Army Criterium Race Report
It was a beautiful day for racing in West Point at Day 2 of Army’s Race Weekend. Everyone was shaking off the rust from their legs from the previous climb-intensive ITT and Road Race, getting ready for the final race of the weekend, the Army Criterium: my first A Crit. The course was generally flat and fast, with a strong wind off the Hudson River, trains passing by, a short hill to the finish, and a total view for spectators. Thoughts of the discussed team tactics filled my mind: be near the front, attack after primes, counter attack, start the sprint 200 m out, grab the attacking wheel, block.
Before I knew it, we were already past the first prime, and boy was this field fast! I was nowhere near contention and spent the rest of the following lap reclaiming my spot near the front of the field. When we passed the finish line again, I decided to attack. I dug in and sprinted hard up the hill and down the backstretch. Along the water, I noticed one rider had bridged to me. I tried to work with her but soon realized she was only trying to slow me down and bring me back to the pack. If I were wise, I probably would have let her do so. Instead, proud that I has seen through her tactics, I worked to drop her and soon had a bit of a gap on the field and passed the finish line again.
Then I paused and realized I hadn’t played this exactly right, because here I was, off the front with little hope of sustaining it for the 15-20 laps remaining. Oh well, maybe there would be a prime lap soon and I could use my lead to pick up some points for the team. With luck, the next lap was a prime! I picked up the pace, but felt my strength waning. The peloton caught me just before the finish line and ate up all the prime points. Disappointed, I sat up and tried to catch my breath, only to fall behind the pack, off the back. Shoot!
I spent the next three laps trying to work with 2-3 other riders who were off the back but alas, we were unable to bridge the gap to the pack. Finally, when I realized the pack was more than half way along the course to us, I recalled the words of the announcer right before the start of the race, “For you newer B-riders, if you get lapped by the field in this criterium, and you don’t get pulled, you can rejoin and work with the pack again”. If you can’t beat them, join them. I sat up, slowed down, and paid close attention to the gaining field behind me. Katie was in a break with Hayley! Maybe I could help! I waited for them and then attempted to lead them out. It took them a few minutes to realize that they could work with me and then I gave them approximately two good pulls before they took off and I dropped back toward the pack. I gave a feeble attempt at blocking at the front of the pack, but was soon passed up the hill by the field.
Exhausted, satisfied, and with two laps to go, I sat up and drifted back. When I passed the finish line the next time, the official whistled me off the pack and I was pulled from the race. I brought my bike over to our “camp site” near the finish line and collapsed into a fit of laughter as I watched my teammates sprint to the finish, Katie in a lead group of four, and Shaena to win a field sprint for fifth. Great stuff!
Lessons learned: If you attack to try to draw out the field and tire out the leaders, make sure people are chasing you. If they just let you go, knowing that you’ll tire out and fall off, return to the pack to fight another day, or try to make a more successful attack later.
I have two new goals: One, take these lessons to heart and attack more strategically next time. Two, be strong enough next year I won’t be dismissed as someone who can’t hold a break.
Comment by Katie Quinn
Great report about a really fun race! But Kate isn’t giving herself the credit due! So I’ll make a couple of clarifications:
– The reason the pack didn’t immediately jump on Kate’s attack to shut it down was that it was good! I was around 2nd wheel approaching the finish rise when suddenly Kate came flying past with such high relative speed that no one wanted to make the jump required to get on it!
– The chase kept the pace up and made the prime lap hard, which helped me get of the front!! Maybe the pack wasn’t urgently pursuing her, but several girls took solid turns to keep Kate within reach. Having Kate off the front before the prime made that lap extra fast because people wanted to catch her and take the points. Because the race got hard, it was after the next prime that I was able to get away 🙂
– Kate’s pulls with Hayley and I were super strong and absolutely helped us stay away! We caught up to her while we were both pretty tired from the initial effort to get away. Her pulls gave us extra recovery between turns and some serious horsepower at the crucial time where it seemed the pack was either going to catch us or resign to let us go free 🙂
In short, THANKS KATE! Really nice performance in your first crit as an A racer!!