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Kate Wymbs’ Army Circuit Race Win

One of the only redeeming part of Army’s weekend last year amidst the hill-climb ITT and the hilly-though scenic road race, was the Stadium Crit – a venue where spectators could view all the action and where I had a blast, despite finishing dead last (check out the recap here). This year, due to an event in the stadium, that crit was to be replaced with a circuit race. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go –academically I was in between two hell-weeks, an awful lot of hills haunted the weekend, and as week 5 of 8, I thought it would be a good weekend to skip so I wouldn’t get burnt out on bikes. The road captains saw my hesitation and encouraged me to take the time off if I thought I needed it.  As fate would have it, however my best friend Becca Greene, who I had been encouraging to come out and race all season decided that Army would be her first weekend. I had no choice, friendship prevailed and I signed up for the weekend.

Boy am I glad I did!

(It turns out I also had an unwarranted prejudice against circuit races – this one was essentially a crit, with crit scoring and only one stretch of road with the yellow-line rule, earning its title as a circuit race. I also had to realize that since I wasn’t contesting green, the race was really more of a scratch race with primes for chamois butter than a points race.)

Alright, enough preamble, time for the actual race report:

Just before the race, Coach Nicole gathered Corey, Jen, Shaena and me in the Barge for a race strategy meeting. We had a critical mass of women in this race that we had a very real opportunity to employ some good team tactics. After debating strengths and different potential strategies, we finally decided on one, knowing that if it failed we would have to be flexible. The goal was to wait for the third prime. I would go for it, ideally get it with Shaena on my wheel and then she would attack and then hopefully get a break if she was alone or Michelle or Leslie went with her.  Then I would get to block and she would duke it out for the finish. If her break failed then Jen and Corey would try to be there and trade attacks. Once Shaena and I recovered, we would join in trading attacks until someone got away. It was a good plan and it let me practice patients since I have this tendency to jump at things early and waste a bunch of energy trying to be involved in controlling the early parts of the race.

The first half of the race went pretty much as planned. Shaena went for a prime or two, securing her green jersey and I tried to rest as other riders attacked and were brought back by a responsive pack. Aside from kicking a hay bale onto the course on turn one of one of the laps, fish-tailing and staying up, the first half of the race was rather uneventful for me.

The laps went by and suddenly the bell rang for the third prime. I tried to play it cool and worked my way up to the front of the back by the backstretch of highway road. At turn 3, I was in the front with Shaena close by, and at 200m to go, I attacked with Shaena on my wheel. Immediately after I got the prime, Shaena went. Unfortunately, Rose was the one who went with her and then refused to work, sitting up and letting the pack catch. Shaena’s attack was so sudden that Jen and Corey were not in position to trade counter attacks as planned. I was gassed from the sprint so it took me a minute to recover. When I got up to the front again, I attacked and Shaena traded a counter attack trying to split the field. The field, however, was very responsive. Other riders also launched attacks after that but the pack always chased and caught.

Well so much for that strategy. With two or three laps to go, I got to the front to see if Shaena wanted to try to get away one last time and if I could help by giving her an attack to counter. She did not and indicated that we should just try to rest for the bunch sprint instead.

And so we decided to wait for the end, where the last 10 seconds define an hour of tactical racing. As other riders went for the double-points final prime, I chilled in the pack. One lap to go. I took the last lap to position myself to the left of Shaena’s wheel. At 400m Shaena went and Gabby from Army and I were on her wheel (I was to left, she to the right.) With about 175m, I went and didn’t look back.

The finish line came and I did a bike throw out of habit. I didn’t know who was around me or how the field was responding. It was only after that I realized that Rose and this Kutztown trackie had finished with the same time as me but a bike length behind!! What a good lead out! My first Women’s A mass start win!  A rider came up to us after the race and expressed how thrilling it was to actually get to see people utilizing team tactics well.

And so, despite getting dropped on the hill in the following day’s road race, I am so so thankful that friendship persuaded me to race this weekend! (It didn’t even matter that that particular friend got in quite late the night before and actually missed my win, sleeping in the car.) I got to prove to myself that I could be patient and that I could be competitive in a sprint against this field. As Coach Nicole reminded me after the race: it’s one thing to say or think that you could do well in a sprint given the right circumstances and another thing to prove it. 

Kate Wymbs’ Race Report from Philly

Kate looking focused and determined in the Women's A/B Crit
Kate looking focused and determined in the Women’s A/B Crit

“This race will be good for you!” a phrase I had heard a few time recently but had yet to really believe. It was the Temple Crit, the first non-hill-repeat criterium of the season. Relatively flat, fast, four cornered, and a tad more frigid than the balmy 60*C road race of the previous day.  According to my teammates, corner 4 was to be decisive: if you could brave the strong wind between corners 3 and 4 and get around the corner clean you would be well set up for a sprint prime.

