Race Anecdotes: Littleton Twilight Criterium
Besides being my team’s race, The Littleton Twilight Criterium is my favorite race because it’s a 2-minute bike ride from my house. Now I get the “Boulder Bubble.” This is the only time during the season that I don’t have to pack everything in my car and drive to a race. Too bad there aren’t more Littleton races that I can bike to.
The SW 3, 4, and 5 were all grouped together with the Cat 5’s start 30 seconds behind the Cat 3’s and 4’s. 10 Cat 3s and 24 Cat 4’s lined up together - one of the biggest women’s fields I’ve seen all season. Behind us were 7 Cat 5’s. Looking at the pictures, it was awesome to see multiple rows of women lined up to race. It’s a rare sight.
It was hot. Like 94 F* hot.
I warmed up at my house and soaked my hair in cold water in lieu of ice socks.
I didn’t really want to race. There’s been a lot of bullshit with women’s road racing, my personal life, and my career that my heart just wasn’t in it. I looked forward to our race being over and volunteering with my teammates at the Littleton Twilight Criterium.
Our women’s team was 11-people strong. The first time all season the 3’s and 4’s lined up together. A couple of them wanted to strategize. With little practice as a team, I thought it was a neat idea, but didn’t know if it’d actually succeed. But the thing with plans is that they’re never guaranteed. You can guarantee that it won’t go according to plan.
Our plan was to have as many of our teammates attack off the front and hopefully tire out the field. A couple of our stronger riders definitely did that, stringing out a line of women. Women from other teams attacked as well, making it a dynamic and hard race.
I told my team if there was a big enough group of them at the front toward the end of the race, I’d attack and they’d need to block the rest of the racers. I was going to attack with three laps left but there was enough action from other teams, I held back. Coming up on the final lap, I was pushed to the outside of the pack and since I had nowhere to go but around, I decided to surge ahead.
I can’t attack for the life of me. It’s something I’m working on.
I pushed ahead out of the first corner and kept up the pace until Olivia, Mollie, and Haley caught up to me. One of them attacked and the other two stayed on her wheel. I struggled to keep up, having burned all my matches out of the hundreds of turns and attacks from the previous 35 minutes. We dove through the last corner and Olivia, Molly, and Haley sprinted to the finish.
My legs were toast.
I came in fourth by 3 seconds. Better than last year’s Littleton Twilight Criterium where I struck my pedal and ended up in 11th.
I was three seconds ahead of fifth place.
Imposter Syndrome started creeping in again. I wondered if I’m not landing on the podium, am I even good enough to be a Cat 3? It’s difficult to feel like you’re continually getting kicked in the teeth and nothing to show for it. Except, maybe a toothless grin.
But then I remembered what Mollie told me on Facebook once:
There is this sense in women's road cycling that you need to upgrade quickly and in one season and we should rewrite that norm and expectation because everyone is on a different journey! The lower categories are there to help us develop our skills, try new tactics, and work on a weakness. A lot of people upgrade too quickly because they have the strength to but not necessarily the skills or the tactical sense. There is not the same forgiveness in the higher categories catered to learning as in the lower. Patience is a talent that isn't encouraged enough in our sport.
Mollie and I race Cat 3 together. She beats me every time, but she never boasts or brags about her wins. It’s easy to talk to her at races and I enjoy lining up with people like her. She’s right. I am in a rush to upgrade. I think about the opportunities that open up as a Cat 2 that I aren’t available as a Cat 3.
I think about my friend, Anna, who started racing about the same time as me and is a Cat 2 and will be racing in the Colorado Classic next week. It’s hard not to compare myself to other strong racers I line up with at races. I wonder what I’m doing wrong in my training, what I can be doing better, and then I remember that we’re all different. I am built differently than my competitors. Eventually, I’ll be as fast as them one day, but this season was not my time.
I know I need better strategies and tactics and hell, a stronger sprint. As seen (or not) at the Littleton Twilight Criterium. I try to remember where I started: on a mountain bike dabbling in road five years ago. I only started racing two years ago. I’m still finessing my bike handling skills to get to the point of feeling 100% confident on my bike.
And if I’m too old to join a professional team now, then so be it. “Too old” is 30. My racing age is 31. I know that’s my rush in “catting up.” I want to be able to race in the Colorado Classic.
I have to learn to remember to compare myself to an older version of me. I have to remember that I am progressing even if it’s hard to see.