Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Arkansas Recap

Yeah - well my updating didn't last very long. Once we left Fayetteville our internet access (and cell phone reception) become pretty limited so I didn't get a chance to post. Here's a quick recap.

Joe Martin - Stage 2 was a 65 mile road race and Team Kenda had riders in numerous break attempts. Finally near the top of the climb a group of 18 separated from the rest of the field including Anne and Andrea. Debbie, Lee, and I were in the second group of about 15 riders. We kept three of us in the top 20 GC with Anne in 10th place, Andrea moving up to 17th, and I slipped to 19th. Stage 3 was a 70 mile road race and when Cheerwine rider Robin Farina went off the front solo no one expected it to stick. After some disorganized chasing with only Colavita and Team Revolution helping us out she slipped further and further away. A few unfortunate neutralizations added to her lead and coming back into town we were racing for second. Debbie knows how to position herself and she snagged an impressive 5th place finish. I managed an 8th place and Anne took 10th.

Final stage was the fun downtown crit. An 8 corner course it is fairly technical with a short but tough climb to the finish every lap. As is normally the case in bike racing position is key as the pace was sure to be high with riders getting gapped off the back. Our goal was to keep our three top 20 GC riders in the main group to hold onto both our individual GCs and our 3rd place team GC over Advil. The race started hard and after several laps Anne and I remained in the lead group of 16. Andrea helped position me up front for the final lap and unfortunately I lost the lead wheels going into the last corner. I held on for 8th again and we maintained our team GC and our 3 top 20 finishes. All in all it was a great race for us and we learned a lot as a team.

We had a great time in Fayetteville in big part due to our fantastic hosts. Marion and Carolyn cooked up delicious meals and did so much to help us out throughout the week. Thank you both so much for your kindness and generosity - you inspire us!!

We left for Dardanelle, AR on Tuesday to settle into some new homes for a few days before the Tour of Arkansas started. Unfortunately the womens race was shortened from last year and instead of the epic 4 day race of the past we were only going to have 2 days this year. We met up with the owners of Highlander Cycling - Bryon and his wife Michelle - and they welcomed us to town with some tasty food cooked by their friend Zach. Thanks guys! We split up into pairs and stayed with some gracious hosts in the area. Our time between races included previewing the road and TT course, going for an epic ride to Petit Jean, and doing some shopping at the local Wal-Mart - not something most of us normally do. When in Rome . . . er, Arkansas!

Here we are on top of Petit Jean trying to be at one with nature.

We also went and watched the men race up the infamous Mt. Nebo - something like 20 switchbacks over 2.5 miles. It's ridiculous and I wish the women got the chance to do it again this year! We didn't actually ride up it but rather my teammate Mary flagged down a pick up truck and we stuffed 6 bikes and 6 riders in the back! It was awesome - we had to leave the gate open to fit everyone and I don't know how Kat didn't fall out going up some of those switchbacks! Unfortunately we all forgot our cameras which was too bad since the views from the top were spectacular.

Saturday's 8:30AM start meant a 4:30AM wake up time - ouch! We knew it was going to be a VERY long day with our 65 mile road race in the morning and a 22 mile TT in the afternoon. In the future I might suggest the TT the day before the road race. This was a points race also which made strategy a bit tougher to plan out. Time meant absolutely nothing in the race - it's all about how you finish in relation to the other riders. There were 7 other women signed up for the womens open event and the organizers decided to combine our field with the master's men. This would certainly make for a more interesting and perhaps fast paced race but it complicated our tactics.

Team Kenda Tire raced really well together. We had numerous riders attacking and being involved in breaks. The men let us dictate much of the race but eventually they wanted to race themselves (rightfully so) and the breaks were always chased back. Frustrating for us all. At the base of the 8 mile climb the pace was pushed and I couldn't match the effort of 3 of the other girls. I tried to just find a rhythm and not let any other competitors pass me. When I crossed the line I figured I was 4th and only later found out I had gotten 2nd due to two of the girls taking a wrong turn. The result was nice but I know it wasn't quite earned. Andrea and Anne were 3rd and 4th, respectively, putting the pressure on for a good TT result later.

After a quick shower at the lodge (thanks for letting us crash your room Andrea and Ryan!) we ate and rested for maybe an hour. What a view!

Then it was down to Paris for the start of our TT. We all wondered how our legs and bodies would respond to such a long intense effort after the morning race. Brutal! Everyone went out and raced their hardest. My teammate Mary and her husband Jay have these two great hound dogs who love to chase things. So as I started the TT I tried to channel my inner "red dog" and chase down all those "rabbits" in front of me. I ended up catching 5 of them and logged the route in just under 53 minutes. We didn't stick around for official results but from our own computers knew that Debbie was around 50 and Andrea close to my time. We just hoped that was better than most of the competition!

We drove our ragged bodies to Van Buren for some Mexican food and to our hotels. They gave us these humongous glasses of water at the restaurant and Debbie offered up $5 to the first of us to finish. Always up for a challenge I sucked down the icy water and earned myself a crisp Abe Lincoln.

The next morning we arrived to the crit and results were still not posted. Now I'm never one to criticize officials and I know the long hours and how hard they work. But it just seemed to me that they could have figured out the TT results of 16 women a little more quickly. It meant we didn't know our overall positions until about an hour before the race start. Debbie had smoked the TT for 1st, beating Shannon from Metro by over a minute. Andrea was a minute behind her and I was 12 seconds back for 4th. Anne's time rounded out the top 5. This meant that Andrea and I were tied for 1st place with Shannon 1 point behind us. The crit didn't go exactly as we hoped but Shannon and I ended up lapping the field. Big thanks to my teammates for helping keep in position for the sprint. I was on Debbie's wheel and we were forced to take a line we didn't want around the last corner. Shannon has a fast jump and I just couldn't match her acceleration. Thus we were both tied in the omnium points but the organizers used the TT as a tie breaker putting me in second overall. Andrea's gutsy and strong performances impressed us all and she finished 3rd overall followed by Debbie in 4th.

All in all it was a great race for us to do as a team. I am really proud of how aggressive we were in the road race and how riders gave their all to try to protect our GC spots. I think we all learned a lot and our experiences will help us improve our strategy and tactics in future races.

Thanks to all of our great sponsors, host families, Paul, Mike, and Jay for helping us all out throughout our time in Arkansas!

Whew! That was a long update. I'm back teaching - it's fetal pig dissection time! - but I've only got 8 days left before I get ready for Nature Valley Grand Prix up in Minneapolis. But first this weekend brings the Iowa Memorial Day races. I'm going back to the Snake to see if I can pull it off for a third time. I know Team Revolution is going to put up a good fight :)
Should be lotsa fun!

1 comment:

mo--- said...

great job in Arkansas! You can totally make it 3 in a row this weekend. :-)