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Laura Weislo's Rider Diary
By Staff
Date: 7/21/2003
Laura Weislo's Rider Diary
Noel Wick Memorial Criterium

Noel Wick Memorial Criterium, Fort Story VA

The three day race weekend is one of my favorite races of the year. Fridaynight they hold street sprints in Portsmouth, VA; Saturday is the Fort Storycrit (actually a two mile circuit race); and Sunday is a flat, fast, funcriterium in downtown Norfolk. This year I had to hurry home to a wedding after Saturday's race, so I missed the big money crit on Sunday. After getting roundhoused in the sprints on Friday, I had a pleasant evening at a friend's house before heading back to the races on Saturday.

On this day, I wasn't sure how I was feeling for the race. As I baked in the hot sun on the start line waiting for the officials to get the ball rolling, Ithought I might get dropped on the first lap or maybe win the race - who knows. The field was pretty good as far as local races go - a couple women from the Ford Outfitters team came up from Florida, the usual suspects at the top of the Mid-Atlantic series standings, a pro mountain biker, and Genesis Scuba's Candice Blickem - winner of this year's Athens Twilight crit.

Perhaps it was the fact that I wasn't confident of how I felt, or because the race was such a low-priority race for me that I just didn't care, but I felt completely relaxed at the start and willing to just sit back and let the action unfold in front of me. I just sat behind Candice and let the others do the racing the first couple laps. It's amazing how much you can see from the back seat. You can judge from the strength of the attacks if they'll work or not, you can see which riders are strong and who is struggling. I don't think I have ever been patient enough to sit back in a race like that before - I'm always near the front trying to follow attacks.

On the first lap, the pro mountain biker, Kristy Mantz went up the road with acouple other women. They didn't stay with her, and then she ended up being quite a ways up the road solo. That is until Candice came to the front on the second lap and took a massive pull on the back side of the course. This sparked a frenzied chase and as we came through the start/finish at the end of lap 2 it was gruppo compacto into the headwind section. With the "mountain sprint" coming up, everyone just waited until the "hill" (actually, probably the only thing resembling a hill aside from highway overpasses in a 100 mile radius) to make their move. I sat on Candice's wheel, having to elbow a couple of people who tried to take it from me, and hung on for dear life as she accelerated toward the top of the hill and passed everyone and then kept the pressure on over the crest and down the hill on the other side.

Laura tucked in behind Candice Blickem.

Courtesy of David Allen

I looked back and saw we had a pretty good gap, and so did Candice, so she just put it in overdrive and hammered for the next full lap to establish the break. There was no way I could even come around her to take a pull, I was flat out just to stay on her wheel. As we hit the hill for the fourth time, I told Candice I wouldn't contest anything (like I could!) and we had a truce. I'd pull on the downhill back side and she pulled on the flat windy section.

Sounds like quite a deal for me, right? Hah! No such thing as a free lunch, baby. That downhill was really my only shot at any sort of recovery, and each lap I had to hammer down that hill as hard as I could. After 7 miles of getting the motorpace workout from hell, I came off Candice's wheel on the hill and couldn't get back up to her. She looked back and waited for a second, but then decided to go on without me. That left me with three laps to go it alone. I started saying Hail Marys.

I had a momentary bit of joy when I came past the lap board and it said 2 laps to go - maybe I had miscounted! I passed the category 4 women and tried to keep a steady pace. When I came back by the lap board two miles later, it still said 2 to go! D'OH! The previous reading was intended for those cat 4's. Now I was really worried. I kept looking back and still didn't see the field, but I had four miles to go! My husband saw me and yelled "don't look back! Just go!". Now I was really worried! Why should I not look back???

Yikes! When I hit the hill I heard a rider coming - it was Kristy Mantz and she told me to get on, but as the road turned up there was no chance. I was cooked. I started to get the chills on the descent despite the 95 degree heat. I said more Hail Marys.

To distract myself, I started doing math. Calculating how much of a gap I probably had, how fast the field would have to go given my current speed to catch me... by the time I had given up trying to force higher thought out of my oxygen-starved brain, I was over the hill on the last lap and into the home stretch with no one else in sight. Yay! I stayed away from the field for third place and came across the line feeling like a honey-baked ham. My prayers were answered, I didn't have to try and sprint in that condition.

The best part of these races near Virginia Beach? Yes! The beach. After the races you can take your exhausted, sweaty, hot self to the ocean for a refreshing swim.

You can read more about Laura's adventures at her own website!


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