Spent the last week racing for the first time in Europe at the Master's World Cup races in Austria. It's an unbelievable experience - a beautiful area, inspiring people, and 700+ riders from all over the world. The pic on the left is the view from the hotel...
The trip is especially easy if you go with Tracy and Rob Lea who have been organizing groups for years. They take care of everything - accommodations, race registrations, number pick up, food, mechanics - everything. And they manage to get the coolest collection of people you can imagine. Here's a pic of some of this collection hanging out outside our gorgeous hotel...
I was competing in four races: A Master's World Cup (not THE World Cup, but a non-UCI World Cup...whatever that means), The Master's Worlds time trial, THE Master's World Cup, and an Elite UCI race.
The road racers were all held on the same course: a +/- 40K loop with two pretty big climbs and a fast flat finish. A good race for sprinters who can get their arses over the climbs. The only downer is that the women's races are a little short. The 30-40 year old women only did 1 lap for the World Cup races - about 25 miles.
Results & Reports
Race 1: 4th in the first World Cup race! The picture from the awards ceremony says it all. Apparently I was pretty happy.
It came down to a sprint with about 10 riders left after the climbs demolished the field.
Race 2: Unfortunately the TT two days later did not go as well for me. It was a bad dream where everyone is going forward and you are going backwards or stuck in quicksand. I was passed by four riders about 5-10K into the race...seriously. I ended up in last place (as my "friends" helpfully pointed out repeatedly for the rest of the week). But after the race I realized what was had happened - the back brake was flush against the rim. It explained a lot, but the poor showing definitely screwed with the head. Unfortunately The Master's World Cup was the next day...
Race 3: For the Master's World Cup, was feeling a little flat from the TT and it had shaken my confidence. Still I deluded myself that I could pull something off and that the field would ignore me and let me ride away. Didn't happen. The field was larger than the first world cup race, and the Italians showed up in full force. They kept the race under control and if anything moved the field was on top of it. We came to the finish with about 25 riders...and I lost focus and nerve. The Italians strung it out at the front and took 1-2. I got 7th.
Race 4: Finally, Sunday was an 'Elite Women's Open race' on the same course. This time we were doing 2 laps (vs. 1 for the others), and there were new faces since there was no age limit. Lots of younger riders (mostly Austrian) showed up. The pace was harder on the climbs than it had been in the earlier races, but with about 10K to go and 2 riders off the front (one far off who had taken off on the first climb, and one just dangling ahead), the pace inexplicably slowed down. We went from 25 mph to 15. The pace allowed riders who had been dropped to get back on and the Pro men to pass us with less than 5k to go. Chaos! It sorted out and we came into the finish with 20+ riders racing for third.
In the final corners, I thought my chances for a podium finish were blown when a rider bunny hopped the median strip and came crashing through the group. I was gapped from the lead riders, but closed it just in time for the 500K sign. Rested for a second, head down, and went for it from 200K to go. I won the field sprint and got 3rd place overall! All these mid-Atlantic office park crits have honed the sprint skills!
The picture above is the podium from the elite race. The winner apparently just got back from the Olympics where she raced for the Austrian team. I guess I'm just way too cool and couldn't be bothered to take off the shades.
Overall...an amazing event. Highly recommend it. Maybe we can get a team USA together for next year?