I came into the Smoketown Airport Crit with some very basic goals: to not let a break get away without making a solid effort to stick with it, and to not get suckered into pulling more than I wanted to. Deep down, I thought that I could win the race if it came down to it – I’d placed third in another Cat 4 only crit a few weeks ago and had finished feeling that I had a lot left in the tank. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself but figured that if I stuck to my goals I would place well.
The race started out fairly slowly and cautiously; I stuck towards the middle or back of the pack for the most part. I was a little concerned about getting gapped off the back coming out of the second turn, which was a fairly sharp full U-turn, so I tried to move towards the front and hold steady at about the fourth or fifth wheel. By sticking to the wheels of the leading riders, I was able to stay at the front as the field whittled down to three riders with about six laps to go – and had yet to take a pull. Great success!
The group at the front consisted of me, another rider who had done a lot of pulling and still looked strong, and an Artemis rider who also looked pretty strong. I told the Artemis rider that if we wanted to maintain our gap on the field, we’d have to alternate pulls. She pulled for half a lap and the effort obviously gassed her, so once she pulled off the other rider and I were able to easily shake her. The two of us alternated pulling for the last five laps and I mentally prepared for the final sprint, remembering the practicing I’d done on all the team rides (thanks Kristie/Eden/Darren!) to gun it at the end. Thankfully, I didn’t actually need to use any of those skills – on the last turn, the other rider hit her pedal on the ground, and the miscue forced her off the track and into the grass. I seized the opportunity and sprinted ahead for the win!
After several second- and third-place finishes, this was my first outright win and it felt great. I am so incredibly thankful to the whole QCW community for encouraging me to enter this race and helping me develop the skills I needed to win it!