Started my first bigger race of the season on Thursday with the hill climb at Joe Martin Stage Race in Arkansas. I was a bit nervous as last year I had started racing earlier on with Redlands in March but with school this year there just wasn't time.
After a good motorpacing session on Tuesday though it seemed like a good ride would be possible. Somehow I got the first start out of all the pro women...not great, but dealt with it. Overall, I was happy with my ride up to the top; managed to hold of everyone behind me and went up 23 seconds faster than last year. Of course some of the other girls WOULD have to go up 30 seconds faster than anyone has in the past two years!
Stage two was a 65 mile point to point road race that took us up and over the 16km climb Mt. Gaylor. The group was together when we hit the base of the climb, but the attacking started immediately as the road went up. The pack splintered pretty quickly with the fast pace. I was able to hang in with the front group although by the end my accelerations were starting to get significantly slower. Three girls went over the top maybe 20 seconds ahead but Team Type 1 quickly brought them back in and we raced in towards the uphill finish as a group of about 25...once 55.
Stage three was a 69 mile circuit race with a power climb at the start of the circuit and then some rolling stuff after. We had to do two laps. Apparently at the start there was a bunch of glass, so a few girls flatted in the neutral start section but were able to get back on pretty quickly because the racing hadn't started in ernest yet. Once we hit the base of the short climb though the pace ramped up and the pack strung out. When we got onto the rolling stuff attacks were going off in rapid fire....and of course that had to be when the piece of glass I had picked up at the start line decided to push its way through. Stopped for a quick wheel change from the SRAM guys but the girls up front were hammering and despite a solid chase with two of my team mates it was just not good timing. They were in our sight for a while but it just never ended up being quite enough, and I took a major hit in the GC.
Stage four was a criterium in downtown Arkansas...purported to be one of the more difficult courses on the NRC circuit with a steep climb going into the start/finish line. The rain and course dried up just in time for our start. Going in the GC was separated by 8 seconds from 1st to 3rd and with a 10 second time bonus for the win everyone knew it was going to be a hard fought battle. Everyone's anxiousness was put on display with a false start which turned into an excessively fast practice lap. Back on the start line, the race got off to a real start this time. In front of me however two Value Act girls had a bit of a collision trying to clip in. I went to swing around, jamming down on my right pedal pretty hard trying to clip in and get going. Some how this caused my chain to come off my front chain ring and rear derailleur jockeys simultaneously, and with no support I went flying off to the side. My thoughts were not so pleasant, especially after yesterday's race. But our mechanic came running over and grabbed my bike and ran it to the support tent. They tried to get my bike running again but then decided to put me on a support bike, so with the pressure of only having a lap to get it done they were throwing on pedals trying to adjust my seat height and onto a completely different bike I went...just what you want for a technical crit. It wasn't too bad though, thankfully I have SRAM on my bike so I didn't have to adjust to that, just a weird bar drop. Anyway from then on the race actually went pretty well. I managed to sit in about the top 10 for most of it, working my way back up everytime we hit the hill. There was some attacking and the field behind me got demolished...but I finally learned that it actually is a lot easier if you aren't at the back having to sprint out of every single corner just to make up the slow down. Alison Power, the GC leader, went off the front with a couple laps to go and stayed there, and the remaining group of us, about 18, sprinted up for 2nd place.
Wasn't my best weekend luck wise, but for my first big race for the year I was pretty happy with it and how the legs were feeling. Now its time for 2 weeks at home with some local racing and then off to the Montreal World Cup (:O), the Tour du Grand Montreal and Tour de PEI!!