Yesterday’s road race was one of the hardest races I’ve done in quite a while. It was a 77.9 mile loop with 5854 feet of climbing, which my legs are definitely feeling today! It started out with about 6 miles of flat/rolling (with a bonus sprint line at mile 6.2) before going right into the first QOM climb. The pace was tough, and until the last 1k of the climb I felt good and was hanging with the group. Unfortunately, as I soon realized, the lack of proper recovery from the previous road race, as Rachel had already mentioned, definitely affected me, and I felt much less strong than I know I can be. After chasing hard on my own for several miles after the QOM, I was caught by a group of about 6 others, and we worked together, rotating through a paceline for what ended up being the rest of the race. We caught a few single riders dropped off the main field, but unfortunately didn’t quite make it to the main peleton. One of the most frustrating parts of the race was the fact that for much of our time chasing, the peleton ahead was in view, but we just couldn’t quite get there – every time we were within a few hundred meters of the caravan cars, someone in the field would launch an attack, and the gap would slowly increase again.
It is sadly ironic to know that I did much more work in the race than many in the main field, who had the luxury of sitting in a large group, surfing wheels, but that I ended up placing much farther back. I kept mentally chastising myself, going through all the “if only’s” – “if only” I pushed just a bit harder to stay on, I could have ridden comfortably, sheltered from the wind, in the field for the rest of the race—for example. But I raced to my best ability given all circumstances, and clearly didn’t purposefully get dropped when I did, and so there are no if only’s, only what was. Near the last feed zone coming into the final big climb, I was cooked. I had done quite a bit of work in the group I was in, trying to chase back onto the main field, and at this point, was dropped from the chase group. I literally lost about 10 minutes in the last 15 miles, and for those last 15 miles was in pure survival mode. I was gauging my effort to avoid cramping, savoring the last half bottle of water I had, and drew motivation from the signs counting down the kilometers to go. In the end, I finished about 20 minutes behind the main peleton, and within the time cut. After Rachel came in, we headed back to our host housing, and I spent the rest of the night doing everything with my power to optimize recovery, and make up for the poor recovery the day before.
I try to remember when I start to get discouraged that I am still young, with much time to continue getting stronger. I mean, look at what a bad-ass Kristin is, and she’s 38! That still gives me 15 years to achieve total domination. 😉 Another thing I am constantly reminded of at big races like this is how hard it is to be truly competitive in a field like this, without any race support. As we arrived at the start area yesterday, I watched in awe and yes, envy, to be completely honest, as racers sat in chair with their feet up with their support staff cleaning and preparing their bikes, performing mechanical tune-ups, and giving impromptu massages. However, despite all that, I am so thankful to have the opportunity to be here racing with such strong women who make this sport what it is. As Rachel mentioned, the winning times this year have been significantly shorter than the times on the same courses last year, which just goes to show that women’s cycling is growing, and with it, the caliber of riders. I will now step down from my soap box, with a TT race report soon to follow.