Thursday, July 30, 2009

Nationals Road Race

Once again I'm writing more as a journalist than a participant with a great story to tell. Hum... I did not believe I could make the selection so I went in with an all-or-nothing strategy of making an early break in the hope that the field would misjudge and give it too long a leash. I was alarmed to learn at the start that there would be no neutral feeding and was all the more recklessly inclined. OK my fault for assuming but come on - for an $85 dollar entry fee and a 110k race with temps forecast in the mid-90s!?! Rolled off the front at mile 1 and we had a nice group for a second - Nicky Wangsgard (Colavita), Brooke Miller (Tibco), and Sam Schneider (TT1) (pictured) - but then some actual contenders like Andrea Dvorak appeared and that was that. I sat in for a while then attacked around mile five. Three riders bridged up - Tibco plus Liza Rachetto plus another Value Act plus TT1. We got it rolling and lasted to the top of the feed zone climb at mile 11. I got gapped up the Archie Briggs climb at mile 17, chased back on, but it wasn't looking too good. Lap 2 the field was not going that fast but I was not going fast either up that feed zone climb. Up Archie Briggs I came off the back and hate to say it but sort of gave up. With the TT tomorrow I entered the race unsure if I would finish - but it's sort of a self-fulfilling negative prophesy that doesn't sit well. There really wasn't any point in flogging myself for 50th, but it's easy to second guess and ask "well, maybe if I had sat in I could have made it." Because as it turns out..... the uber-climbers did not kill it like they needed to to whittle the field done and the final standings came out of a group of almost 50 riders! My old coach Tom Stevens once gave me this salient piece of advice, that when I was strongest on the hills, even if I did not want to get away it paid to make others suffer by going hard. I would have expected this from Mara Abbot, the strongest climber and racing without teammates. Evie, also riding alone, seemed to be shadowing Mara. The two of them could have really put the hurt on the field. Following on twitter from the host house, seems like Robin Farina, then Amber Rais spent some quality time off the front solo, the field chilling, then after the catch Kori Seehafer launched a powerful attack. In the middle of the second climb on the final lap, Meredith Miller (TIBCO), Amy Dombroski (Webcor), Kristen Lasasso (Independent/Mellow Mushroom), and Chrissy Ruiter (VAC) launched off the front of the field. They caught Seehafer. Within 5k to go, Meredith attacked and got a good gap. Meanwhile, it seems that Mara Abbot launched across with Evie Stevens and Kat Carrol. Meredith Miller 1st, Ruiter 2nd, Lasasso 3rd, Seehafer 4th, and Carrol 5th. Dombroski wins U-23! Way to go Lasasso!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nationals Road Race Preview

Tomorrow brings the 111k Nationals road race consisting of four laps of the final stage of Cascade - technical with two notable hills per lap, positioning at a premium. We start at 8:30am so it won't be in the 90s until the end of the race. Nationals tends to play out as either full-out-hard or conservative-to-point-of-slowness, and everyone wants to win so teams fall apart, especially with no race caravan and no directors. What's going to happen on this tough but non-climber course with a flat finish? Are the powerhouse teams going to ride for a leader, or suffer infighting? We shall see! I'm guessing Mara Abbot is the strongest on those hills. If she wants to win she needs to get to work fast whittling the group down to a manageable size and getting rid of all sprinter-climbers. If not, riders like Shelly Olds, Kori Seehafer, Alison Powers, Meredith Miller, or Cat Carroll will rule the day at the finish. Never count out Katheryn Mattis and her Webcor crew - they rode hard for Evie last week but this week is totally different. Evie's no longer an unknown and will be marked heavily. Can she ride away again? Will a tip-top climber (Evie? Lasasso?) cling to Mara's wheel over the hill and win in the sprint? Will the teams muster a chase or will individuals hesitate to work? For me the writing is unfortunately pretty much on the wall that I won't make the selection on the hill when the attacks really go down - will see what I can do!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cascade 6 - My World is Flat

