Burlingame is one of my favorite NCNCA crits — the race is always well organized, the course is in a cute downtown area, and it’s extremly technical. So even though I’m not in peak fitness, I couldn’t turn down the chance to race. Plus, it was 100 degrees in Davis on Sunday, so 80 on the Peninsula sounded pretty good to me.
Folsom had a good turnout, with Sara, Melanie, Aliya, and me. I took the hole shot after the gun went off and did what I love to do in crits — rail the first lap to make everything hurt for the unfortunate souls who’ve had a poor start. But after 1.5 laps, my body reminded me that I’ve been putting in 6-8 hour training weeks (instead of the usual 13), so I eased off a bit. A couple laps in, Melanie got a small gap with Clarice Sayle (Jakaroo), but Mel unfortunately slid out in the 180 degree turn. Thankfully, she was fine and rejoined from the pit on the next lap. Sara, Mel and I kept putting in attacks with JL Velo but everyone was alert, and nothing stuck until Sara spent 2 laps off the front. Things started to look up for us — Sara was on off the front, we forced Clarice and JL Velo to chase…but then the race was neutralized to allow an amublance on course. Julie Cushen (Mike’s Bikes) unfortunately had a pretty bad crash. We are sending our best wishes out for Julie’s speedy recovery! When the race got going again, everyone was a little rusty having spent 10 minutes on the side lines. Aliya was a champ and sat on the front riding tempo for 5 laps, making the race was organized and safe. With 1 lap to go, Sara, Clarice, Joanna Dahl (JL Velo), Marissa Axell (JL Velo) and I were all at the front. Sara and Joanna did their best to make things fast, and I admit I totally messed up by coming into the last corner in 4th wheel. I’ve won field sprints at Burlingame before, so I should know that the short distance from the final corner to the finish line means you need to be 1st or 2nd out of that last corner. But I just messed that up, and had to sprint for 3rd in the end. Oh well. It was still a fun day out at the races with my girls!
How does one choose between Nevada City Classic and the Calaveras Time Trial? Nevada City is ridiculously fun racing and a great environment, but time trial practice would be so worthwhile. Well for Sunday I decided not to choose; there was just enough time to time trial the 10 mile course in Sunol, hop in my car and make it to Nevada City in time. Plus, by doing both races I could connect with all most of my teammates.
Sara went to Calaveras to practice her Merckx time trial, and Mel rode down with her. Sara put in a killer Merckx time trial with 26:13, and won the women’s category. Despite the voice in my head saying “you still have to race Nevada City” I was happy with my time trial; it felt smooth and strong. My time was 23:36, which would have won the women’s category, but because I registered day-of I was only given a time and not ranked in a category. Regardless, going through the motions of a time trial was great practice and certainly helped my confidence for events coming up. After the time trial, I had a few minutes to hand out a bunch of Gu, Folsom Bike socks and hats to Mel and Sara before quickly saying goodbye and heading out to Nevada City.
I made it to Nevada City with plenty of time to spin and catch up with Aliya. The atmosphere of the race is so great; people line the streets to cheer, hand out water, and just enjoy the day. The race started fast, Aliya got to the front and drove the pace over the first lap. The race is very technical and it is critical to stay near the front since you are either going up the long, steep climb, or screaming down the start/finish descent into two fast corners. Inevitably the race split and a group of 4 composed of me, Sara Enders (Rio Strada), Amy Cameron (Mike’s Bikes), and Hanna Muegge. After some attacks early in the race, we settled into a bit of a rhythm with everyone doing about equal work. As the race came down to the lap cards, I started to worry about the girls with me; Sara and Amy are such strong climbers and also have nice kicks to back it up; while Hanna has been on fire with her great sprint and I could see that she was conserving for the end.
Near the end of the climb on 4 laps to go, Sara Enders made a move to get up the road. Over the top on 3 laps to go Amy put in the move to bridge up to her. I stayed back with Hanna wanting her to put in some effort to bring them back. We kept the pair up the road within a safe distance and at heading into 2 laps to go we each put in a pull to chase them down. I didn’t want to bring Hanna up to Amy and Sara, so out of the bottom two corners I got a bit of space from Hanna and went for it to get up to the duo. I didn’t catch them until halfway up the climb on the last lap and I attacked right away. When I looked back over the top of the climb I didn’t see anyone on my wheel so I just kept going as hard as I could until I got to cross the finish line in first.
It was such a thrill to win on this course – I especially appreciated all the cheering throughout the race and the water shower at the top of the climb.
I do silly things in long road races when things are dull. Last week at Pescadero road race, I came up to Melanie during the first 10 miles of the race, proclaimed my boredom, and told her I was going to get the peloton up to speed after which she should attack. We accomplished our mission, but I promptly got dropped from doing too much 10 miles later. A month ago at Berkeley Hills, on the last lap after it became clear Molly Van Howling would stay away for the victory, I came up to Melanie and told her we had to organize our trip out to Tulsa Tough in June. See? Silly things.
