Monday, July 30

More from Cascade!

Once joining the FCS/Rouse team for Cascade, the prerace instructions became quite different from those I had conjured up for my solo adventure. DS (Director Sportif) Kendra Wenzel assigned some of us the duties of racing at the front, getting into early moves and breaks, and always having a Purple Jersey represented in all the moves. 

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! 

Friday, July 27

Cascade Cycling Classic: What a difference a year makes

Oh Cascade! Bend, OR was my favorite city to visit in 2011 with Boise, ID a close 2nd. Putting the two cities on the same trip, and at the virtual end of the season, makes this trip really special. Brian and I had a great time traveling there last year with CashCall and we were really excited to do it again.

But things don't always go as planned. Life calls, and June unfolded to be very stressful and ended on a very difficult note. As I have said in previous posts, Brian and I were hitting all the big races in June, but in an odd alternating fashion that had us missing each other at each stop along the way. By late June, it became apparent that Brian's Grandmother who was also his mother figure, was succumbing to a rapid onset of aggressive cancer. We spent almost 2 weeks sleeping on her floor, helping with the hospice nurses and around the clock care along with his family as the matriarch of the family made a peaceful transition, with all of her family by her side. The short nights and insurmountable stress took it's toll on Brian, and the decision was made that he would fore go the PNW trip.

I was extremely sad and nervous to continue with our plan. Not that I can not travel without him, but I didn't want to leave him behind. But knowing we are set up with an amazing network where he would find hours of therapy and release on the bike in the mountains and working on his grandfathers wood working tools, we decided I should tackle the last big event of the season along with Brian's CashCall teammates.

I had several composite team options to race at Cascade. However, last year I raced solo and I had a blast. None of the set-ups intrigued me, so I stuck to my guns to play by myself. Until I got the call Monday night that a rider for the FCS/Rouse professional team had become sick and couldn't be at the event. Now THIS was an option that I could go for! Being a free-agent I have found I am a type of mercenary, hired gun to come in and take care of business. Quickly my focus went from sitting in seeing how well I could place solo, to riding my tail off at the front of each stage for the greater good of a team that had the potential to place riders in the top 5 each stage.

Last year I was excited to finish 50th on stages and remember pedaling past the 'workers' of the larger teams without a full understanding of what they had endured for the last 3 hours. Now that experience would be mine, and I was more than ready!

I was a bit stressed to join an elite roster at the last minute, which created some very restless and sleepless nights and moderate anxiety. Could I be up to the task? Could I follow through? Would I let them down? What was I doing!! Thanks to Kathryn Donovan and Anna Sanders of the Rouse team, I had been offered the open slot, and by no means did I want to let them down.

Going into the prologue, I didn't quite know what to expect even though I had pre-ridden it several times. It was a short 2.5 mile course suited well for the time trial bike and power and speed. One would think I could rip on these short and hard efforts. However, I was jittery and scattered and botched a good trainer warm up before hand. I really believe for these 6 minute "races" I just have to spend 60+ minutes flogging myself in a warm up to get my body ready for the demands of the event. I placed a disappointing 81st, but knowing I now had the job of a worker and teammates had placed much higher in the GC, I was content and able to find some rest to prepare for the next stage.

To add to the bummer of not having Brian along for the trip, I got to stay in a EuroVan. Weird, I know. At these big races, we are set up with Host Housing. I coordinate all the housing for CashCall, and this host would take 3 riders. 2 in the house in private bedrooms, and one outside in the EuroVan camper. I raised my hand for outside! Brian LOVES EuroVans. I told the boys I wanted to try it out and tell Brian all about it. Justin wisely told me "If it sucks, don't be stupid and tell Brian about it. You don't want to crush his dreams." Good to know...

I ended up on the couch inside one night, however, due to an INSANE!!! thunder and lighting storm. The Van felt like a tent and the crack of thunder were right on top of the lightning. The brightness of the strikes were almost blinding and the pelting rain made quite the clatter on the roof.

The other nights posed much more therapeutic sleep rituals with wind chimes, flowing water, and wind in the trees.
My "room" for the week! Stove, sink, fridge, awesome!

Able to put my feet up and relax in bed, looking into the forest in the front yard. 

Our host created this waterfall and stream, complete with 15 foot tall burned out tree. I sat at the table and worked for hours!