New Rule: Write race report within 48 hours of ending race.
That whole full time job and training keeps eating into my time to write and before I know it, it’s a week from the time I crossed that finishing line.
Last weekend was Tour of Elk Grove and the last NRC (National Race Calendar) event of the season. This meant strong teams would show and there would be plenty of opportunity to suffer on a bike. Interestingly enough all three of our races utilized the same pavement stretch of 4.5 miles. And flat as a pancake.
Thursday straight from work, Larry Foss (coach), Corey Coogan (CX teammate & friend) and I took off towards Chicago. With no use of the radio, we had plenty of time to converse. I greatly enjoyed the assortment of communication styles in the car. Both Corey and Larry were willing to put up with my inquisitiveness on a variety of topics for hours!
After a night’s sleep outside of Madison we rolled into Elk Grove with just enough time to catch the tail end of the managers meeting (that’s code for we were totally late). Friday kicked off with a 4.5 mile prologue (time trial). I was relieved to learn the prologue didn’t really count towards anything in the “stage” race. My time trial skills are minimal, however every time I complete one I am eager to get stronger at them (possibly with better equipment too). My thoughts run wild regarding time trials. It’s such a great place to learn about yourself, your willingness to suffer, and then to push that level further. Sometimes it’s just down right funny the shit you think about while on the bike. Earlier that day as our car raced into town for the meeting, Larry and I were testing the limits on our bladders. It was painful in all senses of the word. With one more question to end the road trip I asked Larry what hurts more, his bladder or a time trial. He said a TT he can handle, the bladder is a harder feat. With a not so legal move on our part to relieve ourselves, the question became a mute point…for the time being. It wasn’t until a few hours later as I raced against the clock that I revisited that question. As I felt the onset of pain in my legs I compared the two situations. At their peak I honestly felt they were pretty damn similar. However on the bike you have the ability escalate the situation with a lot less mess. Any way that’s a lot of words regarding a time trial I didn’t do that great at, but it was a fun experience. I liked the course (turns!). I finished 1:48 off the winner.
The following day we had an 83k “crit” on much of the 4.5 mile TT course from Friday. As Amy Cutler (FCS Cycling) mentions in her blog, the “crit” had an identity crisis as it was later identified as a circuit race. This meant no free laps, but there would be feed during a handful of laps. The race started off being fairly uneventful. There were a few sprint laps (bonus seconds) here and there, but the pace was manageable. Half way through the race, I was sitting top 20 when the race came to a screeching halt with a crash right outside the 180 turn past the start/finish. In slow motion I saw the initial two go down slightly to my right so I went left. Then the ripple effect of a few more girls crashed to the left where I had planned to sneak through. Tough luck, I was off the bike, running around the mess, and cx mounting back on to chase my ass off! I tried hard for a lap. Two Colavita gals came up and signaled for me to get on. As we came through the cash sight again, there was an ambulance on the course, a girl on a stretcher, and a neutral flag waiving. Perfect, we’ll restart! Oh no no no, as I sat up and the Colavita gals kept charging I realized they weren’t really neutralizing us. In my opinion this was total crap. When there is an ambulance ON the course, I think it’s cause to stop the race and restart. At that point with no free laps (as it no longer was a crit), there was nothing to do but start racing the clock again. This was a 2-day stage race with a time cut to worry about. I paced on for 20+ miles with one more eventful moment…a damn bee stung my thigh! Really jerk bee? Kick a girl while she’s down why don’t you.
I went back to the host home that night a bit disappointed. In part this disappointment stemmed from the reoccurrences of crashes this season. It’s one thing to not be strong enough to stay in a pack, it’s another to be handicapped by mistakes outside your control. There have been a handful of moments I’ve question what I’ve committed myself to and if it’s worth it all. I ended up making the time cut, so I would fight another day. Tomorrow’s a new day right?
Tomorrow was a new day! With the final race of 70k on a 7ish mile course with lots of turns (see below-ignore the red line, that didn’t happen) there was nothing to loose. Half jokingly my coaches said to imagine a shock collar around my neck, if I drop back past top 20, a button will be pushed. Got it, stay smart, stay out of trouble. I stole every spot possible, slithered into any crevice, confidently putting my bars in front of hers to entitle myself a slot, and at moments sacrificing a few watts to move up the side for better placement. It’s a hard act with a lot of smart women out there with the same plan. Like an ocean wave, you can be riding on top and in an instance another wave comes and you’re put under. Reshuffled like a desk of cards.
Since the top women would be fighting for final NRC time (bonus seconds), it was sure to be a good race. I laughed hard reading Lauren Stephens’ (Team TIBCO) tweet of “Today is gonna be a #barfight at #ToEG Please keep your hands, feet and knees inside the ride plz”. The top teams drove a strong pace. I did do a fine job of staying top 20, but had no reason to be on the front. A group of seven had gotten away and the peloton hesitated for a few minutes. I assumed a representative of each strong team was in the break, which meant we might be having a parade ride in the peloton for the remainder of the race. Oh boy I was a pleasantly surprised when Optum called back their gal from the break in order to work for the team and the train pace began! A Fearless Femme gal hollered out in an embellished southern accent “We got’r selves a real good ol’ fashion chase on our hands” with a gesture of a lasso. Damn straight we did! We were flying! The course felt like a crit with its variety of corners and our speed. The gap to the break had grown to a minute. That did not deter those Optum girls. I’m dumbfounded at their strength driving that pace when I was barely hang on for the ride mid-pack. Someday…someday. With a half lap to go we caught the break in a corner. To be expected it was a craze of girls jockeying for spots and repositioning with three turns until the final sprint. I stayed on the outside to the right down a long stretch as I wanted nothing to do with flying elbows. Looking back this is where I would have done something different. I wanted to save what I could for the final sprint, but by conserving I missed out on moving forward on the outside. The peloton was like bees swarming the final turn into the sprint and there just wasn’t anywhere to shoot through. I finished with the same time as the winners, but in 44th. What a ride! Our time was 1:42 with an average speed of 26 mph. Seriously, if every race could be like that, sign me up! The night before I had questioned so much and that race reminded me exactly why I love racing my bike. Pushing your body to the limits, railing a corner perfectly, moving through the pack like a pro, and smiling to a teammate at the finish line.
It was a great way to end the road season. It sets a tone for the next season. I had originally planned to race a few more events; however there have been a few sponsorship struggles.
Stay tuned as I hope to post a few more times with road experiences (maybe even backtrack on a few races) and topics I’ve been reading about.
Thank you for reading!