Event: Longsjo Classic - New England Crit Week
Date: June 26th-28th
Location: Leominster, Worcester, Fitchburg
Riders: Deborah Leedale-Brown
Results: Leominster 8th / Worcester 5th / Fitchburg 6th / Omnium GC 5th
(As told by Deborah Leedale-Brown)
This was a chance to experience a long standing NE race that has gone through many changes over the years, in its current format it is a series of three downtown Crits, two twilight and the final day in the afternoon. I had no other team mates available to join me for these races so instead I travelled with my friends and fellow competitors from CAWES Racing (Meredith Ehn, Sarah Iepson & Beth Bonilla).
The fields for each of the races were 36-42riders and although I knew some of the NY riders, for the most part the competition was new to me. I kind of liked having the opportunity to race new and different riders, plus I did not get too phased or nervous as I really did not know who was capable of what - I soon would!
So after 6hrs of travel car sharing with Meredith we arrived in plenty of time for our first race in Leominster, the evening was dry and pretty warm but certainly not as humid as we have it in PA and NJ. The course was pretty non technical except for the final corner which you entered from a short descent so there could have been potential for issues. In fact the race went off pretty much without a hitch, there was a small crash but the riders involved got up and finished the race. Throughout this race of 50min there were a number of small attacks and chases and then with about 5 or so laps to go a Zimmer Capital rider known for her ability to ride away went on a solo breakaway, she hung out there for a number of laps and it was only when CAWES Rider Sarah Iepson led the charge and upped the pace did we look like catching her. As a sprinter with no team mates I looked to position myself before the final downhill corner, I did not get around that corner in quite the position I wanted and ended up sprinting across the line in 8th place. I was pleased with a solid performance and glad to get the first race done. After the race it was onto my host housing for some refueling and recovery so to be ready to go again.
This was another twilight crit so it was great to have the whole day to prepare, nice sleep in, good breakfast, 1hr plus easy recovery spin out that took in coffee and croissants then more stretching and recovery legs, before packing and traveling to the race. The weather was looking a little iffy when we arrived but thankfully it did stay dry for our race. Once signed in I took the opportunity to walk around the course, for the most part it was a good course with fast corners. The one tricky section was the final three corners that formed a dog leg, not so much because of the corners but more due to the final stretch of road before the sprint looking like it contained holes that resembled large crevasses pretty much all the way along. However I had faith in my Cannondale Evo, Enve Powertap wheels and my bunny hopping ability. I also felt that the safest place to be on this stretch would be at or close to the front to pick a decent line. Because I finished inside the top ten the night before I got a call up to the line, I pulled up alongside Gabby Durrin one of Britain's top cyclo cross racers who is ranked inside the top 20 in the world. We exchanged a few words in our native British tongue, listened to the USA National Anthem and our race was then underway. The field was a little larger with a few more faces to watch but for the most part I now had an idea of how the race might unfold. Again it was aggressive from the start with attacks but everyone was being marked pretty closely. I stuck to my game plan of being near or on the front and even put in a few attacks of my own. The bumpy stretch of the road was ok if you just held your line and were prepared to ride the holes but it certainly made for a twitchy corner into the final sprint straight. With everyone together at the end of the race it went down to another field sprint, this time I positioned myself well going through the back half of the course and sat on Gabby Durrin's wheel, on the final sprint for the line I crossed in 5th place - again another solid performance that gave me more confidence going into the final day of racing.
The weather took a huge turn for the worse overnight with high winds and torrential rain all night and pretty much forecast all of Sunday too. This race took place early afternoon and when we arrived it was still pouring rain and freezing cold once signed in my warm up was to stay as dry and warm as I could for as long as I could so changing in the car and deciding not to warm up on the trainer, instead just ride around. Once the race before before the women's pro 1/2 race finished, then we were allowed to take a lap of the course, it did not appear to be a technical course and in the dry I felt it would have been fast, torrential rain and lots of standing water on the course made for a different story however. Speeds needed to be controlled around the corners and braking was certainly not as precise as in the dry. I felt that the only corner where there was potential for a spill was the second to last corner, it was sharper, you entered it with more speed and it had a lot of white paint markings on the road.
Once again I got a call up as a top ten rider and Omnium contender so I was happy to be on the front line starting, in fact with the rain and wet roads, being at the front was going to be the place to be to keep the spray from affecting my vision. I decided to ride in my Oakleys since I felt that they could cope with the rain on the lenses and also I did not want my contacts to be washed out my eyes with the spray! The race started and maintained a steady safe pace for a good few laps, I think everyone just testing out their tires and brakes on the wet roads and also warming up our bodies in the shivering 58deg temps. This race had a number of cash and omnium point premes so that helped to inject pace into the race. There were attacks off the front but nothing super aggressive and so the whole race stayed together. I grabbed a cash preme and some valuable omnium points too, but the podium would be decided with a field sprint. Nothing really ramped up until we got around the final two corners and then it was a long wide straightaway sprint to the line. I felt good all through this race and was hoping for a podium but unfortunately I found myself boxed a little and had to sprint very wide to come through,crossing the line in 6th place overall.
Upon reflection I was very happy with three top 10 finishes, grabbing some preme points and finishing 5th overall in the omnium, all in all a great weekend of racing and fun times with some great competitive ladies. Thank you to all my sponsors for allowing me to partake in this great sport, without your generosity and excellent equipment I could not compete in the sport that I love.