It was no surprise that Erin Gorrell did a great job organizing another year of the Town Center Criterium. The race has a very fun atmosphere, with an unbelievable amount of race prizes and primes. Most importantly, the course is very exciting; Judy likens it to a cyclocross course with a lot of fast, successive corners and a long ascent and descent. Last year I crashed myself out by clipping a pedal on one of the corners, so coming into this race I was looking for redemption – or at least to finish safely and help the team win.
Six of us from Folsom/Cervelo lined up for the race, and most of the other teammates were helping out and cheering from the side of the course. The race started out with three hot laps, Judy and Heather made things fast and strung out as we rode for cash and merchandise. During these initial laps I made my way close to the front and planned to keep going if some of the ladies sat up after one of the hot lap sprints. Sure enough, after the second lap I managed to ride away from the field. My gap stayed at about 25 seconds; the course let me look across in certain sections to see that the girls from Velo Sports Group were putting in a lot of work chasing – I was going to have to work very hard to stay away.
Finally with about 3 laps to go, my lead started to extend as the pack stopped chasing me and began to think about the finish. On the final lap, I saw Judy make an attack that let her stay away for second place. Dani and Sofi sprinted for 4th and 5th place, respectively. As always, it was tones of fun to get to race and hang out with these ladies.
I finished Copperopolis with two overwhelming feelings: (1) exhaustion, and (2) utter gratitude for my amazing teammates. It was one of those days that I got through only thanks to the girls on the team. I’d come off a hard week of training, and my legs were not happy, especially when we hit the first climb 5 minutes into the race. Copperopolis road race features a 21 mile loop that we did three times. There’s about a 12 minute climb at the start of the lap, and then some rollers and flats for 15 miles before a small climb followed by a gnarly descent and uphill sprint finish. The first time up the big climb, I held on to Marley’s wheel (just barely) and suffered my way to the top. Most of the group made it up the hill the first time.
I knew Heather Van Sickle and Marley were planning to work for me in the sprint, so when I realized just how painful my legs were, I told Marley how I felt. She responded calmly with complete encouragement, telling me to sit in, rest, and let my legs come around. So during the first lap, I just sat on as other girls attacked. Lo and behold, Marley was right — my legs did feel better at the beginning of lap two! It was a good thing I’d recovered, since our pace up the climb shelled some girls and we reached the summit with only six riders in the group. Again, Marley was a beast and drilled it at the top while I hung on at the back.
The second lap was a bit of a truce. We rode a steady pace, but no one wanted to go out in the wind with 30 miles left. During the third and final time up the big climb, Beth Newell (Jakroo) attacked halfway up. I knew I didn’t have the legs to go with her, so I started damage control and kept climbing steady. Marley was going at a brutal pace, and when she started to gap us, Heather and I sat up to make the two other riders (Joanna Dahl and Jane Despas) pull her back. After a couple miles of hard pulling on their part, Joanna popped and dropped back. Jane just sat on the front railing it, and we ended up catching Marley halfway through the lap. Heather then countered, while Marley and I sat on Jane’s wheel for a couple more miles. When Jane caught Heather, I put in an attack, but it was short lived. Jane was on fire and caught me. At this point, we all knew it was going to come down to a sprint finish. When I saw 200 meters to go, I jumped hard and got 2nd place.
There’s no way I would have crossed that line in 2nd place without Heather and Marley’s encouragement and beastly pulls. I honestly cannot recall another race in which I owed so much to the work and confidence of my teammates.
While the Folsom Bike/Cervelo ladies were making podium appearances at various Norcal road racing events, I made the trip out to Lake Berryessa for the HITS Napa Valley half distance triathlon. While I don’t get to call myself a rookie anymore with the swim/bike/run thing…..this would be my first attempt at a long distance course which consists of 1.2 mile swim +56 mile bike +13.1 mile run = doesn’t that all sounds like so much fun?!? It’s ok, I can hear all the eye rolls about now.
Open water swimming provides additional challenges that still elude me…like,um…where is the lane line in the bottom of the lake? And why is everyone around me swimming sideways? Oh wait, now I am swimming sideways….soooo that about sums up the swim start.
My main goal for the day was to avoid getting kicked in the face. Mission accomplished! At some point, I realized my competitors were already finishing up the swim, and I was still in the middle of the lake, so I should probably start to focus on getting to land ASAP.
