River Gorge Recap
River Gorge Omnium 8/27-28
I was on the fence about this race all season. Mostly because its late in the summer when I should be marathon training and includes a 7 hour drive each way. But Cascade left me restless. I wanted to go out on a higher note! My desire to prove Cascade’s performance as more a rare occurrence of that particular situation than a fair assessment of my performance level paired with the fact several WPP teammates would be racing solidified my registration to River Gorge. Having teammates at the race was a huge draw as I race Womens Project Pedal, a team based in Louisville KY, and did not get a chance to race with (or train with!) the team. I really felt like this was my chance to meet everyone as well as to prove my spot on the team. Road hasn’t been the focus on WPP in the past and it was also my goal to promote that aspect of riding more. The team is comprised of seriously strong women who mostly focus on cross + mtb. Since neither of those are my strengths, I was eager to give attention to the team showing up to a road race. I wasn’t going to miss it.
Friday night was a long drive. 7-8 hours with stops made for a 1am arrival which wasn’t awesome when paired with a 7am wake up and 9am race start for the TT. My legs felt heavy and so did my eyes. I woke up knowing this wouldn’t be great. Of course TT isn’t my area. This would be my third and the course being only 4 miles didn’t leave me with much time to warm up or use my endurance strengths. This played out just that dismally. The course was mostly downhill with one not insignificant uphill bump. I was shaky in the aero position downhill as I have never been in that position before and the rolling terrain left me in and out of aero bar usage to shift gears. I think I would have been better off with out using the bars at all. Oh well. I was overtaken by one rider (30 sec gaps) and had no delusion that I was riding well. The results backed up my feeling with a 23rd /51 (19/22 pro1/2 spot) finish. Whatever. I shook it off and tried to think more positively for the next event: Crit!
The team took a post TT trip to Whole Foods where of course we all spent too much $$ but at least we would be nourished the rest of the day!
The crit was Saturday evening. 7pm was a long way to wait from racing at 9:24am and I found myself getting really antsy. I wanted to be riding or something but instead tried to just sit, nap and eat. A few of us rolled down to the check in early, rode a lap of the course – a completely non technical rectangle, very reminiscent to Cascade’s crit. This was around 5pm and the sun was BLAZING at around 90 degrees. To not sweat to death, we rode back to the house (4 miles?) and hydrated, ate and warmed up through the neighborhood. The warm up was light riding which mostly consisted of racing neighborhood kids on BMX bikes who thought we were all crazy fast and had weird skinny tires. Those kids were cool. Go time. We got back to the course in time to ride another couple laps before grouping at the start. The crit was Women Pro1/2/3 together. Things went by in a blur as crits typically do. I was pretty determined to work my legs off at this event. As per ush, I was not as snappy initially as the other girls. I struggled to keep up on lap 1, and 2… The sun was setting over the second corner and I was blind and hesitant. I rallied. Not getting dropped this time (I repeated to myself over and over). I was able to get it together and chase back onto the lead pack. At one point I even attacked! Yeap, me off the front of a crit! Ha it didn’t last long, but it was fun to establish my position in the group. There were a couple times in the remaining laps where I’d be in the front, then hanging off the back, then sitting comfortably in the middle. Several times teammate Jenna and I took turns giving each other a wheel to not completely drop off the pace, it was nice to have someone to work with at a race!!! What a change! The course was simple, turns were not scary, which lead to an average speed of 26mph. No one would be getting away, but many were getting dropped. The field went from 51 to maybe 30 in the second half. The group sprint would be my downfall. I loose interest and this is something I need to improve. Finished 24th/ 51 (19/25 for PRO1/2). You can watch the race play out on this video (skip to 6:45).
I was really happy with this. I overcame my early slugglish legs and finished with the pack. Now the real question… would I recover for tomorrow’s RR? Okay I know what you’re thinking ‘okay you raced… great… but what did you EAT?!’. Corn chips + mango salsa, trail mix, coffee, a sugar free red bull, 4 starbursts (pre crit top off), glass of wine (post crit celebration), and bowl of curry chicken salad with greens + gluten free pasta. I know, nothing too exciting. Sorry. After the crit we all just settled into the house and hung out. There were 7 of us (5 girls 2 guys) staying together so things were cramped. I went to bed early.
