NorCal Race Report found HERE
Our brand new Capo edition LadiesFirst kits have arrived and are being put to good use! Now it truly feels like the start of a new cross season.
I took the new kit out on the inaugural ride in the Marin Headlands of San Francisco, just in time for sunset. The dirt fire roads are a crosser’s paradise.
These dirt roads look nice, but shortly after I got a flat with my clincher wheel, and by the time that was fixed I had to ride home in the dark!
This Saturday is my first Cyclocross race of the season – its a local series called CCCX and the first race is down near Monterey. I can’t wait to get into cross-mode! Everything is going to come rushing back – the barriers, the cornering, the grass and dirt and hole shot.
See you all soon at the races!
By Anna Milton – 5/4/12
My mom and I rolled into registration just on time (maybe even early!) to the Wayne Elliot Memorial Circuit Race last Sunday, April 29th, and yet the pre-race jitters that I usually get weren’t there. I was excited more than anything because it was really my first race of the year, other than a Well’s Ave training crit at the beginning of April. Plus I had some great competitors, including Kristina Donehew, Joy Stark and Cait Dooley. The first two of the four 6 mile laps were completely uneventful, and everyone seemed a bit timid to launch any real attacks. Not to mention the race organization was a bit sketchy, seeing as the court marshals didn’t even bother to tell us the whole pack was going the wrong way until we had already turned left when we were apparently supposed to turn right, and also seeing as we all missed the first turn of the race because there were no signs. At the end of the second lap, one NEBC rider broke off the front, and it didn’t seem that the pack registered this breakaway until too late, no one drove the pace to chase her down until she had been gone for a good minute or two. From mid-pack I didn’t even see that she had launched an attack, otherwise I would have at least attempted to latch onto her wheel, but I guess that means I should be at the front watching more carefully. Suddenly, a burst of energy caused the strongest of the pack to eagerly dictate the pace, and Joy Stark seized the front while a few others, including myself, struggled to sit in behind her. The third lap came around, and I will never forget the scene of my screaming mother yelling totally “normal” and not embarrassing in any way words of encouragement like “you got it baby, gooo Anna!! That’s my girl! Woohoo!!” and me responding “Whose crazy mom is that? Definitely NOT mine…”. I guess I’ll have to learn to live with it…jk. love you mom <3
The third lap constituted of a peloton pace-line to chase down the NEBC girl, we had pretty much all stayed together except a few who had dropped off at the beginning. I got a couple of chances to lead, but my legs were tiring quickly at the front, and soon the front of the pack swallowed me up as Joy rode away from the group. I tucked in behind a good wheel and settled for the rest of the third lap, just making sure I didn’t end up at the back. About three quarters through the fourth lap, we were neutralized as the mens field passed us from behind, and we completely lost sight of Joy, the NEBC girl, and another who had bridged up to the attackers. On the final descent to the finish, forcing myself to think two steps ahead, I settled in a good position to protect myself on the downhill, knowing that if I wasn’t right in the middle of the group in a stable tuck, gravity would have taken over and I would have probably ended up off the back for the sprint, which isn’t my forte to begin with. As the descent leveled and we began to climb slightly just out of sight of the finish, I bridged up to the very front, securing a solid place for the sprint. It wasn’t the best line I couldn’t have chosen, but it wasn’t too bad, and by the time this was going through my mind, it was too late to change lines. My sprint finish needs some work, but it didn’t end up going too badly, and I landed myself 8th, about five women beat me to the finish in the peloton. All in all, I had fun, raced with awesome people, and recollected that it was definitely a good first race; it made me realize what I really need to work on, and got me excited for the long season to come!
Last year, Battenkill was pretty much my first road race. I’d jumped in a few here and there prior to the April classic, but it was the first road race I entered in the context of training for a road racing season – that is, with any expectations of doing well! Expectations are a funny thing, I found out, as I limped into something like 27th place dragging all those expectations between my legs. With so much hype surrounding the race and so little experience road racing, my expectations had proliferated out of control. I had filled in all the bits and pieces that I didn’t know – like how it was to ride in a peloton, to climb hills in early spring, to ferret out a win in a field sprint, etc. – with visions of flawless mastery on my part. I’d decided to be a road racer and yeah, I expected to be darn good one straightaway.
With a 4-hour drive home from the race, I’d had plenty of quiet time to contemplate the events of 10k to go in my first Battenkill, in which swarms of spry women bounced by me up the final climb while my legs screamed and tantrumed and flat out refused to do any more work. I arrived home with a lot more respect for what it took to be a good road racer and a determination to get better.
This year, I went into Battenkill having gone through a full season of the school of hard knocks. Last summer provided practice with navigating pelotons, descending and climbing in road race conditions, minimizing energy expenditure during a race, and reading race developments. At Bennington I’d suffered up far worse climbs and survived, in Cascade I’d gotten dropped on far worse descents but fought back, at Green Mountain I’d made tactical errors and evaluated them later. Lyne taught me how to fuel and hydrate properly during a race, and that made a huge difference in feeling strong in the finishing miles. My dad’s gift of a Garmin and the discovery of the cue sheet were invaluable in deciding how to mete out effort during races as well. Another adjustment I made was focusing training this winter on pure base-building with a lot more long rides and increased overall volume but no intervals. I wanted to make sure my body would hold up over the length of the race this time.
