Race Report - Norwell Circuit Race

My first east coast race!  I had my eye on the Norwell Circuit Race for a while, and when I heard from the NEBC women that it was a good event that they would be attending in force, I signed up.  The race is located about a half hour southeast of Boston, in a residential neighborhood on a semi-closed course (they did let some cars through in the direction of racing at times).  It's a 2.3 mile course, I believe, with an uphill finish.  The women's 3/4 race did 8 laps, for just over 18 miles.   

 The circuit

The circuit

So I got to the parking area nice and early, got my bike in order, got my number, and went out to warm up.  It had been raining that morning so the streets were pretty soggy, but gradually drying up in the sunlight.  The parking area was only a few minutes riding from the course, but there weren't many spots you could access without entering the course. I alternated warming up with watching the men's races.  I met a local rider from Somerville, and we decided to ride the course once the men's race was over, since there were about 10 minutes until the next race.  We rode a couple of laps of the course.  It was fun, no major dangerous corners, a few wet spots and potholes, and one tighter turn into the uphill, which wasn't particularly steep or long, but definitely enough to wake you up.  (That guy who told me to stay in my big chainring was wrong.)

So, once we had warmed up for about 45 minutes, we were luckily informed that the start for our race was NOT at the finish line at the top of the hill, as we had thought, but rather, back at the parking lot, so we headed back over there.  We lined up for a neutral rollout, and listened to the usual announcements.  They said that we were using "road rules," meaning no free laps for mechanicals.  So, off we went.  We headed down the street towards the course, and it was going fine until I shifted down on the false flat leading into the hill, felt a snapping in my shifter, and realized that all of a sudden I couldn't shift anymore.  A thought went through my mind, "Hmm, could I do this whole race with just a front derailleur?" and then I quickly realized that was dumb.  So I put my hand up for the SRAM NRS car that was following us (they told us to do that in the pre-race announcements, I was listening!)   He pulls over behind me, and takes a quick look at the bike, sure enough, I had snapped the rear derailleur cable.  So, he says, "Well, I can give you a bike."  I was not sure if it was worth it, since I was already well behind, but I figured why not go for it and at least race the race.  He pulls a 54 off the top of the car, slaps a front wheel on it, asks me what pedals I use, puts those on, asks me my seat height (I didn't know, so he took a quick measurement from my bike), the saddle didn't even need adjusting.  I hopped on and he gave me a push and off I went to chase!

  (I took this after the race, NOT during the bike change!)

 (I took this after the race, NOT during the bike change!)

I rode like a madwoman.  I have never used SRAM shifters, so I had to figure those out on the fly (thanks to my friend Simon who once explained them to me! That knowledge came in handy!).  The roads were dry enough and there were no real tight corners so you could keep your speed up the whole time.  Besides the one hill before the finish, there was one other hill about halfway through, but the rest of the course felt mostly downhill and flat.  The most annoying part was definitely the long false flat up to the hill. I passed one girl who was an even newer racer than me (think, toe clips), but didn't manage to catch anybody else, which makes sense since I had to be a good 3-5 minutes behind, with the whole bike change.  I figured since it was a 3-4 race I'd probably get lapped at least by the leaders, but it actually took a while, more than half the race I'd say.  I have no idea how fast I was going, since the bike didn't have a computer on it, and somehow my Strava data got deleted (oops).  So, I got lapped by the leaders mid-race, maybe lap 4 or 5, and then by the chase group a lap or two later.  When they got up to me, I jumped in with them for a bit, since they didn't seem to be going very fast, and in fact, I felt like I actually slowed down once I was in the group.  I was concerned that I might be breaking rules though, since I wasn't sure I could keep riding with them having been lapped.  They talked about this in the pre-race announcements too.    So then, my next item of confusion after having been lapped was, do I have to do an extra lap at the end?  In a crit, I wouldn't, but since they said we were using "road rules," I wasn't sure if I had to get to the true finish line (i.e. 8 laps total).  So, out of breath from the hill, I yelled out to the officials as I crossed the finish line on the 6th lap or so, "EXTRA LAP? OR FINISH WITH EVERYONE ELSE?" and I heard them yell "Finish with everyone else!"  OK.  Fine.  

So, wrapping up the final lap, the leaders have actually passed me a second time and I came in right behind them.  I stopped my Strava while I was cooling down, but for some unknown reason, it didn't save.  Oh well.  I got back to the parking lot as the next men's race was lining up, thanked the SRAM guy profusely, traded the bike back for my own with the dangling cable, and went to hang out with some of the local racers.  They were all so super supportive, and seemed impressed that I had changed bikes and actually raced even though I was so far back!  I traded contact info with a few of them so hopefully I'll be getting some invites to group/team rides soon.  Some people were shooting photos on the course too, so if I manage to get ahold of any of those, I'll post them as well.  My bike is in the shop getting a new shifter.  Boo.  But hopefully I'll have it back in time for the Concord Crit.  Yay.