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.
tucked in behind Candice Blickem.
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
You can read more about Laura's adventures at her own website!