My first crit experience. Wow. Where do I even start....?? Note: First off a little explanation for those of you who don't live in (or near) the biking world. A crit stands for "criterion", and it's a type of bike race where you are on a closed course that is a loop of about 1-2 miles long. You do loops on the course for a set amount of time. When it gets close to the end the announcer will tell you how many laps you have left and at the end of those laps the race is over. It's fast, crazy, turny, and wild. If there is one in your city (they are usually in downtowns) you should go check it out, it's pretty unreal.
OKAY, so Steve is writing my schedule a few days out at a time as Ironman gets closer. On Thursday I asked him for a few more days and he said to sign up for the Mike Nields Memorial Bannock Street Crit on Sunday. I watched this race last year and was in shock and awe at the process. It's fast, each loop is about a mile and has 8 turns, and last year I had trouble envisioning that I would ever be ready for such an endeavor.
This year, different story. I definitely had some first time jitters the night before and the morning of. PIC arrived at my place at 5am so we could ride to the race together. It was nice to talk with her and to know that she was racing, as was my other teamate Beth. Sarah, who isn't a PC chick, but used to be, and races a lot was racing too. So it was nice to know that I knew some of the participants. When we got down to Bannock an hour later the nerves really got going. Steve took us through each turn and told exactly how we should go into it and come out of it.
The line he taught us was the same line the pro men took through the course.
But was it the same line the Cat 4 ladies took? Hardly.
We asked Steve what to do if the other ladies didn't take that line. He said to stay up front, and force the correct line. All righty, don't have to tell me twice.
He gave us a great pep talk before the race and I felt like I was in the right mood to really race strong. I was no longer intimidated, I was ready to ride aggressively, and I was ready to race like it was the last 40 minutes of my life.
Off we went. Sure as bears eat honey the ladies did not take a strong line. The first 5 laps were spent pushing my way to the front, and taking my own line. Most the time I wasn't on a wheel, but I came out of turns accelerating, where as the pack was decelerating and I would pick up spots. To take my line I had to cross the field after each turn and this pissed them off like no tomorrow. There were lots of F-bombs thrown my direction, but it was just a waste of energy on their part. Some definite Lemming action happening. There was a small hill and I tried to jump every lap when we went up it. I took some pulls....following my line of course.
We came around one turn and as I was pedaling out of the turn my pedal hit the ground. I didn't fall but it was a gut check. I told myself, Don't do that again! Oddly watching the pro mens race someone in the pack almost always hit their pedal on the exact turn, you could hear it every time they went by.
Several turns and almost an entire lap later I have Beth on my wheel and I take the turn on the line we are supposed to, and I somewhat pedal through the turn and I hit my pedal again. This time, not so lucky, I feel the bike slide out, I try to pull it back up, I don't make it. My bike goes down on its left side, and I go down right due to the momentum my body had trying to pull out of the fall. I fall mostly on my bike. All the riders manage to evade me, I think because I was sliding out of the turn. I hop up, pick up my bike and I think "It's over, dang". Steve comes running down the course and says "Get on your bike". He rams my shifters back into a manageable position, tells me to go to neutral wheel support and get pushed back into the race. "Yes, boss".
Note: for the non bike world people...if you get a flat or crash in a crit you have 1 free lap to get back into it. It's just part of the rules.
I do as told, and the wheel guys push me back in. My adrenaline is crazy! I'm so amped and so jazzed to be back in the race. I jump, I jump again. I just felt wild. I hung onto the lead pack, took jumps, tried to get off the front, and just raced aggressively. At one point I sat into the pack and took the wrong line with the ladies. Wow, talk about crap. The accordion effect is nasty, and you have to get up and out of your saddle after every turn to close the gap. I definitely liked Steve's line better. No brainer there.
As it came down to the final lap this is when I realized yet again that I am no Cavendish. I can't seem to find a lead out, and I can't seem to get my act together for the sprint finish. I was 7th despite giving it my all. And that's 7th in the lead group of 7, total number of racers was 21.
I was so unbelievably jazzed about this race. I came around the corner and Steve was running along one of the alleys. Big hugs all around. I told him "I had so much fun!!!". "That was so totally awesome". I was surfing on some serious adrenaline! Regrouping with Beth, Michelle (PIC), and Sarah was crazy. They were way more traumatized by my wreck than I was. Apparently my wreck created a gap that allowed the front group to pull away. That front group was the one I got pushed back into. But Beth, Michelle, and Sarah ended up in the second group. Shucks!
Then I looked at my bike. RahRoh. My handle bars had hit the side of my frame on the top tube. It had 5 different 2-3 inch cracks. I met back up with Troy. He said "You did so good". I said "I think I broke my bike". He said "It's ok, we'll work it out, you raced so well". I love my husband!
Michelle (PIC) and I then got on our bikes and had a great hour ride back up to my house. We skipped the coffee time with everyone else, and had some girl time on the bikes. Geez, I love that girl! We laughed about some stuff that I can't even repeat here. All I can say is "Ohh, Shut Up".
A bike is a tool. I am incredibly blessed to have a beautiful work of art as my tool, but the bottom line is that a bike is fixable, or replaceable. What's done is done, we move forward from here. We have an email into Calfee to see about a repair. Onwards. My body is fine, yes there is some soreness and a few scrapes, but my soul is fulfilled, and thus I am fine.
Oh yea...need a new helmet too now, any suggestions? PIC says it must be blue so that we can remain twinkies!
I am so incredaably proud of Beth, Michelle and Sarah. These crits are no slouch, it was balls to the walls racing, pain to the Nth degree. They all raced superbly. Also my hubby Troy. He was out there with Annie and I think he likes the idea of 40 minute races! HaHa! You wish Troy!
Lastly Steve-O, coach of the decade. A lifetime of bike racing in his past. Most wouldn't take the time to teach a bunch of newbie girls how to take the right line, and how to get the look of the shark. He's got this way of dishing out to me stuff that is new and crazy and awesome, but that I am capable of excelling in. He just rocks.