Immediately upon crossing the border I was in a happy place. Canada is beautiful and I would be racing in a UCI 1.1 (so cool!) race there, I wanted to soak up every minute. I arrived at Brent’s house Friday morning as the rest of the team members were having breakfast. Sipping coffee and mingling with other women cyclists… why couldn’t I do this every day?! Loving it. There were 6 on the team, from all over Canada, the US and even Scotland here to guest ride on Wheeler’s Echelon Project and show what their legs could do at GP Gatineau.
After breakfast on Friday three of us headed out for a spin with some efforts thrown in. It was a little chilly out, but overall felt great to be on the bike. The rest of the day was low key. I hung out at my host house and spent the day stretching, watching Netflix, eating, hydrating, and catching up on blog posts. A huge thank you to the hosts for this event. While I had my van, it was really appreciated to have a place to sleep, stretch, unwind, clean up, etc... if you live near a race, be a host!!!!
I didn’t wake up until 7am, which wasn’t a big deal as the race start wasn’t until 2pm. With so many hours lingering between waking and the race, I was getting antsy. I took a very easy 14 mile spin to find coffee and grab a bite to eat. It was really chilly out; 42 degrees! Brrrr. I was very bundled up on the way to coffee as I didn’t want my muscles cold and stiff. I figured it would warm up enough by 2pm but was still a little nervous. At 10:30am I had my things over at Brent’s where the team would gather to head to the race start together. Brent was our DS and organizer of everything. I'm so thankful to have gotten a spot as this race would become a catalyst to my summer #vanlife and racing adventure. Brent did an amazing job putting the team together and taking care of all the details. Jill was our female (badass) mechanic who took care of attaching numbers to bikes, pumping tires, last minute tune ups, and more. We also had Rico, who would drive the caravan, there to assist with any little request like water bottles and getting things in and out of vehicles. It was amazing to have them on hand to take care of these things. Just to be able to sit and relax before a race and not worry about if everything is ready to go; game changer.
There wasn’t much need for warm up. We tooled around the neighborhood streets a little, but nothing major. Mostly it was sitting under the tent for 2 hours, waiting, consuming more carbs, pinning numbers, using the toilet and applying sunscreen. I was anxious to get going. With ~25 minutes to the start we rolled down to sign in. This was very official. Teams waited in line to be called in to the tent, they announced the team and each rider as we signed our names and then lined up to be photographed. Very cool. After collecting our bikes, we got to the staging area and waited for the GO. We shot off. I had trouble getting clipped in right away but was able to catch back up and get myself into the group. I hadn’t been able to pre-ride the course at all so my knowledge was limited. I knew there were 2 laps in a park that were hilly and you had to survive the park loops or you’d be pulled from the race. This was daunting. Never had I been in a road race were you were actually pulled and put in a van, unable to continue riding. I was determined to survive the park. I did, but it wasn’t easy. The first lap was intense. I found myself at the front, then at the back, and even off road a few times as girls aggressively fought for positions. There were strong women on my team and while we were all riding it for ourselves over a planned team effort, there were a few times when we definitely looked to each other for wheels and positions. Gabby had raced this well the previous year, so I was trying to stay on her wheel when I could. Genevieve was also a huge help and likely the most experienced rider on our team. She checked in several times during the race 'how are you, lets move up' and to the front we went. Also knowing how the RISE women rode, I knew when I could count on their wheels and attaching to Jamie Gilgen in the circuit portion of the race proved valuable. On Fortune, I found myself struggling to keep up on the climb and detached from the group. ‘Oh hell no’ I thought. Determined, I did everything I could to rejoin the main pack. For lap two, I made sure I was in a better position and rode Fortune at the front, controlling things the way I like to do. The park was over, I was still racing. Success! But there was still half the race left; 5 laps in a sprinters crit-style circuit. There were clovers, 180s, roundabouts… it was intense. The corners didn’t require braking, but the riders were playing games; braking hard into the turns just to sprint out of the corners or taking a hard line that threw everyone against the outer curb to string the group out. There were several attacks followed by counter attacks which lead to intense surges. I tried to get more in the group but found myself often at the back. This wasn’t ideal. At one corner, I followed a rider’s wheel who was cutting up the inside line. I thought this would be a great way to move up a bit, but she instead, hit the brakes hard and I ended up chasing back on to the group. Again, I rejoined the main group. At the end of lap 2, I was boxed in at a turn, forced to hit the brakes. Things were completely strung out and a rider two ahead let a gap open. Fuck. I tried sprinting around her to close it but it was too late. That was that. This time there was no catching back on.
Looking back, I should have tried harder for longer to get back on. In the third lap the main group would settle and things became less intense until the finish. I should have kept trying to catch up. But instead I felt defeated and the other riders I was with didn’t seem able to work a pace that would hopefully get us back to the group. We rode the rest of the race to finish. Finishing that race is an accomplishment in itself. 17 riders would be pulled mid-race, unable to even finish. So I was happy with that aspect, but there was definitely a bit of disappointment as well. Okay a lot of disappointment. It becomes difficult to shake the negative thoughts of not doing enough to succeed and not being good enough.
Still, I was very happy to have raced and had the experience. I would definitely do it again.
My sights moved on to Sunday, where I would participate in a local Bloomfield NY RR. To do so, I had to pack up my van post-race and after hanging out at the team dinner briefly, once again hit the road. I would have just over a two hour drive that evening, putting me at my rest stop for the night at 11pm with a 6am wake up to complete another 2 hours of driving. It was a demanding schedule, but I wanted this. Race more, do more, try harder…