Tag Archives: kimberley turner
Naked Women’s Racing has a mission to grow the sport of women’s cycling from the ground up – through support of new racers in our various programs – and now at the top of the ranks too as we embark on our domestic elite status for 2015. Are you a Cat 1/2 female cyclist who is concerned with growing the sport too? Perhaps you can guest ride with us! Read more from our NRC/NCC veteran, Kim Johnson.
Although I am only 26 years old and wouldn’t consider myself even close to being a veteran in the sport, I’ve raced at the elite level for long enough to see a trend emerge. Every fall, social media is abuzz with the latest news about who is joining what team, which team is folding, new sponsors stepping up to support a women’s team, etc, and then usually late in the fall official rosters are posted. There seems to be a flaw in the system, and one that hinders the growth of high-level women’s racing (but a flaw, I will also note, that does not have an easy solution). The addition of new teams is excellent, but over the past few years, they have tended to replace teams that folded. So instead of a new sponsor bringing up a fresh group of talent to join the mix, riders seem to shuffle, in a musical-chairs type interchange based on what vacancies are available. As a rider who has worked incredibly hard over the past few years to make the jump to the next level, those spots seem to be painfully few.
I have hope that that can change. Despite my personal setback (a fractured C2 the day after Gila, which relegated the majority of my season to “brisk walking” in a neck brace), I saw stirrings in the world of professional cycling. More and more women rising up to call out inequality as they saw it and question the rationale of missed opportunities simply because of a second x chromosome. Momentum continued to build in women’s cycling; for the first since the 1980’s, women had a stage at the Tour de France, and by the end of the season, 3 major US Stage Races (the Tour of California, Tour of Utah, and US Pro Challenge) had committed to giving women several stages of their own in 2015.
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to race at numerous professional level races throughout the US, and am incredibly thankful for Naked Women’s Racing’s support of my endeavors and the opportunities I have had to guest ride. At the same time, the logistical chaos and meticulous planning that it’s taken to get to these races have highlighted a challenge in women’s cycling that many of us know all too well: there are more talented, qualified riders than there are teams to support us. This year a new layer was added, when a large number of races were given UCI status, making them officially team-only events. In laymen’s terms, this means that in order to race at the Tour of the Gila, for example, a rider would need to be a registered member of a UCI or domestic elite team. Before this change, it was challenging to be a solo rider doing her best to stay in contention in a race dominated by team tactics and the UHC Blue Train, now it would be impossible to even show up at the start line.
I spent a few days in a state of inner turmoil, contemplating my upcoming season and my goals, and discussing this dilemma with my ever-supportive husband. On one hand, I could re-adjust my goals and expectations, plan a few regional stage races, but focus more on local races and maybe a few NCC criteriums here and there. That way, I would plan for what I knew I could do. On the other hand, I could target “dream big” races like the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Tour of the Gila, and do everything in my power to secure a guest riding position, while accepting I may not be able to go. The idea that I could be training so incredibly hard for something that was completely out of my power to accomplish was heartbreaking, but the thought of letting go of a goal simply because of unknown was unacceptable.
A few nights later I lay in bed, far more alert than I ever want to be at midnight, and was struck by a thought. If you want to go, and it’s team only, make the team, and go! I pushed it out of my brain space of realistic options — never trust any seemingly brilliant solutions you come up with after midnight — but the next morning it was still there. The deep desire to race at my target events was what catalyzed my midnight problem solving session, but the realization that this could move beyond myself was what kept in there in the morning. Just as I’ve poured out blood, sweat, and tears just trying to get to races, so have many other talented, hardworking women. Cycling is as brutal a sport as it is glorious, and it can be easy to feel defeated or like luck is always against you. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve seen my scars and asked casually if I should “probably just quit cycling?” But the reality is, far more cyclists ride waves of ups and downs than a fairytale-like rise to professional status. Evelyn Stevens is a lovely individual — but her tantalizing story is a rare one. I’m not here to whine — there’s plenty of that, and it does no good. Rather, I am trying to provide context to what Naked Women’s Racing is gearing up to do this year. One low-budget domestic elite team will not solve the problems that women’s cycling is facing, but it will provide a logistical way for 4-8 more women to show up at the start line than currently can.
