Race report from 30 March 2013, Independence Valley Road Race, NVPC Qualifier
Intro - or how I approach road racing.
There are many things that captivate, but none as much as design projects and bike racing. The same sensations and feelings are imposed on me when I engage in each of these seemingly different activities. There is something about the rigor and intensity that creates the layers upon layers that I find so enjoyable about the process of design or road racing.
In the week leading up to Independence Valley Road Race, we formulated a plan and strategy for our four women in attendance. This plan is like a concept sketch. Each riders’ strengths and goals for the race are considered and sketched into a role that best suits them, the course, and the overall goals of the team on that particular day. After the plan is sketched out, it is shared with all the riders and some finer details are made into a second draft drawing. All the while we know this sketch will adapt and change, it is the very nature of the plan and its inevitable change is what makes it so interesting and dynamic. The sketch is something to call back upon and follow when there are no better ideas to go with based on the situation at hand. The foundation and essence of the plan never go away, it is what gives meaning to our race, our project, our adventure.
We all learn our concept sketch and how each of our strengths can make it better. Then we start to build it in the race. We invite everyone else from the other teams to collaborate and react to our plan all the while keeping the next layer of the plan a secret from the others. This is where it can change or create a new idea that we work into our layers on the fly. Just as the building of a three-dimensional object based on drawings and careful thought will inevitably need editing and redesigning to make it function, so will the race plan call for edits to realize and execute the end goal.
I find the more difficult and dynamic the race becomes, the richer and more layered the story; It’s as though we are pushing the race to fruition, we are exploring all the edges and challenging them to be better. It is at these edges that the best stories are created, the heart of the race is exposed and everyone is invited to contribute. My favorite stories are written when the greatest sufferings and most surprises animate the race. I want nothing less than to be thrown completely new riddles to solve every time I race my bike. I need a challenge, I need a problem to solve or a puzzle to complete. And I need my teammates with me to give this any meaning at all.
IVRR met all of these requirements.
I am continually amazed by the strength and persistence of my teammates. Jenn Levo (historically identified as a sprinter-type) came out to do a hilly race and support her team. She went to the front right from the start and helped set the tempo. When I scooted around her as the first climb pointed up, I was unsure if I would see her again, but I tucked the image of her efforts from the gun into my fuel spot for later in the race.
Rosalyn Zylkowski (super strong WA rider) set the pace up the climb for the first lap and I think a few were shaken off the back at this point. After the descent we continued moving forward. The pace was mellow as a fellow, so naturally I was getting antsy. Just at the right moment, I see my teammate, Alana, roll up the left side and launch a flyer off the front – perfect timing! Some of the strong women put in efforts to bring her back. She did this about two or three more times in the first lap, which was in line with our plan. It was so great to see her launch, get pulled back, filter into the group and recover, and then float back up and hit it again! Alana has got some legs! Even though category 3 riders were scored separately today, Alana was all in for the cat 2 plan and getting me to the line that day.
Again, I tucked Alana’s killer efforts into my fuel spot for later.
On the second lap when we hit the first climb, I launched an attack. This was designed to initiate a break and it worked. Right at the top, Annie Usher-Davis almost had my wheel (and I wanted her to get it so we could try to get away), but didn't quite connect, so I drilled it down the hill to keep the chase pace high and set the tone for the break. I got caught and we all started rotating to build a gap. All the threats made the split and I had Leia with me, so I was feeling good about it.
The pace wasn't as fast as I thought we needed, so I launched another attack just before the second climb of lap 2. When the group got back up to me we settled in again and before the next lap started, Leia asked if I was going to attack the next climb and I had been thinking about it, but was hesitant to burn another match or two on that. She encouraged it, so I decided that was a good idea. Collaboration on the fly and good communication are key to a successful race and project.
I launched again right at the start of the climb and had a sizable gap at the top and stayed on it down the hill and around the right-hand corner. I dug for a little longer, but reasoned with myself that 15 more miles on such a windy course was most likely the worst idea ever. I sat up and got absorbed again by the breakaway group.
When we hit climb two, about halfway up I increased the tempo a smidge and Annie threw down on the left side. With Leia on her wheel and me right behind, we gapped a little off the group again and Leia hit the gas HARD all the way down the backside into the headwind. Again, keeping me cozy and making the group chase hard – only 6 miles to the finish.
When we got back together, Leia was on the front sitting I was on her wheel. Of course no one wanted to pull around so I played the ol’ let-a-little-gap-form-and-make-folks-go-around me. This got Leia off the front and Startbucks on the front, phew. I floated to the back of our group and realized that last effort had popped a couple of super strong ladies off the back! Good news for us, a few less folks for me to try to out sprint with my newly realized sprinting tactic that works for me, the I-have-a-million-excuses-to-not-learn-how-to-sprint girl.
I had to pull it together, I thought about Levo, Alana, and Leia and how much they had suffered for me. in this race I dug those images out of my fuel spot from earlier in the day and I thought about everyone else who helped get me here today in good form and so well supported. Eff it, I have to sprint.
Leia and I had decided how the finish was going to go before the second climb, we chatted. She got me on her wheel and jumped at 1K. I sat cozy on her wheel until about 600 or 700 meters and she had everyone all strung out behind. I launched jump part 1 (of my two part sprint method). I was expecting some sprinters to use up their jump and come around me here so I could grab a wheel and set up for jump part 2, but I looked over my left and no one was coming around. I thought I had totally botched my finish. I took a couple deep breaths and watched for a jump, glancing left. Still nothing. The 200 meter sign was right there, so I just launched again from the front, all in, fully out of the saddle and I gave it EVERYTHING I had. I was so terrified that someone was going to sprint around me. Leia (and Brie on the sideline) were yelling so hard that I thought all the other riders were all going to get me at the line! But alas, I went across the line untouched. I owe it all to my cladies.