Generally speaking, it’s been a TOUGH race… tougher than Gila to be honest, as the winner of the first three stages is literally days away from boarding the plane to race in the London Olympics. Kristin Armstrong is dang fast, and I’m honored to lose minutes to her any day 😉
Prologue — This was by far one of my poorest races, where I finished DFL. I was bummed of course, but at the same time, I was fully aware that 2.8 mile lung-busting course aren’t my specialty. So, I did my best to put it out of my mind and prepare for the next day, which I knew would bring quite a bit of pain! My coach was also helpful, and reminded me that in Olympic years the riders are always significantly faster and stronger. She said it didn’t theoretically make sense, since it’s the same group of women for the most part, but the standard just goes up (I guess because even though not everyone is racing at the olympics, they’re racing against those who are at every NRC race leading up to it).
Stage 1 – Wednesday was the Mackenzie Pass Road Race, 74 miles long and over 7200 feet of climbing. It was a brutal race, which started with about 20 miles of rolling descending, followed by 20 miles of climbing over Mackenzie Pass. At the base of the climb, a few riders went down right in front of me (I think the road was a little mossy and wet) and I was caught up in that. I didn’t go down hard, as I had just enough time to clip out and avoid it the best I could, but skinned my knee and bent my derailleur, to the effect that I had to 1) use a TON more energy than I would have liked (especially at the base of a 20 mile climb), and 2) my gears were skipping the entire rest of the race, which was less than ideal as I couldn’t really get in/stay in the gear i wanted for the climb. However, despite that annoyance, I dug deep, caught back on, stayed on for as long as I could, and then stayed in a fairly large group of about 20 riders for the remainder of the climb and race. The group I was in had riders from every pro team, so I was happy to finish in that group, and was in no way expecting to finish with the leaders. The race ended with a 10 mile climb to the finish (I swear from the point I saw 10K to the finish it was 10 miles, haha), and I finished 53rd out of 91, which I felt good about considering the caliber of riders here. I was also happy to see my GC placing move from DFL to 63rd.
Stage 2 – Today was the time trial, my definite achilles heel in cycling. I was SUPER nervous, considering this is the stage I was time cut in last year. My coach reminded me that I had two things going for me that I didn’t last year – not being on antibiotics on the tail end of pneumonia, and being a stronger rider with another year of training and experience. The course was a 16.5 mile rolling course out in Prineville, about an hour outside of Bend. I did my best to focus on everything within my control (what time i woke up, when we left, when to start my warm-up, etc) to keep my mind from running-a-muck, but it’s hard when the time cut is set based on the time of a defending olympic gold medalist! My coach was there at the race and had a little pre-race chat with me, and told me I needed to hold an average of 22 miles an hour based on her prediction for Kristin’s time. I raced the best I could, and did everything I could to embrace the pain (shut up legs!) and stay mentally focused for what ended up being a 41 minute effort and a speed of almost 24 miles an hour. My best was good enough, as I made the time cut with three minutes to spare. And what’s more, I finished with not one or two, but 13 people behind me! I know that doesn’t sound great, but for me, I’m used to finishing nearly last in my time trials, and that’s at local, not NRC races. So, after today, I’m sitting in 62nd overall (middle third, which I’m happy with!) and am so excited to be starting the next stage tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a 70 mile race which starts and finishes at Mt Bachelor Ski Resort (the name just implies climbing…) and I’ll keep you updated on the next three stages. Wish me luck, and, preferably, legs like Jens Voigt’s 😉