Monday, August 20, 2007

Maria's report from Hilltowns/ AKA Helltowns Pro123 Field

I should have known Saturday was going to be an odd day since I woke up at 4AM with a rather large framed painting falling off of my wall and hitting me in the jaw while I was sleeping. I awoke screaming. It felt like I got punched in the face. My left jaw was sore
and a little swollen, but nothing helmet straps couldn't camouflage and Advil didn't make bearable.

The race started out very tame. There were a few descents that were scary due to my second Ksyrium wheel this season dying. (this was a loaner wheel that was to get me through the end of the season) No such luck. The wheel was making an awful noise when we hit over 30 mph and vibrating. A woman from the Independent team asked me what was up with my bike and was freaked out to be near me. (good tactic for the future??)

Anyhow, then came the dreaded 5 mile climb. I was doing OK and pacing myself well. I was able to stay with a few accelerations from the top climbers, but after a while just couldn't stay with them. I didn't want to blow up and end up sliding down the climb
backwards, so I kept a pace I knew I could maintain. I was with one woman for a while, but then she blew up and fell back. I then climbed ahead and found 2 other women to work with. Within a few minutes a couple more women that were behind us joined our little group. We had a nice paceline going taking short hard pulls and actually at one point saw the climbers up ahead. Of course then they accelerated and we never saw them again.

At the top of the climb we got to a spot in which there were cars and people yelling at us to turn left. We did. I saw male racers emerging from behind these cars. My first thought was that they were done racing and cooling down. But why would they be 30 miles from the finish? I followed my group and they yelled to slow as we took a sharp right turn in some sand. Our wheels all slid a bit, but we all made the turn safely. We then had to jump off our bikes. This "road" was crazy! It made Battenkill's roads look pristine. There
were some large rocks, sticks and sand. One woman and I decided this couldn't be right and turned around. A male racer told us this was a detour, that there was a powerline down. Right then I see a woman go straight instead of turning. Then a couple seconds
later Ashley calmly appears from the field. When I realized it was her I let the other girl go ahead and I waited for Ashley so we could ride together. She and I weren't sure if we were still racing, so we tried to make up some ground and ride our bikes up this road. We had to carry our bikes part of the way and I think made pretty good time considering. When we got to the top of the climb, Alan Atwood was there and directed us to turn right and wait. Huh??? We then froze our asses off for the next 30 minutes. It was windy and we
were quite sweaty after climbing and doing some cycle cross. A few of us took nature breaks and ate as we waited for the rest of our field to emerge and the promoters tried to figure out where our pace car and breakaway were. (turns out thatthey somehow stayed
on course without encountering the fallen powerline)

Alan then decided to start us all together. This seemed unfair since I had worked so hard to be with my 5 ladies in our chase group. Now we had to race with people that were minutes back. Many of us now felt the race was pretty much over. Alan mentioned something about figuring it all out in the end. No one wanted to work and our pace was so slow that the cat 4 women that started minutes behind us managed to pass us on the open highway section. A few of us then tried to organize a paceline. This worked for about 2 minutes and then a Canadian rider came up to take her pull and attacked. We quickly caught her. A few attacks followed, but nothing stuck. I chased down a few, Ashley covered a couple others. It was exhausting. I was on the front quite a bit which I usually wouldn't do, but my heart rate was comfortably in zone 2, so I figured why not? After a few more miles of the wind and attacks, I was ready to be finished. I had looked at Elena and Ashley's faces and they looked like they felt the same way. The pace increased
on the last incline before the turn. I stuck with the ladies, but was too far back to take a top 5 spot. I took the turn and sprinted to the line. I managed to pass a couple women and get another right at the line.

All in all this was one of the oddest races I have done. It was my first race that had an intermission.

Hilltowns race report-from Erica

Hi all, officially this is the race report from Tour of the Hilltowns yesterday, but as you'll seen, it might aptly be name Tour or the Twilight Zone.

Day started off for us a bit sketchily, with a wrong turn getting to the Taconic (I'd better start paying more attention or I might start getting a reputation for this) followed by a mysterious 6:30 a.m. traffic jam in Westchester, followed by an all out 85mph hammer the rest of the way to the race so that David T could at least have time to get his number pinned on his uniform before his start (don't worry, David apparently doesn't need to warm up, he won anyway, yea David.)

It was super windy and pretty cold, every one was scrounging to arm warmers and non-areo wheels (thanks again for the loaner front wheel Christoff). The women's 1-3 field was a decent size, but the women's 4 had only about 13 women. We tried to get the fields to combine so that we would have more racers (and better wind protection, truth be told) but were denied.

Race layout was basically 10 miles rolling, 10 gradual miles downhill, 5 steep miles uphill, 20 miles rolling, a few miles gradual downhill, and then 7 or so miles back uphill to the start, the last 3 of which were pretty steep.

First five miles or so, 5 or 6 of us were sharing the work up front, rest of the "pack" more or less pacelining in back. My personal plan was to try not to do TOO much of the work, to size up those who were probably the strongest in the field, and try to egg them into staying on the front as much as possible, so that I could try to attack, perhaps with Lisa Force or Ashley Krause, and shake loose of some of the other challengers before the downhill. All was going as planned until the 5th or 6th miles, when I got a flat in my front (borrowed) wheel. There was wheels in, neutral out support, guy reluctantly stopped, took major amounts of time to help me change the wheel, took off immediately, and by the time I started pedalling, neither van nor peleton nor even the lights of the cop car leading the peleton were anywhere in sight. One woman had already fallen off the back and I tried to work with her for a second but I think she was going! about nbsp;half the speed of everyone else, so when I looked back she was gone. At this point, I thought my race report would read: Got a flat 5 miles in, timetrialed the next 50 or so, much fun was had by all. Thought of waiting for the sag wagon (we were the last group so I probably wouldn't have had to wait too long) but then decided I might as well at least ride the course to know it for next year and get a good workout.

