The Race: UCI Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau
The Course: 12 laps of a 10km rolling course
The Field: 1/2 women
The Finish: Laura finished 5th, I finished 9th
The night before Gatineau, my mother said goodnight to Jen and me in our shared hotel room and started to offer words of wisdom and inspiration. It was late, the lights were out, I was punchy from nerves, and suddenly I had the urge to call out into the darkness, “Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme, get up now, it’s bobsled time!” I knew my mother would get the reference, but was thrilled when Jen followed immediately with “COOL RUNNINGS!”
I warmed up on the course and practiced taking the full roundabout just before the finish at speed so I knew what to expect come race time. Staging was uneventful – with 74 starters and a smooth 120k ahead, it didn’t feel critical to elbow my way to the front. Most of the race was equally uneventful. The course had only minor hills, Tibco and Optum kept everything very controlled, and the handful of attacks that spent time up the road didn’t seem to be a real threat. A Team Canada rider and another girl got away about halfway through and were joined some laps later by another Team Canada rider, but without representation from the other teams, I was confident the move was coming back.
There was a small crash in the middle of the field about halfway through the race that broke Jen’s shoe irreparably, ending her day. The rest of our team talked quickly about whether losing one of our sprinters would change our tactics, but we decided to stick to the finish plan. I continued to play it conservative, staying out of the wind and alert for any attempts to attack or bridge.
Around four laps to go, Tibco and Optum massed on the front of the field, cranked up the pace, and started to reel in the break. We had a minute to make up, but with the strength and numbers of the chasers, I wasn’t concerned. It was actually nice to have the pace pick up – it meant less shuffling in the field, so things felt safer and holding position was easier.
We caught the break and then it was time for the last lap. The pace stayed quick enough to keep the field lined up and I held position towards the front (despite some poking elbows and actual hands-off-the-bars pushing). Coming into the final 1K, the field surged a bit and I slipped back a few wheels. Jamie and Laura were off to the right of the Tibco/Optum leadout train, so I stayed near them as we headed into the roundabout. I took the inside line, which gave me clear air to move but meant carrying less speed out into the finish. As soon as I hit the straightaway, I started sprinting. Laura was ahead of me and picked up 5th, while I crossed the line in 9th. Jamie and Leah (the rest of the remaining Team Colavita riders) weren’t far behind.
[Throughout the entire race, I kept thinking, “…get up now, it’s bobsled time!”]
I was happy with finishing in the top ten, but of course I immediately started analyzing the finish to think how I could have played it better. Part of the problem is that I’m still reacting to the race instead of being aggressive enough; if I had held my position better at 1k to go, I would have been in the leadout train, protected from the wind, in the outside (faster) line on the roundabout, and able to wait to start my sprint until closer to the line. As soon as the first mistake is made (losing a spot in the first few wheels), everything that comes after is about recovery and generally doesn’t lead to the best result.
As for the team, it was awesome to have Laura in the top five. Everybody rode well and communicated throughout the race, so it felt like we were really putting out a team effort. When Jen was definitively out, we regrouped and made sure we were still ready for the finish. For everything from feeds to staying motivated to moving up in the field, it felt like the team was there for each other. It was a good feeling and led to a good ending.
Now we’re headed to the National Championships (Mary, Jamie, Jackie, and me) and the Somerville Crit (Jen, Leah, Laura, Whitney).