Race: Novant Health Invitational Criterium & Belmont Criterium
Race date: April 12 & 13, 2014
Race Type: Criterium Location: Charlotte, NC & Belmont, NC
Riders: Colleen Gulick
The whirlwind weekend began on Friday morning with the 9.5 hour drive down to Charlotte, NC. After a night in the hotel it was time to race. The Novant Health Invitational Criterium had a start studded field of 56 women for the pro/1/2 race. The race took off at a blistering pace, winding through the 8-corner course. As expected, people began to pop off the back almost immediately. Once riders were outside of the main pack it was almost impossible to catch back up. With so many corners in a course there were plenty of opportunities to take a corner too slow or not have enough gas to keep up with the constant jolting nature of the field. I was patient and sat in the field, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds. The pack continued to get smaller and eventually I looked back to find that almost half the field had been dropped/pulled and I was now at the rear of the field. With only about 8 laps left of a 20 lap race (25 miles total) I knew I needed to move up to survive. Unfortunately, the pace was fast and the roads weren’t wide enough to move up. With two laps to go a rider a few people in front of me got popped. Another rider and I desperately tried to get around her and catch up to the field. However, we couldn’t bridge the gap and, unfortunately, we finished off the back of the main pack for a placing of 34th. This was a huge improvement over the last time I rode this race, two years ago, where I was pulled half way through the race. Although I acknowledge this improvement, and the fact that this was probably the fastest race of the year, I am continually striving for a better result. Thus, it was a night for recovery and preparation for the Belmont race to come.
Sunday’s Belmont Criterium was another tough race, as expected. The course was 1km and placed on the side of a hill. The home straight was all uphill with a back straight winding downhill though residential streets. The field was the same as Saturday with a few substitutions of little consequence to the feel of the race. Again, the race took off with a bang, dropping riders within the first three laps. I sympathize for the riders who train and travel a great distance to have their race finished in less than 5 minutes, that must be tough but I believe we have all been there at one time or another. Fortunately, I had a better day, staying with the field and making an initial move towards the front of the pack, one of my fatal mistakes from the day before. Unfortunately, what I thought was a smarter move resulted in a similar demise. With riders continually being gapped from the pack a rider in front of me was gapped. A group of about 6 or 7 of us were immediately gapped and hurried to get back in contact with the pack. We made it but it was short lived. We spent the rest of the race playing catch up. We finished, which is better than half of the women that started, but it was certainly an all-out effort. My official placing with 28th for the day…. Better than Saturday but plenty of room for improvement. A special thanks goes out to USA Crits, NCC Crits, and the city of Charlotte, North Carolina for putting on an amazing race. Also thank you to EPS/CSS, Riptide, Brielle Cyclery, Cannondale Bicycles, and PowerTap Wheels. The next race on the docket will be the Naval Yard Criterium this Saturday.