Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tour of Walla Walla (finally)

I don't know why I've been putting off writing this race report but I'm finally doing it.

ToWW was my first 3 day stage race and was a big early season target or "A" race for me. Since I still have no clue what I'm doing training-wise, I did a half-assed taper for a few days leading up to the race.

Vicki and I flew into Walla Walla on Thursday afternoon and drove the Kellogg Hollow course. Then Vicki and Paul dropped me off at my house and an hour later we met back up and did a lap of the TT course. I liked the course and was feeling good. There was a small hill in it that was shallow enough to stay in the big ring but steep enough that I definitely planned on riding it out of the aero bars.

Thursday night, I ate a bunch of food, drank a beer, and got a massage from one of the Hubbards (I was lucky enough to be staying in a house with three massage therapists).


Friday was a hard day to plan out. Our first road race, Kellogg Hollow, was rumored to be a really difficult race, likely made harder by the fact that it was only 37 miles long. Also, we didn't start until after 4:00 PM so it was really difficult to plan out nutrition.

I drove out to the start with some teammates and Vicki, Kimberly, and I rolled on the road to warm up. I was feeling more intimidated than I have ever felt at the start of a race. There were over 50 pro/1/2 women registered including several girls that I didn't know from Canada, Idaho, and Oregon.

The pace was fast but not brutal. There were a few attacks but nothing that wasn't reeled in quickly. At the QOM line, I didn't go for the prize ($15 ... not even worth it) but glued myself to the wheels of the girls who were going for it. The hills were hard but steady and it wasn't as windy as it was rumored to have been last year. I just stayed close to the front and tried to conserve energy.

Going into the finish, most of the pack was still together and was feeling really good! I decided I was going to go for it in the sprint. I positioned myself on Cheryl Thonney's wheel since I know she's a really strong sprinter and prepared for the sprint. Unfortunately, Cheryl slipped through a gap that closed before I could get through and went on to win the sprint and get those precious bonus seconds. I wasn't able to do much and rolled in 16th but with the same time as the pack.


Time Trial

There were a lot of STRONG time trialists at this race so my goal was to make it in with the top 10 and not lose too much time to anyone. With girls like Suz Weldon, Tricia Bailey, Robin Secrist, Wheeler, and several others, this was going to be a difficult task.

I warmed up for about 45 minutes and was careful about getting all of my nutrition. When it was finally time to start I was feeling relaxed and ready.

It's hard to write an accurate report of a 15k time trial since I basically have tunnel-vision the whole time and verge on having to puke. From the gun I went hard and was able to catch my 30 second girl within a mile or two. Up the hill I saw 2 girls grinding away in their aero bars at a slow cadence. I sat up and shifted into an easier gear and was able to pass two more girls up the hill.

Over the top of the hill I started to run out of steam a little bit. It's times like that I wish I had a power meter so I could focus on keeping my power up on the downhills.

After the race I waited for Kimberly and Vicki and the three of us spun down together. I didn't bother going to check my results, I figured I would just see them at the crit that evening.


I got to the crit early to watch the Cat 4 women and saw that I had gotten 3rd place in the TT behind only Tricia and Wheeler! This moved me into 4th in the GC and only about 20 seconds out of 1st!

The crit is a somewhat sketchy 8 corner on not super great roads. My goal was to stay safe, sit in, and get the same time as everyone else. The time bonuses for the finish were not much so I wasn't planning on going for anything unless the opportunity really presented itself.

(thanks for the arty farty pic matt)

So the course was sketchy but the riders were even sketchier. There were a bunch of girls (not anyone from WA) that were all over the place and had no clue how to properly corner. It was horrifying. My line got cut around probably a dozen corners and I was trying to stay close to the front just to avoid the sketchiness.

At one point, a drunk woman ran across the road RIGHT.IN.FRONT.OF.US nearly causing a 50 rider pileup.

Then, with two laps to go, my pal and the GC leader Wheeler went into a corner too hot and hit a cone going down hard. It was the scariest crash I've ever seen. Had I not heard her moaning, I probably would have thought she had broken her neck. Thankfully, she got away with some road rash, a few stitches, a concussion, and a broken collarbone and is already back on her bike.

I was so shaken up after the crash that I just hung on and didn't even bother sprinting at the finish. I rolled in 21st and held onto my GC spot.


Sunday was the final race and likely my shot to move up in the GC or at least hold position. Although I was technically in 4th going into the race, because Wheeler was out, I was actually sitting in 3rd behind Cheryl and Tricia. Only 12 seconds separated me from 1st but 4th and 5th were only a few seconds behind me.

Sunday's race was a 75 mile road race through rolling hills finishing up a significant 3km climb.

The first lap was pretty uneventful. At one point one girl attacked but we just kind of let her hang out there until we caught her. Vicki was awesome and made sure that I was protected the whole lap. She moved to the front at probably sat out there for half of the nearly 40 mile loop.

Going into the second lap we climb the finishing hill. I decided to drill it up the hill since I was feeling good and there was a shot for a break to get away. I was the 3rd girl over the hill and actually managed to get myself a bonus second for the QOM.

The pack had totally shattered over the climb and 9 of us came back together and started working to stay away from the rest of the pack. All of the top GC girls were in the break and we were eventually chased down after about 15 miles. Once we were caught no one would do any work ... like at all. We actually were almost caught by the Cat 4 women. It was stupid but at the same time I wasn't about to do any work and risk losing my GC spot.

Finally, with about 5k to go a girl attacked and we rode a hard tempo to catch her. We got her at the 3k sign at the bottom of the finishing climb.

That 3k was the hardest I have ever worked. Two girls, one of whom was not far behind me in the GC got off the front, and 5 or 6 more of us were chasing her. I was climbing shoulder to shoulder with Robin Secrist who was only 5 seconds behind me in the GC and Tricia Bailey who was only a few seconds ahead of me. My goal was to not let go of Robin's wheel. I was climbing hard and doing math at the same time. At this point, even if she got 3rd she would only get 4 bonus seconds but I was 5 seconds ahead of her in the GC plus my one bonus second meant that as long as we stayed together, I would still beat her by at least two seconds.

At 200m Tricia attacked and Robin matched accelleration. They almost got away from me but I was somehow able to keep up with them. I rolled in 6th place but got the same time as Robin and Tricia.

The girl who won the road race ended up moving ahead of me in the GC but at the same time, I moved ahead of Cheryl so I held on to 3rd place in a very close race!

Just moments after I finished I watched Lauren Roschen, one of our Cat 4 women, win her road race after riding through 1/2 of the pro/1/2 field and catapulting herself from 12th to 2nd in the GC. Kara Nielsen, another Cucina Fresca Cat 4 woman ended up 2nd in the road race and won the Cat 4 GC! Tara O'Brien, after a bad crash in the crit, finished 4th!

Walla Walla had it's bad, hard, and scary moments but all in all was one of the best weekends of racing I've ever done!

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