Housatonic Hills Race Report - Women's 4 and 65+ 6-17-08
Five NEBC women (4 Category 4s, 1 Masters 65+, no Cat 123s) participated in the Housatonic Hills Road Race in Southbury, CT this past Saturday. In a large Category 4 field (35 starters), our climbing phenom, Clara Kelly claimed first place with over 4 minutes on the next finisher. Katherine Snell finished 17th, Michelle Archambault finished 32nd along with Kathy Martin at 33rd. Julie Lockhart took 9th place in the Master’s 65+ race.
Great job ladies!
Housatonic Hills Road Race Report
June 15, 2008
Category 4 Women, 35 Starters
Masters 65+, 9 Starters
Clara Kelly – 1st Category 4
I give the course at Housatonic Hills a big two thumbs up. It definitely delivered on the Hills part of the name, with one sizable climb of about 8 miles (with a few descents thrown in there). There was a lot of pouring rain on the drive down but the roads were clear for the race and the warm humid weather was fine for me. I was excited about the race because there was the largest field compared to the other races I’ve gone to.
Unfortunately the race got off to a very sketchy start. Cat 4 ladies assembled behind the junior men and listened to pre race instructions – I caught the part about the yellow line but was not sure if we could draft off Juniors. There was to be a 5 mph neutral start uphill and we were to begin racing when the pace car accelerated. They started the Juniors and then we started going in a separate group from the Juniors. We did not have our own pace car, so I personally had no idea when neutral start was over. Going up the hill, the Juniors and pace car were out of sight. I had some serious doubts that it was at 5 mph anyway and would not be surprised if people at the back were struggling. Anyway, I was in the front 10 ladies when we starting going downhill and ran slam into the back of the juniors field. What a mess! We had to put the brakes on and start dodging Juniors that were falling off the back of their pack. One Cat 4 woman got herself embedded in the juniors pack and a few others ladies were moving through the pack after her. I was trying to read numbers to figure out exactly where the women were in the group. Fortunately, that situation was short lived because when we hit the first climb of the race, a number of the juniors pulled ahead and I passed the women ahead of me. I didn’t push on the hill to stay with the main Juniors pack (mistake) because I wanted to see what the other women were going to do. It appeared that they were not interested in pushing over the top of the hill. I went down the hill and rode by myself for a while because I wasn’t sure it was legal to draft the Juniors. I kept an eye out at who was coming from behind, but it was all Junior’s. I figured if that girl had been in the Juniors pack, there was a good chance it was legal so I started working with two Junior’s to make a chase group. The short story of the rest of the race is that we caught a larger group of Junior’s and about 10 of us rode most of the race together. I never saw another Cat 4 woman after the first 7 miles. I led the group of Junior’s into the final sprint, where I was passed by every last one of them. Yikes!
I did see a lot of Cat 1,2,3 women which made for more confusion. The two Juniors and I ran into the back of their pack (they were going slow as they had an additional lap ahead of them) at the bottom of a hill and we didn’t really know what to do. We didn’t want to break the yellow line rule, but we couldn’t work through the back of the pack because we cannot draft them. Unfortunately, we lost time trying to work through the situation and eventually passed the field on the left. Later on, the Cat 1,2,3 pace car showed up to spray us with gravel. Sure enough, a breakaway of Cat 1,2,3 arrived some time later and passed. They were going fast but not really fast enough for us (who were nearing the end of our race), so I had to try to get around them again without drafting (while trying my best to not tick them off). At that point, I was thinking the whole business was getting way too complicated for someone who just wants to ride her bike.
A little note about my experience riding with the Juniors. Beware of bike handling! I spent a lot of time off their wheels because I was worried about a crash. When I had first got with the little chase group, I heard two of the Juniors go down behind me and I heard from another rider that they had locked handlebars. Later, in the group of 10, one of them swerved on a pothole and nearly took out some more. I really have no right to complain, after I personally contributed to the situation by braking in a sandy turn.
I think that I would have enjoyed this race a lot more if there had been more separation amongst the groups. My advice to other Cat 4 ladies is to really know ahead the rules about who you can draft and what to do if you need to pass another field (without a pace car to neutralize the other field).
