Wednesday, March 30, 2011

San Dimas SR

Stage 1 of the San Dimas Stage Race: A 3.8 mile uphill TT that wound its way up Glendora Mountain Road; An amazingly picturesque setting which would have been breathtaking... if you had a single gasping breath to spare. TTs are all about pain, pain and more pain. Throw a hill into that equation, and things can get messy!

The womens' field was 100 strong, with a host of top teams and riders to make for some tough competition and great racing experience. With a dose of Coach Dan's HTFU formula for breakfast, we attacked the first stage with vigour. As long as you keep the pedals turning over, and cross that line with your legs and lungs still functioning, you've won the battle. We all won the battle and posted respectable times, having a good hit out and testing out the engines ready for the next stage.

Stage 2 was the San Dimas Community Hospital Road Race. Eight laps, totaling 56 miles (approx 90km). Any race with 100 riders is bound to be interesting. Throw in some narrow but fast sections of road, a decent climb followed by a fast decent, and a touch of wind, and the race pretty much makes itself. The race of attrition, is won by position! Sounds good and is spot on to an extent, but there's always more to it as well.

I failed miserably in the position part, so had a backrow view of the race most of the way (which is good for writing a race report, right?!). The first lap is for settling in and getting a feel for the course. With the wind blowing the way it was, it was going to be fast, so any breaks were going to be hard to start, let alone maintain. We set off at a reasonable pace, but everyone was playing it fairly cautious, and it was the hill taking its victims that split up the race on the first few laps. Early on it was definitely a race of survival. If you got gobbled up by the hill, or spat out the back, the wind was picking up and it would end up being a lonely day chasing in the hurt box.

About half way through there were a few small attacks of the front, countering the field after a prime sprint. This strung things out and we were tip to tail playing gutterball for a while. No-one likes gutterball all that much though, so we soon resumed to standard bunch racing.
The hill was hungry, and gobbling up riders left, right and centre, so the main field had almost been halved by this stage. Apparently at some point 2 riders snuck off the front. I say apparently, because even with my armchair view, they'd pulled off a Houdini and disappeared in a flash.
If the CIA is looking at recruiting any time soon, these girls should be top of the list!

With 2 laps to go a Colavita girl was still off the front. The HTC train formed at the front in an effort to pull back some time, but they obviously were confident of their hold on GC, as they never got rolling at full steam. The last time up the climb it was a matter of holding on and trying to return home with the bunch. The sprint was left quite late, but Colavita were on their game this race, and organised the lead out train to go one-two for the stage.

For the Webcor girls, we all learned a lot and showed we can mix it with the big girls.

Mary showed off her awesome bike handling skills (former BMX bandit perhaps??), by holding it up when a stray drink bottle tried to end her race prematurely. She also made the wise move of no making acquaintance with the bitumen, when a small group of girls in front of her foolishly thought they'd do just that.

Haley learned never to make fun of Coach Dan's scout boy attitude of packing the kitchen sink, and that being sponsored by Powerbar is only awesome if you actually remember to take their super energy products with you during the race! Bonking is not fun. Just ask her.

Holly floated through the bunch like a seasoned pro, and floated up the hill on the first few laps with just as much apparent ease. She definitely showed she'll be a force to be reckoned with once those upgrade points come through.

Jane got to experience the dynamics of a chase group, who the name 'chase' group sometimes doesn't actually apply. All good training for next year though, when she wont have to worry about chase group dynamics. The main field is calling.

I learned that 100 riders is a BIG field, and that although riding near the back may be good for writing a race report, it's not so great for conserving energy and smart racing.

Sunday we were off to downtown San Dimas for the final stage - a 55 minute crit on a fast L shaped circuit. The newly introduced Webcor warm-up included a good 10 minute game of marks up (note from Andi: Bec is teaching us how to play Aussie football), and then we were set to go, joining the 67 strong field at the start line. It was pretty much on from the start, and that's how it stayed. Not much to report here. I played ticket collector for the whole race and I think I rewrote the book on how NOT to ride a crit. If you ever wanna know, just ask! Thankfully I took those ticket collecting duties seriously and wasn't going to drop off and let someone else take my place, so I clung to the back by the skin of my teeth and finished with bunch time. The sprint was won by Chloe Hoskings from HTC leading it out of the last corner and holding off any challengers to the line.

So that's San Dimas done and dusted, and now we rest up for a few days before heading off to Redlands.

As much as I complain about the pain, if the following quote is true, I'll happily hurt for many more races to come...
"It never gets easier, you just go faster" - Greg LeMond

Take it easy


Monday, March 21, 2011

Madera Stage Race

After last weekends adventure, we didn't want the girls who didn't race Merco to miss the whole central valley experience. So once again we piled into the car nice and early and headed east, this time for the Madera Stage Race. Jane had beaten her bug into submission, so was welcomed back to race pro 1/2 along with Hayley and Bec. Holly gave up valuable study time to race cat 3 in her quest for upgrade points, and Dan and Andi showed us how the experienced folk do it in the masters.

