In Binghamton, New York.
By Carrie Cartmill
After a bit of downtime in July I have had the good fortune of joining The Cyclery – Opus team for a round of criterium racing in New York State. The previous weekend’s twilight criterium in Rochester was a great team success as well as a personal confidence builder – it is great to enter a weekend of racing feeling like you were on fire the weekend before!
Ellen, Tara and myself continued our journey further into the rustbelt for the Chris Thater Memorial Criterium race weekend on August 22-23rd. The first race day was part of the National Criterium Calendar and the field was stacked with all of the best sprinters in North America! Without having a designated sprinter with us, we knew that our best chance of success was to work to get a break up the road. Having perfected this method the weekend before, the rest of the field was onto us, and our efforts did not have the results we had hoped before. However, it felt like some kind of honour to hear the whole peloton shift gears every time one of us made a move!
Feeling a little frustrated, we refocused ourselves on the second of the two criteriums. I confess that while I knew every detail of the first race, I had no idea what the second day of racing had in store. As we sat at the dinner table I was informed that we would be racing backwards on the same course. Backwards. Well technically the race went forward, but we rode counterclockwise. Others may disagree, but I preferred this version of the course! We shook up our race strategy a bit and went in with a more aggressive start to the day… this worked for us. Like clockwork, we took turns launching perfectly timed attacks and counter-attacks until Tara was able to get off the front with Laura Van Gilder. With ten laps to go, the two of them lapped the field. Laura Van Gilder is a sprinting legend in the North American peloton and for good reason… Tara had an amazing sprint (where she crossed the line in 4th position), but still had to settle for second place.
With three recent criteriums in my legs, I am learning the importance of maintaining and shifting my mental focus. The last few laps of a criterium feel like a whole new race, with a different (and faster) pace. My legs still have more, but I need to figure out how to shift my mental gears and keep pace with the race. The whole team will be shifting gears as we travel to our next race, the Green Mountain Stage Race, where rather than going around we will go UP!