I purposely used to avoid crits - seeing as the first crit I raced I was crashed out in the final corner, less than 200m from the finish. But fast forward a year and a half and I've fallen in love with the fast-paced, anything can and will happen arena that is criterium racing. I'm still slightly terrified when I roll to the line, but especially after this weekend with my stellar teammates by my side, I'm not shying away from any crits any time soon.
Sam and Elise talked me in to racing Colavita GP looking at it as a warm-up for our team race at San Rafael in two weeks. It was close to home, and an afternoon race (sleeping in day of bike race - unheard of!) so I decided I had nothing to lose going to "play bicycle" with these two. Sam and I had raced the Martinez crit about three weeks before and had a blast, so I knew I was in for a fun day no matter what.
The course was windy, which thankfully kept the heat down, and while the race was in the opposite direction, we had practiced some racing tactics on the course earlier in the year during our team camp, so I was at least comfortable on the course. We had about 20 women in the field - including several strong sprinters and crit racers so I knew it was going to be a fun and interesting race!
We had a good pre-race chat - discussing strategy and goals. We wanted to animate the race, cover attacks and put someone on the podium. Elise mentioned that it could work to our advantage to start the final sprint earlier than expected (tuck that nugget away for later!!). We all agreed though - that whoever was feeling good should go for it.
The race started and Elise immediately got in a break with about 5 others. This was helpful for Sam and I as it meant we wouldn't have to work to close the gap. After a few laps of it all back together, I put in an effort to get a prime and ended up in a small break for about a lap with two others - but we got reeled back in pretty quickly. Sam did some solid work at the front, keeping the pace up and going with some attacks as people tried to bridge to various breaks.
Things got really interesting when we came around a corner and there was a car in the middle of the course. Granted we had been warned that this was a possibility - no one actually expected this to happen. Thankfully the race volunteers kept the car from moving until we passed and everyone was able to safely swerve around it.
At 3 to go, I took another flyer to push the pace since despite it being windy - the pack was still together for the most part. Realizing it wasn't going to stick, I fell back into the pack and Sam reminded me to get out of the wind, which was super helpful - I'm also learning what "crit brain" is and am very guilty of totally spacing out from time to time especially after an effort. I floated to the back, grabbed a quick drink and then started to move back up.
With 2 to go, we were all together and things felt super jumpy. My primary focus now turned toward self-preservation as I got a little nervous when the pack started to get bunched up in anticipation. Starting the final lap the pace increased until we hit the back straightaway - I don't know if it was the cross-wind or what, but there was a momentary lull in the action so I saw an opportunity, took it and jumped. Thinking back - it was a fairly risky move to go so early, but it paid off! I put my head down with "don't you dare look back" going on repeat in my head and took the win! Emotional mash-up of stoke and shock for sure. Sam followed my move and came through 4th with Elise in 9th - great to have all of us finish top-10!