Friday, May 11, 2012

USA Crits Speedweek

Between April 27th and May 6th was the USA Crits held it's annual Speedweek. 7 days of criterium races in different cities each time over 10 days. Team Type 1 was there!

Cate, Mandy, Myself, Becca, Morgan
Members from the women's team represented: Morgan Patton, Becca Schepps, Mandy Marquardt, Cate Silovsky and myself. I joined them after the first two races but because I am only cat4 I wasn't able to race until the last three days. Instead I got the chance to watch and photograph all the races as well as getting some beautiful warm weather rides in. I even got a few small lessons from the more experienced girls and got the opportunity to hit up the roads with the group.

I'll be chronicling my experience from where I entered into the picture. I arrived late Sunday and spent a good long time waiting at the train station to be picked up only to find out later that the team van was waiting around the corner for just as long. We were all really happy to be united. We drove to Athens, GA where we spent the night. The following morning we made the relatively long trek down to Beaufort, SC. I'm pretty sure this was the favourite stop for all of us. A super quaint little town on the inland coast. We went for a casual group ride when we arrived and I could smell the sea in the air. The next day the Womens and Mens pro/1/2/3 were racing that evening. We all went for another group ride that morning and it was so lovely to get the group experience in as the 8 of us toured around taking our shares pulling.
Beaufort, SC
The Pro men
The course in Beaufort went through the downtown historic area and it was very picturesque and touristy. The races drew an incredible crowd with awesome support. I snapped as many pictures of the ladies as I could before it got too dark when the men were racing. It was exciting to watch and cheer on my fellow TT1'ers. They all did great! Crit racing is amazing to watch if you ever get the chance.

Morgan and Mandy

After the race we drove the short distance to Walterboro, SC for the next day of races. Same thing again, we went for a group ride in the morning. I felt honored when we did a little lesson in bike handling and pace lines. As someone who has never had any formal training, I appreciated the knowledge. The races that night weren't very smooth. The course was nice because it wasn't a straight up boring rectangle but it was seriously lacking in illumination. The women's race went great up until the end. I was hanging over the gate photographing the finish sprints when two ladies crashed in front of me pushing into the gate and knocking me over. I had cuts and bruises on my flip-flopped foot but nothing compared to what these ladies suffered. One was taken away in a neck brace on a stretcher and the other one walked away on her own accord. I was really rather shaken after this and felt uncomfortable standing next to the gates after that. The officials washed the blood off the road and minutes later the gun went off for the men's race. By this time night had fallen. They had some lights at the corners but there was no light otherwise. I sat on the back straight away watching the race (sort of). It was so dark I couldn't actually see them. I could hear them sprinting and shifting gears, I could feel the surge of wind as they went by but all I saw was blackness. It made me uneasy. There was a rather nasty couple crashes during that race and one where they had to actually neutralize the whole course while they got the guys taken care of. Really? What have I gotten myself into?

My early morning ride in South Carolina

Cate and I after our race
The following morning I ventured off for a couple hours at the crack of dawn to get a good solo ride in. It was beautiful! This was another travel day with no races and we made our way to Greensville, SC. Friday we all raced in Spartenburg, SC. This would be my first official race for speedweek. Cate and I raced with the cat 3/4. The course was short, maybe only 0.5 of a mile and it was a rectangle with a small hill. The field was small consisting of maybe 15 of us. We raced for about 25 minutes. I started with slightly elevated BGs and finished within range. I was really happy about that. This was my first bike race ever where I stayed with the field for the duration of the race so I was thrilled. I was watching Cate sprint for the finish. She was in 1st place but got overtaken by half a bike to finish 2nd. I was so excited cheering her on that I stopped sprinting and probably finished last. It didn't matter, I was rooting for my team mate! The women had a good race that night.

