The Texas State Criterium in Corsicana, TX was a race I have wanted to do ever since moving to Texas a few years ago. Winning the state championship jersey is an honor and achievement very few riders in Texas ever accomplish. Every year since 2020 I would talk about going to race the state crit, but for three years in a row I couldn’t race for one reason or another (i.e. work commitments and injuries). It honestly seemed like 2023 was going to be no different for me and I wasn’t planning on racing.
However, the morning of the crit I woke up feeling good and I have been eager to race lately. On top of that, my husband was going to race the crit, and, honestly, doing a training ride by myself before we left did not sound like much fun. Racing is always better than training in my eyes. I contacted the race organizers to see if I could register day of. Fortunately, their response was “yes”, so we started the three-hour drive from Houston to Corsicana.
Once arriving at the race, we started our normal pre-race routine – 1) register, 2) scout the course, 3) warm up, and 4) roll to the line for the race start. Looking at the course, I was happy to see that there was a riser, some technical sectors, and cobbles. I am a fan of technical crits with a little elevation, rather than your typical flat, four corner crit. I knew when seeing the course that I was going to attack early and as many times as needed until a small break formed. I was hoping that two riders would come with me and work, ideally a rider from United and a rider from Austin Aviators. I thought this would help dissuade the group behind from chasing. Trying to sprint against full teams as a lone rider can be difficult, especially since I would not have a lead out. My plan was to do everything possible to form a small break and then try to sprint for the win from that group.
With my plan in mind, I rolled to the line for the Women’s 1/2/3 race, which went off at 5:30p. It was a 60-minute race, and the weather conditions were perfect. On the first lap I started pushing the pace to get a feel for the other racers and the course. On the second lap, I started putting in digs up the climb before getting to the cobbled section of the course. I did this for a few laps in a row and nothing was really sticking, as everyone was still somewhat fresh. However, after a couple more attacks I started to sense the others getting tired. That’s when I knew it was time to put in a full attack. I moved to third wheel and sent it once more up the riser. This attack finally stuck - it was me and Nicole Mertz from the Austin Aviators off the front.
I was a bit concerned at first that we would get brought back, as United had a full team of about five riders working together. On top of that, Nicole is the fastest female sprinter in Texas, so I knew that winning from this move would be very difficult. I really wanted a break to stick though, so I put my head down and started taking hard pulls at the front to help establish the move. Nicole was motivated for our break to stick as well, and she was working hard with me. After about thirty minutes of pushing, we broke the field and pulled out a 40 second gap. Once we were established, I focused on getting my breathing under control and settling into a manageable pace.
Nicole and I continued clicking off laps. Before I knew it, we were seeing lap cards for 5 to go. At that point, I knew that the race would come down to a two-up sprint. Leading into the finishing straight were two quick left handers followed by the final 150m stretch to the finish line. It was a short sprint from the final corner to the line. I thought about possibly jumping on the last lap going into the penultimate corner. However, I was worried I’d be too gassed to hold on for the win. Leading into the last lap, I decided I’d hold out as long as possible on starting my sprint and just wait until the last corner, relying on my jump.
As we rolled through the final lap, Nicole and I both started watching each other to see who would make the first move and sprint towards the finish line. As we approached the second to last corner, Nicole made her move and opened her sprint. I was ready, but she took off so fast that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get back to her wheel. I took off to close the gap. I tried to rip through the last corner as hard as possible and use my momentum to come past her on the final straight. As I closed in on Nicole in the final stretch, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pass her before the line. I gave it everything I had in the sprint and was able to take the win by about a wheel. It was a very hard race for the entire 60 minutes – I hit my peak 60-minute heart rate for the year! I am very thankful to have been able to pull out the win against such great competition. I am looking forward to racing against these fast women again in the near future!!