To be fair, going to Tulsa seemed a good idea at the time. I was craving big, fast crits, and I’d wanted for years to do the races in Tulsa. The event itself is a fantastic weekend of downtown crit racing with a classic Route 66 atmosphere. Fans (in numbers that far exceed any race in NorCal) come in droves to watch some of the top crit racing talent in the country. So clearly with a naive, but gungho attitude we had no choice but to saddle up and head west.
What I couldn’t have anticipated was that the following week my personal life would be upended and I would spend the three weeks before Tulsa barely training. In the end, I came to the races straight from 24 hours in LA and barely any time in the prior 5 days on the bike. Nonetheless, Tulsa Tough was a great time and we enjoyed many “Folsom Style” adventures including: sleeping 3hrs in the airport on couches before a 5AM flight, leaving luggage at the security checkpoint and then sprinting back from the gate to TSA, driving and trying to park a boatsized Kia Sedona minivan and and scrambling to locate a Trek dealer for parts thanks to Fedex’s notsogentle handling of Melanie’s bike just hours before we roll to the startline (we like to refer to this final situation as “channeling your dinner Diane” who always seems to have to rebuild her entire bike the night before a race).
Friday’s course was a flat, 8-corner affair. All the corners were wide and sweeping; the speeds were fast, and I felt so lucky to finally be part of this giant party about which I’d heard so much over the years. It seems everyone in Tulsa is invested in this event. As we pinned numbers onto our jerseys, a spectator came over to ask where we’d travelled from, and whether this was our first time in Tulsa. I’d never before been to a race where the general public treats riders like celebrities! The courses were lined with screaming fans and music. I was so happy to be there, I didn’t even care that I slid out and crashed with 3 laps to go. While fast, the race didn’t hurt too much, and I found it relatively easy to move around throughout the race. With 6 laps to go, I moved up to 3rd wheel, but then started to doubt my place at the front of the race. I started to lose focus and then dumbly took myself out. My bike and I were thankfully fine and Melanie managed to finish safely with the pack.
So we’d survived the first night. And Saturday, it turns out, was an excellent chance to begin our appreciation of Tulsa’s amazing architecture. Unbeknownst to either Mel or me before this trip, the city features a number of buildings built in classic 1920s styling during the booming years of Oklahoma oil and gas. Not only is the downtown noteworthy for its building design, but many of the neighborhoods also have stunning, huge homes. Including one designed by Frank Lloyd Wright less than a mile from our host house! We were lucky to have JL Velo’s Marissa Axell as a tour guide during this trip. She was participating in her 5th year at Tulsa Tough. She shared the hospitality of her host family on Saturday night, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner with delightful company in an ornate mansion built around 1910. And oh yes there was a race before said dinner on Saturday. The course was L-shaped, the weather hot, and the pace high. My lack of training started to catch up with me, and despite a great start and good vibes early on, by the second half of the race, I was just trying to survive. I focused on taking good lines, moving up with little energy, and ignored the pain in my body. Mel had a great finish, but I just exploded on the last lap.
And then came Sunday the queen stage in this 3 day crit event! On Sunday at Tulsa Tough, racers get to tackle Cry Baby Hill, a short climb lined with Tour de France style spectators the peloton breaks through like Moses parting the Red Sea. On the hill, riders hear a wall of screaming, music, and vuvuzelas while the heat of hundreds of drunk party goers radiates off into the road. It’s magical. I was incredibly disappointed in myself to have an old quad injury flare up, because this is the kind of race that I live for. I’m especially disappointed because this injury presents itself when I don’t roll out or stretch enough. If I actually got regular massages, I’m sure it wouldn’t be an issue. But the tell tale signs started only five minutes into the race my left leg went numb, and a dull ache developed. Soon I was unable to deliver any power to the pedals, despite willing myself with every fiber of my being to do so. I had to give up, take a beer from a lovely spectator and watch Mel crush the rest of the race until she too could not continue the torture any longer.
In the end, I’m glad I got to experience Tulsa Tough before hanging my wheels up. It was an experience we’ll never forget and Mel is already planning on returning next year for Cry Baby Hill part II. After this season, I’m done bike racing for a bit. I need to finish my PhD and get a move on my scientific career! There are very few things in my life for which I’ve felt such a deep, all consuming, internal motivation to pursue. Bike racing is one of those things. Biology research is another. For the past 11 years, so many of my life decisions where to live, what kind of science to pursue, where to go to graduate school were influenced by my desire to be part of a vibrant cycling community with time to race my bike. Cycling has taught me what can be accomplished when you work every day for years at something you absolutely love. But two years ago, I decided I didn’t love cycling enough to go pro, because something else in my life research was calling. I’m so looking forward to being able to focus on one passion now, and being able to see how far I can get when I work very hard, every day, for years on my science career.
A victory hug after a successful race and amazing team work resulting in winning the top step of the podium at Pescadero Road Race!
I think the Pescadero Road Race is my favourite race on the NCNCA race calendar, it is a long, hard race with everything: lots of climbing, technical descents, beautiful views, long windy stretches, moderate temperatures, its attributes go on. Needless to say, I was excited to be racing Pescadero with my awesome teammates. At the start line, Folsom Bike with 4 riders and Mike’s Bikes with 6 were the best represented teams at the race.
