By Nicole Slaton -- Benicia Town Race (W3/4) -- 06/12/11
I had trouble sleeping Saturday night after racing the Joseph Mendes crit, and was tired and irritable when I woke up. During my warm-up before the race in Benicia, I felt like taking a nap. Not usually a good sign! The weather was beautiful, though. Benicia is such a cute town and the waterfront is lovely.
Only about 24 women showed up for the women's 3/4 race, including teammates, Ashley and Kaya, whom I raced with Saturday. I had been very nervous about the course after a woman I'd raced with Saturday told me it was like the Santa Cruz crit. I was relieved to discover the course is more like the Giro course, with a gradual, yet punishing uphill every lap. I took note of the wind, rough surfaces on the road and numerous bot dots to contend with in addition to the constant up or down gradient. Nothing I couldn't handle.
I managed to get my adrenaline coursing and rid myself of the desire to take a nap when I realized I had gotten a little turned around while warming up and wasn't sure where the start was. With 5 minutes to start, I found the line. I had a few minutes to use the port-a-potty one last time, but then allowed knocked my bike over, which caused the front brakes to get slightly off-center. Doh! Thankfully, I was able to fix things quickly before the whistle.
As expected we started out hard on the gradual uphill. From there, we turned left, and the hill got steeper. Then we went right up more hill, and right again as the road got mercifully more level. Then it was right down a gradual descent, hard left into a steeper descent, fast right along a flatter section that became a false flat, and then right 2 more times as we made our way back up to the start/finish line into the head wind. We knew who to watch in the competition and they didn't disappoint, picking up the pace rapidly from the beginning.
The first time flying down the descent and into the right turn at the bottom, a girl crashed hard. It happened behind me. The officials immediately neutralized us, and as we rolled around the course, different teams called out for their teammates/friends, trying to figure out who had gone down. Someone said she'd been wearing a blue and white kit and maybe it was a Metromint woman, but Ashley and Kaya responded when I called their names. Phew!
We remained neutralized for almost 20 minutes until the poor girl could be taken off the course in an ambulance. With almost half our race done in neutral laps, the officials started us racing again with some confusion. At first an official announced that we'd stay neutral one more lap. Then a few moments later, the moto official who had been holding us back sped away. I was just a few women from the front, so saw the competition jump hard. There was no way I was going to dilly dally. Race on!
With only 20 minutes to race, we had time for about 7 laps. And because we were so far behind time-wise, the officials announced primes and double primes on 5 of the laps. That picked up the pace! Very soon, we had split the field, dropping half the riders. There were a couple times I wished for a flat tire or other mechanical, anything that would allow me to stop punishing myself. No such reprieve. I kept pushing forward, recovering as quickly as I could whenever possible.
Of course, we finished on the uphill into a headwind. Coming into the second to last corner I was behind women I didn't recognize. The field spread out and we started sprinting. I surfed wheels for a moment and then was alone. My legs begged for mercy. I slid back and started to give up, but then gave it a little more gas to push by a rider more tired than I, taking 11th. It was another great day of racing with super teammates and friends!