Women’s Development Team Race Report
Nutmeg Classic Criterium, June 9, 2012
Category 3, 19 Starters: Katherine Snell 6th, Julianne Oberle, 7th
Category 4, 19 Starters: Elizabeth Cummings 3rd, Marissa Acosta, 14th place
Masters 40+, 9 Starters: Katherine Snell 3rd
The Nutmeg Classic Criterium course is a beginner friendly criterium course at Walnut Hill Park in New Britain, CT with 4 gradual turns and one slight uphill.
It was nice to warmup with my teammates; Elizabeth Cummings, Julianne Oberle and Eileen Flaherty. Our coach, Dawn Lovejoy was there too and she gave me some good warmup tips. In particular, she told me that it was good to complete a warmup as close to the beginning of the race as possible. I’d like to give my husband mad props for hauling my heavy bike trainer all the way from our parking space to the warmup spot. And I’m also giving my teenage son props for being glued to his iPod during the whole race. Well, at least he was there.
I did this same race last year and was eight pounds lighter. Last year, that teeny hill on the course made me gulp, since all my training was on flats. I got dropped 2/3 into the race partly because I worked too hard, taking more pulls at the front than I should have. This year, though I was heavier, I found that I had more power and better race tactics, so I was able to finish with the pack and that teeny hill seemed even teenier. After the race, I told teammate Katherine Snell that her wheel was a great wheel to follow.
Even though my race tactics were better, I think I could have done a better job with the final lap. I had managed to keep a good position throughout the race, but lost my position going into the 2nd to last turn of the final lap. I got stuck behind some slower riders who hesitated even more because of the surprise guy on the mountain bike moseying down the course, So I started my jump for the finish too late. But that’s racing for you–gotta be looking ahead for things like that. And you have to know yourself and your abilities well enough to know when start a jump. I stayed behind those riders because I wanted them to pull me up the teeny hill and then I would start my jump. I should have just jumped earlier and passed them well before the 3rd turn. The pace of the race was never too fast, so I never got too spent. But I second guessed my ability to pull myself up the teeny hill–without drafting other people–and still be able to put out a monster sprint. Next time, I’ll be more daring and not worry about blowing up too soon. Anyhow, now that I’m actually able to comfortably stay with the pack during crits, I’ll have more chances to try out different plans.
We did a post-race meeting and I really liked that. Felt like I was part of team rather than a lone rider entering a bunch of races. Thanks to Dawn for facilitating that. It was good to see her and all the other NEBC peeps. Oh and thanks to Julianne for the nice things she said about my racing improving while we were at the Purgatory start line the next day. Eileen said some nice things too (and I’m hoping to see her at the track now that she’s done the clinic). I appreciate the good support and my awesome teammates/coach.
Facilities report: Portapotties. Pretty standard. The one I used had no toilet paper. I’m throwing in an extra 1/2 star for the totally unrelated reason of an Undertones song being played during the race. It’s my race report, so I can do this. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
The Women’s 4 race was scheduled for 5:40pm but the races were starting late, so we didn’t start until after 6pm. They combined the Women’s 3 and Women’s 4 fields but scored us separately. The pace was pretty fast from the start and my NEBC teammates Katherine Snell and Julianne Oberle did a great job of getting to the front and staying there. I found myself drifting back a few times and made it a point to try to move back up. People would attack for primes, but no one got off the front for very long before they were reeled in by the field. On the last lap, Julianne made an awesome attack at the top of the hill and almost got away from the field. As the field was attacking to catch her in the final corner, it became clear that there was a guy casually riding a mountain bike on the inside of that turn! Coming into the turn, I had decided to take the outside so I would have room to set up for my sprint and it proved to be a good decision–a few of the ladies in our field actually ended up riding onto the grass to avoid the gentleman! Anyway, I sprinted around a few people in the final straightaway to take 3rd in the 4s.
I had planned to make the most of a trip to Connecticut and do three races (W40+, Cat 3 and Cat 1/2/3). Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, given the lateness of the event), the Cat 1/2/3 race was cancelled due to low pre-registration. The two Masters fields were also small and were combined at the start of the race. Even though the fields were small, there were a number of fast women to watch out for including Laura Summers who has just aged up to 40+, Robyn Passander and Cody Harris in the 30+. My plan with my current diminished sprint capabilities was to watch those wheels carefully and get on any potential breaks and attempt to stay away. The race started relatively easily so despite a slow clip in, I was able to get good position. There were a couple of early attacks which I helped to bring back and which also helped me stay near the front. At each prime I contested the sprint, hoping that we would get a gap that we could turn into a breakaway. Luckily on the sprints where I had been gapped a little, the sprinters sat up and we regrouped. On the last prime sprint I was with the other sprinters in a group of 3 and we had a good opening. I pulled through and yelled to keep it going but no one else pulled through and we were soon caught by the field. At that point with such a short race, a field sprint was a forgone conclusion and ended better than I anticipated with me 4th overall and 3rd in the 40+ field.
The Category 3 race was also combined with the Cat 4 field which gave us a larger field and the opportunity for more teammates. However Julianne and I had planned our tactics based on a Cat 3 only race. After combining we were one of the larger teams, along with CRCA Asphalt Green and it was theoretically up to us now to animate the race. We needed to wear down a few key racers, if we could in such a short event. The race started at a pretty mellow pace. At three laps in, I decided to test the field with a little attack up the hill which then instantly transformed the race and brought the pace up. After a prime, Julianne attacked the field. I sat in and let the field catch her back and then countered with an attack up the hill again. There were a few more attacks with one of the Green Asphalt gals off the front for a while but nothing that wasn’t brought back. With about three laps to go, I worked to consolidate my position and the pace obliged somewhat by slowing down. On the last lap Julianne made her planned attack up the hill. I let the other gals chase her down and followed their wheels on what began a very long sprint. I also made sure I was on the outside since the crosswind at the finish favored an outside position. This turned out to be an excellent move since there was a rec rider on the inside of turn four. The long sprint favored me somewhat and I was able to pass a number of the faster gals to finish in 6th place. Julianne made an impressive attack and probably could have stayed in a top position if she had gone just a little later.
The plan for the race assumed that the Cat 3 women would race separate from the cat 4 women; however on the start line the promoter changed the format. It was less confusing to race the women together as one race. Going into the race I was thinking we should race conservatively if it was a Cat 3 only race, however with the switch to a 3/4 race I was hoping to push the pace and be aggressive. I wanted to see if any break could be formed off the prime laps, so I flew through after primes to get something going but it never materialized. Coming into the final half lap the pace slowed but I didn’t want it to slow so I attacked. The group strung out to chase me and this maybe avoided a giant crash with a mountain biker riding casually while wearing headphones on the last corner. I was off the front until after the downhill when the train caught me. I went too early and I’m still learning. I finished 7th, a little sad that I ran out of steam but my main goal was to race aggressively, try new things, and not be conservative. I was happy I could do that and still finish near the front.