The McKenzie Pass Road Race began with a ripping long descent which led into some fun rollers and eventually a 20 mile climb to peaked out out the thick, fog-laden forest into a moon-scape barren landscape of an ancient lava field. Spectacular!
In hindsight, Brian gave me advice from home: "Joy, you can't race a 3:30+ road race with 6k+ of climbing like a 1:30 circuit race." Well said...I rode the front, I got in my first ever moves in an NRC event, I represented the team and helped keep the pace high. Until the course went up. I avoided a nasty crash, assured all our GC riders were still in the group, and started my journey to the top with 3 other riders. Courtney Lowe from NZ and the Optum team kept the climb about 7 watts higher than was "comfortable" for me and we just kept digging. After the long climb, we got to enjoy an amazing and screaming fast descent which led us to the valley floor and the town of Sisters, OR where the road quickly turned left, up and up. The last 10k of climbing would be the death of me, putting the last nail in my coffin to get me popped from my pod of riders only 5k from the finish. Ugh.
However, discouraged I was not! I was confident enough to race at the front of the event and I was able to follow the players in moves and trusted my racing instinct. In races past, I have not been confident with my fitness or racing savvy enough to be assertive with my racing. This time, I was not just a passenger. I finished the stage excited knowing that I had done a good job for my team and done my part in working towards the team goal. This was much more rewarding that fighting for 40th place solo.
Stage 2 took us an hour away from the metropolis of Bend, OR for the Time Trial. The out and back race paralleled a crisp, clear river which was more than inviting to soak our sore and tired legs in. I was really excited because there was very little elevation gain on this course and I now have a TT bike, compared to putting clip-on bars on my road bike like last year. I have also been able to spend more time on the TT bike, making it that much more of an enjoyable experience. (Except for the time in Lodi that I was on the TT bike and Brian took us "exploring" for 3.5 hours in 100 degree heat - I hated the TT bike that day!)
Recalling my weak warm up from the prologue, I was more focused than ever to get a really good warm up in for the TT. Pacing and line selection on the road are key to a good TT, and although it truly is nothing to "blog about" I got 39th out of 93 riders. Now if only I could start to focus on the bike...No real shuffle was made in the GC (General Classification) and the Rouse riders didn't lose or gain much in the over-all picture. I have come to enjoy TT day because it's a short event. Last year racing at Gila for Clara Hughes, I was instructed that it was "a hard recovery day" for me and to basically just survive. As my body has become more efficient and I have adapted to the work load of stage races, I could finally put some solid efforts into the pedals and start to really test myself. I like this event because it takes power, smarts, skill and focus. A few of those I lack though....but, I enjoy the fact that it is the rider against the clock, no sitting in, no fluff, just work!
Another "win" for me in this TT was that it went smooth! Bad things happen to me in these events:
Redlands 2011 flat front tire half of the TT
Murrietta 2012 Dropped chain on the climb, had to get off to put it back on
Redlands 2012 Foot came out of the pedal down the start ramp, couldn't clip back in
Nature Valley Grand Prix 2012 Flat rear tire 1/4 of the way through
That is about a 50% suck rate for my history of time trials! So each time I get the mechanics down right I am pumped! Now to begin fine-tuning the craft and moving up the ladder!