After last weekend I was determined to put those last couple of pieces of the crit puzzle together. I read this piece on 'How to Crit Like a Boss' during the week, and it really struck a chord with me after my last few races.
It's so true. The time comes, you've worked hard all race, you're there at the end, and then you make some dumb decision and *poof* you've finished 8th place, congratulations on your crit, thanks for racing, see you next time. Enter Downers Ave crit, again I was well positioned all race, pretty much an exact replay of last week's race (except I was hoping everyone would be tired) coming into the final laps. I had not looked at the lap counter all race and when I finally did, I saw 4 to go. We were after two fast laps (prime & then sprint points) and I was beginning the nervous thing that I do when it starts getting down to it. I begin to stress about loosing position, about being on the right wheel, about what I'm going to do in the final lap, etc, etc. We come around again and I check the lap counter, 1 to go. I double take and am thinking (and yelling) *#&WTF???!!! Apparently the lap counter was on the fritz and had shown 4 laps three times and was now working again. We had also been told by the moto referee that we were coming up on the bell lap, but I have no recollection of that whatsoever. To be honest at the time I was really enraged, I thought that the referees were cutting our race because we were going over time or something, I thought they had made the crazy decision to give us the bell to end the race endangering the group in the ensuing panic. That was not the case, and due to my good positioning for the rest of the race the quick change to bell lap cut out any of my stressing that I normally do. All of a sudden I'm perfectly positioned and we're going into the sprint. I was second (or third) into the final turn, on the wheel of Jenny Youngwerrth the holder of the cow jersey and winner of the previous 3 races.
I started to go, and I was feeling good, I started to sprint, and I got a dangerous feeling, welling up inside of me; 'I AM GOING TO WIN THIS RACE'. I really felt it, shamefully, with another (what felt like) 600m to the finish line. I left the protected zone of Jenny's wheel and tried to jump away for what I felt was an inevitable W and suddenly there was the wind. The joyous feeling in my stomach plummeted, the glorious post up that I was planning vanished, the distance to the finish line suddenly quadrupled in length, and I died. I managed to barely hang on to 5th place, and Jenny the wheel that I should have trusted took the win. Mia Cheeseman pulled out another great sprint and passed me like I was standing still for 3rd. I had to laugh at myself, what a stupid move, but that is what happens at the end of a bike race. You had a plan, that plan is gone, you need to be somewhere, you're not there, you instead make what in retrospect is the worst move you could make. Luckily I had the entire CWEC to cheer me up, and laugh at my ridiculous train of thought.
The next day I was pretty determined not to be caught out like that again, and this time the CWEC ladies would be watching from the side lines. It was a similar finish, long sprint, but with a slight downhill false flat and a tail wind. The race started fast, as I think it had been all week. There was a big (loud & smashy) crash within the first 15 minutes, which took out some of the top ladies, Christine Thornburg and Mia Cheeseman went down hard, and their bikes would not recover, although they both got back in the race with the help of Sram NRS. Jenny Youngwerth was having another strong race, I just sat behind her, and every attack that came she chased down, I had to do very little work and stayed well positioned without too much effort. Jenny is incredibly strong. For someone to pull the entire race, win every sprint points, a lot of the primes and still have the legs for the final sprint is incredible, you gotta respect that. The final few laps I concentrated hard, staying in position, following the right wheels. The final few corners were a blur of lapped riders, a little chaotic but everyone made it through safe. I gave the sprint everything I had, maxed out my biggest gear because of the hill and tail wind. I didn't die, I didn't mess up, I sprinted as hard as I could and managed a very respectable 3rd. Lisa Hulse took the win with Jenny holding me off for second. It wasn't a win, but I did everything I could to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and I felt that I had, no shame in being straight out gunned.
I finished the day by running around the course frantically screaming encouragement to the CWEC team, and watching them throw down with some of the fastest women in the country NBD.
Note: Bahati socks have super powers.