The Presbyterian Hospital Twilight Crit was the most exciting race of the year with all the strongest professional teams bringing full squads and a number of Olympians to compete for the $15,000+ prize purse. The crit is in downtown Charlotte and the crowds were unbelievable with spectators lining the entire course. The pace was ballistic throughout, with two technical sections that tested the cornering skills and two straightaways which never seemed to allow for recovery.
The field started with 85 riders and was down to less than 30 by the finish. In the last few laps I could hear MABRA people yelling "move up Leslie", "great job CycleLife", etc. Unfortunately I was at my limit just clinging to what was left of the field. But the voices helped ensure I stayed with them in the last few laps when it would have been way easier to just let them go.
Somehow an Aaron's rider got away (Kat Carroll) while Tibco, Cheerwine, Colavita, and Advil chased. The Aaron's rider held on to win with Brooke Miller (Tibco) winning the field sprint for 2nd, and Tina Pic (Colavita) 3rd. I held on by my fingernails to finish 21st.
The best part was that with the generous purse, I earned just enough to pay for the speeding ticket acquired in VA on the way down!
Complete results and a more comprehensive race report are here.
Sunday's Hanes Park Classic was another story. It was hot and everyone was exhausted from the day before. While the course is somewhat hilly and twisty, it wasn't quite as selective and the field stayed mostly together.
With 3 laps to go riders started diving for position and it got dangerous. I was having no part of any crashes and started backing off which turned out to be a good thing. No teams could keep the pace high enough and riders kept trying to get towards the front. With one lap to go the field mushroomed across the road at the start/finish and a huge crash took out about 20 riders. Bodies were everywhere!
After unclipping and stepping over the carnage, I realized the riders ahead of the crash were out of sight. I waivered on whether to keep going but decided to roll around with a Verducci rider just to finish. When we crossed the finish line they were still dealing with the mayhem and a number of riders that weren't in the crash were standing on the sidelines. I thought the race was over, but apparently they neutralized and restarted the field and they still hadn't finished. We watched from the sidelines as Brook Miller (Tibco) ended up beating Tina Pic (Colavita) again in the sprint with Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Verducci) getting 3rd. There were a number of us standing around who thought we had finished, but hadn't realized they had added another lap until the riders in contention came through. I wasn't sticking around to sort it out though. 30th? 40th? 50th? DNF? I'd lived to fight another day and am happy enough with that. Unfortunately Lorena Candrian (HPC) was caught up in the crash and may need a new bike. So if anyone has extras lying around...