I find that hanging around in my TT1 kit does tend to attract attention. For the record, I stayed in the kit because it allowed me to move around without as much chafe pain. What it does do, is open me up for conversations. I talked to a man who is T2. We were watching the race and talking about the details of the breakaway and the two chase groups. I had a low and pulled my stuff out. That's how the conversation started. I told him about the team and how we all have T1D. We talked about cycling. He told me his trepidations about the cheap bike he bought. I gave him kudos for getting out there and trying for a healthier life in whatever way possible. We definitely connected and I was honoured. I got into many more conversations that night with strangers about diabetes and bike racing as we watched the women racing. They were all very interested and keen for me to point out my team mates. It was spectacular to see the interest.

Mandy, Rebecca and Becca
The next day we raced in Andersen, SC. We were quite shocked when we arrived at the venue to find out it was a giant bell-shaped course in the middle of a field. Next to a huge group of boy scout tents to boot. All of the races were in downtown streets so this one was... odd. It was also during the day instead of the evening and this, my friends, was a HOT day. Temps reaching 93 degrees and there was virtually nowhere to go to find shade. Cate and I raced the cat3/4 again. The field was larger and the course was difficult. It started with a steep downhill and an immediate corner. A slight uphill into the back stretch with an insane headwind followed by another uphill, another turn and back down the start/finish. Nobody raced well that day (except for Morgan). I got dropped within the first few laps. I just couldn't keep up on the uphill. They never pulled me but maybe they felt bad for me, I don't know. I managed to finish at least but not without getting lapped by the field. I still enjoyed it but I enjoyed spectating at this venue more, I got some fantastic pictures. My BGs for this race were surprisingly stellar. I started and finished within range. I gave myself 2 units as soon as I finished to account for the post race BG spike. I still went quite high a couple hours after the race and subsequent to my actions had some decent lows later that afternoon.

Mandy going for the $100 preme
Heat radiating off the pavement
The final day of races was in Sandy Springs, GA. Cate and I raced in the morning. It was another sweltering hot day. The course was really tough. The start/finish was at the top of a huge fucking hill. Hills are where my weaknesses are. I'm working on that. I would lose the girls on the hill and catch up with them while careening on the downhill and whipping around the corners only to hit the hill again. As per usual, I was racing on my own after that and also as per usual, they didn't pull me for some reason so I just kept going. I probably said "Fucking hell" each time I crested that hill which got a few giggles out of the spectators. I likely finished DFL but I'm really not sure. It was hard, really hard. For once I'd like to try a flat crit. I think I'd do well. This was another tough day of racing for the other girls. This was their 7th race in 10 days on the heels of the previous day's heat and hell. They weren't feeling good and most of the field dropped out during the race.

Phil and Rebecca talking shop
We had a visit from Phil Southerland who came out to the races. It made the whole "team feeling" so much more powerful and I was honoured to talk about bike racing with him. I can't forget to mention Rebecca Larson who is, in a way, helping to direct the women's team by adding some professional leadership. She used to be a pro racer who just finished her PHD. She is a doctor specializing in exercise physiology with a huge interest in diabetes and racing. She had some insight into blood sugars and racing that I was interested to learn. She adds a completely new outlook which was refreshing. Not to mention her help, advice, tips and pep talks were phenomenal. If only we can get that arm healed up!

Post race chill-out at the van
I had the most amazing week. I have to hand it to Morgan for organizing the logistics and timing of everything. 10 days, 5 girls, 7 races in 7 different cities... and it all went smoothly. I honestly did NOT want to come home. I had a wicked time with all the girls and getting to know them all a little better. We were able to look out for each other's blood sugars and add help where we could. I did a a good job at keeping Cate awake most nights with the incessant alarms on my CGM blaring. Sorry Cate, but that CGM caught a lot of middle of the night lows. I'd do it again in a second. What an amazing opportunity! Thank you Team Type 1!

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic post! I love the pictures, and the cussing, and your enthusiasm for racing.

    It almost makes me want to try bike racing... just a wee little bit.

    Go you and Team Type 1.


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