This weekend I competed in two criterium championships. The first was Friday night and was an open race, but the Cat 4 women were scored separately from the Cat 1, 2, 3 women. Saturday was the age group criterium championships: categories included women Under 23, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, and 50+.
These races were both very fast and the fields included a 3 time and current US Pro National Champion in the Masters Road Race and Criterium Champion, Sara Tussey, and a current Exergy TWENTY16 (UCI team) development rider, Ashlyn Woods. You will regularly read about both of these incredible women cyclists in the major races on the USAC calendar.
I knew that I would have to give it more than I ever had before in these races to better my previous results in crits. I did my best. I inevitably got dropped from the field in both races.
I was really upset about getting dropped in the Friday night race, but try as I might, I just couldn’t get it together to stay on with the field. Sara and Ashlyn lapped the field and those of us dangling off the back in a break that started 10 minutes into the 45 minute race.
On Saturday, Sara and two other women broke off early in a break (probably within the first 10 minutes) and that was that for the rest of us. I did something different from I had ever done before–when the race started, I jumped to the front. I NEVER do this as I’m not the most reactive and aggressive cyclist. However, even though I planned to be near the front, I didn’t plan to be right on the VERY front. I kept it going for a few laps until I got popped off again. I lapped another rider on my own and completed the race. I actually ended up placing 3rd in my age group, 35-39. I won money and a medal. Not bad!
My husband, James, cheered for me the entire time and kept telling me that I could do it. I needed to hear that. I lack a lot of confidence when I race and my brain doesn’t always focus on what I should be doing and instead harps on what I am doing wrong. The constant support makes me feel better.
Yesterday when James and I discussed the race, he mentioned something that happened at the conclusion of the Saturday race that he regretted not responding to. He was cheering for me and telling me what a good job I had done and a guy beside him said, “Why? She was lapped TWICE,” trying to diminish what I was trying to accomplish. I’m so glad that I didn’t hear this after the race Saturday. It would have taken all of my restraint not to find this guy and give him a piece of my mind.
I have a message for this arrogant man (neither James nor I know who he is)–this quote from Theodore Roosevelt seems apropos and will undeniably be my new motto:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
You see, I know that I was lapped. Trust me, I know that better than anyone else. I was out there busting my rear end trying to finish the race and continuously push myself harder and harder. My breathing was extremely labored, my legs exhausted, my energy dwindling. But, you know what, I COMPLETED the race and got recognition for it (a nice podium shot below commemorates the occasion). That’s what matters to me. Sure, I would like to win a race or even finish with the field. I am working on getting there. However, this takes time–time that I am willing to put forth despite having a full-time job and other commitments. Cycling means a great deal to me and I don’t need some idiot making snide comments about my racing abilities to diminish my goals.
Comments like the one that jerk made to my husband are the kinds of comments that keep women especially out of cycling. How are we ever supposed to grow the sport if we are not encouraging of ALL types of cyclists–juniors, women, men of all ages, shapes, ethnicities, and sizes?
Cycling is a difficult support and we need to create environments of support and constructive criticism, not snide and uncalled for comments that diminish what we do.
That’s my rant for the time being. Thanks for reading. And to the jerk who insulted me, one day I’ll beat you (or someone like you) in a race. You and me and the open road. Guaranteed.
The podium for the Masters Women 35-39 age group:
My teammates also did really well and walked away with some loot (product, medals, and MONEY!)…
The podium for Under 23 Champion:
The podium for Women 30-34:
Photo of the team on podium: