2023 Pace Bend Race Report by Maeghan Easler
Friday - The Driveway: The race began with a neutral lap. In much bigger races, positioning is surprisingly critical in the neutral lap as sometimes as soon as it’s over the race can begin at a very quick pace where anything can go and you might miss it. When the race officially started I ended up on the front setting pace. When I slowed, my teammate attacked and this set the trend for the race as we just kept trying attacks as other riders chased us down. After realizing halfway through that a break wouldn’t be doable, my teammate and I sat in to prepare for the finish. On the last lap, Kim Pettit drove the pace hard, which is often done to speed the race up and make it a safer finish. The pace remained high into the final kilometer where I was boxed in, and out position for the sprint. I resisted the urge to drift back to find an opening and waited for a gap to open. As the field started to question which side of the road they wanted to be on for the sprint, a gap opened ahead of me that was just wide enough for me to squeeze between two riders safely and get a spot in line with the front riders. Now we're 300m from the finish and everyone is starting to sprint. I watched the riders to my left and right, as we all began to pick up pace to avoid being swarmed by riders from behind. It’s not ideal to sprint off the front but I had no other choice. When I saw the white tent where the finish line was, I knew I had to open up my sprint and I went. I sensed riders inching up on me as I got closer to the finish. I thought I may have gone too soon, but I dug deep and crossed the finish line in first!
Saturday - Pace Bend RR: We knew going into this race that we could have the potential for getting at least 2 riders on the podium. Hoping for a breakaway, our strategy was to send riders off the front in an effort to tire the field out from chasing down attacks. Jaime went first, stringing out the field. As that came together Haley went, and the field was suffering more. Sensing the exhaustion, Emily gave an all-out attack up the first climb and the field wasn’t able to reel her back in. I sat-in for a bit and waited for Emily to establish a gap. After she was up the road, I used the next steep hill as my opportunity to punch-it and leave the peloton behind. Emily was looking behind and waiting to see another Roxo rider on the way to help establish the break, and it took a few minutes of all-out effort to bridge up to her. Jaime and Haley worked in the peloton to ensure no other moves would go, and Emily and I put more time on the field. On the last lap, Emily turned to ask me if I could let her take the win, and I agreed. That sealed our 1st and 2nd place finishes on the day. Haley and Jaime sprinted for 6th and 7th, landing all of us in the top 10.
Sunday - Pace Bend RR: Saturday’s plan came to fruition almost perfectly for our team, but Sunday turned out to be a test. We wanted to have different teammates stepping up on the podium for Day 2, but the 20mph winds were complicating our tactics. Our strategy was to have Emily and I be active at the front to tire out the field, Jaime to cover moves in the field, and Haley would send an attack to establish a break. We deployed our strategy but Haley's attacks kept getting chased down. Emily saw an opportunity to send an attack and quickly established a gap. I tried to follow her, and was off the front for a few minutes, but the wind and motivation of the peloton was too much for me to get away. It was Haley’s turn to go again. She put in a big attack and got away for a bit, but the group wouldn't let her go and pulled her back.
Haley and I took a moment to recover as Jaime continued covering moves up near the front. Haley looked at me and said, “It’s your turn," and I knew this was it. Over the next long hill, I sent-it as hard as I could. I knew this time I needed to settle-in at a sustainable pace if I was going to bridge to Emily. About that time I saw another solo rider up the road, Jenn Real, who appeared to be a Cat 3 because of the bib number/color. As I passed her, she hopped on my wheel. I recognized her as someone I used to compete in Zwift races with. I knew she was strong, and I decided we could work together to catch my teammate up the road since she wasn’t competing in the 1/2 race. After a few laps of chasing together, she said “the peloton thinks they’re sprinting for 3rd, but I’m actually in your race because I upgraded yesterday.”
So, that put me in a pickle. If I dropped this rider I risked blowing up and not holding off the field to secure 2nd place. There was also the possibility she could drift back to the peloton and not be in a position to compete for 3rd. Ultimately, we negotiated that she would help me and not compete for 2nd place. As for my teammate up the road, word was given to Emily that I had another rider with me, so she stayed ahead rather than slowing down. Emily crossed the finish line in 1st, followed by myself in 2nd, and Jenn Real in 3rd. Back in the peloton, Jaime and Haley were still under the impression only two riders in the Cat 1/2 race were up the road, so they were formulating how they might be able to get a 3rd Roxo on the podium. With 2 miles to finish, Haley sent an attack with only a couple riders following. Eventually riding them off her wheel, she went all-in to hold off the field. She crossed the finish line in full-sprint just in time, but what she thought was 3rd place turned out to be 4th. Jaime had an impressive 8th place finish after working hard in the field all weekend. Had we had race radios we all agreed we might have played our cards differently, but overall we were happy with how well we were able to work together to secure our team results.