UCSC Salinas Valley Criterium…Hitting the learning curve hard

UCSC Salinas Valley Crit Cat 3 MenWhere to begin? I really didn’t even want to write a race report for this past Sunday, mainly out of pure frustration. I know I have made a lot of progress since I first picked up my bike  in early December after mainly focusing on getting into running shape, but even though my fitness level may be there to easily compete with the other Cat 4 women, the mindset of racing bikes is still in the infant stages of development. Running in races vs. biking in races are two complete different things. When it comes to running, my mentality is to go at my pace and to give it my all at the very end no matter if I’m hurting or not. I really like to pick out certain runners who run at a slightly faster pace than what is comfortable for me and then maintain that pace until the finish is near…then let go of my reigns and kick into high gear.

With biking, I haven’t quite figured out when I’m close to reaching my limits. I’ll feel fine pushing the pace and going hard, and I love working hard, but then suddenly I hit this wall and it takes much more to overcome it and to catch my breath again. Much more so than when I’m running.

This race was torture for me due to a combination of factors a) the Metromint team outnumbering our field, b) miss “I don’t want to work” sucking on everyone’s wheel and dictating the tempo up in the front, c) the strong headwind in the last turn and straight-away, and d) my stubbornness and impatience getting the best of me. I’ve realized that in order for me to have had a chance to win this race, I would have needed to be more strategic.

The Metromint team was big, and they played it smart. After the first two turns they sent one of their riders out to create a gap. Lorna Fortuna tried to push the pace to catch up to the first girl and after a lap of watching her try to get the other girls to work I started helping out a bit and we caught up to girl #1. That’s when the second attack came which, yet again, I didn’t see coming and didn’t pay attention to. After letting another Metromint girl set the tempo for a bit, I became so frustrated by the ever growing gap that I decided to just start pushing the pace no matter if this would inflict pain on myself in the final laps of the race. I simply couldn’t sit there and wait for something to happen…or not happen. To me, racing should be hard, and the tempo we were going at was simply not up to that standard.

While my teammates saw the frustrating race unfold from the sidelines, they tried to help by coaching me, but even though I tried to take breaks, without my effort the gap that I had worked so hard to make gains on would simply  increase again. Working at the front for about 90% of the race left me with no energy at the end. On the positive side, I got a great workout out of the criterium and I now know that with a bit of patience and tactics of my own I can stick with the girls in the other categories.

I learned a hard lesson at this race, but I hope this will be the last time a race turns out the way it did. Teammates can make a big difference, gaps are dangerous, and sometimes working for 2nd place is better than working for no place at all.


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