Sunday, July 02, 2006

Guilty pleasure

Saturday, 1 July

Back in the Dark Ages when I was a cat 4, there were never any separate cat 4 women’s races so we always raced with the 1-2-3s. And I got really annoyed when a cat 1 or 2 woman would show up for a race and feel obliged to demonstrate her prowess, attack, blow the field apart, and turn some nice road race into a mass-start time trial. Women like to have fun at a bike race, and being made to realize your limitations from the get-go just isn’t very much fun. And lots of women who don’t have fun don’t come back to play. Hence the small fields and lack of separate cat 4 races in the Dark, Demeaning Ages of my past.

Today I was guilty of that offense. I didn’t mean to offend, and I took pleasure in my victory. But I probably didn’t do much for warm sentiment in the masters women’s field.

Sixteen women started the Oregon masters women state road race championship outside Elmira this afternoon. We started together but were scored in 3 age groups: 30+, 40+, and 50+. (Our course was the same as the one I raced tandem on a few weeks ago.) Some of the women I recognized, and I know that not all of them turn up for many mass-start events. So I knew from the gun that there were reluctant racers and women who probably didn’t really like racing with cat 1s and 2s. I vowed to myself to not ride at the front much early on, not set tempo on the climbs, and try to keep a happy group together for the first lap (we did 3).

But you know what they say about good intentions. I let Mary set tempo up the first hill (the shorter, steeper one), but she drifted back in the last 100 meters and I was first over the top. Two TGH women came past very quickly on the fast descent with about 6 more women on their wheels. We had a group of 9 for a while, and at least 2 of them demonstrated a distinct (no, scary) lack of pacelining experience. A few more caught back on as we were trying to explain the concept.

The second climb is about 2 kilometers long. I told myself again not to ride at the front, just let someone else set a tempo they were comfortable with. This worked for a while, but women kept dropping back and pretty soon there was no one between me and the lead car. If you let me settle into a comfortable rhythm, I tend to stay there. When the road flattened out with about 600 meters to the top of the hill, I just kept the effort constant. When the pitch increased again with about 300 meters to the top, there was no one on my wheel. And after that, the race was a time trial for just about everybody.

There’s a nice twisty descent after the longer climb, and I was happy to ride it solo. I was disappointed that it was not nearly as fast or as much fun as it had been on the tandem but I still motored along. At the bottom I realized I had a good gap and needed to get to work, so I went pretty hard up the short steep hill on the second lap. I was light-headed and seeing stars at the top! (I forgot to mention that it was 90 degrees this afternoon.) I watched my speedometer on the descent and smiled when it got over 45 mph. When the road flattened out, the driver of the lead car told me the gap was 32 seconds. I thought this section was flat on the tandem, but it really undulates and it was hard to stay focused on going hard. Three-quarters of a lap later, the lead car guy told me I had 2.5 minutes and said “just keep the hammer down, darlin’.” It’s been a while since anyone’s called me “darlin” so that kept me smiling for another stretch. And I decided maybe I didn’t need stars again at the top of the steep climb.

Yeah, I stayed away and won my category and the race overall. Yeah, the biggest group I saw finish together was 2 women. Yeah, I was happy to win and actually pleased to have some TT training, even if it was on the wrong bike. But I wonder if it would’ve been better to keep the race together, teach some of those women how to paceline, encourage others on the hard bits of the climb…..Okay, I don’t feel really guilty, but the thought did cross my mind that the me of 10 years ago would’ve been annoyed at the me of today. Proud, but annoyed.

Results are here.

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