The North Star Grand Prix Stage 2: St. Paul Grand Avenue Criterium

Crits are fun. Crits are also super fast, and can sometimes be nerve wrecking. One of the things I've been working on with my coach is managing my anxiety and staying smooth. I consider myself a fairly smooth rider in the pack, I do my best to hold my line, and take turns smoothly. Sometimes that can go out of the window when chaos is occurring in front of you. Tonight I did a lot of talking to myself. Keeping an eye open for potential scenarios as the race unfolded in front of me.

If I went around the loop and noticed a particular pot hole was giving folks trouble, I tried to make a point of choosing a different trajectory the next time around. If a specific rider was braking too hard into the turn, or swerving, I picked a different wheel. It all seems so simple, but in the past, I have made it hard. 

There were at least four crashes that I made my way around, and three of them looked pretty bad. 

I'm sure I've talked about this before, but seeing crashes was probably the hardest thing for me to get over when I started bike racing. My husband actually had to give me a talk about how it's not my job to stop and make sure the person is okay. They have people who are going to take care of them. It's my job to keep going. It's so hard, as a human, to watch someone fall, and just keep going. I just tell myself, someone who is better equipped will help them, just keep going. 

So yea, I kept going, and then again, and again, and again. The second crash was bad enough to neutralize the race. My stomach was not pleased. As soon as we slowed down, I threw up. Ugh. We did two neutral laps before they informed us to stop at the line for a restart. I threw up again. I felt deflated. We weren't even halfway into the race. I looked over at Amber Pierce, she gave me some words of encouragement. It was perfect. I wasn't anywhere near wanting to give up or anything, but it was such a bummer to have lose my momentum. I'd found a good rhythm and it was working for me. Now everyone would have to start over. 

I imagine some of the other women felt the same way. Regardless, we were all still upright, so it was our duty to keep it moving. 

They restarted the race with 14 laps to go, my legs felt like they were barely moving. I changed my gears and decided to spin, spin, spin. It was working. I spun my way into a good spot. Turn after turn, I hung on to the pack, sipping water where I could, praying to baby black Jesus that I wasn't going to throw up again. 

I looked up. 10 laps to go. It felt like we'd only been riding for like 3 minutes. I'm sure it was longer, but whatever, I was here for it. I was still in the main pack within eyeshot of the leaders. I made myself comfortable. 

I should mention that every single part of the course was stocked with someone screaming my name. It was amazing. It was so helpful too. There's something about hearing folks reminding you of what you already know. "You can do it, GO AYESHA!!!!"...  The Major Taylor bike club brought a whole squad! I loved it so much, and I thank every single human who used their vocal chords to cheer me on! =)

2 laps to go. Crash. It looked like the race leaders. My heart sank, but my body navigated around them. "Someone better equipped will come help them. Just keep going". Cut me some slack folks, I work with 3-4 year olds that need a lot of affection, it's hard turning off that part of your brain.

There was now a split in the pack, and I didn't make the selection. With only one lap to go the pace was crazy high and the chances of me bridging weren't looking good. I tucked into my little group. Surfed wheels. Said a last lap prayer (I've been caught up in more final lap crashes than anyone ever should) and relaxed my body and mind to get it done. 

We navigated all four turns, I stood up to sprint. The race officials told us to slow it down, there was a crash in the final stretch. I curbed my speed and soft pedaled over the line. 

I did it. Go me!

What did I learn?

  1. MOVE UP EVEN MORE. I know this already, but I need to move forward more, especially when I have the legs. A great way to avoid crashes caused by the accordion effect. 
  2. Pre-crit gels aren't worth it anymore. Trust in the nutrition you've already digested or you'll be looking at it on your top tube during the race. 

Where did I succeed?

  1. I stayed calm and safely navigated around all the crashes. 
  2. I moved up a lot when I saw openings, and felt comfortable in tight spots in the corners. 

Road race tomorrow. Let's go. 

Ayesha McGowanComment