Soaking wet and into transition and out on my TT bike for a nice, rolling 56 mile ride. Triathlons are the rare occasion when in some instances I am technically racing a guy as well…or so he thinks we are racing….so you can imagine how that ends up. Either way, I made up some good time on the faster swimmers and was back into transition and ready to run. Shoes on and lets go for a quick half marathon. No big deal, right? I don’t really consider myself a runner, but I watched a video clip of Mirinda Carfrae (the current Ironman World Champion and an insane runner) once talk about running people down at races, so I just try to have that mindset which is basically….DON’T GET IN MY WAY. It actually worked for me, and I finished up the day as the overall 4th female finisher, and 1st in my age group. I am already looking forward to my next triathlon, but excited to be joining the team for some bike races first!
Thanks to Folsom Bike for my ridiculously fast Cervelo P3 (I did in fact have the fastest female bike split for the day), Judd Van Sickle and the UCD Sports Med Center for keeping me healthy and comfortable on the bike. OSMO nutrition for the best hydration products for training and racing. Endurance360 for some added recovery assistance. And Jakroo clothing for the most comfortable custom tri kit.
Going into the Sea Otter Road Race I knew the field would be very challenging, but I hoped that it would be a good learning experience riding in such a large pack. As a bonus, former teammate Amy Chandos had come in from Arizona to race with Folsom Cervelo at Sea Otter.
The race was kept neutral for about 4 miles until we were delivered to the race loop. The race goes around the 7.8 mile circuit 5 times, which includes a climb at the beginning of the loop and a climb through the feed zone. Unfortunately, Amy got a flat very early into the first lap – she finished the race with one of the chase groups. During laps around the course, there were some attacks and breakaways; Twenty16 was able to get some solo riders off the front. However, I was more focused on keeping position particularly through the descents so I wouldn’t have to work too hard on the climbs.
As soon as we started the final lap, there were some meaningful attacks up the first climb. I put my head down here and tried to move as far ahead as I could to stay with the pack. I crested the top with about 12 other girls, as others continued to chase on. In the commotion up the climb Alison Tetrick had gotten off the front, she went on the win the race solo.
Nothing too eventful happened for the rest of the lap, and we were directed out of the loop to the finishing climb. It didn’t seem very long until we saw the 1km sign ahead, and attacks started from riders. I went as hard as I could to the finish and tried to follow wheels. In the end I crossed the line in 9th place.
I had a great experience at Sea Otter; I cannot wait to go back next year!
Nearly 45 riders toed the start of Red Kite Crit #3 last Sunday in Livermore. It being my second race of the season, I was excited to test my legs and get back into the swing of things.
Red Kite is a really straight-forward, non-technical, 4-corner crit. It was great to see a high pace set from the start, and 3 laps in I was in perfect position to follow a hard counter attack by a former pro. As soon as I bridged up, I came around and said “Let’s go!” It was great to immediately cooperate with one another and feel the camaraderie.
Although we were caught within a few laps, it was a perfect opportunity to test our legs and wear out some of the top competition. I spent the remainder of the race figuring out how to best position myself on the course for an ideal finish.
When race officials rang the bell for a lap prime, I decided to test my final lap strategy. The race is notorious for slow final laps and swarming into the final corner, so I decided I’d aim to take matters into my own hands. Well before the final corner, I jumped to take the inside line, came around a string of riders, and had enough of a gap to take the prime.
For the final, I figured if my strategy worked the first time, it would probably work the second time too. And it did. I opened my sprint quite early, and although it was more painful than usual, I was able to clinch the win.
Meanwhile, my teammates were down south racing Sea Otter, where they did a standout job of racing in the big leagues, finishing 4th in the circuit race!
Another great day for Folsom Bike/Cervelo!
I was definitely jazzed about racing Sea Otter. Even as I got into cycling on the East Coast, I used to track the results from this race and followed news about the festival. For team FolsomBike/Cervelo, the event was a great chance for us to represent our amazing sponsors and test our legs against some big pro teams. Diane ably represented the team by herself in Friday’s road race with a ninth place finish, and we had a full team show up Sunday for the circuit race(Diane, me, Dani, Heather Lipana, and Heather Van Sickle) . With Erin and Marley to support us in the team car, we could not have asked for anything more.
The circuit race takes place on a course ~ 2 miles long which loops around a car raceway. This means that all the turns are off camber, making for super fast and super fun racing. Immediately after start finish, the course climbs for about 400 – 800 meters. Then it’s a twisty descent and some fun turns all the way around. Our race was 75 minutes in total. The first 20 minutes of the race were pretty tame, with a relatively easy pace. Things didn’t light up until we saw 8 laps to go, at which point the pro teams started sending girls up the road. Most attacks were short lived, but the increased pace started shelling girls off the back. At one point, I was seriously hurting on the hill. I saw Diane ride past, and I grabbed her wheel. It was comforting to have a (very) familiar wheel to sit on as she dragged us around for half a lap.
