Did I jinx myself by bad mouthing la bambola (my custom painted bike)? I learnt a big lesson on Sunday racing in Collie - that is, it's not about the bike. Eight girls lined up to start in the Open Women's division of the Tom Lowry memorial. We were riding 3 laps of a 21km course. Last year, this was Clare's first race and thinking about the upgrade we have had to our training I am even more impressed with how she went last year. I remembered 2 hills from riding the course last year and I wasn't expecting any killers. Before the race there was a bit of an uproar as to whether or not the women would be racing with the men in C division. Personally, I was not that interested in racing with the men. Sure, it would mean we could be towed around but the guys can push much harder on the attacks. My thoughts were that it would super exaggerate the differences in strength between the women. Therefore, I felt I had a much better chance without the men around. I was happy when the Commissaire announced that we would have a Women's race. The problem with a women's race is that the field is quite small. So in a bunch of 8, even if the field is split 50/50 - sprinters/non-sprinters - that only leaves 4 people to work hard to drop those along for the ride.
I think Clare and I went into the race with similar thoughts - let's not repeat the Peter Clarke experience that left us twiddling our thumbs and sunburnt from crawling around for 60km. Clare led the bunch out but without ripping everyone's legs off. I don't remember the exact technicalities of it all but I rolled through, and maybe 1 or 2 others but nobody else wanted to bite. There was even laughter at the back of the bunch. A newcomer to the bunch, Wanda got herself a 50m gap simply because 2nd wheel wasn't interested in that pace. I heard Nadine say that she was continuing to gain on us and she started to chase. At the same time B grade were coming up behind us, passed us and slowed down. We ended up getting caught up in them, Sarah Fraser decided to show them up for being so slow and overtook them. Gutsy, but not a move I would make. This move split the bunch into 5/3 but it also meant we were caught up in B grade and the leading women's group were towed for half a lap.
Clare had dropped at this point and I had no idea whether it was a mechanical or her back injury. For me, this meant that I wasn't interested in keeping the pace high as I would have been very happy for her to get back on. I think Sarah knew this as she didn't bother yelling "roll through" or "you can last longer than 30s" at me. Sarah and Nadine did a lot of work to keep the pace high and used our attempts at slowing the bunch down when we rolled through to rest and then attack. I assumed this would happen and it left me very nervous on the front of the bunch. I think it can be quite frustrating when nobody wants to push as hard as you and I heard it being described as "like towing a bunch of fat chicks around" somewhere in the 2nd lap. Surprisingly I was feeling alright and all i had to do was hang on to the plot (remember this). I don't think Sarah or Nadine wanted it to end in a bunch sprint. Nadine put in a bit of an attack shortly into the third lap - whilst i was trying to get my carbo shot out of my pocket - and I waited to see what the other girls were doing and decided to bridge across and work with Nadine. With only 5 in the bunch I thought I would be doing practically the same amount of work either side and my odds are much better in the attack. I rolled through - but Nadine didn't seem to be interested and almost attacked again or rolled through to the side making it harder for me to get her wheel. Whatever - it meant I wasn't going to roll through again. The bunch soon caught us and I was ready for Sarah's counterattack. I went with it and again rolled through quickly so she knew I would work with her to stay away. I must have had a cadence of 120rpm because Sarah told me to get in the big chain ring. Wow, it helped a lot and my breathing (wheezing) slowed down. Unfortunately the undulations were really getting to me and I couldn't hang on any longer. The bunch weren't far back and with some encouragement from the girls I got back on. From the laughter and the chats I figured Nadine and Sarah were working together. This didn't seem to be the case in practice as Nadine dragged the rest of us back to Sarah. Coming back into town Nadine had one more go which I went with but it didn't last long. After her attack was caught there was the usual mucking around to rest up for the sprint. Ah the sprint! I had been waiting for this. Prior to the race I had ridden the finish, picked my point to start the sprint but not fully visualised the finish. I was on the front coming back into town. What seemed like ages after someone yelled 500m to go we crossed the railway line and started the little climb before the finish line. This was not where I was meant to go. But it was where I thought someone might go. So it was where I went (plot lost). Doh! Way too early. I knew this about halfway to the line. I heard them gaining on me. I stood up to go again and almost crashed in the process. I ended up third. Stung on the line. No trophies this week. But I passed.