Smith and Nephew/ Marx and Bensdorf Omnium Weekend

Wow… I’m not sure where to start. (You may want to get a snack before you sit down to read this)

Probably with last Saturday, when I jokingly asked Maggie Finley (triathlete and likely the fastest woman on 2 wheels in these parts) if she was going to race this weekend, and she replied that she planned on going to the Arkansas State TT. Fast forward to Wednesday. Casey Malone has convinced Maggie and Los Locos teammate Sue Wampler (a world-ranked amateur triathlete) to race on the Marx and Bensdorf Women’s team. Other women that she’d recruited for the weeknd included Cara, Joy, and myself. Originally, I was just around to help teach them some road racing skills and strategy- all of them are very capable athletes, but they just needed a bit of direction when it came to the mass start events, but later Casey asked me to race with them as well. Wednesday was our last time to meet up and ride together before the race.

I only had a few meet-ups with some of the girls before race day, and we mainly worked on pacelines, and I told them about various race strategies so that they’d have some sort of idea of what to expect on race day. We talked breifly about sprint leadouts, but I figured that until you’ve been in a few sprints, worrying about a leadout is one of the last things you want to be doing in your first race.

I was incredibly excited for the weekend, because just from a few rides, I could see that everyone involved had something to bring to the race. SO… here’s the report:

Road Race
Once again, the officials decided that they wanted to try and make us race with the 50-60 masters men, even though the race flier stated otherwise. Once again, we made a start line pact to roll slowly the first couple of miles and let the men have their race and we’d race our own. Those guys are notorious for chasing down the attacks of the women and dragging the entire field with them. Our race was also shortened a lap… which, in the 11:30 heat of the day reaching nearly 100 degrees without the heat index, was much appreciated.

The race was generally uneventful for the first half of a lap. Once we hit the rollers on a longer stretch about halfway through, we started popping off some attacks, though nothing stuck until the same place on the next lap, when Maggie rolled off of the front with the little sister of Jo Markam from Kenda tire. With a 2-“team” break going up the road, it was up to the others to chase. However, they didn’t really have the cooperation to do so. Maggie ended up dropping Lil’ Markam going up the steep hill about a mile before the finish line and winning solo.
So it was up to the rest of us to negotiate the field sprint for 3rd. Coming into the last turn, I told Casey (who can sprint like the dickens) to grab my wheel, and I got behind Sue and told her to ride a hard tempo out of the corner and as far towards the finish as she could go. She freakin’ ROCKED it. That gal is a freight train! Around 600 yards out, someone tried to attack up the right side of the road- I went after it in hopes that it would give me a few more yards before I needed to give Casey the slingshot. Unfortunately, the attacker died out quickly and I was left out in the wind to finish the leadout from about 500 yards out. I went for it like the 200m sign was my finish line, and managed to pull Casey away from the group far enough that she was able to take the loooooooong sprint up the hill for 3rd place. Gassed, I rolled in on the back of the group, cheering in excitement.

Time Trial
Your standard 4 mile out & back w/ rollers. I improved a lot from my time last year with an 8:46, and won. Woohoo! Too bad the TT omnium points aren’t very awesome, because getting 12th in the road race only netted 4 points to go with the 25 I got for the TT win. Overnight, I was placed 3rd overall going into the crit.

Criterium
group

We had a solid plan for the race- Maggie, Sue, and I were going to play dueling banjoes with the group early in the race and have Joy, Cara, and Casey join in as the group tired later in the race. Apparently, some of our competitors caught wind of it and were plotting against us. I launched first, and was caught within a lap.

startkill

carnage

Next, Maggie came to the front a accelerated away. A couple of women attempted to bridge, but were discouraged when no one would help their efforts. Maggie got further and further away…

maggiesolo

I was somewhat amused by what happened next. Rather than consolidating their efforts in an organized chase, our competitors chose to attack each other. Each time, someone in M&B kit was on it like stank on sh*t.

onit

At one point while I was riding tempo on the front, someone tried to attack me when I sat up to take a drink of water

drinkattack

After that, I sat a few wheels back and let them play cat & mouse for a few laps. Eventually, coming out of turn 4, Jo Markam got frustrated after a failed attack and tried to encourage another person to pull through by slowing down and swerving to the inside. At that moment, I saw the planets in the counter-attack galaxy align and launched myself out into the headwind towards the start/finish.

flier

chase

I was hoping that I could bridge to Maggie and work with her, but instead ended up flogging myself for the remainder of the race to finish in a solo 2nd place.

sponsorprops

You can see a lot more photos on Ryan’s Blog

Even with the 2nd place finish, my omnium standings remained the same (3rd). Two podium spots for the team! The race this weekend renewed my enthusiasm for road racing. Not that I want to go back into it full-bore, but I had more fun with this team than I think I’ve ever had at a race. It also helped that Jimmy Reed (the head honcho w/Marx & Bensdorf ) was incredibly happy with our performance and enthusiasm.

