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Editor Tea Figuric wins the AMA MissMoto National title

Chasing a Championship

teacoverDuring the weekend of October 8/9/2011, I went to Putnam Park for the AMA Road Race Grand National Championship.  This event is a one-off,

intended as a showcase for those racers who have yet to compete as professionals.  The weekend's greatest prize is the AMA Horizon Award, which is granted to the most promising upcoming rider at the event.  Since I'm not a teenager with aspirations to make a career in professional racing, my main goal was to win the MissMoto number 1 plate.  Accomplishing this would brand me as the best female amateur racer in the country, which would be pretty cool!

2011 has been a good season for me.  My boyfriend Steve is also a racer, so having him as a teammate has made the logistics easier. With his support, this season I did well and got results.  At season's end, I'd won the Blackhawk Femmoto Championship and had come in second in the CCS Midwest GTU Amateur points chase.  This Grand National event would be my final opportunity for the year to pick up some trophies and I felt confident going in that I could make a good showing.

Having entered MissMoto, I was unsure if I should sign up for any other middleweight races. The event was run by the USGPRU, a racing organization that hosts mostly two-stroke races.  I had no experience with how they might structure the weekend and didn't want to do anything that might jeopardize my chances at the MissMoto title.

teaonlybikephotoThe initial schedule showed our MissMoto race as being the very last in the day so I also signed up for Middleweight SuperSport, planning to use it as a warm up before the women's race.  Putnam Park is well known for being socked in by fog and dew early in the day, so I felt that it would be risky to practice the morning of the race.  If I had any sort of goals for the Middleweight SuperSport event, they were merely to survive and to not be last.

After registration had closed but before qualifying started, the officials made some changes to the schedule. Now MissMoto was not the last race. It was race 12 out of 15, and guess what happened to the SuperSport race? That’s right, it was right after the MissMoto. Race number 13. Back to back. This was going to be tough.

During my racing career, it has often occurred that when I was in the position to win a championship, something would happen to deny me the title.  At this event, I was staying off the bike as much as possible, just trying not to take any unnecessary risks before the race.  I ran only one practice session on Saturday before the qualifying sessions began, using it to remind myself of which way the track went.   I turned some decent times during qualifying for the MissMoto event, then came in to catch my breath before SuperSport qualifying.  On my second lap of that session, I saw a 1:17 on my timer and thought, "That’s good enough." Despite the burning desire to stay out there and ride some more, I came in; not wanting to do anything that might jeopardize my chances in the MissMoto race.

MissManaged

When the grids were posted, it turned out that I had qualified on the pole for MissMoto and fourth on the front row for Middleweight Supersport.  Considering how cautious I'd been, these results were very good!  Then we got some disturbing news.  Sometime during our MissMoto qualifying, the officials had decided that it would be "fun" to make a change in the way the MissMoto race would be run. They had this glorious idea to stagger the grid in the following manner:

They would take the average of each rider's qualifying times, take the difference in seconds between competitors, multiply by 10 (for ten laps) and then start the slowest rider first, holding each faster rider on the grid for an additional number of seconds.  They thought it would be interesting, because this way, we would presumably all cross the start-finish together after 10 laps. WTF??????? It doesn’t matter if it’s two stroke racing or Middleweight. It’s racing and it’s not predictable!! Anything can happen. Why would you want to punish faster riders for qualifying well?   As the fastest qualifier, this hurt me the worst.  I was absolutely ON my Putnam pace.  Some of my competitors were still learning the track.  If anyone found extra speed during the race, (pretty much a guaranteed thing) I would lose just because I was the quickest qualifier.  By their calculations, I would be forced to wait a minute and ten seconds before I was allowed to start.  Most insulting of all, they made up this rule only for our race and no others!

Luckily all the lady racers participating in MissMoto disagreed with this last-minute change and we made that clear to the officials. They decided to run our "Special Olympics" as they would any other race. Good!

Tea_Jen_Christi_podium_hug

We gridded up for our race and I’m telling you, the other ladies made me work. We had all improved, so I had to step it up to keep them behind me.  I won!  Including the warm up and cool down, that event had required me to do 12 laps. I was tired, thirsty, my legs hurt and I was out of breath.  In the hot pit, Steve was waiting for me with water and a fuel jug and all my competitors were already on the grid, essentially waiting for me to join them.  I told Steve that I wasn't sure if I could even go out to race. I was tired!  Still, I decided to give it a try.

Racing Co Ed

I had a good start and managed to keep my fourth position into Turn One. For a lap or two, I watched the guy in third trying to pass the guy in second, who seemed to be a little bit out of control. The rider I was following managed to get through, leaving me to find my own way around the sketchy guy.  I thought for a moment to just sit there and wait until he crashed, but instead took the opportunity to pass him into Turn One, in the process missing a downshift and going into the corner in 5th gear with no brakes.  I almost tossed it.

Now I was in third but the rider I'd passed wasn't giving up.  Steve was on the front straight, signaling to me that the guy was still right on my butt.  He got around me and I passed him again; I don’t know how many times.  Finally, I got by him one last time and was determined to make it stick.  I had to use everything, and I do mean everything that anybody had ever told me about riding, racing or coaching to keep the guy behind for the rest of the race.  I closed all the doors and ran wide on every exit.  I'd watched him for two laps in the beginning and knew what pavement he wanted, so I never let him have it.  He tried passing me, but it didn’t work.  At some point, there was a waving yellow and I saw a guy in the weeds at the Bus Stop. I thought that this might have been the rider I'd been following at the start, who'd gotten through and left me in this battle for third.  We were battling so hard that I never saw the halfway flags.  By now, my energy was running low. I wanted to just give it up, but somehow I kept going. I thought, "The white flag must eventually come."  It felt as if my pace was slowing as I grew ever more exhausted and I remember thinking, "Man, I go faster than this at a track day."  There was no more juice in me!  Interestingly enough, I would later discover that these were the fastest laps I ran all weekend.

Tea_Supersport_Podium

Middleweight SuperSport is a fun race to watch, so we had a full audience of people waving and cheering along the front stretch.  Then I came out of the last turn I thought I saw a checkered flag!  Yeah!  Wait, was that a checkered?  Should I slow down?  I did and I didn’t care. I was just that tired!!!

It was the checkered. I don’t know how but I'd kept my rival behind me to the end.  It turned out that the rider in the weeds was indeed the one who'd left us earlier, which made my battle a fight for second place. As proud as I was to be the MissMoto National champ, coming second in Middleweight SuperSport may have been an even prouder achievement, both because it was the hardest race I've ever run and because I took the position straight up against all comers.  It was a fantastic weekend!

I would like to thank my sponsors: Cyclepath Racing, Pirelli, Arlen Ness, WSB. Big thanks to Jason Pridmore and his Star School for helping me to fix what I was doing wrong under braking. Last but not least, I would never have made it this far without my boyfriend and teammate, Steve.



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