This was my 3rd year to race MSGP (I skipped last year because I was in the process of having a road-bike nervous breakdown). It was my first year to be there with a sizable team, and this was my first time playing “team captain” for this year’s Marx-Bensdorf women’s team.
Not really knowing what everyone’s strengths and weaknesses were, it was hard to make a plan. This was obvious in the road race. I will be the first to admit that I’d underestimated a couple of my teammates, and if I’d known better, I would have instructed them a little differently.
Since we had 7 people in the race, the other teams let us get right up front and control the race from the gun (though this was cut down to 6 when Julie flatted early and didn’t get back on). We kept it pretty mellow until about halfway through the first lap when we hit a stretch of light wind & rollers. Here, I started some attacks. Of course, there were a few counters and a little action, but nothing really stuck. The pace remained high, but not impossible until we hit the start/finish area, where Debbie attacked up the hill to what we thought was a time bonus (I could have sworn I heard the official say it was, but later read the race bible and saw that the time bonus was only for finishing)
The second lap was similar- mellow at first, then some attacks. Then Pam went off the front and got a nice gap. For a second, Debbie (Absolute Racing) and Louise (Metro Volkswagen) looked at each other waiting for someone to make a move. A couple of the S3 women stepped up & started to chase, but for a couple of miles, it was somewhat unorganized, and Pam opened the gap.
With about 5k to go, we hit the a long grade. It was enough to let the chasers catch on. Marda and Karin traded a few attacks/counters (which really made me smile), but then Debbie did what she’s famous for and leaped across the gap to Marda, only to keep on going and get a gap of her own. CRAP!
We chased. It was pretty unorganized. We were closing the gap with 1k to go when I made the executive decision to try and get close enough that we could possibly swarm Debbie, and I’d be able to hold on to get “same timed” with the group. I put my head down and hammered it. While not ideal by any means, it nearly worked out that way- she still won by a few bike lengths and got a time bonus, but it minimized the damage. Even after working her butt off and being off the front near the end of the race, Pam still placed 3rd, and everyone else was sprinkled throughout the top 10.
I went to lunch feeling a little frustrated and wishing I could have been a better leader. Thankfully, that night’s TT would help settle our places in the GC and make the decision-making process a little easier for the circuit race.
The TT was painful. It was just under 3 miles and finished on a hill that wasn’t particularly big, but, given its place on the course, at about the 500m to go mark, it made you feel as if your heart was about to explode and your eyes were going to bleed (I think that meant I was doing it right).
For some reason, the women’s RR results were never posted at the TT venue (the TT start times weren’t posted until 15 minutes before the first rider was supposed to go off, either, but that’s another ball of wax…) So, we wouldn’t know who was placed where until the next morning.
In the morning, I decided that in lieu of riding the trainer, I’d ride the 11 or so miles to Copiah-Lincoln Community College for the circuit race. It was both beautiful and relaxing. Even more importantly, it gave me time to think about my team and how I’d plan our strategy for the day.
When I arrived, everyone was there and excited about the results (neither the RR nor the TT results for the women were posted until that morning). I ended up turning a 6:57, which landed me in 3rd for the TT behind Louise (6:44!) and Debbie (6:54). Marda’s 7:01 would put us in 3rd and 4th. If we could get some time bonuses, we could move up. I had a quick pow-wow with the team, then we all went off to finish warming up.
From the gun, Julie jumped out in front. She was caught in the first few turns, then Pam attacked on the hill on the backside of the course. She stumped the field again! They looked at each other waiting for someone to go while she opened it up further. At 51 seconds from the top of the GC, she was somewhat of a threat if she were able to stay away.
In the 2nd lap, Debbie went for a bridge/counter like she’d done the day before. Going in to the 3rd lap, I caught her. She peeked under her arm & told me we had a gap going, and I told her “let’s work it!” A minute later, Louise caught on to us with Marda in tow.
A lap later, Kat came across the gap by herself. This was both good news and bad news:
Good: Kat was a few spots down in the GC, so I could put her to work on the front keeping the tempo up so that Marda and I could (hopefully) sit in to rest up to trade attacks later on in the race.
Bad: Debbie doesn’t like to be outnumbered. I knew that she’d attack relentlessly to try and shell off whoever she could.
I must be psychic, because the next time we approached the little kicker hill before the start/finish, she attacked. We caught her about 1/2way though the next lap. Then she attacked again. And again. And again. Marda and I quickly figured out that the best way to deal with it was to hop on Louise’s wheel and let her “diesel” us back up to Debbie rather than trying to jump with the initial acceleration. The only lap she didn’t attack was the one right before we expected the the time bonus prime lap. On that lap, Louise tried to counter Debbie and ended up leading our pack out for the sprint. Even though she’d been attacking repeatedly, Debbie still got the 1st time bonus and I was 2nd.
The next lap, Marda and I tried to trade attacks/counters, but after a few failed attempts, it was clear that it wasn’t going to happen. All of the chasing had toasted our legs. With 4 to go, I told Kat to give us her best 10 minute TT on the front in order to discourage any more attacks. It was moderately successful. She wasn’t really clear as to why she was supposed to go up and kill herself (it was only her 2nd race ever!) other thanÃ‚ I’d told her to (kinda hard to explain that strategy DURING a race), so a few times, she sat up and looked like she wanted someone else to pull, and we’d yell at her to keep going. Of course, there were more attacks. We still hung on, though.
Kat was great to have on the bell lap. Usually everyone slows down and mean-mugs each other waiting for someone to make a move, but she did an exceptional job of maintaining the tempo. We went from the bottom of the kicker hill. Once again, Debbie powered through first, but I was able to hold on for 2nd and Marda 3rd. Kat rolled in 5th, which was excellent for her because just being in the break brought her up several spots in the GC.
Back in the pack, Pam, Karin, and Julie kept everything under control. Pam managed to win the field sprint, too! Unfortunately, getting out-horsepowered kept us off the top podium spots. The final GC placing was 3rd (me), 4th(Marda), 5th (Kat), 7th (Pam), 11th (Karin), and 13th (Julie). Casey was forced to DNF the Circuit race because of pain from a lingering leg injury.
More photos HERE (including other categories)
The team’s performance was excellent! We had a good plan, adapted it as the race unfolded, and did the best we could with what our legs would give us. With a few more watts, we’ll be making up those precious seconds in the TT and be able to lay down a hard attack/counter attack or two when it’s needed.
I’m pretty sure that racing against Debbie Milne is a pain akin to childbirth- severe, yet rewarding enough that you’re willing to do it again and again. The woman moves faster than a scalded cat, and she never gets too tired to stop hurting you all the way until you cross the finish line. Afterward,Ã‚ she smiles and gives you a home-made baked good of some sort… kind of like when the doctor gives a kid a lollipop after getting a round of booster shots. Looking forward to the next race!