Sunday, June 17, 2012

Race Report: O'Fallon Grand Prix

I raced the O'Fallon Grand Prix Road Race back in 2009, my first year of racing.  That race stands out in my mind for two reasons -- 1) It cemented that I was not a road racer.  I didn't enjoy that race one single bit. 2) It was the first time I saw a crash in a race.  Several girls rubbed wheels and one went kerploosh! in a ditch full of stale water.  My initial instinct was to stop and help, but then I realized I was racing and just kept going.

That year was only the second time that race had happened.  Since then the organizers have done a fantastic job of growing the event and turning it into a full weekend of racing with a time trial, road race, and criterium.  I'm hoping next year they'll institute omnium points for it.

Prelude Time Trial
This was the first year for this event and the promoter did a great job with it.  The weather was warm, mid 80s and a strong breeze, but not unbearable.  The course was a 13 mile lollipop on Illinois country roads.  I talked with a few guys from the team who had pre-ridden it and they said there was rolling hills on the way out and a short, steep climb followed by a quarter mile or so at 8% that was a killer on the way back.  There would be a tailwind on the way out and a head on the trip home.  I got a good warm up in on the roads around town and went to the line.  I put an ice pack in the radio pocket of my skinsuit to help keep my core cool while I rode.  I went to the line and got clicked in.  My holder told me to take it easy on my start because my chain looked a little funny.  I got the start and took off.  It was my best start I've had yet this season.  My chain did skip a bit, but I was prepared.

I took the first turn at the end of the block and put my head down and rode.  I added gear until I felt a degree of difficult that was hard but manageable.  None of the rollers were unbearable.  I was able to stay in my big ring and drops the entire way.  I'm betting that the wind had died down a significant amount for me because I never really felt its effect one way or another.  I made the corner to begin my trip home and hit the short steep hill.  I got passed by a guy about that time.  I powered up the hill and began what was supposed to be the long grinder.  My perception of difficulty in a tt and what the boys told me pre-race have to be very different because I kept wondering when the hard hill would hit.  I didn't let the guy in front of me out of my sight and I began to feel like I was gaining on him.  As we got closer to town I was able to close the gap and pass him.    We started weaving through town towards the finish and he came around me again and said something.  I'm not sure what it was, but in my head I told myself it wasn't nice so I pedaled harder.  With the finish in sight I was able to move past him the final time.  23:13 was my official time.  Top woman overall.

Illinois State Road Race Championship
Saturday's temps were predicted to be HOT and the forecast was right on.  It was sunny, 94 and humid at race time.  I kept my warm up short, enough that my legs felt loose.  I took my cooler to the feed zone, iced down my sports bra and went to the line.  We had 11 women who started.  I knew about four of them, but the rest were from out of town. We rolled out neutral and chatted easily until the race started.  The first attack went there, up the hill.  We came back together and it calmed.  The first lap was fairly mundane.  An attack every few miles but it was easily answered.  The course was interesting in that it was filled with rollers and lots of turns.  It actually felt more like a long crit.  We had one girl who couldn't hold one during lap one so we were down to ten.  We neared the end of the first lap (20 miles) and I asked the group if we could agree to roll through the feed zone neutrally.  We did and everyone got fresh bottles.

The next attack happen just past the feed zone and I knew this lap would be a lot more energetic.  The attacks were much more frequent and difficult to answer.  We hit one of the short, steep hills on mile 27 and the California girl attacked.  I was slow to respond and was off the back.  I caught and passed Amy but a main group of five got away.  There was a chase group of three (Tara, Stephanie, and Joan).  I put my head down and went after the chase group.  I saw Stephanie fall off so I went after her.  It took me about six minutes to catch her.  I got on her wheel and told her I would pull after I recovered.  She told me she was done and was going to DNF when we got back.  Once my heart rate got under control, I pulled around her and set off.  I had lost sight of Tara and Joan by then.  I toyed with the idea of abandoning the race through the rest of that lap.  Around mile 32 I got passed by the MensDNF.  I grabbed my bottle from my awesome feeder and kept pedaling.

