UT Race Weekend

Women’s A rider Jessica Prinner wrote up this fantastic race report of the UT Race Weekend, enjoy.

Don't worry Jessi, no ones back there.
Don’t worry Jessi, no ones back there.

“Going into my second collegiate road season, I was mentally prepared for this past weekend. Half of collegiate racing isn’t even about the racing; it’s about compromising among 15 people, 2 vans, lots of luggage, 4 people to a room, and figuring out where or what to eat. You can’t deny this is a big stress put on the body and mind, and it’s important to be prepared for anything. Amber Neben once told me a great saying she lives by in the sport of cycling: “Be flexible, be adaptable, overcome”. That saying pretty much explains itself.

This season I made it a priority of mine to hit every race I enter hard. I finally made a semi-pro team called C.A.R.E. for Cycling, and we will be attending all NCC races and most of the USA Crit series, and I realized that I must be mentally honed for this year and ready to race at the national level races. For this reason, I really want to be ready to race hard in every event I enter this year, regardless of weather, race time, field size, etc. Collegiate racing is can be especially hard because race start times are miserable and the season tends to coincide with awful weather. Our road race on Saturday started at 8 am in 30 degree weather, it really doesn’t get much worse than that. Even for Sunday’ crits, we all have to be up early to attend the men’s C/D and women’s B/C races to cheer on our teammates. I think this will be excellent conditioning for the race season ahead, though, as anything I encounter in the national calendar races won’t be so extreme.

The road race was held at Pace Bend state park, a familiar course, which was approximately 10km (6.2 miles) per lap and had nice hilly terrain that was easy to be pulled along on within a field, but a little more challenging by oneself . We had 50 miles, or 8 laps to complete, and only had seven women registered in our women’s A field, three of which were MSU (Claire, Ashley and me). I was antsy to stay warm, as it was incredibly cold.

The race started and I kept doing moderate pulls in an attempt to warm up, which took nearly an entire lap before I could actually feel any warmth in my legs. Danielle Bradley from Baylor University attacked on the first lap and road away. I waited a bit to see how the others would react and then decided to do a hard effort on the steep kicker climb just 1.5 km before the finish; I had pulled away from the field. When I looked back a second time my gap had increased, so I decided to chase Danielle. When I caught her up the road, I traded weak pulls to see if my teammates would try to bridge. For about 20 minutes I was looking back but the 5 others weren’t in sight so I decided to get a hard ride in and traded harder pulls with my break-mate.

For just about the entire race my legs were cramping hard core, but I just pushed through it and kept drinking copious amounts of water in the hopes they would go away, they didn’t of course.

I attacked Danielle with three laps to go at the top of the kicker. This is a tactic that works well, though I’m not positive why. The kicker took about 30-45 seconds to crest, and then had a false-flat/completely flat stretch for another 30 seconds or so. When making an attack on a section like this, it’s best to go at the TOP of the really hard part (the kicker) instead of ON the kicker. I think this is because everyone is “fired up” on the hard section, ready for pain and attacks. When the road flattens and becomes “easier” everyone sits down and turns to recovery mode, gassed and breathing hard.

Even though you’re probably tired, too, it’s best to go then because no one is expecting it or motivated to put in a hard effort at that time. There is always a delay in their reaction, and a certain reluctance to throttle the gas again.

So this is where I put in my hard effort, and gapped Danielle. Once we were both by ourselves, I had the advantage. Now we were solo riders, facing the same wind with no draft, but I was seconds ahead of her. According to math and science, she’d have to go harder than me to catch. I continued to time trial away, opening the gap and winning the race.

Oh yeah, and at one point I caught the men’s B field that had started 5 minutes ahead of us. I sometimes like to call myself “The Ego Slayer”.

I’m going to just skip ahead to the crit on Sunday because there’s not too much to say about the TTT; there really aren’t any tactics or strategy involved except to ride until you feel you have lost a few brain cells.

The crit on Sunday was an interesting short loop around a middle school that included a short, curvy kicker (maybe 10 seconds to crest?).

By the time our race started the wind had picked up and the blustery conditions made for a tricky race strategy. Our goal was to get Ashley up the road first, and have me bridge to her without Danielle, because the Baylor rider was really a strong factor.

Once again we used the same principle as yesterday to attack; Ashley was to jump just as the road flattened at the top of the kicker. The race got hard within the first few laps as Danielle put in a hard effort, and Ashley completed the plan perfectly and got away at the top of the hill, opening an excellent gap and setting the scene wonderfully.

Just before I could attack and bridge, Danielle jumped to chase and closed the gap to Ashley. She would prove to be just a bit too strong for our strategy.

I attacked Danielle at the top of the kicker like Ashley had, opening a gap right away. I pushed the pace hard for a few laps until she was out of sight, and then switched into TT mode.

Now I’m the type of rider that will ride like a bat out of hell when dangled with a carrot. Danielle was my carrot…and I was hell bent on lapping her. After some time I lapped Ashley, and she tried to sit on my wheel for a few laps to be pulled back up to Danielle, but she was too gassed to make it and dropped off.

After a bit more time elapsed, Danielle was in sight, and I saw she was working with another rider from UT. I caught the two of them, and rode with Danielle until the final lap to the finish, a lap ahead.

Overall it was a fun weekend, and I feel satisfied I got to push myself and make the weekend challenging. I’m happy with my fitness this early in the season, and look forward to more fun collegiate weekends!”

Jessica Prinnner

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