By Nitzel Hagan -- Vancouver Criterium (W35+) -- 08/13/16

To finally be able to say that this day is finally here brings waves of excitement, happiness, and pride to me. Today is the day that I am going to see my teammates Lesley Jensen and Jennie Stark. And the proverbial ‘cherry on top of the sundae’ is that we get to race together (different age-group categories but still together)!!! What’s so awesome about this JLVelo team that I am apart of is that they continue to amaze me with their support; they value friendships on and off the bike. I am proud to say that they came because they wanted to support me, to race with me, to win the Vancouver Criterium State Championships.

The Vancouver Criterium is not new to Lesley. She won her category in this race last year when she came to visited some of her friends in the PNW area. For Jennie and myself, it was our first go-around. My hope was that we all have some fun, and at the end of it, get some podium time!
She had warned me about the road not being so smooth throughout the 8-corner course, so the day before the race, my husband and I decided to scope out the course to help mentally prepare myself. It looked to have a high potential for fun sprinkled with some speed and challenges

As we lined up for the race, I was a bit disappointed to see that there weren’t many women in the race. I started scanning the faces of riders that would potentially be a threat, and I only saw one, yet she was not in any of our categories. Jennie mentioned that she was super stoked to race and have some fun, and that just made my heart swell. I love my teammates! I lined up at the starting line feeling so proud that I have my JLVelo Cycling Team colors next to me. One of the girls at the starting line mentioned that it was nice and very cool that my teammates showed up to race. YES, I think they are the best!

After the official briefed us about the race, my husband took a couple pictures of us at the line. Then the whistle blew and we were off! I already knew I won my category (was the only one in my category for this race…ugh!), so my focus was to support and help my teammates as much as I could.
We started out fast, racing through the corners as fast as the adrenaline was flowing within us; observing and being patient.

Then the attack came. A rider in a different category took a shot, and I took her wheel immediately. I noticed that another rider took my wheel, so there were three of us. We were all from different categories, so it was safe to say that we were not a threat to each other’s podium chances.
We ended up working together for a bit, taking turns pulling. After 5 minutes, we lost the rider that initially took my wheel when the break-away started, so it was just me and the gal who initiated the break.
Many thoughts were racing through my head as we tore through the course. First, how much should I work here? Second, where is Lesley and Jennie? I could guesstimate from a turn in the course that Lesley was probably less than a minute behind us with one rider with her. So I decided I’d work with this one rider and see how it goes since it was very early in the race.
We took turns pulling, but soon I realized that I was working harder than her because she was taking her pulls on the backside, which was the downhill section of the course! I was taking my pull on the harder part with the elevation. Hmmm…time to change tactics.
I started slowing it down a little bit; hoping that Lesley could then join us. But when my break-away partner realized this, she went ahead, and I didn’t bother to chase. That was fun!

At that point, Lesley and I are back together, and then the real fun/team strategy start. The woman Lesley was riding with is the same woman that placed 2nd to her last year in this same race. Ha! I though that was interesting! Positioning myself in front of them both, I kept the rotation steady and ramped it up every time we hit the hill to get the other rider to chase me some. At first, she eagerly chased me, but in the end she figured it all out and decided she’ll just stay with Lesley.
With two laps to go, I wanted to make sure that Lesley was the one on my wheel, especially when I wanted to begin a lead-out for her. I was very excited to be in a position to help a teammate , and with a lap to go, the other lady had a keen grasp as to what was playing out in front of her. With 100 meters before the last hill before the finish, I started to ignite my last match for Lesley’s lead-out. I looked down to check her wheel, it was there.

When we hit the roller, I stood up and gave Lesley the lead-out she needed, and took her with me all the way to the finish. I didn’t realize that we dropped the other rider before we even hit the roller. I was so happy, and so was Lesley! I’ve aways wanted to try leading out a teammate. I did it, and it was completely exhilarating and fulfilling! There is a feeing of satisfaction and accomplishment when your best laid plans become the reality.

Jennie did great in her category as well. She placed 3rd, and was able to stand on the OBRA podium too!

What a day for the JLVelo girls! We were especially thankful for our JLVelo aero kits, GU for seriously making us better athletes and Fluid for keeping us hydrated in the summer heat.

With all the love, support, and fun that we were giving to each other that day, the three of us didn’t even have had to race to be winners!