2017 US Criterium National Championships

I’ve been given a lot of opportunities this year, most of them are seemingly once in a lifetime types of chances, and I just can’t believe how lucky I am to be a part of this team. Chicago Women’s Elite has enabled me to get to the start line of so many great races, and many where it would be impossible to do so on my own. This year, the elite criterium national championships was in Louisville, KY and we were the first Chicago women’s team to be invited to the big dance. Crit Nats?! Wow, what a challenge, and within every great challenge lies an opportunity to shine.

With an early wakeup on Saturday, we rendezvoused at Cathy’s and hit the road. Saturday we arrived, registered, and rode around for some openers before heading out for a delicious dinner at a burger and mussels restaurant. We stayed at a hotel, just steps away from the course. Sunday morning was another shakeout spin and the rest of the day was spent trying to stay out of the heat and off our feet. July in the South is no joke. Holy heat and humidity, Batman!

The team {Lily, Lauren, Christine, Jenny and Me} were backed by support from Kevin, Cathy and Anna. The five of us had ridden together at Northstar and had quite the experience. Having raced against most of the peloton and in bigger races, nationals now seemed less daunting. The course was awesome – .9 mile, 9 corner race, with a downhill into a tight corner and a slight climb before the last corner into the start/finish line. Temps were in the high 90s with just as much humidity. My body tends to melt in the heat.

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Ice – the nectar of my survival! pc SnowyMountain Photography

The race started off fast. The hill was definitely a factor and there wasn’t a lot of room to hide on this course. There was a crash very early on that I was directly behind. Probably 3/4 of the field headed to the pit. A break had started, but the officials had no idea and put the entire field back into the race with the break, who thought we were the lapped riders. It was a bit of a chaotic moment, but we all settled back in. Due to the heat, they had a “feed zone” which is the craziest thing to insert into a criterium with the pace at 25+ average. The feed zone was open for a couple laps in the middle of the race and was on the hill. I managed to grab a bottle and an ice sock which were life savers.

With 8 laps to go I started moving up. We assembled the remaining troops and started to work for Lily. But with 5 to go, a huge pileup in corner 1 eventually neutralized the race. I managed to get around the crash, and was with the main group. Typically there are no free laps at 6 to go, but they let everyone back into the race who could re-enter. The stop lasted around 30 min, so suffice to say we were not jazzed about the restart. We stood at the start finish {I did manage to get a bottle and another ice sock!} chatting about what happened and about what our strategy for the finish was.

I got to the start line on the front and hit it from the gun. There was a break, so they had us restart with the time gap that they earned before the crash. So the peloton apparently had no interest in trying to chase them down, which we found to be incredibly frustrating. I moved to the front, worked hard, but no one was coming around, and there was no way I had the fitness to chase!

Overall, it was an amazing experience. I’m so thankful for our team of supporters and everything they do for us to get to the start line, through the race, and past the finish line! Big thanks to the Evanston Bike Club for supporting our Nationals dream! Kevin was a total rockstar, driving the entire way to and from the race and setting up camp, bikes, trainers, etc. Cathy’s organization is second to none and it was awesome to have Anna along with us! And Mor and Nathan {SnowyMountain Photo} always bring love to the tent and by love I mean candy. As a former triathlete, heat management was a skill I’d acquired. I seriously used 7 ice socks throughout the day and was barely alive at the end. I had a coke and gu before the race, a gu, ice sock and 3 bottles during the race, plus the extra ice and bottle during the restart. My teammates joked that I had a lobster buffet while hanging onto the back of the race. But I knew what I had to do, and I finished!

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trying to master the downhill corner. pc SnowyMountain Photography
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I swear I wasn’t off the back for the entire race. pc SnowyMountain Photography
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#matchymatchy pc: SnowyMountain Photography
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After the restart – and me on the front! pc SnowyMountain Photography

Big thanks to Velosmith for all the support and allowing me to race this season! To my husband, for all the cheers from home. And to my teammates for encouraging, supporting and suffering alongside me all season long.

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