Friday, June 12, 2009

Nature Valley Day 2

Thursday night we had Stage 3 of Nature Valley with a 67 mile road race that didn't start until 5:30. We enjoyed our lazy morning by sleeping in and going for a team shopping trip at Target. Good times!

We arrived in Cannon Falls with plenty of time to relax and go preride the notorious gravel road and gnarly paved descent that takes you onto the finishing circuit. Getting onto the gravel in the top third of the field is super important if you don't want to kill yourself trying to chase onto the surging field of riders.

The race started out pretty quickly with a QOH (Queen of the Hills) sprint just under 4 miles in. I decided I would give these a go but didn't have enough kick to make it to the line and finished 5th - points are only awarded to top 3! There was a minor crash about 5 miles later that Christy got caught up in but she recovered quickly.

The race went by really fast. There was some attacking at the front and I was in a short lived break at about mile 20. Nothing seemed to stick and as the miles ticked by we were a big field of 100 some riders. About 5 miles before the turn on the gravel road a huge mass of riders went down in the middle front of the field. I was able to slow down and get around it fine but many girls were caught up in it. Luckily no Kenda riders were involved. The field surged ahead and there was no attempt to wait up for fallen riders.

Mike was on the radio warning us of the coming gravel road so we knew to be prepared. I was in a great position in the front third of the group on the inside of the corner. For whatever reason the front riders didn't realize how quickly the turn was coming and either missed it or overshot it causing everyone on the outside to be caught off guard. I took advantage of my position and was in the top 15 onto the gravel.

I rode hard trying to move up and ride solidly through the section. As we got onto the broken up paved descent I hung onto the drops and bombarded down the hill. I heard someone say "I'm right here Kristin!" just behind me and once we had safely on the circuit was ecstatic to see my teammate Jackie on my wheel.

The first circuit was wicked fast as riders were hoping to open up a gap on whatever chaos had occured in the gravel. I encouraged Jackie to be smart with her position and hold on for the next 5 laps. The pace slowed slightly after the first lap and we rode smartly. Gaps were opening though and we had to jump around a few riders who were getting popped. There were just over 40 riders in the lead group and on the last lap I wasn't in a position for a top 10 and was just pleased to get the same time as the leaders. Jackie ended up 26th and I was 31st.

Ally and Silke were in the first chase group just over a minute back and Kat and Christy 3 minutes back in the second group. Ashley got a flat in the gravel and rode awesome considering her predicament!

What a crazy race! Totally shook up the GC with Webcor and TIBCO being the major teams that got caught up in the crashes. I've now moved up in the GC to 30th with Jackie in 39th. This race is really decided on Saturday and Sunday though so there is plenty of time for things to change.

After the race was over we enjoyed a quick cool down ride. Check out Kat wearing Mike's jacket - she looked like a superhero!

Huge thanks again to Paul and Mike for all of their hard work. Mike was great on the radios giving us a heads up on things and our bikes were tuned up perfectly. It was a late night and we didn't make it back to host housing until after 10.

Luckily today is only a crit in Minneapolis this evening so we got to have another relaxing morning/day. We went for a nice spin this morning with the guys.

Tomorrow will be a big day with the 92 mile Mankato Road Race. The finishing circuit that we do 4 times has a killer climb in it and the field will shatter once we hit it the first time. I'll try to give an update on tonight's crit if possible! Thanks for reading :)

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