Friday, August 31, 2007

GMSR Prologue: Decidedly Unspectacular

This stage has always been my worst in this stage race, but I thought and hoped I could do well this year, after climbing fine at Hilltowns. But once again, I did pretty badly. Not sure what place but after going through the Mad River Parking lot sitting comfortably in 4th wheel, I went backwards. Maybe I went into the red too soon. Maybe this week was too easy and my body started to rest. Not sure but not good. Amy Dombrowski, my new Velo Bella teammate who is only 19 won, followed by Kristen and Kathleen. The race is just beginning and I still have big goals.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Thater: Did I Race Enough?

Thater leaves me with the rare question of wondering if I raced hard enough and wishing I had that last lap back. Riding alone in a race with a few teams (well, mainly Cheerwine), my plan, designed by a veteran Thater expert, was to ride in the top 5 the whole time, follow moves and work in any breaks but make no attacks, be in any break with Laura van Guilder, and not attack early coming into the sprint. I was pretty good with field positioning, followed a few things (and missed many others, but they came back), watched as Cheerwine snatched up the $100 primes uncontested (and generally dominated the race), and caught Cheerwine off-guard to win one prime. The break just didn't seem like it was going to happen this year, and I decided I was going to sprint. But the last lap, ay. First, I tried to pass Erica Allar on the outside into the downhill corners - bad move because she at least will give the impression that she has no qualms about running you into a curb and/or telephone pole. She does get in a lot of crashes, but she also gets some great results. Some sprinters definitely capitalize on reputations as crash-prone even dangerous to make people back off. Next, when Kathleen Billington jumped on the hill on 1-to-go, I needed to surge harder and be further up than I was, which was maybe 7th wheel. Just as Cheerwine caught Kathleen, Erica Allar went, early, before that final left corner. Maybe it was LVG who jumped on her wheel, anyway it wasn't me, and I ended up with a stupid gap to close into the final corner (messing up Heather too). I finished where I started basically: 7th. Teresa Cliff-Ryan won, then Kelly Benjamin, then Erica. Before the race Jamie Carney had said something interesting to Erica "This race is way too long for how hard it is." I think this might have inspired some conservatism on my part, and I can't single-handedly try to make a race hard, cook myself in an effort to drop the sprinters, but a harder race or a break certainly would have been nice. Rebecca Much rode really well which was exciting. During Thater I stayed with my friend Shelley Reynolds, who started and runs the Mission in Motion team, which donates prize winnings to a mobile health screening unit. She shared her experiences in the enormous endeavor of running a team, fodder for my secret scheme to start one a few years down the road, crazy person that I am.

Mengoni: "That's Racing"

Saturday morning I raced Mengoni, World Championships of Central Park. I was psyched because we were racing with the junior boys, which meant that the race would be hard (perhaps hard enough to drop the sprinters) without my doing one lick of work to make it hard. I knew the strongest rider - the Polska kid whose entourage had been excited about my last name earlier this year - and planned to just sit on his wheel and go in any break that had him in it. Targetraining, Comedy Central, and Radical Media were there but again, having the juniors in the race made it easier for me to compete against full teams. 8 miles in and things were going well - no impulsivity and we'd just gone up Harlem Hill for the second time, me sitting second wheel on the Polish kid, gaps forming behind us, when I flatted. And that was it, because there are no spare wheels in park racing. I was pretty bummed, had wanted to win and believed I could which is half the battle. At times like this you call on our sport's catch-all phrase for disappointment and bad luck: "That's racing." Mike Sherry, who had directed my team at Altoona in 2005, came along and rescued me with a tube and pump. Targetraining played their cards right (with three riders in the final break), with Robin Farina soloing in for the win. New York City racer Carole Gale took second, with Rebecca Wellons charging hard for third. Hiroko had a strong 4th, which was good to see. Hiroko and I went back to the apartment of some dear family friends, had a good breakfast and interesting conversation that put race disappointment in context, and made a Zabar's run prior to hitting the road for Thater.