Wow.

Ok, I’ve never been a total Lance Fanboy (fangirl?), and I’m still not, but I seriously cannot stop watching this video from the Tour of Nevada City Criterium.

This is Lance Armstrong attacking up a grade that’s reported to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 17%. I guessing by the way he nearly overcooks the corner that he’s traveling in excess of 25mph. The rest of the pro field is helpless. The best race report I’ve found is written by Chris Horner (Lance’s teammate).

Physiologically speaking, we can all try that hard and hurt that badly… he just goes so much faster when he does it.

Training for August

The past two weeks have yeilded over 43 hours of training- mostly road riding, but also some running and MTB riding. You’d think that I’d be ready for a rest day like today, but I’m pretty itchy to be doing something besides laundry and bike wrenching. This week, I’m gonna cut back a little bit so I can be ready for the Smith & Nephew/ Marx & Benzdorf Grand Prix. I’ll be picking right back up afterward, though, and let that race start another high volume training week that includes some higher intensity efforts on the bike and a little more running.

It’s all in an effort to ready myself for August. The schedule is looking like this:

8th: Bartlett Park Ultras (probably doing the 50k)
15th: Fools Gold 50/100 mile Mountain Bike Race (Goal is to be ready for the 100 miler)
22nd: Berryman 6/12 hour duathlon (Um, 12 hour… duh…)
29th: Devil’s Den Sprint Adventure Race (gonna seem like just a warm-up after the 3 weekends before it!)

So I’ve got to be well-adapted to performing 12 hours of strenuous physical activity in the heat. It’s going to be a killer month, but I think I’ve got a good start on my training base so far. I need to incorporate some longer runs in so that the running during the 1st & 3rd weekends doesn’t kill me too much.

Also, for Fool’s Gold and for the Berryman race, Ryan will probably be off road racing, so if anyone wants to go with and fill camelbacks/kick my butt when I get tired, then shoot me an email.

TDL- the rest of the race

The time trial was a flat 3 miles… making it really fast. When we arrived at the TT start, it was hot and humid, and there was a nice tailwind. I found out that my start time wasn’t until 7:01pm, so I turned the car on and laid down for a nap. Eventually I warmed up and got going- by my start time, the temp had dropped a couple of degrees (it was probably a chilly 89 degrees), but the tailwind had died. I managed to roll a time of 6 min 40 sec. I may be showing my hand here, but average power for the effort was just over 300 watts. Woohoo! It was good enough for 2nd place (1st was a time of 3:36… I’m pretty confident that I couldn’t have done any better). My time was good enough to move me up to 3rd overall and, with just second separating the top 8 spots, guaranteed a battle in the Sunday criterium.

For those of us looking for a knock-down, drag-out crit, this one didn’t disappoint. A LaSport rider attacked off the start line. The ensuing chase shattered the pack and left six of us up front. All of us threw in some attacks at various parts of the course, which, despite my initial dislike, actually played well to my strengths of a couple of short power-hills and a long stretch of headwind. Despite our best efforts, the six of us stayed together for the finishing sprint.

For the last lap, my position was perfect- behind a Tiger cycling rider who is an excellent sprinter and was stuck at the front of the group in the long headwind before the finish line. When she started to wind up, I stuck to her wheel, then made my move. It could not have been more perfect- I accelerated and veered to her right to pass and win… until she also, for no explicable reason, veered to the right, nearly taking out my front wheel. Instinct kicked in, and instead of swerving from my line, which could have taken someone else out, I backed off for a second and yelled, to which she responded to by getting off my line… but it was too late- the hesitation allowed her to cross the line first with me about half a bike length back. Needless to say, I was pretty pissed. She apologized during the cool down lap, and luckily, even if I’d finished first, it would not have changed the overall results.

So it was just like old times… I finished 2nd to the infamous Debbie Milne (a.k.a. “Tupelo Debbie”). I figured out that road races are starting to bore me (even the more “lively” ones like we had on Saturday), and I don’t mind criteriums as much as I used to. I’ll probably still race the Memphis race (gotta defend my territory) in a couple of weeks.

