Open Women: 15 starters, Katherine Snell 8th
Sunny, low 60’s, Windy! 15 mph with gusts to 25-30 mph.
Individual Reports from the Women’s Open Race
There are numerous races throughout the season at the Ninigret Park criterium course in Charlestown, RI. Despite that I’ve only been there once previously. I was a little surprised to find out that the Newhouse crit was offering a Women’s field and decided to head down and support it. Wind always plays into the strategy at Ninigret since the course is completely flat and next to the water. The wind blows directly off the water with no trees to break it and the 6 corner course goes in every direction. Sunday was especially windy blowing around 15 mph with gusts over 25 mph. I normally ride 50 mm deep wheels at crits but opted not to do reduce the inevitable effects of crosswinds on bike handling. There were a couple of fast wheels I targeted; Melissa Ross (Kenda) and Kim Edwards (CVC), both Cat 2s and an unknown (Emma White from CBRC who is a very strong Junior Cyclocross rider). My strategy was to not do too much work on the front and try to wear down the competition a little and be prepared to jump on any breaks that might go off.
We started ahead of the Junior field. Normally this means that our fields cannot work together however the officials announced that it would be OK to do so. The race was fairly uneventful for the first few laps. I minimized the amount of pulling I did but was a little uncomfortable behind some pretty squirrely riders (apparently Cyclocross does not teach you how to be a good pack rider). Sure enough, at the point that I was taking a rest further back in the field, after turning from the headwind stretch to the cross wind stretch, there was a crash immediately in my path. I managed to stay up and rode in and out of the grass and chased hard to catch back on. Shortly after I caught up to the back of the lead group, the lead group of Juniors came by and the front of the group jumped on, splitting me off the back. The rest of the race was spent chasing and trying to make the members of our group trade pulls which was not entirely successful. As we came into the finish straight, the freshest, youngest gal in the pack started to sprint by me. I was determined that she was not going to get by after I pulled her around for 8+ laps and poured it on to win our little group sprint for 8th place overall. Predictably Kim Edwards won overall with Melissa Ross second. Emma White showed her strength finishing third.
This ended up being a pretty frustrating race for me since I would have likely finished on the podium if not for the crash. It’s hard to think of how to play it better. If I had been safely on the front when the crash occurred, I would have been pulling directly into the headwind. Possibly a better strategy would have been to be aggressive early in the race and try to split the field up a little by attacking in the tail/cross tail section of the course and going hard into the finish straight. I also noted that one of the riders who went down in the crash had deep wheels. I’m guessing she may have been blown into another wheel, causing the crash.