|- by Laura Weislo|
Ontario, CA, February 23, 2003
Tunnel vision. I think a lot of bike racers have this problem, not in a literal sense (although some ride like they do) but in a sense that we only look ahead to the next rung up on the ladder and don't see how far we've climbed up already. My husband Emory pointed this out to me this weekend, and he's absolutely right. I have a bad case of it. As if to demonstrate this point, the organizers of the Ontario GP started the category 4 women one minute ahead of the 1,2,3 women on this 1.2 mile, 7-turn course. There were about 30 women in each field, and you could see the difference between us from the start. The 1,2,3's were relaxed yet concentrated and confident as we waited our turn. The 4's took off tentatively, looking down at their pedals as they tried to clip
in, and took the first turn slowly and awkwardly. In our field, the women squeezed together on the start line, jockeying for position, and took off from the whistle like greyhounds. The attacks started on the first lap, and the pace was so high that we caught the 4's in two laps. We passed them again halfway through the race. It's not that they were going easy, either.
I remember quite well being a cat 4 (it was only two years ago!) and the races were really hard. I suffered in those races. Back then, if I had been in the field I was in yesterday, I would have been dropped on the first lap. Sometimes it's hard to remember that, it's hard to see the progress you've made because the races never become any less painful, they're just faster. Coach Saul tells me that as you get faster, you don't feel like you are getting faster, you just wonder why everyone else is going so slow...
The race: Hi-Tech lined up with eight women. Red 5 had six. Helen's had four, and for the first time, I had a clandestine "teammate," my friend Jen Scott (Team Bike Doctor) had arrived from Maryland to do a little racing away from the snow and cold and her salt-encrusted fixed gear. I was psyched to have an east coast ally! We didn't really have a plan. We'd just go with the moves, let the teams beat up on each other and see if we could sneak in a late attack. As expected, the attacks came early and often, with the Hi-Tech Bikes and Red 5 women initiating many moves, covering everything, and Helen's racing like they had twice as many women in the race. They seemed to be everywhere.
Both Jen and I ignored the first few moves, but about 10 minutes into the race, a serious looking move went up the road with a Helen's rider, Dotsie Cowden of T-Mobile, and someone from Red 5. Kristin La Sasso (Rona) led the chase, marked by another Red 5 rider while Hi-Tech's Laurie Furman sat on and waited for the break to get reeled in close enough to launch a counter-attack. That's just what happened, and this scenario was repeated for the rest of the race. Not one lap went by that there wasn't someone attacking or up the road. I got into one move that I was sure would work. It had Jen, Dotsie, and a representative from the two big teams, but it just never got moving and I couldn't figure out why nobody wanted to work. Perhaps one of them was a hot-hot sprinter, who knows.
In the end, the bunch was all together, and on the last lap I fought to move up to a decent position behind Jen. I saw her getting ready to jump with about 600m to go and started to follow but made a split decision to soft pedal on the front to give her a good gap, and when we hit the second to last corner, I took it less aggressively than I usually would at the finish of a race. It looked for a moment like Jen might stay away, but the pack swarmed around me, and Jen got caught with 200m to go. I fought to stay with the front half of the group and rolled in 11th.
I left that race feeling fairly pleased, but hungry for more, wanting something better. I proved to myself that I was at least as strong as the rest of the women. I could hang in a hard race and feel like I was a factor, but I doubted my decision at the end, and my motivation for making the choice to "block." Even Jen said I should have gone with her, and if we hadn't gotten away, I would have had a great lead-out. But I find myself thinking like a new cat 3, just happy to be there and finishing with the pack in the last 500 meters. I could tell I wasn't alone. Plenty of women were giving up well before the last turn. For the women who win, the race is just beginning at 500m to go and it's not over until you cross the line. That mentality is the next rung on my ladder...
-until next time.
Laura Weislo’s webpage can be seen here.
1. Jenny Eyerman - Women First/Red 5 Racing
2. Dotsie Cowden - T-Mobile
3. Deborah Durand - Helen's Trek/VW
4. April Henderson - Helen's Trek/VW
5. Rebecca Quinn - Women First/Red 5 Racing
6. Anna Webb - Hi-Tech Bikes
7. Sandra Kolb- John's Serious Cycling
8. Alexandra Tabata - Team Velocity
9. Kristin La Sasso - Rona
10. Colleen Kelly - Women First/Red 5 Racing
11. Laura Weislo - Squadra Coppi
12. Lisa Tonello - Cyclone Racing
13. Colleen Quinn - Minute Maid/Dasani
14. Cheryl Roth - Helen's Trek/VW
15. Tammy House - Hi Tech Bikes
16. Betsy Bloom - Women First/Red 5 Racing
17. Riley McAlpine - Helen's Trek/VW
18. Jennifer Stevens - Women First/Red 5 Racing
19. Laura Perdew - Hi-Tech Bikes
20. Lisa Heffernan - Hi-Tech Bikes
21. Natalia Eugenia - Mexican National Team
22. Michelle Webster - Women First/Red 5 Racing
23. Dena Decker - Labor Power
24. Jennifer Scott - Team Bike Doctor
25. Cindy Morgan - Hi-Tech Bikes
26. Sharon Beckman - Hi-Tech Bikes
27. Laurie Furman - Hi-Tech Bikes
28. Susan Shook - Hi-Tech Bikes