Thursday, April 28, 2011

Copperopolis (Win!)

So it was a hell of a day in the Hell of the North. With Easter being a little later this year, the weather kept it's end of the bargain - bringing the Spring - leaving it up to the riders to make it a Classic.

Having driven the course the week before, we left Webcor's Sportvelo team headquarters at a bright and early 5am, as prepared as one can be for a course that can be best described as sections of pothole, with a small strip of road thrown in. Bike bolts had been tightened and re-torqued. Extra wide tyres had been acquired, and the cushiest chamois selected.

The pro 1/2 field were joined by the 3s, much to our delight, as it meant Holly would be joining Haley and myself for the bone-jarring 100ks that lay ahead. Things set off at a good pace, and it was obvious that the girls had come to race, and not just leave it up to the course to pick a winner. Metromint had the numbers, and after riding tempo up the first climbing section, they used that card to their advantage and threw in some attacks and counters over the rollers. It was early in the race though, and nothing looked too dangerous at this stage. All the same, Webcor brought the green machine to the font just to keep the pace high and the break in sight, not wanting the old adage of out of sight, out of mind to come into play, and things were brought back together pretty quickly.

We crested the second climb at quite a high tempo, with everyone wanting the best view as we hit the 'cobbles' (note: they're not actually cobbles, but it sounds so much more Euro and romantic than 'crap road with giant potholes'!). Things got a bit strung out on the descent, and there was a slight split in the field, forcing the second group to multi-task, and chase at the same time as focusing on not swallowing now dislodged fillings, and regaining feeling in arms that had been tenderised more than your Easter lamb roast. It came back together comfortably as we got our first view of the rollers coming up to the finish line and passed through town to start our second lap of three.

We picked up the pace a bit over the climb this time, and by the top there was a select group of 5, with Yahoo, Fremont, Metromint and Webcor all represented. No-one was up for really pushing the pace and getting turns rolling at this stage, and with half the group taking a wrong turn into the farmhouse, the chase caught back on not too long after, and the second lap finished much the same as the first.

The Fremont girls, who had been looking strong all day, flatted on the rollers before the second climb, and after latching back on, launched a girl solo off the front heading into the deciding lap. The laps are long, and it would be hard to stay away, but this was definitely more than a half hearted teaser, and the field would have to react.

As we entered the main climb for the last time, Fremont had the advantage of getting out of sight on the many bumps and bends that peppered this section. Webcor moved to the front to push the chase, as Metromint seemed content to sit on in the hope that the climb alone would bring her back. Not wanting to take that gamble, I zeroed in on her with the intensity of a Woodside cop, and as we reached the final kicker, we'd brought her back and it was now a case of two Fremont and one Webcor - definitely not ideal, but better to be off the front and outnumbered than not there at all.

Beth launched as we entered the flat section by the lake, and it looked like I was going to be burning matches just to make it to the finish. Grabbing her wheel, I tried on a bit of Aussie charm and we agreed to pull turns to try and stay away to the finsh. As I pointed out earlier, I may not be a gambler, but I know that 1 in 3 odds are better than a bunch sprint, and thankfully the Fremont girls agreed!

We got things rolling nicely, and Beth was obviously feeling the earlier effort and dropped on a little kicker at the turn around. To my surprise (and delight!) Susannah kept rolling through, and not knowing what gap we had on the fild we kept pushing hard. Some have labelled it a bad lapse in communication on Fremont's part, but I'd like to think she chose the 1 in 2 odds and rotating at a fast pace over the risk of being caught. Chugging along in our two carriage train over the back end rollers, we we're informed by the moto that we had a handy 1:20 lead on the chase, with about 12km to ride. There was a noticeable headwind though, and still the final climb to come, so there was defintely not time to relax.

Riding the final climb at the front, my plan was to keep the pace high enough to thwart any thoughts of attacking on Susannah's part, and thankfully she didn't. Riding the pothole rollercoaster was that much easier and faster with a clear view and the knowledge that this was the last time my brain would be rattling in my skull - for today at least.

