Last night, with mist misting away in the tri-state area (Manhattan, northeastern New Jersey, and the Rest of New York), three of us decided to take a little trip to the first of Rockleigh's weekly crit series. Rockleigh is a Thursday evening race some 15 miles outside of the city with two fields: men's pro/1/2/3 at 6 pm and the rest at 7.
I, being the adventuresome female that I am, decided that it would be a good idea to give it a try, even though I would be racing against some of the fastest B men on my team and their peers. I knew I could have some trouble when my HR went skyrocketing trying to stay in Joe's draft on the ride to the race. When I got there, however, I was surprised to find not one, but two other women there to race. Score. Isaac met us there, and after a few minutes of spinups to attempt to keep warm in the May drizzle, it was off to the races.
For most of the race, there were two words on my mind. One was wheel. And the other was suck. And wheel suck I did. Now, starting in the back of the pack was not the best idea. I knew it wasn't when I was lining up, but I didn't have quite the confidence to shimmy my way to the front like I do with the WoB's (pronounced "Whoa-Bees," not wobs. Wob is a terrible name). So, the long and the short of it is, I ended up in the back of the field, with the rest of the sketchy cat 5's who can't take a turn at speed, so every lap was...speed, speed, speed along the finishing straightaway, brake hard from about 27 to about 17 mph, take the turn and then hit the gas out of the turn to keep up with the 4's (namely, Isaac and Joe) up front that took the turn at speed. Well, it turns out that I don't have quite enough pop in my legs to do that on every turn, so about 5 laps in my butt got dropped off of the back with one of the other women, a nice British triathlete.
I know what you're thinking, but her wheel ended up being surprisingly steady, and I was content to ride it for another 6 or 7 laps. We were doing well, her doing her time trial thing, and me doing my watching her a** thing, until we got word that the field was right behind us. As Rockleigh is a training crit, they let the sufferers keep suffering as the field continues to lap them. At that point, we had a train of 4 or 5, and I was at the back. We probably should have moved over, but since I was bringing up the rear, I wasn't going to lose my draft if they didn't. As the break moved past us, it had to slow a little, which incidentally allowed Joe, who was bridging, to catch up to them. It's always nice to have a teammate reassure you as they lap you.
We then proceeded to create many more problems as the field came up behind us. I lost my tri girl's wheel and had to try to maneuver through the peleton with many very large guys yelling at me. I was only there for about a lap and a half before some annoying Cat 5 moved out about 3 lines through turn 1, cutting me off at the back of the field and effectively relegating me to riding by myself for the rest of the race.
The final 5 laps or so consisted of me following this *^*%$#@, who continued to nearly knock me out by standing up and pushing his bike backwards as I was on his wheel. On the last lap we got passed again, with Joe looking strong in the front group. We only had about 500 meters to go when the peleton swarmed us, of course on turn 5. It's never a good idea to get passed by 40 people going much faster than you into the second to last turn of a race. But somehow, I survived. Unfortunately, since I couldn't contest the peleton, I couldn't put the moves on the guy I'd been wheelsucking for the past 15 minutes. Even though I didn't get to sprint him, I still busted out with a little acceleration in the last 100 meters, which completely cooked him. That's what he gets for not holding his line.
After taking my warm down lap (tri girl still going, she must not have known that being lapped didn't mean that she had to make up that extra lap), I arrived at the group of guys including Isaac, Joe, and Raymond Junkins. They were just chilling, talking about the race.
"How'd you do Joe?" I asked after a minute or so, knowing that he had to be in the top 6.
"Oh, I won," he replied casually. Oh, right, no big deal. Wait, just kidding, that is a big deal. Apparently there was a party at the back and a party at the front.
And then we rode home in the dark.