Last Wednesday, for the first time (ever?!), enough Category 4 women racers showed up to actually require TWO separate groups! An 'A' group and a 'B' group (evenly split, neither faster than the other). AWESOME!
Side note: racing "categories" are to group people by their ability and experience. All (female) racers must start in Category 4 (men have a Category 5) and work their way up. So while I may quickly upgrade to Category 3, there aren't enough Category 3 women out there to be a group of their own-- so they (we) often get lumped into Women 1/2/3. This happens in just about every cycling discipline-- road, cyclocross, etc. So instead of relying on your category to maintain a level playing field, one just has to pick a race that tends to attract more 3's or 2's or 1's. If I wanted to place well, I could race the 1/2/3's at the Elkhorn Stage Race, if I just wanted to turn my poop runny while dogging at the back of the pack-- I could race the 1/2/3's at Cascade Classic.
Unfortunately, sometimes these options are not available and the chasm between 4's and 1/2/3's is just plain difficult to cross. It's a rough bridge to the other side-- a lot of people fall off it and it's lonely to hang out on it.
Once I upgrade to a 3 on the track, I will be eligible to race on Friday night with the 1/2/3 women-- where there is a high concentration of 2's. My racing experience will go from demolishing the 4's with breath to spare to just-hangin' with the 1/2/3's. I'll be able to ride with the group and be active, but the chances of me actually winning a race will go from virtually guaranteed to slim. However, women can also race "down 1" category with the men. So to bridge the gap, I will also be racing with the Category 4 men on Wednesday nights.
It was my first Wednesday night with the 4 ladies.
The first event of the evening was a 'Win and Out'-- and I thought about this particular race allll day at work! The way a Win and Out works, is that every bell lap, the sprint is to place. So the first bell, the winner of the sprint takes first place and the winner peels off the track while everyone else keeps rolling. Second bell, the winner of the sprint takes second place, they peel off, and so on. So if you want to win, you've got to put it ALL on the line! And what happens if you use all your gas to win, only to fall into second place? Whoa-hoh! Better hope the pack doesn't tear you apart before you're ready to gun again. For all your effort, you could slide into 5th because you gambled on 1st.
So I got some advice from an "old pro" at the shop and I visualized it, visualized it, visualized it.. because I knew I had just ONE lap to work with and win! No time to settle in. Then I found out that the bell laps were every other lap, not every lap! D'OH! There was going to be a whole EXTRA lap before the bell lap?! Secret plans spoiled! But off we went and I spent the first lap and a half wondering why people weren't doing what I wanted them to (I know, right?), until in the second to last corner I swore under my breath-- I was too caught up in having a 'plan' that I failed to really respond to what was going on around me, and there I was, several bike lengths away from the charge, approaching the last corner. Lucky for me, my strength saved me-- and I VVVVVVRRRrooom.. accelerated to first with a grunt. Then I got off the track. SWEET! ..I like that race. Can we do it again?
The second race was a Tempo. Every lap 2 points are awarded to 1st and 1 point to second. Whoa, scrambled eggs! Starbucks went whipping off the front from the whistle, while I picked daisies at the back. Whoops! She kept her gap and gobbled up the first 2 points. She was quickly caught, but the group mushroomed into conflicted agendas-- some wanted rest and some wanted action and it was crazy pants on the velodrome. If I were in a faster race, my poor positioning could have cost me the race-- I was just too far from the front-- but I took the fast lane and rode past the entire group, smashing into point after point, earning enough to win the race. WOO HOO!
And the last race, well-- watch the video! I sat on the front the whole time, which is a poor, poor tactic. But I didn't do it to be smart, I did it because I could. I didn't need the rest, I could patrol the attacks and avoid getting boxed in. There was, however, one point where I nearly screamed, "COME ON! ATTACK ME NOW!!" I made myself pretty vulnerable.
One more week with the 4 ladies methinks, and they'll move me up.
Watch out, boys.