Sunday, August 19, 2012

Litespeed BMW Crit and Grant Park Crit

Me, Val, T, Anna, and Shelly at
Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta

Valerie, Anna, Todd, Shelly, Catherine, Ashly, Madison, and I were all in Atlanta this weekend for the Litespeed BMW Crit (LBC) and the Grant Park Crit (GPC). Anna, Val, and I had raced the GPC last year (2011 report) and wanted to go back to give a better showing that we had. And since we were already going to be there, we found another race and did it as well.

The first race was the LBC. Anna, Val, Shelly, and I lined up with 18 other Cat 3/4 women on a slight uphill start. The course was fairly fast, and the roads were quite nasty--lots of potholes and rocks/junk and narrow. We went clockwise around 5 turns with the start/finish stretch all uphill (turn 5 to turn 1) and the back stretch all downhill (turn 2 to turn 4); from turn 5 to turn 5 it was flat but short.

Litespeed Start Line

About 4 laps in (guessing from what I recall and what my Garmin's HR and speed data look like), Elizabeth (LG team; she had raced with us in Oak Ridge) attacked on the backside and I went with her. A lady named Debbie came with me, and the three of us built a little gap on the field quickly. I glanced back once or twice and could see that one person (Tina I think) was trying to bridge up, but we kept the speed high enough that she didn't catch us. The 3 of us worked together pretty well and started getting splits when we were 35 seconds from the back of the field. We caught them with about 8 laps to go.

The short flat stretch between turns 4 and 5

When we caught the field, I stayed toward the back for about a lap until Todd said move up. I wasn't sure what my best move was because I wanted a rest but I also wanted to stay close enough to Liz and Debbie that, if they attacked, I was ready. Eventually all 3 of us were at the front again. They called primes with 3 and 2 laps to go and then rang the bell with 1 to go. I made a move just before turn 5 and sprinted up the hill for the win!

LBC podium: Debbie, me, Elizabeth

Earlier (like with 7 to go) I had asked Todd to send Valerie up. I wanted a familiar face, but I also wanted her to be in a position to finish well (I didn't know Anna was also with us). Val tried and Anna succeeded, so they were both in a fairly good place for the field sprint--Anna was 5th (2nd from the field) and Val was 11th (there were probably 15 total in the field, including us 3 leaders).

After that race we cleaned up and went to Azio (music alert if you click the link) for dinner a few blocks from our hotel. Val's friend Kathy lives in Atlanta, had watched the race, and joined up for dinner at the place she'd chosen. It was good Italian food and within walking distance. We then walked over to Centennial Olympic Park to wander and take a few pictures.

Vision-building (for Will's benefit)

Then we headed back to the hotel (Courtyard) for dessert in the dining area there. They had tons of cakes and cheesecakes, and we tried a dark chocolate one, a peanut butter one, and a pineapple/coconut one, all of which were delicious. We rarely do more than race, shower, eat, sleep, and drive when we travel, so this was a nice change from the norm.

Sunday morning we met Catherine, Ashly, and Madison and walked to the Starbucks for breakfast. Then it was off to race #2, the GPC. Last year Val and I went to support Anna, and this year all 5 of us were there as a team to get the win. By about 10 minutes in, I was ready to throw in the towel. My legs were so tired from yesterday's race and I felt like I couldn't stay with the group. Again, it was a big field of 23 Cat 3/4 women, and there were a lot of the same ones from yesterday so I knew who to watch, but I was really having trouble getting my legs to react to attacks. This course is an open, 4-turn, counter-clockwise course with a downhill between turns 1 and 2, a long flat stretch after turn 2 until turn 3, an uphill until turn 4, and then a slight uphill/false flat for the entire start/finish stretch between turns 4 and 1.

GPC Start Line: Catherine, Shelly, Debbie, Anna, me, Valerie

Right around when we started getting lap cards (5 to go), Elizabeth (same LG girl from yesterday) went for a prime and had a tiny gap. I told Catherine to go with her, and she did. One other girl quickly went up, so once again there was a little break of 3. I didn't know whether I'd even be able to stay on the next person who came by, but it happened to be Jenny (Mystique) and I know her, so I got on her wheel with Debbie and Jenny pulled us up to Catherine's group. I kept feeling like I was never really attached to that group, and Todd said I was maybe 5 or 6 bike lengths back. It felt like WAY MORE because it seemed to take forever to close that gap.

Finally on the last lap I felt like maybe I was going to finish with and not behind this group of 6. But I never got to a place where I could even tell Catherine that I was with her. She led up the hill and around the final turn where we could see the finish line. I could see her waning slightly and eventually came around to sprint it out. I knew that Debbie and Elizabeth knew who I was, and I didn't want them to get the jump on me for the finish, so I had to go. Catherine had hoped to win it and I know she didn't want to have to lead me out, but she did a beautiful job and I don't know that I could've won it without her in that group.

GPC podium: Debbie, me, Ajesha

Valerie afterward didn't realize that I was even in the lead group, and her perspective of the race was very amusing for that minute until we told her I'd won. She had seen me early in the race toward the back and knew I was tired, but then she didn't see me ride back up toward the front. Cath was 5th, Anna 8th, Val 10th, and Shelly 17th. We were all smiles at the end!

Anna, Valerie, me, Catherine, and Shelly

I wish I had stats from these races, but my Garmin's buttons broke after the first race so I can't view the history from the LBC and I couldn't record anything from the GPC. Sad day.

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