Sunday, September 19, 2010

The South Carolina State Road Racing Championships

were held September 18th at the Fork Shoals road racing course. This was the same course we used for the Spring series earlier this year. I knew the course well, but took advantage of several opportunities to pre-ride the course with my friends from the GHS Every Woman Cycling team.

Although my race was not scheduled until 2pm, I arrived at the venue early so I could cheer on those very same friends. The Cat 4 women's race started at 840 and I really wanted to be there to give support to them. I'm glad I did - my friend Courtney ended up crushing the field to take the win. She'll be crowned today during the USPro cycling championships. Congrats Courtney!

With lots of time to kill between the women's race and my race, I did my best to relax and not think too much about my race. As I got suited up and started on my warm-up, I found I did have some butterflies floating around in my belly. I felt good, but a little nervous.

For the most part, the race was a typical cat 5 race. A few guys got out and did the bulk of the work. I did my share with several pulls on the first lap, but I limited my exposure. The pace wasn't bad, but it seems like we were in for a group ride that was going to end in a sprint. On the first lap, team-mate Dave got out and drove the pace for a while. This was the catalyst for the entire field to pick up the pace. Great job Dave!

I did my best to keep a position near the front and was successful for the entire race. I felt really good and my bike was performing flawlessly. I had full confidence in every shift and she didn't let me down. I even dropped to the small ring on some of the hills just to try to keep the legs as fresh as possible. She did everything I asked of her.

As we made the right turn onto dunklin bridge road on the second lap, a guy attacked. The peloton set off in chase, but when the guy out front started to tire, no-one pulled around him. I was back in about 8th wheel and had a clear opening to the right side, so I made the move to bridge the gap. I got into my time-trial position and stamped out a strong cadence and quickly bridged the gap. This guy I passed and kept pulling for a short distance before relinquishing the lead to someone else.

Shortly after, another guy attacked and opened a slightly larger gap. Again, a similar thing happened. The peloton was chasing and closing, but no-one pulled around as the leader tired. I came around I think on the left this time and pulled us up to the attacker. He had a pretty good pace, so I didn't feel the need to go around him. Plus, I wasn't going to spend too much more time out there. I needed to have something left for the finish.

There was no other attacks after those two and the peloton continued at a strong pace as we turned onto Cedar Falls road and headed into the last stretch of rolling terrain. There are two hills on this section that have potential to string out the field. The first isn't too long, but it does take some effort. I stayed in the big ring for this one and for the descent leading up to the next hill.

This final hill really has potential to break the field. However, the pace we set up that hill was not as strong as it could have been. We were definitely in for a field sprint. I crested the hill and made the left turn onto Turner road in 3rd position. I was good with this position, and held it until the guy I was behind started stamping out a strong pace and began to stretch out the field.

He pulled us all the way up to the 200 meter mark where I decided to make my move. I came around him, but I made a critical mistake - I didn't grab a couple of gears. What this did was cause me to have to let up a little while I was in full sprint mode so I could grab another gear or two. This cost me.

One guy came around followed closely by another. I had lost enough momentum that a third guy was approaching fast. He and I crossed the line side by side. A true photo finish. I knew how close it was, so I could only wait for the official results to be posted.

I was at the trailer when the results came up. They scored me in fourth. Since I knew they had the video camera, I decided to protest the results. I wanted to ensure they used the camera when they scored the race. It's my right, so I informed the judges.

Wouldn't you know it, the official camera had malfunctioned and they didn't get the video. They told me to find the guy and they would ask him. He was nearby and of course he contends that he beat me. Hey, if the roles were reversed, he would have probably contested the results the same as I was and I would have said the exact same thing.

While I was standing there, many others came to protest the results. Without the camera, they only got the first five across the line and the results pretty much put everyone else in numerical order based on their rider number. Bummer for those guys, but one guy's girlfriend or wife had a few camera shots showing the finish.

In one photo, she had captured the 2nd place guy and the photo finish. Unfortunately, her perspective was head-on and all we could say for sure was that it was a photo finish for me and the other guy. The space between his front wheel contact patch and the line appeared to be the same as that same spacing for me. When we zoomed in on the photo, it didn't clarify anything except that the only way to know with absolute certainty would have been with the video for the offical camera. I really wish I would have asked her to send me that photo.

Since this was the only photo evidence available, I withdrew my protest and accepted 4th place. Not a bad finish on the day.

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