Racing really started after the first Stage Road climbs, Judy and Mel started the race aggression with a fast pace and some attacking. I was relaxing at the back of the pack, and realized that there was a field split with some very strong people up the road; but, me and Sara, as well as Amy Cameron and her Mike’s Bikes teammates in the back. It was still so early in the race that I was pretty sure we didn’t need to worry and burn matches, they would eventually come back. Amy’s teammates and Sara kept the pace in our little group, and then up the Haskin’s climb Grace (Stanford), Amy, and I paced us up the climb to catch the front group.
The next big move came from Mel at the first crest on Stage Road climb, she got a gap over the top and then increased it down the technical descent. She stayed away until nearly the top of Haskin’s climb and then came down the other side with the goup. The chasing by Mike’s Bikes and climbing had left Amy isolated from her teammates – but I was lucky enough to still have 2!
Heading back to the Stage Climbs for the final time, Mel tirelessly attacked and forced others to jump and burn matches. Going into the base of the climb, she said she might not make it over with us, before she attacked again. Sara countered her move and got a bit of a gap with Sara Enders. They held their gap over the Stage Climbs while Amy led the chase to them. Then, even after her warning, right before we turned onto 84, Mel attacked again – she just would not tire!
A big move came on 84 instigated by Joanna Dahl (JL Velo) that Sara Bird and Sara Enders jumped on. They got about a minute up the road, and forced Clarice Sayle (Jakroo), Amy Cameron, and Megan Ruble to chase. Mel and I conferred and decided that this was a good move for us, Sara was likely sitting on, and I was confident that after all the work my teammates had done for me, I could bridge to the move on the climb. The last thing I asked Mel to do was attack in the feed zone uphill right before turning onto the final climb. With that incredible last effort Amy, me, and Clarice were the only ones left going into the final climb with the lead group 40 seconds up the road.
Once the climb started, I knew what I had to do: my teammates had worked so hard over 75 miles to tire everyone else out and keep me astoundingly fresh so I put my head down and took off up the climb, a quick look back and I didn’t see Amy or Clarice behind me. I caught Joanna up the road and continued until I saw the Saras; I relaxed for a second and thought what I should do here. I tried to think of a way to hang with them and set Sara Bird up to win, but with Sara Ender’s kick (and my lack of kick) I was worried it could go wrong. I decided to just keep it as safe as possible with only 1.5km of climbing left and went past them to the finish line. It was great to see Sara Bird come across in second, who said that when I went past she got her second wind to fight for finish with Sara Enders.
I don’t think I have ever felt so confident going into the finish of a race. Mel and Sara absolutely turned themselves inside out to set me up for the finish!
The week before the OTF Sequoia Omnium was emotionally tumultuous for me, so I wasn’t sure whether I was going to be able to muster the energy for successful races this weekend. But luckily, I had a solid support crew in the form of amazing teammate Melanie and our super fun host Felicia Gomez (Pinnacle Racing) in Fresno. The omnium races consisted of a circuit Saturday morning, a hill climb Saturday afternoon, and a downtown crit on Sunday. The circuit course featured a gentle, short hill, descent, and then a false downhill through the start/finish area. Laps took ~5 minutes to complete. Unfortuantely, not many women showed up to race, but I was determined to get a good workout. After cruising the first lap, I attacked right after the start/finish on the second lap. The whole peloton ended up on my wheel, so I cruised again until lap 3 when I decided to try my hand at attacking on the hill. It turns out that Amy Cameron (Mikes Bikes) had the same idea at the same time, so the two of us got a clear gap with Felicia. Felicia was on a cross bike with only one chain ring in the front, so she told us she wouldn’t contest the sprint if we simply let her hang out. Amy and I traded pulls evenly until the last lap, when I started to think about the win. Amy attacked me several times on the hill, but I was feeling good and never let any daylight between our wheels. We came into the last corner side by side, and I opened up a sprint that was awkward (my gear was too big), but did the trick. I was happy to pull off the win. The hill climb Saturday afternoon was a very short affair — just under 5 minutes! — so the biggest challenge motivating ourselves to get back in the chamois in the 97 degree weather. Melanie crushed it, and just missed out on the win by seconds.
Going into Sunday’s crit, we had two goals — to win the race and win the omnium. Mel and I both had a plausible chance of winning overall for the weekend, since I sat in 2nd place on the omnium and she was in 3rd after her strong finish on the hill climb. Mel and I both attacked a bit, but then a break went off with me, Amy, Tina Hughes (Jakaroo Racing), and Amy Cordova (Wells Fargo / Chico Masters). Knowing Mel was back in the field and knowing she had a shot at the omnium, I just sat in during the break and didn’t work at all for about ten minutes. At this point, the ladies started attacking me (fairly), so I started pulling through. We realized shortly thereafter we were going to lap the field! After we caught the pack, we sat in and the race was painfully boring until 1 lap to go when Page Robertson (unattached) gave me the leadout of the weekend (we had stayed together at Felicia’s and had some lovely chats), and I crushed the sprint for a clear win. That sprint was such a bag of mixed emotions — it was like I was pouring all of my soul into the crank arms, and in return, I got a win for Folsom Bike. I love this team so much.