I had never done the Santa Cruz Criterium and heard it was a fun and challenging course, plus I’ll take any excuse to make a stop at Verve Coffee. The course has several features reminiscent of the Vacaville Gran Prix course, including a short/steepish hill and a sharp hairpin into a fast downhill. This made for some good technical crit skills practice ahead of the season’s bigger races.
The Mike’s Bikes team (TMBW) showed up with their A-game along with some of the strongest individuals in NorCal cycling including Joanna Dahl (JLVelo), Liza Rachetto (HB Supermint), Clarice Sayle (Jakroo Racing), Lindsay Myers (Team Tibco), and Elle Anderson (Rally Cycling). Since I was also riding solo and sprinter is not my middle name, my goal was to look for opportune breaks to sneak into.
The race was relatively tame for the first half, with the exception of the prime laps where Clarice put on a prime-snagging clinic. As the race went on, there were attacks at least every other lap but nobody stayed away. I attacked near the back third of the race on the hill hoping to get a small group together, but since we were all playing defense, I was brought back like all the other attacks. With 2 to go, I watched Amy Cameron (TMBW) tell her teammate Liz Hamel to give a flyer after the downhill which would set Amy up nicely at the finish. It was 2 bikes in front of me and I assumed the strong girls ahead of me would go with it and I would follow. That didn’t happen and nobody wanted to chase and give up their finishing opportunity. Instead I looked for good position at the end, which I had and flew up the hill only to remember the finish line was way after the hill and all the fast finishers came around me. Something to work on!
I had a lot of fun racing with the speedy ladies of NorCal and can’t wait for our next race. Hats of to Liz who just barely held off the powerful Joanna for the win. And thanks to Velo Promo for a fun course; I used my prime money for some excellent post-race tacos.
Despite being in the midst of El Nino, I have been fortunate to have beautiful spring weather in most races so far this year. I finally had to face the inevitable wind and rain at Bariani. The day prior, Diane and I drove down to Occidental to ride the Grasshopper. Being on the coast, the conditions felt like they were 10 times worse than Bariani and I like to think this gave me a bit of a mental edge!
Both Mikes Bikes and JL Velo were out in full force, braving the weather. As the only rider from Folsom Bike/Trek I knew I had to be on my toes and ready for the right moves, as these two teams would be duking it out. Taking the wind in consideration, I did not want to put myself in a situation where I had the potential to be guttered if someone made an attack. The first thing I did once the race began was ride to the front where eventually I was covered by some other riders, and I did not let myself fall back more then 5 places.
The race was on once Sara Enders (Rio Strada) aggressively attacked going over the highway over pass into the tail wind section. I dropped back a few spaces but was able to work my way back to the front in time for a series of 3-4 turns on narrow, bumpy roads. Potholes filled to the brim with water sprawled across the road; and due to the water, there was no telling the damage that could be done if you hit them. Underneath the temporarily calm puddle was a huge unknown –there could have been a 10-foot hole for all we knew –yet we plowed through with little consideration. The best way, I found, to ride this section was to shut off your brain. I only had a few thoughts enter my mind:
- Stay light on your bars.
- Ride in a straight line.
- Stick to the wheel in front of you.
Looking back I am surprised I did not flat, or even crash, but things may have been different if I let myself become overwhelmed with how terrified I actually was! I also give credit to the stealth of my Trek Emonda as it gave me safe passage through the potholes.
As we exited the narrow, pothole filled roads, I looked back and there was no one in sight. Just 7 others and myself made it through in the lead. Involved in this break were two JL Velo riders, Joanna Dahl and Marissa Axel. Amy Cameron from Mikes Bikes was represented, then Sara Enders (Rio Strada), Lisa Cordova (Chico Masters), Megan Ruble (Funsport Bikes Cycling Team) and Illi Gardner (SJBC). We kept a revolving pace line through the head wind/cross wind sections, but once we got to the tail wind and narrow roads, all camaraderie was thrown out the door.
On the last lap, I covered another vicious attack by Sara Enders that got a few seconds of a gap, but it was short lived as Joanna Dahl closed in and then countered. Going into the narrow, pothole section for the last time, I was gapped and while the group seemed to be just within reach, I could not cover the distance between. I looked up the road to see the follow car and lead Moto pulled over. Not a good sign. Two riders were down, Marissa Axel and Megan Ruble.
On the final run-in towards the finish I was caught by Christina Bonnington (JlVelo) who had been in no-mans land. She attacked me and I rolled in for 7th. Ahead, Joanna Dahl Finished first with Illi Gardner in second, and Sara Enders rounding off the podium. Lisa Cordova was 4th and Amy Cameron was 5th. All in all, Bariani was filled with excellent aggressive racing from all ladies who were undaunted to shred each other’s legs; and both days of riding in hurricane-like weather was great prep for the conditions I will be facing in Europe!
