By Joy McCulloch (KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo)
The Torrence Criterium is tough! The wind whips around the 6-turn course and makes the final sprint one that torpedoes straight into the block-headwind. Another factor that makes this event so challenging is the smaller field size. With literally nowhere to hide, the racers are on the pedals for the duration of the race, making a breakaway inevitable in our field.
As we lined up, I was excited to see several strong solo competitors from Jet Cycling and Professional teams BMW Happy Tooth and Tibco, as well as a talented assortment of LaGrange, SBW and other local athletes. I knew the race would be aggressive from the start, so I chose to hang back ever so slightly and take notes on who was going to animate the race and try and make things exciting.
Within the first 15 minutes, the field had broken into two pieces, and I had placed myself in the front group of 6 that would ultimately take it to the line for a sprint finish. Having won on this course in 2013 and finishing 3rd in 2014, I had a list of mental notes on what to do. And more importantly, what NOT to do. As the break was nearing the finishing laps, riders began attacking. I knew that if a strong rider or two got a gap going into the long tailwind section on the backside, they could easily gain enough traction to stay away to the finish. I did not want that to happen, so I committed to either being on the wheel of the attack or pulling the move back and waiting for the next attack.
The breakaway was comprised of very strong riders and I knew that some of them were crafty enough to launch an attack in the last lap in an attempt to get away solo into the headwind finish.
Luckily for me, the attack went at the start finish and I was able to jump on Michelle from BMW/Happy Tooth through the quick left hander before she got too far. As the pace picked up, I wanted to be 3rd wheel and 2nd position would be even better. I knew I would need to be patient coming into the last two turns and that holding my spot was imperative to solidifying the win.
With 2 turns to go, we whipped through the wind from the tailwind section directly into the wind in the short section before the final turn. I hunkered down as much as I could, knowing we were about to turn right on the long finishing straight. As we made the turn, the wind came even stronger across my left shoulder and I knew that the path to victory was up the right gutter, slightly buffered from severity of the wind.
My coach and team director Paul Abrahams was on the final turn and I heard him yelling, so I just went for it! That was one LONG sprint! But he didn’t actually say “GO”. Things do get lost in translation, especially with howling wind. Initiating the move was better than waiting and being on the defensive, so it all worked out. Thankfully, I was able to get a gap on the breakaway with my initial jump and hold it to the finish line with a bike throw.
I am always thankful for a chance to race my bike, to practice tactics and have the opportunity to be mindful about how I race my bicycle. Thank you to the Peninsula Cycling Club for putting on the Torrence Criterium, and especially thank you for offering junior women’s races, a women’s 3/4 event as well as the women’s 1/2/3. And thank you for the solid prize purse as well!
Thank you to our sponsors: KHS Bicycles, Maxxis Tires, JLVelo, Serfas, Shimano, Velo Saddles, Praxis Works, Xpedo Pedals, Kali Protectives, NDXSports, Bike Religion, Bicycle Blue Book, WD-40 BIKE, Chamois Butt’r, Cycling Illustrated, Rennie & Associates, Kramp Krushers, Ultra Cycle, and Q2.
Follow the team on social media –