I proposed this nascent idea to the leading ladies of Naked Women’s Racing, and they were on board! Over the next few weeks, we will be slogging through the paperwork that is required, and by the end of March we will appear on USA cycling’s list of Domestic Elite Teams. I am incredibly excited to see what will come of this step, and we are proud to be able to open up an opportunity for more qualified women to race at a National level. In addition to the category 1/2 riders already on the team, we are hoping to extend an guest-riding invitation to regional riders who would like to target NRC and NCC races. Please contact us if you would like to be considered, and stay tuned for updates!
Kimberley has had some ample time off the bike due to suffering a broken neck but she’s back on the bike! We couldn’t be more thrilled! In the meantime, you can read about her progression on her blog from Gila, to injury, to back in business!
Kimberley had a great start to the 2014 racing season due to her hard work over the winter. We think the rest of the year will be very similar for her! Read about her first race of the season, Valley of the Sun.
While I fully intended to post throughout the fall and winter, chronicling the ups and downs of winter training, that just did not happen. Between taking on a new position in one of the three jobs I juggle, putting in ungodly hours on the trainer each week due to the bipolar weather tendencies of Colorado, and trying to stick to my new years resolution of keeping …READ MORE ON HER BLOG
Kim shares her season wrap up, finishing strong and prepping for a fun off-season.
After over a month of blogging silence, I’ve decided to share a bit about my season wrap-up. I finished Cascade (my last posted race report) definitely bummed; I had wanted so badly for it to provide me with some solid results for my race resume, and instead it did the exact opposite. Read the rest on Kim’s blog.
We had two ladies, Maria and Kimberley, representing at Cascade last week. With a prologue and 5 grueling stages, this Pro race is no joke. To make the time cut is a small victory among the 100+ professional women who show up. While we wait on Maria’s report, catch up with Kimberley.
Though this season has not been great for avoiding crashes that come with racing NRC races with Kimberley, she has never quit and shows grit when pushing through the pain of the crash. Read more here.
Kimberley, though one of our youngest, shares her vast knowledge of cycling experiences. She’s wise beyond her years! Read if you want to learn how to become a better racer!
After a somewhat strange spring, I am finally allowing myself to hope that the days of spending hours on the trainer might just be a thing of the past! (at least until next year…). During the month of April, nearly every week we had snowstorms that made it impossible to ride outside, first because of the actual storm in progress, and then, for the remainder of the week, the accumulation that refused to melt. Right when it did melt and showed promise of an outdoor training ride, the pattern would repeat itself. And this happened for 4 weeks straight!
Let me say that, living in Colorado, trainer time is both expected and accepted… during the months of November through March, I will likely put in more hours on my trainer than the road, but April?! It was a month where I had to dig up a little extra mental strength and focus to stay motivated, partly because at this point, I was going on five months of trainer time, and also because with my bigger, target races coming up, this was no time for shortened training sessions (my coach usually has my cut my time down by about 1/3 when I have to do them on the trainer… thus a 4 hour ride becomes 3… which still seems likely an impossibly long time to ride in one place).
Now that I’ve done a little retrospective ranting, I’m pleased to say that I’ve been riding outdoors since returning from my race at Gila. After a few days completely off the bike to give my body a boost in the healing process, I got right back on track with my new training plan. This month is all about maintaining my form through Nationals, doing some longer rides to keep the endurance and some shorter, harder workouts to keep the speed and the strength — but not so much that it puts me into a state of over-training.
