Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pilarcitos #2: Chick's Race

Today, I had a horrible, I mean just horrible, start. I even got a call up and so I was all set to get a nice comfy start and settle into my race. It seemed like everyone but me got a perfect start today. So, I spent the entire first lap following wheels, braking, riding around crashes, and trying to close the gap to the leader, Rachel Lloyd, which was increasing every second.

Eventually, the dust settled and I found myself comfortably riding with my teammate Stella and Melodie Metzger close on my wheel. Rachel was in sight but about 25 seconds up the road. Into the second lap, I looked back after the first real technical section and I had a small gap on the two girls I was with. At this point though, my only concern was catching Rachel. I put my head down and chased for 2 laps until I came within striking distance of her.

Racing with Rachel is difficult for a number of reasons. First and foremost, she’s a legend, almost superhuman in her bike handling skills and physical capabilities. Second, she’s my teammate on the road. Basically, I have a ton of respect for Rachel and I try to learn from her as much as I can. So, when I found myself latched back onto her wheel, I had a decision to make. Should I attack now? Should I work with her and make the race more interesting and challenging, or should I just sit on? Based on the outcome of my last match up with Rachel, I decided attacking wasn’t a good choice if I wanted to go for the win. Last time I did that, she just countered and rode away from me. This was a power-course and there were a lot of windy, long, flat straight-aways where drafting was extremely beneficial. That chase was not easy either and when I did catch her, I definitely didn’t have it in me to attack. I decided to take my chances with a sprint finish rather than attack her with 3 laps to go and blow-up. Lazy? Maybe. But in my mind, good racing tactics. So, I sat on for the next two laps.

I’m going to quote Simon here because I think it’s very fitting. “You never know what's going to happen until you cross the finish line.” At the top of the only run-up section, Rachel dropped her chain. As I rode by her, I noticed that the chain would need some attending to and saw Rachel bend down to deal with it. This was it, the decisive moment. No other option than to step on it. I got some advice from the sidelines to hit the straight-aways hard and not to look back. That’s what I did. I came through the start/finish and heard the bell. I’ve never won a race before and certainly wasn’t imagining that today would be the day, but as I hammered through the last lap, I never saw Rachel again. Rob was telling me that I had a significant gap and that I should just take it easy. I was overwhelmed though, so I just kept hammering, but I tried to remind myself to be careful and poised. Thankfully, I made it to the finish line without making any mistakes and claimed my first elite cyclocross win!

Stella delivered a strong performance as always and came in just behind Rachel for third. Thanks for all the support from HRS/Rock Lobster on the sidelines and in the pits. It’s always an honor to race for and with you all. - Shelley


Brent Chapman said...

Excellent Race Shelly!
You did exactly what you should.

You just stay consistant and when oppertunity knocks take it... That is cross.

Velo Bella said...

nice work shelly!

swiggco world said...

At the beginning of the season I was telling people: " Shelley is going to win some races this year,maybe some big ones " Well, here's number one ! Great job, we are lucky to have you on the team.

swiggman said...

Yeah Shelley, you are the real deal! Thanks for listening and learning and then going out and schooling the veterans at their own game. There is more where that came from for sure!

PROMANgirl said...

I had no doubt that shelley would rock the lobster, she had a phenom year on the road, she's a natural. Any bets which national jersey she will get first, road, track or cross..........
Brilliant Job Shelley!