Race Report: Wheels of Thunder

The art of racing in the rain… or just a crit in general.

I’m very fond of the mountain biking race model:  go as hard as you can the entire time.  There’s no “tactics,” no sitting up and slowing the pace, allowing others to do the work to tow you to the finish (unless you’re watching recent women’s pro mountain biking… love you Emily Batty, but damn).  It’s just you and the bike, for the most part.  So in road racing I struggle with this sometimes, as I’m just GO GO GO, and that’s not what is the smartest thing to do.  But hell, sometimes it’s just really fun to go do something un-smart!

So crits… yes, I don’t believe in racing them.  I am “Miss Will Never Race A Crit”…. ….. …. unless my gravel grinder is canceled due to rain, my back up endurance mountain bike race is canceled due to rain, and I have the urge to race and the only event happening is a crit.  Sigh.  I never said I was the brightest lightbulb in the pack!  So Wheels of Thunder down in Centennial, CO it is (next door to the Bronocs training center, for what it’s worth, which isn’t much.  I don’t even like pro football), which is touted as one of the most non-crit crits out there, and rather safe with only three wide left handed corners.  OK, I’m convinced, take my money!

After an early morning wake up and driving through an insane monsoon (I shall begin building my own ark soon if this keeps up!) I arrived at the venue and settled into a parking spot in the dirt – wait, no, mud – parking lot.  My teammate Jenifer was already there and we giggled about how ridiculous this was, but also relieved that lots of people still came out to the race.  We picked up our numbers and swag, and headed back to our cars to debate what we would wear.  It was chilly, maybe 40 degrees, and soggy and still raining off and on.  I finally settled on my skinsuit (I didn’t bring normal bibs), knee warmers, thermal base layer, vest, and after a short warm up, my thicker winterish Endura gloves, along with shoe covers.  The Weather Channel had said it would be 59 degrees and dry for my race at 9am… ha!  Good one, Weather Channel…  Once the course opened for pre-riding I did a fast lap since I otherwise didn’t really warm up, and settled into the front row.

Coming through on one of the nine laps (Photo by Jenifer Woods)

Coming through on one of the nine laps (Photo by Jenifer Woods)

I’ve been having clipping in issues for awhile now with my road pedals, and when we started I clipped in with ease which actually threw me off!  Another girl and I ended up leading everyone out.  After a short straight it was a corner into a decently long uphill, another corner, which a super fast downhill, punchy climb, downhill, final corner, and uphill climb into the strong headwind to the start/finish.  The other girl and I led the first lap and then I realized I had to play roadie, and tried to drop in and hide from the wind.  I did this for the next 7 laps quite well.  Yay for roadie tactics… luckily everyone rode really safe, except for one girl that seemed to swerve a bit much for my liking.  I took the corners easy, as I hate cornering anyway, let alone in the rain.  My butt my soggy, glasses covered in rain and road spray, but I wasn’t cold which was good.  On the 8th lap I got out in the wind for everyone, and led coming into the 9th and final lap.  Two girls from COBikeLaw attacked on the first hill but Ariana from Ten20 and I closed the gap quite quickly.  My one claim to fame is power climbing, and this was a good crit for that!

The group continued to be rather slow on the downhill, so coming into the punchy climb I just went nuts and attacked.  I opened up a pretty huge gap, which meant I took the corner at the bottom a bit faster since I had to the whole road to use.  Then I turned into the brutal headwind, all by my lonesome.  UGH.  But I was leading coming into the finishing straight… but ughhhhhh I couldn’t hold it against that wind.  I finally sat up once the first chunk passed me and I noticed the chasing two from COBikeLaw wouldn’t be able to close it in time, and came across the line for 7th place!

Thawing out post race with some hot coffee and a heated tent!

Thawing out post race with some hot coffee and a heated tent!

Whoa, I survived a crit, and finished in the lead pack!  I must admit I’m a bit sad I went out like I did and ended up at the disadvantage when I turned into the wind… I blame the mountain biker in me!  Just another lesson learned as I explore this whole road racing thing more and more.  It’s not always necessarily who is the fastest or has the most brute fitness, but sometimes the person who is the smartest tactics wise.  And my opinions on crits?  Well, there’s a high danger factor that still bothers me. Luckily I discovered the front of a crit pack is a little different than the rear, which I experienced last year.  I’m not sure how many others I will do, but I feel a little better about entering them, or if they’re a part of a stage race, etc.  And heck, a damn good way to make up for wimping out of my billats workout this week, right?!

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