Friday, September 18, 2009

GMSR Stage Race Sept. 4-7 , 2009 Dara Gets Yellow in the 3/4 Field

3 years before I started racing, I heard about the GMSR. I would check it out online, I rode some of the roads, I would hear reports from friends….it was one of the main reasons for me to take up racing. Sentimental, I know…but being there was a dream come true.

Stage 1
The TT was hard. What can I say about a TT? 5.7 miles. Hilly. Headwind. Heart rate. Go. The hardest part was after the crest of the final climb because there was still so, so far to go! After feeling sluggish on the flats because of the headwind, I was surprised to get second place, right behind my teammate Donna McMahon and within seconds of my other teammate in the 3/4 field, Erica . We were fortunate to start the rest of the race with an advantage—something I wouldn’t fully appreciate until later.

Stage 2
There were no surprises in the circuit race—30 miles and only one major climb. The group stayed together until the end, with a point sprint and QOM climb shaking up the pace a bit
As a team, we went into the race with the goal of getting Erica a placing bonus, but the strong headwind foiled our well-intentioned lead-out plans. We finished with the pack, with Donna maintaining her lead in the GC. I was passed by 2 riders and bumped down to 4th and Erica was in 7th place. It wasn’t until reading the results that I began to understand how critical every second was.

Stage 3
The road race seemed like the day that would determine the whole thing. 75 miles, some long climbs, and a very tough finish at the top of a steep Ap Gap. Going in with all three Raddies in the top 10, we hoped to be in any breaks and hoped that we had our climbing legs. The race started at an easy pace in anticipation of the first climb at around mile 20—Brandon Gap. We had a small group of 8-10 riders for the descent and fully expected to keep a break, but we were neutralized for several minutes because of a terrible crash in an earlier race which brought the whole field back. It seemed that the race was coming down to Ap Gap, the steepest, 3 mile-climb. Starting at Baby Gap (the 2.5 mile climb prelude), I sat on Fabienne’s wheel near the back of the pack and was patient. I had confidence in her ability to get to top of the mountain fast (she was QOM after all). Steady as can be, she slowly increased her pace as others dropped off the back. Donna was already out ahead at the 500 meter mark (wow is she STRONG. she won by 22 seconds), when Laura picked it up forcing us to work harder. I had wanted to pass Fabienne close to the finish, but she was too fast for me, pulling away before the line. I felt content with 3rd place, glad that I hadn’t made any mistakes and had done my best.

Stage 4

The criterium in Burlington turned out to be a total surprise. As a team, we thought that we were in a great position to have at least one rider on the podium. I had thought that Donna was unbeatable with her huge 38 second lead. I was very nervous about losing my 2nd place, with Fabienne and other good sprinters just a point sprint away from overtaking me. With a neutral start, I was taken aback when two riders shot to the front (Genevieve Bourgeois, Eva Devinci and Anne-Marie Morin, Garneau Club Chaussures)—in retrospect, it was nice of them to give us a warning that they were planning to go right off the bat. When the car pulled away, so did they and I made sure that I was with them. I didn’t think that a break could stick for the whole race and waited for the field to catch up—and my fellow riders expressed their annoyance with me. I went for all the sprints and after 20 laps finally knew that I had secured 2nd place because of the sprint time bonuses. It didn’t cross my mind that I could win the GC until the announcer talked about how smart my tactics were. Huh? I had no idea what to do! I wondered if I should slow down so that Donna could catch up, but clearly my teammates on the sidelines didn’t think so—I didn’t know where Donna and Erica were or how well they were riding that day and a field sprint at the end seemed risky. My cornering started to improve during the race, but still hurt me for the final sprint. I was over-confident that I had time to pass them after the last turn, but couldn’t do it—regardless, the two other riders had worked hard and deserved the win, and I won the yellow jersey. CRCA riders brought so much to this race—great competition, smart racing, and a reassurance that we were looking out for each other in the pack. Good fun. I can’t wait until next year.

Bear Mountain Road Race 9/13/09 Erica Tames the Bear

Due to some last minute changes, both the women's 1/2/3 fields and the women's 3/4 fields were to be run together and would only be 3 laps, but scored and awarded separately. The field(s) stayed pretty much together on the first series of climbs.

The psychological damage of yesterday's crash was MUCH worse than the physical. I tried to stay as far away from every other rider as possible.  I made it to the top of the climb with the lead group. Despite thoughts of abandoning the race anyway due to my panic, I decided to give the race another lap.

We'd dropped a number of riders already heading into the second lap, but got neutralized for quite a while as we waited for the Men's 5s to pass. We started downhill #2 as a big group again. The pace going up Tiorati was much more controlled, so most of us stayed together.

The 3rd time down the Lake Welch Hill was crowded yet again. Beth Miller came around the corner at or near the front, and hit it really hard going back up the hill. We were instantly strung out, with Dara up the road, Donna a little ahead, and Ashley and I about 10-12 riders back but with a lot of road to cover to cross the gap. Ashley kept a really hard pace going up the hill, and I stayed on her wheel as much as I could. I took solace in the fact that I would have a few seconds to recover before we made the final push up to the front group.

But the solace would not come. Kristen pushed the pace hard in that last hill just after the bridge, and I got gapped. The only riders near me from my field were Annelise Haines from NY Velocity and Nancy Ford from USI, the rest had been gapped. The 2 riders went around me as I tried to catch one of their wheels, but didn't quite make it. I figured we'd just consolidate on 7 lakes drive and paceline in together, since they didn't look like they were going to be able to regain the front group either. But somehow Annelise did. I give her a lot of credit. Nancy and I however came around the turnaround together and despite working together, we were not able to catch them again. But at least we were able to stay ahead of all the rest of the cat 3/4 field.

Going into the final climb to the finish Nancy was in front. Contrary to my usual approach of leading out my competitors, I got on her wheel and just stayed there. If she outsprinted me, so be it, but I wasn't going to make it easy for her. With about 100 meters to go I opened it up and sprinted as hard as I could (for an uphill finish anyway) and crossed the line 1st.

I thought this gave me 2nd place in my field overall, but it turned out that they have given the wrong number to an upstart cat 4 unattached triathlete, who had been up the road all along. I placed 3rd. I was thrilled to finally get a podium spot in a road race.