Saturday I found an easier way. Rather than giving a little piece of your soul to ride some Zipp wheels, at the Indy Crit, all you have to give is a little piece of your elbow.
One of these wheels is not like the other. It also highlights the fact that my road wheels are apparently sub-par, even for the Cat 4 women's field.
Photo Credit: Scott Brooks
I had planned on not racing for the month of July in favor of a Hail Mary attempt at getting my sh*t together in time for CX. However, as the premiere event of the Indiana road season (to paraphrase our team director in some guilt inducing emails) loomed, I first relented and signed up to volunteer. Then two days before the race, I saw that the Cat 4 women's field was relatively huge and that I had two teammates in the race. Despite the Wheel(wo)men's rapid team growth on paper, we hadn't had more than two girls in the same race at the same time outside of the Death March, so I relented and signed up to make it a Cat 4 Wheel(wo)men trio. (We still never got more than two of us in the same picture.)
Things started off as well as could be expected. I went straight to the front in hopes of getting and keeping a good position. It worked pretty well, although I was having to to work pretty hard to keep moving back to the front as we cycled through something like a backwards pace line. A few laps in I found myself cycling towards the back again as we hit the pavement-to-brick transition entering "the circle" for which The Circle City is named.
I heard a scream followed by the slow motion pause before one girl started to tumble and the others began to pile on top of her. I was a few wheels back, but still too close to avoid, so I basically slammed into the pile straight-on and then somehow flipped or flopped to the side. I expected some major road rashy pain, but a few seconds later I found myself lying on my back feeling pretty okay except for a couple of random cuts and an elbow that was more "strawberry" than full-on road rash (it's still strangely swollen, though, while not especially painful).
My bike initially seemed okay, except a dropped chain, but as I started riding to the pit, I found the chain was rubbing the spokes. Luckily, the mechanic in the pit got it functional and replaced my stock Giant brand front wheel with a loaner Zipp one, which was pretty exciting, and gave me a push as the pack came around.
At this point, I was pretty well recovered from the efforts of the early part of the race and we were probably over half-way through the 30 minute race. With my "free lap" having stretched into several laps, I had the opportunity to manage my first finish with the pack if I could just handle 10-15 minutes of pain. And I mostly succeeded. I survived all but the final attack going into the beginning of the last lap, and didn't quite manage to outsprint the other straggler who peeled off at the same time I did. I still managed 15th out of 28 starters, so I was pretty happy.
So I'm still not particularly awesome at crits, but I get a little better every time. At least this weekend reminded me that I want to learn how to be good at them. I'm also pretty excited about our Cat 4 women's team finally seeming to come together a bit. With a little more experience, and possible reappearance by Sarah Bauer on the road scene next season, I think we might be able to pull on some real organized team efforts. Of course, 'cross is nigh, so all that silliness will have to wait until spring.