 With that in mind, I took my place at the start and as the gun went off, wormed my way near the front of the group. It stayed rather calm for the first few laps until the first prime bell rang. Everyone tensed up and began watching each other. I saw the fastest riders start to move around for position. Cecilia from Columbia was positioned third on the slight downhill between corners 1 and 2, directly behind Shaena. I quickly moved to her left forcing her to take a tempered inside line on the corner if she didn’t want to be boxed in. She saw what was happening and jumped after the turn. I jumped to follow with   Shaena on my wheel. Coming around turn 3, Shaena came around me and went in pursuit of Cecilia just as Lenore from Columbia also came around. I sprinted around turn 4 and was able to hold on to fourth position for double prime points.
Cooked, I drifted to the back of the pack and took a lap to recover, during which time Cecilia, Shaena and Lenore took off (as they seem to have a tendency to do this season). After another lap I worked my way up to second position. I asked around what had happened on the front with the break and once I learned who had gotten away, I settled in for a one of my favorite games: Blocking! (Who says you can only play games on the Track?)
“We can catch them if we work together!”shouts one of the other girls in the pack. Ha! Good luck with that. A deviant in their midst, I proceeded to sabotage their plans. The lead rider tried to pul off, I kept her wheel. Another rider came around to pull I jumped on her wheel. Anyone decided to attack, I jumped and hopped to second wheel. About a quarter into the race I also remembered that I knew how to corner and, constantly in second position, was able to swing wide and hit the apex every time without wasted effort.
When prime laps came, I jumped right after turn 4 and won the sprint, getting fourth overall each time. I swear, if anyone had attacked me right after the primes, I would have been in trouble. As it was, it seemed like the pack was happier to see me on the front immediately after the sprint for a change and let me pull until the downhill when I quickly forfeited first position and reclaimed second wheel.
Finally it came down to the last lap. Between turn 2 and 3 a hoard of B riders attacked. I followed but many of them braked the through the corners causing me to take an awkward position for the final sprint. I ended up somewhere in the middle of the bunch and it wasn’t until after that I realized I had actually gotten 6th overall in the A field!! In the whole bunch of well-rested B’s only two A’s who hadn’t been in Shaena’s break had beaten me! I also learned later that Shaena had fallen off the front two and was working very hard to keep her separation from the pack and secure her spot on third.
Effective blocking, 6th overall, and 6 prime points total, I’d say this was a pretty good race for me!!

PNP: Teamwork and a Lesson in Attacking (by Kate Wymbs)

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.

Kate Wymbs joins the breakaway
Kate Wymbs joins the breakaway

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!!

Kate Wymbs: Stevens Women’s C Circuit Race

The Stevens Circuit Race was my fourth mass start road race of my season and of my career but by far the longest: 25 miles in New Jersey’s Watchung Reservation in the form of four 6.2 mile laps featuring climbs, rolling hills and twisty descents. As someone who fancies herself more of a sprinter, I was a little more than anxious. Now for the race details: With no chance to pre-ride the course, the riders used the first lap to feel out the course. We learned the sketchy feeling of descending in a pack (the erratic lines, bustling, over-breaking and surprise pot-holes), where the big climbs were, and where the subtle but deadly shallow climbs that crept up when you least expected it.

Toward the end of the first lap, I decided to attack, to shake up the field a bit and see if I could get on a break with a few other riders. It failed—no one else wanted to pull and the pack caught us. The second lap, the Penn State girl started to break away from the pack after the major climb, the pack noticed this but was reluctant to chase her down. “She’ll fall back,” they were saying. But after another mile she appeared to be gaining ground and I decided to close the gap. I attacked and after another mile or two I managed to catch her. Looking behind me I saw the pack approaching up the final hill in close pursuit behind us and felt a wave of disappointment, and sat up. I looked forward again and to my further frustration, saw the Penn State girl spin out of reach reclaiming her lead and never to be seen again. I faded back into the pack and took the third lap to recover. On the final lap, I made the conscious decision that I wasn’t going to use my brakes at all descending the twisty hills. Instead, by pedaling through and counter-steering, I would use my Montezuma skills from Training Camp to get a break on the pack. It worked. With two miles to go, I had a substantial lead on the pack with one BU rider chasing. She caught me, and we traded off pulls until we came to the last descents, which I lead and later realized meant I was leading her out to the finish line sprint. Whoops. She took advantage of this and exhausted but pleased, I coasted into third place.

Kate in a break with Anne Raymond from BU
Kate in a break with Anne Raymond from BU

After sitting in at second wheel the entirety of the Columbia Criterium the day before and sprinting to first place on top of earning 11 points in the sprint premiums and making third place in this circuit race, I totaled 61 points for the team omnium and decided it was time to upgrade. Women’s B, here I come!