Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Race Report: Women's Cat 3 State Road Race Championships

By Katie Kantzes

Marla Briley, Sammi Runnels, Katie Kantzes, Allison Atkinson, Missy Ruthven
Most of my non-cyclist friends and family don’t realize that cycling is a team sport. Typically, they ask if the course was timed, as though it were about personal bests.  Strategic terms like “attacking,” “counter-attacking,” and “bridging” are lost on them. However, if there was one race that could illustrate just what teamwork can do in cycling, it’s this year’s cat 3 state championship road race in Fort Hood.

When we toed the line at 1:10 that afternoon, ATC had four ladies ready to work. Also lined up were Alexis Hamilton (Colavita) and Kelly Barrientes (Think Finance), both of whom are phenomenal racers and who we knew would be our major competition. Alexis and Kelly both have outstanding sprints— so as a team, our plan was to make sure that the race didn’t boil down to a pack sprint. We had to make it hard early and make the other girls chase us for 66 miles in hopes of creating a break.

We went through the first three miles of downhill a bit antsy. I noticed one girl was having trouble clipping in and was swerving a bit, and told my teammate Lori to be wary and pass the word along. Shortly afterwards, around four miles in, Marla threw out a massive attack. It was perfect! Kelly took the bait and went with her, and quickly they became a small speck up the road. We expected the other girls to start chasing (clearly, we weren’t going to go after Marla), but the pack was confused and unwilling to work together.

As the miles went on and the gap increased to over two minutes, a few possible scenarios surfaced. We could let Marla and Kelly go and let them duke it out at the finish. We could continue to bait Colavita and hope that they would get nervous about the gap before we did and start to chase. Or, we could attack the remaining peloton to form another break. Missy, Lori, and I chose the final option. If we could bridge up to Marla without the rest of the field, we’d have all four of us on the podium.

I attacked with 10 miles to go to the feed zone on the first lap and got away for around six miles (thinking “HELP!!!” and hoping that I’d eventually see Marla and Kelly ahead). Lori tried to block Alexis in, but Alexis and Lacy Thomas (FRESH Racing) worked to chase me down about three miles from the feed zone. Lucky for me, Missy had caught on to them without the rest of the peloton.

Our little group pedaled steadily through the feed zone, polite as ever. Our other team members were supporting us with expert bottle handups (thanks Kat, Jack, Kent, Robert!). Soon after, we caught up to Kelly and Marla, who looked pretty cooked. Marla was cramping, and I believe Kelly was too; they soon fell off of the break. Marla had worked to wear Kelly out for an entire 33-mile lap by herself.

Everything looked good at this point—we had a four-person break, with two ATC riders and minus one of our main rivals. Missy and I managed to talk and decided that she would work on the front to keep the pace up until the final, massive hill 12 miles from the finish, where I’d try to start wearing the others down with repeated attacks.

Missy continued working hard, and we rolled through the hilly course at a fast clip until 12 miles to go. Alexis started leading cautiously up the giant KOM hill, with Missy, Lacy, and I following. About halfway up, I swung wide and gave it everything to gap the other girls. I got lucky, and no one was on my wheel. The rest of the race was simple—hold on and hammer for dear life.

I’ve never been so happy and proud to cross a finish line. Our plan had worked perfectly! We communicated clearly, and each of us used our individual talents to contribute to an incredible result. Missy took fourth, time trialing in, with Alexis second and Lacy third. Races like these make me sad that the season is over, but it bodes well for an exciting season in 2015!

Cat 3 Podium: 1st Katie Kantzes, 2nd Alexis Hamilton, 3rd Lacy Thomas, 4th Missy Ruthven, 5th Melissa Monosoff

Cat 1/2 State Championship-Eligible Podium (Lauren Stephens, UCI pro, takes first in the race) :
1st Mandy Heintz, 2nd Meredith Bunkers, 3rd Sammi Runnels

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