From the Start Line
with Kristen Arnold from Velo Classic p/b Stan’s NoTubes
2nd row start next to national champions, techno music blaring, hovering over my saddle, locked and loaded. 70 women starting and 15+ teams on the line of the Charlotte Criterium p/b Novant Health part of USA Crits Speed Week. Starting on the front gave me the position and confidence to blast off and be active in my first Pro Road Tour criterium. Within a few dozen meters of the whistle blown I made a break of 6 that stuck for several laps, representation by UnitedHealthCare, Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling, Rally Cycling, IS Corp p/b Smart Choice MRI and me.
We knew this race would be particularly challenging for us, compared to the non-PRT races in the rest of USA Crits Speed Week.
The heavy hitting teams (UnitedHealthCare, The Happy Tooth Pro Cycling, Rally Cycling, Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling, ISCorp p/b Smart Choice MRI) all rode with confidence and poise up in the top 15 positions, still fighting for wheels but taking every opportunity that arose to be exactly where they wanted to be. Taking cues from these rider’s body language I immersed myself into these top 15 spots and made it my personal duty to be as close to the front as possible and stay there.
Riders were quickly shelled off the back and a lead group of 30 formed. As a newcomer to this caliber of race, I felt like I was learning something with every lap and that also the other riders around me knew this. I had many riders be vocal about things I could do differently in the race, but I realized at some point that I was not the only rider these individuals were vocal with. Am I disrupting team tactics? Indeed I believe I was. With ‘Proactive’ as my mantra I successfully obtained 1 lap point (first person on the front) and points in two mid-race primes.
I stayed in the top 20 or so position for most of the race. ~10 laps to go I got stuck behind a small crash and had to make up 10-20 spots. My teammate BrittLee payed me a visit during this time in which I discovered she had been holding up the rear of the lead group but nearby me most of the race.
3 laps to go, UHC forms their leadout train on the front and a Happy Tooth leadout train just behind them. Hovering around these trains I tucked myself in just 3 spots behind them shooting for a top 10 position. I came across the finish line in 14th with arguably my best placement yet.
Feeling like the riders around me did not want me around them during the race gave me a conflicted feeling.
Feeling like I was being proactive in this PRT race was the best feeling I have had yet on a race course. With the rest of the week ahead of us, I am psyched to be able to work as a team in the rest of the races and carry forward the confidence I have developed from the Charlotte Criterium.