When I was maybe 13 my soccer team was playing in the finals of a summer tournament where as underdogs from a small town we were pulling off a thrilling fairy tale run. The game was tied, we were in something ridiculous like the second overtime before it went to penalty kicks. It was close to 100 degrees and we were dragging ourselves around the field, wondering if this game would ever end. I still remember the view from left midfield as our sometimes-star forward Joanelle, who was a bit of a primadonna and a ballhog, took the ball all the way from midfield, dribbled around every last defender, and scored, winning the tournament. How to describe my gratitude, elation, and desire for forgiveness for every past criticism! Joanelle had delivered. I think of this now in relation to my bad habit of animating races at the expense of results. In a team situation it can be easy to pass off the responsibility to get a result to someone else, much harder to deliver yourself. Even though it was not the plan to finish up this season racing alone, racing alone is forcing me to try to deliver, which is probably the best thing for me. And if I do it right, it will make me a better team racer.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Holy Cow I Love Cross

Future Bike Tour and A Cross Rumor

Missing out on family events and travel adventures are some of the opportunity costs of bike racing. I am trying to get up to Alaska to visit my brother, who covers state politics/energy policy/climate change for the Fairbanks paper and who's falling deeper and deeper into a world of salmon fishing and backcountry snowboarding to the point he might never come back. He doesn't have running water and doesn't seem to miss it, worries about the moose eating the cabbage he planted in his garden. This photo is of the Dalton Highway, which he drove a few weeks ago up to the North Slope, where he went swimming in the Arctic Ocean, which he reported wasn't too cold. Might make for a great bike tour some day! In biking news, I heard yesterday from my friend Dave Drumm (who conducted an emergency repair on my severed shift cable - thank goodness I had a 34 to go with my 11 - 22 rpms on a few steep pitches was bad enough) that three women cross racers from the UK are coming this fall to race in the US because they hear there are easy UCI points to be had. The stronger the field the better, but let's show them!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Hilltowns: Finally Done with Dumb?

"Race the race," I am constantly told. And what this means is "read the race, Anna, do what it takes to get the best result, assess, adapt, don't just bull-headedly attack yourself into a pulp..." And for once I did this: saved all my energy for the climb, followed wheels up that climb, made the selection, did not work too hard in the split, did not attack early when I thought I could win the sprint, won the sprint. Now to keep it up and bring some savvy to the NRC! A few thoughts about the race, because I know some people read this blog who are among those who are the superstrong up-and-comers of New England racing: Rebecca Wellons made the early attack. It was a great move, but she needed company in this wind. Imagine if one rider from each of the represented teams - NEBC, Radical Media, Independent Fabrications, Anthem, and Wachovia-IBC - had gone up the road. The lone riders like Kristen Lasasso, Hiroko, and I would have been in serious trouble. We would have had to decide whether or not to spend energy chasing, while all the riders from those teams could have sat pretty and then killed it/us on the climb. Even one minute is a big head start on that climb and the front group could have looked very different. When Kristen brought Rebecca back, bang, that's when the group should have attacked. We had a lot of confusion due to the downed powerline, wrong turns, and restart that led to our not knowing how much further to go. But in the run into the finish, those who were stronger on the hills/not so confident in the sprint might have been advised to a) drive it in the rotation up the final hills, see if a few people could be popped from the group or b) launch an attack on the hills and try to split the group. The former strategy would be less likely to split the group, but would tire out the weaker riders while still maintaining the cooperative endeavor of everyone pulling through. The latter strategy, if it worked, might drop more people, but the cost of it failing could be high, if half the group then stopped working. That's my two cents. In other news, Laura Bowles of Advil got 4th in the Downer's Grove warm-up, which is super cool. Next up for me, after a good long hilly ride today, will be Mengoni and Thater. And then Green Mountain. We are really lucky to live and race here in New England.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wtiches Cup: The Best Defense is a Good Offense?