Here are a few photos:

...and they're off!
...and they're off!
feet
See those feet on the left (in front of my elbows)? That's an attack in progress.
Me- chasing after the first turn
Me- chasing out of the 1st turn and into turn 2
break
...and you're caught. No, you can't pull through. I'm gonna stay right here until I recover from that and figure out who is still behind me, wish I had the steam to counter-attack, and hope that Debbie doesn't...

turn2

turn1

infamous
The one & only

closeup

elbows
Back in the chase group, Casey expresses her frustration through her elbows
sprint1
I'm going for the pass, but between this photo, and the next, lameness...

sprint2

Tour de Louisiane Road Race

Someone get me outta here and back into the woods!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(No story short- the pack generally stayed together… I was daydreaming about chiggers or something and had a lame sprint. Ended up 4th. I think.)

Village Creek Sprint Adventure Race

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I decided to stick with the sprint category for my first attempt at adventure racing. This meant that the course was generally marked and required only very basic map following skills in order to confirm that you were on the proper trail.

The race started with a 5-ish mile run. Luckily, it was on the portion of the trail that included all of the steep pitches (I consider that to be lucky because I rode most of it earlier in the week, and my Garmin showed that some of the hills were in the neighborhood of 30-40% pitches- much easier to climb when you’re not pushing a mountain bike). I had already marked my main competition- a guy that won the sprint division races last year and the one earlier this year.

Funny side story… before the race, I was talking to another solo sprint guy. I told him that since no other women signed up that I’d be gunning to beat all the guys. He pointed to a guy on the other side of the parking lot and warned me that I’d OK except for that guy, because he always won by half an hour or something. I chuckled and said something along the line of, “meh, no problem.”

So, when the race started, I just set pace with “that guy.” Soon enough, going uphill, I passed him. He paced me. I eventually put a little bit of a lead on him, but my transition to the bike was somewhat slow, and we ended up leaving the transition area together. I’m not sure when I lost him, but by the time I got to the first bike checkpoint, I looked back and he was nowhere to be seen. I knew better than to take it easy at that point and kept pushing the pace. My race almost took a disastrous turn when I was crossing a creek and got massive chainsuck. I got off of my bike and tried to yank the chain out, but it the top and bottom lengths of chain were wedged in between chainrings like a sweaty fat chick in skinny jeans. Of course, about a minute later, I got passed by my mark… Soon after, I fixed the chain by using the screwdriver on my bike tool to pry it out.

I got back on my bike, determined to catch, attack, and drop. I caught up on a hill. I inched up behind him until I was about a bike length back, then pedaled as hard as I could (wanting to look un-catchable), passed him with a quickness, and bombed down the other side of the hill. This guy had some serious upper body muscle, so I knew I’d be at a disadvantage carrying and paddling the kayak in the next stage and needed all the extra time I could get.

The kayak portion generally sucked. The inflatable boats we used spin around easily in the water, but I quickly figured out how to sit in the front and get moving. The worst part was carrying the awkward, heavy boat back up the hill after paddling a mile.

Amazingly, I was still in the lead when I received instruction for the final stage- run to the swimming area of the lake, swim out to a marker, and swim back. I made the mistake of not removing my hat, sunglasses, and hydration pack, so when I got to the water, I flailed around like a drowning rat. I lost what bit of a lead I had. He exited the water just ahead of me, but headed back up the hill rather than going to the course marshall to get his passport punched, so he had to go back- giving me the few seconds I needed to get back in the lead.

At that point, it was all or nothing. I ran across a grassy field (in lieu of taking the slightly longer road). The ground there was literally like swiss cheese- some sort of burrowing animal colony had entrenched itself. I went for broke- I was thinking to myself, I’m either going to break an ankle or I’m going to win.

Luckily, option B occured. I won by about 30 seconds- 2 hours, 32 minutes & change.

Remember the guy I had talked to before the race? I talked to him later and asked if he’d thought I was joking. It was fun. I got a lot of questions after the race- where did I come from, was this really my first race, etc… it was kinda weird. The coolest thing, though, was actually getting to sit down & talk to Kurt (my “mark”) for a little while. I may actually team up with him and another guy to compete as a co-ed team at the Ouachita 12 Hour Adventure Race in October.

