I raced the Fayetteville Stage Race this weekend. The race is about two hours west of Austin
On Friday I picked up my race packet and did my leg-openers on the time trial course and drove the Saturday RR course. Roads were all perfectly paved, smooth; rolling hills with nothing huge to speak of.
Saturday morning I showed up seemingly pretty early but by the time I was parked and had my bike unloaded and wheels with neutral support and all that, I was a little crunched on time. Lucky that for road races you really don’t need much of a warm up. I spun around on the road as much as I could. At this point skies were partly cloudy and it was about sixty degrees. The weather report showed possible T-storms but there didn’t seem to be anything threatening on the horizon. I went with regular old summer kit: jersey, shorts, lightest pair of gloves, nothing else. Stupid girl.
They marshalled us 15 minutes prior to the start and we stood around in the dirt parking lot letting our legs cool down. Women’s Open field amounted to 18 riders. I think the Women’s 4s had about the same. There were four riders on one team, AT&T, and the rest of us were solo. Finally we had a neutral start and rolled out of town, only to come to a train crossing…with a train rolling through. Five more minutes of waiting. So much for the warm legs!
Annnnd…the rain started. Started pretty light, then a few miles later it was steady, then only a few miles later it was coming down cats & dogs. Pouring, driving rain. The kind where, if you take your glasses off to see better, you get daggers in the eyes. Glasses go back on. Thunder & lightning. Seriously, a light show. Insane storm. What can you do! Just keep pedaling.
We rolled out pretty steadily but it didn’t take long before the attacks started. Attack after attack, just constant. The AT&T team threw a bunch of attacks but even solo riders were trying to fly off the front. There were two or three riders who kept chasing it all down and I tried to keep about third wheel on these chases. I did not on any terms want to let a break get away but I also did not want to waste energy chasing. I also wanted to observe and see how this pack worked. I could understand the AT&T attacks but I couldn’t understand why the solo riders would attack so early. The AT&T team just chased them all down, no problem. Eventually the solo chasers started to lose their jump so I had to jump in and lead. End result was a lot of energy blown off and no break to show for it.
Then the rain got even harder. Some of the women started complaining about how we should neutralize ourselves til the lightning passed (what good does that do when you’re in the middle of a cow pasture!?). We sort of bunched up. At this point I was chilly but I didn’t really notice the cold too much. The consensus among the group was that they would probably call the race after one lap (23 miles). That was enough for me. I attacked right when the rain was coming down the absolute hardest. And got….nowhere.
We rolled through the finish/start with only a little jockeying for position in case the race was called. This acceleration was enough to leave eight of us a gap on the rest of the field. We ran with it and all worked together to establish the break with a paceline, and more or less shared the work evenly. AT&T had 2 in the break. This peace lasted almost all the way through the lap. One rider was dropped on a short climb and another flatted out, but the rest of us just kept plugging together. Finally the rain and cold were getting to me. About ½ way through this lap I just hit a cold wall. My hands were ice blocks and I couldn’t feel the shift paddles in them. I couldn’t shift up front without using both hands to pull the lever over and to shift on the rear I had to wrap my entire fist around the shift lever and jam it in as far as I could (where it would then stick at a crazy angle). DoubleTap is a nightmare in this situation! Every time I tried to downshift, my feeble efforts would result in a half-throw and an upshift instead and I had to try again with twice the effort (Di2 please).
The two AT&T ladies were clearly going to dictate the sprint. Larry and I had talked about a plan to attack before the final sprint and this seemed like the right time to give it a go. At 1km to go I went with all my effort. I had to get a gap or I wouldn’t accomplish anything. This definitely caught everyone by surprise. At about 300m to go the road sloped uphill for the final sprint and I needed to downshift to keep my speed up. My legs were pretty much toast. Unfortunately I just COULD NOT shift. As I was wrestling with my shifter the AT&T pair caught me at 200m and sprinted clean by. 3rd place.
