Hey everyone. I'm hoping to get some advice on how to handle bunch sprints as a woman (Cat 4, new to racing) when the 3/4 women are racing with the 4/5 men. This may be a bit rambly, so my apologies. First, my primary strength is very obviously sprinting. I'm the one that the guys lead out in the main fast group rides for Strava sprints.
I got crashed out just after the final corner in my first bunch race, in the final 300m. I moved for a gap made by a rider who went too wide in the final corner, but he jumped out of the saddle and sprinted back into his position, totally taking out my front wheel. I was in the top 1/3 of the field. I know "protect your front wheel," but there's not much that can be done when someone is willing to do that without even looking. All the same, looking at Strava comments, I got blamed. Fun.
Here's the worry: I was in the lead for the women, by a few bike lengths. And I have a relatively good sprint (I put out the same power as the men who won the race, and more than the power of the woman who won due to my crash). I don't really have the fitness to be in the top 5-10 racers in the final corner in these sorts of fields. So if I burn a match or two to be safely positioned at the front, I'm worried that I'm burning my sprinting matches.
Another worry I have involves gender stereotypes. Just because I'm a girl, most guys are going to assume that I'm slow and that they're going to feel annoyed that I'm in front of them *and* they'll be less likely to respect my space, thinking that I'm not there to contest the sprint (when I'm definitely there for a sprint). I think it's easy to see how if the guys don't even think I belong up front for the sprint, then they're going to do things that put me in danger. So I worry that doing things to "protect my front wheel" will totally take me out of sprints.
And so by not being able to burn matches to be ahead of this nonsense, I'm worried about being boxed in by staying farther back in the field. So what the hell do I do to avoid being taken out by inattentive guys who don't respect my space at all, and who figure that I don't even deserve to be in front of them for the sprint?
(p.s. How about a dedicated thread/sticky to women racers? I looked but didn't find one.)