Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pine Flat -- Here we go...

Amy's Race Report: So, Pine Flat turned out to be quite a good first road race. We ate, we drank, we didn't crash - those were my three main objectives, at least. Maybe it was the road food, all the driving, or sleeping in a strange bed... but it's hard to not feel bad when you wake up at 5:30 am. I know these are just normal racing things, but, it'll take some getting used to. Once I got on my bike and rode around the parking lot, I felt fine, but each time I stopped, the nerves built up and I wanted to puke and pee at the same time. Despite getting anaerobic on the first steep (and neutral!) hill out of the parking lot, things were off to a good start once we started moving.

The first 45 miles the whole pack rode together. In the beginning, we were checking out the pack, chatting it up, and sticking towards the back in the first set of rollers. Everything was pretty smooth and agreeable and not too stressful. My favorite line was when one girl said, you can go around me, I need to fix my hair. I was shocked but actually relieved that it was so chill. There were a few girls riding no hands and eating GU and I have to admit, I was a little jealous... they had skills. There were moments when people surged and the tempo was unpredictable... it was a little "ugh... ouch... ahh" followed by a "I can't believe I need to use my brakes." I guess that's what you get when you sit in on the back. It's fun to pile more experience in to my little brain. The great thing about being a novice is that you learn so much each time and no matter how many times people tell you things, you don't really get it until you're in it. Just after the turn around cone, the pace picked up quickly and I was caught off guard. I figured it was a little early for a break away, but it's a little disconcerting to fall off so fast. Jess, kicked it into gear and I hung on her wheel to get back on. Maybe I'm a bit dramatic, but it felt like she saved me from falling off the side of a cliff. Then things got organized in the flats and we had a good double pace line where everyone cycled through.

Many miles later we hit the hills... there were some bumps just before the big hill and I was concentrating on hanging on to wheels... I think there was a line of about 6 or so people in front of me. When we hit the big hill, I looked back and I only saw one person behind me. The group split at some point and continued to fall apart. On the super steep part 2 girls took off. I tried to catch them, but I was at my max for a while and sadly dropped off. The crazy thing was that there were a huge number of people on the hill. I had a hard time picking out my group because it looked like a party on the hill with people climbing everywhere. There were 2 other girls behind me that I decided to buddy up with for the descent. One was a mountain biker, so I got behind her and we dropped the third one. We rode the flat together (well, to be honest, she pulled me practically the whole way.) I pulled for a minute and she said, let me get in front, we've got company behind us. The front two were way out of sight, but we tried to keep away from the other girl who ended up catching us in the flats. The 3 of us hit the last hill all together, and the girl I worked with got 3rd, I got 4th and the other one got 5th. We were all pretty close, and my legs were shaking as I crossed the finish line. Lisa finished shortly after and Jess not long after that. Everyone looked great - super strong up that last hill! It was a fun and beautiful course and luckily, no rain. It was great to see the elite women kick ass and then TS mens 5 do so well, too. We look forward to next week where we'll have the whole team back together again.

Jess's Report from the back: I'm so proud of Amy! And, the whole team too. Given this was our first road race, I thought we did really well as a team. A BIG thanks goes out to Mo for giving us a suggested play by play we used that day. Just as she urged, we stayed together through the rollers and flats, keeping Amy and Lisa sheltered from the front and doing what it took to keep us in the pack. At one point, I was able to glance down at the computer -- 41 miles down and only 2:10 in the saddle -- it's amazing what working together can do, which is what the whole field did for the most part. A few miles later, I felt the lactic acid building in the legs for the first time. Dread. The climbing was still up ahead and I was hanging on to the back, barely, shoving food in as fast as I could. Around mile 47 or so, before the final right hand turn up Watts Rd., the field started to break apart with gaps all over the place. Fortunately, Amy was well in position up front to take it from there. Although gapped, I could see the lead group of about 5 girls, then Lisa between them and me. I contemplated turning it up to get to Lisa but I was done. So done. A Velo Bella came up behind me and we worked together for a little while until one of the steep sections came and I couldn't hold on any longer. By the time I hit the steepest section of the climb, I caught my last glimpse of Lisa and the Velo Bella. From that point on, my race became a training ride to the finish. Relief. No more pressure. I was alone for a while, including through that fast and narrow descent. Fun! I occasionally passed some straggling riders along the way, including a guy who was plagued with cramps just 2 miles from the finish. (In any other circumstance, I would have stopped and given him a Gu...but not that day! Not even a nod of the head or word of encouragement. All I thought was 'Good luck buddy!') With only 1km to go, I was thrilled to know I had just one more steep, outta the saddle hairpin turn. I passed a guy just before the finish that grumbled, "I don't know why I do this...." At that point, I looked up and saw the whole team up on the bluff above the finish line cheering me on--Lisa, Amy, Pat, and Scott--and our trusty photographer Elmar--and thought that's why!

Big congrats to the W's Pro/1/2: Maria Monica (1st) and Kelly (3rd). Pat--sorry about your mechanical difficulties but you looked awesome pulling the field along on the O/B section of the course! Also, Ken had a great finish, taking 8th in Men's Cat5. Chris A came in some place after. Scott Rossi placed in the top 20 in Men's Masters Cat4/5. Results should be up soon.

Lisa's Race Report: Much of what Amy and Jess wrote applies to my race report as well. The race was pretty reasonably paced for the first 43 or so miles. Jess pulled out a great move at about the 17 mile (?) mark, picking up the pace enough to concern some of the other riders - in turn initiating those ladies to work harder, pull the pack and work for us. The whole group worked well through the rollers and the flats - it was actually quite fun to work in the rotating paceline that we had going for what had to be at least 20 miles. Its amazing the ground you can cover at such a nice clip working together. That rotating paceline was one of the highlights of the race for me; I really enjoyed working together with the entire group. The race though changed about two miles from the start of the climb. Amy and I asked each other how we were feeling - we both said we felt good. But as we started up the climb...well, maybe I wasn't feeling so good! As soon as I saw it happening it was over: first, I lost the wheel in front of me, and then, the break with the pack. But our goal was achieved - Amy was in the break - woohoo! - and our plan had worked. Amy was looking strong. I figured I was going to do the climb at my pace within my level of capability, thinking that the pace of the pack would start to wear some racers down. No such luck. I was dropped like a hot potato. And I too passed the gentleman with the leg cramps - he was clearly disappointed. At the last climb, after riding as hard as I could through the final seven miles, I heard everyone cheering me on. I was proud to cross the line; yes a bit disappointed that I had not been able to hang with the pack, but pleased none the less that I finished my first road race. My sense of what to expect, what is possible and what one can achieve was definitely brought to a new level. A huge congrats to Amy who rode a GREAT race, and Jess who pulled out the tactics. It was great fun riding with you both.

Thanks also to Mo, Pat and the Elite ladies for all of your feedback and beta on the race.

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