Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Crit Racing and Redemption for the Peach State

This weekend I flew down to Georgia for the Athens Twilight and Roswell Criteriums. Took a while to update the blog, given a 3:00am return home and need to gain some perspective. We are all our own worst critics. Expecting a lot of ourselves is certainly a factor in performing well, but it doesn't help you ride well if you lose sight of the joy in racing and are overly critical and never pleased. Athens is a SCENE - a hip college town filled with local businesses and statues of Uga, the University of Georgia's bulldog mascot. Uga can take on Yale's Handsome Dan any day. I don't think Uga wears a letter sweater. You might have read about the Atlanta's horrible sprawl and traffic - how when during the Olympics residents were urged to take public transportation to improve air quality, emergency room visits for asthma declined precipitously, then rose again once people began driving. All this is true, and I have to say I went into the trip with Atlanta as my vision of surburban hell, a place exemplifying all that is wrong with the American supersizing mentality. So I was pleasantly surprised: a lively residential suburb of Decatur where my teammate Leigh lives (albeit with air-conditioned parking garage), drivers with infinitely more patience for cyclists than in Connecticut, gorgeous country roads, Jittery Joe's (an Athens coffee shop that is the enthusiastic title sponsor of a pro men's team -, and a few last holdout pedestrian-friendly locations. As for Athens, I could almost live there! As for the racing, well, I did rally to race Athens Twilight at 7:45pm, a major feat given my normal sleep schedule! Andrea, Mandy, Kathleen, Leigh, Robin, and I made up the Targetraining team. Was getting a call-up and carelessly did not participate in the sprint to the start line, a pushy and obnoxious ritual I increasingly hate. Then I was the last call-up and started the race stuck in the back, something that unfortunately set the tone for the whole race. I never solidified my position and never put myself consistently in the race where I was able to follow moves. Aaron's took the race by the horns, driving it, attacking, taking almost every prime, and eventually winning the race out of a break with Cat Carroll. Anytime a break makes it to the line I feel a missed opportunity because that is a break I should have been in. Launched one good attack but going solo in a race of teams is simply not going to happen. Away for one lap and took a prime, but that was my one moment of glory. We didn't have a super showing as a team. My teammate Mandy spent a lot of time on the front, rode assertively. We need to ration the energy more, but at least we had presence, and Mandy is getting stronger and stronger. Sunday morning we went out for a ride on some country roads, did some motor-pacing to open the legs. The Roswell course was less technical than Athens. Robin was going to be our finisher; Kathleen, Andrea, and Leigh were all under the weather for a variety of reasons; Mandy and I would ride at the front and cover attacks, maybe do some instigating ourselves. All good except no team wanted a break today given what happened at Athens, where the big-name sprinters had not had their chance for the win. 20-20 hindsight tells me I should have been more chill during the race and tried to do a good finish. It's tough though since I do not really have the power now (or ever against the pure sprinters) to contest a bunch finish very well (especially with a super long 400m finishing straight), so I like to gamble for a break rather than ride conservatively for a mediocre place. And that's team racing too - we want and need to be in the breaks. Robin finished 15th. We can do better. At this point we might be in that no-man's-land of learning team racing where if we all raced as individuals we would do better than we do trying to race as a team. We are all committed to making our team a force on the national circuit, and we can, but it's going to take some time and a lot of hard work. My teammates are staying down in the Southeast racing the entire U.S. Criterium series, which presents a great opportunity to progress. I am trying hard not to be too jealous as I write term papers and study for exams. At least the weather is nice and I am enjoying a personal training camp. In one week I will be done with school and flying to Joe Martin, a stage race in Arkansas. Along the way I will race my hometown race Jiminy Peak. I am mad because they have shortened the women's race to a ridiculous 60k (the same length I raced as a Cat 4), probably because the field has made a habit of noodling. I intend to tear the race to shreds, whatever place I come in. Here's a photo from Roswell, with Mandy on the front in the mini-break and me visible on the right of the photo. Also a photo from last year's men's Twilight Crit, which is the best I can do at this point.

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