Racing at home here in SoCal has a completely different feel for me than it did last year. This year we have a strong crew of 4-7 racers at any given event that will be sure to put the smack down and make the events hard, fast, and exciting.
The last few months have truly delivered on this level. The cool thing about Team Helen's is that we can commit to a team goal and make it happen. At the same time, we can also have plan A-B-C come into effect for a podium finish. Having multiple cards to play is a great trait for any team to have!
Let's start with Manhattan Beach Grand Prix. We had 6 racers which instantly gave us the numbers. Our goal was to ride for the sprint, with sprinter extraordinaire Suzanne Sonye ready for the finish. However, a late-race breakaway got up the road with Shelby Reynolds, who was fresh off of a successful campaign at the Tour of The Dairlands. She was hungry for a win, and we were confident in the peloton that her odds were great in the break. The field could not organize a successful chase to overcome the break, but on the last lap, they were dangling only a few seconds ahead! Rounding the final turn, we could all see Shelby post up in celebration! Her first WIN and on a great and fabled course! She told here tale HERE.
The next event to tackle with the team was San Marcos Circuit Race. I like this one, because it is hard. Tactics don't shut teams down, legs do. We had Brenda, Sarah, Suzanne and Shelby along with myself for this race. As it happened, SCVelo's strong women Amber Gaffney went for a prime and just kept rolling. I jumped on her wheel after the turn-one right hand turn and told her to mush! Just keep pedalling and lets get a gap! A gap we got....and just kept rolling. Her engine is huge...on the bike side climb, she was seated muscling it out as I was standing, full gas, to stay on her rear wheel. We turned right into the headwind on the false flat and she just wouldn't let up!
Chaos ensued on the course due to the fact that the cat 3/4 women had began 1 minute behind us and riders from both groups were all over the course. Suzanne and a few other riders joined Amber and I for a few laps, but she just kept digging. These efforts brought us back to what was left of the field and I had teammates Brenda and Sarah to help control the pace and attempt to tame Amber. She attacked on the climb 1 more time and we both soloed in for 1st and 2nd. That 1st pot on the podium is so elusive, yet so enticing! I always think, what more or LESS could I have done, utilized the team better, been more patient, been smarter, to ensure our team got on the first block. But 2nd was an exciting place to be. Suze also placed 3rd, rounding out the podium.
Now it is no secret that our little hit squad wanted to win Brentwood Grand Prix which just happened to be the SCNCA (district) state Crit Championships. Added to our roster was Dara Rogers and Michelle Ignash so we were in full-force. This is always an exciting event, as some extra racers join the start list due to the prize of the jersey and much larger cash purse than usual. While chatting to my homies in staging, someone said "Joy, you just got a call-up!" What! I have never been called up, and the one time I am, I miss it because I am talking?! Shocking...yet so predictable. The call-up gave me a little extra motivation to actually clip in at the start too...
This race was fun! I love this course and laughed just a little attacking up the gutter in the choppy pavement. The first time I did this event I was white-knuckled the whole time. This year it was a blast. Fast turns, swooping corners, and being part of a team that attacked, counter attacked, and set a fast tempo. Long story short, we wanted a sprint finish. And sprint indeed we did! It is a long course, so we were patient until the last lap. Emily Georgeson, who had just won the Cat 3 Women's State Title (and is my client...I can plug that here, right!?) Is also on Helen's and was there racing with us as well! After each team member had done their job, Emily was up there for one last lap. I got on her wheel and calmly said "A little faster, a little bit more..." Brenda came around and took over for her, as she dive-bombed the descending turn. Suzanne and Shelby were right on my wheel as our black train swooped through the next two turns and onto the finishing straight. I dug as deep as I could, then Suzanne and Shelby launched past me to finish 1-2!! So exciting! In some of the photos you can see me coming in around 15th with my fist in the air, so excited to have executed a team plan, at a big big race, with so many sponsors there! You can read a report by Suzanne HERE.
Most recently, we raced at Ladera Ranch. This town reminds me a Smallville or the Truman Show - just a bit too perfect for my style. I do have to say though, the promotors are excellent. The women's field is traditionally small there, however they continue to offer a large and GOOD prize purse for the ladies. (Although men were COMPLAINING about the purse not being cut in half since our field was small. Thanks for the support guys....)
With the smaller field and Helen's having 5 riders, we were truly the team to recon with and set the pace. It was hot, over 100F and you could tell motivation was not at it's peek for the peloton. Michelle got in a great move with Bonnie from SCVelo which forced the riders in the race without teams to chase. As they were reeled in, Suzanne counter attacked, the field shuffled and set me up perfectly to attack on the back-side rise. One rider came with me, Jenny Rios from SCVelo and we established the break. And it stuck. Not growing, and not shrinking, the gap hovered around 30 seconds. All of a sudden. Alexis Ryan from Tibco (USA National Jr Crit and Road Champ - heading to junior worlds in Austria) bridged to our duo, making two sprinters, and me. This is where the chess comes in and where I am the worst. I have good fitness, good bike handling skills - but what do I do NOW!!! Brenda had told me before the race - ATTACK on the last lap and get away from the sprinters. So that is what I did. We shed Jenny for a bit, but I didn't want to just lead Alexis out, so I sat up and Jenny got back on. 3rd was mine for the day. An exciting finish since we actually got to stand on the podium - I haven't done that since the MTB days!
I always have such mixed emotions from these results! I am so excited to have a podium finish and have the opportunity to ride for a result, yet frustrated because I didn't play the tactics correct, or I over thought things. But, I always learn. I don't make the same mistakes more than once, and I always add to my understanding of the sport. It is also a big bonus in these situations to know that if the break had been caught, we as a team have sprinter options, our plan A-B-C and that once it is over, we can learn and grow more as a team. Pretty cool stuff.
This Sunday is the Summer End Ontario Grand Prix, I am sure something exciting for the team will happen!