That said, I had been down in the dumps in the weeks leading up to Battenkill. Rather than hyper teenage expectations, I had hardly any. I hadn’t even pulled together a bike to ride, and I nearly bailed on making the trip!
Expectations are a funny thing, I found out, as when I had lost sight of them, good people stepped in to help.
Earlier in the week my friend Scott had helped put my training experiences into perspective – and to encourage good recovery habits. Then, my friend and coworker Abby came to the rescue. She reminds the students all the time “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” and her words became my mantra. So you might be tired and feel crappy and not have your best performance? At least go out and have fun racing, as that’s what it’s about anyway. So my “real” road bike (cross bike) isn’t ready, take the pit bike. Don’t have time to change to road gearing? Just make do with cross gearing. My mom pointed out, “Hey even people with the most expensive bikes and best gear can get flats that take them out of the race.” It didn’t have to be perfect, just good enough.
Still, driving home from work on Friday I had nearly made up my mind to stay home until I had a conversation with my brother Jesse. “Why wouldn’t you go?” He asked, to which I had no answer other than that I had been feeling crappy. “Well, your legs you mean?” Momentarily annoyed as I thought feeling crappy pretty much covered it, I muttered something about “Yes, the legs, and I’m just so tired.” “Well have you gotten in some rides as long as the race?” Annoyance turned to indignation, “Yes, every weekend!” “Well, the thing is, feeling crappy is just that, a feeling. Your fitness is there, so it might hurt more than usual but you can do it. I mean, you already signed up right?” It was like he was pouring Draino down the clogged convolutions of my brain. “Why don’t you go out and do some openers today…I’d recommend you go.” Then he stopped over later all kitted up and stinky from his ride – he was out getting it done, what was I doing? Yeah, no way was I bailing out of this one.
And so I went.
Friends in Lenox offered a comfortable bed and after a great night’s sleep, I set off for Cambridge, New York. Signs for a Saturday night square dance and town names including “Creek” and “Hollow” announced that arrival to the event was near. Once at the venue, I bumped into cycling friends I hadn’t seen since cross season or before, and it was fun to catch up as we checked tire pressure, taped on cue sheets, pinned numbers, and waited for our afternoon start times. Admittedly, I was not in high spirits but friends’ good vibes began to rub off.
At the start, Richard Fries set a jovial mood with his mention of the “sacrosanct” yellow line and reminders to dismount one’s bike should mid-race service be required. Soon we were off under a warm sun. I had no idea how my fitness would stack up so I decided to stay conservative early in the race. The pack stayed together over the first climbs, and I cautiously noted that the hills did not seem as horrific as I’d remembered it from the year before. About midway through the race, a couple riders became a bit more spirited up some of the climbs, and the pack split into two groups for a bit, but after some descents and flats both groups came back together. None of the climbs induced hallucinogenic pain as they had last year, and though I did get dropped on the one “S” descent, I was prepared for that and the friendly chaps on the Mavic motorcycle offered kind words as they putted past and again as I caught back on.
With about 20 miles to go, attacks went off pretty steadily, but nothing stuck until around 15 miles to go. Veronique Fortin and Alizee Brien danced away up a short steep climb with Marti Shea, Evelyne Blouin, and I following. Veronique easily pulled away from Alizee while Marti, Eveleyne and I stayed together a bit back of Alizee. The course was climbing steadily over rough gravel, leaving each woman to forge her own fate: both gaps remained about 20 seconds for several miles. Once the course smoothed out a bit, Marti and I rallied together and enlisted Evelyne to work in a pace line to chase down the two women ahead. Eventually, Evelyne dropped off the pace. Turning at the 10k to go mark to climb the final hills, I smiled to myself knowing that I still had some legs left and though it would hurt, I was contesting a top 4 spot. Marti and I worked side by side then she gapped me on the second tier of the hill and rode off toward Alizee. Staying calm I took a few moments to recover and then charged steadily ahead. Several north shore riders cheered and heckled as I climbed past them which spurred me on. Once Marti caught Evelyne around 5k to go, I had recovered sufficiently and I started to build my effort. The motorcycle dangled like a carrot just behind the pair. Time trial mode is no stranger to me, and I hunkered down and kept the legs churning. Little by little I crept closer and I started to sniff a podium finish. Finally around 2k from the finish I just managed to latch onto the two, and we descended toward Main Street. With 1k to go we started to glance around and Marti made a few attacks that I followed. Around 400 meters from the finish I came around the two and gave the sprint everything I had to finish in 2nd place, about 45 seconds back of the incredibly strong Veronique. Alizee (who it turns out is only 18!) finished 3rd and Marti 4th.
I have many to thank for helping me get to the start line, for avoiding the regrets of a missed opportunity. I’m so glad I went and made some fond memories at this season opener.