Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday - 98-Mile Johnstown to Altoona

This race-deciding course rolls and winds for a 20-mile loop before a sprint line, then rolls again until the big Blue Knob climb at mile 60, then two more hills before a flying 10-mile descent. We almost pulled off an awesome day, and all in all it went pretty well. Everybody rode to the limits. The plan was to have me and Kirsten go up the road in the early break and have me drive it while she sat on. The head start would allow Kirsten to meet Heather at the top of the climb, help her out there. Elisa would be our third climber, Natalie would look out for Heather, and Laura would be a utility rider and save her legs for the crit. I got in a small break on the first loop, Kirsten tried to bridge, but the break got too big and got pulled back. After the sprint it was attack-attack-attack. Again, I was having fun being aggressive but not wanting to kill myself senselessly. It was tough to coordinate well with Kirsten on attacks (not specific to her - I think it's a real learned skill to go in attacks deliberately with another person). We were almost at mile 45 and still no break had gone, almost to the point that it wasn't worth getting one started. But then Laura and I got in a break of seven. It wasn't exactly what we wanted, but we rolled it. We had 1 minute going into the climb. Anne Samplonius rode tempo up the climb, I came off just as Kristen Armstrong and Mara Abbott came flying by. The mistake I made was to think too much about where Heather was, not just ride my own climb and try to make it to the top. Laura came off at the bottom, then recovered whereas I started decently then completely cracked just shy of the top. Heather caught us right before the QOM - but I had not made it far enough. Laura latched onto Laura Van Guilder and Kat Carrol, just behind Heather for the steep kicker. I was alone. I made it up the kicker maybe 300 m behind (a lot of time on a steep hill). I did not think I could chase them down, there was a lone rider maybe 30 seconds back, so I rode easily to wait. There were another four behind her. But this was not really a motivated chasing group. We rolled it, but then got caught by a huge group and the pace making stopped. Forty minutes later another huge group caught us and we were officially the laughing group. Elisa, Natalie, Kirsten, and I were all there. Up the road, Laura, Kat, and LVG caught Heather, Laura hung on for a while, then Heather and Kat caught the front group (minus the first two). Heather clung and fought her way through the caravan. In a tough sprint of team racing, isolated Heather mustered a strong 15th. Laura rode 35 miles solo in a superhuman effort. Kristen moved into first on the overall, Mara second, then Kori. Tomorrow is the crit. The GC is not super close, unlike some years where a time bonus will change it, but the sprinters will be battling, and who knows, maybe some teams will race for the GC podium. Lipton is down to four riders, so they can expect a tough day. As we all can!

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