The day started with a 45 minute crit on a nice and simple four corner circuit. Conditions were perfect, and a field of 35, with no team flooding it with numbers, made for a nice hard race. The pace was good from the start, and the attacks came instantly. Coach Dan's instructions were heeded, and there was always a flash of green in any break of 2 or more. We animated the race well and put in two of the longer solo attacks of the day, giving the massive Madera crowd their moneys worth. A sneaky preme bonus win, a solid 2nd overall and all our skin in tact with zero crashes in the whole race (after the 6 or 7 last week) made for some positive vibes heading into the TT.
*note: positive vibes at the beginning of a TT are invaluable, as by the end, as you cross the line sweating spinal fluid and getting a second helping of your breakfast, it's hard to conjure any kind of vibe, let alone a positive one!

Hayley smashed it in the TT, so I'll leave it to her to spill the secrets on the race of truth.

Stage 3 was a 68 mile (thats about 108km for all those 21st century participants out there!) road race in the beautiful surrounds of Hensley Lake. It was another course stolen from the classics, with a teeth chattering back section, and a nice goup of power climbs to keep things interesting.
We rolled off on our neutral 2 mile start, but apparently neutral starts here here aren't just a chance to get the field together, but more a bunch 'getting to know you' sesh, as half the field prepared for the bumpy road ahead with a communal squat on the side of the road. No worries! If only Mary had had such a group of willing particpants to hold her hand last week! Once everyone felt suitably relieved and better aquainted, we continued on to get down to the real business.

In a short stage race like this, the TT had pretty much set the GC standings, so something big had to be done to shake things up at all. As this was the case, things on the first lap played out as one would expect. The top few on GC watched each other like hawks, while the remainder of the field peppered the race with attacks, testing out the legs, and the reaction of the field.
We approached the 'Belgian Backblocks' with some hesitation. With reports of craters, and core breaking cracks, I could be forgiven for momentarily entertaining the thought that I may have just bought a free ticket down a big black hole heading back down under. I don't want to go home just yet, so with a test of the bike skills, strength of carbon and quality of those tooth fillings we made it through the first time, to discover that it wasn't quite as life threatening as first thought, but definitely an interesting added element to the race. We continued over the rollers and got a good view of the finishing section and stretched the field out a little. After passing through the feed zone, Hayley's chain mistakenly decided it could relax after holding on through all those bumps, and dropped, dropping her chances of what was looking like a solid ride in the process.

Not far into the seond lap, a 2 rider break got away. Containing a Metromint and Missing Link girl who were both a fair way back on GC, and being so early in the race, noone was too concerned. Another Missing Link girl bridged across and they let her go. 'They' in this case are Metromint (with a rider 2nd on GC) and the leader on GC, who had the much trickier job of riding as a lone ranger. I missed this move, and as Coach Dan had pointed out the night before, the break you want to be in is the last one. This ended up being the last one! Wise words.

The rest of the race was extremely frustrating to say the least. It broke up on the rollers over the next couple laps until there was a main bunch of about 20 left. Noone wanted to let a chase group go, yet neither did they want to ride the bunch at a reasonable pace. We then got our just desserts when we were neutralised to let a mens field pass, all the while letting the break extend their time gap even further.
Everyone was obviously happy to watch GC go to the break. Going from the 2nd lap is a gutsy effort and well deserving of a win, but the field did everything short of polishing their cutlery as they handed it to them on a plate.
So now the rest of us were racing for 4th place. A Red Racing girl made a solo break and held on as she just held her gap to the line. Webcor accidently rolled off the front on the second to last climb and pushed on home for 5th just in front of the main field.

Then it was on to stage 4. The promoters had mistaknely left this penultimate stage off the program, so as the rest of the competition packed up, Webcor packed the car ready for the final race of truth. Dan and Andy may be veterans, but they raced with the speed and cunning of youth. Holly had her race face on and pulled out all the tactics in the book, and was always threatning and close on their tail in the hired Nissan (pronounced knee-saarn in your best Asian accent please). Jane and Hayley were at an unfair weight advantage and along with Ethan had possibly also missed the memo about stage 4. There's no real need to name the winners... but lets just say they were cutting all the corners, and at a definte advantage with aero helmets. That's a DQ in a road race, right??

