In Montreal, we’re lucky to have a big community of fixed gear riders and have a few events a year, like the Jackalope and Velirium crits, that give fixed gear riders an opportunity to have a sense of racing. I had gotten into riding a few years back, at first just commuting/recreationally, but slowly I found myself with goals to start racing. By having these races in Quebec, there was no excuse to not put myself out there and give it a try; they went really well, and gave me some confidence to take on bigger things (hello RHC!). In both of these events last year, the women’s category was small—I think a maximum or 12-15 women but just by including a crit for women, I found it to be really encouraging and a necessary step in the racing scene. I hope this summer that our Quebec events will attract more racers, women and men, and heighten the competition.
When I heard that Red Hook Crit had a women specific category, I knew that I had to sign up. Brooklyn is in reasonable driving distance from Montreal, and there really was nothing to lose going into it. I know I had trained throughout the winter, and had progressed immensely from last summer. The thought of racing with seriously talented women the well known Cinelli Chrome and Poloandbike riders was intimidating to say the least, and even though these women are next level fast, I needed something to give me an idea of where I can/could be with more training from my current level. The fact that 73 women registered, which means no one would be eliminated in the qualifier was extremely encouraging.
Going into the qualifying, I was nervous to say the least. I hadn’t ridden my track bike since november and let’s just say I don’t “do” brakeless. Since we weren’t able to pre-ride the course, the two turns had me intimidated. I didn’t feel too strong (combination of nerves, anticipation, etc). Out of the 73 women that registered, I ended up qualifying 36 and these results (especially after feeling not very confident) gave me a little bit of confidence going into the actual race, placing myself right in the middle of the pack.
Any nervousness, fatigue or knee pain literally disappeared the minute I rolled onto the course before the start. The atmosphere was incredible. Hundreds of people yelling and cheering and the flashbulbs photographers. I probably looked ridiculous with the smile on my race rolling up to the start, but it was one of the coolest moments I have experienced. Being there with my teammate Caro, and fellow mtl-er Laurie, I felt ready to give it my best. After the starting beep, I was nervous riding so close with the other girls, scared of the unpredictability of the other riders who were probably as nervous as I. The first lap pretty much separated us into different packs, and I found myself riding with 5 or 6 other women. I was pleasantly surprised that the girls (including myself) wanted to work together. We were all there to give it our best, and teamwork (although from different ones) required that, if we ever wanted to catch up to the lead peloton. Riding with those girls was a blast, and we really pushed each other to try and catch up the lead peloton.
It was a fast race, but unfortunately we were not fast enough. We got pulled just before finishing out 12th lap. But rolling off into the pit, instead of being discouraged, I was entirely stoked to see all of my friends there cheering me on, regardless of being lapped. My goal going into Red Hook was to not get lapped, a goal in which I didn’t end up succeeded in. I could’ve been bummed or disappointed, but honestly, I had never been more pleased with myself. I fought during the race, constantly reminding myself “alright, you’ve come this far, do not let these girls get away from you pain in only a temporary thing” and tried to hang in there.
The caliber of the other women athletes was inspiring. My getting lapped only encouraged me even more. Now that I understand how strong my competitors are, I can focus my training more and really push myself harder than ever to try again next year (and the year after) in finishing the race. I didn’t accept this as a failure or defeat, but a learning opportunity and a great one at that.
You always want to believe that you could’ve done better, pushed a little hard, hung in a little longer… but I didn’t, and I am totally okay with that. I want to prove to myself that I can be better and one day keep up with those amazing women who killed it this year, and proved a lot for women’s racing.