Seven of the eight members of Team CycleLife lined up on Sunday for the first “real” race of the 2008 season. Driving through sleet, hail and even snow at some times, we were NOT excited about the start. When we arrived at the school for registration, we immediately saw DC Velo’s Ken Young, one of our local rock-stars. He looked like he’d been through Paris Roubaix and was so cold he couldn’t hold a cup of coffee. As we looked around the parking lot we saw that the cold and damp conditions had taken their toll on the big-boys, who started earlier in the morning. Was this really how we were going to start the season ?
Our team kits were not quite ready for our debut, so we sported matching green jerseys so we could find each other in the pack. The field was clearly stacked – Colavita was there, along with some collegiate rock-stars and local strong-women who were there to test their legs and tenacity. Roll out was a little higher pace than “neutral” as Leslie was on the front and spinning pretty hard just to get our core temps up. We passed the start line and the attacks began up the rollers – Cora from BMW went first and the pace responded. Sufficiently warmed up, we made the hard right turn into the “hill” (Side note – I have done this race 4 times in my limited career as a bike racer. I never really knew that THIS was the “hill” everyone despised. I just thought this was a long drag after the hills we just did and couldn’t figure out what everyone was so uptight about. Thank you, Jenny, for setting me straight. Shows how much I pay attention).
The first time up the hill was moderately paced, which was good since I didn’t remember the course and was in TERRIBLE position getting through the turn. I managed to pace up the hill hard enough to coast to the pack on the fun descent. No harm done, lesson learned. I looked around and was pleased to see that our team was still in tact – green jerseys were seen all around the pack. Colavita’s Andrea was keeping the pace fairly high so we didn’t bunch up as much as normal. Some minor attacks went off but were quickly brought back. The second lap up the hill was a much harder pace, but I had learned my lesson and was able to stick with the pack. Looking around, I had trouble locating teammates but I think we were all there. After the second hill, the real attrition began – I know we lost several of our teammates between the 2nd and 3rd trip up the hill, but not before Robin dug deep and threw in a nice little attack on the rollers following the hill. Well Done !!
3rd trip up the hill told me two things 1) follow Jenny’s advice on pacing up the hill (this is when I realized THAT was the infamous “hill”) and 2) this is going to be a cluster-group finish. By this time it was me, Jenny and Leslie left in the pack. We were all hovering near the back … this is early season and everyone is still tweaking their pack riding skills so we just wanted to stay upright. The constant pace set by Colavita and a few of the collegiate racers had done its damage – our field had split. We came into the last turn pretty hard, but then everyone sat up. Looking at each other to see who was going to jump first, we soft-pedaled the next 500m. We hit the 1k mark and someone jumped – but then we all sat up again. This was getting really dangerous. We jumped again and slowed again. Finally, we made the last turn and everyone dove to grab wheels. It was on. And I was done. Three consecutive jumps were too much for me at this point in my training, and I was far too sketched out by the cluster of a field to fight for the right position. Leslie and Jenny stayed on each other but got jostled out of position as they came to the line. Leslie finally found some clear ground and took the opportunity to sprint into 3rd, while HPC’s Lorena powered her way to the win.
Overall, the race was as it always has been for me: not great, not terrible … it just kind of happens. I rolled in with the lead group right behind Jenny and was glad to do so. We’re pretty happy with a 3rd place for our first team showing and we’re excited to move on to local races – Walkersville and Tysons – here we come !!