Tuesday, November 24, 2009

North Carolina - UCI win!

We decided to make the 12 hour drive down to North Carolina to race in a couple of UCI events in Hendersonville (just south of Asheville). Sure it's a long drive but we knew it was a chance to get some valuable UCI points, some $$, and a perfectly good excuse to go to one of the most beautiful states in the country. We could also keep the trip cheap as the promoter was offering free entry to all Elites and we were going to stay with my friend and Kenda teammate Kat at the awesome house she rents in the mountains.

So we started our journey on Thursday night with Kaitie, James, Linda, Daniel (Linda's husband and our team support for the weekend!), and myself. We drove to Seymour, IN (the home of John Mellencamp in case you didn't know) before calling it quits for the night and then driving the final 7 hours on Friday.
Things were going well and we were enjoying the amazing mountainous scenery of the drive. Little did we know that a major rockslide shut down our intended route through NC and we had to take a detour - shoot! We were chasing daylight now and our hopes of preriding the course weren't looking promising. Daniel is driving like a champ when all of a sudden we hear a "woop, woop" . . . ahhh yes, we were getting pulled over. Didn't help that the interstate was a total speed trap with a limit of 55 on a major four lane road. We sit politely while he goes over the documents and then a second cop car pulls up. Geez - we get a bit nervous now. Unbeknownst to us, apparently I-26 is a major drug trafficking route and the good ole boys in Tennessee have to search every vehicle they stop. A third car pulls up, we sigh silently in our heads, and one by one file out of the van to get frisked and stand by the side of the road while they start picking through our stuff. Now we've got absolutely nothing to hide so we're not really nervous but rather just annoyed and bothered by how long this is likely to take.
James was able to slyly take this photo. Luckily I only had my ankles patted down. So we stand by the side of the road making small talk with the cop. The two guys searching the van occasionally stick their heads out to spit from the dip of tobacco in their lower lips. After about 10 minutes I think they realize we're really not drug dealers masquerading as a bike racing team and thankfully don't take out the bikes and go through the back of the van. We all sort of laugh at the predicament, get back in the van, and drive slowly and carefully our final hour to Hendersonville.

We actually made it in time to ride one lap in the dusky dark and with the lights at the park we got a good idea of what we were in for. Fun course for sure - a good mix of some trail in the woods, some swoops, straight stretches, a hill run up, and a short steep grassy wall before the finish. We also met up with Linda's coach, Dave, who was also helping us out for the weekend.

We did a little grocery shopping and had some tasty dinner in the very cute downtown of Hendersonville before driving the 10 miles to Saluda where Kat is staying. It was great to see her and we so appreciate her opening the house up to all of us. It is beautiful there and this is the sight we awoke to.
Saturday looked to be beautiful with sun and temps in the low 60s. We got to the course and registered.
Very cool park with lots of wooded areas and I loved that the course went through some of them.
Team PB warming up.
So with only 15 women signed up for the race and not a lot of huge names we knew that this was a chance for us to do well. Maybe a little road racing tactics of attacking and counter attacking if possible. From the gun Kaitie went to the front before Dede came around but we were still a big group. I decided it was time to give it a go and attacked.
photo thanks to Shane Orr
I got a decent little gap and had maybe 5-10 seconds lead by the end of lap 1. I could see Dede Winfield riding alone behind me and kept the pace steady. She bridged up to me by the middle of the lap. I wasn't going to pull hard as I hoped perhaps Linda or Kaitie might bridge up to us and we'd have a better shot of going 1/2. Dede threw down a few attacks but I vowed to stick to her wheel.
photo thanks to Shane Orr
The laps ticked by and as we rode the course I realized that I was climbing the "wall" much better than she was and needed to be in front of her as we went into that. There was only about 200 meters to the line following the climb so the first one over the wall would likely win the race. As we went into it before bell lap I took the shortest line whereas she took a diagonal line and I was forced to put a foot down as I ran into her back wheel. I attacked before the woods hoping to get ahead of her there but I took a bad line and she came around. I got out of the saddle and pushed to get back onto her wheel. As we came into the grassy turns I attacked again and put it all out there to try to get a gap. I could hear the crowd cheering as I crested the wall and as I made the final turn onto the pavement I sprinted, looked back to make sure my lead was safe, and raised my arms. Incredibly awesome feeling to have won a UCI race! Dede is a strong rider and it was great to have the race play out like it did. Linda finished 3rd and Kaitie 4th. Excellent finishes for the PB women. Thanks so much to both Daniel and Dave for helping us out and working the pits. Linda and I got some really cool homemade trophies - sweet!
We cleaned up and then watched James race in the mens race. He was having some stomach issues and wasn't feeling top notch but still finished a solid 12th.
photo thanks to Shane Orr