Carrying our momentum into the final climbs to the line, I followed the wheel, waiting for the cat and mouse to start, but it didn't come. It was a long drag to the line, and praying that I had the legs, and that going early would put just enough doubt in her mind to not want to come, I pulled the trigger and gave it all I had to get my hands on that t-shirt!
Holly made it a Webcor double, taking out the 3s in strong style, appearing completely in her element on a road course made for mountain bikers.

Well done to Fremont on a strong race, and all the other girls for making sure we held our end of the bargain and put the classic in Spring Classic.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring Schedule

  • Santa Cruz Crit on Sunday (pre-reg closes tomorrow)
  • Presentation to the Alto Velo club
  • Copperopolis on Saturday, April 23
  • Wente on Saturday, April 30
  • Berkeley Hills, Sunday, May 8
  • Cat's Hill, Saturday, May14
  • Scott's Valley, Sunday, May 15

Remember: our eyes are on the NCNCA Premier Series: Don't forget that Mt Hood Stage Race is sneaking up on us June 2.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Redlands Stages - Bec Updates:)

After 'warming up' the legs yesterday, and a feast for dinner, featuring Cid's meatloaf and other homemade delights, we were ready and raring for today's stage. SoCal once again put on the good weather for us - blue skies, a nice 98 degrees (36C) and a cooling breeze.

A whopping 113 girls lined up for the stage, which comprised of 3 laps totalling 72.3 miles (about 116km). A fast and mostly flat course, with one decent section of climbing. HTC entered the stage with both aces up their sleeve, sitting pretty with 1 and 2 on GC. This therefore left it up to any other team with GC aspirations to make something out of the race. Either everyone missed the memo, or the torture TT from the day before had had a greater impact than expected, and crushed peoples will to attack along with their legs. For Webcor I think it was the latter. We had the will (aptly displayed by Haley's solo 2.5 lap TT after a mechanical) but the legs didn't quite match.

There were a few attepmted breaks, but no real threats, and HTC easily defended, driving on the front and stretching out the field whenever they felt it was necessary. Apart from this, a couple little spills, a busy feed zone and the in race game of bidon dodgeball, not much else happened, and the climb became the race deciding factor. The main field approached the climb hard on the last lap, and a lead group of about 20 was formed. The run into the finish after the climb was fast though, and the first chase group caught back on, bringing it down to a bunch sprint, which was lead out quite late, with the final little uphill drag taken out by Theresa Cliff-Ryan of Colavita.

All the Webcor girls rode well. Karen and John were kept on their toes in the support car, doing a great job, especially without a working radio, and left to rely on carrier pidgeon... or maybe it was just the race official. Haley toughed it out solo on a long, hard day in the saddle, only to be dealt the rough news of being time cut. She leaves with the dignity of no DNF though. HUGE respect coming from this direction, and I'm sure she'll be an amazing swanny!!

For now the rest of us are resting up, ready for tomorrows 60 minute crit. Keep your ears pricked for that report, should be an interesting race.

Redlands Stage 3 - Sunset Road Race
I headed into today's stage full of apprehension. Being my first time at Redlands, I had no idea what to expect, and was relying completely on the stories and legends told by riders past. This was not a good thing. Many are to scarred to talk about it. The mere mention of the name 'Sunset' in conversation with cyclists and at pre race meetings drew gasps and screams, and looks of utter dread and horror. Position would be vital. The race would be rough and fast. People would be dropped, and gaps would form right at the beginning...and this was just in the neutral start!

With a build up like that, I jumped at the gun like a startled rabbit, but my nerves settled a bit when I realised it was only half as bad as all the legends made it sound. There were only 1 or 2 crashes in the neutral section, and the main race at the start was to see who could edge the furthest in front of the neutral car without being pulled back.\par
Unfortunately Mary and Amy were caught behind the second crash, putting them on the back foot heading onto the loop for the first time, which the field hit at a ferocious pace. There was a time bonus up for grabs at the first QOM, so the climbers and GC girls gave the rest of us a lesson in climbing, and danced away up the hill, instantly shattering the pack and gaining a lead of 1:30 in what seemed like no time. All the big players had someone in the break, so that first climb pretty much set the field for the rest of the race.