A well-respected racer once told me that she did much better “off the couch” (under-trained) than she did over-trained. This is not to say that it’s best not to train, but rather illustrates the importance of finding balance as an athlete. The majority of athletes (myself included), especially endurance athletes, have a greater proclivity to doing more not less. For me, the value in having a coach is just as much to tell me when to rest as when and how to train. The planning my coach and I did to put me in my peak condition for Gila ended up being timed near perfectly, and so now the difficulty is in maintaining that. Typically, a true peak can last only about two weeks, which is why it’s important for racers to identify key target races. Very few people can win elite-level races all year long, but it is possible to do reasonably well all season, and very well at select, carefully placed races (unless, of course, you are a superhuman species, of which there are a few in the peleton).
Now that I’ve gotten slightly off topic discussing my current training, I will return to what I originally intended to write about: lessons learned from winter training. I know you may be thinking, “umm… this is a little late. It’s beautiful out, and I’ve relegated my trainer to only pre-race warm-up purposes.” I wholeheartedly share your excitement for trainer-less training, but if any of these five nuggets ring true for you, tuck them away for next winter
1. Mental state is huge. If you approach the trainer like an enemy to be reckoned with, every minute will be excruciating, and a three hour base ride nearly impossible. Instead, find a way to make peace with it and accept the hours you will spend on the trainer or rollers, and the experience will be much more pleasant (note: I say “much more pleasant”… not completely euphoric and joy-filled… I have to be realistic here!)
2. Trainer time is a perfect excuse to watch the kind of shows you can’t justify watching otherwise. I, with only minimal shame, will admit to you that this winter, I went through all 8 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (I somehow missed the craze as a teenage girl, but don’t worry, Meredith and McDreamy still managed to find their way into my adult life), 4 seasons of Gossip Girl (similar story here), and several other random shows I started but didn’t find catchy enough. This is a time to indulge in shows with minimal to no redeeming value… because, hey, the redeeming value is coming from the work you’re doing on the bike, yes? The more brain power I have to use absorbing a show, the less energy is available for my workout. I realize this logic may be fundamentally flawed, so, feel free to watch Ted Talks if you prefer.
3. This one parallels #1. The toughest months, in my opinion, are December through mid-March. For me, this is because I usually take the month of September or October (whenever my racing finishes) off the bike, and do other fun, active things as a kind of physical and mental “reset.” So, when I do start riding again, it’s because I’m really missing my bike and am excited to ride again. This unadulterated excitement typically lasts through December before some rides start to become tedious, and some mornings I feel tired and would rather read a book on the couch than slop through the snow to my “training shed” (Marcus insists it’s a training studio, to try to make me feel more hard-core… it’s a shed). It’s far enough from both the post-season rest month and the first race that it can be hard to stay motivated. But this is the time that it’s most important to refocus, recenter, and push through the fatigue or boredom. I once read a cheesy ad in a bicycling magazine that said “races are won in the off season,” and although I can’t remember what they were trying to get me to buy, the phrase stuck in my head.
By the middle of March, the excitement of upcoming races starts to build, and I see each training session as a chance to prepare for the season. I picture myself attacking, chasing, bridging… there is purpose that will be seen in a relatively short amount of time. My point here is this: if it is past March (which is now is) the hardest part is done. And, in the future, when you find yourself in that few-month period where focus and motivation can wane, you at least have the knowledge that it is not forever. Knowing that hard times are inevitable can actually help them to be more bearable (and this is true not just in cycling, but life…but that’s its own post). If December rolls around and I wake up not wanting to ride, and I had expected and accepted that kind of inevitable dip, I can move past it and do what I need to do despite not loving that one ride. In contrast, if this lack of passion for the sport I love hits me as a complete surprise, I am at risk of internalizing it as some fundamental character flaw: “I must not be a very good athlete”… “What if I NEVER want to ride? How can I do this 6 days a week for months and months?!”… “I’m going to have a horrible race season… I don’t want to train today, and it’s only December!” My point is, that this negativity is avoided when I accept occasional lack of motivation as a normal part of any athlete’s life, and can use it as an opportunity for developing mental strength.