Kaitie and Linda goofing around as usualMmm, post race bagel
Following the race we headed back to Kat's to clean up and James and Daniel even rode their bikes down the mountain to let their tires touch South Carolina. The setting sun over the mountains was spectacular. Then dinner at the Purple Onion - a cute little cafe in Saluda. Yum.
Followed by some intense air hocky action. Kat is unstoppable. No one was able to beat her, I think the duck slippers must have had something to do with it.
James did manage to score a goal against her somehow though.
The next morning we awoke to rain and temps in the 40s. We knew this was coming and my crazy mud loving teammates were super excited for the wet course conditions.
The spitting rain turned steady maybe 30 minutes before our race. The course was thin, slippery mud but luckily wouldn't bog the bikes down and bike changes would probably not be necessary. Brr it was cold though and all of the women huddled under a tent and shed lots of layers on the line. Off we went and Dede took the hole shot with Kaitie and I close behind. The third swoopy corner I took a little too hot and down I went - sliding across the mud. Back up and in nearly last place I began trying to move up. Linda was on the front killing it.
photo thanks to Shane Orr
I kept picking off riders and as I neared the end of the first lap I came upon Linda trying to put her chain back on! She had gone down and dropped her chain. I passed by her and she lost nearly a minute with the mechanical. Soon I moved into third place with Kaitie in front of me and Dede in front of her. That would be the rest of the race. I tried to get to Kaitie but just couldn't get there.
photo thanks to Shane Orr

She's an excellent mud rider and she finished second - about 30 seconds behind Dede. I was 3rd about 20 seconds back from Kaitie. Linda fought incredibly hard after her mechanical and was 4th.
photo thanks to Jeff Zimmerman
After the race I couldn't really feel my fingers or toes and Linda and Kaitie were shivering uncontrollably. We wanted to take more pictures but we needed to get cleaned up and into warm, dry clothes. Here's a picture of the bike.
I sprayed down with a hose and oddly enough the water almost felt warm compared to the air temp. We warmed up the van and got toasty before heading to the podium. More cool trophies.
Yakima had some tents set up with firepits so we went and hung out there to stay out of the rain. They also had free coffee and brownies.
The course was a sloppy mess. Here's the wall - it was virtually unrideable although a few guys were making it up.
James was riding really well in the messphoto thanks to Shane Orr
It was cold and rainy
James rode awesome and finished 6th - he was just a little bit dirty after the race

Ouch - mud in the eyes!
Congrats to fellow Wisconsinite Brian Matter who had a great weekend of racing to take 3rd and 2nd on the weekend.And then we got in the van and drove . . . or moreso Daniel drove. That guy is a rockstar - he got us all the way to Chicago. We pulled into Madison at 3:30AM safe, sound, and a little muddy. What a trip. Hands down one of the best race trips of the season. Granted taking the win probalby skews my perspective a bit but it was a beautiful drive, an awesome course, varied conditions, great people, and overall just a fun experience. Thanks to all the sponsors who help make it possible - Planet Bike especially.

Huge thanks go out to all of our great helpers this weekend!! Daniel helped us with bikes, worked the pits, and drove much of the way. He also entertained us with lots of fire fighter stories.
Dave helped make sure the bikes were dialed in, worked the pits, and helped clean them all up after Sunday. We really appreciated all of his hard work!
And Kat for hosting us for the weekend. We loved staying with her in the mountains and really appreciated her hospitality. And not only will she kick your butt in air hockey but she makes really good pumpkin pie too. Thanks so much!

Thanks so much for reading! A quick trip home for Thanksgiving followed by 3 days of UCI racing in Iowa City for Jingle Cross and then the Oregon beckons. USGP Portland and Nats in Bend. We're in the home stretch and I'm enjoying every minute.