Last weekend at the Jersey Devil, Jalapeno Cycling founder, Kathryn Cumming, grabbed her very first state road championship. Usually more focused on heading towards the cyclocross season this late in the Summer, Kathryn explains her decision to enter the race, and how her win played out.
by Kathryn Cumming
When I signed up for the Jersey Devil State Championship Road Race, I had only raced twice in 2019, and my last event was on April 6. Overall I’ve been feeling great on the bike. It’s been a fun spring and summer of riding and my power numbers and Strava segment times have been improving. Yet, I had not competed against my peers in months. The unknown always presents a mental challenge, and I started experiencing some pre-race nervousness on Saturday. It was tough to know how I would do. I focused on my primary goals of having fun and training some big efforts before cyclocross season.
I was excited about the course which consisted of 4.5 mile laps with almost 400 feet of climbing per lap. My field would race eight laps. Climbing and physically demanding races typically suit me. I do not enjoy sitting in a group at a moderate pace. If the pace was slow, my plan was to attack and see what I could do.
Lap one was pretty steady and the group stayed together. It did not take long for things to get interesting on lap two, though.
A breakaway of five was established on the climb early in lap two. One of the most experienced racers coached us into a paceline after the descent. The group worked well together to keep the pace high and solidly our gap over the rest of the field. With lots of climbing, it appeared like it would become a race of attrition on the hill.
We dropped one of the five racers on lap four and then one more racer two or three laps later thanks to a well timed increase in the pace from one of my competitors, Shaina Kravitz. Our breakaway was down to Shaina, Austin Barth, and me. On each of the remaining laps, we continued to work well together, trading pulls and keeping the pace steady and strong.
During the climb on the last two laps, I moved out of the paceline to ride next to or behind the other women in the breakaway. I wanted to be able to see an attack rather than have someone launch one from behind me and catch me off guard. They were both maintaining great pace up the climb and I was unsure I would be able to chase down a move from the front of the group.
I would love to pretend I felt in control and dictated the pace for the entire race, but I definitely felt the intensity on the last two climbs. On the final go around, my legs were really heavy on the steep, early part of the climb and my heart rate soared. Thoughts such as “you’ve had a good race so a podium would be solid” started to creep into my mind. I worked to re-frame my outlook, focusing on embracing the intensity. Heart rate stayed high and I stared at the wheel in front of me, holding it and thinking you got this. No one made a significant move on that climb, and we started the downhill together.
As we descended for the final time, I knew I did not want to end up riding at the front of the group. We had a big gap and I knew the cat-and-mouse tactics were going to start as soon as we approached the flats. Typically, when riding in a paceline, one rider will pull off the front and the next will come through to do the work. However, with full use of the lane and the goal of having ideal legs and positioning for the sprint, when, Shaina, the leader went to pull off, Austin and I just stayed on her wheel and followed her across the lane. We wound our way back and forth across the road with the finish line getting closer. I knew the 100 meter mark would be my attacking point. I made sure I was in my drops and was ready to shift one more time. It seems like Shaina had the same plan. We both launched our sprint at almost the same time, and I moved to her left and was able to overtake her just before the line to take the win.
Right after I rolled across the line, my legs totally cramped. It was actually quite satisfying to push that deep and fully commit to the sprint. It was extra special to take the win on a road bike Andrew designed. Riding and racing are a family affair for us, and I'm lucky to have his support.
I’ve never won a sprint in a 1/2/3 road race or crit, but I’ve been working on my top end power and we finished almost all of our 2019 group rides with a sprint point. I have been sprinting against some strong guys in these training rides which has really helped my confidence. This may have been the first race elite race where I truly felt I could win the sprint.
The positive energy surrounding the event reminded me of a cyclocross race. Everyone wanted to race hard, but was then excited to chat about the race and support one another after we crossed the finish line. Before and after the race I was able to catch up with friends and exchange hugs and high fives.
Last season I suffered a bit of burnout. I’ll touch on it more in another post, but after that experience, I wondered how I would feel when I returned to racing. The atmosphere, energy, and intensity of the event confirmed that I do love to race my bike! Even if I hadn’t won, it is exactly how I would want to spend a Sunday morning. Now I am even more excited for cross season!