And woke up early! Because its ROAD RACE day!! Hooray. Showered, had coffee, made pancakes drizzled with honey (ate 1.5 bc I wasn’t going to be under fueled like at Cascade!) and a side of bacon (unusual but I was just craving it). After a eating and some stretching I started to kit up and pack up since we had to check out of the house before leaving to the race. I wasn’t feeling nervous or anxious at all. I felt excited and ready which was a nice change of pace. The team had a plan when it came to the crit. They all knew who would be strong at what and how they typically race crits, but for the road race it was more of a gamble since I don’t think they are anyone’s focus (except me) on the team. No plan, no pre race tactics brief. I knew what I had to do: survive any early attacks and make myself into the lead group by the base of the finish climb. I sipped my sugar free red bull while packing up. It was 9am and already bright and sweaty hot outside. Eek. On the drive over we made a pit stop and bought small bottles of water and starbucks double shot cans. I gulped half my purchased bottle down and filled it up with Gatorade to stash away in my jersey pocket for the race as we didn’t have anyone planned to be at the feed zone.
I didn’t warm up for this race, just headed to the start line along with 56 other women (all cats started together). Normally I would have been terrified in this type of pack, but after Cascade, this seemed just fine. Nothing to panic about, this was going to be fun! I was determined to stay in the front third of the race, no hiding in the bunch for me at this one. I did just that. While the race started out at a nice pace, it eased off at the first climb. I thought we would break up the group here, but it didn’t happen. At least we didn’t shed a significant amount, maybe a couple dropped off, I really couldn’t tell. But the pace seemed to ease up. We headed down then up a little roller, then again… I saw a teammate ride to the front and as soon as she settled there, I shot up and off the front. I wanted someone, or a few someones really, to come with me but no one did. I rode off solo up the hill and down before easing up to rejoin the group. Again the pace had some fast points but generally wasn’t anything unbearable around the ‘lollipop’ and as we headed back up the first climb which at ~ mile 28 would be a 2 mile QOM climb. This is where things got real. I had got too comfortable in the easy pacing and when the climbers got their game legs on, I was late to the punch. Late but not gone. I pushed it hard to not drop off and hit the top with the lead pack of ~10 girls including 2 teammates. We pushed it hard down hill, rotating for roughly 5 miles until the pace eased up significantly. We had created enough of a gap to the main group to not really worry about it. About 5 riders caught back on to our lead group. No one seemed concerned. If they couldn’t top the QOM climb with the lead, it wasn’t likely they’d be much competition for the final 4 mile climb. As we hit the base of the climb everyone just went all out. I’m not so good at this. I ease my way into climbs. I settled in and mentally got focused and set out to chase people down. Midway up the first portion of the climb (think 2/3 climb then a little dip, then another 1/3 climb) I was in 8th position and working hard. I had some shifting issues but got over it and went as hard as I could to get up to the next group of 3 riders. I got them, passed them, was eager to keep going. This is where a smart move was key… In the corner of my eye I saw Debbie Milne coming HARD passed the group I had just passed. I attacked as hard as I could to catch her wheel as we topped the first portion and held her wheel for the brief downhill break. If I had gone at that alone, I likely would have tired on the downhill and got caught. So climbing again. This climb wasn’t as steep as I expected. I pushed hard and Debbie and I were coming up on a group of 3 riders. The lead female was off the front and out of reach. Damn her and her awesome pro legs! As soon as we joined that small pack it broke up. One dropped off, one stayed with us and one attacked ahead. So 3 of us were competing for third place at this point. I can’t say I wasn’t trying, I sure was! But I couldn’t get away from the other two women. With 1k to go we were all pretty maxed. At 200km I went as hard as I could, thinking the finish was straight up ahead… I was wrong. Where I thought the finish was was actually the sharp left turn up a steep super short incline to the actual finish line. Damn. I was used up. 8 seconds off third and 8 seconds off a podium but still 5th in a field of 56. I was happy. Really happy.
I didn’t do awesome overall (15th in the om), but I honestly rode pretty well. I know the TT will have to be a big focus going forward. But this season I tried to improve my crit skills, racing 5? total crits this season which is a lot for me. I only did 1 last season! Ha. So at this crit I really took what I had learned and used it and had way more confidence riding fast in a larger group around corners. Good things. As for the RR, before Cascade, lining up to start with that many competitors would have completely freaked me out. I would have been too nervous to eat before the race and too on edge to focus on my riding. This time, I had my shit together. I was comfortable and confident. I knew what to watch for and when to go and when to just relax. While Cascade wasn’t the race I hoped it would be, it taught me so much about riding at higher level. I’m glad I did it and I’m glad I did this race as well. Much better way to close out the season. I am excited about racing with WPP next season. This race let me get to know my teammates and their skill level. Honestly, WPP is going to bring it to road in the future! We have an super strong and talented group put together. I'm very very excited for this! I am also excited to include many larger omniums. I’m even shopping for a coach. Big things.