Carmen Small Journal: Three questions about racing with the men

Since she raced with the pro men at the North Star Grand Prix, Small has fielded a lot of questions. Here, she answers three common queries

It has been a week since I finished racing the North Star Grand Prix (NSGP) with Elbowz Racing team, and I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my experience. I have also started this journal entry about five times, and could never get very far, so I start again today, hopefully with some new perspective after my four-hour ride. After taking those hours to reflect on racing with the men, I decided I’d try to answer a few common questions I’ve gotten since the race.

“When are you going to do it again?” My reply is one simple word: “never.” My parents always taught me, never say never. So my response isn’t completely honest, but my knee-jerk reaction is “never.” It’s not that it was so hard that I felt like I was in over my head, but it was challenging most of the time. OK, all of the time. The biggest thing is that I love to win races, and I don’t see that as a likely possibility racing with men who are like a bunch of Dutch women on crack. My goal was to finish the stage race and have my name on the results at the end. Mission accomplished. Although I was conservative for most of the stages, it was still hard and great training, better than I could have achieved by myself.

“What is your most memorable experience?” Besides the criterium and always being under-geared rather then over-geared (I have never cornered that fast and carried my speed as far during my racing career), I would say it was the Elbowz, a.k.a. El-bro-wz team. They had such an impact on me that I can never forget the experience. What an incredible group of men who come together to race bikes. I was very impressed with their professionalism, light-hearted nature, and their passion for the sport. My face hurt from smiling and laughing with the team. They accepted me as one of their own, and they supported my goals as if it was their team goal. Never mind how they rose to the challenge and were on the podium every day but one! Their determination was contagious and I found myself feeling positive about my own outcome of the race. I will never forget that they gave me the opportunity to race with them and helped me accomplish my goal. But honestly, they probably won me over by cooking dinner for me.

“What was the strangest thing?” There is a reason why men and women have different chamois. Let me tell you, after 85 miles … ouch. I prefer women’s chamois. This wasn’t the strangest thing for me that week, however. Yes, I am going there: men peeing off their bikes. Of course, I have seen pictures or videos of this happening while watching a men’s race, and I’m not ignorant to the possibly of seeing this during NSGP. But to see it happen in real life, first hand, right next to me. That was weird. The first time I saw some guy drifting back on the side of the peloton with his hand kind of down his pants, I was like, ‘Oh, what’s happening there?’ Then I was like ohhh, of course … Then again and again and again. I got really good at detecting this and hastily making my way to the middle of the peloton away from any “spray” that could happen.

It was a tremendous week of racing with an enormous amount of support both at the race and with people sending me messages. I will never forget this experience. Thank you Elbowz for making this opportunity possible and David Laporte for letting it happen. Thanks to all the men who I raced with, who showed me respect and encouragement during the week. This was, for sure, one of the best experiences of my life.