Chappell Hill is the first road race I did when I started “bike racing” in 2010. It was a pretty brutal first race. I was a Cat 4…which means we started at noon in 100 degree heat for 38 miles. I led the race until I got dropped, and bonked, and overheated, and crawled across the finish line solo. I have learned quite a bit since then and have a team to race with now.
This year’s women’s race was the first time that the women (cat 1,2,3) had a start time of our own; often the women’s race is combined with a men’s masters race. Thank you race directors! We had four (strong!) ATC women racing together for the first time in months. The goal for our team was to have an ATC person in any break that happened. Which meant…chase down anything that goes off the front.
Marla and I took most of the attacks in the first half, saving Allison and Kat, since our best chance of a podium finish was with Allison and Kat. The race also contained Jen McRae (pro), Mandy (just moved up to cat 1), and another full team (Jubilee) of five riders. Pretty solid line up…only 18 started, but they were all good. So the whole group stayed together through the finish.
We had some unfortunate timing when the women’s race had to be neutralized while the men’s 40+ group passed with three miles to go. I doubt it would have changed any results, but I would have felt better about the finishing miles if we hadn’t had to deal with that. And the fact that I messed up the mileage. The race flyer said 50 miles, so that is what I programmed in my head. I knew they had moved the finish line up a mile, but I did not account for that in the final mileage of the race. Just as I am planning my one last effort (no chance of getting away, but wanted to increase the overall pace of the group), I saw the 200 meter to go sign. UGH! On a good note…Kat was paying attention and got herself near the front (finishing sixth), and Marla was getting herself to the front for her “one mile to go” attack. Unfortunately, I had Allison in the back with me (we were discussing final mile strategy!!), and when Marla moved up for her attack, she crossed the yellow line, so she was “relegated” to 17th place. So our finishing places round out the second half of the field nicely. Not really indicative of our talent or what went on during the 49 miles. But that is what results show…who gets to the line first. I am proud of our team and how we worked together out there. I like to think we affected how the race was ridden, chased every break, and kept the overall pace pretty high; we weren’t satisfied with “sitting in” and waiting for the sprint.
Marla Briley – “coming out of my tri-shell”
When I told my friends I was going to race my bike in Chappell Hill, they all asked “Chapel Hill, North Carolina”? No, Chappell Hill, TX, which is about two hours east of Austin. I was excited because this was to be the first road race back for my teammate Kat Hunter and the first road race where there would be more than two ATC Racing teammates racing at one time. A real team effort!
ATC owner and teammate Missy Ruthven and I drove up to Chappell Hill that morning, leaving at the a$$-crack of dawn. We were both nervous going into the race, as we both come from a triathlon background. Come race morning, for triathletes, you are mostly concerned with – Will I make it out of the swim in a decent time? Hope I don’t flat on my bike. I hope I don’t cramp on the run. On the morning of a bike race, I am mostly concerned with my personal well-being. In the first lap of the first race this year, I was taken out in a huge pileup of women. I joke that I met my insurance deductible that day so all crashes, henceforth, are free. Most of the women I know in racing have crashed at least once this year. This is a dangerous sport, and I am not a danger-seeking kind of girl.
“If you think it is so dangerous, then why not just stick to triathlon,” you ask? I love the team aspect of bike racing. Nothing makes me happier or more proud than to see my teammates do well and know I had some part in helping them.
For any of my tri-friends who are reading this, I want to point out anther difference between racing your bike and triathlon. In a triathlon, in the water before the race begins, the ladies will express words of encouragement, such as “have a great race” and “everyone be safe and have fun.” This never happens in road racing. You must be sure to have your game face on, and you would totally be shunned if you told anyone to “have a good time.”
|Start of a triathlon|
|Start of a women's bike race|
At the start, the official explained the rules of the race, no crossing the yellow line till the last 200 meters, no littering, feed zone water hand-ups, and the first two miles are neutral. With no further ado, (no countdown or cheering like in triathlon) we were off. Within the first two miles of the race, still in the neutral zone, I dropped my nutrition. Amateur! The triathlete in me wanted to go back, but the cyclist in me knew if I lost the pack, now, the race would be done for me. Once we got past the neutral zone, the attacks began. I am happy to say that the team did their job of covering and attacking. If someone was up the road, one of our girls was with them. I covered as often as I could and even attacked a couple of times. I’m pretty sure my two solo breaks were viewed as “what does she think she is doing”? I figure you never know when it might stick, so you gotta give it a try.
The roads, in some areas, were treacherous. The girls all did a good job of pointing out the gaping fissures. I saw some of the more talented bike handlers bunny-hopping small chasms. I felt like I was in a third-world country. Where is all that gas tax money going? The small peleton made it around the course, no crashes (yay), but all together (boo). Our best chance at a podium position would have been if one of us could have gotten in a break. In the last moments of the race, I started to move forward, planning on trying a leadout for my teammate Kat. Missy and Allison were at the back, planning on following up on my leadout. We were all shocked when we saw the 200 meters to go sign. So much for my leadout. I was not in a bad position, but I’m no sprinter. I just did my best to stay out of the way as the pack surged past me.
Kat got 6th place. Great job after just having had a baby three months ago. I would have been next in line around 13th place, but got a penalty. Not for drafting, my silly tri-friends, but for crossing the yellow line. “No crossing the yellow line till the 200-meter mark” does not mean you can cross the yellow line when you see the 200-meter mark.
Overall it was a good day. No broken bones and no stitches! I am still learning how to race, but with my super awesome teammates and the other wonderful women who I ride and race with to help me, I think I’ll become more of a cyclist and less of a triathlete yet.