AKA- You mean to tell me I’m good at climbing?
It was off to McMinnville, TN this weekend for the Highland Rim Omnium.
It was a tough one. About 15 miles into the 55 mile race, there was a ~3 mile long climb. The first 15 miles sucked because noone wanted to take a decent pull, so we ended up slinky-ing all the way up to base of the climb. Once we hit the climb, Debbie Milne (of course) got away from most of the pack, which was stringing out along the grade. One rider, a tiny Trek 19 rider named Flavia, stayed on her wheel until the last pitch, when Debbie looked over her shoulder and took off as if she were leaving flat ground. I passed a lot of people going up the hill and ended up in a chase group of 5. We immediately organized a rotating paceline and took off. It was to no avail, though. After chasing hard for most of the course, we descended back off of the plateau and headed towards the finish line to sprint for 2nd place. Luckily, I’d tried to help Kirsten Sass at GC Chattanooga, so when it came time for the sprint, she gave me an exceptional leadout, and I was able to pull off a (2nd place) win.
The TT started on the base of the decent we’d navigated earlier in the day at the end of the RR. Notice I say ON the base. Not AT, not JUST BEFORE, but ON the actual climb itself. No fun! It was 2.3 miles of 7-8% grade. Much to my surprise, for the first mile, I actually felt pretty good. I was keeping my speed around 10-12 mph (my usual sustained-climb speeds are around 7-8mph). The next mile was tough. I tried my best to stay over 9mph, but saw 8 and 8.5 more than a couple of times. When I hit 2 miles, I emptied what was left in the tank. I shifted off of the 26, stood up, and gave it what for until the course leveled off near the finish, when I continued to accelerate. I ended up with a time of 14 minutes flat. It was good enough for 2nd place behind Flavia, who finished 13:49. It was also good enough to finish ahead of all of my former (male) teammates from Memphis Velo :)
Ok, so I can climb? Sheesh, I never knew!
Let’s just say the crit was no fun. I got to the course early and rode for a while. Partially because I wanted to stretch my legs, but also because it was a pretty technical course. To make matters worse, the wind was blowing between 15-20mph. I felt OK until the officials announced that our race would be re-scheduled for an hour later so that the women’s fields could be combined. This gave the wind time to pick up even more as the day grew warmer. By the time we started the race, it was sustained over ~20mph, but with added gusts to around 30mph. It was enough to blow straw bales, barrels, and port-o-potties over.
I was slightly unnerved before the race when I hit a gust of wind in a turn that nearly knocked me over. I ended up having issues with that turn several times during the race as I tried to take it as fast as possible while avoiding other riders that were being thrown around. There was also a turn on course that followed a long, downhill, tailwind stretch. The turn on its own would have been tricky, but throw in a gust of crosswind as you exit, and you get two wrecks (one wreck was actually the result of a pedal strike, but still…) Later in the race, Jamie, at MTB gal from Vantaggio (who is turning out to be a great roadie), got off of the front. In a repeat of the GC Chatt crit, I was unable to stay on her wheel (hmm… maybe her ponytail generates headwind…) Debbie Milne, however, made the jump, and the two left a small group of us to chase. During the chase, someone rubbed my rear wheel as I tried to power up through the disorganized pack on the start/finish stretch. I’m not sure who all was in the wreck, but I know I didn’t see Kirsten Sass on the finishers’ list :(
It was down to a group of 3 of us (me, Flavia, and Lauren- Debbie’s teammate) with only a couple of laps to go. On the last lap, Lauren rode around Flavia and I with the intention of helping me out (she already had the cat 4 1st place finish in the bag, so she didn’t mind getting in the wind). As I went for her wheel, Flavia rode up next to me & put a handlebar in my thigh. Intentional or not, it worked, and I backed off. In my surprise/nerves, I managed to NOT get on her wheel, and started to fall back from the couple. I finished just behind them in a “stunning” 17 mph sprint into what I think was the hardest gust of headwind that hit the course during the 25 minute race. Though I was a bit disappointed with 4th place, my finish kept me in 1st place for the omnium points, which made things a bit better.
I was glad just to make it through. I hope all of the people involved in my rear-wheel pileup are OK. Especially if Kirsten was involved… I hope it didn’t remove any more of her freckles like the wreck we were in last year did.
Next stop, more climbing @ Tour of Arkansas!
Photos for the crits can be found (as usual) at Ryan’s blog
Here’s one of my favorites from after the crit: