This was Sarah's first time at these races, so I gave her the low down on the race, how you start the race on the flat, turn the first corner onto an uphill, and then enter the "snake" which is a narrow cobble stone climb with switchbacks and a 17% grade. They say the race is won on the decent, because you have to fly fearlessly through the 3 fast corners on the way down if you are going to win it. I went to the line at Snake Alley ready to give it my all. I had a terrible start because my bike did not immediately shift into the small ring at the beginning of the snake. I entered the snake super far back. I climbed it all right, and then I bombed that decent. I've never gone down that well before! I passed a whole bunch of people and climbed it again. That's when I started to feel bad, and knew I wasn't getting enough oxygen. I climbed it one more time and then pulled out. I got to watch Sarah fight it out and finish with a very decent placing of one out of the money.
The next day was Melon City, another technical race that has several factors that make it interesting, a downhill section leading into a speed bump, a hairpin turn right before the finish, and an uphill that doesn't look hard but is. I sat out this race. I knew that there would be no point. I tried to stay positive, but it's not very fun to be a bike racer at a bike race and not actually race, so it was difficult.
We were staying with Eric's family in Muscatine and after the race they invited a whole bunch of bike racers back to the house for a BBQ. It was really fun and added a pleasant dose of positivity to the weekend.
The next day was Quad Cities Criterium. My favorite crit of all time. A pancake flat figure 8 course, I've won it before and usually do well there. Sarah got to race two races, the 2/3 race in the morning and our 1/2/3 in the afternoon. It rained during her race in the morning. Quad cities is a notorious crash fest when dry, but in the rain, it's treacherous!! Sarah did great!! She rode incredibly well, avoided the multitude of crashes and finished 5th! An excellent result! PWP'er Cathy Frampton rode an extremely impressive race too-- exactly how you should race in the rain, at the front and out of trouble. She lead it out and finished 6th, right behind Sarah.
By the time we raced in the afternoon, the rain had stopped and the road was dry. I warmed up on my power tap which confirmed just how crappy I was feeling. I felt extremely out of breath putting out numbers that should have been tempo. I was in a quandary about whether or not to even go to the line. I'll admit I shed some tears. I was SO FRUSTRATED. Until two weeks ago I'd been in the best shape of my life, and here I was about to ride a race that was designed for my style of riding that I know like the back of my hand, and I couldn't even get my heart rate up without feeling like my chest was going to explode.
Sarah and I getting ready to start
With much support and encouragement I went to the line. Debbie Milne, who'd been dominating the previous two days of racing, plus Jessi Prinner, my former ABD teammate who is an incredibly strong and smart racer were the two women to watch and would have to be in a move if it was going to stick. The race started and there were were a couple of attacks, but not with Jessi or Debbie so I waited. Then Debbie went and I was on it! She got us a nice gap, and then moved over for me to take my pull. I was gasping for breath at this point and not able to pull through so she shut it down. After this I was blown and I had to fight so hard just to stay with the field. There were several more attacks, including a solo move by Psimet's Kelly Richter, but nothing stuck. I was dropped several times, but just when I thought I was done, the field would slow drastically and I could catch back on. I could see Sarah riding a great race near the front, chasing down moves. We had a huge cheering section and heard "Go Sarah, Go Kristen, Go Spidermonkey" at multiple locations on the course every single lap!! Not sure exactly how many laps it was to go when Debbie and Jessi got off the front together. That was an unstoppable duo and everyone knew it. Sarah was on it, and she gave it her all but dangled in no man's land for a while and just wasn't able to close the gap. At some point an IS Corp rider slipped off the front so now we were racing for fourth place. At one to go I moved into position. Bri Kovac was there as well as another rider. Bri attacked on the back stretch and I was able to get her wheel. We hit the final two corners at top speed and I was able to sneak on the inside on the final corner and take the field sprint for fourth. Sarah came in at 18th--in the money! On the one hand I was thrilled to have pulled a decent result out of nowhere but on the other hand I was bitterly disappointed--I had really wanted the win. That race should have been easy and it so wasn't. When I heard that Jessi got the win I was thrilled! If our team couldn't take it, there was no one else that I'd rather have the win!
After the race, Eric told us he had bought beers for a whole group of Iowa locals if they promised to cheer for us! Cathy and Bill Frampton, Jeff and Jill Whiteman and Jason had also been cheering for us every single lap!
I'll have to wait another year to try again at Snake Alley, Melon City and Quad Cities, and now I have to figure out what's wrong with me and get over it once and for all.