Stage 1 Tour de Bowness - 11 loops, 5.3 km circuit
One of the most fun road races I've been in lately... highlights were having two awesome teammates Chantal and Danika, lots of action with pulls/attacks from a great field of women, and a course with hills giving total elevation gain 2700' for less than 60 km distance.
Into the 4th loop, four of us broke away. It was cool to work with my teammate Chantal, Pepper from Juventus and Heather from United Cycle. Within one loop, our foursome grew by a few more riders and my guess is BC Bike Race Podium champ Katy worked it with my teammate Danika to bridge up to us.
Halfway into the race, the Cat 3 men began to pass our peloton on the long descent. Bummer for the women when this happens as we have to "neutralize" which is a term in cycling to stop our race while the faster men's peloton is cleanly past before we can race again.
I was on Heather's wheel with the women's peloton following, when this occurred. It was tempting to follow her as she continued forth. It was a large men's peloton so I immediately "neutralized" with the women's peloton and slowed down to allow the men to pass. The race pictures clearly show the women's peloton being passed by the Cat 3 men in the series of 5 pics with all the women together.
Heather, a very accomplished racer placing 3rd at the recent Canadian National Crit champs and has been racing the US Pro Women circuit this summer, did not seem aware the women's peloton neutralized to allow the men to pass. She continued to race forth. It was not reassuring to see the Commissaire vehicle which was driving on the left hand side of the road next to the Cat 3 men's peloton which hid Heather racing on the right hand side of the road out of their view!
It was flustering seeing a rider go as our peloton neutralized. Women expressed concern as we eased the pace together waiting for the last guy to go by. The women's peloton wondered what to do... chase, chill, race... Pepper gave good advice that the race was not over. It seemed unfair to have to chase down "given time".
The race dynamics were now altered, though in a cool way despite the predicament. The peloton worked together like a team. We eventually caught up to Heather as she soft-pedalled into the last laps. The peloton wisely stayed behind Heather. With 1/2 lap to finish, Danika attacked, Heather jumped, we all followed. Various strong efforts on the last climb with Chantal challenging Heather to the finish. I sat on their wheels in 3rd.
Ended up the Commissaire in the vehicle watching our race "missed" seeing Heather not neutralize with the women's peloton, losing track of her for a lap(?). Officially, racers need to present a protest to the Head Commissaire post-race for any issues. Even though women expressed dismay at the time, no-one came forth officially. Possibly lack of knowledge of the procedure as this situation rarely comes up. The protest was delegated to "heresay". It just wasn't pleasant to be waiting neutralized seeing a racer ride away. I'm not sure why Heather didn't wait for the women's peloton to catch up from our neutralized position.
The race was ultra fun up to that point... learned to keep persevering when stuff out of our control happens...
It ended up awesome working with the rest of the peloton to the end.