Race Report by Jessica Helmlinger
This weekend I went down to the Memorial Day weekend bike races in Iowa with a bunch of Team Extreme guys and wives.Â I have done this series of races the last 2 years, and none of the guys I went with had done it before so it was fun being the ‘tour guide’.Â Friday night, 4 of us in 2 cars headed down to Burlington, Iowa.Â We were to meet everyone else down there.Â The first race was on Saturday, the 27th annual Snake Alley Criterium.Â It was hot, temperatures were in the low 90s with some humidity, but still manageable.
I knew exactly what I needed to do to do well in the race: be one of the first ones to get around the first corner.Â My position on the line was not ideal to start, I was about 3 rows back, surrounded by some big name pros (intimidation factor!), with a couple more rows yet behind me.Â The gun went off and I didn’t have anywhere to go to move up.Â But surprisingly I felt good going up the Snake.Â I did some chasing, passed a couple girls before the next time up, got on the Snake again and I had forgotten to shift down into my small chainring!Â Ooops!! But it was too late to change, for fear of dropping my chain, so I commited to it and made it to the top.Â Next time through start/finish, I got pulled.Â I was kind of upset because I really wasn’t given a chance redeem myself from my bad start.Â Not that I was going to win or anything but I know I could’ve hung in there and continued passing other popped riders.Â But on the contrary, better to save my legs for the next 2 days. Of the 6 of us there racing, only one of the guys completed the whole race.Â Not a great start to the weekend, but the Snake is tough after all!
The second day was in Muscatine, IA, the Melon City Crit.Â It was even hotter and more humid than Saturday! I started the race feeling somewhat confident but the first time up the hill I knew I wasn’t going to last long.Â Sure enough, a few laps in and I got dropped, but there were other dropped riders all around me so I wasn’t alone.Â I did a couple more laps then they pulled me again.Â Between myself and my travel buddies, only one guy finished the race again.Â It was a tough day for all of us East Coast Wisconsinites in the heat.Â From Muscatine, we drove right to Davenport where we were spending the last night before the Quad Cities Crit on Monday.
The Quad Cities crit offers a few options for women that we graciously accept, but I have never seen offered at any other race: women’s cat 4, cat 2/3, and pro/1/2/3 races.Â My plan was to place high in the 2/3s and possibly double up and do the 1/2/3/s later on, depending how I was feeling, and see how long I could hang with them.Â Just to my luck,Â it rained right before my race so the course was soaked- this is not a course that is fun in the rain!Â During the previous race, the 7th corner was causing a lot of crashes, so when my race started, I took all the corners over-cautiously, and sure enough, there was a big crash in corner 7.Â At that point, I decided to sit up and go my own pace.Â Second lap around and there had been another crash in the same corner.Â At this point I just wanted to finish without crashing so I could do the 1/2/3s later.Â Afterwards, the sun came out and dried up the course and the rest of the day was perfect crit racing weather.Â I had a couple hours between races so I stretched, ate, drank, and stayed off my feet as much as possible between cheering for the Team Extreme guys in their races.Â I felt great during my warm up, I was in The Zone.Â The race started and it was fast.Â But I was hanging on.Â We had 34 laps total, compared to the 12 we did in the 2/3s, so it felt like a looooong race.Â It was really fun going so fast into all the corners and being able to make up some wheels in the corners as well. The spectators were awesome and the Team Extreme guys were spread around the course so every other corner someone was cheering for me, I was feeling great!Â Finally there were only a few laps to go and I knew I would finish with the peloton.Â The last lap came around and we were really flying, I was towards the back, and as I was approaching the final corner, I heard the horrible sounds of a high speed crash ahead.Â The crash took out a lot of girls in front of me, and even a couple behind me, but I was able to get through it without having to stop and I realized that this was my chance to go.Â I started my sprint again and finished 14th- in the money! It felt great to finish so high considering 2 years ago when I first did the QC crit (in the woman’s 2/3s), I never imagined being able to hang with the pro women for 34 laps.Â All the Team Extreme guys also finally had good races too, and we were all thrilled to have finished the weekend on a high note!