Stage 6 brought the most exciting course of the week, a rolling circuit with some tough hills and little recovery. A break went early with Lipsmackers rider Kirsty Broun, challenging Tina Pic's green jersey (pictured). I could just sit in and float in the field. I felt solid and smooth -best of the week - good with positioning and on the hills. The break reshuffled early in lap 2 and this time Lipsmackers had missed out. They drove it into the Archie Briggs climb in an attempt to launch a rider across. In spite of excellent positioning I got dropped. For once rather than back off early then claw my way back I held on then blew up right at the top. I pretty much rode the perfect race for me, I just wasn't strong enough at that one critical moment. So I am pleased and not pleased - pleased to put together a good race, not pleased my fitness was not good enough to make that selection. The frustrating part is that I am not unfit, I just have a flat fitness that is not well-suited to road racing. I need that extra gear asap, or it's really time to switch sports. This is wearing on me. At the front, lap 3 was a slugfest. Value Act's Kristin McGrath soloed from 1k to win; Evelyn kept the jersey, and my teammate Marisa sealed her GC in spite of having her wheel taken out in the final roundabout. Cascade is a great race - Northeasterners take note!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Cascade 5 - How Many Laps to Go?

Felt like death in the morning but went out for a ride and caught up with the TT1 men thanks to much-missed former New Haven resident Chris Jones. Sat in their excellent draft around Sunday's challenging circuit race course and got the legs ready. Crit was a very long rectangle, raced aggressively by TIBCO and others but rather conducive to a field sprint. I was in the mix a bit and generally had a lot of fun and felt good on those flats. Timing was CONFUSING to say the least, a 50-minute race with time clock counting down and lap cards counting up - until the last two laps when they started going up - and I basically had no idea when the finish was, and neither did our tip-top sprinter Tiffany (shown in picture with me). Silly on us but race could take a lesson from cross with the lap cards. Junior Coryn Rivera won! One more chance today - a very challenging technical circuit with two tough hills followed by false flats rather than restorative descents. If I position well I think I can make it, but when the climbers go on these it will be super hard. Race is 3 loops / 50 miles and I expect such a slugfest I don't even know that there will be pause enough for a break of total non-threats like me to slip off the front.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cascade Stage 4 - And Then I was Done

Stage 4 was an awesome race, not so much for me but in terms of team racing and battles on the road. As I mentioned, Webcor entered the day with Evelyn Stevens in the jersey and IBCO with five riders in the top ten overall. We had QOM at mile 2 of the 71-mile stage, and TIBCO went from the gun. That first QOM climb was brutal on cold legs but I hung on. DFT had missed a break of eight that went up the road. I tried to follow a few bridgers across but it wasn't happening. It was time to sit and rest. Webcor (especially Katheryn Mattis) rode tempo on the front governing the gap. The rest of us enjoyed a very smooth ride on more of Bend's spectacular roads. As it turned out, TIBCO wasn't too happy with the break - their rider was not highly placed on GC or the strongest climber in the break - so in a sense their aggressive tactic backfired. They tried a few times to bridge across but as it was the break came back around 40 miles. For the next ten miles we had some aggressive racing and I followed moves. One stuck without DFT in it - not a disaster coming so close to the final climb - containing GC threats Cath Cheatley (Colavita), Jo Kiesenowski (TIBCO), and Alison Powers (TT1). Webcor drove a hard chase (there was a lot of dangerous horsepower in that break) and brought back the break over about 5 miles. We were all together entering the rollers around 60 miles in, pace very high. Then after feeling solid all day I just drifted off the back on a roller and that was it, dead long before my time. Clawed a bit but then I just rode it in with Katheryn Mattis (evidently I can climb on par with my old New England rival once she has ridden tempo on the front for 100k). She was getting reports from the radio - Evelyn at 25 seconds, 30... I remembered that feeling of how great it is when you have done your job and your leader is sealing the deal. Being psyched for them dissapated some of my extreme disappointment in my own climb. Webcor had ridden awesomely in the face of enormous pressure from the TIBCO gorilla. Evelyn won the stage - remarkable given the windy and long flat sections of the climb - with Amber Rais (TIBCO) and Alison Powers (TT1) behind. Teammate Marisa had a great climb and moved into 13th. Interestingly, although I got shelled before the climb even started, I will note that our East Coast climbs are much steeper (though shorter), and that we rarely (if ever) have courses as flat as the course leading into the final climb. The racing really feels different. Pictured: final climb up Mt. Bachelor.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cascade Stage 3 - Room for Improvement in the TT

