1. Practice makes Improvement: If you want to get good at something, you need practice. What better way to get extra competent at crit racing, than racing 10 days in a row with a couple Pro Road Tour races?!
Everyday our squad sat down on a curb, in the grass, or in the car and discussed what we felt we did well and what we will do differently the next day. As my friend Mattie used to say, ‘if you don’t debrief it basically never happened’.
With over 10 years of experience racing (since she was 11 years old) she knew her way around a crit course in a tight pack. As a paid professional bike racer in the United Kingdom for Matrix Pro Cycling, she treated this week just like any week on the job. She kept us honest to our prep and recovery every day, legs up, naps, stretching, foam rolling, eating, drinking, more napping, all the fun stage race things that good athletes do.
Sidenote: She was a big fan of the large television in our host house that swiveled. Swiveling.
3. 24-hour flu. I exclaimed to my body ‘Whyyyyyyyyyy’!! The night before day 8 when I was up all night with moderate to severe nausea. The nausea subsided in the morning to which it took me 25 minutes to naw on a bagel. And then by 10am I started to have body aches to which again I exclaimed to my body ‘Whyyyyyyyyyy’. I slept until 3pm got ready for the race and ended up racing at 6pm that night. I hung on for dear life with the surges and made up 3-5 spots every corner before another surge in the pack.
Lucky me this was a fairly technical course I could get away with cornering well. By the next day I felt much better and scarfed down 6 large pancakes.
4. Working as a team. Harriet as our sprinter me as her sweeper. It was incredibly fun to be a useful and influential teammate for her to sprint for several top 5 places throughout the week. I brought her up to the front in the last 5-10 laps and swept her wheel sprinting for the finish. Yay teamwork!
5. My fate is not always in my own hands. Crits are about making your own luck, but there is also a fine line between making all the right decisions and sh*t happening. On day 9 the Downer Classic (also a Pro Road Tour day) I got stuck behind a crash with 2 laps to go. There were 2 choices: ride over another rider (which I did) or take several riders out in an attempt to swerve around the crash. I bent my derailleur hanger and had to pull out of the race.
On Wauwatosa Day 10 (Also a Pro Road Tour day) I was right on Harriet’s wheel both in an optimal position for the finish with 2 laps to go. We were set up well to win the field sprint when there was a bad crash with riders unable to move off of the course. The promoters neutralized the race and started everyone on the start line again with 5 laps to go (instead of 2) giving the breakaway a 10 second head start. Who knows how the race would have turned out, but our chances were high if not for the crash.
6. Enjoying Milwaukee. Milwaukee opened its arms with a warm welcome, and I mean warm like 95 degrees warm for most of the week. The city was interwoven with rivers, bridges, and parks all across the lake-side. We had a bit of time to try the local food and coffee, take a sprinted dip in Lake Michigan, and meet dozens of friendly Milwaukeean spectators. What a great city.
7. Tad, the TOAD Team Instructor. Tad Hamilton (former team director for Exergy Pro Cycling among other pro and elite teams, and my current mentor) provided daily team talks before each race. Each day we all crammed into a car with the air conditioning blasting as he went through the race plan/goals with us discussing the course, competition, and strategies. Having him there as an external support system and guide was incredibly helpful to having a successful week. Thanks, Tad!