Bariani road race this year was very hot and very busy with our combined P/1/2/3 field containing around sixty riders. Last year it was incredibly windy and rainy, making for very tough conditions and a shattered field. This year was completely different; wind was low and we knew that breaks would be difficult to stick given the flat nature of the course. Six of us lined up for the 3pm start: Diane, Liz, Senders, Melanie, Amy and me. Sara let us stay over with her in Sacramento after racing Land Park the previous day, which was super fun and convenient. Since we knew that breaks were unlikely, our plan was to hold off on attacking until the latter half of the race and then formulate a leadout train in the last kilometre or two while I conserved energy for the sprint.
Bariani consists of three 13.7 mile loops, flat except for rollers followed by a slight uphill leading into the finish. Centerline rule was enforced until the final straight so we made sure to move to the front as quickly as possible to prevent missed moves. We had a tailwind on the first straight, then we took a right turn on the overpass before another right turn onto a slightly bumpy section with a headwind. Positioning was vital here: attacks were likely and it is always safer to be further up. Melanie, Sara and Diane put in some powerful attacks that were chased down mainly by singles such as Liza Rachetto of Hagens Berman, Lisa Cordova from Cycle Sport, and Clarice Sayle & Amanda Seigle from Jakroo. JLVelo also had a strong showing of 20+ riders.
Melanie put in a very strong attack in the rollers which nearly led to separation but was brought back by the large field. The first part of Lap 2 wasn’t too eventful, although four of us did get a bit of an echelon going in the crosswind. There were a few attacks but it was clear that nothing was going to stick. Unfortunately, ~27 miles into the race there was a big crash which took down around twelve riders including Amy. Some riders managed to chase back on but there were some pretty bad injuries. Hope everyone is okay and healing well!!
Attacks died down on the last lap and the pace was very slow leading into the rollers. Then Melanie and Diane launched a series of attacks along with Sara and Liz. It was getting quite crazy as everyone scrambled to chase and a small group nearly got away. We rounded the final corner with only a few riders shed, but everyone was much more tired so attacking had been a smart more. After the turn was a 1.7 mile slight uphill stretch with a bit of a tailwind. I was meant to get on Sara’s wheel but somewhere along the way I got caught up with other riders and got stuck at the back. Diane rode super strong at the front while Melanie and Liz got on her wheel. I was surrounded on both sides and realized that I had to get out if I wanted to contest the sprint. There were no gaps for me to jump in so I had to brake and come out the back and to the right of the pack. I pulled up till I was around fourth wheel back, but I was stuck to the side with no draft. Sara was just about to help me when I saw Sandra Freeman (JLVelo) come shooting up the right side. I jumped on her wheel and stayed there until the finish was within reasonable distance, then pulled to her left and continued that long, long sprint that seemed to go on forever! Liza Rachetto very very nearly passed me at the finish but I managed to barely hang on. Close behind was Lisa Cordova and Nicole Pressprich (Audi) followed by Sandra Freeman.
Although our leadout train didn’t quite work–completely my fault–it was fun to try new tactics and, apart from Amy’s bad luck :(, it was a good day. Melanie, Diane, Sara, Liz and Amy did a great job tiring out the rest of the field and helping me with positioning. I have a lot to work on but I’m very excited to continue the season with this awesome team. It was great that we had such a large field and it’s clear that races and tactics are playing out differently than last year with the size and strength of various teams. Thank you to Sacramento Golden Wheelmen and Bariani for hosting such a great event. Now onto the next race–San Dimas begins next Friday!!
Snelling is one of those classic races that not only unofficially marks the start of the racing season, but has a special place in the memory of almost every cyclist in the NCNCA. Everyone has a story from Snelling. Like that one year someone put rubber ducks in all the puddles after it rained, or that other time when a tiny, territorial, terrier almost chased the peloton off the road. There was the time when one female rider escaped off the front in the first few miles of the race – and everyone forgot about her – and that year when it was discovered that some upset person had dumped a box of tacks in the road, resulting in flats for all.
I was reminded of all this as the group sat chatting at the startline for the 2017 edition of the women’s P12 race at Snelling. With JL Velo 10 riders strong and several noteworthy singles, including Clarice Sayle (Jakroo) and Megan Ruble (Specialized p/b Musclemilk), our squad of 5 – Sara Bird (aka Birdie), Sara Enders, Illi, Liz and I – knew we needed to make this race tough out of the gate and hopefully form a break with at least two of our riders in it.
As soon as we were released from neutral, Birdie and Sara started laying down attacks in rapid succession. Throughout the first half of the race we pushed the pace, trading attacks with Amanda Siegle (Jakroo), however each time we were pulled back by the numerous members of the JL Velo squad. In particular, the strong winds made it difficult to stay away and even when we managed to get our ideal composition in the break (at least two riders), riders from other teams would refuse to work (even if they had equal numbers of representation) and eventually it would get pulled back. I always liken it to a card game – each new break is a new hand you have to play and although it doesn’t always work out, you can reshuffle the deck and try again.
