Boone-Roubaix!

This course was so beautiful that riding it was a pleasure from start to finish. We raced on 50 miles of scenic paved and gravel roads – up some steep hills, down twisty descents, through the forest, alongside swollen streams and grassy rolling hills.

Boone-Roubaix (NC) had 207 entrants this year, and only 13 were women. Racing in a large field of men with a small group of women presents unique challenges, compared to riding in an all women’s field. In a women’s race, the goal is to stay with or ahead of the pack. In an all-ages men’s race, the game is to prolong getting dropped for as long as possible.

And often when you are dropped no other woman is in sight because either they made it farther than you with the pack or they got dropped sooner, so the game is to finish as high as you can among the men. The male pack will tolerate you lingering at the back of the pace line, since you present no direct threat to their placing, but self-respect dictates that you take your turn in the wind just like everybody else.

There’s always this lingering fear – is another woman close behind, hanging on the back of another pace line, conserving her energy until she catches and attacks me? But I think other women in my situation take their turn through the pace line too, in the spirit of good sportsmanship.

Then, there’s always the question: Where are the other women in relation to me? I’ve finished 7th this year and I’ve finished 1st, and I never knew it until after I finished. One could suggest I pay more attention to where the other women are, but in a field of 200 or more, riders get easily obscured.

At Boone, my race went down just about the same as the other Roubaix’s I’ve done this year. I got dropped from the main group early on, rode by myself or a small group for 47 miles, and had no idea where I stood in relation to the other women until after I finished the race.

There was one big difference though. For three happy miles, I was up with the leaders! That’s the longest I’ve held on in this type of race, and that was where my race was won. After that I just maintained my position.

I enjoy riding with men. It’s exhilarating to start with 200 riders. Women’s fields are rarely half that size. You’re part of a big moving machine. It’s exciting to navigate through the river of riders, get carried along by the momentum – and hope that when that inevitable moment comes and you start going backwards, that you’ve held on longer than the other women.

On the other hand, I can always dream of a day when I ride in a field of 200 women!

A swollen river and picturesque farm house along the course.
A swollen river and picturesque farm house along the course.
Heavy rain on the day before the race left the dirt roads perfect for the race - velvety with little dust.
Heavy rain on the day before left the dirt roads perfect for the race – velvety with little dust.
Me on the line at another co-educational race.
Me on the line at another co-educational race.

 

 

Amish Country Roubaix!

This is the first year the Amish Country Roubaix was held, and it was a smash hit. 45 miles through the hills and valleys of Holmes County, Ohio.  Beautiful countryside, well-marshaled course, plenty of climbing and some long flat stretches too.

Since I did not want a repeat of my slow, cold start at Barry-Roubaix, I sprinted up some hills and time-trialed some flats before the race. Luckily so. We started out neutral behind a white pick-up and as soon as the truck pulled off, there was Garth Prosser out of his saddle sprinting. The whole pack followed.

The race began with a three-mile climb. Out of the corner of my dizzy eyes, I saw a lead pack of about 25 riding away from me. A chase group of around 10 riders followed them, and I dangled off the back of that. There was a significant gap between me and the group behind me. At the crest of the first climb, I pulled myself together and surged up to join the chase group.

Over the rolling hills that followed, our pack made a disjointed effort to chase. Some riders took pace while others attacked the group, only to be swallowed up again. Luckily, after a number of climbs which broke things up, I found myself with a group of three riders in green and black who were taking pace cooperatively. We motored on the flats together; I climbed a little faster, while they caught me on the loose gravel descents. It was a good combo.

Around 27 miles in, the moto-ref informed me that I was the first woman – but he could not tell me how far back the second woman was. I climbed the final hill with renewed vigor. Maybe too much vigor. When I got to the bottom of the last hill, my cooperative group was nowhere to be seen. And there were still 15 miles to go.

I saw a male rider in red ahead of me and thought about chasing, but I thought the riders in green and black would catch me soon, so I pedaled at a steady pace. The green and black locomotive appeared with about 10 miles to go, and I jumped on the back.  There were no other riders in sight.

We quickly caught the rider in red and rode in together to the end. I had won the Amish Country Roubaix! Being this event’s first year, I hold the women’s course record. And I plan on defending it next year!

Holmes County is home to the world's largest Amish community. I passed five or six buggies during the race. Photo courtesy of http://www.experience-ohio-amish-country.com
Holmes County is home to the world’s largest Amish community. I passed five or six buggies during the race.
Photo courtesy of http://www.experience-ohio-amish-country.com
The Pittsburgh Team CF trio at the Amish Country Roubaix: Tim Mould, Lauren Mika Mould, and me.
The Pittsburgh Team CF trio at the start of the Amish Country Roubaix:
Tim Mould (24th, men’s open), Lauren Mika Mould (4th, women’s open), and me.

Barry-Roubaix!

The sun shows itself on the day before the race.

“You’re as Cold as Ice” by Foreigner was playing on the loud speaker as we lined up.

Barry-Roubaix (ultracross race) had over 2,900 registrants this year. We filled the full length of the 200 meter start/finish chute. It was 25 degrees at the start and did not get much above freezing by the end of the 62-mile circuit.

The day before the race, it had warmed up to 36 degrees. The course had become a mucky mess of melting hard-packed snow and mud about 2 inches deep. With the overnight freeze though, the mud had become a nicely textured hard surface. The slushy snow had frozen into a white glaze.

Over the course of the race, a lot of things went right for me. First, the well-balanced Specialized Crux was a champ on the ice. The few times my front wheel slid out, it righted itself immediately. The main hazard was the surprising number of water bottles which littered the course, having shaken out of bottle cages. Second, I was comfortable riding in the sub-freezing temperature, having trained in similar conditions all winter.  I could easily get at my food with my clumsy winter gloves because I had unwrapped everything and dumped it loose into my pockets.

I made one crucial mistake. I did not warm up beforehand. Instead, I sat in the car until the start, avoiding the cold weather. Long asphalt races often start with a civilized pace for 5 to 10 miles, so I figured I would have plenty of time to loosen up after the gun.

Au contraire! This race started like gangbusters. The finish order was greatly determined in the first few miles. My legs felt like lead as the front of the race sprinted down the road out of town. Soon I was caught in no-man’s land! I time trialed for about five miles, chasing the riders ahead of me, only to be caught  by a number of strong packs which whooshed by me after I was too gassed to hang on.

Another pack caught me around 25 miles in, which I stayed with to the finish. A nice rider named Lauri was in the ranks of the otherwise male group. After friendly introductions, we eyed each other for 35 miles, not knowing how many women were ahead or behind us.

As it turned out, the finish came down to a sprint. I was well positioned, but in a shifting malfunction which I blame on myself, my chain came off and I rolled downhill without being able to pedal the last 100 meters. Lauri rolled past me right before the line and actually apologized. How’s that for sportsmanship! We finished 5th and 6th.

This race put into crystal clear focus how important the warm-up and start is in ultracross.  “Eye of the Tiger” will be playing in my head at the start of the next ultracross race – the Amish Country Roubaix in Millersburg, OH on April 6th.

See you there!

Starting chute, 2013 Barry Roubaix. Hastings, MI.
Starting chute, 2013 Barry Roubaix. Hastings, MI.

Road conditions a few days before the race.
Road conditions a few days before the race.