the brakes. I knew this was dangerous for riders in back of me. Seeing my frustration, a mentor pulled me aside and worked one-on-one with me. He had me do a few drills, but it still wasn't coming together. I was still approaching corners at a measly 15 mph and braking.
When we lined up for the race, I was positive that my cornering skills weren't up to par, so I aimed for the back. But Jenni and another friend, Sheri, were at the start line and Sheri goaded me up right behind them. On the whole, the group of women were friendly and fun--all there to learn. There was only ONE Cat 1/2/3 woman and so she raced with us. Lucky us…NOT! This made for a fast pace.
We were off. At the first corner I focused way ahead of the corner and past it…NO BRAKES…I didn't pedal, but at least NO BRAKES! Yea! Second corner, same thing—no brakes. Soon after that—BAM--it all came together. I don't know what it was. Maybe being in the "race" raised my level of performance. I was pedaling half way through the corners at about 19-22 mph and no sling shot effect. I just started focusing on looking very far ahead. (Just like in Mt. biking! Who knew you could use the same skill??) So now I had to focus on the race itself. I was hanging with the first half of the pack, next to Jenni, Sheri and Jenni's friend, Alli. All three were really smooth riders. At one point I think a girl in front of Jenni wobbled or braked, causing a ripple to Jenni to wobble (or something I couldn't tell what) but I still felt really safe behind her. She handled it very well and pedaled right through it. Great job!
At about the third lap, 3 women, including Jenni (that STUDETTE!), broke away. I came up from a few riders back and tried to bridge them. I just reached them when I ran out of steam and fell back. The pack caught me and I slid back to the back of the pack. Here I found out that the riders weren't so smooth and used the rest of the race fighting to stay up front. At one time, I did brake in a corner only due to a woman braking herself right in front of me. "Ok, get up to the front or I'll be going down," I think to myself. Soon, I worked my way up to the front of the main pack again and got in the draft. After about 2 minutes I was fully rested again. Boy, this isn't so bad after all. But the pack broke up again into 2 packs and I had to work hard to try to stay with the first of the main pack. Sometimes I slipped to the second half of the pack and worked like mad to get back on the first half. Each time fantasizing that I'd drop and rest a lap. My breathing was beyond labored and my legs felt like falling off. But each time I pushed much harder and caught the first half. Then within a minute I recovered and felt good again. Wow. Good thing I held on!
With 5 laps to go, the first half of the pack made another break away. I was in a bad position and the rider in front of me didn't even try to bridge. I worked hard but never caught them again. At 4 laps to go, a mentor had 5 of us working together in a pace line, with 15 second pulls. But these riders had no idea how to pace line. Three of them caught on, but the fourth, who I'll call "No Soft Pedal," would pull off in front of me, refuse to soft pedal back and I had to sprint to past her, pulling for over a minute at times. It was crazy. I did this about 5-6 times. Finally I decide if she wouldn't soft pedal, I'd pull off and let the other 3 come up without her. I did that and the mentor went over to her and said, "If you're going to drop them, go for it, otherwise, stay in the pace line because you'll catch the pack easier that way. I don't want to see you by yourself when you could be working with a group." At the last lap, I was so tired from sprinting past No Soft Pedal that I decided to sit in behind them for a bit. At the final stretch, Miss No Soft Pedal came up from behind and whizzed by us for the finish line. I decided I didn't want any of that, since she didn't help any of us out. So I came up from behind the three and attacked and flew past her. I never looked back. I don't know where I placed. I think I discovered that I may be a decent sprinter. But the jury's still out on that yet. Time will tell.
I think Jenni stayed off the front in the break away. I don't know how she placed. But she's a studdette! I also heard that one woman did go OTB on one of the corners. Thankfully, I never saw it. I did see people taking pictures…I wonder where they'd be posted??
On the whole, I had a TERRIFIC time. I had so much fun. And I've already achieved a good portion of the series goals in this first race. So I'm happy with my performance. No sooner did I stop pedaling after the finish line, I got an instant Charlie horse in my inner thigh. I cooled down with a spin, but I could barely bend over to get my shoes off. I think I need to drink more during the race.
Next week's goal: finish in the front of the main pack, better positioning and smooth out the cornering. A few times when I was completely exhausted, I went too wide on the corners.