What went down at Wente Road Race? A whole lot of team work with Sara, Mel, and Judy.
Over 20 women started the race with JL Velo well represented by 6 riders, and Team Mike’s Bikes having 5 ladies. The race was four laps with a new finish at the top of a short climb in a cross-wind section.e
During the first two laps, there was a lot of attacking by Sara and Mel to keep the other riders on their toes. Judy and I just got to sit calmly and be amazed at how Sara and Mel did not cease attacking. Right before the main climb on lap 3, Mel attacked and got away with Molly Van Howling (JL Velo), they stayed away for whole lap leaving other riders to chase, primarily Sara Enders (Rio Strada). Before the final time up the climb Clarice Sayle (Jakroo), and Amy Cameron (Team Mike’s Bikes) came to the front to reel Mel and Molly in. With Mel and Molly still off the front, Sara Enders attacked the group on the climb and brought them close with a small group on her wheel. I followed her attack and right before they were caught, I attacked and got away from the group.
Once I was away, I struggled to find rhythm on the undulating and windy course. But, it was still enough to stay away until the finish. A groupetto sprinted it out for the remaining positions with Joanna (JL Velo) in second, Sara Enders in third, Clarice in fourth and Amy in fifth.
It was again great to greet the other ladies at the finish with news that a win was the outcome of all their work. As a bonus, we all got to go home with celebratory Wente wine!
I raced Sea Otter for the first time two years ago; it was my first “big” road race. When I finished I was relieved to have survived, and surprised with my top-ten result – it turns out the attritive course and long finishing climb suite me. However, after several high-stress weeks at work and a couple of colds, I wasn’t sure how strong I was going to be this year.
This year, the turn out was much smaller than my first time with 13 ladies lining up to start. Folsom Bike / Trek was represented by me, Melanie, and Sara. For the first three laps Melanie and Sara started unleashing their attacks and covering moves. While their attacks were brought back, I could tell they were starting to wear on the other ladies. As we rolled along and went up climbs, I noted how labored the breathing was around me. I was surprised at how good I was feeling, maybe it was several mixed berry Gu’s that were kicking in. The pack stayed together until the third lap when Katie Giles counter attacked one of Melanie’s attacks and got off the front. A half lap later when we came around to the steep climb at the beginning of lap 4, Beth Hernandez took to the front up the climb and split the group into two.
From this point on I was in a group of about 7 chasing Katie. Melanie and Sara were in the group behind; two teammates behind gave me the excuse to sit in with two teammates behind while everyone else chased Katie down. I started thinking about the finish and how I could win the race. After the hill climb at San Dimas, I was confident that I could win on the finishing climb. So I decided to conserve for the finish and attack close to the finish.
Katie was caught with one lap to go, and for the final lap we rode temp until turning off to the finish. Once we hit the climb, I followed the group’s pace until 1km to go when I went to the front and rode as hard as I could until I looked back and didn’t see anyone on my wheel. Beth Newell came across in second, and Anne Usher in third.
It was so exciting to wait for Mel and Sara to finish and let them know that I had delivered the win after all their work!
Sea Otter Circuit Report
Unfortunately, Sea Otter has really lost attendance at its road events in the past two years. Much of this loss is attributed to the rescheduling of US Crit Nationals to the same weekend. Additionally, local NorCal teams are pretty burnt out after racing Redlands the weekend prior. If current trends continue, Folsom Bike may not line up for Sea Otter next year…
But for 2016, we targeted the road race and the circuit race, as per usual. Diane won the road race (see report), and we’d hoped for a second victory on Sunday. The field was super small (12) and the race very mellow. The first half of the 60 minute race just consisted of us riding tempo around the course. Several attacks went during the second half of the race, either on the hill or descent. None got very much traction, except for Kathy Giles (US Military) who stayed away for a lap. Each attack was marked or countered by Sara, Melanie, or me. The last lap saw a bit of a truce, as everyone waited for the sprint. I found myself in 2nd wheel with 1k to go, on the wheel of Liz Otto Hamel from Mikes Bikes. I got too complacent at this point. I was stoked to be 2nd wheel, but I just kind of assumed I could come around if there was a surge from behind. That was not the case — as girls came up to our left, Liz tried to accelerate but it wasn’t enough. I was very much boxed in and had to settle for 4th. Oh well!
