Friday's Masters Women 55-59 race was not the first cyclocross rodeo for New York's Marit Sheffield (Park Ave Bike p/b Borah Teamwear). The Empire State resident has won her race at the Pan-American Championships the last two years, and she finished fourth at Louisville Masters Nationals last year.
With that experience, when Sheffield gave up the lead after taking the holeshot, she knew what to do to recover from going a little too far into the red early and work her way back to the front of the race.
Stepping up early in the race to set the pace was Patricia Murray (SDBC powered by Spinergy p/b UC Cyclery). Murray led by 11 seconds 1 lap into the 3-lap race.
In the next lap, Sheffield caught Murray and then made her move on the second run-up. After reaching the top first, Sheffield kept the pressure on and got a gap she would not relinquish. Her reward was a Stars-and-Stripes jersey to go with her Pan-American Champion's kit.
"I just stayed with it, and I realized that number two was also really gassed when from running up. Then I just stayed consistent and rode carefully. It was an incredibly fun course," Sheffield said.
Patience Pays Off
The Masters Women 55-59 field kicked off Friday's session of Masters racing. When riders arrived at Fort Steilacoom Park, they were treated to the rare sight—at least thus far this week—of the sun shining brightly over the park.
Marit Sheffield kicked off the Masters 55-59 race by ripping out to take the holeshot. Her fast start, however, would only last so long. "I tried to really get the holeshot, but then I felt my legs burning pretty intensely after that. The first run-up was really hard," Sheffield said after the race.
Stepping up was Patricia Murray. Murray took over the lead and was the first rider to come ripping down the first chute descent. Sheffield followed 6 seconds back, and then Carolyn Daubeny (Deschutes Brewery) followed chasing another small gap. Kathleen Bortolussi (Voler / Easton / HRS / Rock Lobster), Jitka Cole (Liquid Velo and Karen Steen (Olympic Orthopaedic) lined up as the next three riders.
After the riders climbed the second run-up and returned to the lower part of the course, Sheffield started to close Murray's big early gap, but still, at the end of the first lap, the Californian Murray led Sheffield by 11 seconds. Daubeny and Cole chased another 13 seconds back.
Early in the second lap, Sheffield made her move toward the front. After Murray ran part of the first descent, Sheffield made contact and then pulled around Murray with a sweet pass on a left-hand turn.
The two riders hit the second run-up together, with Sheffield dashing up the left and Murray up the right. Drying conditions helped open the left line up on Friday, and the choice gave Sheffield first dibs on remounting her bike. Returning down the second chute descent, Sheffield now had a 4-second lead.
Sheffield again extended her lead at the sand pit when she was able to power the full length of the deep, coarse feature. Sheffield carried an 11-second lead into the final lap. Behind Murray, Cole and Daubeny closed in on second place.
"Once you pass and you know you are a little bit stronger, then you want to ride strong but consistently hard," Sheffield said.
In the last lap, Sheffield extended her lead and stayed smooth to add a Stars-and-Stripes to her blue Pan-American Champion's kit. She now gets to stick around to the weekend to see if her son Magnus can follow in mom's footsteps and win a jersey of his own.
In the bell lap, Cole caught and then passed Murray to take over second with just half a lap left to race. Murray fell a few seconds back at the sand pit, but she recovered and outsprinted Cole on the finishing straight to take second. Cole wrapped up bronze. Daubeny and Steen completed the wide-angle podium.
For more from the Masters Women 55-59 race, see the winner interview, photo gallery and results below.
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Marit Sheffield: Masters Women 55-59 Winner Interview