Almost exactly a month after CX Nationals I found myself in on the starting line again–a familiar place, but this time I would stay on pavement with skinny tires…unknown territory for me. The first Greenville spring training race at the Donaldson Center Airport was my third road race ever and first with a team. I was pretty excited to have a role/work for a common goal and hoped I wouldn’t make any rookie mistakes!
A lot of colds were going around and I was feeling under the weather. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from myself or others as forty of us casually rolled off the line. It took some restraint not to blast out of the gate with a cyclocross start! The course was pretty straightforward; relatively flat with some rolling hills and a lot of wind. My job was to cover breaks, attack and lead out our sprinter with the goal of getting one of our girls upgrade points. Our team had never ridden together before but we communicated well enough to maintain control of the race.
I was aggressive but smart and was able to cover any move with confidence. Halfway through our captain on the day asked me how I felt. I had been working hard with little rest and was tired, but I knew other riders could hear me, so I said I felt good. She told me to go ahead and not look back so I did..somehow saying I felt good out loud made me believe it was true and I attacked hard up a hill on the backside of the 7 mile loop. A minute or two later I started to feel the effort and thought for sure that I’d be caught right away. I looked behind and couldn’t see anyone so I kept going and pretended it was a time trial.
I figured I had at least forty minutes/cyclocross’ worth of very hard effort in me and passed a rider from the men’s race ahead of us who only had one leg. Suddenly nothing hurt anymore and my strength was renewed. My gap extended to over a minute and lasted just over a full lap…much longer than I anticipated given that the course did not suit breakaways. Besides my intention was always to help out my teammates in the field.
To my dismay it was one of my girls who had brought the field back to me and she had another rider on her wheel. The three of us had a bit of a gap but it was not sustainable with one lap to go. I directed our efforts towards our key rider and eventually my teammate stopped working for the wrong girl; the field came back together. A few riders tried to get away but I did my best to bring them back.
Our lead-out did not exactly work as planned and I was not fresh enough to sprint for the win. Luckily our key rider was rested and got a high enough placing in the bunch sprint that she earned her points. The goal was met even if it didn’t happen as we expected! There was more positive than negative to take away in our first try.
The Spring Training Series is sponsored by Hincapie Sportswear and though Big George doesn’t always show up, he was there with his BMC development team:
A week later we had another chance at Fork Shoals. This race had constant rolling hills and was very windy. The wind seemed to pick up more as the race continued. Before the race Dave had warned me to stay out of the wind but of course I found myself in it nearly the entire time. I ended up chasing down attacks throughout the race and controlled the pace for much of it since no one wanted to work. Besides I felt safer in front and the pace was so slow it was getting boring. I still rode within myself and no one tried to attack me…
I was able to protect my teammates and we finished first, third and I was eighth in the sprint so I was really happy with that. We worked well together and again, met our goal. It was refreshing to try something totally different in a race scenario and satisfying to play a role in something larger. I was surprised at how much I liked racing on the road and started to reconsider a few weekends on my race schedule…my Cat 2 upgrade and the team’s Domestic Elite status were approved, so it looks like I’ll be diving into a few pro road events this season!
I wouldn’t have ever considered much of a future on the road if it weren’t for Pepper Palace, Spin-Tech Training/Beer City Bicycles, Studio 7 Multisport and my teammates. Up until now I’ve been riding an aluminum 9-speed road bike (my first “real” bike ever), and while it is a solid bike and has never disappointed, riding my BMC Road Racer is inspiring to say the least!
However my dreams of road racing remained just that as a few days later I found myself on a plane to Texas with my hardtail for the first national mountain bike race of the season…