Katherine Snell -17th place Category 4
I kept convincing myself all week of why I should do Housatonic – the field had a lot of the Fitchburg competitors, the course was similar to the Fitchburg RR course etc. However I was still tentative about doing it due to the distance, expense, hassle of bringing the kids and the knowledge that I would get left behind by the climbers again with no chance of recovering since there were no long descents or flat sections. In fact I didn’t end up registering until Friday morning when I saw that Kathy and Michelle had signed up. My goals were similarly non-ambitious, simply to finish in the top 20 given the type of race and the large field (41 registered) and I had a pile of excuses if I didn’t… 6 hours sleep, long drive, short warm-up etc.
Although we were supposed to be at a neutral 5 mph up the start hill, the pace was much faster (8-9 mph) and I was already above LT and close to max HR before we finished the climb. I heard a comment or two from the other riders about the lack of neutrality. The fairly high pace also immediately caused the field to split apart. By the time we hit the summit, I had moved to the back of the climbing field after starting well in the back at the start. The first descent took me by surprise as no one held back (as they usually do) and the field split up even more on the second hill. After the descent from the second hill, I was able to pick up a few riders and we then picked up a few more to form a little chase group which stuck together until the third hill where I dropped off the back again and was pretty much solo for the rest of the race. By the time I reached the KOM climb, my legs were feeling pretty good – I think I needed a few hills just to warm-up. I had done a pretty good job passing a few riders on the 45+ mph descents along the way. On the final descent, I managed to pass a couple of the gals who were in our original chase group who then followed me out to the finish. I held on up the finish hill and out-sprinted them at the end to finish at 17th overall. At the end of the race I did feel like I had some energy left which was a different (good) feeling than the last two RRs (Auburn and Sunapee).
Michelle Archambault -32nd place Category 4
I went into this race thinking of it only as a training ride, so I had no expectations other than to hang with Kathy the whole time. During the hill at the start, I was wondering for the briefest moment what I had gotten myself into but soon felt better as Kathy and I started to play the game “What are Some Things We Could Be Doing Right Now That Would Be A Lot Worse?” (ex, having open heart surgery; being submerged in a pond full of leeches; sitting on the couch watching baseball). We soon fell into a group with Carmen and Erica, and formed a paceline any chance we got on what few flats there were in the race.
Eventually Erica went ahead of us, so Kathy, Carmen and I rode it in together. Carmen had just ridden the course last week, so she was good at giving us a preview of what was ahead. The course was beautiful and the downhills were great. While I was not able to stay right on Kathy’s wheel on the downhills, I am getting better! Unfortunately my computer wasn’t working because I’d really love to know what my max speed was!
There were lots of tasty treats awaiting us at the end: lots of fruit and yogurt and cookies. And, it didn’t rain on us at all. I ended up having a better experience than I anticipated.
Kathy Martin – 33rd place Category 4
Phew! This week’s training was all about hills. 6 hill repeats on Wednesday, 3 on Saturday, and racing at Housatonic Hills on Sunday. I was looking at it as more hill training. So with no expectations, I was just hoping to finish. Happily, I talked Michele into doing the race and the two of us got into group of 4 with Erica Tempesta, who comes on our Tuesday rides, and a very nice woman named Carmen who races for CVC. We formed a good double rotating paceline every time we got the chance and kept each other’s spirits high on the uphills with encouragement and singing. There were some great downhills that made all the uphills worthwhile. I ended up with a new max speed – 45.6! Yippee!! The race turned out to be a lot of fun and I’m glad that I did it.
Julie Lockhart -9th Masters 65+
Well, overall, very satisfying race. Now, the start was killer, the 200-300 meters to the Constitution Hill climb certainly was a short entry to hill suffering. I stayed with the pack for maybe half a mile and then I was with the last 3 guys for the rest of the climb. As it flattened out, I pushed to regroup with the pace (maybe expending a match – in hindsight) and we stayed together until ‘the’ hill which was not far enough into the race (for me). That split us up but I was not yet ‘off the back’ at about mile 8. There were two men who did not get their legs until after that hill. One passed me and I reeled him back in, then the other passed us and we worked together to the QOM/KOM hill (I had talked/pulled him up some hills and waited (note to self: never wait for unknown rider). He found new legs and left me at this point. Allie Kukla said I was QOM for our ‘group’ and I pulled away from her, finishing ahead of 2 Cat 4 ladies. Race Prep really pays, I knew the two difficult turns into steep climbs and had ‘great legs’ going into the race due to the opening up on Saturday on the hills of Dunstable with Katherine. Hydration was perfect, I brought NO water ‘home’ with me, and I had pre-loaded one bottle the hour before the race. Lack of fluid or carbos will ‘kill’ a race. Loved it and will do it again