Worked the downhill pretty hard hoping I might catch sight of the group, thinking maybe they had to brake more around the turns or something. Yeah right. Road was so empty of riders I thought maybe I'd taken a wrong turn. Just before the uphill, saw the lights of a cop car, thought, wow, I really did catch them. Unfortunately, it was just people attending to a woman from our group who had crashed out, hope she was okay, she definitely was down for the count at that point.

So fives mile uphill. It's quite long and steep, but fairly pretty and I just tried to keep it steady up the hill, waved to some cows, the only company I had, hoping I might catch a few stragglers at least to have someone to ride with for the 20 miles of rollers. Wasn't optimistic as I didn't see anyone for the first 3 miles or so, but then saw a few women towards the top, passed a couple but caught one woman right at the top who was ready, willing, and able to work with me to try to gain some distance on the other cat 4s up the road.

We were riding pretty well, pretty hard, up and down these rollers, passed a group of friendly spectators, thought maybe it was the feed zone, but apparently not, rode to the end of the road, and lo and behold, there was a group of 3 or 4 other cat 4s. Cool, caught up to a bunch of my field, the game changes now. And here's where it got really strange. They were just stopped there looking confused and agitated. Had been stopped there for a little while (30 seconds? a minute? 4 mintes? I don't really know, didn't get a consistent answer) because the marshalls didn't know where they were supposed to go. The road had ended in a T where they were stopped, corn field ahead, nice looking country road to the left (good choice I thought), really sketchy looking sand/dirt/rock narrow road to the right. "You need to go right," the marshalls informed us. Really? Shouldn't they have warned us about this in the race notes? You could tell the mountain bikers in th! e group . I wasn't one of them, but I figured, race on, did the best I couldn't, miraculously didn't crash out when I hit some particularly loose sand. Asked a guy who was walking along the "road" how much further we had to go, his answer "I don't know, I don't know where this road goes, we don't usually ride here, for obvious reason." HUH?
Came out the other side, and there were what seemed like hundreds of racers just hanging out in this clearing. Turned out, a power line had just gone down on the main route, and this was an unscheduled detour, but rather than just sending the racers along, they held everyone up who had not gotten through (apparently the sight where the group of friendly spectators was was the normal turn). Our field was all back together again, but women's 1-3 had acutally gotten split apart by the event.

So eventually, they sent us off by group as if the race was starting over. In between groups, blocks of elite men racers who were on their second loop were let through. They came blasting up the dirt road. Very impressive. There was talk of giving anyone was in a breakaway going into the detour a head start, but it turns out that there was only a few seconds between the first and second groups of cat 4s, at least until the detour. In the end they just sent us off altogether with an inauspicious, "okay, you can go now" and the last 25 miles of the race were on.

Our small, but back together again group worked pretty hard and kept catching and passing guys, including some elites, which was really strange. Then we caught up to the women's 1-3 field, which had left before us by at least 5 minutes, also kind of strange. Probably should have served as a warning that we might have been working too hard. But didn't. A few of us were definitely doing more work than others, especially given how windy it was. I tried to pull off fairly efficiently after every turn at the front, because I knew my legs were a little tired after my 20 mile time trial, but would somehow find myself 2nd or 3rd in line every time to go back up there. Lots of very good hiders in our midst, especially considering it was such a small group. Five miles to go I decided to attack, thinking it was my best option for dropping some of the hangers-on who might have more left than me at the end. My attack lasted approximiately 5 seconds before I was caught. Legs were just! too ti red. The bridgers brought the whole group with them. Thanks for nothing.

Three miles to go and the uphill gets really steep. And I, well, I guess I bonked. Just couldn't hang. It was straight into the wind at this point, group was probably down to 8-9 at this point, since we were minus pokey, minus crashed, and minus the non-hillriders who I had caught earlier, not much wind protection. And then there were seven. Not a very pleasant final three miles for me, riding mostly alone. Non-hillriders were too slow to ride with, remaining peleton was too fast, I was too hungry, my legs hurt, and the regions in the vicinity of my bike seat were screaming. Caught up to a similarly bonked junior guy, gave him a cliff block, and we rode the rest of the hill side by side chatting about what a drag it was to bonk with just a few more miles to go. Good to have the company, that misery thing and all. JP Partland (who had been apparently bonked himself an! d we ha d passed earlier) caught us a the turn to the sprint and the three of us rode the last 100m together, making sure our wheels were aligned over the finish line. A better and more fitting ending to this strange race than others I could have imagined (like falling over into a ditch for instance).

As an addendum, because I'm sure this wasn't long enough for some of you, I noticed while riding with Jenny this morning than my saddle had moved back a couple of inches, perhaps when I hit the bump that gave me my flat tire. No wonder my nether regions hurt. And my knee. And my neck. Mind your bike fit, y'all. Blaming the bonk on bike fit. I'm sure it had nothing to do with lack of food, stamina, nor pulling my competitors along for the last 20 miles after all. Right.

So that's all. Too bad my race didn't end with the flat after all, huh? "Got a flat, time trialed the last 50 miles" would have taken much less time to read...

Sunday, August 19, 2007