The 3 mile ride back to the parking lot was almost unbearable…shaking and teeth chattering. I think I understand what Allison felt like in Portland. I finally managed to work my car keys, get my shoes and helmet off and dive in. I sat in there forever trying to warm up.
Lessons: Dress right. Attack earlier than 1km at the end.
I drove back to my hotel and got warm for a few hours before the afternoon TT. My start time wasn’t until five PM so I had plenty of time to rest up. The weather cleared up and only the wind remained for the 6 mile TT. I had a smooth warmup and was relaxed going into it. Went off steady, ramped it up as I went along, and busted my ass on the final 2 mile uphill. Tied for 3rd, 11 sec behind 2nd place and 1 min 21 sec behind 1st place…who would have finished 20th in PRO MEN! Holy moly. 1 min 21 sec difference on a 6 mile course? 16-17min time? That is a big difference.
Lessons: Get. More. Aero.
OK, I’m sitting about 30 seconds or so behind the AT&T pair on GC. Have to do something big today if I want to make that up. The course was almost the same as Saturday’s RR with a shortcut so we did 3 laps for a total of 49 miles. Weather was sunny, about 50 deg, windy.
Everyone running together on the first lap with the exception of Louise, the first place finisher in the TT. She was riding like a madwoman. She must have attacked 6 times just on the first lap. She wouldn’t even try to surprise anyone; would just start to motor away off the front. Needless to say she was chased down by AT&T every time. It was insane.
I made sure to grab the hill climb time bonus (just 3 seconds, but I wanted everything I could get) on the 2nd lap. Soon after one of the other riders told me that if I attacked she wouldn’t chase. I had been thinking about how I needed to make a big break if I wanted to make up the GC time but I hadn’t seen a way to feasibly get away. That jolted me back to thinking about it. I was running out of time.
Louise clearly had the motor and was kamikaze enough to still make something happen if she would just chill out enough to do it smartly. I talked to her and convinced her to sit in & rest for the remainder of the 2nd lap and first ¼ of the third lap. At the top of the first hill we would both throw an all-or-nothing attack.
At the top of that hill I was trying to drift back behind the AT&T girls to get a surprise jump…but there goes Louise off the front with no chance at surprise. Hahahaha. This girl is nuts. So there we go. They jump right on her and I jump on their wheels, then pull around and put in a big acceleration. Louise & I trade big pulls for a while. We’ve dropped everyone but AT&T. I call Louise off and sit in behind all three for 30 sec. Then attack from behind all-out and get a gap on all of them. I go go go for probably 3-4 minutes but I’m just hanging out front with a 40 yard gap. They finally pull me back and Louise counter-attacks. I let the AT&T girls chase. I’m gassed. We’ve got Louise at about 15 yards but they never seal the deal. At this point I’m thinking hell I’m not going to work here, these girls are going to have to do all the work. They are sitting 1-2 on GC and Louise is more than 2 min down. I’m sitting on their wheels and they hate it. We turn a corner heading straight into the wind and I’m pretty sure that spells the end of Louise but she just keep putting distance on. This girl is crazy.
It was pretty clear that the AT&T pair were losing steam. They were working but it didn’t feel like they were working hard enough. They tried to convince me to work with them…telling me Louise was only 1 min down on GC (blatant lie). I put in a few pulls to get them comfortable and then attacked. One AT&T girl dropped.
The last girl and I worked together for a little while but again it was clear that she didn’t have it. I attacked her again and dropped her on a little climb. I could see Louise ahead but she had put on a big gap at this point. I was never able to close it and just worked as hard as I could to put as much distance as possible between me & the AT&T pair.
Pulled across the finish line 53 sec behind Louise and 54 sec ahead of A&T. Including time bonuses I moved up to 1st on GC by 32 seconds, Louise moving into 3rd 50 seconds back. Perfect!
Lessons: Don’t wait to close the gap…if you don’t do it when it’s 15 yards, you definitely won’t do it when it’s 250 yards.