4. For those rare winter rides that can be done outside (minimal to no snow on the ground, but most likely still bitter cold), don’t underestimate the power of winter gloves (or the misery that the lack of them can bring). I can say that during winter riding, I have never said, “man, I really wish I would have had thinner gloves!” but I have, on multiple occasions, ended up struggling to ride with painfully numb fingers that refuse to shift. In the same way, clothing choice can make or break a winter ride. I know it’s a hassle to have to carry more clothes than you might need for the entire ride, and especially in Colorado, the weather can be hard to predict. But, unless you have someone at your disposal to pick you up in a warm car at any point during your training ride, I’d suggest bringing more than less.
Being cold has a strange way of turning an independent, logical and intelligent person into an irrational, miserable, whimpering primal creature who’s actually wondering if she will die here on this mountain (I say “she” because that primal creature has been yours truly several times in my riding “career”). Even if you’re an experienced rider, it can be hard to predict what level of clothing will keep you comfortable during your ride. One thing that I started doing was keeping a “clothing log” as part of my training journal, where I’d write what I wore, what the temperature was throughout the ride (including any inclement weather I faced) and how comfortable I was. This way, on those days where I still go back and forth on whether to bring the heavy or light booties, I can look back and remind myself what has worked well (or not so well) in the past under similar conditions.
5. Although winter, for me, is not an “off season,” I still see it as a time where I strive to add balance to my life, both on and off the bike. This is another aspect that helps stave of the physical and mental “burnout” (both acute and chronic) that can inevitably come up during your life as a bike racer. Since graduating from college, I’ve realized how much I miss using my brain on a regular basis. I don’t have anything specific to study for, I’m not doing research and writing papers, and as silly as this may sound (especially if you are one who currently finds yourself in the trenches of college or grad school), I miss that. I am constantly exercising my physical body, pushing it to its limit, but my mind is so often fighting off boredom. So, during the winter, I consciously add “balance,” both physical and mental. This past winter, this came in the form of: yoga, knitting, nordic skiing, cooking and baking (I got really excited about homemade raw bars, juicing, etc), practicing my violin which I previously hadn’t picked up in months, reading books in Spanish, studying for my GRE, and tutoring a few hours a week for both extra money and to keep myself sharp. My point here is that if ALL your life consists of is bike racing, sooner or later you’ll hit a breaking point. I’ve learned that for me, whether I’m at a place in my life where I can train 20 hours a week or 8 hours a week, balance is crucial, and without it, everything falls apart.
So, with that semi-coherent rambling, I give you five tips for winter training success. But for now, it’s beautiful outside, so enjoy the sun!
Kimberley finished one of the toughest and hilliest races around, Tour of the Gila, with the Pros (guest riding for our friends I AM THE ENGINE). Despite getting tangled up in a crash on the second day, leaving bone exposed, she finished all the stages and in a better time than the year prior. Read about all 5 days of racing on her blog:
Racing isn’t always about trying to cross the line first. Sometimes you have to take risks to become a better, more skilled racer. Kimberley did just that, and we guarantee it will pay off.
A few days ago, I welcomed the arrival of a long awaited day… the first race weekend of the season. I raced both Saturday and Sunday in Fort Collins, and was absolutely thrilled to win the circuit race on Saturday. Any time I can make back a bit of the money I spend on racing is a day well spent, not to mention it was a wonderful, confidence-building way to begin my season. However, in this race report, I want to focus more on the second day, where I did not win. This may seen counterintuitive, because, after all, who wants to read about, and why would I want to write about, losing?! The simple answer is that no one wins every race, and so losing is just as integral a part of bike racing as the wins we hope to get. Winning is fun, exhilarating, ego-boosting, but in losing races we get stronger and tougher, both physically and mentally.
