By: Tara Whitten
Rochester Twilight NCC podium: 1) Tara Whitten (The Cyclery-Opus) 2) Samantha Schnneider (Iscorp Cycling p/b Smartchoice Mri) 3) Erica Allar (Independent)
The Rochester criterium started for me with a bit of unnecessary adrenaline after some poor planning on my part and some bad traffic on Toronto’s part had me scrambling to make it to the race before the registration cut-off. With some sweet-talking from Jenny and some understanding race officials I was able to get my numbers, breathe a sigh of relief, and get on my rollers to start warming up. My legs felt surprisingly good considering the 6 hours they had spent in the car, and I was really excited to be able to race again with my Cyclery-Opus teammates for the first time in quite a while. After a couple months of enforced rest to deal with some health issues, I couldn’t wait to get back out there and prove (to myself more than anyone) that I was back in the game.
The race plan from Jenny was very clear and everyone was executing their jobs to perfection. With 9 corners in a 1-mile loop, there was always something to think about and it was easy to stay in the moment. As we passed the half-way point of the race, I started thinking about where I might be able to launch a really strong attack. In so many criteriums I have sensed a good moment to make a move but then hesitated too long and the moment never presented itself again. I did not want to make that mistake again, so when I sensed the moment I put everything I had into creating a gap that might stick. At first I looked back and it was only a few bike lengths, but I just put my head down and kept the power on. After one lap Jenny held up the board to say I had 7 seconds. That didn’t sound like much but I forced myself not to look back. On the next lap it was 9 seconds. After three laps it was not much more, but I could feel that I had to settle into more of a time trial pace or I would not survive to the finish. Luckily the elastic was near the snapping point and I was able to continue increasing my lead. It seemed to take forever for the lap board to count down. I kept wondering if I could possibly keep up this pace, but it was great knowing that if I did get caught, I had teammates in the pack who could launch a counter. Finally with 2 laps to go and nearly 30 seconds’ advantage, I started believing that I was really going to win this race. At that point I really felt the roar of the crowd behind me. The atmosphere at the race was so incredible and it was a very special moment to cross the line with my hands in the air, gasping for breath but so happy and grateful for the race, the team, the effort and the win!