by Suzanne Sonye (Helen’s)
This race is always a great season opener because it’s a fun course with a tough finish. We had a great field with thirty-eight women. Helen’s had six riders; there were our three sprinters Shelby Reynolds, Priscilla Calderon, and me; and a full SC Velo Team with fast girls Holly Breck, Trina Jacobson, Jenny Rios, and Bea Rodriguez. Former-pro Pam Schuster was in the field, along with local pro Janel Holcomb (Optum) and fast youngster Jennifer Valente (Exergy 2016). LaGrange showed up with standout rider Julie Cutts. With so many local fast girls in attendance, it was sure to be a fast race.
I was nervous before the race as usual. You would think after all these years I would get over it. NOPE. The race started fairly fast with attacks going up the road. SC Velo did the majority of attacking. Joy McCulloch countered some moves, too. When Janel Holcomb decided to counter it was legitimate pain for all of us. There were a couple of moments when I wanted to yell, “I give!”
Our plan for the day was to set up Shelby Reynolds for the field sprint, so we would not be doing the attacking and we would mostly try to keep it together. Becky Siegel attacked towards the end of the race and we put our girls on the front to close it down. We weren’t worried and then, BOOM, with two laps to go Lea Adams attacked and Julie Cutts went with her. I followed, thinking Lea was just starting the lead out, but she was going pretty hard. Then Julie took over and started driving it, which was smart on her part since her team did not have sprinters there and Lea and I had plenty of sprinters if the move failed.
I looked back with one lap to go and we had a pretty good gap. I was surprised that the field would let that go with me in it. I wasn’t going to work since the day was for Shelby. I pulled out from second in line and and went back to third wheel, thinking Lea would likely attack somewhere on the back side of the course.
To my surprise, either Julie was drilling it too hard or I was being taken off the back because a sizable gap opened between Lea and Julie. I let Julie go far enough to where I knew I could get across alone, jumped hard to the far right and over so Lea could not get on my wheel, and made contact with Julie, who had her head down as she rode on the river. She was drilling it! I looked back and we were clear of Lea but then I thought, “oh no! SC Velo will chase when they see this!” as the pack was only five seconds behind. Julie went through the last turn and I felt I had to start my sprint really early because of the charging field. I just kept thinking the entire field would pass me on the line, but they didn’t! Julie and Lea held onto a well-deserved 2nd and 3rd while Jen Valente won the field sprint, followed by Shelby Reynolds and Janel Holcomb.
Thank you to my teammates who are always awesome and totally get me. A big thank you to all the women for showing up and racing their bikes. We have lost some bike races this year to low attendance, so making an extra effort to attend this year was the most important!