U23 Crit –
The U23 crit always provides a very interesting dynamic. First of all because of the nature of the event and the fact that they run crits all day, it seems common to have a parking lot crit. In my opinion parking lot crits are generally less then stellar and generally not too exciting. Considering the fact that it was a parking lot crit it was an okay course, but just keep it in mind. Now because the race is limited to women who are under 23 years of age, our turn out lacks in numbers. I guess there were probably 20ish women there, and not too be too critical but the race is easily probably only between 10 of them at most. Additionally, the dynamic and tactic of the race will be different from anything I’m used to because I’m used to racing teams and now it is pretty much a bunch of individual riders, half of which I now and half of which I’ve never heard of. So the race gets under way. There are 3 intermediate premes (prize laps) and I take 2 out of 3 simply to get my legs going, test my speed and because it was just easy to take the 2nd one given that no one seemed interested in going fast. Throughout the race there were some legitimate attacks with good power, but given the wind and the attitude of the bunch it became pretty clear that it would be difficult for a break to stick. So I got myself set up for the bunch sprint. I was 3rd wheel on the left coming around the final curve and I should have kicked at 300m to go, in retrospect all I needed to do was be the first to go, get off the front, and I don’t think anyone would have been able to kick around me. However, I was kinda marking the other girls I thought had a chance and a surprise rider kicked on the right side of the bunch. I didn’t realize she was going until she had a bit of a gap on me and although my speed was good and I was gaining on her, I ran out of time before the line. I got beat and had to accept the 2nd place and silver medal for the day. That is bike racing and it was time to focus my attention and energy on the road race.
Road Race (Elite & U23)
Note: I was actually not registered for this race, basically because I had figured it would be a lot of climbing and it was not going to be my style…and for national championships it seems unreasonable to spend the money if you don’t have a shot at the win. The fact that I was not going to do this race will become quite ironic. Now I say it is not worth the money if you don’t have a shot at winning, which is kinda ironic also because I spent a small fortune to get into the race. What ended up taking place after I got to California resulted in my previewing the road course and finding it quite suitable to my style…go figure. So I called my team manager to consult and being the amazing manager and friend he is he said something along the lines of “Kacey, if you think you have a shot at it, we are behind you 100%, do what you have to in order to make it happen and we will support you!”…thanks to Gary and Phil for that! What “I had to do” involved changing a flight, registering for the race and making sure I had housing and transportation, easy enough right? Well, of course the housing and transportation was no problem given that I talk a lot, know a lot of people and can always make a new friend. The flight on the other hand would run a painful charge of $160…as if that is really necessary! Then of course USA Cycling finds it excessively entertaining to charge athletes double if they register at the event so my 3+ hours of road race would run me $120, and lets remember they have no prize money at nationals because, well, they simply don’t have to…people will come just because it is nationals. So now that I have spent a fortune to stay in California another few days and I’m registered, it will soon be time to race.
Ready to get started
The racecourse was relatively dull and not exactly the most exciting thing in general. Of course when riders were attacking and picking up the pace it did get a bit more “exciting” or painful! I had done a recovery ride Friday and felt okay, but not stellar. I just tried to eat well and get rest in order to be as prepared as possible for the road race Saturday. When the time came we were up early Saturday morning and after loading my messenger bag it was off to the race, about a 30min easy ride from the house. My legs were not exactly sending happy signals to my brain but I tried to ignore them and straighten out their attitude and feeling, I mean clearly they were just being cranky and needed to be told off. My host family brought over my race wheels, water bottles, etc, so I was able to easily get everything together after my warm up. I pumped my race tires up, put them on the bike and made sure all the shifting was smooth. I filled my bottles and put Gatorade in the appropriate ones. My host family would be feeding me so I ran Marica through a quick practice hand off and she was golden! I told her to have Gatorade and water available for the first two laps and then coke with one lap to go…she didn’t even flinch, she had it all under control. I rolled up to the start line with bottles full, 4 gel packs in my pocket, and one bag of shot blocks. We were starting at 7am so we would be blessed with cooler weather to start but I knew by the time we finished the sun would be beating down pretty hot and I needed to be methodical about my nutrition to ensure my best chance of doing well, especially because my legs were giving me crap. We finally started and things were pretty relaxed and under control, no one wanted to do too much too early. I was fine sitting in but I knew we were going easy, and I wasn’t feeling too keen on how my body was going to handle going hard. As the race went on there were a few good efforts and as predicted my legs and body were fighting with my mind. As ridiculous as it may sound I can remember thinking: “Kacey, you better pull something out of your rear, because a small fortune has been spent to keep you here to do this race and you have to prove to yourself and the team that it was worth it”…so basically I don’t care what your darn legs feel like, make them go fast and hard and that is the only option. Don’t worry I do get myself back mentally and things start looking a bit more promising. Sometime in the last 2 laps there was a solo break with a Colavita girl off the front. I was not liking how far out the pack was allowing her to get, last I heard was 40seconds and she was gaining as we continued to slow down. I wasn’t entirely sure who it was but I was sure that I didn’t want to see it stick. I figured “fine, I’ll get the momentum started and hopefully the other teams, who actually have numerous riders here, will keep it rolling with me”. So, I pick up my pace and come up the side of the pack, doing my best to launch away from the pack and force them to chase me. It doesn’t take long for the pack to string out behind me in pursuit of the solo rider, and when I pull off there are a few others who help to ensure we catch. The point of me sharing all this is that it was that effort that really brought me around. When I got out of the saddle and punched it I felt good power and decent speed that seemed to have some endurance and solitude to it! It was literally that moment that I realized my legs were opening up and I WAS going to be able to do well physically, I just needed to keep everything together and focus. We came around and they gave us 1 lap to go. Per usual some of the girls were getting antsy and a bit worried about position. I just sat in and chilled out until about a half lap to go and then I knew I wanted to be on my game because there would most likely be an attack on the last climb and I wanted to be right on it so I could hopefully stay with it or at least not fade too far back. Sure enough we get to the last climb and non other than Mara Abbott decided to launch up the right side full on…oh boy, now it’s time to go into the hurt locker. I follow it and struggle to hang on as a group of about 10 of us start making a defined break from the pack. The break sits up a bit, Mara sits up and then after a few seconds recovery shy launches full on again…oh someone please help me! Once again I struggle and fight with the pain in my legs, try to focus on breathing and barely hang on. Finally I see the 300m sign, which means 300m till we turn around and head downhill! Joy to the world I think, just get through this and then you will have it made. Our break group is now probably around 15 girls and no one is interesting in slowing down too much because we don’t really want the pack to catch. It is one attack after another, then a slow down, then another attack. I look back and I know this is the winning break, there is not a chance for that pack to catch us before we make the final corner and head uphill to the finish, now I just need to recover as much as possible, be smart and position well. I was on good wheels and things picked up early. I tried to sit in and be smart, I knew going to early would result in blowing up before the line and a lower placement. However, I once again I made the mistake of not committing to something sooner. I was in the midst of repositioning when the winning move went and I think from the feeling in my legs I was a bit over geared, but that may have just been fatigue after 129k as well. In any case I came across the line 6th place overall. I was the first U23 rider to cross the line and that earned me the U23 Road Race National Champion title!, with the next U23 girl coming in around 20th I believe. I was pleased to win the U23 title and although I would have liked to have placed better overall, I learned more again, as I do every race and it will all make me stronger for the future!
And after the finish