Flatlandia - Kermesse is my kind of race: long, flat, windy and grueling. Last year I had a good result -- I made the breakaway in the 123 race and took third. This year there was a cat 3 race option, but I again chose the 123 race -- it was twice as long.
The 123 women were started with the 123 masters men, but soon enough we women were on our own. As we worked together into the headwind, I noted that one of the Project 5 girls wasn't with us and neither was Mia. The other racers speculated that Mia was up the road with the men -- so I promptly announced that meant I couldn't pull through. Which got an uneasy laugh and some panicked looks. I did my share -- no way we were catching the guys.
But as we turned into the cross wind, Mia appears. She'd gotten gapped in the big attack and had time trialed her way into the headwind up to our group. I was impressed -- and very happy to see her.
I was careful to be second wheel into the dirt section. It was wet and slippery, the consistence of potter's clay. The girl up front was putting on the pressure, and I was feeling it. I dropped to third wheel, but put in a big effort to stay there. Turning into the headwind, we realized a gap had opened up. The three of us started working together. I got my legs under me finally, and started putting in some hard pulls. By the time we got to the pavement -- and tailwind -- one of the other women dropped off AND Mia (!) once again (!) appears out of nowhere. She'd attacked the chase group and TTed up to us.
So now the break was one Project 5 racer and two xXxers! We worked together to build our lead. In the interminable ride into the headwind, we all took our pulls. Project 5 seemed very strong. It began to rain.
Hitting the dirt again, we continued rotating. I put in hard pulls on the front . . . and suddenly found myself alone. I was in the lead! I kept pushing it as hard as I could. On the pavement, I could see a chaser and in a bend I could see clearly that it was Mia -- AGAIN time trialing her way to the front. I sat up and together we faced the headwind.
The Moto Ref told us that Project 5 was a minute behind us. I could still see her chasing. But I felt great -- I had a ton of energy. In the crosswind I wanted to put more distance between us and set a determined pace. Again, I found myself alone. This time, I thought I'd see if I could hold the lead by myself. The mud and winds were hard -- but they were hard for all of us, they would slow us all equally, in theory at least.
I put my head down. By now the rain had turned to snow and sleet. My gloves were soaked and my hands were going numb, but I was otherwise OK. I could deal with cold hands. I kept drilling it through the mud, not resting at all on the pavement, just pushing and pushing. The leaders of the men's 123 race came by me. The mud was getting deeper and wetter.
My Moto Ref pulled up and told me I had a gap of a minute and a half! I was facing another entire lap by myself and I needed as much of a gap as I could get before that insane 30 mph headwind. It was so wet that muddy water was spraying over my legs like I was in a car wash. I mentally counted my remaining gels. I could do this.
Then the Moto Ref tells me that they're cutting the races short. 'Are you sure!?' I had another lap in me. It wouldn't be pleasant, but I had the legs and the will. I was WINNING. No way was I backing down. 'Yes!' he said, 'turn into the finishing stretch.'
So I pulled into that wonderful tailwind and flew to the finish line, winning my first race since becoming a cat 3! I posted up . . . for a cold and unimpressed looking Dave Fowkes and no one else.
Then had the satisfaction of seeing Mia finish second a minute ahead of Project 5. TRIPLE X THROW DOWN!
Big thanks to Flatlandia, Dave Pilotto, all the officials, volunteers, pace car drivers and especially the moto refs. You guys put on an excellent race in seriously NASTY conditions. See you next year!