Cobb Park 2015
By: Annie Byrne
Part 1: Women’s 3/4
I was not planning on racing Cobb Park but I got the hankering to race after I picked up some very helpful cornering and sprinting tips at the skills clinic hosted by CWEC on Friday. I really wanted to try them out and then I watched the Glencoe Grandprix and next thing I knew I had an urge to race I could not ignore. While the chilly weather is overall a downer, it does mean the shop will be a little quieter and I could take the day off. My wonderful teammate agreed to take me and Scout down to Kankakee! Hooray! I was especially happy because now this would mean I’ve done this race every year since I started racing in 2012.
Kelsey picked me up bright and early so we could make it in plenty of time for her to register and warm-up for the Women’s 4. After learning it was only $10 to register for a 2nd race, I decided to go ahead and race the W123 in addition to the 3/4s. I was a little nervous of a 50 minute race with a lot of VERY fast 1s and 2s, but I just reminded myself that racing with them probably does more for my improvement than anything else. That, and I love racing, so of course I should do it.
We set-up the tent and happily became a base camp for several women on other teams. Part of what i love about racing is the socializing and catching up with pals so I was all smiles. I cheered my teammates on in their race and pumped to see them do so well. Then it was time for me to get my kit on and warm-up. I rode the course a few times taking note of the best lines in the corners and the direction of the wind. I was really trying to make a conscious effort to plan out where I want to be in certain corners (inside or outside) but truthfully, I have a hard time telling which is best. Soon it was time to line up, and I had my teammie Kelsey next to me and we kept ourselves entertained by watching our heart rates go up in anticipation of the whistle.
Off we went and I felt pretty good, staying near the front of the pack. I was really putting into practice some things I’ve learned recently– how to assert myself in the pack and hold my position, or even better, how to safely move others out of the way to get where I want to be. It was fun. Then the attacks came. And came. And came. Or at least that is what it felt like. Despite my head, my heart says CHASE. And so I did, pretty much every time. I’m happy with that choice though it did tire me out. My plan was to attack after a prime lap, so I did. I held the pace up past the first corner then peaked behind me and saw a train of ladies on me so I eased up and got back in the pack. The race was pretty steady and fast and the numerous attacks and primes kept things interesting. Between that and consciously thinking about my position and navigating through the pack, it was a really fun and engaging race.
When the final lap bell rang I reminded myself of the sprinting lessons I learned from Julie of Pepper Palace at the CWEC clinic. The pace picked up but I did not shift, I just started spinning faster and faster then after the final corner into the finish, I stood up and added gear. And added more and more gear until there was no more to add, so maybe I went a little overboard. But still, my legs did not feel heavy and slow like they often do in the sprint– they felt strong and fast. Amazing. Normally I would add gear before getting out of the saddle, and I’d really struggle to hold it. This time I felt like I was actually accelerating at the same rate as the others and contesting in the sprint. There were only three or four people in front of me as we neared the finished line, but alas, several ladies were sprinting faster and got in front of me in the last 40 meters or so. NEXT TIME. But I was still super happy with my 7th place finish and feel like I got a lot of good experience out of this race.
Part 2: Women’s 123
After the 3/4s race I had a little more than two hours before the W123 race. I walked Scout, ate part a peanut butter and banana sandwich, and chatted with friends. Then I decided to try to warm-up as others were but after about five minutes I decided I was still warm. I did a couple laps when the course was open and got majorly motivated by my teammates. They have a ton of confidence in me and were telling me I was going to crush it. I told them I was going to do the best I could. I meant it and it helped when I remembered that during certain points in the race (subtle foreshadowing).
