WOW– what a crazy weekend! We were a squad of 5 this time down at the San Dimas Stage Race (home of the film “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” – “go San Dimas Football!”) Our squad included: Leah Kirchman, Courtney Lowe, Amber Gaffney, Lauren Hall and I. I was super stoked to see what we could pull off in our 2nd race together as a team this season (my 2nd pro race ever) and, CRIKEY, did we pull if off well!
Stage 1- Uphill Time Trial (TT)
The TT consisted of a 4.25 mile uphill climb- a gain of 1,257 feet in elevation and grades of 4.5-6.5%. I sort of imagined this stage as my commute to work, which includes a 6-mile, 7%-10% average grade climb (Fairview blvd in Portland, OR), but as I was racing, I pretended that I was super late to my day-job (Customer Service department at Yakima Products). I pretended that if I came in after 18 minutes, I was fired! Sometimes visualizations are super KEY to motivate. During the TT, it became apparent that I might secure us a top 5 or 10, maybe just roughly calculating how riders did in previous years (although the course was shorter.) I just kept in my drops, head down and motored away following my heart rate and speed as my guide. When I came across the line, I was seated- which was what I was aiming for. I planned to lay everything I had during the course of the race, leaving nothing for the end, not even a standing final sprint. By the time I finished, wiped the drool from my face and headed down the windy descent to meet Rachel, our team manager, I found out I placed 4th with a time of 17:28:67, about 46 seconds behind Mara Abbott! WHAT?! At that point, I think we realized that as a team we could move up to 3rd in GC and had two stages to accomplish this via time sprint bonuses during the RR and Crit.
Stage 2- Road Race (RR)
We wanted to play our cards right and certainly had our work cut out for us! We recognized that all teams wanted the WIN badly and would fight for it battling out at the sprint bonuses offered every other lap. NOW wanted to secure a WIN for the stage as they sat 7th-10th in GC. Specialized-Lululemon wanted to keep Taylor Wiles in 3rd (she was 13 seconds ahead of me). Exergy wanted to keep Abbot at 1st place in GC while Amber Neben desired to be in any break that made sense to secure her 2nd GC. Like any race, there is a lot going on and so much can happen in a split second. Early on, a crash occurred on the backside near the park on the uphill before the gate that took out about 20 riders. Luckily, no one was hurt too badly. I was riding near the back when this happened, which caused me to veer right into the park- luckily used some off-road skills to hop back after 30 seconds of chasing. I think the crash was caused by dip in the middle of the road, causing some riders to loose control of the bars. Abbot and a few other key riders went down, which meant that all teams were really keen on controlling the race.
We kept communications open and executed our jobs well. Courtney worked for the KOM’s as I swept her wheel, while Lauren, Leah, Amber and I worked to sweep the sprint laps. We decided after the last sprint lap, that we would work for me in the final sprint for the win.
It was about at lap 3 or 5 (?) that Abbot chased back on and that NOW launched Katheryn Donavan, who attacked solo and gained about up to 1.5 mins at one point. We worked with Specialized-Lululemon and Exergy to bring the gap closer, but not reel her in completely; knowing that NOW would surely counter-attack. We wanted to secure about a 40 second gap and maintain until the last lap or so where we would reel it in full horse. Sure enough, about 1 mile from the last KOM, we worked together to reel Donavan in and at that point, positioned myself near the left side of the course to choose a good line over the last climb and motor the best line into the finishing streak, which seems to be the inside. I battled out the final climb and when we hit the peak of the climb to motor down the descent, Kiesanowski (TIBCO) and took mini pulls realizing that it was just the two of us and the rest of the field was behind a few seconds. It was at about 500 meters to go that I decided to attack, motor away, tucked down aero into the drops and attempt to solo to the finish line. I had about a 10-15 second gap until I could feel my legs burn and the peloton gaining. I just kept thinking, “shut up legs! Just 40 more pedal strokes ALL OUT!” and once I saw the white line, stood up. It was close for sure, but glad I took the risk. It was worth it! With the time bonuses and final sprint, we moved me up to 3rd overall in GC, won the Sprinter’s Jersey and Courtney just almost won the KOM jersey. Success!
Stage 3- Criterium (CRIT)
At this stage, we knew we had to work hard to protect me at 3rd GC and keep the Sprinter’s Jersey with Wiles just 1 second behind me in GC. The pace was high from the gun as we all battled out, fighting for sprint bonus points. The first sprint lap was completely missed (I think a majority of us sprinted a lap too late, including myself) so we just rolled through haha! All teams attempted to initiate a break that would stick, but we worked hard to shut it down and not let any target riders go up the road. If a break occurred, my teammates were either in it or worked hard near the front to ensure if a target rider was in there, we’d bridge. Nothing got away…until the 2nd to last corner where Gillian Carleton attacked on the back section. I was on Leah’s wheel, getting ready to start our lead-out and we could hear her up-shift to our right. At that point, it was too late to jump in her slipstream- she powered away! On the last corner, I knew it would be a bunch all the way to the line. I just kept my head down, picked my line and threw my heart into the sprint! It was a close one for sure!
Overall, our team raced our hearts out for a successful podium finish! We communicated exceptionally well during the road race and criterium- riding as ONE collectively to secure my 3rd place in GC and maintain the Sprinter’s Jersey.
We’re going to be in full horse down at Redlands! Can’t wait!