I had never flown anywhere to race my bike before, but after Road Nationals I hope to get that privilege more often. Three teammates and I were able to travel to Grand Junction, Colorado for a weekend of racing and views. Due to a delayed flight out of Charlotte, we barely made our connection in Phoenix, which I consider to be the first race of the weekend. We probably looked crazy running through the airport (I think I even had my helmet on), but we made it to the gate right as they made last call. Once we were in Colorado, we were able to get some openers in. The place took my breath away- not just because of the altitude. After riding, we got to go up to the Colorado National Monument and see the wide open views and deep canyons. Saturday was the road race in nearby Whitewater, and the weather was breezy but nice. The course was stunning, and I kept reminding myself not to be distracted by the amazing setting.
The race was fast, and I got into a chase group of about 6 women during the first lap. We were to do three laps for the whole race, or about 45 miles. After the first lap though, the group I was with attacked on the false flat and dropped me. I was bummed to be out of that group, but managed to stay with the next group that had broken away and we were able to ride in rotating pacelines to stay ahead of the peloton. My heart rate stayed over 180 for two and a half hours, but I knew I had to dig deep so I could stay with the group I was in. There were two big hills, but most of the ascending was on false flats, so it was deceptively tiring. There was only one crash that my friend and fellow ACCC racer was unfortunately in, but thankfully no one was hurt too badly. In the end, I managed to finish 21st out of 62 riders. I was happy to finish 4th out of all the east coast riders, and to race in a discipline I am not as familiar with to broaden my experience. However, this just made me even more hungry for a top 20 finish the next day.
The crit was in downtown Grand Junction and played to completely different rider strengths. It was completely flat with 6 turns. The group stayed together for most of the race, and there were only two crashes in the sharpest corner. We averaged over 23 mph for an hour of technical turns and sprints. I sprinted for a 17th place in a close finish, but was overjoyed to be in the top 20. The weekend was challenging but fun, and I loved being able to spend time in a new place with my teammates. Racing against huge fields of fast women in beautiful places? I could get used to this.