It was a good day.The only downside is that I got home too late to pack up and make it over to Mousetail Landing State Park in time to set up camp before dark. There’s a XC race in the morning that I had previously planned on entering, but I don’t want to wake up early and drive over, so I’m just going to do my usual 70 mile Sunday ride instead. I think my legs will be a little tired, anyway.

West Feliciana Stage Race: Day 2

After yesterday’s shennanigans, I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel today. Though with a 1:50 minute advantage in the General Classification, I wasn’t too worried. The race started out at a nice clip. A lot of the first 15 miles or so was downhill, and we rolled through it quickly with everyone taking a pull or two at the front.

Around mile 15, we turned onto Highway 421. At that point, there was an attack from one of three S3 riders up front. I was sitting at about 4th wheel and decided to let the others chase and just sit in. Ashley Leech (Tiger Cycling) took off. About halfway across the gap, she pulled through to let the next rider continue to close. However, the next rider was from S3. My inner monologue told me that she’d slow down and let her teammate open the gap back up. However, she seeed to be confused and kept slowly pulling the group back up towards her teammate!

Suddenly, I saw all of the stars in the Counter-Attack galaxy align. Two S3 riders hanging out in the wind, unsure of what to do… Ashley, who is normally capable of chasing me down, was gassed and trying to drop back into the group… the rest of the group was behind me and seemed to be waiting for something to happen.

So, I countered.

A few seconds of hard pedaling later, I looked over my shoulder. Gap. Time to go solo again. At least this time, it was at mile 15.5 instead of mile 14, Right?!? Well, it wasn’t any easier. I was slower than yesterday. My wattage was lower. Fatigue was ripping through my quads. I thought for sure I’d be caught.

But I wasn’t.

After the race, I talked to some of the other girls. Apparently, the group was unorganized and the chase prettymuch fell apart. Lucky for me, because if just one of the teams had decided to work hard to catch/counter, I probably would have been too tired to keep up, and they could have made some GC time back up.

That sealed the GC deal. I crossed the finish line absolutely exhausted, but very happy. Not bad for a first race back from the brink of wanting to feed my road bike to the catfish in the Mississippi River!

West Feliciana Classic Stage Race: Day 1

Time Trial
The course was 5 rolling miles. Luckily, most of the uphills were preceded by good downhills, which were helpful for creating some momentum. I ended up rolling an 11:58, which was awesome, because the next person back sat at 12:35 (I think?). Being a stage race (fastest cumulative time wins), this was exactly what I wanted.

Road Race
Our race started a few minutes late, in the rain. That’s OK. I like rain when it’s warm. The 36 mile course had one KOM spot near mile 14, and many more gentle, rolling hills. The race started slow. The Tiger Cycling girls and I took turns pulling for most of the way towards the KOM (King of the Mountain time bonus spot- good for 7 seconds off of your total time).

Oh yeah- and the instruction we received as to WHERE the KOM was went something like, “you make a couple of turns in the first 7 miles, then it’s about 3 or 4 miles up the road from there, and has either a sign or something painted on the road so you know where it is.”

So once we started getting close, everyone was a bit antsy. There were a couple of attacks up some non-KOM hills, one of which I countered on the hill just before the KOM hill. The counter softened everyone up a little for the real thing. We passed a “KOM 1K” mark on the road, and the pace quickened. However, the people up front started to blow up. I held steady and passed them. As I neared the line, I looked back and saw that I had ~20 yards on the group. Seeing my opportunity, I didn’t let off of the pace. I got the KOM bonus and hit the drops and began to hammer out my best effort. Did I mention that this was at mile 14 of 36? Yeah. I had a long row to hoe…

The remainder of the race was pretty uneventful. I just rode my butt off. I yelled at a grcoup of cat 5 men that didn’t seem to understand what “on your left” meant (sorry guys- I was in a hurry!) The rest of the time, I just watched the miles, looked over my shoulder occasionally, and tried to keep the wattage going as best I could. It was a good thing, too, because, though I crossed the finishline solo, by the time I rolled up the road a little and slowly coasted back, I saw my chasers sprinting for 2nd. They’d never given up- it’s a good thing I didn’t, either…

So I enter day 2 (another 36 mile road race) with a very comfortable time gap: 37 seconds from the TT, 7 seconds bonus for the KOM, 10 for winning the RR, and whatever gap I had on the group from the solo finish- I’m guessing somewhere around 40-60 more seconds. I really just have to finish with the leaders tomorrow to win the GC. It’s a good feeling for sure.