Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Crank Brothers Gran Prix Race #2

Crank Brothers Gran Prix Race #2

By Dee Dee Winfield

The race was my first with the Velo Bellas on such a national setting, and so I was a little skeptical of the outcome of Sunday’s race b/c usually partying and bike racing don’t mix so well.

My husband and I arrived in Boston on Thursday to be a part of a good friend’s wedding party. Thursday evening began with a visit to Pedro’s headquarters where we got to test out the new SRAM shifters (SO EASY and INTUITIVE!), talk about gearing ratios and bolt patterns, drink out of cool pint glasses and leave with a departing gift of an authentic Pedro’s hat. I also had the chance to actually meet my team manager Alex Burgess and teammate Erin Kassoy.

The wedding was Saturday and we had a fantastic time: dancing and socializing with friends we hadn’t seen in years, keeping at bay the pre race jitters and wishing my friend a lifetime of joy and happiness. Sunday arrived, I woke-up early and the weather was incredible. I got to meet the rest of my teammates one by one, and rode the course with them receiving input and opinions on certain sections, whether to ride or run, what gear to be in, how the course on Sat. compared, etc. All of this information was extremely helpful and being able to have the hour before the race to pre ride the course was essential. Always pre-ride the course with those who have been there before you...

I was VERY nervous about this race. I had never done a cross race with more than 16 women and now there were 60+ to contend with. I was extremely concerned about starting towards the back and wondering if I could make it towards the front quickly enough. Sarah was my inspiration as she had to start way back on Saturday and completely plowed through the field to have an awesome finish.

In a cloud of pre-race thoughts; how to get past this person and that one, when to sprint and when to spin, I hear “Deidre Winfield!” Sweet, the official called my name. I got to move up one row. I was psyched. Needless to say, I was far from the hole shot but the course was wide and although I kept positioning myself poorly through the turns I soon found some solid ground to start turning the pedals.

It seemed like a sea of people ahead of me and the leaders, well, I never saw them. Honestly, I didn’t see much of anything other than the wheel in front of me. That was my focus, one wheel at a time and there were moments in which I would pass someone’s back wheel and not get by their front one and think one more push.

For me, the race sort of “settled in” with about 2 laps to go. Melissa Thomas and Rhonda Mazza were seemingly within an arm’s length (forever) and at one point I pushed by Rhonda only to immediately get counter attacked. I had a bad “barrier day” and felt like I was mounting a horse with each lap, needless to say I was getting “dropped” on the barriers. I could see Sarah making ground hoping she was going to bridge so we could work together to take these women.

One final push by Melissa Thomas and she was away for good. I wanted to assure enough distance b/t myself and Rhonda thinking she would be able to come around me at the end in the sprint up the hill, so I gave it my all on the downhill before the paved finish and took 7th place with Sarah fast on my tail.

It was great to be there with the Team and it felt wonderful having teammates there to warm up, race, cool down, and share tidbits of their experience with. So often we ride in training groups where we’re the token woman riding alongside 30 or 40 men and joining the Velo Bellas has given me an opportunity to race with women who are as focused and gifted as I am. Mad props to Bella Stephanie White who finished the course after twisting her ankle in a tough crash (and she’s only 17!!!) and I very much look forward to riding with each and every one of my new friends/teammates in the near future.

I felt wonderful about my race but I have to admit that as soon as it was over I was totally looking forward to the smile I would get when I arrived at the airport in Richmond to be greeted by my little girl and my parents. Not only did we get the smile but we got an open armed salute, nothing beats that!



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