Beginning of Lap 2.  *Photo Credit: Elizabeth Rangel
I was about four miles into the second lap and a volunteer told me there was a girl in front of me close enough to catch.  That definitely gave me a push.  I started pushing harder and pretty soon I could see two riders in the distance on some of the straights.  I was still far enough back that I couldn't tell if they were girls or guys.  I kept closing in on them.  Around mile 51 I thought I could tell one of them was in a Big Shark kit.  Was it Tara?  I asked a corner marshall if they were girls or guys...girls was the answer.  Time to go, head down, time trial mode, look for a wheel.  By mile 53 I had them.  I jumped on Tara's wheel and began to rotate through with them.  As we got closer to the neutral water table, I told them I was going to grab a bottle.  I moved in front so I knew I'd be safe through there.  Somehow I managed to get a little gap on them with that mode.  I thought about trying to increase it but decided it would be better to have someone else helping me out the last six miles.  We continued to work together and take turns pulling.  I definitely was curious about how much they both had left in their legs.  We began to see the KM to go signs.  At 3KM, I heard the distinct sound of air leaking.  Tara had a flat.  It was down to Joan and me.  She was quite happy to let me sit out front in the head wind.  I kept moving so she would have to take her turn pulling.  We made the last turn and headed to the finish.  I quietly jumped back into my big ring.  I
was debating where to start my sprint.  500m came and went.  Right before the 200m mark she told me it was nice to race with me.  I took that as a sign and jumped.  I had worked hard to catch those girls and I was going to beat them, no question.  I easily gapped her and finished.  By my count, I was 6th.  I later found out that the lead group had splintered more and one of those girls DNF'd so I took 5th, last money spot.

Illinois Cup Criterium

FAST group of ladies leading it out. *Photo Credit: Brian Keller
I was feeling the results of the two prior two days of racing.  It was going to be another hot one.  I got a great warm up in, on the course.  It was eight corner figure eight course.  The pavement was awful!  We had 12 girls in our race, seven of them coming with fresh legs.  The attacks started after turn two.  Nothing was ever able to stick, but they were frequent.  The pulse of the race was that an attack would go and we'd be flying.  It would be brought back and we'd slow way down -- over and over and over.  My struggle with the race came on the primes.  I tried to stay with the lead ladies, but my legs didn't have it to sprint against them.  After each of the three I was gapped and had to push to get back in the group.  At some point we had two ladies drop out and had lapped someone.  At the end, it came down to the sprint.  I tried to position myself well as we turned the final corner, but was near the back.  The sprint went and I tried to respond, but my response was limited.  I ended up in 7th for the day.  No fat cash for the day, but a fun race regardless.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Race Report: Tour de Ste Genevieve

I'm not a huge fan of our state road race.  I think because the first year I did it was such a bad experience nutrition wise so it has negatively colored me against the race.  That being said, I won't do a race without giving it my best effort.  We had seven ladies in the Master's field.  There were three that I knew were tough--Britta, Cat, and Lora.  We were starting with the women's 4 field so we actually had 17 ladies that should have been together.  

The weather was different than originally forecasted--it was cooler, mid-80s, but a significant wind.  I purposely lined up in the second row because we would be heading out in the wind and I didn't want to pull into it.  Our neutral roll out may not have had any attacks, but it was not a parade pace by any means.  We pulled out onto the highway and it sped up a bit more.  The group quickly moved to a single line and I was sitting about sixth.  I moved myself up a bit because the girls I was watching were sitting up front.  I didn't think they'd move early, but I didn't want to be caught back too far either.  The girls started rotating through and I was amused to see who took what length of pulls.  My greatest amusement through the race was one of the ladies who took the shortest pulls complained the most about other girls not working.  We got to the first climb at mile five and I think we shed a few girls there.  The next climb at mile nine had the same effect.  A few small attacks were attempt on the climbs and after, but everything was brought back.  It was somewhere in there where people stopped working and started complaining.  The lions' share of the work was done by about four or five ladies.  At one point, I was on front again and wanting off and no one would come around, they just sat on my wheel as I moved towards the center line.  I slowed us down to about 11mph before Molly finally came up.  The mile 17 climb is the first really challenging one of the race.  It really shred our group.  I think we were down to about seven by the end of it.  The group came together at the top and we kept rolling.  

Warming up with Kelly pre-race.  *Photo credit: Don McKinney

Just before the downhill where I got gapped.  *Photo credit: Don McKinney
*On the front . . .  *photo credit: Don McKinney
To me, the hardest climb comes at mile 24, it's a curving climb that feels like it goes forever.  Britta went hard on it and I worked to stay on her wheel.  This was the climb where I got dropped last year so I was happy to be with the leaders.  We made it through there and headed towards the QOM climb.  I have to say that I felt great through all of this.  My nutrition was doing what it was supposed to.  There is a long downhill right before the QOM climb at mile 28.  It was there that I started to struggle.  I was in my 50/12 and didn't feel like I could keep up with the two girls in front of me.  They gapped me.  Three other girls flew around me as well.  We started the climb and I focused on what I knew to do.  I sat back in my saddle, hands on top of the bars and tapped out a quick cadence.  I began to pull back ground from everyone.  Although Britta pulled away, I put myself back into second with a comfortable gap, so I thought.  I added gear when I got to the top and was moving along well.  I was about mile 29 when Cat caught and passed me.  I tried to go with her, but couldn't meet her speed.  I was making up ground until she met up with the Cat 4 leader and worked with her.  I was at mile 30 when Lora went around me.  I kept her in sight until we got into town, but could never catch her either.  I was pretty disappointed with my finish and inability to react to those girls.  That being said, my climbing was better this year than it ever has been before.