By Nitzel Hagan -- Franz Bakery Criterium (W3) -- 08/06/16

It was a beautiful day for Portland, Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. It was race day! I was so pumped up when I found out that my teammate Lesley Jensen was coming up North to visit some friends and will race with me. Not only was I stoked, but I was feeling all the excitement of racing with a teammate again. I studied the course profile days before the race, and it wasn’t a joke. It rode as a number 8, with very fast and bumpy downhills on turns 3 & 4. Turns 6 & 7 were also quick, but they were immediately followed by 40 feet of climbing that takes you to turn 8 and the finish line.

As I went to the registration area, I saw Lesley and gave her a big HUG. I miss my teammates so much that it was so cool to see someone wearing the same JLVelo kit like me. That was a really good feeling that I hadn’t felt in a few months! Lesley and I talked abut warming up; she likes warming up on the road and I like to sweat it out on the trainer. ; ) She also mentioned that she already rode the course for 40 minutes! I didn’t even think of pre riding the course. I usually get physically and mentally locked in during my pre-race routine: trainer work with two FLUID bottles filled with water and FLUID HYDRATION MIX. My main goal was to have a great time!

It was such a privilege to race with a strong W1/2 field on a technical course like this. One would need to ride hard and smart. As we lined up at the start, there weren’t too many W3’s to compliment the number in the strong W1/2 field. Some faces looked familiar to me, and some…not so much! After the race rules and guidelines were announced to the field, we were off…

We started FAST and intense right after clipping in. While I was following wheels of ladies I had never raced with before, my nervousness concerning safe wheels subsided. They were all safe and smooth on turns and positioning, so my focus turned to the 'easier said than done’ task: keeping up with them! As we attacked each climb, my brain said, ‘here we go’ but my legs interjected, ‘don’t know if we signed up for this!’ OUCH!!! This was the point where I realized that I didn’t get the memo. My legs were screaming every time we hit the short climb. It was only 40 feet of climbing, but it was 40 feet of climbing…every lap…for 45 minutes. Three laps into the race, all W3’s were dropped from the W1/2 field.

I was riding comfortably in the W3 group. Every chance I could, which wasn’t many, I would grab my FLUID bottle and squeeze as much water and HYDRATION MIX into my mouth before slamming the bottle back into the cage. After only 5 weeks of consistent training leading up to the race, I knew that the fitness level of the other ladies in my category was greater than mine. But with my accident earlier in the season, the move to the Pacific NW, and getting settled in…I was feeling fairly strong and decided to mentally take myself to my physical limit line.

Well, with 3 laps to go, I was cooked! With the lap count at 22, and 40 feet of climb every lap, the 880 cumulative feet of climb thus far had taken its toll. My husband and Lila were still cheering for me and Lesley, and I could already hear him telling me about the great effort that I gave. If he only knew how loud the ‘voice’ was within me insisting that ‘this crit course was too hard’, and ‘you’re not strong enough to maintain.’
The W3’s started spreading out in the third to last lap, and when it was all said and done, I happily (and completely spent) crossed the finish line 3rd in my category with Lesley crossing the line 4th.

It was a fun race with lots of bread for each podium-placer. : ) I’m still learning these new races, with new faces, and this new community. I get many questions about my JLVelo Cycling Team p/b The Freewheel from northern California. I find myself standing a little taller, when introducing myself to my new cycling community, proudly wearing my JLVelo yellow and blue.

Hello Pacific Northwest!