I saw this on a t-shirt at the race today and am going to try and remind myself of this next time I'm boxing it in a time trial -

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional

Till next time, take it easy


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Merco Road Race Stage 1

This week we welcome Bec Werner to the States from Australia, and to the Bridge Team. She had a crazy flight on Wednesday, and then immediately started the 4-day Merco stage race and wound up in a break with Ina-Yoko Teutenberg. Here's her race report:

Stage 1 Merco - MID Road Race - 91km

At 4.30 Thursday morning, bleary eyed but excited all the same, we headed off on the 3 hour drive to our first stage race of the year (and my first race in America); Merco, and the first stage MID road race. Andi, Jane and myself drove together, meeting Mary and Emily there. Arriving at the sign on area nice and early, we did a few quick intros and then had plenty of time to warm up and get ready. The car park was a hype of activity, with a decent sized field and some pro teams well represented, including HTC, Tibco and Peanut Butter Co. With Andi scoring the number 2 spot in the caravan (move over HTC! haha) and stocking us up with supplies and some advce, we were ready and raring to go.

Under clear blue skies, hardly a hint of wind, and pretty much the best racing conditions we could have hoped for, the women's race started, heading off at a nice cruisy pace as everyone settled in and got the legs rolling over. As a team we weren't sure what to expect, as none of us knew the course. So the aim was to stay near the front, and be ready for anything that came our way. Good thing we were, as not far in we hit a climb the organisers had pulled straight out a Euro classic! It started with a narrow turn across loose gravel and continued for about the next 2k at quite a decent gradient, dodging pot holes, cow pats and rough edges. Thankfully the pace was still nice and cruisy as everyone did their best to navigate the smoothest path up. This continued over the top onto the rolling back section, and obviously Ina-Yoko Teutenberg was getting bored, as she attacked on one of the smaller inclines. This woke everyone up a bit and the pace lifted, but no real attempt at chasing her down was made. Within 10 minutes it was being reported back that she'd put almost 2 minutes into us!

Things continued much the same for the next lap, with the pace lifting slightly over the climb, as there were QOM points up for grabs. Unforunately for our team, Emily got to really appreciate the value of the granny gears, as her lever carked it and she got to do the rest of the climb (and the race) in her 11. Nothing like some impromptu SEs!! With an awesome stubborn streak, she finished the race well inside the time cut, with a small chase group. What a trooper! Also, it was at this point that Jane could no longer deceive her body into thinking it was better. Smashing it in zone 5 kind of made it obvious that "I'm totally better, I've just got a tiny bit of congestion" was a bit of a lie. So unfortunately she had to pull out, and got to watch the rest of the race, and cheer us on from the sidelines. So it was just Mary and myself left to fight it out, with Mary being an absolute champ and offering to be super-domestique for me.

Starting the third lap, the bunch was still cruising, so on the final uphill before the climb I moved to the front to try and lift the pace, and make sure I at least started the climb at the front. To my surprise no-one came with me and when I looked back I had a bit of a gap, and decided I might aswell keep going and have a crack at picking up some points. To my delight once I started the climb free of the hustle and bustle of the pack, I saw that Teutenberg was not too far in front, so I tried to just keep a steady pace, and gradually bridged across to her, taking out the QOM points at the top. Cheers Ina!

We were out of sight of the main bunch at this point so kept the power to pedal to try and maintain the gap. It was all a bit surreal for me. Never thought I'd be so excited to have my legs torn off by someone... she is such a machine! Although I don't think I helped her cause to much, she said she was happy for the company, and we swapped turns (by which I mean she tore my legs off and I made some pitiful attempts at helping out!) for the next 20k or so till the final time over the climb where we were caught by the bunch. The girls were definitely pushing harder this time over the climb, and it broke things up a bit, but it came back together over the back section, as no-one was keen to really put the hammer down just yet.

Heading into the final 10k there was a last ditch attempt at a breakaway, by what I think was a HTC rider. Peanut Butter Co. moved to the front and got orgnanised fairly quickly to shut that down. I sat in comfortably as Mary 'super-domestique' Maroon guided me through the pack protecting me from the wind. The remainder of the field was then ultimately broken apart by the course, as the climbers turned the screws that bit more heading into the 3km, predominantly uphill finish, breaking up the field and leaving a group of no more than 10 to fight it out for the win. Unforunately Ina had already eaten my legs for breakfast, and I couldn't go with. Mary had smashed herself for me, and we both joined a smattering of girls strung out, pushing to the finish to try and limit the time gap as much as possible. Amanda Miller from HTC took out the win in a well desreved result, as HTC had really made the race the whole day.

Now it's on to the time trial for the three of us, with Jane heading home for some much needed rest. Emily has a new lever, and we have a new DS, with Andi 'I told you jetlag is good for you' Smith heading home and Katheryn taking over the reins. So tomorrow is a new day, and I can't wait to pull on the Webcor jersey again.

To quote a friend -

Ride happy... and for those of you that are racing... ride like you stole it!


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