Something truly spectacular happened on Sunday for me. I forgot my shoes. Yeah, that’s right, I brought my mountain bike shoes to the “road show” which created a bit of a gong show. Thankfully, I always travel with an adept crew of my husband Brian and buddy Brady Kiss. One of our mottos, instilled by Brian, is “Adapt and Overcome.” And that’s just what we did. By race time I had Brian’s fancy Bont kicks on my feet and clipped into his pedals on my bike. The race was at CBR, ironically the first date Brian and I ever had was to go race a CBR Long Beach event back in 2010. Yes, that was a date. And my first crit.
I would like to think his shoes catapulted me to my first win in over 2.5 years, and they just might have. It could also be that I decided to use my head and not my quads to win the event. Crits used to give me massive headaches because there is so much to think about! The turns, the tactics, the chess game. This season I have fully immersed myself into being a solid crit racer and more specifically a worker and lead out for my team, Helen’s Racing. Together, we have garnered many podiums and first place finishes which has help to make this my most rewarding season on the road so far. The only thing missing was that elusive first place finish I have thought about so much and tried for!
Brian and I travel to the races together most weekends and we like to bet each other on the results. “Dude, if I win, you have to win.” Or “C’mon! I got 3rd, you have to get better or I won’t clean your bike!” But this is always just smack talk and lets be honest, he always cleans my bike. But I pack his lunch and wash his kits.
On Sunday we didn’t even talk about it. Maybe it’s because I still had half a French Press of coffee to drink before my personality came back after racing a 6hr duo mountain bike event the day before. It could also be because it was the last race of the season and why keep pushing the issue.
Our Team Helen’s hit squad was short staffed for the race, three riders strong. With sprinter Shelby Reynolds and up and comer Emily Georgeson (who had just sprinted for the win in the women’s 3/4 race) we knew we had cards to play. Helen’s is notorious for racing hard from the gun and this day would be no different. The group also had three riders from NOW for MS and lots of motivated solo riders. The solo riders were committed to keeping the group together, as each of us Helen’s riders took our turns attacking and counter attacking. We knew if the right combo got up the road with one of us, a NOW rider, and one of the solo riders it would most likely stick. Our goal was of course to win the race and also to have Shelby Reynolds receive points.
I countered a move that Shelby had initiated and it got traction fast with the above stated perfect combo. Morgan Kapp (NOW) was with me and having followed her on a prime earlier in the race, I knew she wanted to race hard. The other two riders were Hannah Swan (Strive) and Kristobel Doebel-Hickok (Big Orange) and unfortunately for them, they had no teammates in the race. Tactically, I knew that I had two great sprinters behind us and if the break did not roll, we would still be able to solidify the win.
The four of us worked together well in the break, and I started to pay closer attention to the strong cross wind and to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of my breakaway partners. Sure, watt for watt, I could probably beat one or two of them. But instead of riding myself into the ground, I decided to think. Where on the course could I rest, where was the final attack to come from and who was going to throw it down. Brian and I don’t have TV, but we have stacks of bike racing DVDs spanning three era’s. We have spent many an evening watching, rewinding, and replaying famous sprints and attacks and victories. I swear I was in a break once that was super hard and the “Chasing Legends” theme song started to play on blast in my head! This was my chance to channel all of that spatter of information and use it to my advantage and win the race!
Coming into two laps to go, Brian, Brady and my teammate Suzanne Sonye on the sidelines were stressed! I have been in breakaways twice in the last month and the best I have placed is 2nd. Brian told me to attack and trim it down but I was confident in how things would play out. Like clockwork, Morgan attacked where I thought she would. I followed her attack as we shed the other two riders and I stayed tucked on her wheel up the final climb and into the finishing straight away.
Ack! There are people here! They want me to win! I have never won before…I should have attacked earlier…But wait, I GOT THIS! I instantly shut out the mind viruses and safely held her wheel until 200 meters to go where I jumped and sprinted to the line for the win. I don’t sprint often, but that was pretty fun! Shelby won the field sprint for 5th and we were able to add yet another win to the Helen’s tally for the year.
The first thing I said to Suzanne was “I sprinted and I won!” I believed I could do it, yet it was such a surreal experience to actually pull it off! I quickly gave back Brian his lucky, sweaty shoes so he could get ready to race the P1/2 event. I said, “Brian, don’t let the house down, you gotta win.” All the while knowing that duh, on a team with multiple talented athletes, the plan could be quite different.
Brian won. In some cosmic planet alignment, both Brian and I won the elite races out of breakaways on the same day. Wearing the same shoes. We have trained hours together in the heat or spitting rain. We have collectively made extensive sacrifices to both race and work and build a life together. We are each others number one fans (not like the scary lady on Misery though…) On more occasions than not, one of us is filling the support/help/reinforcement role as the other one has had an extremely rough day at the “bike office.” To both have top honors on the day is something we will forever remember. Above the wins, though, was the extreme outpouring of support from so many facets of our lives that was and still is, completely overwhelming.
A big thank you to my rad teammates and sponsors of the Team Helen’s for all the support and for believing in me enough to give me one more shot at that step on the podium. It has truly been an amazing season, shared with an amazing team.