Monday, September 26, 2011

This it is - My first full season - Recap of 2011

I cant believe I am writing this because this is my end-of-season report. The 2011 Season is done. Wow, what a year!

I had no idea what this year would bring. It was my first full road season.

I had no real goals, no training schedule, and no idea what was ahead of me. I just wanted to have fun, do my group rides and see where it would lead me.

It's been a thrilling year covering the range from the local group ride to 20 degree Winter Bike Leage rides to fun MABRA races to tough NRC races and one eye-opening UCI race.

Since I only did a few races last year and realized how much I like cycling, I wanted to start my season early and so I drove down to Greenville, South Carolina every weekend in February. I wanted more racing and I signed up for basically every race possible, going all over the country – up and down the East Coast and one trip to the West Coast. I loved it!

Early in the season, I got a teammate, Lindsay. We didn’t know each other and our first adventure together was SpeedWeek in GA, SC and NC. We spent 10 days in one car, traveling through three states and suffering together through six hard races. That was definitely a test if we would get along. It worked out great and we actually became close friends!

With a loaded schedule I ended up doing 60+ races and several NRC races including Wilmington, Airforce Cycling Classic, Tour de Toona, and Cascades Cycling Classic.

My favorite road race this year was Battenkill. It’s long, hilly and hard! Just my style! My favorite crit was Reston. Fun course! Airforce Cycling Classic was the toughest race this year for me! Just brutal!

Racing in MABRA is always fun and exciting. The MABRA competition is tough and makes racing in our region very competitive! I was able to sneak medals in all five MABRA Championships. But for the BAR it wasn’t enough.

Funny, my goal shifted half way through the season from upgrading to winning the BAR. At the end, it turned out the other way. I lost the BAR but managed to upgrade to Cat 1.

I saw the 2011 season as a try-out whether I like racing. Hell yes! So much that I just moved and changed my job to focus more on racing. If you have a passion, you gotta go for it and make the best out of it.

Next year will be more organized: an actual training schedule and maybe some proper goal setting wouldn’t be bad.

I would have never gone so far if I haven’t met so many helpful and forthcoming people. The MABRA community is a very friendly, welcoming, and competitive group of people. I'm happy to have made friends with so many racers, promoters, and refs.

I love the local racing scene. It’s never just a race. It has connected me with friends, provided me my daily dose of the outdoors, and it's where my competition makes sure I get a really good workout!

I want to especially thank everyone in the group rides I attended who seem to make it a primary goal to kick my butt. :)

It was a fun year and I am looking forward to the 2012 season. But before that, you will see me behind the tape cheering for all the crazy ‘crossers! (And maybe as a tail gunner on a tandem…)

Leonardtown crit

f.l.:Monika, Lindsay

Speed Week
f.l.Monika, Lindsay

Giro di Coppi
f.l.:Monika, Lindsay, Ainhoa

Clarendon Cup
Lindsay (238), Monika (237)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A dramatic MABRA BAR battle- so close!

In short, I lost the BAR by one point! It came all down to the track championships.

It all started shortly before the Page Valley Road Race when I found myself in second place to Ainhoa, a Spanish racer from MD with an amazing sprint.

I made some hypothetical analysis of my chances against her and it looked like I had a chance to win the Best All-Around Rider (BAR) competition.

I had to make a decision whether to go for upgrade points or the BAR because some of the MABRA time trials conflicted with road races and crits which could get me some upgrade points.

Since I wasnt too far away from Ainhoa point-wise, I chose to go for the BAR. After winning the CAT 4 BAR last year, it would be sweet to win the Cat 1,2 BAR this year.

I chose not to go to the Green Mountain Stage Race in Vermont, which was my kind of racing, so I could race BAR races which brought me into the lead by 2 points and only the Track Championships were left.
It was like the 2008 soccer World Cup semi- finale: Germany against Spain.

Since I have never been on a track, I decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea to at least ride the track one time before the championship.

I signed up for the clinic a week before. It was a great experience and very much needed. I had no clue what to expect though for the race.

I drove up to PA for the Track championships and I was glad to see so many familiar faces who gave me advice and support.

My events were 200m qualifier, 500m, 3k and points race and sprints. I knew that this was basically a battle of a climber against a sprinter. The longer the distances, the better my chances would be.

I totally screwed up the first event, the 200m. My legs felt like I left them on the start line.

I was less than happy and optimistic that I could even compete in the track. I got third. But since it was only a qualifier, it didn't count yet.

I realized that my gearing was too easy but I had to race the 500m with the same gearing. Although I felt much better during that event, I lost by one second to Ainhoa.

So I hoped for the 3k. The longer the race, the better for me so I hoped. It was a pursuit. Ainhoa started on the other side. It was a 9 lap race.

The announcer told us every lap who was ahead and it seemed that it was me the first 3 laps but then he didn't say anything anymore so I got worried.

At some point, I saw movement in my periphery and Ainhoa ahead of me; that was huge motivation. I finished with 12 seconds ahead, which put us even for points.
She won the 500m, I got the 3k.

But then it started raining and it looked like all other events might be cancelled. We waited.

After a while it cleared up though and it was announced that the points races were definitely to be held but not sure about the sprints.

That meant the points race decided who would win the BAR, a season long effort would be decided in 15 laps on a track neither Ainhoa nor I are familiar with. This would be interesting!

Every 5 laps was a sprint which counted 4 points deep. Whoever gets the most points wins the race.

The women’s field was combined with the juniors and 65+ men. I knew I had to do something different than just waiting for the sprint. Ainhoa showed me plenty during the season that she is a great sprinter.

I tried an attack in the 3rd lap to get away from her but it didn't work out and Ainhoa won the first sprint while I got third. I was not comfortable on the track with so many people and no brakes. I was hesitant which made me either sit in the wind or trail off in the back. I lost the first sprint (besides the fact I am not a sprinter) because I was too far back.

The second sprint was a battle between Ainhoa and me and she got me by half a wheel.

Now I had nothing to lose anymore so I was sitting in the wind for the rest, 5 laps and accelerated with 400m to go. I pulled the field around and expected to get passed any second but no one came around and I won the last sprint. Ainhoa got second and thus won the points race, the track omnium and the one point! (329 points :328 points)

One point could have been one placing better, one second faster or one pedal stroke stronger.

I don't need to tell anyone how I feel. I knew racing Track against an incredible sprinter would be tough. Ainhoa is a great racer and it was fun racing against her this season. She is the deserved BAR champion. Congratulations, Ainhoa!!