Saturday, April 14, 2007

Missing the Killer Instinct at Battenkill-Roubaix

Battenkill-Roubaix has come and gone, and in retrospect it all seems a bit anticlimactic. This has as much to do with how I raced it as anything about the race, but I was hoping for a true EPIC that I did not find nor create. No snow, no flat tires or broken wheels, no hills so steep I had to walk, no tires sinking into mud, no harrowing bike-handling moments, no implosions, no finish-line collapsing... After racing stupid-aggressive at Richmond, our team plan was to let the course do the softening, race hard in the second set of steep dirt hills that came midway through the race. And so we did a lot of nothing - the kind of doing nothing that makes me hate regional women's racing, that makes promoters want to cancel and shorten our races - but I lacked my usual desire to go madly on the attack, so I embraced this nothingness. I can't say I felt that great - the first hill felt way harder than it should have - but if there is one thing I've learned from various mentors it's that feeling is overrated, to the point that I recently told someone when she asked me how I felt, "I don't feel." But while I know it rationally, I don't always internalize this lesson. We were preparing our team assault about 25 miles in, but Advil's Elisa Gagnon (my former Lipton teammate - and star pianist - who is riding very well this year) launched a good attack up one of the steep dirt hills. I followed with another women named Mary from the Boston-based Nerac team, a featherweight who seemed new to racing but who was at that point strongest of anyone on the hills, and we built a gap on the upper part of the climb. We represented the only three teams with numbers in the race. Advil's Heather Labance and my own teammates were the other strongest riders there. Ultralink's Jen Stephenson, who was clearly strong but lacked teammates, tried to bridge but didn't make it. Elisa got dropped on a steep pitch and I feared the break might be doomed without Advil, thought I had a better chance of beating Elisa than Heather, so I sat up and waited for Elisa. Elisa was not going to close, but I saw Heather coming across alone and knew she would join us, that the break would be safe. Maybe I should have made her work harder. The whole race I had about the tenacity I might have on a bike tour - Richmond and a rough week of training killed my confidence. Heather, Mary, and I worked together for the remaining 30 miles; it wasn't very hard. The final climb with ten miles to go was supposed to be some hugely steep mountain but it was anything but - it was the kind of gradual grind I can do pretty well. I felt stronger than the other two on the climb, gapped them at one point just riding tempo slightly harder than our usual pace, but doubted myself. HELLO: ATTACK. I had nothing to lose - we were way gone from the field (5 minutes it turned out) - and if I attacked it would have either worked or not. I would either give myself a shot at winning solo or find myself back in a group of three in which I was pretty sure I was the second-best sprinter. But instead I did nothing. I planned to attack in the last 1k to avoid a straight-up sprint, but I hadn't scouted the finish (HELLO: ERROR). Suddenly there was the tent (no signs indicating distance to go), surprising us all. Heather and I sprinted and she won. Silly (non-)racing by me, not exactly the training of my high-end that I so desperately need. Kathleen won the field sprint to take 4th, aided by Mandy's top-notch lead-out. Mandy is getting stronger by the day. Hiroko is adjusting to a brand-new bike position that will be an improvement but that is for now borderline- crippling. Nina fought hard through the tough climbs. Andrea has been struggling with the work-racing balance these last few weeks, something we all know too well. Watch out, she will be back soon! Here's a photo from last year's race to give you a sense of the event. It's pretty awesome: massive numbers of volunteers put on a race that's a single exceptionally-marshalled 55-mile loop (something increasingly rare in a world of parking lot crits), over 1000 racers participate (drawn by love of sport, not prize money), women get to race a distance equal to the men, and the terrain is spectacular - rural New York at its best (to acknowledge bias: the race was just an hour from my hometown). The tiny town of Salem, NY, which hosted the race and offered its downtown for a finish line, seemed to embrace the event. There were tons of food vendors and spectators, not to mention the volunteers. As the first real New England/New York road race of the season, the tone was one of a kick-off event, a chance to catch up with racing friends and launch the 2007 season with exuberance. I just read Sea Otter (the national-level circuit race taking place in California today) got cancelled mid-race due to rain and plunging temperatures. Officials need to make safety first, but.... now that's anticlimactic. We should have had all those teams racing Battenkill. It would have been EPIC.

1 comment:

ROBINSON said...

I gotta say that this comment: "feeling is overrated, to the point that I recently told someone when she asked me how I felt, "I don't feel."

is probably one of the best quotes i've heard in a long time. now, just getting myself to believe it....