Friday, July 15, 2005
Day 7, Brewer's Hill Criterium
Sometimes you've got nothing left to lose. And a friend or two, good legs, and some luck. These combined won me the stage winner's jersey today. :D
I almost didn't race today. I didn't feel well. I didn't sleep, couldn't eat this morning. I raced a 50K crit on a bottle of cytomax and a few bites of a clif bar. Legs feeling bad, I almost got dropped in the first 10 laps, and I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't let myself drop out, though. I hoped to open up and feel better, as I often do as the race continues.
The superfun course had 6 corners, with a fast descent that cornered into a climb, before the final two corners. Very poor pavement lined the fast descending corner and the climb. I liked this course a lot because I could shoot up the big ring climb and pass people every lap. I would often use that spot to advance my position.
I got my head in the game, and my legs followed suit. I rode in the front half of the pack, or even closer to the front. There were a good number of attacks, and all the riders in the top GC had teammates attacking and chasing for them. Leeanne Manderson for HUB racing was on front after chasing down Catherine Powers' teammate for Brooke O'Connor (who is in 3rd GC!). I was up front next to Brooke, who knew I was hoping to improve on my finishes or win a prime today. We came through the line and they rang the bell for a $20 prime with 5 or 6 to go. I knew I was in good position and had to go for it. We turned the first corner and began the fast descent, and I attacked. I was going early, but if I got into that descending turn first, I thought I might get a gap I could hold up the hill and all the way into the line. I also hoped that not many would go too hard for a small money prime with only a few laps left. And probably nobody in the pack viewed me as a threat.
So I jumped into the descent, and the HUB team sat up, giving me a gap into the turn. I owe them huge gratitude! I went hard and didn't look back until I took the last corner into the line, where amazingly, I saw nobody behind me. I knew I had no choice but to go for it. I jumped again and just hammered. At the next time through, I heard that I had 15-20 seconds on the field, but I still had 4 to go. I got worried about cracking and being caught, but caught my breath on the descent and pushed up the climb and in the flats. 3 to go and I still had that gap. Importantly, I was out of sight of the field. I kept thinking "out of sight, out of mind" and hoped this might work in my favor today. 2 to go, and I was hurting, but driven by the fear of being caught in the last lap! People around the course were cheering me, and I even heard my name, "Go Rebecca!" That surprised me and boosted me, as I sure don't really know any of the guys at this race! Must have been someone I just met. Also, since Magen Long has been winning everything, people were excited to see someone else out front with a chance to win.
With one to go, I heard the announcer say I had a 30 second gap, and then the realization that I might win started to hit me. I feared a puncture or some other cosmic catastrophe, but as tired as I was, pushed harder knowing it was only 1K to the line for the final time. When I came to the last 2 corners, I glanced over my shoulders and saw no one. I knew I had it without a contest. I sat up and grinned over the line, proud to win such a high caliber race in the Gearworks/Spin Arts colors.
I was through the first turn and catching my breath when the rest of the pack came through. Shocked, I rolled around the course to riders giving me pats on the back and saying things like, "Nice move" and "Great ride." I went to the announcer's stand, where I was called up, and after the men's race started, interviewed for quite awhile about everything from the course to the race to what bike I was riding (I proudly talked about my favorite Tom Stevens special) to the Gearworks shop. Then came the little podium presentation and I pulled on the stage winners jersey and shook hands with the second and third place finishers, Catherine Powers and Magen Long. :D
I think I'm still in shock. I almost decided to drive home today, but now I'm starting tomorrow's race front row, in a white winner's jersey. :D