While most Chicago area racers had their eye on the TOAD races this past weekend, a little detective work (carefully checking USAC calendar) revealed a criterium just to our east. Located in downtown South Bend, Race the Bend looked like a fun course and the women’s 4 and open races were just an hour and half a part, so my teammate Vanessa and I decided to go for it. Talk about a good decision! This was a great race and I can’t wait to do it again next year.

There are a few things that made this a really great event-- first, the organization promoting the race, Spin Zone Racing, had a special tent set up for women racers and gave goodie bags to the first 20 woman that registered. Talk about a warm welcome-- they had chairs, water, gatorade, bananas, cookies, air pumps and whatever else we needed. The hosts were super friendly and so excited to have us all there- it seems like a small gesture, but really makes the race a lot more fun.  One of the women even gave Vanessa the earrings out of her ears! I am not kidding. I could go on but I won’t.

Second, one of the sponsors was SportCraft rollers and they had a tent set up with several sets of rollers for folks to warm-up on.  Great idea. In addition, a set was raffled off to each category with all those who pre-regged with a chance to win. I was really hoping I would win those rollers, but no such luck.

Then of course-- the race! The women’s 4 was was a good size field of 23, most of whom I have never or rarely raced with. Not knowing much about the racers adds greater uncertainty that can spice up a race.  There were a couple teams that had multiple racers so was expecting some team tactics which is always fun. After a few laps the pack had split up with a lead group of 15 or so. It seemed like every other lap  there would be a surge or an attack and that kept things interesting. In addition, there were 5 primes--  I decided to go for a cash prime and I won!  I tried to attacked too but the lead group was quick to chase down every attempt although we probably lost one or two racers with each attack.  I stayed with them and ended up coming in 5th-- not too bad! The race paid 8 deep, so I got my first cash payout in a race! SWEET. On my way to breaking even...

Next up was the women’s open race. This race also included 23 people, but only a handful had done the 4s race. The race was 45 minutes but it went by really fast. This time the pack stayed mostly together, despite several attempts to attack, including one by me. I actually did get a gap and felt pretty good about my ability to hold it, but after about a half lap the pack bridged up and the gap was gone.  I was hoping I’d come in top 10, but no such luck

After the race, we gathered back at the tent for water, rehashing, and congratulating everyone on a  job well done. Before hitting the road for Chicago, Vanessa and I got  a free lunch from Le Peep  with  the  $10 gift certificate in our goodie bags and a free coffee from a local coffee shop thanks again to gift cards they were handing out.  Nothing like a free lunch to wrap up an excellent day of racing and making some new pals. So nevermind the results list, I win.

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 -Annie Byrne