The opening SERC (Southeast Regional Championship) Series race was this past weekend in Gainesville, FL. Jamie, Emily and I headed down, along with a contingency of Tennessee boys, to test our legs in Florida. It was going to be Emily's first expert race. She's 15 and has no junior women to race with. After DOMINATING the sport women's field last year she was ready for the challenge.
This race is always really tough for us because it is HOT compared to the weather we have been training in and the Florida riders are always FLYING. They race all winter and already have their race legs. We never have huge expectations, if we see the podium it is a bonus. The joke Jamie and I had heading down was "oh well, it's Florida in March...". It was our answer to EVERYTHING about the weekend.
The pre-ride was less than stellar; I had bruised and bloodied myself in the first 5 minutes. I was NOT optimistic. The course was typical Florida... in and out of a quarry, tight and twisty and stupid little wall type hills. It did not seem to flow but I was hoping it would get better at speed.
We lined up a strong field, including a number of Florida natives. Jamie, Emily and I all lined up together and were discussing the finer points of wanting to puke on the starting line. Nerves are always a killer for the first few races. They said "go" and I somehow immediately was at the back. Hmmm... I need to remember how to start a bike race I guess. Jamie had a great start and was second wheel with Emily not far behind. I put in a huge effort at the first corner to pass the field and ended up third wheel behind Jamie. We hit the first couple of little "walls" and I powered up them to second place. The next wall was bigger with roots on it and was the one that got me during the pre-ride. I told myself I was going to ride up it today and I did!!! I was the only one that made it and suddenly found myself at the front. Okay, let's go with this.... Jamie quickly caught up and we decided to work together for a couple of laps and then beat each other up at the end. All was going well and then she washed out in a corner. She was fine and I kept going, figuring I'd see her again shortly. The course was flowing for me and I was concerned that the Florida girls were going to catch us. Where is Jamie?? Keep pedaling... By the end of the third lap it occurred to me that I might win this race. In Florida. In March. WOW!!
I WON!!!! Jamie took a strong second place and Emily rolled in 9th. We had a great team showing for a race that we had no real expectations for. We are off to a phenomenal start this year.
On another note; my incredibly supportive husband raced his first expert race in 6 years and did great. He started 2 minutes ahead of me and the goal of the day was to see how long he could hold me off. 38 minutes and 32 seconds. Good job Mark!!!