Steamboat Springs – The End of the Beginning
The title speaks for itself. Amanda was one of our first Cat 4 recruits and she’s proved to be not only an incredible athlete, but a dedicated teammate and respected woman in the racing community. We’re lucky to have her. Steamboat was a great way for us all to end the season….and get ready for CX!
It has been one year since I first started road racing and what a year it has been. New friends, new climbs, new rides, new coach, new adventures. I have learned that I still have work to do to be competitive at hill climbs, TTs and RRs. So, why not end the season with Steamboat Springs Stage Race? This is a challenging three day race that incorporates all the things that I struggle with in racing. I always tell people that the only reason that I do reasonably well in stage races is because I am “scrappy” and don’t give up, not because I am particularly good at any one stage of the race. Here is the rundown of the race:
Day 1: Time Trial. Distance 11.2 grueling miles with 1,120 feet of elevation gain. Got a good warm up in, saw many familiar, friendly faces and was ready to start. Just in time, Peg Hallberg’s boyfriend arrived to cheer us on. He is at every stage race taking pictures and cheering. The cheering keeps me going, even when my legs want to give up. There were two large, painful hills to climb. I kept waiting for my race buddy, Amanda Cyr to catch me, as I can always tell how I am doing in a TT by how quickly she catches me. TT start times are alphabetical and our last names are together. So typically I start 20-30 seconds before she does and she catches me rather quickly but not this time. This time she had a broken collar bone and was not racing but my ears keep listening for her as I raced. I finished the TT and Sam Anderson asked in a cheerful voice how it went as I almost vomited from overexertion. All I could think was that we had to do the same two climbs again the next day in the RR. Perhaps I would take a DNS instead, as every fiber of my being revolted the idea of doing this again.
Day 2: Road Race. As everyone is aware, I am always early to races. That day would be no exception. This was an early morning road race, better to get 55 miles and 4,500 feet of elevation gain over with early and then spend the remainder of the day with friends and resting. I got to the start area, warmed up and then went to sign in for Day 2. That was when it dawned on me that not only was I not wearing my race numbers but I left them back at the condo and the race was to start in approximately 20 minutes. I drove back to the condo, got my numbers, got back to the start, signed in and had a nice stranger pin my numbers on as quick as possible. Then I could not find any other Cat 4s, I rode my bike around the corner and saw that they were all lined up and the pace car was about to begin the neutral start. Adrenalin already pumping I made it just in time. During the neutral start, the ladies talked about how we should all ride slow until the end, just so we can all work together. I have heard this before and with no surprise this is not what happened. We rode together the first few miles, then the pace sped up and then the second hill started. I gave it everything I had to keep up with those fast ladies but at the top of the hill, I pushed with everything I had left and then was dropped. I chased the lead group for several more miles but never caught them. I was proud that I stayed with them for as long as I did but had to refocus on how I was going to finish this road race. I pacelined with other ladies along the course, some were too strong for me to stay with, while another group I lost when my chain dropped and I had to stop to fix it. I then had grease from my chain on my hands, sticky residue from a gel pack that broke open in my jersey and sweat everywhere. I had eaten and drank plenty of fluids but had pushed myself harder than ever. I had 5 miles left to go and I hit a wall. Jennifer Muto caught up to me and said that she noticed that I did not look well and to not let her win. I felt like I had no fight left. I caught her just before the finish line and she started to sprint. All of a sudden, a burst of energy and I too started to sprint. I came in about an inch in front of Jennifer and she was a great sport, she also pushed me to finish the race strong. The best part was that most of the climbing was done for the weekend. Next step–ice bath and food for recovery.
Day 3: Criterium. Rectangular course that was not too technical with wide, sweeping turns. Perfect crit course. The slight incline began to hurt a few laps in. Although it was not too steep, the two prior days of hill climbs put my legs in a state of fatigue and the ice bath seemed to help significantly but they were still feeling the burn and yelling for me to stop the madness. So of course what did I say in return, “Shut up legs.” I stayed in the lead group the whole race, no yo-yoing and felt strong. This was a great crit race.
Over the year, I have learned to not get dropped in crits (most of the time), to stay with strong riders for a longer period of time in races and on hills, to stick with stage races and that the relationship with my team and other women racers is far more important than racing itself. Their continuous support is what makes racing enjoyable. Am I going to miss road racing? No, as cyclocross starts in two weeks and furthermore who needs breaks when you are having this much fun?