Pace Ben RR by Kim Jennings of Jubilee Subaru
Pace Bend is a highlight race of the Texas road racing season, and with a field of close to 40 women, it was game on from the gun. The first 2 laps were fast and furious; a few breaks with the major hitters were quickly brought back, but what was really missing at this point were the counter attacks. Amateur women’s cycling is notorious for “negative racing” where most racers just chase anything to bring it back, regardless of what team or who is represented in the break. It can be frustrating for everyone involved, with countless attacks that go uncountered and the watching game that happens for miles. I’ve done quite a few group rides all over Texas, and have seen some phenomenally strong women who average 24 mph with groups of men. These women have learned to ride a wheel, and they carry that philosophy over to racing. Just sit, watch and ride wheels, that’s what it’s about, you don’t have to do anything-just get dragged along!
This isn’t my rant on how we’d like to keep women’s racing positive and moving forward; instead it’s an acknowledgment to those teams and players who made Pace Bend a race instead of a training group ride. Texas has quite a few new strong racers this year, and some fresh attitudes who want to make the races exactly that–A RACE! Our newest teammate Danielle Bradley did just that and helped caused “the moment of truth,” where the break was finally established. Jenny Park (River City Market Racing) attacked on lap 3 and my teammate Michelle Montoya and I blocked while Danielle and Jenny rode off together. They quickly gained a substantial gap and were almost out of sight. A few minutes later, Danielle and Jenny split and I jumped to bridge and help, with Mandy Heintz (Shama Cycles) joining in the fun. No sooner did we round the corner up THE HILL to the feed zone, than Lauren Stephens (FCS|Zngine p/b Mr. Restore) threw in a gut punch and the entire pack came flying by us charging up the hill.
That was the moment that Christina Gokey-Smith (ROUSE/OOGIE Racing), Lauren Stephens, Ginny The King (King Racing Group) and the Danish Junior World Champion Julie Leth (Ghisallo Foundation) established the winning break. Jenny Park was able to join them, but came back to the pack after a lap. Shortly after Jenny returned, we scooped up Julie and we continued to try and work together to bring the break back. At first their gap was only 35 seconds, but it increased to 1:30, and then 3:00 as the race unfolded. Jubilee Subaru, Shama Cycles, River City Market Racing, and Camilla Schmitz (Think Finance Racing) worked the front to keep the pace high, and quite a few attempts were made to break up the chase group; but, those who were fresh from sitting along for the ride would chase and bring it right back together again. Those few who were working at the front were anxious to leave; so discussions were made between all the teams and each one agreed to send their strongest rider to leave the pack.
With two laps to go Jenny Park hit the right hand turn at the backside stop sign and the exodus happened exactly as discussed. Jennifer Wagner (Shama Cycles), Jenny Park, Camilla Schmitz, and myself (Jubilee Subaru) hit the hill and didn’t look back. With the gap established, the four of us rotated and we were eventually joined by Julie Leth. The rest of all our teammates did their jobs–they blocked, didn’t chase and covered the failed attempts from other riders trying to bring us back.
I felt that this particular break I was in did not waste time playing around. Riders were called out who weren’t pulling through long or hard enough. The gap had been clearly established and we had at least 4 minutes on the main field, but this group of clydesdales were not slowing down for anything. A few words of encouragement between the ladies and it was obvious that we all were ready for the inevitable…the 1K mark. I like rolling the dice, and attacking at the 1K leading into the final corner with a long downhill straight finish felt right. I knew these women all had big engines and I’d have to do something different to play along. I gave it my all, but the train led by Park passed me about 200 meters out, and I had nothing left to react. It was beautiful to watch. They didn’t bump, didn’t yell, didn’t chop each other’s wheels, they just purely sprinted. Leth won this chase group sprint with Schmitz, Park, Wagner, and myself finishing the top 8 spots.
I waited on the field sprint of what was left of the main field and was happy to see my teammate, Kathleen Hattaway, barreling down the hatch 200 meters ahead of the pack. She easily took 9th, and Shama Cycles’ hardworking teammate, Mandy Heintz, rounded out the top ten spots. I wished I could have witnessed the finishing sprint of our race; it was a close call with Lauren Stephens taking the win and Christina Gokey-Smith sprinting for second. Ginny The King finished up the final podium spot.
Thanks to Riley Gerber, Boneshaker Project, and all the volunteers who made this event go smoothly for both racers and spectators alike. I challenge all our Texas women this season to be brave and take a gamble; you just might surprise yourself.