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Yesterday was the Steel City Showdown – a fast unique race venue where you have a 4-corner crit over two of the city’s downtown bridges, crossing the Allegheny River.
The women’s Cat 3/4 race was first with 16 women in the field. The pace was surprisingly fast for a Cat 3/4 race, perhaps thanks to Rachel Weaver of NuGo and some others, including myself. We’d take turns pretty regularly at the front keeping it competitive. It was a simple race – only 30 minutes long – and only a few attacks which were closely guarded and pulled back. Getting ready for the finish, we were all together and I knew I could win it. It was going to come down to field sprint. I set myself up 2nd wheel behind Rachel Weaver. Up till then, I thought she would be the woman to watch; smart, strong, and sure looked a lot like Amy Cutler. Well crossing the 1 lap to go mark, she basically sat up. Slowed way down. Obviously didn’t want to pull the final lap. “Crap. What do I do?” I knew the field was going to get anxious and swarm around at any time and I’d lose all positioning. Instead, I thought I could out-do them all and use the technical corners to create enough gap. I took off with only 4 corners left. I took each one hard, creating some space between myself and the chasing field. After each corner, they would catch on just before another one. Going into the final corner, right before the bridge where you have a climb and then a fast descending sprint finish, I knew I’d have nothing left for a sprint in me. I put all the rest of my remaining energy into sprinting up that climb to hold off the inevitable sprint that was going to form behind me. I managed to hold off most the field, but 3 women got just past me before the line.

  • What went well: I rode aggressively and committed to wanting to win it. I got the wheel I wanted.
  • What didn’t go so well: The wheel I wanted was not a good choice. I wasn’t patient enough (though I’d argue that if I waited for someone else to lead, I’d get boxed right in).
  • What I’ve learned: Sit 3-5 wheels back when there’s a wide open straight finish 
carren steel cityThe Cat 1/2/3 was actually kind of boring. Again, we had Rachel Weaver, and now some Cat 1’s and 2’s like Colleen Gulick, Stephanie Swan, and Traci Rodosta. The 1/2/3 field only had 13 women, was 45 minutes long, and there were 3 primes to sprint for before the finish. Even though I was still tired from my first race, it felt slower than the 3/4 race. That changed when the official rang that prime bell every couple laps. Colleen Gulick – an awesome track sprinter – took almost every one. After the prime was over though, it felt like we were on a casual group ride. Chill – prime – Chill – prime – Chill -prime – maintain good speed – Sprint finish.  Going into the final lap, the pace picked way up, and after keeping up with the sprint laps, I felt dead in the legs and couldn’t hold that 4th wheel position all the way through. I finished with 7th place (2nd place for Cat 3’s) which was so so, but at least I felt like I gave it everything I had left. I just need to work on my fitness and try to travel less for work.

Overall, this race was super fun. The organizers put on a superb venue – complete with Champagne Podiums, great sponsors (RedBull, Eat n’ Park, Udderly Smooth lotion, ProGold, and many more), complete announcer narration, and race gates to keep the course completely closed (except for that firetruck that had special permission to get to its distress call)! I’d definitely recommend the long haul if you have someone’s house to stay at near by.

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