I felt as if my season truly got under way this weekend at Tour de Murrieta, six weeks after my first race. To fully explain this feeling, I need to be honest: sometimes, balancing bike racing with a career is freakin’ difficult. I put in my training this winter, but when race season rolled around I felt distracted — by my research (& really wanting to finish my PhD), by my friends all having babies (& making me question what I’m doing with my life), and by family (my parents are getting older). So I wasn’t coming to the start line of Cal Aggie feeling ready to rage. And in race after race, I was more than happy to do work for my teammates and let them get the glory. This is a perfectly acceptable role on any team. But it’s not enough to just be a domestique. One of the best things about Folsom Bike is that all of us have the potential to win any race. And all of us should be mentally and physically ready for that win!
Things reached a low point for me at Chico, when I sat up in the last part of the circuit race because I didn’t have that fire to fight for position. The next day during the road race, I lost concentration in the gravel section and crashed. And then I didn’t warm up for the ITT and got time cut, preventing me from starting the afternoon crit. Could I have been a more pathetic racer?! But there was a silver lining to that awful weekend: I realized that I am *not* going to end my cycling career on this note. I saw what apathy can do to my performance, and a fire was lit under my ass! Driving home from Chico, I vowed to register and race Tour de Murrieta in SoCal. It didn’t matter that this wasn’t a team race, and no one would go with me. That was better, I thought — I needed a race where I couldn’t rely on my teammates to perform; I needed a race where I could prove to myself that I am a competent bike racer. And both the crit and circuit at Tour de Murrieta suit my strengths — they are technical and fast.
Saturday’s crit was windy with a long uphill drag to the finishing straight. With 1 lap to go, I was about 10th wheel, and I lost a few positions on the downhill. But I cared enough to keep fighting, and ended up 13th / 55. While this isn’t the most impressive result, I was happy with it — this was the first race of 2016 in which I had my big girl pants on and was ready to fight. Sunday’s circuit featured a 3 mile loop whose most distinguishing feature was that sometimes we had full use of the road, and sometimes the yellow line rule was in effect. This made for some super fun positioning jostling and was great fun. I made a concerted effort to stay in the top 20 for the entire race. The legs felt good, and once I understood the dynamics of the pack on the course, positioning was pretty easy. Again, I ended up 13th as I tried to figure out the best way to allocate energy in the final kilometer. And again, I was happy with 13th / 55. It felt great to fight in a race again. And I’m excited to keep fighting for the rest of the season.
Winning When the Odds Are Not in Your Favor
By Dani Haulmann
This weekend Diane kept the Folsom Bike/Trek victorious momentum alive with an overall win at Madera Stage Race. Despite the horrid El nino-inspired forecast, Diane and I trekked down to the central valley for the infamous (or un-famous) Madera Stage Race.
After looking at the start list, we knew the odds of us winning this race were worse than the odds of winning big on a gas station lotto scratch ticket. JL Velo comprised the vast majority of the field, in that we were the ONLY non-JL Velo racers.
At the start of the crit, they combined our small field with the cat 3 women, which also consisted almost purely of JL Velo riders. Because this was a stage race, and we were only playing the “overall time game” our goal for the crit was to not let anyone gain time on Diane. The race boiled down to a simple pattern where a JL Velo rider would attack, we would follow. Then a different JL Velo rider would attack, and we would follow. In the last couple laps, a JL Velo rider attacked, finally creating a split. Diane went with the move, allowing her to finish a few seconds on some fast JL-timetrialists. In between the crit and time trial, we waited spent the rainy afternoon in Starbucks drinking tea and playing with puppies.
Later that afternoon, we had a 10-mile flat time trial. It was windy. It was raining. Making the perfect storm for Diane to crush. Or at least I though it was until 10 minutes before the start, Diane realized that her shifting cable was frayed and about to snap. Again, not the best odds but the cable managed to hold out for the TT. On top of that, she won the time trial, placing her in first, 22 seconds above second place.
After it poured rain all night, we were pleasantly surprised to start the final stage under blue skies. Just a 70-mile hilly road race on tarnish roads and a pack of JL Velo riders stood between Diane and her GC victory. One lap into the four-lap race, JL started an endless stream of ferocious attacks. Because the top three finishers got time bonuses, we could not risk anyone going up the road without Diane. After an aggressive sprint workout, we sat up at the end of the lap for the feed zone, all still together. As we started the third lap Diane and I fueled up for another round of attacks. When we hit the long tail-wind section JL Velo began launching attacks, and I noticed that I suddenly was out of power. I pulled to the back of the group, wondering if covering the last lap of attacks took a toll on me. Shortly after I realized I had a flat tire. Feeling horribly about leaving Diane alone with a pack of JL Velo riders, she was faced with the worst odds of winning.
How could one rider possibly cover non-stop attacks, alone, for 2 more laps? Most people would eventually give up, and let a rider go up the road. Fortunately, Diane is not people, and not only covered every attack, but managed to sprint for the finish, taking first place in the road race, and in the overall GC.