In the criterium on Sunday, I didn’t do as well as I would have hoped for in terms of finishing placement (another win would have been lovely, but I got 5th), but it was definitely a good ‘personal growth’ race. I took more risks and raced more aggressively than I have been comfortable with doing in the past, which is something my coach has encouraged me to do more of this year, especially in early season races where the potential consequences of those risks matter less than in later, more important races. It is much easier, safer, and more comfortable to just sit in and focus on following the wheel in front of you, and had I done that, I quite possibly could have placed a bit higher. I would have conserved more energy and had a full stash of ‘matches’ to burn on the final sprint leading to the finish. However, that is not how I chose to race on Sunday.
After the first few laps (which were fast) it was down to me and four others. Someone attacked, I chased/bridged, someone else attacked, etc. Then I attacked, and when the other four bridged up, I ended up staying on the front because no one would pull through, but then before I had a chance to recover, Amy from Vanderkitten girl attacked and I got popped (I congratulated her later for her excellent timing). It was really windy, so once even a small gap opened it was nearly impossible to catch back on alone. At that point I my goal became to hold off the riders that we had originally dropped and not get caught, so I settled into a hard, but sustainable pace for what ended up being the rest of the race. I stayed focused and basically turned it into a twenty-minute time trial.
Like I said, I would have LOVED to win again, but I felt good about my risk taking and more aggressive racing, and then that I was able to stay focused, not give up, and keep going hard and not get caught. I’ve been in previous races where I got dropped off the lead group, and then basically eased up because I just assumed I would get caught anyways and didn’t want to be blown up when that happened. So I think that’s some positive growth. As I mentioned earlier, I may have finished better if I had just sat in and hung onto the lead group (and didn’t bridge, attack, etc) but ultimately, that’s not what will make me a stronger rider. I know I am rambling a bit, but I think it’s important for every racer, whether you’re just beginning or racing with the goal of eventually getting on a professional team, to be able to celebrate the little victories and areas of personal growth. This is something that can be tough to learn, especially for those of us people/athletes with perfectionistic or mildly OCD tendencies. This race reminded me that strength comes in many forms, and is not always reflected in the race results.
Megan and Kimberley raced this weekend in Fort Collins and both not only kept rubber to the road, they kicked butt and got a podium finish. Great job to represent the Naked ladies this early in the season.
After an exciting weekend in Moab with the Naked team, I was primed and ready for my first race of the season, which happened to be Cobb Lake Circuit Race in Fort Collins CO. I was nervous because it was my first race in the SW Open field, which meant any female of any category in the region could show up. I was nervous about getting last place and letting down the team. I was nervous because I just had my hardest week of training in 6 months and was fatigued.
However, the race ended up being a lot of fun. And there is nothing like racing to make you stronger, or to teach you how to be a better racer! Here is my recap as well as lessons learned:
- Entrants: 18 women, 6 Cat 1-2, 6 Cat 3, 6 Cat 4 registered.
- Course: 48 miles (6 x 8 mile loops with a 1/2 mile finishing climb on each one, plus ~1 mile section of dirt to boot).
- Finish: 8th. 3rd Cat 3. (Top half finisher)
Within the first lap, one girl had attacked the field, and launched a tremendous pace on the rest of us. We ended up all grouping up in the 2nd lap into smaller groups of 1-5 riders. Luckily I found a group of 5 to work with, though we were sitting 8th-12th in the field at the time. Each lap was harder but I had to concentrate on the race within the race. Rotate, eat, drink, hammer, etc. On the first race of the year, it is hard to pace, so there is always a learning opportunity! Eventually the race ahead was won by my teammate Kimberley in a sprint to the line. My group of 6 broke up in the final 2 miles (on the dirt!), so there were 4 of us going up the final climb. I tried to sit on the 3rd and 4th girls’ wheels and went around them both on the final steep section to finish. I was lucky to finish 2nd in our group the line. For once I made a “move” at the right time. It was fun! The rest of the field trickled in over the next 10-15 minutes.
