This past Saturday, despite the less than favorable weather report, Kristie James, Phoebe Wang and I participated in the Salisbury Road Race, in Lancaster County, PA. It was both Phoebe’s and my first road race, and Phoebe’s first non-collegiate race – and a great learning experience for both of us.
The women’s field was small – only 8 riders total – and we started (at our request) apart from the men’s fields. The course was an approximately four-and-a-half-mile loop with rolling hills and, that day, a strong headwind as you approached the start/finish line. At the beginning the organizers also warned us of the common hazard of poor road conditions (i.e., potholes) and the less common hazards of horses and buggies, and first-day-of-trout-season traffic. Trout season made itself known on the first lap when, maybe a half mile into the course, we stopped to wait for a pickup truck leaving a trout stream to complete a u-turn in the course.
By the end of the first lap, two of the non-QCW women had fallen off the back of pack, leaving the three QCW women, a women from Peanut-Butter, a women from Bicycle Therapy, and one non-affiliated woman. The three other women were talking and their plan, as the race went on, was to work together and rotate taking pulls, but to let any QCW woman sit out front as long as possible when we took a pull. This ended up with Kristie and me taking several long pulls while Phoebe did a better job of avoiding getting stuck up front.
The six of us stayed together for three of the four laps; however, at the start of the fourth lap I learned my most valuable lesson of the day: it’s a bad idea to slow down going up the steepest hill on the course in an attempt to get off the front; unsurprisingly, this ‘tactic’ caused me to fall off the back. Coming off that hill, Kristie picked up the pace to test the field, but everyone hung on and the pace slowed back down. The five women stuck together for the remainder of the lap, while I slowly narrowed the gap between us. Mid-lap, the main group in the men’s 4/5 race lapped the women’s field without incident. As we approached the final stretch, I was about 100 yards behind the main women’s field, but wasn’t going to catch them before the finish. The five women in the front started the uphill sprint to the finish together and Kristie pulled ahead for the win, while Phoebe hung on for a strong fourth. I soloed up the hill after their finish for sixth.