Austin Tri-Cyclist Blog

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Race Report: Tour de Austin 2011, Sept 3-5

Not quite the Tour de France, but with local flare all its own, the 2011 Tour of Austin attracted some of the best riders in Texas for three days of crit racing. And truly, what better plans can be made for a Labor Day weekend than getting out on the course and mixing it up with top teams for prize money – and more importantly, bragging rights?

Unlike the previous year, the 2011 Tour of Austin wasn’t scored as an omnium, but rather three separate criteriums. Saturday’s KGS Bikes Driveway Grand Prix was held at the Driveway, Sunday’s ROL Wheels Pickle Crit at the JJ Pickle Research Center, and Monday’s 4th Annual Kenny Hills Autowerks eRacing Stigma Criterium at the Austin State Hospital.

Velonews reported on the event, highlighting the superstars of the men’s race, as well as the battle between Jen McRae of 787 Racing and Jen Purcell of Danbury Audi, who they praised as “two of the nation’s top sprinters.” In the men’s P12 race, riders from the elite Dallas-area team Elbowz Racing took the win all three days.

Leah Soro, member of ATC Women’s Racing, competed two days, taking fourth on Saturday and first on Sunday in the women’s cat 4 race. The youngest member of the ATC team at 25 and with less than a year of bike training, she’s been delivering top results, also coming in second at last weekend’s Chappell Hill Road Race. (It probably doesn’t hurt that she trains with her fiancĂ©, Gray Skinner, cat 1 cyclist.) Here’s her race report:

Tour of Austin marked my first bike race (not counting the Driveway) and so it was filled with excitement and angst. I was not quite sure what to expect, but Day 1 was the Driveway full loop so I was not completely in the dark. My race was Cat 4 women only, but we started just 45 seconds after the women’s 123 race. There were roughly 20 girls in the cat 4 race and maybe a little over 30 in the cat 123 race. The Driveway usually has around 10-12 ladies, so this was a welcome surprise. With only two months’ experience I knew that I needed to be near the front if I was going to make it out of the races without losing skin, or worse, breaking something.

The Cat 4 race started out and remained fairly relaxed. No one was excited about being on the front. Colavita put some girls on the front throughout the race as they looked like the only group other than Team Brain and Spine to have a whole team. There were a few attacks here and there, but none stayed away for very long. I even attacked to win the 4th prime and was way out front with a Nick Lopez rider, but she sat up and I thought about going for a breakaway myself, but re-evaluated, thinking it would cost me too much in the end.

As we entered the last 2 laps, mass confusion ensued. The cat 123 race caught us, and I thought it was a breakaway so I swerved wide to catch it, only to find out that I could not get on their wheel. It would be a mistake that I could not recover from, because I ended up taking the whole pack through the last lap only to get pushed onto the rumble strips and sprint for 4th place. All in all, it was a sprinters’ race with the whole pack nearly intact until the end. Being overtaken by the 123 break and then the pack effectively neutralized our race for nearly a lap and prevented the last 2 laps from being hard enough to put the sprinters into difficultly.

Saturday’s course proved to be very different dynamics than the Driveway. The course was more “technical” (as people who know about this stuff would say). On top of that, the wind out of the north was wicked. Riding to the race I thought, “If I don’t wreck in this race it will be a miracle.” Although I approached the race with some trepidation, the conditions played in my favor. The race started with the same field of women as the day before, which put me at ease knowing who I was racing against.

After only a few laps into the race when the group hit the head wind after passing the start/finish line, no one wanted to be on front so the whole field slowed to a crawl. Sadly, it resulted in one girl getting tangled up and going down. The front of the pack rode away from the rest of the group and turned on the gas, gapping the remainder of the field. Luckily I made it through and after making sure everything was okay behind me started working with the lead pack.

A few laps later, the course had taken its toll and the lead pack consisted of only four girls. For the most part we worked together. With roughly 6 laps to go, the Nick Lopez rider and I pulled away from the other two girls on the windy section. I knew it was a little early to be pulling away, but I thought we might be able to make it work. After 2 more laps, the two other girls were back on and the entire field was all over the place. We continued to work together until the last lap.

I decided that if I wanted to win this race, I couldn’t leave anyone close to my wheel in the finish. I decided I would put in 4 or 5 hard efforts to see who was fresh and who was just hanging on. With roughly 600 meters to go I put in a small attack and realized no one was on my wheel. I looked back to see the Nick Lopez girl about a bike length back, so I put in another hard effort, which she countered. Then when we hit the last 200 meters, I stood up and started stomping on my pedals and praying to the bike gods that I could hold her off. To my surprise I did.

Thankfully, everyone in the race came out without any severe injuries. The wind and tight curves that played in my favor also caused the entire field to get busted up along the way. It was a tough/fun day, and I was honored to add a win to the palmarès of the highly accomplished ATC Women’s Racing team!

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