A short while later, Dani came up beside me and told me to rest up. She said that the girls who were going off the front were simply burning matches, and if I sat in I could sprint for a good place at the end. Thank goodness for Dani and her wisdom! After that consulation, I never saw the wind again. I only followed wheels for the last 25 minutes of the race. Going into the last lap, the peloton drilled it at the bottom of the climb. As girls accelerated, I stood up and sprinted around a bunch of riders. I think I was in 6th or 7th place at the top of the climb. Then I just let girls pull me up from group to group. There were about 6 of us coming around the final bend, and when I saw 200 meters to go we all sprinted. I ended up in fourth place, much to my shock and delight.
It was fantastic to be able to stand on the podium and represent Folsom Bike alongside Team Optum and Twenty16 Pro Cycling. My spot on the podium was a team effort — the training partners who have ridden with me all winter; the advice and confidence of seasoned teammates, and the continued support of Erin, the shop, and all the sponsors.
Race Report – San Dimas Stage Race
As Claire, Dani, Diane, and I packed up the car to drive down to SoCal for the San Dimas Stage Race, I realized that I hadn’t been so excited to race my bike in a long time. Our field for the weekend had 110 entrants, and it was stacked with heavy hitters – Specialized Lululemon, Optum, Tibco, and Exergy were all there. I was stoked for the challenge of racing with these women, and of course I couldn’t have asked for more fun teammates / travel companions.
Friday – Hill Climb ITT
The first stage was a 4.25 mile hill climb. The grade was gradual and consistent all the way up – for those who have ridden around Lake Berryessa, the ITT was essentially a 20 minute Cardiac climb. As a sprinter, I had no expectations for the stage – I simply wanted to do my best and enjoy the ride. After getting a solid warm up, there was very little strategy involved. Each of us Folsom ladies just got into our respective rhythms and went as fast we could up the hill. Unsurprisingly, Diane crushed it, getting the best time out of all of us. We followed up the ITT with recon of the road race course.
Saturday – Road Race
Saturday’s road race was the most difficult race I’ve done in ages. I don’t think I’ve ever been more focused while riding my bike. Ever.
Dani, who had completed San Dimas two years ago, gave us expert advice for the road race. Be at the front. Do whatever it takes to be at the front. I took this guidance to heart and refused to drift further than 30 wheels back for the first lap. About three-quarters of the way through the 7-mile lap, we hit the foot of a decisive climb. I took a careful line going into the hill and moved from about 30th wheel to around 20th wheel. This allowed me to climb with the fast girls, and we went up that kicker fast! It was a good power hill for me – I moved up from 20th wheel to about 12th or 15th wheel by the top of the climb. The next lap was a blur – I was hurting a lot from the effort up the hill, and the next lap featured a KOM sprint at the climb’s top so our pace was equally brutal. It was not until 3 or 4 laps into the race that I heard the field had split. There were ~30 in our front group. At that point I decided my goal was finishing with that front group. Things eased up a bit, but I unfortunately ran out of water with 2 laps to go. The subsequent dehydration resulted in my first ever experience with leg cramps going up the final climb, but I managed to crawl my way uphill, grab a wheel and hang on for dear life as we neared the sprint finish. I came in 26th place and moved up from 45th on GC to 30th.
Sunday – Crit
Coming into the weekend, I had originally been the most excited about racing the crit. Sadly, Diane couldn’t start with us because she’d flatted during the road race. But Folsom Bike came to the start with Claire, Dani, myself, and guest rider Aliya Traficante. I was pleased with my race start – I was cruising in the top 10 riders for the first three laps or so. Unfortunately, my sweet placing made me complacent and I drifted back to 20th or 25th wheel at that point. Moving up was deceptively difficult because of a fat headwind on the uphill stretch of the course most conducive to gaining places. With three laps to go, I actually made it up to the very front of the race. In retrospect, I should have fought like hell to stay up in the top ten at that point, but I was swarmed shortly after and then spent the last three laps jumping up places. I finished just inside the top 20 which had been my goal going into the weekend.
Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. I had so much hanging out with the most ridiculously supportive and fun women and had a blast racing my bike super fast. Thanks to FB for the support!! The experience certainly whetted my appetite for more – I’m excited for Sea Otter and – of course – collegiate nationals where I’ll be riding for UC Davis in May.