Keeping our cool at Speedweek(end)
Words by Sarah Coney
SpeedWeek(end) was my first race riding with LA Sweat. I had met everyone at team camp a month before, but I was still anxious to see what traveling and racing with the team would be like. After a good 15 hours from Vancouver, B.C. to Atlanta, Georgia the team met up at the only place that welcomes hungry cyclists looking for a good square meal at midnight – Waffle House. As an aside, this was my first time eating at a Waffle House and I was mighty impressed.
If anyone has done SpeedWeek, they will know that it involves a LOT of time in a car, a new bed every night, eating at McDonalds, gas station coffee, and hard racing. The team opted out of the first race of the series because it was earlier in the week and the logistics were a bit too much to take on. So we were left with 3 races, which included the first USA Crits race – Athens Twilight.
The first stop was Spartanburg Criterium in… Spartanburg. This race is known to be really fast and aggressive. I remember LA Sweat absolutely dominating this course last year, so I was actually a little nervous that I wouldn’t be able to fit into the team racing dynamic. Lining up for LA Sweat was Tiff, Mel, Brenna, Kim, and I. Also lining up was over 80 other girls, which meant the first 10 laps were expected to be fast and furious. Unfortunately, before we got to 10 laps in, our fearless leader Tiff was involved in a pretty gnarly crash that ended up neutralizing the race. Mel, although luckily missed being in the crash, was right behind it and stuck with Tiff all the way to the Hospital. The rest of us, Brenna, Kim and I, rolled back to the start line to wait for the race to be re-started but were pretty shaken up. It was a common occurrence to have someone put their wheel between your chainstays and crank, or have someone push you into the fence on the off camber corners, and after seeing the aftermath of that on someone you look up to makes it pretty hard to keep your head in the game. The 3 of us managed to keep upright for the rest of the race and finished the night off with McD’s in the Emergency room.
Day 2 took us to Athens, one of the most anticipated races of the year. We sent Tiff back home in the morning so she could get some much needed R&R, and made our way to Athens that afternoon. This race is truly like no other. It’s rough pavement, fast corners, a downhill finish and beer gardens filled with drunk college students lining the street. Although we were down to 4 riders, we gave it all we had. Kim tested out her killer sprint a few times (and let me tell you-you can’t follow that!) to collect a mid-race Prime right before the race was neutralized once again from a pile up in corner 4. The race was restarted with 10 laps to go. By this time the light had gone down, and the corners were now pitch black. After clawing our way back up to the pointy end of the race, the final sprint was getting sorted out. I know everyone is in the same situation, but it ain't easy suffering for 50 minutes, stopping for 10 minutes and having to get right back into suffering again. The team re-grouped and we finished off the night with no road rash, pizza, and a little more cash in our pockets.
The last race of the series was new to everyone, in a small town called Commerce, an hour outside of Atlanta. It was a surprisingly awesome course, with long straight-aways and U-turn corners that you can’t pedal through. I think the team had shaken a few cobwebs out by today, and we were riding like a unit. With 1 lap to go Brenna strung out the race going down the back straight to keep the rest of us in good positioning for the final kick. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to hold onto the lead Brenna handed to us, but it felt so great to feel the beginnings of winning moves.
This weekend was rough around the edges, but it turns out we can get through just about anything as a team. We may not have had the results we wanted, but this was our first time racing together in 2018, and we have about 30 more races to go.
To top it off, I can’t think of anyone else I’d rather be traveling and racing with this year. These girls are legit cool and put others before themselves in just about any situation. Unless it’s morning coffee, this always comes first.