Photo by LanterneRougeici
by  Michelle Moore
When I got talked into doing my first Crit race back in March 2012 (Gapers Block), I thought I’d be “one and done.”  While my amazing Spider Monkey teammates taught me about crits, and even rode the course with me, I wasn’t really a fan. It was cold, I popped off the back quickly and worked much harder than necessary since I was ALONE for 28.5 of the 30 min race. Not one to give up easily, I went out the next night and tried again. For the record, crits are a LOT more fun when you stay with the pack, not to mention a HELL of a lot easier!
When I learned about Le Tour de Lawrence, I was all in. Not necessarily because I was eager to “race” three different events, in three different days, in three digit temps. No, it’s because Lawrence is my alma mater. I have fond memories of the campus and my “glory days” there, and I knew the community would fully support this event. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!
So, after an evening of street sprints so colorfully painted by Mark, I took on my first circuit race (see Mikey and Hayes’ report – if they ever write them :).  It wasn’t great, but it was my first so I’ll always remember it – especially getting to ride on the campus I walked for four years (Dean was fortunate enough to get an extra year). J  I will not miss the hill by the Library though, she was a real bitch!
Sunday’s Criterium race is something I was actually looking forward to throughout the weekend. It was an event that I knew something about, and felt that I actually stood a chance at not being DFL (reference #1).   As I lined up at the start line with 28 other women, including my fellow crit racer, Kelly Clarke, we were showered with cheers and screams from our teammates:  Mark, Dean, Vanessa, Mikey, Rebecca, Scott , Roxanne and Hayes.  Such supportive Monkeys!
I’ve always had a fear during racing, and if I’m being honest – even during group rides – of being able to clip into my pedals in an appropriate amount of time, without causing a crash or looking like a complete fool. To my surprise, and after Mark making me practice over and over and over again, I got my foot on my pedal, kept pedaling and without looking down, smoothly clipped in. Nailed it!
I’d had a chance to ride the course a few times before the race started, so I felt comfortable the first lap knowing where the turns and hills were located. If there is one thing that most Americans have a misconception of, it’s that Kansas is flat. It is, in fact, NOT flat – at least not in Lawrence, KS.  It was a great course, forming a sort of Figure 8 around all the “hot spots” of the downtown area.
The first lap of the race I was just trying to figure out my positioning in the pack, how the pack would respond to the turns, how they would jump out of the turns, etc.  The difficult thing about crits is that it feels like you are constantly turning, and have very few straights to move up in the group. Oh, and that you’re heart rate is near 199 for 30-40 straight minutes. This race featured eight different turns, one right after the next.  After the eighth turn, the road straightened out, and sloped slightly downhill to the finish. This is where I turned my body inside out to jump on a wheel and/or move up in the group. It felt amazing!
Often I found myself along the gates on the far right side, which initially freaked me out because I was slightly terrified of crashing. However, once I figured out how to stay calm and carry on, I just stayed focused on the wheel in front of me. 
As I came around the eighth turn each lap, and sprinted down the straight away, I was rewarded with roars from my teammates.  It gave me the fuel I needed to keep pushing on. I wanted them to be proud of me, and it was really fun still be part of the peloton.
As they announced we had five laps to go, I think I threw up a little in my mouth.  Not only did it feel like we’d already been racing for an hour, it was ridiculously hot out – at 10AM!!  I’ve never had to drink during a race, and I wasn’t sure how to do it going so fast and turning so much. So, I kept an eye on the group and when they drank, I drank. With the temps being so hot, I tried to drink every lap where I could. I got real tired of trying to lick the back of my throat since it felt like I had a cotton ball in my mouth the entire race. Anyway, I told myself that I could hang on for 10 more minutes.
Photo by LanterneRougeici
So, the laps melted away, and all of a sudden we had two to go. I knew the next time we came across the start line, these women would be moving into position for a strong attack and sprint to the finish.  I was already happy with my performance since I was still with the group, but it sure would be nice to “place” in the race too.  So, as we started the final lap, I gave it everything I had. I felt myself gapping the group a bit, and I heard the words of Mark Zalewski in my ear “you do everything you have to in order to grab a wheel. Even if you have to puke.”  So, I dug in and gave every last bit of myself I had left. 
I wasn’t in a great position with a half lap to go. Coming into the final turn, a girl in the group took herself out on the fence (the very thing I was worried about earlier). I was far enough back that I was able to maneuver around her, jump out of the final turn and sprint my ass off.  I had no idea where I was in the pack, but I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face
My teammates celebrated with me, and I was once again hooked on racing. I love my bike, even if I ride 650s Oh, and I got 12th. So, not quite a top 10 finish, but it was my best race to-date.  When’s the next one?