Race Day – Notre Dame de Lourdes

Ahhh. Another beautiful day at the races… this time hosted by the good people from the Portage Junk Yard Dogs and held in Notre Dame de Lourdes, a small and pretty French town south of Portage la Prairie, in the heart of the Pembina Valley. It is hilly and windy in these parts, so much so they actually have wind farms – fields full of grazing herds of enormous windmills that look like something out of a science fiction movie. Thankfully we Prairie Folk are used to riding in the wind.

This was my 4th official road race, and I think my understanding of racing and the pre-race routine is really starting to shape up.

Equipment – Check, double check, pack, unpack, check it again, repack.
Clothes – In the event of a vague and varied weather forecast, pack everything.
Dinner – Lots of protein and carbs, nothing too spicy or fatty. Unless you are Mexican or Thai, avoid Mexican and Thai. Also avoid any food that begins with “Mc”.
Wine – Tone it down from the usual half bottle to a conservative glass. (this time, I even tried adding some water to my wine, since I read that’s how Europeans introduce their children to wine at a young age. This must be a ploy to turn them off, because it totally tastes like shit.)
Sleep – Pretend it’s a work day. In bed by 10:30. Should you survive the race, you can party tomorrow.

And a new addition – something to calm the pre-race anxiety –help son #2 mastermind The Complete destruction of New York City by Disastrous Infestation of Dinosaurs. (Seriously, try it, it’s very therapeutic).

Travel – Carpooling is awesome. Company helps ease jitters and also saves on gas, therefore making me feel environmentally superior. Rick kindly agreed to give me a ride, in spite of the fact I may have, on occasion, referred to his truck as “crappy”. He did get some retribution by cheerfully watching me suffer though a painfully bursting bladder during the last 50km of the trip.

Race and Pre-Race Nutrition – Everyone is different. For example, I ate an apple 30 minutes before the start, a gel a few minutes before we went to line up, and another gel at the halfway mark. Rick ate a banana, a package of peanuts, a turkey sandwich, and the entire store supply of Hammer gels from Alter Ego.

Phil ate a Powerbar just before the start of the race, which he then un-ate at the side of the road not long after. Goes to show that sticking to your own routine for a race is important, but that sometimes shit just happens.

The Weather – The possibility of bad weather is a crap reason not to race. In fact, bad weather in general is a crap reason not to race. HTFU and don’t look at the forecast. Remember, it is almost always wrong. The forecast for race day was terrible. The weather, as it turned out, was perfect.

The Warm Up – I always thought bringing your stationery trainer to a race for warm up was weird. It’s not. You get a better warm up and can keep an ear out for the call to line up. And of course you are less likely to flat during the warm up, like I did in Whitemouth. Warming up during the race is a bad idea.

Lining Up – When they call you to line up, be ready and line the f#ck up. As a mother, I am all too aware of the frustration of being ignored. Makes me want to throw a chair. Or a really expensive carbon fiber bike, if you get my drift. The line-up is also a nice time to get to know who you’re racing with. For this race, they combined Cat 3 and 4, since there were only four Cat 3 racers. Follow? Three of them would blast ahead early in the race, while Big Dave Pitcher, who is just coming back from various injuries, hung back with us Cat 4’s. Dave is an experienced racer, and a very personable and funny guy, so we thoroughly enjoyed his company. He is also a retired football player with football player proportions, so we also enjoyed the ample draft he provides.

The Race – Every race is different, with variables like wind, hills, temperature and of course the riders affecting the pace and flow. Thankfully, Phil C. has instituted a “no crash” rule in Cat 4, something we are all happy to observe. An 86km road race is somewhat different from a crit – while it still has attacks, recoveries, and of course the end sprint, it has more paceline and echelon riding to kill the time in between. Having five teammates in our race gave us an advantage and the opportunity to use some team tactics, thanks to the mastermind skills of Coach Rick. (You should try destroying a major city with dinosaurs Rick, I think you’d enjoy it.)

Shit Happens – All the preparation in the world won’t account for the “Shit Happens” factor, as demonstrated by Phil, as well as Kim, who suffered a flat on the second lap of her race, forcing her to finish the last 25km solo.

(On the upside, it did make for a lovely photograph).

The Finish – The sprint finish is the moment of truth. It is the moment when we see who has the right position, gears, the skill and the legs to get over the line first. In my last race, I had none of those things and missed the sprint entirely. This time I was ready, and made a valiant yet fruitless effort to catch the Uncatchable Nettie.

Wow, don’t I look evil here! In spite of how it looks, I did not catch and eat my fellow racers moments after this picture was taken. See? Safe and sound:

And one happy Cycle Chick.The Thank Yous – We all know these races don’t happen on their own. Before, during and after every race, make sure to thank everyone, even if you don’t know what they did. There’s the commissaire (cheers John!), the timers, the people at sign-in, volunteers, townspeople, the host club and organizers and your fellow racers.

So, thanks to all of those people and to Notre Dame Motors for the use of their lot and most of all the lovely clean bathrooms. Special thanks to Phil Neudorf and the Portage Junk Yard Dogs for a great course and a great day!

And of course, don’t forget to thank the photographers who take way better pictures than you do, and who take race pictures so you don’t have to. Thanks for making us look so cool, Carolyn!!