Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cascade - Stage 1

Day 2 in beautiful Bend, and after the blink and you miss it prologue yesterday, the real racing of the Cascade Classic was set to kick off today. Em and I were joined by our two super guest riders - Lauren from Texas, and Katheryn from the Bay Area, who apparently has done a bit of racing in the past.

Lining up with the 115 or so other girls, we were at a tactical advantage, being the only team with a super DS, who rides, directs and domestiques, while our mechanic Jason waited behind with his local knowledge and bottle juggling while driving skills. The 120km McKenzie Pass road race that awaited us was a whopper, cresting McKenzie Pass and The Sisters.

It started with 7 miles of neutral descending, and as with most neutral starts I've experienced, it was probably faster and more hectic than a normal race start would have been. Making it safely to the start of the race proper is an accomplishment in iteslf! We all met that first goal of the day, and while cruising downhill at around 60k/h after the commisaire car sped away, we all thankfully avoided a pretty nasty crash that ended at least 1 girl's day.

As the road rose upwards, so did the race tempo, with NOW Novaris, Tibco and Peanut Butter throwing in plenty of attacks to keep the field on its toes. Nothing could get established, so the majority of the field approached the first major climb of the day intact, but that wouldn't last long. The stick thin cycling species sensed their chance, and danced away from the rest of the field. All the major teams were represented, and to be honest, a lot of the time when attacks go on a cimb, its more about who can go, than who the field lets go. So they went at their pace, and the peleton kept it fairly steady, lead for a large part by Katheryn 'I Swear I'm Retired' Mattis. You can take the cyclist from the race, but you can't take the race out of the cyclist. And in this case she rode like she'd never left, sharing little gems of advice and encouragement along the way, to be the most useful DS you could ask for.

Cresting the first climb, there wasn't much time to relax as we strung out single file down the pedalling descent. It was just long enough to cool the legs off a bit before bringing them slamming back to reality as we hit the next climb. Nearing the top, we were met by the gnarly looking larva fields, contrasted by the beautiful snow-capped mountains in the backgrond. I had about 2 seconds to admire the scenery before it was back to business as we passed over the KOM and through the hectic feed zone, before dropping down the final long descent of the day.

As it flattened out, we tapped along at a decent rate of knots, not really aware of what the gap was to the leaders, until finally the moto informed us that they were about 2 minutes up the road. Seeing the 20km to go sign a couple riders put in a few jumps. Maybe they were practicing their sprint for the crit, or maybe they just wanted to confuse the peleton. They succeeded at the latter, as the road was long and straight, and if they had intedned to chase down the break, they were probably an hour or so late.

We bombed through the final feed zone on one of the fastest sections of the course, and I think more bottles were lost than were gained. It strung out winding through the town before the base of the final climb of the day. As we approached the final 10k and the road started to head skyward again, Katheryn was chatting away in the bunch as she had been doing a lot of the day, as if on a cruisy group ride with friends, and I hear her exclaim 'this is where I pull the pin'. Fair enough, I thought, and I started to go tempo up the climb, only to see her a minute later come streaming past, moving to the front of my little group and towing us back to the bunch in front. All this on a diet of swimming and a couple rides a week, while those of us who actually had been training for this were left chewing stem and hanging on by the skin of our teeth. So maybe there is something to be said for cross-training and recovery... or maybe there's just something to be said for being an absolute animal on the bike!

Katheryn 'monster' Mattis then promtly moved to the front and set a good tempo up the final 5k climb to the finish. Some riders were gradually tailed off, and I was praying I wouldn't get dropped by the team DS. Lauren was proving that sometimes climbing is in your blood, and you can train in Texas all year and still look comfy as on mountains in Oregon. We crossed the line about 4 minutes down on the winner, Kristin McGrath from Peanut Butter 2012, and Em rolled in with a nice sized chase group not too far back.

The plan for the week is to treat it as 6 one day races. So we can tick this one off the list and now turn our attention to the TT. The race of truth awaits!


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