- Cat 1-2 women are really strong! They all but one dropped me within 30 minutes So proud of teammate Kimberley who won the race!
- Whatever you do, find other people to work with. Even if you are racing for 7th place! The race was over two hours long and it was extremely beneficial to have a “pack” of 4-6 riders to work with, in the wind, up the hill, etc. It helped with focus, and definitely helped with speed.
- You might like what you least expect. My favorite part of the course was the dirt! I have always hated dirt, but I powered through it quite well and used it to my advantage here. I found myself less tired than those around me when I got to the hill each lap. Which was helpful for the finish!
- Never underestimate a sprint! Going into the race I had no particular goals for finishing, except don’t come in last place By the last lap I was thinking it would be Awesome to finish in the top 3 of my “Group” of 5-6 girls. I out-sprinted a few on the steep uphill to the line and finished 2nd in the group, which was a small victory for me. This really helped my confidence for standing uphill and for sprinting, which in turn made me more excited and confident for future races.
- Every race is a great workout, and is great recon for future races. You learn who is fit, who is climbing well, who doesn’t like to corner, who Really likes to pull into the wind, who is the best sprinter etc. It helps so next time you know who to best draft where and how they can make you a better rider. We all have strengths and weaknesses and can learn from each other.
- Hydration and nutrition is always tricky in a 2 hour + race, especially when it is during lunchtime! I was VERY hungry and thirsty by the end, and wished I hadn’t skipped lunch. Cramping hamstrings reminded me of such throughout the race.
- The best bike racers can respond to attacks. This is something I’m not great at and need to work on if I want to keep up in Cat 3. I especially have trouble going hard in the first 10-15 minutes of races, so I was hurting BAD early on, and wished I had warmed up more, or done some openers the day before!
- You never know What will happen to others (or you) in the race. In this particular race day I saw the following occur in various categories: DQ’ed riders for crossing center-line (on the dirt!), DNF riders that dropped out, DNS rider that missed race start (almost 2 miles from registration!), riders with flat tires who got behind, rider who crashed out and broke his fork. The list goes on! So even if you think you are doing poorly it can always come back to you so never give up.
I love road races and the challenges and the teamwork that is required (across teams too!), and this was a fun way to kick off the season. I encourage you all to do some road races in 2013!
Thanks to Dejan Smaic for some awesome photos: http://www.sportifimages.com/RoadRacing2013/CSU-Cobb-Lake-CR/Pro-12
Kimberley had one of the most successful NRC races in her history. This one was definitely a sweet finish for her and included two top 20 NRC finishes. She’s killin’ it this year. Get her autograph now before it’s worth a pretty penny in the future.
Day 4- Cascade Lakes Road Race
Today was a new course for me, as last year, I was time cut after the time trial (which made my personal time trial ‘victory’ all the more rewarding!). The race started and ended at Mt. Bachelor, and although the week had fairly mild weather, at 7 am of the morning of the race, we received an email from the race organizers saying to prepare for 40 degree freezing rain. This presented a slight problem, as I had packed for the trip based on the weather reports—clear skies and in the 80’s all week. I felt like I total rookie not being prepared for the unexpected, as the extent of my warm-weather gear was warmers and gloves, but no clear vest or baselayer. Marcus and I ended up making an early target run on the way out to try to find whatever pseudo-baselayer option we could find in the ‘active wear’ section. We got to the ski resort, which was looking strangely like ski season, and was less than thilled. The race started with essentially a 15-mile descent, so the worst would definitely be the first half hour of the race. I sat in the car wrapped in a blanket until the very last minute, where I donned every warm upper-body item I had and slathered my legs with embrocation.