If you can stop focusing on simply holding onto the wheel in front for one second, you realise that although it may be hard, Sunset is a really cool loop. It initially winds it's way to the start of the climb through the suburbs, keeping you on your toes as the road is never straight for more than 50 metres. Then the climb starts quite steep, before plateauing and kicking up again into a longer drag, where at the top the QOM points would be decided before a flase flat gives you no time to relax and clear the lactate. It then bumps along through the feed zone until flowing back over the top of the TT finish and quickly winding its way back down to start the loop all over again. Nine times!

The first three laps were pretty straight forward. Mara Abbott glued herself to the front and set the pace, and everyone else followed along, fluctuating from about 30 seconds to a minute and a half behind the leaders. When a course is like that and the break goes early with the best climbers up the road, there's not a heap you can do. Everyone climbs as fast as they can, and as long as the lead group doesn't stop pushing inbetween, they stay away.

At some point the pack behind the main chase caught back on, and on about lap 6 or 7 we caught the front group momentarily. It only took them till the next time up the climb to decide that they didn't like sharing their playground with all the other kids, and they burned us on the hill, once again shattering what was left of the race. We then rode the last lap in our splintered groups, until we finally reached the finishing circuit. It was a nice downhill and then flat detour back to the start line. With the leaders completely out of sight, and 9 laps of the legendary Sunset in the legs, everyone was fairly content to roll the last bit home without too much stress.

Put on paper, it sounds so much easier than it was. Of course there were the usual screeching of brakes and crunching of carbon on bitchumen that you dare not look back for. I'm sure there would have been a lot more happening in the front group... but I wasn't there to know. Plus I know much more happened in my part of the race that I've failed to mention or skimmed over, but to be perfectly honest, I couldn't really tell you. I didn't quite have the armchair view today, and when you're chewing stem and well inside the box, the thought process can be very limited, and concentrating on what's happening so that you can write an awesome race report doesn't even come into consideration. So think of some of the crazy and exciting things that make a good bike race and insert them in here, cos I'm sure they would have happened!

For the record, Colavita won the stage, and HTC held onto the leader's jersey and 3rd place, sandwiching a Tibco rider in between.

Well done to all the Webcor girls, it was a ripper of a weekend.

Take it easy


Friday, April 1, 2011

Redlands Prologue

March 31, 2011
Place: 68th out of 113 starters
Bec 28th

This first day of the Redlands Stage Race was the Prologue which is a 3.1 mile uphill climb according to the race bible. We had Bec, Mary, Devon, and myself just off of the San Dimas Stage race last weekend. Emily met us in LA and Amy came out from Boulder.

The Uphill TT was a gradual uphill with a power hill then a nice grade past some orange trees. Then you take a right hand turn to a big hill to the top. Emily and I talked about it and divided the hill up in our minds into thirds. A steep climb that you had to redline a bit, a quieter left turn to a final 200 meters to the top. How it actually played out was a bit different.

Before the race, we found our spot right in the middle of the parking lot and set up camp with the Webcor car and SportVelo tent. John, our mechanic, had everything in order which is super awesome as we could focus on just warming up and staying hydrated.

I was third of our team to go and once I rolled off the starting platform I tried to keep an eye on the girl who started 30 seconds in front of me. The hard part here was to hold a fast pace but not go over and flood the legs for the climb. I think I gained a couple seconds when we turned onto the actually hill section. Then my focus turned to keeping my breathing steady and trying not to blow up.

Our host house mom, Cid, was at the top of the steepest part and her encouragement kept me pushing as hard as I could. The last little bit to the top I got close to my 30-second target but was caught like I was standing still by a Colavita racer. She would end up 4th so I don’t feel too bad about that.

I met up with Bec at the top and we rode down to the team base to cool down then ride home. Overall I think it was a good start and almost like a warm up for tomorrow’s 72 mile Road Race.


Follow the team: