Poolesville Road Race

Generally, I have very good luck with my bike equipment. If I have a spectacular blow-out or break a spoke, it’s usually 200 meters from my front door. Not so this weekend.

The Poolesville (Maryland) Road Race is a 10-mile circuit with a 1-mile gravel section. The course is flat-to-rolling through lush green farmland and dewy woods. The women CAT 1/2’s were run with the men CAT 3’s for a planned 60-mile race.

On the first lap, I was 7th into the gravel, so I could see the potholes, and a drainage ditch cut perpendicularly into the trail, way before I hit them. I was in my element – I love gravel and I’m growing fond of potholes. Lap 1 ticked away on my cyclocomputer, 10 miles completed.

We made the right turn onto lap 2. I went over some uneven asphalt and “Crack!” My saddle had shifted and was pointing up like a plane taking off. The leaders pushed the pace for the next lap and I forgot about my saddle as I dangled on the back, fighting to hang on. 20 miles done.

Lap 3 the pace was snappy, and the field got strung out at the onset. After the gravel section, I was the only woman left with the men. But that was no time to celebrate. At mile 27, I went over another uneven patch of asphalt. “Crack!” My saddle fell off completely. We encountered some rollers so I climbed out of my saddle and finished 30 miles with the pack.

As we turned the corner onto lap 4 I was still with the group, but I was causing a bit of a disturbance. I kept yelling out to the course marshals, “Please, get me a bike with Speedplay pedals! My saddle fell off!” Luckily, the pack decided to sit up this time around the circuit. I nestled myself into the back row of riders, sat with one leg on my top tube, and coasted behind them.

As we entered the gravel section for the fourth time, I got caught behind a crash and was decisively dropped about 35 miles into the race. I knew the second woman had been dropped at the same spot 10 miles earlier, so, I pedaled as hard as I could on the flats and hills. When there was a downhill, I sat with my leg on my top tube and tucked my knees into my frame.

All the while, I kept yelling out to the course marshals for a replacement bike. After 10 miles with no seat, a man called out, “They have a bike for you, about 8 turns up the road.” I was going to get a bike! This turned out to be a miscommunication. There was no bike, and the marshals grew weary of my pleas. “Well, you asked last time and we STILL don’t have a bike for you!”

My heart sank. How long could I last doing this, riding without a saddle? About 45 miles into the race, and after about 20 miles with no saddle, the moto-ref pulled up to me and said that I was in first place and there was no one behind in sight. He said that he had decided the cut the race to 50 miles considering the circumstances. I was overjoyed! Could I stay away for the next 5 miles?

Soon after that, a course marshal pedaled up to me and said, “I have a Speedplay bike for you!” I asked the moto-ref if it was okay to switch and he said yes. There was still a chance I could get caught, so I took the other bike. 400 meters down the road I realized that something felt funny. When I stood up, my cleats popped out off the pedals. But when I sat down, I couldn’t put any power on the pedals either. It turns out this bike had an incompatible version of Speedplays and was a size 48, a bit cramped coming from my 56cm frame.

After all, though, a bike still is a bike. I balanced my cleats on the pedals and rode the child-sized bike to the line. I had won Poolesville on a day I would never forget.

Springtime in Maryland. The lush green grass and rolling farmland is a beautiful sight.
Springtime in Maryland. The lush green grass and rolling farmland is a beautiful sight.
Riders charge through the gravel at Poolesville. (photo courtesy of National Capital Velo Club website.)
Riders charge through the gravel at Poolesville. (photo courtesy of National Capital Velo Club website.)
I made it to the finish!
I made it to the finish!

2 Replies to “Poolesville Road Race”

    1. Thanks Ruud! My father said a saddle falling off should happen once a lifetime at most. Let’s hope he’s right!

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