Kym, Shannon and Kelsey on the starting line.
We made our 2010 forray into road racing this past weekend in Berlin, TN (no, I had never heard of it either), just south of Nashville and it was a blast. The Hell of the South was advertised as a Paris-Roubaix type road race with rough pavement and dirt roads. Those who train with me know that it sounded just like another day of riding with Kym. I was excited. Even better was the fact that Swiftwick, one of our sponsors, was a big sponsor to the event. Yep, we were going. We were not only excited to race our kick butt new Trek road bikes, we were also excited to meet Rachel and the rest of the Swiftwick gang.
Shannon, Kelsey and I headed to Berlin under cloudy skies with a forcast of 70 and sunny later in the day. Perfect. It was going to be an intersting day. They were only running 3 races, A, B, and C. The 1/2/3 women raced the B race with the Category 4 men but we had a $100 bonus for the first woman. Hmmm. I was not exactly thrilled to be thrown in with them. Nothing personal to the guys, but Cat 4's can be a bit sketchy and tend to have a bit more testosterone that I prefer to race with, especially in a sprint. There was no significant climbing on the course (my specialty) so I figured it was going to be a day of paying close attention and staying near the front of the pack. I was really excited that my friend Andrea from Memphis was racing too. She's always a tough competitor and has a way of owning me on the road in the same way I tend to own her on the dirt. I was hoping that her and I could hurt some boys together and then battle it out at the finish for the $100 women's bonus. I figured with two teammates to help, I had a pretty good chance.
After a COLD warm up (where was the sun that they promised us??), we were lined up and ready to go. I was at the front of the field and planned on staying there for the day. They said "go" and a rider put in a solo attack off the front. Everyone look as each other and decided we'd see him again soon enough. It was a full on battle to stay near the front. The roads were chip and seal, pot hole filled, narrow and gravely. Being a 125 pound girl in a field of big boys, it was a battle to hold my place. It was awesome. The first dirt section was 9 miles into the race and I knew that was where things were going to split up. We hit the dirt and the race was ON. Suddenly the cross racer/mountain biker in me took over and I took some hairy lines through the pack. I almost felt sorry for any true roadies that were on my wheel. We exited the gravel and I was at the front of the selection (and we had caught solo attack man...). I looked for teammates and didn't see any other women except Andrea. CRAP. Things were so sketchy in the gravel I hoped they were safe and still rolling. I found out after the race that Shannon got caught behind some slow boys and ended up in the first chase group. Apparently she worked those boys over. Kelsey (who is still waiting on her new Trek) dropped her chain and was chasing solo behind Shannon's group somewhere. I was on my own. Andrea then informed me that her ulnar nerve was giving her troubles and she was pulling out. CRAP. It was now me and about 25 boys. Yep, I am out numbered. I tried a couple of attacks (I did shell a few boys, hehe...) but I went nowhere and eventually resigned myself to the fact that I was sprinting with a group of big men. Not so good for me. As we turned to the 2 mile run in to the finish things got dicey. The testosterone came out in full force; there was a lot of bumping, close calls and yelling. I drifted to the back. It just wasn't worth it to try for the win; I already had the $100 women's purse and chances were good that this climber girl wasn't going to win a sprint against these boys anyway. As the guys blew up I picked my way through the field to a respectable 10th place finish. Shannon schooled the chase group and won the sprint and Kelsey rode solo for a lap and a half to be the third woman to finish. Great job ladies.
Grace Law- Trek p/b Vantaggio goes 1,2,3 in the women's field.
This event rocked. I can't express how much fun I had racing with my teammates and the Cat 4 guys (who were not nearly as scary as I was anticiapting...). Thanks to the boy who referred to me as "pretty lady" while we were racing; you made my day!! And a HUGE thanks to Swiftwick and all the other sponsors and individuals that made this race happen. The only request I have is MORE DIRT next year. But I think that is the mountain biker in me talking. And I definitely have my bad idea jeans on....