This is what led me to sign up on a whim for Tour of Bronte. I'd always wanted to but never raced it, and I love the dirt. So I went and this is my story.
2nd place finish
Bronte, April 7, 2013
Tour of Bronte is a great opportunity to gain some early season confidence in techy riding at race pace. Also, because it's a mixed field, as a female rider the race to me means gaining some good experience in racing a larger, active pack. For these reasons I added the Bronte to my training roster, and because I just love to ride in the dirt!
It was a crisp, clear and gusty spring morning. The elite men were finishing up as I arrived and I was able to get a few tips from them on the course. Although I'm an elite competitor too, women are required to enter the intermediate race that is 24km shorter and acts as a catch-all for any male who is not elite. A women's bonus is awarded to the top three female finishers.
I'd love to pack this report full of race action, but for me most of the excitement happened before I even arrived at the start line. The lesson that I took away from this day was: For a number of reasons, it's generally a bad idea to carry large items while riding your bike.
Forty-five minutes before start I was carrying spare wheels to the start/finish while riding and my shifter was knocked, sending derailleur into spokes, jamming the wheel and bending the hanger. A quick change of plans led me to I skip dropping off the race wheels to find someone to help fix bike. Enter, Alex Sanna and SRS who had the tool for the fix and kept cool confidence that would transfer to me and help to continue on to a successful race. The result of the incident was that I nearly didn't race at all and my warm up was shortened to 15min. How disappointing that would have been not being able to race! Lesson learned.
After a short warm up I edged in about 5 riders back from the start on the left and stayed well placed until someone slip out on the second corner two riders ahead. I felt that it was going to happen and was able to avoid it but was waylaid. In hindsight, the smarter startline placing would have been on right side of pack that would have placed me on the inside of the first couple of corners. Another reason to avoid pre-race stresses, my brain was pre-occupied after the mechanical.
The pack began to string out and a break began through the rough, twisty unpaved section. I felt my lack of warm up as I watched riders bolt past and was unable to grab wheels with burning legs and no jump. A chase group assembled. I scouted out the strongest riders and attempted to bridge a few times with no success. By the time my legs finally felt great the pack had reverted to club mode and each attempt to bridge was chased down by a few, with half the pack sitting in.. saving it for our little pack sprint?
Not knowing where I fell into the woman's field but assuming the best, I kept working with the front 4-5 circulating through best I could and kept an eye on any female racers. New goals became: Finish in the best position possible; push to get my best training ride ever; work on tech skills and gain confidence in pack riding. Lastly, avoid crashes in the lead up to finish.
I kept an eye on the female ratio as we passed a few who dropped off the lead pack and Annie F-M came up from behind to join for the last few laps. Feeling that I had put out a good effort, I eased a bit in the last lap to have enough to stay safe at the front for the final stretch... and to be first women to finish of course! From what I'd taken in during the event there had been some carnage and riders dnf'd, so I was feeling optimistic about my placing.
Along the paved stretch before the finish I stayed 2-3 wheels from front as we circulated through and the pace picked up as there were small attacks leading to the finish. As the pace increased I grabbed faster wheels when they came by. Just as the pack sprint really started, a strong attack of two bolted from the back shortly followed by a crash as riders on my right collided on half pavement/half grass. I safely rode out and sprinted when I saw the finish and a clear line through the fallout from the lead pack.
Best post race treat ever was supplied by Alex Sanna, and enjoyed with the company of race organizers, Jon Safka photog, and the day's top women as we all huddled to keep warm waiting for the podium. Thanks as always to Invita Sport and the FCV family. Especially on this day thanks Alex for making my lesson on bike mechanics a little less harsh.