ATHENS TWILIGHT RACE REPORT- by Jennifer Wilson
Luckily we raced at 7:45am tonight so we got to sleep in this morning. We were treated to a delicious pancake breakfast and yummy coffee thanks to Jason and Jennifer our hosts. After breakfast we hooked up with all of our teammates and went for a little spin to open the legs up. Jennifer, our host, is just getting into cycling and it was great that she went on the ride with us. We did a little out and back to Avondale Lake which is really cute. What is so cool about Decatur and adjoining towns is that there are actual little neighborhoods.
After the spin we all went home to relax as much as possible and get ready for our trip to which is about 1 ½ hours from Decatur . We wanted to get to early so we could get a good parking spot and eat some food. I knew the race was going to be crazy because the people were already starting to party and the streets were getting crowded. Just seeing all of the barriers being put up on the streets was starting to make me nervous.
Since I flew here I do not have a trainer but the guys from Kelly Benefits were kind enough to lend us a couple as our race started way before theirs, sweet! The SRAM guys were there for neutral support and I immediately took my bike over to Jeremy who I was told is a whiz with the zero gravity brakes. My rear brake was not re-centering itself and was rubbing the rim. He was the “man” and hooked me up with a quick fix of re-cutting my cable. I love those SRAM guys. Back to the car for the pre-race readiness and to start getting warm as if the hot humid air was not enough. When I finally got on the trainer I noticed that my headset screw had dropped down. My headset did not feel loose but Mandy (a friend of Vanderkitten) kindly took my bike to the SRAM guys again. They checked it out and I was good to go. At this point I was just trying to remain calm and relaxed. I did a quick warm up and then it was time to go to staging. I must say that coming from it is weird to see so many people smoking and I found myself searching for fresh air while we waiting and watched the 5K runner’s race that was going on.
Finally it was our turn to go and as usual the typical fight to get to the front of the pack for the start. Each time we moved up a bit I seemed to find myself further back. I decided not to focus on this and just on the race. The whistle blew and we were off. The town was completely crazy and people were screaming. The pace was hot from the gun and as usual it seemed like it would never let up. Each turn was a learning experience as I was on my new BH. Since I now have a normal size stem I had to readjust where I put my weight in the turns. Quickly enough though I felt like I was one with my bike. I love the BH!
Kele Murdin who is riding with us as a guest rider was aggressive from the start and got herself in a good break. They were working well together and then I looked ahead and saw Kele hit the pavement. Ouch! The pace picked up in the pack and we quickly caught the break just around the next 2 turns. I knew that another move was going to go and even though I was hurting I was being attentive. Soon enough on the back side, Rebecca Larson (Aaron’s Pro Cycling) took off. I was able to fight my way to Tiffany Cromwell’s (Colavita) wheel. There were five of us that made this group with Catherine Cheatley (Cheerwine) right on Rebecca Larson and Jacquelyn Crowell (Team Kenda Tire) joining. Once we realized who was there heads went down and off we went as the right teams were represented. Everyone was pulling hard and working together. There was a slight mix up with Kele Murdin and another rider getting put back into our break. Last that Kele knew she was in the break. She had no idea that the break she was in got caught when she went to the pits after her crash. The referees made a slight error in putting her in our break which did cause some confusion amongst us in the break. Kele did not work or do anything to help me in the break and just sat on the back which was the smart thing to do considering the situation. We definitely got clear pretty quickly from the pack as we were all pushing the pace. I was suffering but tried to pull as much as possible knowing that you have to pay to play. I knew too that it was only going to get harder as the laps trickled down from the 23 (?) to go when we got away to the finish. The crowds were going crazy and I was getting sprayed by beer several times as I went through the start finish because we would slightly hug the barriers. I knew at anytime that anyone of these girls could attack and I was just trying to be very attentive. Liz Hatch (Vanderkitten) was on the radio and was very helpful in boosting my confidence. With 5 laps to go my legs were screaming and I started to think of the finish. The girls kept rotating through and I knew it was going to be tough. Entering the last lap my heart was pounding and I wanted to do the best I could for the team. Right after the slight climb on the back side Rebecca took off with Catherine on her wheel. I booked it up the inside and was on Tiffany’s wheel through the last turn. I took the turn tighter than her and gave it everything I could in the sprint. I came in third and couldn’t believe it. I really wanted the win and in hindsight felt that I should have gone earlier. Every race for me is a learning experience and I consider this a huge one. I was very excited to get on the podium being the first podium finish for me in a pro race. Also, is such a prestigious race so I was super excited for the team!!!