A few weeks before the final NCC crit in Boston, the Colavita espnW Pro Cycling team asked me to guest ride with them for the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup race. A year ago I would have traded a major organ to be riding for Colavita, so naturally I said yes, hell yes, absolutely YES.
So let’s be honest here. Suiting up on race day in the kit of an actual pro team feels kind of awesome. I wanted to be all nonchalant and like, ‘hey everybody, what’s up?’, but inside I was all, ‘OMFG!!’. When it was time for staging, I tried to stand and look dignified and professional, ignoring the part where angry bats were flapping around in my stomach. There were a bunch of callups for accomplished riders like Laura Van Gilder, Erica Allar, Jennifer Purcell, Lauren Tamayo, and my own teammate Mary Zider. Once those were done, the rest of the field rolled to the line and we were off.
The first part (half? third? no idea) of the race went by so quickly. While the pace wasn’t as slow overall as the Chris Thater NCC crit, it was still more go/bunch up/go than some of the crits I’ve done this season. The field was motivated to sprint for primes, but was otherwise content to ride somewhat conservatively, especially once Janel Holcomb from Optum (the largest team in attendance, with five racers) attacked early and established a 30-second gap. Riders took turns on the front working to close down the gap, but Janel stayed steadily ahead. My instructions were to sit in and conserve, so I focused on surfing the field with minimal effort while Mary worked the front.
Then there was a crash before the last corner around 14 laps to go. I’m not sure how it happened – rumor was that somebody clipped a pedal on the barriers – but there was a big explosion of bikes and bodies on the left side of the course. Mary was safely at the front of the field when it happened and I narrowly missed a flying bike, but many weren’t as lucky, including one racer who left on a backboard. While she was receiving medical attention, the race was neutralized and the field slowly circled the course as the laps continued to count down. I preferred that versus a ‘stand and wait at the line to restart’ approach, as it was less jarring on the body and nerves, but I’m pretty sure spectators unaware of the circumstances were wondering why the women’s race involved so much chatting and so little pedaling.
With 10 laps to go and the course cleared, Janel was sent up the road to reestablish her gap and the field was released. The intensity of the race picked up immediately, as people were rested from the multi-lap break and energized by the single-digit remaining lap count. It felt frantic, as any lull in the pace at the front meant a big surge of riders from the back, and I struggled to stay glued to good wheels. At three laps to go, I was in good position near the front. At two laps to go, I had slid back dangerously to no man’s land. By the final lap, I had fixed that mistake and was ready to go when Optum went early following the second to last corner. Up the slight hill, around the sweeping turn, and down to the line I sprinted to finish 4th behind Erica Allar (1st), Jade Wilcoxson (2nd), and Laura Van Gilder (3rd). It was a satisfying end to a more-than-satisfying season.
A huge thanks to the promoters and sponsors for offering an equal payout for the women’s race – it was very much appreciated by all!