Copperopolis holds a special place in my heart. The pothole covered, horribly patched, narrow roads are the closest resemblance we have to cobbles here in NorCal. There is the twisty climb, that happens all too soon after the start, and you are never quite ready for. Then, finally, the descent that makes it seem as if your bike, and body, will break in half. I love it all!
Every force is working against you, friction from the poor pavement, gravity from the climbing, and your body from being drained from both. Oh, and lets not forget the mind –probably the greatest force working against you, or for you (depending on a mixture of a persons perseverance and stupidity).
Did I say this race holds a special place in my heart?
Yes, I did. Back in 2014 I won it as a Cat 3. From a two women break away. That began around 5 miles into the race. I have always felt perseverance as being a strong personal quality for myself, and I already know that stupidity is a very apparent quality (why else would I expose myself to such pain?!), so this must be the reason for my love for Copperopolis.
I guess I’ve rambled enough, now on to the actual race report. With Sara and Mel resting up for San Dimas and Diane spending time with family, it was up to the two sprinters of the team, Judy and myself, to hold off the many climbers that show. Our field wasn’t anything less then under-represented with the toughest of Norcal showing, including big names such as, Katerina Nash (Luna) and Beth Hernandez (Colavita). Again, both JlVelo and Mikes Bikes were represented well, with strong teams. Clarice Sayle (Jackroo), who has had an excellent start to the 2016 season, was flying solo, but by no means someone to discount.
As usual, at the top of the first climb, the peloton had shrunk in size as to when we first began. Many were able to chase back on in time for the short, but brutal pitch before the descent. Here, Joana Dahl (JlVelo), put power to the pedals, defining the race and causing a split. Judy and I were reduced to chasing with a few others. We dropped some, and caught some.
On the final climb, Sara Enders (Rio Strada) mercilessly attacked, and it was up to me to chase. Catching her was a mini-personal victory as I was on the verge of bonking. At the top of the climb it was down to Sara, myself, and a category 3, Megan Ruble (Funsport Bikes Cycling Team). We rotated until the final hill, where Sara put in another massive acceleration. I followed it to the best of my ability, railing the descent, but was unable to the close the gap before the finish.
Up ahead, the race finished in a sprint between three riders. Joanie Celso (BC/EMERALD TEXTILES p/b UC Cyclery) won, with Joanna placing 2nd, and Katerina 3rd. Clarice rolled in for 4th, and Amy Cameron (Mikes Bikes) was just behind. I placed 7th, and Judy was 8th. Its always a pleasure when the big names come out local races and provide an exciting challenge, and I feel ever so more fortunate to race in a district with such strong regional competition. Excited for many races yet to come!
A very special thanks to Bill and Annette McCusker for the wonderful photos of our team from the San Dimas race weekend. Check out their website at gmr.bike!
San Dimas Stage Race (SDSR) always starts with an uphill time trial climbing the twisty Glendora Mountain Road. About 4.25 miles long with 1245 ft elevation gain, this time trial can greatly impact a rider’s placement for the entire weekend by creating significant time gaps. With top-notch competition in the field, we knew it was in the team’s best interest that each of us do the best we could in the time trial.
As with all time trials, warm-up was key and we all arrived with plenty of time to warm-up for at least 60 minutes and hydrate. Melanie was the first to go off, followed by Sara, Judy and finally Diane – who, in all honesty, was running off pure adrenaline at this point. She had flown into Southern California at 11:30 pm the night before after putting an insane amount of work organizing not one, but two engineering events in the prior weeks. The time trial course starts with a very gradual rolling section and before crossing over a bridge to a sustained 4.5-6.5% climb that favors steady, seated power. Although 4.25 miles sounds like a breeze, at full speed we were all gasping for air at the top. Glad that the hill climb was done and dusted, we celebrated with GU recovery shakes before eating lunch in the delightful town of Glendora. While there, we constantly refreshed our phones, waiting for results. When the results finally came out, Diane was pleasantly surprised to see that in her beleaguered, sick, sleep deprived state she had not only PRed on the hill climb but busted into the top 10 with a 7th place finish! What a beast!
