After some great, hard riding at women's camp, nine of our girls decided to do a women's open crit in Indy on the way home. When looking at registration the day before, we found out that 1) we would be 9 of about 18 girls in the race and 2) our race was combined with the 30 or 40 riders in the Masters 40/50+ men's race, with the men's race taking off 1 minute ahead of us. So as you can imagine, we had mixed feelings...
The course itself was an oval that took about 2-3 minutes a lap. There was something that could moderately be called a corner heading into the finishing stretch. It didn't require any braking but you could easily be pushed out in it. This would come into play later.
Rounding out our field was a team from Indy and a few solo riders, including a junior from the Twenty16 junior development program. When we all lined up, we were told that it was possible our race could go from 2 laps to go to 0 if the men's race passed us on their finishing lap. This was because after finishing, they would be cooling down all over the course while we would be trying to race our last lap. This, too, would come into play later.
The race began and a girl from the other team tried to attack but we easily brought it back. As we came around our first lap, the field was slow and quiet. Into the wind, I attacked as hard as I could to get a gap. Within a quarter lap I hear "I'm here Katie!" Sarah London had followed my attack and we were off the field together. Sarah is one of our category 4 riders we were looking to get upgrade points so this was a great development. I dug in for a good pull and looked over my shoulder to see a group that looked like the field coming up on us. "I think we are caught," I told Sarah. Then when I looked closer, I saw it was the junior (I would learn during the race from her cheering parents that her name was Kate), another random rider, and Courtney joining our break. "Oh, its on now..." I thought.
We did our part taking pulls for a while, and then Courtney and Sarah started throwing out attacks, trying to thin out our group. The other two girls were strong and responded to each one. I too threw out an attack that was immediately brought back. I rolled up to Courtney and told her we would need to wait for the sprint and make sure this breakaway stayed away. Since we wanted the sprint for Sarah, we decided to have her stop doing any work.
The course itself was completely tree lined so we had been out of sight of the peloton for quite a while. The next time we came around we had about 15 minutes left in our 45 minute race. Randy told us we were only 30 seconds from catching the peloton! I relayed the message to our group of five and we did a short rotation of pulls. Then the next time the junior was on the front (with me on her wheel), the peloton came into sight. It would take a big pull into the wind to catch them and I knew if she came off to early it would be my energy spent to get us there, so I decided to try some of the mental games I had heard so many people talk about. I started cheering in the loudest and most enthusiastic voice I could, "There they are, Kate! We can do this! Come on, push harder, you got this! Go go go!" To my amazement, it worked. She got in her drops and put in a huge effort into the wind on the only slight uphill on the course, nearly closing the entire gap herself. When she came off I didn't have more than 10 seconds of work to finish it off. Mission accomplished: we lapped the field and the strongest opponent in our group had just burned a ton of matches.
Once we got in the peloton there was about 4 or so laps left. We began organizing ourselves. I was marking Kate and Courtney was marking our other breakaway companion, which Sarah staying behind both of us, ready to follow whichever of us had to chase our mark down. With 2 to go, Sue went to the front and started drilling to bring the pace up. I lined up a bike or two from the front with Court on my wheel and Sarah on hers, ready for a full lap leadout when we crossed with one to go. Then it happened, the men's field came around us in what was essentially the final corner. I hear Court yell "GO KATIE!" as them passing us on their last lap meant we too were now on our final lap (and thus in our final straightaway). I kicked hard and as I approached the line, I looked back and Court was sitting my wheel with Sarah just a bit off behind her and a good gap to the rest of the field. We crossed the line 1, 2, 3! It was a beautiful thing.
Although I didn't view it first hand, I hear the girls in the peloton were doing some monster blocking and controlling of the field, with even Jess going off to try to bridge up to us (she ended up soloing the rest of the race and finished 6th). It was an all around great team effort!