Friend and longtime teammate Sara Cushman dubbed me "predictable" heading into Wednesday's Witches Cup, saying I would attack from the gun and keep attacking until I got away (or pulverized myself). As much as I wanted to defy her prediction, going to from the gun was a good move: of course Lyne Bessette wanted to ride a break, and the course was not super technical so a jump off the line might actually be a good shot. And gambling on the right break early would prevent a negative race and/or having to jump on NEBC attack after attack (they had six riders or something). Not to mention that the point of my racing was to get some quality intensity. So I went off the line, and Lyne, Sam, and I had a gap. Now if only Chris Rothfus had clipped in faster, since we needed NEBC there (instead they were chasing). I drove it for a lap or more, hard - too hard given some sub-optimal legs. And good grief at the first prime I was blown, got myself dropped - how mortifying. Lyne dangled, Sam and I got caught by the chasing peloton. Rebecca Wellons of NEBC countered in perfect timing and bridged to Lyne. And there it was, the winning break. AY! Tried and tried to get across but did not have the legs. Some teams made a concerted effort to chase, but for me riding alone it was bridge or nothing. Race was shaping up as one of those where I beat myself into a pulp and don't finish well. I led into the final corner though, sprinted early, and (barely) held off the hard-charging Susannah Pratt and field for 3rd. 20 seconds up the road, Lyne took Rebecca for the win. Not my best race, not my best legs, but good to sprint and even better to be racing again with Gearworks teammates and among New England friends dreaming of cyclocross! Hilltowns this Saturday, and it's going to be good.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tour of the Hilltowns is going to be Lonely

With only three. Hilltowns is one of the best races on the New England calendar - a 60-mile loop through awesome rural terrain, big climb and sprint finish, good prize money, excuse to visit Western MA - brought back this year after a one-year break. So unless you are in Downer's Grove, come race and see what Hawley Road is all about! You might find yourself walking up App Gap if you don't...

Training Day

Great day of riding my favorite hills in the Southern Berkshires/Columbia County, NY with Hiroko, 4:15 and pretty much go-go-go the whole time. Bit of crack-o-rama for me - quality suffering.

Need Endgame

Raced the Albany RR on Saturday. 3 miles of neutral and then the steep hills started. Strong and sizeable field for New York state racing, and racing in August in general. Launched a little attack, Hiroko accelerated, within a few miles we had a split of maybe 8. Then we had 3: Heather, Beth Miller, and me. Once the steep hills ended we had flat terrain with a lot of wind. Beth fell off 25 miles in, then Heather and I rolled it. I kept thinking of Battenkill, where my impression is of my not even trying to win the race, just delivering Heather right to the finish. I knew I needed to attack early, but judgment to attack with 2.5 miles to go was pretty bad. Maybe it was a losing situation, maybe simply on the grounds of not wanting to risk having to lead it out I should have just waited for the sprint, or 500 to go. But I attacked, she covered, and then I had to ride on the front the rest of the way. Good thing she has a sense of humor. Challenging course but somewhat reassuring to see I can haul my way up those steep climbs I don't love so much.

371 Miles on I-81

Blitz weekend with Advil to race the North Carolina crits in Charlotte and Winston-Salem. Lots of time in the van with my smelly feet. Saturday we were riding for ace sprinter Jen McCrae. I covered one break on lap one and it was downhill from there: pretty soon I was just hanging on for dear life at the back, getting gapped and clawing my way back on. It was ugly, rather un-fun after actually racing in the Altoona Crit. It was also 100 degrees which didn't help. But Charlotte is an interesting town, completely revamped in the last ten years by Bank of America, the sponsor of the crit that's headquartered there. The city seems walkable and vibrant, lots of restaurants and museums and libraries and city life. An astute perspective was provided by our host Laura: a Charlotte native who loved her city, knew its history, and also recognized the ways its Southern culture could be surprising even off-putting to newcomers, as in the common question "Where do you go to church?" McCrae 4th after crash (oh to be a sprinter who just delivers), Heather and Laura right in there, Kirsten battered by a crash. Sunday we raced bull-headedly for a break that did not happen. Again, this thinking on the fly thing... Driving back we encountered droves of Amish young people on bikes at 1am in Kutztown - rather surreal.