I got a call-up tonight (as the above picture via Weldon Weaver demonstrates). Rolled up to the front line. Stood next to the other girls who had all already gotten their first race of the season out of the way. I anticipated nerves, energy, anticipation. Deep breaths. Lots of deep breaths.
The gun sounded.
I missed my pedal.
My call-up nullified in an instant, I shot to the back of the pack. Immediately.
I can laugh about it now.
The race was fast from the start, and gaps began to open. I found myself thinking “Eek! I’m in trouble.” I have notoriously bad starts in ‘cross – not so much on the road – and it’s so much harder in the back of the pack where the accordion effect means extra energy is constantly expended simply to stay in contact.
I followed wheels and counted on other people to close the gaps as they opened while I attempted to settle into some sort of rhythm. It took me a little bit of time to get my nerve back. Yes, even I need to reintegrate myself into the pack after time away.
There were lots of new wheels in the race tonight. There were faces I didn’t recognize. It took a long time for people to slow down a little bit. Finally, the field swelled and I could move myself towards the front.
As my position improved, my head and legs began to feel better, too. People were dropped, and the fight for position lessoned. I was able to keep myself in the top-20 during the second half of the race and even saw the front of the field a few times.
My teammates had to do a lot of work tonight. NOW and Optum Health were firing constant bullets. Those two teams rode really aggressively. Towards the end of the race, Lauren Tamayo (Exergy Twenty12) did a lot of work to cover moves for her teammate Theresa Cliff-Ryan. I found myself following Lauren’s wheel. She just got back from Track Worlds where she raced the pursuit. I knew I could count on her wheel to be steady and safe.
With one lap to go, I was shuffled back a bit. While I wish I could have helped Kendall Ryan out a bit more, I was okay with playing it safe, too. Lindsay Meyer, Alexis Ryan and I came across the line together – I haven’t seen full results yet, but hopefully we finished in the top-25 to get a little bit of money. Kendall managed fifth – which is definitely a nice result for her.
Tonight was fast – one of the fastest Presby’s in recent memory. You can gauge the speed of the bunch by the shape of the field, and we were pretty much strung out from start to finish. I think the date change – because it wasn’t so hot and people were that much more fresh – had a lot to do with the pace of the race. There was lots of money on the line, too, but that’s nothing new.
I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight. I did two local races in the last three weeks, and they made me a tiny bit nervous about my fitness. It’s not that I haven’t been training hard – I have. But training isn’t racing. The speed you see in a race like this is nearly impossible to replicate during a training ride.
Fourteen years of competing at this level, and you might think that I’m an old hat at all this. And while you might be right, I still have to start somewhere every season.
So tonight, I started.
It’s done. It’s dusted.
The first race of the season is under my belt.
I have Sea Otter next week and Joe Martin at the end of the month.
From the front line to the back up the pack – and back to the front again.
I know I’ll come around.
I’ll be back with tales from the front of the race again soon.
For the full scoop, check out this race report from CyclingNews.