Racing All Sorts by Kim Ely
I joined Live Love Velo without a lot of racing experience, so my first year was always going to be about trying out new things. My goal is to experiment, find out more about my strengths and weaknesses when it comes to riding bikes, get some race experience, and, of course, have fun. And so far, things have been going pretty well when it comes to variety. Having mostly mountain biked for the last couple of years, I added a road bike to my collection late last year and was ready to test out those skinny tires.
The first race of 2013 for me was the Grant’s Tomb Criterium. This is quite a large event held annually in March on a street circuit on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The race organizers offered a women’s beginner category, with a clinic before the race to explain the basics of riding in a bunch and handling tight turns at pace. Diane, Christina, Silvana and I then lined up for the start. The five lap race was over all too soon. The course was fast and fun, with an uphill drag to the finish line to get the legs burning. Good fun.
In April mountain biking was back on the agenda and I headed to Connecticut for the Winding Trails cross country race. For Category 2 racers this was three laps around a 5 mile course. The single track was fairly tight and twisty, and hopping over a bunch of logs kept things interesting. The wider parts of the course, on cross country ski trails, were fast-paced and allowed space for overtaking manoeuvres. MTB racing is so much more a solo effort compared to racing on the road. And with different categories starting at intervals a few minutes apart, it can be difficult to know who you are racing against, and where you are placed.
The week after I was back on the road, for the 64.5 mile Quabbin road race in Massachusetts. This was always going to be a test, as I had very few rides of that length under my belt. This race saw the biggest turnout of LLV riders to date, with Robin, Ellen, Jenn, Amy, Kyra, Tori, Diane and myself. After a neutral start down the hill, the pace gradually increased as we went over some rolling hills. Riders were starting to fall off the pace by 10 miles in. I tried to hang with the lead group but found it hard to react whenever the pace kicked. So I got dropped, somehow caught back on, and then as the leaders surged around mile 40, got dropped again. This was my first lesson in how much three and a half hours on a road bike can hurt, even when on such a nice course.
I obviously didn’t take in that lesson completely, because in May I found myself lining up next to Lisa on the start for the Wildcat 100, for 66 miles, but this time on the mountain bike. This race was going to be through some very picturesque, and hilly, terrain around New Paltz, NY. There had been heavy rain the night before, and it rained on and off throughout the day. So there was plenty of mud on the course, and a lot of it just not rideable for me. A mix of some tricky single track, carriage road, farm tracks, rail trail, a bit of highway to connect things together and around 6000 ft of climbing, this course certainly kept things interesting (for just over 7 hours!).
The end of May saw the first of the Kreb Friday nights circuit race series. It’s a fantastic opportunity to have a low key, regular race close to home to ride as a team and work on our skills. Then in June I was back on the mountain bike for the Stewart Super Six Pack, a 6 hour mountain bike endurance race. The aim of these races is to do as many laps of the course within the time limit, and then you can complete any lap that you start before the 6 hours is up. Lisa and I raced solo, and Tori and Kyra, Ellen and Robin, and Missy and Scott entered the teams event. Another long day in the saddle; I managed to complete 5 laps within the time limit, so set out for a slow 6th lap, finishing in a little over 7 hours. Five days later I was on my road bike for my shortest race of the season; again at the Kreb series, a 1.7 mile time trial. Quite a contrast, with less than 5 minutes of quite intense effort required.
Looking ahead, there are still more things to try. The Kreb series includes a longer individual time trial, and a team time trial, both of which will be new experiences for me. I’d like to do some more road racing, and then have the Vermont 50 mountain bike race in my sights for late September. Then the cyclocross season will be in full swing, which will combine some mountain bike handling skills, with the intensity of a short road race. I can’t wait to give this a go.