I lived in Oregon when I was small, in a tiny town called Boring, outside of Gresham. Obviously a town like this would not suit me so I left when I was 4. When I did the NORBA MTB circuit, my travels took me to Aspen, Vermont, Arizone, Brian Head UT, upstate New York and the Carolinas, but never had I ventured into the mossy Pacific Northwest. I was pumped!
I was honored again to be a member of the Pactimo Cycling Team, a Sand Lot Gang of composite riders solicited to ride for 2012 Olympic hopeful and veteran Clara Hughes. Getting this invite would parallel receiving an email from Mia Hamm to shoot some soccer goals together or Jennifer Azzi asking me to come play some 3-on-3 basketball at a Hoop-It-Up tournament with her. For you males who forgot women get paid to play, its like wearing the same jersey as Alexis Lalas or Larry Bird, and not just because you won the radio call-in contest. LEGIT. I went into the weekend with eyes and ears wide open for all learning opportunities to continue developing all my skills on and off the bike.
In Hood River I met my new teammates, Oregon local hot-rod Jade Wilcoxson and Hillary Billington, another Oregon favorite. More on these gals later! I soon received the name "SoCal" due to my tan and the rampant tan-envy from the Oregonian peloton, and my standard shorts and t-shirt with flip-flops. Between the 4 riders, director and mechanic, we had our squad set for battle against the heavy-hitters Peanut Butter 2012 and the rest of the small, yet feisty peloton.
I have done hundreds of miles in prep, had chaos on the work front, and lots going down leading into this week of racing. My battle wounds are nearly healed yet my mangled shifters remind me with every shift and brake how crazy this season has been. I was as ready as I could be.
The event began with a 3.1 mile Prologue with about half as much climbing as the one at Redlands and I soon realized as I patrolled the parking lot that I was one of the very few on a road bike. My clip-on TT bars against thousands of dollars worth of the highest technological advances on the market. Thank goodness I’m a worker bee, not a GC rider!
Jade and I spun through town and over the country side to do some course recon and I was in heaven after 5 minutes. A massive river tumbled into the Columbia, dwarfed by towering Mount Hood, crystal clear sky and dense, eerie forests. We rode by orchards for every pear imaginable, Bosc, Bartlett, Angue...and up into the foot hills. The Prologue would be harsh! I was 5th from last, dry heaving at the finish and cross eyed as I stared out on the amazing view from Panorama Point. Ugh, this weekend is going to HURT! Clara was 2nd by a hair with Jade riding to an impressive 6th and Hilary safe in the middle!
Day two, Stage 1: 58 mile road race. This distance is cool, I can hang no worries! The route was amazing, careening along the Columbia, billowing clouds and temperatures in the high 70’s. I was feeling comfortable and confident, riding well in the group. Now Brian recently pulled the SRAM Rival components off the cross bike so that I would be compatible with everything Michael has at the races (which I promptly crashed at Ontario). Well I don’t like the way it shifts and I miss my Campy. I miss shifted, tried to shift again as the peloton turned a hard left UP. Stuck. In the big ring. I had been way up the group instead of my usual last 10 riders! My heard sunk. I jumped off, got the chain into the small ring but by the time I was back going, the 50 rider peloton was gone and I was behind the caravan. SOLO. Seriously, my fitness was golden, my position was great, my mind was clear but a pilot error got me dropped. I was really upset because up till now, I only get dropped due to fitness, now that my fitness was up, I made a technical mistake.
Let the chasing and suffering begin. I am pretty sure my chase was the same length as my prologue, 8:48 and my average wattage was way higher than the day before. Sure helps to have a MASSIVE carrot of the entire peloton to get you in gear. There were only 3 team cars in the caravan bringing the total of cars to 7. The medical car kept brake-checking me, guess she wanted business, and I was having a horrible time getting around COMM 1. They were also WAY off of the peloton, which isn’t normal. Usually (since I am experienced at this) I can sling-shot off the last car into the group. Now I had to gun it. The Peanut Butter car was rad though. Kristen Armstrong’s husband was riding shot-gun and as I yo-yo’d through the caravan again he said “This is it, make it or break, they are about to crest the hill” so I pinned it and got back on. So frustrating. But sure as heck not going to stop. When I get “good” it’s going to be awesome because I will have a mind of steel from getting kicked in the head so many times!
As soon as I was with the group and recovered slightly, the course leveled out a bit and feeding could take place. So I collected empties from my teammates and went back to the car to fill up. 2 bottles on the bike, 2 in the back of my jersey and 2 in the front, then hammer back into the group before a descent. Find the girls and do the hand off to Clara. But the other gals didn’t want a bottle since we were heading to a climb, although as the Snack Cart, this made me nervous looking at their single bottles knowing I would not be back to help them. I off loaded the extra bottles to a solo Tibco rider and off to prep for the climb. Where I promptly got dropped. I tried not to get frustrated, knowing that had I not used so many matches to get back on previously, I would for sure be in the second group. But no time to pine over what might have been, time to dig in and get over the top.
I am starting to loath chasing. Things bother me like cars in the road, or the girl who for literally 50 minutes pedalled 8 watts higher than me and stayed 75-100 meters ahead of me. Just SIT UP! We are alone. The time trial is tomorrow! Two is better than one. We teach that our women’s clinic to the rec group! I kept checking behind me and finally saw two gals coming so I sat up and rode in with them, nice steady pace practicing for that day that I am in the break away for 30k, not out the back. :)
Our girls did awesome with Jade securing 6th again and Clara 2nd in the bunch sprint plus taking the QOM (Queen of the Mountains) jersey. Still not in yellow, sitting in 3rd GC behind World Champion and Olympic gold medalist Kristen Armstrong in 2nd and her teammate of Peanut Butter in first/yellow with a solo breakaway on the day, Alison Starnes.
Day 3 was awesome. We had two events which is a new format for me. I felt like I was riding all day. And I for sure took 3 showers. They were pretty quick though.
The morning brought an 11 mile Time Trial over in Trout Lake, Washington. At the base of Mount Adams, another picturesque snow covered volcano. I really liked this course! We drove 40 minutes to get there and my face was glued to truck window remembering driving through Yellowstone, The Tetons and the Rockies as a kid looking for elk, moose, and big foot.
I am still “practicing racing” so the goals here are a proper warm-up on my sweet non-TT bike; having the last half of my TT with higher power output than the first, and trying to hold the straightest line possible and not look at too much of the livestock. I sure hope I at least won the “I’m on a road bike category” as I placed 6th from last. Better than the prologue, by 1. We were started 30 seconds apart and I could hear my chasers coming with their Darth Vader disk wheels, bearing down my neck like the Grim Reaper. Focus, just let them go, ride your ride. I finished riding hard at max power and cooked. Progress.
We were able to see the last 3 riders finish, Kristen, Clara, Alison. You could hear Kristen coming a K away, her team car behind her bellowing instructions “out of the saddle, dig harder” and the likes. She crossed the line with a heave and we saw Clara crest the 1K sign. Silence. Steady like a torpedo and smooth as if she was back speed skating on the ice. She won, by 6 seconds. Before we knew the results, she said she felt awesome about her ride and that if she won or got second, it wouldn’t change how she felt. She had done her best. Awesome.
Time to travel back to the house, eat, shower, sleep, prep for the crit!