So we lined up and I look around and see a whole lot of ladies I do not know. I was on the look out for the winner of the Glencoe Grandprix Pro/1/2 race, since she had registered but I had no idea what she looked like other than she is 18 years old (!!!!). The woman next to me had a bunch of teammates there, coming from Indianapolis. We chatted briefly and she was super friendly and it put me at ease a little, seeing how it can be intimidating racing with the higher category racers. The whistle goes and we are off. It wasn’t long before the attacks came. It seemed the team from Indianapolis were launching them pretty consistently. Rather than chase attacks as I did in the 3/4s race, my goal was to stay on a wheel and practice moving up in the pack. It took a conscious effort as I was not able to just hold my position as easily as in the 3/4s race. Anytime I saw someone heading up I tried to get on their wheel. This worked pretty good though I wasn’t exactly sure what to do when we were approaching a corner. I just followed the wheel in front of me and I think it worked out okay. No one crashed so that’s good. Then after a few laps, I saw one of the ladies from Indianapolis at the front and got it in my head she is about to block and her teammate is going to attack. So out went my strategy to stay on good wheels and instead I decided to foil their plan by getting in front of her so she could not block. Haha.
I got in the front and end up pulling the field for almost a lap and as we entered the stretch with the crosswind, we were on the far left and on the very far right I saw the field go on by. I did my best to get over there and hop on the end, but the pace was high and I was tired so I didn’t last long and pop off the back. I looked at my garmin and see we are less than half way in the race and I REALLY do not want to pedal around by myself for more than half an hour, so I kept the pressure on. It was not long before I saw another lady that fell of the back and we got together an soon picked up two more. The four of us *kind of* worked together and took turns pulling but it felt a bit haphazard rather than an organized paceline. It seemed like two of the women did not want to do any work. It’s annoying but I suppose everyone has a strategy. I think it was the four of us for about four or five laps and then we see the main pack. One of the ladies who was not doing any work stood up and took off in an attempt to catch them on her own. She failed.
They were in our sight for about a lap or so– the gap kept fluctuating so it was frustrating but also motivating. I was about to take a pull and heard someone say “please get us there”, so I put my head down and pushed pushed pushed as hard as I could and we catch them, right as we are crossing the start finish line and I hear the announcer say “prime lap.” GD YOU ARE KIDDING ME. I swore. After all that and now the field was going take it up a notch and go for the prime. Oh well! So they take off and I fall off.
This time I was all by myself. Remembering I told my teammates I would do the best I could, I get in threshold test mode and just kept the pressure on and enjoyed how fast I could take the corners all alone. There was a moment when the wind hit me and all of a sudden I felt like I had weights hanging from my pedals and my quads were burning so much and I didn’t know if I could keep it up. But then I remembered right before the race Jannette Rho told me “Just remember the pain is temporary.” So I kept pushing and sure enough, after the next corner I was out of the wind and the pain lessened a little.
It was very very motivating to hear people cheer for me– my teammates, others scattered around. and the party house on the corner gave me encouragement with each lap. I think I was doing that for at least four or five laps. I could see the pack but again the gap kept fluctuating. I am pretty sure I kept my pace consistent so I assumed there was a fair amount of attacking going on.
Then, finally, as I took the turn into the back stretch, the gap was the smallest it had been so I told myself “Annie, you need to catch them now.” I put my head down and push push push. I CAUGHT THEM. I was so so happy!!! Yay!!! As we go by the start finish I see my teammates and now that I am in the pack, I turn to them giving a thumbs up and big smile, feeling quite proud of myself.
Then, learning from the last time I caught them, I quickly got IN the pack making sure if they surge I DO NOT FALL OFF. I did not want to go through that again and I had a new found determination to stay solidly the middle of the pack. I found a wheel I liked and just focused on staying on it. We had three laps to go. I stayed in the middle for two laps then the bell rings and people pick it up. I’m exhausted but I stayed on until the we are coming into the final corner. The sprint begins and I spin, stand-up, and add gear but it is hard. I sit back down. But then I yell at myself to stand up and I do. It hurts but I keep going and cross the line. Then it’s done. I nearly fall off my bike and get big hugs from by teammates. Overall, two excellent races where I got to try new things and push myself, so it’s a win!