Monday, October 1, 2007

World Criterium Championships 07 - Las Vegas

Keith Williams and Ally Brandt after the Womens Criterium Race

Ally Brandt's weapon of choice

Ally Brandt, racing for Williams Cycling, won the "most laps led competition" for the entire USA Criterium Series. Very impressive result for Ally.

Ally's Report
The last race of the season was finally here and was set in the world’s greatest showcase town – Las Vegas . Full of glitz and glam, Vegas promised to be a tremendous backdrop for the women’s finale of the USA Crit Series.

Unfortunately, the final week of my race preparation didn’t go according to plan – I crashed at a weeknight crit and besides major road rash, I had a concussion. After a trip to Brackenridge ER to get a CT scan, my ever-supportive husband took me home for a few days of recovery and TLC. I had a lot of advice coming from everyone about how long to rest, should I go to Vegas or not, and if I go, should I race or not, or should I continue to race my bike at all. After careful consideration, I decided to go to Vegas and wait to decide about racing until race day since each day I was feeling better. I also had set my sights on winning the Laps Led competition for the series. I was currently in 2nd place by 4 laps and knew if I was feeling confident and aggressive I would make up those laps and earn the jersey.

I arrived a few days prior to the race to relax (fat chance in Vegas!) and hang out with my family. After a delicious authentic Italian dinner at The Venetian the night before the race, I tried to get to bed early but my heart and mind were racing visualizing me ticking off laps at the front and climbing on top of the podium. I could even imagine what it was going to sound and feel like.

Race day was relaxed and before long it was time to spin down to Mandalay Bay . Jen McRae and I rode down The Strip and arrived at the race with plenty of time to cruise through a few laps and decide which color lenses to sport during the evening race. The sun was about to set, but was peaking in and out between buildings and casting large shadows all over the course – I opted for clear lenses. I was now race ready – shiny new red helmet, my Quattro Assi bike was sparkling and tuned and my Williams 50s were humming through the corners.

As the race start time approached, I anticipated a call up because of my top 10 standing in the series, however was not among the girls announced. I was standing in the back of the field, but next to Laura Van Gilder, the final rider to be called up. I conveniently tucked in behind her as she made her way to the start line and I positioned myself at the front of the pack. The race was off and I slid to the back of the pack. Within a few corners, I could tell I wasn’t 100% confident, which made me even more nervous and I didn’t like where I was riding. I tried to settle my nerves and let the first 5 laps go by without panicking and decided I would make a move to the front of the field during the 2nd 5 laps.

Being only 1k long and flat, the laps flew by. I knew I had 4 laps to make up on the Laps Led competition, and figured the middle chunk of the race was the best opportunity for me to earn them since the end of the race was sure to be very fast. The course was full of sweeping turns and only 1 true straight-away making it very challenging to move up in the field – there just wasn’t a good spot to make up ground. With some aggressive moves and determination, I moved up in the field and instantly felt better – I was now within 10 riders of the front of the race. It was time to start earning laps led – with each lap I led, I heard my mom yell “One down!” “Two down!” “Three down, one more!” “Four – that’s four!” I made it my mission to earn those laps – essentially that was my race within the race.

Small break aways of one or two riders were unsuccessful throughout the race, but due to the fast pace, riders were falling off the back of the field. With about 10 laps to go, I found myself moving backwards again while recovering from the efforts made up front. The pace picked up as prime after prime was announced and the teams started preparing for a sprint finish. I began feeling a little “off” – my head was hurting and I was feeling a bit spacey. I just wanted to finish. In the last lap, I got gapped off by a rider and realized the front 20-or-so girls were riding away. I tried to come around the girl in front of me and close the gap, but by this point the Cheerwine leadout train was at full speed and I wasn’t able to rejoin the front group and finished 25th.

After a cool down lap, I pulled over to find my family and Keith Williams. My head felt like it was going to explode and I was about to faint. The paramedics checked me out and let me rest with them until I felt better – they were obviously concerned about my recent concussion. Despite the discomfort I was in, I asked someone to check if I won the overall laps led jersey and indeed I did. After a brief visit to the back of the ambulance and check of vital signs, I headed over to get some cold water, rehash the race and take pictures with friends and family.

The podium presentation was awesome – the lights, the people, the announcer. I had never been in such a “big time” presentation. Having my family and Keith there made it even more special. I earned 3rd place for laps led during the race itself and then came back to the podium to receive my blue jersey for laps led for the series. I was beaming I was so proud and excited. Mission accomplished! It felt so amazing to set my goal, achieve it and enjoy the reward…and all with a concussion!

I wore my new blue jersey to dinner out that night…hey it’s Vegas…no one even noticed. And, I wore it home on the plane (ok, that was kinda weird), but I’m proud and wanted to show my husband how sweet the jersey looked…and when else am I going to wear it? The 07 season is over and what a year it has been. I’m looking forward to a few weeks rest and lounging on the couch…with my blue jersey on, of course.

Daniel Holloway, elite national criterium champion, warming up. Daniel tested our new 38mm Tubulars in the race.