I started the race with minimal warm-up, as did pretty much everyone else, but it was a steep and straight enough descent that no one got away. After the initial descent, the air warmed and everyone began stripping off layers and passing them to their workhorse rider, who took them back to the team director in the caravan. I, on the other hand, with no such luxury, awkwardly stuffed the warmers and borrowed vest into my jersey. The next five miles was a gradual climb, where there was a string of back-to-back attacks, but nothing got away. Over the next 25 miles, the course was rolling, and the peleton moved along at a steady pace, with attacks continuing to launch. At this point, I will mention the prime frustration of the race—my shifting. At the time, I had no idea why, but my right shifter was supremely uncooperative, and would take multiple taps to shift into one harder gear, and even with repeated clicks would only ever shift to the middle of my cassette. I had to do most of the race spun out, as my hardest gears were unaccessasble the entire race, and my only encouragement was knowing that it finished on a climb. So if I could stay tucked in to the field and approach the final climb in the group, I would be ok.
Around twelve miles to go, a nine-rider breakaway formed, and the gap quickly widened to 3:30. Strangely, no one seemed concerned, even Kristin who was in the yellow jersey. I realized though that every major team was represented, and so the lack of interest in chasing made sense. As we began the finishing climb, the strong climbers started to drill it, and riders began to fall off the back of the group. I dug deep to hang on, as my goal was to finish in a group, not straggling off the back alone. I finished 54th out of 88, which I was fine with (neither ecstatic nor devastated). I immediately took my bike to the SRAM mechanics, where a quick examination determined revealed a completely shot shifter. We drove back to our host house, tired but content, and once again began the recovery routine for the next day’s race.
SIDE NOTE: We spent several hours that afternoon scouring bike shops for a replacement right shifter, with no luck. Marcus even offered to go to Portland to find one (he is seriously amazing… Portland is a good 3-hour drive from Bend). Finally, we decided to take the SRAM mechanic up on his offer to ride a neutral bike for the last two stages, and drove to their house to get it set up and fit to be as close to my bike’s position as possible. When we got there, he offered something I hadn’t even thought possible – strip down my dura ace components and switch my bike over to SRAM, to minimize the new variables I would have to adjust to. This was absolutely amazing, as it added several hours of work for him, but I was so thankful to have the SRAM support there. It’s hard in a race like this to not have the kind of support that the pro teams have, but this kind of help makes it so much more do-able.
Day 5 – Downtown Criterium
Today was the Downtown Twilight Criterium, which was a fairly standard four corner rectangle course. I woke up feeling fairly good, and after a morning ride to learn the ins and outs of SRAM shifting, got to the race course feeling confident and excited to race. My mother in law had come from Seattle to watch the race, and it was great to have that little bit of extra support and encouragement. The main technical challenge proved to be corner three, where the road narrowed from three lanes to one. Riders who weren’t in the top ten going into the corner were forced to slow considerably, and then sprint to regain speed going into the last corner, about 400 meters from the finish line. Basically, my goal in this race was to stay in the field, and as close to the front as I could both to avoid crashes and to be able to take the third corner. A big surprise for all came at the beginning of the race, when the announcer began to call up the top riders and then told the crowd and the field that Kristin Armstrong, who had won two stages and was in the yellow jersey, had left the race London-bound. Many people were surprised she had even shown up at Cascade at all, with her Olympic races less than two weeks away, but I could tell the news of her withdrawal just minutes before the start threw a bit of a monkey wrench into some big teams’ plans for the stage and race as a whole. Without Kristin, Alison Powers, Carmen Small, and Megan Guarnier would be fighting for the jersey.
Because of this, the race was aggressive and filled with attacks and counter attacks by rivaling teams, but despite their best efforts, no break got away. With several laps to go and the main field still together, I knew it would come down to a final sprint. The last few laps were hectic—there was a flurry of desperate efforts to get off the front, and the way the course narrowed going into corner three made it so that a rider could go from the front of the field to the back in a few seconds. Positioning was critical; being on the wrong side going into that corner could be the difference between a top ten and a 70th place finish. I knew this, and so did everything in my power to hold my position, fight for it even (which is hard to do in a field of seasoned pros!) so that I could go into the third corner on the final lap in an ideal position. I came into the corner in a decent position, and charged my bike all the way to the line, and ended up 18th. I was happy with that finish, as a top 20 in an NRC race with this caliber of racers is something I’m proud of. My coach was happy as well, and said I rode a smart and strong race, which made me even happier! From here the day finished the same as most before… a great post and pre race dinner with a glass of wine, a bone-chilling ice bath, ten minutes with the foam roller, and watching that day’s stage of the Tour de France before an early bedtime.