Stage 2 of SDSR is a road race through Bonelli Park road race consisting of 8 laps of a 7 lap rolling hill circuit. Laps 2, 4, and 6 have QOM points on the top of the main climb, while laps 3, 5, and 7 feature sprint points through the Start/Finish line. With Diane sitting 7th on GC after stage 1, our main goal was to help her maintain or move up on GC, while also trying to all finish with the main group. Armed with GU Energy Chews in our pockets and GU Hydration Mix in our bottles, we were well prepared to tackle the challenging course in the hot SoCal weather.
Let’s get real – this circuit race masquerading as a road race is one of the most fun courses we get to compete on all year. Due to the technical nature of this course, with lots of sharp turns, road furniture, and terrible pavement positioning near the front of the peloton is absolutely key. A quick lapse in concentration, and a cone, pothole, or inattentive rider will take you out. The GU Energy Chews were incredibly helpful for this race because the package allowed for quick opening and eating without having to remove your hands from the bars for very long. And the caffeine was a much needed boost!
All four of us settled in to the race after a couple of laps, and with the exception of the sprint and QOM points, there was only a few attacks off the front, none of which stuck. By the 7th lap, it was time to start thinking about being positioned for the finish, as it was clearly going to come down to a field sprint. Feeling good, Diane moved to the front before the QOM hill and led the pack up the climb, allowing her to maintain good pack position heading into the last lap. Judy, Melanie, and Sara were also still in good position in the peloton. On the final lap, heading up the hill, Diane was still very close to the front as we headed onto the descent to the finish, with the rest of us just behind. The finish was very fast and nervous. Unfortunately, in the final 100 meters, two crashes took out several riders and Diane suffered a catastrophic mechanical when her mega-watts ripped off the derailleur hanger and she was forced to walk across the finish line. Thankfully, none of us were involved in the crashes and Diane was given the same time as the race winner, maintaining her position on GC. Sara and Melanie also finished with the front group with Judy just a little bit behind so we achieved our goals. In a complete daze at the end of the race, it was nice having the convenience of the GU Recovery Drink Mix mixed with water to quickly start the recovery process since we still had one more stage to go. That chocolate flavor of GU recovery is on point!!
The story of Sunday’s crit begins on Saturday afternoon. Diane was fortunate enough to find an amazing, supportive bike shop outside Glendora that overhauled her mangled mess of a bike within 2 hours. They put on a new derailleur (and hanger), new chain, and new bottom bracket. And Melanie was gracious enough to lend Diane some wheels because Saturday’s mechanical incident had cost Diane a spoke in her rear wheel. At this point, the attentive reader might be thinking, “Hm, a new chain with an old cassette from Melanie? That doesn’t sound good…” And the attentive reader would be correct in his suspicions! All was looking up for team Folsom Bike in Sunday’s race until Diane stood up to sprint out of a corner and her bike started making horrible noises. The pit was of no assistance. A lesser rider might give up then and there. But Diane is no average woman. She is a beast. A beast who spent the entirety of Sunday’s crit last wheel, completely seated, motoring through the race. Melanie and Sara valiantly tried to tow Diane back up to the front of the pack, but she sadly declined their offers and took up her place in the purgatory zone. Meanwhile, Judy was completely oblivious to all these problems. When she didn’t see Diane for a while, she naturally assumed Diane was in the break. And there was no way of knowing otherwise, since the pack caught the break right before the end of the race, for which Judy managed to move up on the last lap and snag 10th place. For all her efforts, Diane managed to come in 9th on GC, only having lost 2 places during that unfortunate race which was the crit.
A special thanks goes out to the organizers of the San Dimas Stage Race, who set our team up with fantastic host housing – and shout out to our wonderful, fun, and welcoming hosts, Marion and Wolfgang. We could not have asked for better people with whom to share this weekend. Also, thanks as always to our sponsors – GU for keeping us hydrated and fed throughout the weekend; and especially Folsom Bike for letting us take the team car down and serve as home base during the weekend. From earthquakes (2014) to broken bikes (2016), the San Dimas Stage Race always keeps us on our toes. It’s one of the highlights of the racing calendar!