Nevertheless, by the last lap we had whittled a formidable-sized field down to a handful of riders – including 3 JL Velos (Marissa, Sandra, Emily), Clarice and Megan. Our entire squad of 5 was still riding strong, so we continued to attack with the goal of making Claire, Megan and Marissa (three riders we knew were riding strong) do as much work as possible.
The lead-up to the Snelling finish line is a long, straight, bumpy road, then a 90 degree right hand turn to a final set of double rollers. Position into the right hand turn is critical. Ideally you want to be sitting within the top 5 wheels (although not at the front) to still have enough draft protection up and over the first roller, but not so far back that you can’t kick and pass the remaining people by the second hill. On the bumpy lead-up Liz mounted an impressive attack, forcing Claire to chase hard into the right hand turn. Illi was sitting 3rd wheel and I was sitting 5th as we sprinted into the first hill. I knew I wanted to reach the base of the 2nd hill first (it’s much more difficult to pass people on a hill), so I forced my way to the front and was beginning my second kick when I saw Sandra from JL Velo come flying up my right hand side. She hit the base of the second hill first and I launched after her. I made up a good amount of ground, but not quite enough and she rolled over the line about half a bike length ahead of me. Claire finished 3rd with Illi close behind in 4th. Sandra had used the leadout of her remaining teammate to sneak up the right hand side, unbeknownst to the rest of the field.
There are always things you wish you could have done differently in a race – but at the end of the day I’m incredibly proud of my teammates and their selfless work. We are a different team than last year, so tactically we have a lot to learn, but the one thing that remains the same is our culture of active racing and sacrifice for the good of the team. On a personal level, I’ve always dreamed of being on the podium in this classic race and I’m happy to see that all my hard work in the off-season paid off. Cheers to many more races to come my friends!
A few weeks ago Amy, Melanie, Liz and I headed North for a fun weekend at the Chico stage race. This was my first time doing it and all I really knew about it was the infamous gravel section of the Paskenta road race. But that was on Saturday, and first we had the Thunderhill circuit race on Friday. It was a rollercoastery hour of fun. The course was different than previous years, so the first few laps were spent figuring it out. Hagens Berman were pretty aggressive and grabbed all the hot-spot sprints, but no breakaways succeeded and it came down to a bunch finish. I tried to follow riders as they formulated their leadout trains and got into a good position for the finish. I came 7th with Melanie, Amy and Liz rolling in at the same time. It was a good start to the weekend but we knew that the next two days was where our position would be determined.
Saturday was the 90 mile Paskenta road race. The day was off to a good start with a delicious breakfast made by Melanie. That’s the good thing about stage races…you can eat as much as you want!
I was extremely happy to find out that the four-mile gravel stretch was shallow and apparently much better than previous years. The first lap was tame until a couple of miles before the gravel where everyone began fighting for position. A five-person breakaway group had gone very early in the race which contained a rider from every big team, so no one was working to bring it back. It was going okay until we hit the horrendous pothole section before the gravel, about two hours in. I hit a particularly bad hole and got a pinch flat right when the field was starting to split. Luckily I got it changed quickly and got up to a chase group–we worked hard to catch back on but it turned out that everyone was stopping for a pee break anyway.
By this point, the break was a whole eight and a half minutes ahead. Eventually the pace picked up and I started to regret not drinking or eating very much. We all stayed intact the last time through the gravel which ended just a few miles before the finish. Bottles were flying and energy was building. The pace surged on the little hill coming out of the gravel and Melanie and I just barely made it over with the first group and hung on till the finish. We were slightly gapped coming over that little hill and if Melanie wasn’t there to help bridge up I don’t think I would’ve made it!
I had been wearing the white jersey but lost it because another junior was in the 75 mile breakaway.
We were extremely thankful to Sara E for coming up to help in the feedzone and bringing our awesome Oakleys!!
The last day was the TT and crit. The TT was shortened to an out-and-back 8 miles due to flooding. This pretty much determined our GC positions, as our times were all close together leading into it. We all rode pretty well and then caffeine-loaded before the crit (thanks for the great mocha Amy…I basically spent the entire weekend eating other people’s food). The crit was just forty minutes of a six-corner L through downtown. I started at the back and was never able to move up, so I wasn’t too happy at the finish. Most importantly, we all stayed upright and our GC positions remained the same.
Overall I learnt a ton and had a super fun weekend. Thank you for being amazing teammates! Staying with a host family was also a new experience for me and I loved it.
Now we’re doing a few local races before heading to San Dimas at the end of the month!