Sunday, March 25, 2012

Tour de Tuscaloosa Races Report

We all got paid, so we decided to show off our envelopes
Catherine, Shelly, Valerie, Parri, me, Anna, Kat

Team Belladium (all of us!) headed to Tuscaloosa, AL, for another weekend of racing. The entire weekend was so much fun, and our results do a pretty good job of showing how well each of us rode.

Cali and Catherine pre-race

Cat 3/4 crit race start line

We started out with a Cat 3/4 crit on Saturday, which Shelly, Catherine, and Valerie competed in. They rode well together and all stayed with the field, finishing 7, 8, and 12 respectively, of 22 racers.

Cat 3/4 crit race

It was so much fun to watch them race; I had my bike and was near the (1) and the (END) in the course graphic below—I just went from side to side to cheer them and try to help them with words as much as I could. On such a long course, I missed a lot of the action (including 2 crashes), but I still got to watch them work and then finish as well.

Saturday's Crit Course

The Cat 1/2/3 race began a couple hours after the Cat 4 race, so we had plenty of time to watch, relax, and warm up between races. We had a couple more riders in our race, with 23 finishers and at least 1 or two more who started but didn't finish. The pace was fast from the start and never really let up; any time Debbie Milne races with us, the racers in the field usually race differently, as if they're content with second place (that is, once Debbie's off the front [and we all know that's what she's going to try to do], then our race begins). Today, however, was different—Team Belladium was not letting up, and we were not content letting Debbie stay away and create a huge gap.

Crit photos courtesy of AJ

Therefore, we did a lot of work to keep the pace high and the gap small. There were a couple times we thought we might catch Debbie, but we never did. I think it is probably the closest we have ever been to her at the finish of a crit, and that made us pretty happy. Unfortunately, a crash in the second-to-last corner kept Kat and Parri from finishing higher than they did (9 and 10), and I had already dropped off the lead group and didn't finish as well as I'd have liked (14). Lee was 12, and Anna was 17, rounding out the Team Bd finishers. The lead group was 13, so I was the next to finish after them; I wish I would have been with them!

Looking back at this crit race last year, though, I made a huge improvement. Last year, I lasted 2 laps with the lead group. This year, I stayed with the group for the first 10 or 11 (depending on whether we did 13 or 14; there were 3 to go when I was off). I wasn't the first to fall off, and I wasn't the last. In those last 3 laps, I ended up catching at least 4 people, all of whom I beat, thus moving myself up into the money.

Crit 2012: 45:42, 16.34 miles, 21.5 mph (34.1 max), 176 bpm (199 max); 14/23
Crit 2011: 45:32, 15.16 miles, 20.0 mph (34.4 max), 190 bpm (200 max): 13/16

RR 2012: 1:50:26, 37.24 miles, 20.3 mph (36.5 max), 164 bpm (194 max): 14/28 (46 total)
RR 2011: 2:04:13, 38.97 miles, 18.8 mph (35.9 max), 160 bpm (191 max): 19/22 (39 total)

The road race began early on Sunday morning, with nearly the same group of women as we'd raced with the day before. Today, however, we all started together; the twenty-eight 1/2/3s were racing against each other and the eighteen 4s were racing against each other, but we could all work together as we desired. We did 4 loops of the same route as last year; it is fairly flat except for a significant climb at 8.5 miles in. Again in this race, the pack was riding and waiting to see what Debbie would do. It was fun to be on and watch everyone else fight to be on her wheel; we all knew she'd attack eventually, and we all wanted to be in the best position to go with her. Eventually, on that climb, she attacked. She split the group at that point, taking Kat, Parri, and 8 others with her (a group of 11). They all stayed together for another lap, when she again attacked on that hill. That time, only Kat went with her while Parri stayed with her group of 9. Among those 11, Debbie won (the finish was up the hill, and Debbie attacked Kat on the hill and stayed away), Kat was 2nd, and Parri won her field's sprint for 3rd place.

Sunday's Road Race Course

I ended up in the chase group with Val, Anna, Shelly, and about 10 other women. At times we would work really well together, and at other times no one really was determined to catch the group ahead of us. Although we all wanted to do well, the majority of us had teammates up the road that we wanted to stay away up the road. All four of us Belladium girls rode very smart; we didn't attack much, but we responded to any attacks that other teams made and kept all of us together. This allowed us to get organized and work together on that uphill finish. I found Anna and Valerie and kept both of them right in front me (they are great climbers). Anna drove the pace just enough to shell nonclimbers off the back, and Valerie found the perfect place to make room for us to get through to the front of the group. In our field, Anna finished second, I finished third, and Valerie finished fifth. No 4s were in the lead group, and no 4s were ahead of Val on that final climb, so she earned the win for race—two weeks after a crash that bruised some ribs and kept her from racing with us last weekend and in fact riding her bike much at all.

Looking back at this race last year, again today was a huge improvement. During last year's RR, I was by myself more than this year; I got dropped on that first climb and had to work super hard to catch any group. We were a small group at that point and weren't even the chase group (there was a lead group, a chase group, some stragglers, then my small group). Also, I was at least 28/39 overall last year (13/16 Cat 1/2/3), whereas this year I was 14/46 overall (14/28 Cat 1/2/3).

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