Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nature Valley Wrap Up

Kat is missing from this picture since she was getting drug tested!

So of course the last couple of days got hectic and the blog updates came to a stop. Here's some pictures and an update of how the last two days went.

Saturday was the 92 mile Mankato Road Race. A nearly 2 hour drive to and from the course it ends up being a long day. We really lucked out with weather this year and we got sunny, upper 70s, and calm winds. The race takes you out on an 86 mile loop through the rolling countryside of the area before you come back to Mankato and race 4 finishing circuits. There is a rather long, rather steep hill each circuit and the race always splits up here. Generally the race is not terribly hard the first 86 miles as everyone knows the circuits are coming. Crosswinds can sometimes be a factor but this year they were virtually nonexistent.

Fueling up on PowerBar!

So off we went and there were several attacks as some riders were hopeful to get a break off. Webcor was especially aggressive as they were caught up in crashes at Cannon Falls and lost many of their GC spots. I played around at the front for a bit and was involved in a few moves but I knew conserving for the end was very important. There were times when the race was fast but it generally was relatively easy. A break of 4 riders formed somewhere around mile 60 but they were lower GC riders and I think everyone assumed it would be brought back as we got closer to Mankato.

I took a feed from the car at one point and was yelled at by a few riders from big teams when I dropped back a bit behind COM1. Geez - I'm sorry I'm not a P-R-O like you girls and don't take feeds very often. I don't understand why they can't try to be a bit more positive and encouraging with the smaller teams!

We roll into Mankato and the pain cave begins. I had decent position and as the girls charged up the hill I was at the tail end of the lead group. The second time up a split happened and I ended up at the back of the second group. Whew - that hill is a grinder! It seems to never end and is darn steep. The third time I tried to hold my position but was falling behind the group. I could see a group of about 10 riders but could not reach them and the final time up the climb I tried to push hard and fight for every second. I finished 41st on the stage and 1'45" behind the leaders of the race. The break of 4 stuck and finished 2 minutes ahead of Kristin Armstrong's group. She nearly lost her yellow jersey but at the end of the day held onto it by 12 seconds.

My teammate Ally had a great race and finished 21st - in the group with the leaders. Poor Jackie got a flat tire with one circuit to go and ended up waiting nearly 5 minutes for neutral to help her out. Silke, Christy, and Kat were giving their all out there and finished strong.

We had photographer Frank Rowe in the team car for this race and he took some pretty amazing shots throughout the race. Check them out here

Christy was a little tired after the race!

Post race we had a nice team dinner in Mankato and Kat dispersed out some of her special cookies - squirrels this time!!

What a long day though - it was past 10 when we got back to the host homes and we had to prepare for Sunday's hellish Stillwater Crit the next day. Ally had eaten a bit too much sugar throughout the day's race and had some extra energy and challenged Christy to a wrestling match.

Ally wrestled in college and has got some skills - Christy was a trooper for sparring with her!

Sunday is the toughest and final stage of the NVGP. This is always a crazy race with generally only 40 or so riders actually finishing and everyone else getting pulled and getting a prorated time. Stillwater is a beautiful town right on the Mississippi River and is thus located right on a steep bluff. The 1.3 mile course climbs up Chillikoot Hill which is a 700 meter climb that averages 22%. After you get to the top of that there is some false flat and another little kicker before you finally get to turn and come down a fast but really fun descent. I took a picture of the hill but it's not very good!

I really like this race because I like power climbs but I also love this race because so many of my family and friends come out to watch it. Thanks so much to my parents, aunt and uncle, Mike and Karla, Ryan and Rachael, and anyone else out there cheering me on!

We prerode and then hopped on trainers in the shade and tried to get the legs ready and stay cool. You start at the very base of the climb so positioning is important as you don't want to have to be navigating your way up through tons of traffic. This is it - just under an hour of pain!

I had decent position and tried to pick my way through riders the first time up. Still a big group over the top but by the second time up riders were popping. I was out of the saddle and trying to move up and stick to wheels. I was feeling decent but as the laps ticked by I found myself in a second group maybe 30 seconds behind the leading group of maybe 15. I was so happy to see my teammate Ally in my group of 15 riders and we rode together for the next several laps. The fans were so awesome and people were lined up on the hill screaming. This race has such a cool atmosphere!

With about 3 laps to go I found myself hitting a wall. I struggled to stick to the wheels in my group and was gapped off. Myself and another rider worked together and we could see the group just ahead of us. On the final lap I pushed through and charged up the hill nearly catching the tail end of the group. I finished 32nd on the day - 3 minutes behind winner Kristin Armstrong. results

Ally rode awesome and finished 22nd. All of my teammates rode well and everyone made it through to finish off the race. The GC can totally change after this race and I was able to move up to 23rd - my best finish in my 4 years of doing this race. I'm really happy with how things went for myself and for the team. Team Kenda ended up 10th on the Team Classification out of 18 starting teams. It was a great showing for us and as a team we had so much fun throughout the race. We had an awesome group put together for this race and the comradarie and positive energy made for a successful and fun race experience.

Thanks so much to Team Manager Paul, Team Mechanic Mike, and all of the sponsors that helped make this team and this race possible.

After the race I got some lunch with my parents and my aunt and uncle. It was so much fun to chat with them and get some good food - mmm salmon burger (with bacon!) and sweet potato fries.

After lunch I gathered up the girls and we headed back to host housing to pack up and head back home. Jackie and Ashley had been stalking Floyd Landis all week and after Stillwater they surrounded him and got him to sign their arms. Such groupies! :)

The car was pretty packed to the gills with three people, 4 bikes and lots of luggage and wheels. Gotta love the Subaru!

Thank you so much to all of our wonderful host families throughout the week. We had such great accommodations and it was so nice to have us all within a few blocks of each other. Thank you Kirk and Angela, Robbie and Linda, and Jeff and Nancy!! We really appreciate your generosity and hospitality!! Also thanks to Ryan and Rachael, and Mike and Karla for taking Kat Sunday night and helping her get to the airport Monday morning!

Wow - this entry ended up way longer than I intended!! Jackie and I are in Madison waiting for the America's Dairyland series to start tomorrow. Krystal will arrive tonight and a few more Kenda riders will join in on a few days. The racing should be great with solid prize purses and great courses. Tomorrow is the Blue Mounds Road Race which is sure to be tough! I'll try to post race reports as often as I can!!

Thanks so much for reading!!

1 comment:

Megan M said...

Nice job at NV! Go kick some butt at Dairlyland!!