Old Pueblo Grand Prix
by Erica Allar (CARE4CYCLING powered by Solomon)
One of the things that I find most fascinating, most beautiful about the art of racing bikes is that on any given day, in any given race it is not always the strongest, the fastest, or the fittest person who wins. The underdog exists, always. Our team, CARE4CYCLING powered by Solomon Corp, was the underdogs at the Old Pueblo Grand Prix. We were up against a team of four Optum riders, with each Optum girl fully willing and capable of winning the first USA CRITS Series and NCC event of 2013.
We weren’t going home without a fight. Jame Carney, our team owner and director had his parents in town to visit and to watch the race. Their names are Jim and Roselee. Jim and Roselee have another son, Jonas, the director of the men’s Optum pro team. Because of this family tree, there was an automatic (and fun) rivalry between CARE and the Optum girls. Jim saw the Optum girls warming up hard on the trainers and came and told us that the Optum girls were going to attack from the gun.
Jim was right.
Optum threw down attacks on the field with little love behind the gesture. I covered. The field covered. The move came back. One by one, Optum sent a girl off the front. I covered many of Optum’s efforts. At one point, I made it off the front with Lauren Hall. I saw their DS tell her not to pull with me. I stopped pulling and she stopped pulling. We got caught and they launched another one. Though my memory is foggy on the exact order of events, I do believe this was the time Leah got off solo. I was tired. I needed a break. The field also needed a break. And Leah needed a break, too…just not the same kind of break that we all needed. She opened a gap quickly and she was gone.
3 being the number of the night, we only had 3 riders to Optum’s 4. Two of our three riders are full time students, not full time bike racers. Not yet, anyways! About 10 minutes into Leah’s solo maneuver I was told to prepare for a field sprint for 2nd. As a bike racer, you need to have the ability to shift. Shift your bike gears, shift your mentality from winning to doing as well as possible, and shift feelings of defeat into feelings of motivation to get on your bike the next day and train.
Leah stayed away for the rest of the race. I knew Optum would try and set up Lauren for the sprint. The closing laps were hectic and CARE fought the good fight. The pressure was on and I was ready for the challenge. I came out of the last turn in second position. The girl in front of me slowed substantially and I knew I had to get the jump. I was committed and won the bunch sprint for 2nd. I was not unhappy. I won the sprint with conviction. Our team was outnumbered, but we placed as high on the podium as possible. Our team rode well. We placed 2nd, 6th and 17th for the day. We’re currently sitting 2nd in the team competition for the NCC and, though no underdogs won the OPGP and the strongest team ended up with the main prize I know there will be another race. I know we will do better and I know it won’t always be the strongest, fastest or fittest person who will win.