With the chance to race on the newly awarded US Nationals road race course, the VeloWorks/Spokes, Etc. took a full squad to Clear Spring, Maryland. The women raced a combined Category 1-4 field, the men split the squad among the 35+ 3/4, the open 3/4 and the 1/2/3 races. Jason came away with a solid 6th in the 35+ race and Jamie took the win in a controversial women’s race. See her report below.
Category 1-4 Women
Robin and I took the start line with a group of about 25 women. After a neutral start, the race proceeded at a conversational pace until the first little set of climbs, where a few riders drove the pace up before relaxing on the downhill. A woman from Colavita attacked the downhill and I countered briefly, mostly to have open road in front of me for the descent. I kept the effort level low because I didn’t want to get away with 45 miles to go. There were a few surges, but nothing serious until a Sweetspot-Cutaway rider got a gap about halfway through the race. She stayed away for most of a lap with a lead that varied between 20 and 30 seconds. A few riders tried to bridge up to her, and the racing got tough. She was eventually brought back and the pack stayed together for a bit.
I was sitting second wheel through the rollers on the second half of the course when the rider in front of me accelerated hard up a hill. I matched her pedal stroke for pedal stroke and it didn’t hurt too bad, so I figured I’d try my luck off the front. I dug hard on the next roller and got a gap. I was getting time splits from the officials, so I know the gap fluctuated between 20 and 30 seconds. I got to come through on the bell lap with a 30-second gap, which was cool. My goal was to stay away at least until we got over the main hill, because I figured I’d be blown out the peloton’s butthole if I got caught there. I managed to stay away with a steadily-closing gap until after the descent and the hard right turn on the other side. Shortly after that, the race came back together and I got a little rest.
At that point, there were about 10 miles left in the race. Women who had teammates started coming together and moving towards the front. Robin and I found each other and talked about who had the better legs. I told her I felt like I could still sprint a little, so we decided to do what we could in the final sprint with her leading me out. Sweetspot-Cutaway and Haymarket were keeping a steady but fairly easy pace at the front. I was on Robin’s wheel.
Coming into the final significant climb (where the road narrows), Robin and a rider from ABRT ended up on the front. Robin drove the pace hard up the hill and I managed to stay on her wheel, although it took an effort because she’s STRONG! Neither of us was sure how far up the finish line was, so we didn’t know when to go. We tried to keep our heads up and respond to the movements of the pack. We made the final turn. At some point, the pace got harder and Robin’s legs were done. My legs felt pretty done, too, but I tried to stay near the front and jump on the tail of someone else’s leadout. ABRT jumped and I tried to follow, but I was sinking rapidly through the pack. Legs had too much in the breakaway, I guess, and I sat up, figuring it might be good enough for a top 10.
But as we came across the line, I noticed that there were no officials. And no camera. And no spectators. Then I remembered that one of the race e-mails mentioned that the finish line would be up the road near the school, and I realized that everyone had sprinted to the wrong line! One of the motos pulled up alongside us and told us that we’d gone too soon; the line was still ahead. I accelerated, and yelled that the finish line was still ahead. No one else had enough time to respond, though, and I already had the winning gap. I came across the line, fist raised in victory.
And then things got less fun. Naturally, the women who had sprinted to the wrong line were angry. We were all summoned to talk with the officials. Robin and I rolled up as they were listing out the people who should have (in their opinion) won. Robin and I mostly stayed quiet and listened, keeping in mind the first rule of Veloworks-Spokes Etc. The crux of the argument was that the women’s field hadn’t been told that there would be two lines and two tents, but some neutral observers had reported that that fact was included in the pre-race briefing. The head judge took me aside and asked me if I had known that the finish line was still farther ahead. I was upfront about the fact that no, I hadn’t known exactly where the finish line was and I had sprinted along with everyone else for the first line. But I also said that I had figured out what was going on and acted upon it. “I think everyone should race heads up,” I said, and left it at that.
The officials decided to take the results from the actual finish line, rather than the line that everyone sprinted to. The third place woman declined to stand on the podium; she would have won if the decision had gone the other way.
So I won, and I think I deserved the win. I don’t think it would be reasonable to say, “Well, none of us knew where the finish line was, so we’ve all decided that there should be a different finish line for our race than for everyone else’s races.” And I think Robin and I (and Beth, who was also around) represented VWS well in a difficult situation. There were women from other teams who came up to me and told me to be proud. But it still wasn’t a very enjoyable win.
We all at VeloWorks/Spokes, Etc. take our oath very seriously. “Don’t be a jerk.” Robin and Jamie represented VWS with grace, honesty and class amid the swirling controversy, regardless of where the officials chose to place them. Chapeau, ladies!