Day 6 – Aubrey Butte Circuit Race
Today was the final stage, and although I didn’t race this course last year in the Cascade Cycling Classic, I had raced the same course at U23 Nationals several years ago. However, although I knew the course, I was still a bit nervous for how it would play out. I knew the day would prove to be incredibly demanding, as NOW rallied to protect the yellow jersey (Alison Powers) and Tibco and Optum went into the race with clear objectives: take the yellow jersey (Optum’s Carmen Small was in 2nd, only 4 seconds back, and Megan Guarnier of Tibco was 3rd overall, 18 seconds behind Powers). Everyone went in ready and willing to race aggressively; the best chance the big teams had was for the race to hard, which would effectively prevent the field from coming to the finish line together.
The first lap of the race was kept at a quick and steady speed for the first ten miles, and then we hit the feed zone climb. That’s when the attacks began, and they were brutal. I remember thinking, “well, I’m going to give it all I have and try to stay up near the front of the field for at least this climb, and I’ll see what happens on laps two and three!” There was two main climbs on the course – one was the feed zone climb, and the other was the QOM climb, which came shortly after. The fact that there’s not much time between the two main climbs makes it an ideal time for teams to launch attacks, with riders getting shelled on the first climb and no time to recover before the second. I knew that if I could just hang on for those few miles, fight to stay near the front despite redlining, I would have time to recover after the QOM. From the top of the QOM to the beginning of the next lap (and what would be the finish on the final lap) it’s only about five kilometers of descent and fast rollers. For this reason, no attacks launched after the QOM amounted to anything, and the field came into the second lap as a large group. Near the end of the second lap, a small breakaway attempt formed and appeared to be sticking. Several teams attacked over the climbs to try to bridge up, and eventually the break consisted of only two riders, Amanda Miller, who had successfully dropped the other riders in the initial breakaway, and Kristin McGrath, who had managed to bridge up to Amanda without bringing any other riders. In the midst of these attacks and counterattacks, I was doing my very best to stay near the front to give myself a buffer if I did end up slipping back a few spaces, and stay protected from the wind.
The two-rider break off the front grew to a time gap that was dangerous to NOW, who would lose the yellow jersey if the two put too much time into Allison Powers. NOW realized this, and worked hard to bring them back coming over the feed zone on the final lap. The field went into the QOM climb all together, a final attack was launched in the rollers that followed, but the over the next several kilometers coming into the finish, all the riders in that group were caught except Kristin. The tempo was fast, and I knew it was the time to hold absolutely nothing back. I was now in the final minutes of the final stage, and I wanted to have no regrets. I moved up several positions, intent on going into the roundabout before the final stretch near the front. I ended getting slightly boxed out, but was still quite happy with my 13th place finish. This was my highest finish in an NRC race, one of only three top 20 finishes, and my first top 20 result in a road race. It was so encouraging to finish the stage race on a positive note, especially after my discouraging untimely departure of last year. I work hard to evaluate my performance based on where I’m at and where I’ve been previously, and using that scale, I’ve improved tremendously. I’m not at a place in my development as a cyclist where it’s a useful or even valid to seek results on par with Alison Powers or Carmen Small, but to see the gap closing, slowly but surely, between our respective levels and strength is so validating and rewarding. I am so glad my coach pushed my to go to the Cascade Cycling Classic when I was hesitant, and look forward to being even stronger next year.
FULL RESULTS CAN BE FOUND HERE: http://www.pros.cascade-classic.org/2012-pro-nrc-results/