While some of the dudes were taking on the Belgian Waffle Ride in California, Cat was in action in the cycling mecca that is Arkansas at the Joe Martin Stage Race. Cat swapped her 3T Q+M pajamas to rides a guest for a women’s team called QCW, but she did manage to wear her smile and pack her suitcase full of positivity. Yeah, she’s cool like that. Cat has also been writing race reports on Reddit for years, and just for a change of pace, we’ve included her look at JMSR right hurr.
Joe Martin Stage Race: my first UCI race, bay-bee!!!
I was a guest rider for QCW, a scrappy underdog composite team of 5 women from the USA and Canada. My job was just to hang on and learn a lot. They are so kind.
STAGE 1: 68 mile RR
Course: Mostly flat, with a short/steep climb, a technical descent, a 3-mile climb, and then flat until the super steep (20% pitches) uphill finish.
Goal: don’t die, make the time cut
I lined up next to a woman with Chloe Dygert’s name on her bike. “Ha! She must be a Chloe Dygert superfan,” I thought to myself. No, it was actually Chloe Dygert.
Anyway, after a slow 25 miles or so of headwind, I got gapped on the descent (tight switchbacks). I caught back on at the base of the climb, but as the pace picked up, I just couldn’t hang. I wasn’t last, though. I even climbed past one of my cycling heroes, who was vomiting off the bike. This was insane. I ended up in an unmotivated chase group (but with PROS!), felt disappointingly fresh, and ended up 54th/94.
Lesson learned: Don’t pace yourself. If it gets hard, you have to go balls out, or your day is over. But still, I wasn’t a failure! I belonged! Bring it, stage 2.
STAGE 2: 58 mile RR
Course: Point-to-point with a tailwind, mostly flat except for a 10-mile stairstepping climb from mile 22 to 32.
Goal: hold on through that climb!
I told myself that nothing after mile 32 mattered and, although I got gapped at the very top of the climb, another woman and I managed to close it right away. And then I just sat in, ready for a pack finish! In a UCI race! Because I was still in the pack! With women who are so famous that they’re on my fantasy cycling team! I wanted to geek out, but I held my tongue. There were around 60 of us, and I was so, so elated to be there with teams like UHC and Rally pushing the pace.
With around 3km to go, we were bombing into town at almost 40 mph when suddenly there was a car in the middle of the road. I missed the car, but I still got taken out. I hit another woman and then I hit the ground hard. As the rest of the pack sped away, I threw a bloody leg over my bike, got a lil butt push from my guardian angels (Shimano neutral support), and rolled into the finish, disappointed.
Lesson learned: TRUST NO BITCH
Results: 67th/92 (53rd in GC)
STAGE 3: time trial
The course: 3.0 miles (~2 miles at +6-8%, 0.5 miles at -5%, 0.5 miles at +5%).
This should have been a no-drama day, but nooo. In the TT bike check, I found out that disc brakes are legal in UCI events, but only for UCI teams. So they are illegal for domestic elite teams in UCI events. #DISCrimination
Ah well. I didn’t get DQed. Anyway, the TT itself was fine. I couldn’t breathe, and everything still hurt from hitting the ground. Remember those smiling painfaces from last year? Not anymore!
Half the field wouldn’t have finished within the time cut because Katie Hall is a beast, so they extended it, which was nice.
Lesson learned: being upset with UCI is, like, almost pro, right?
Results: 54th/90 (53rd in GC)
Bike: 0/10 (because it’s ILLEGAL)
STAGE 4: crit
Course: long laps, easy corners, with climb and a headwindy descent. But I really hate crits.
I was thrilled to be finishing my first UCI stage race! Since my bike is a lethal weapon (but only for me), I borrowed a Shimano neutral support bike (they are heroes). It was a gorgeous Moots, but it just didn’t feel like home, you know? Also, I was still wearing a borrowed helmet and glasses because of Friday’s crash. Basically, I’m a mess. I got pulled about halfway through, which is pretty normal for me in crits. Unfortunately, my calculated finish time wasn’t within 15% of the leaders (by less than a minute), so I was a DNF for the day and a DNF in the overall GC. Bummer! But at least I raced every stage. And I still got a page on procyclingstats.com. 🙂
Lesson learned: can’t ignore crit skills.
Overall: Between flights and races, equipment will break. With big fields, big names, and big dreams, races will not go the way you wanted. It’s essential to roll with the punches, repair your equipment on the fly, get up from the crashes, wipe off your silly disappointed tears, ask for help from complete strangers, and wake up the next morning ready to do it all over again. Everyone is suffering physically, but it was the mental toughness of this race that surprised me.
Tl;dr: dropped, crashed, silly UCI rule, DNF, learned a ton, stoked to improve.
It was brutal, but 10/10 I would race it again. Sooo I’ll see you at Redlands! 🙂