The TT was a 16-mile out-and-back up Skyline Drive, gaining 1000 ft. I have a long list of all I can do differently for the Nationals course that includes this loop. Of course getting stronger would help too! Needed a super long warm-up after the previous day's finishing climb, since in spite of a brutal ice bath my legs felt like death. Did not really factor this in. Plodding at the start, rode my way up just tried to stay positive and not get bogged down. On this course my strategy would be to minimize losses to uber-climbers up the hill, then roar on the downhill. Simply needed more guts and more gears on the way down. 27th, 2:20 back of surprise winner Jessica Phillips! Marisa moved into 16th on GC. Tibco stacked the GC, with five riders in the top ten. Evelyn has a one-minute lead - will it be enough to withstand the imminent onslaught? Today's 71-mile stage with a finish climb to Mt. Bachelor will hold some answers.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cascade 2 - Trying Hard for the Break that Wasn't

Temps in the mid-90s again for the 80-mile stage. Marisa and I both worked hard early to try to make the early break - only it didn't happen. I spent a few matches but it seemed worth the risk. Tibco and Webcor were both aggressive early but nothing went. Finally, after the QOM at mile 52 (of 80), a powerhouse break went - Kat Carrol, Anne Samplonius, Stacey Marple, Erinne Willock, Andrea Dvorak, someone else - and none of us was there to follow. It was frustrating because quickly the field swelled across the road and the gap ballooned to three minutes. We had missed out. As it turned out, the break worked for some teams and against others. We came into the final climb through the town of Three Creeks and into a long windy false flat drag. If I had more confidence in my climbing right now I would have ensured better positioning. As it was I sat out the first surge up the steep pitch at 72 miles, then clawed my way back up to a group of support riders from the big teams as the grade eased. The grade was such that drafting played a big role. Of course I wonder if I had saved energy whether I might have weathered that first pitch and made a better group but honestly I am not so sure. This was definitely my best climb of the year, and it was quite tough even riding just a steady pace. A lot of excellent climbers struggled today, with surprising people falling out of the break or just not doing the climbs they are used to. The heat appears to be taking a toll. Marisa rode a great climb, finishing 15th, just over a minute back. I am almost six minutes back, 48th. Lindsey, Tiffany, and Ambre all rode solid climbs. And the winner.... Evelyn Stevens again! Northeastern racers, we should feel vindicated. Picture from Nils: team, landscape (!), start of finishing climb, and near the finish (me second from left).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cascade Stage 1 - Energy Conservation or Doing Nothing?

Stage 1 done and this epic race is on! Hot was the word of the day - 90 and basically no shade - and for a while the field wallowed at snail pace. We heated up for the sprint, then a QOM hill followed by a regrouping, then some hard sections of attacking on flat windy terrain, then a straight run into the finish. All in all it was kind of a mellow day and I felt fine on the single hill. Maybe it was mellow since I should have helped teammates cover moves more, but I went through a small period of feeling like death from the heat. It seemed destined to stay together, so sometimes it's a hard call to know how vigilantly to patrol the front. Because the racing at the front was super hard, but riding in the field was largely a very easy ride (HEAT ASIDE). There were a few moments when I thought a strong team could have split the field in a cross wind - PEI style - but the racing was just not that tough. I think everyone viewed the stage in the context of the stage race. Team is a great group, everyone rode well. Of course then when you see that rockstar Evelyn Stevens (this time guest riding on Webcor) attacked with 1k to go and WON, you think, DANG, I could have at least covered that. But ah well, on to the next mission: today's epic stage - a long flat drag into a 10-mile finishing climb on a 73-mile day with 90-degree temps. We will be aiming to place a rider in the early break and hope to do something cool! Photos courtesy Niles.

How iPaw Found my Wheel

On Monday before the race our director/mechanic/soigneur picked up my bikes to make sure they worked. So cool, except during the loading process we left my front wheel leaning against his truck without noticing. Once we realized what had happened, hours later, host Niles and I scoured the street outside the house. We imagined fantastically how far it might have rolled. In the meantime, one of our host's three beloved indoor cats had gone missing. The cat was iPaw - a Christmas gift years ago instead of a coveted iPod - famous for hiding but known to freak out if outside. Karen scoured the house many times over, growing increasingly worried. Of course I feared that I had left the door open and the cat had somehow escaped and was in grave danger. Tom set up my bike with a replacement wheel and we readied for the race with a spactacular team dinner prepared by teammate Tiffany. Niles went out to walk the neighborhood one more time for iPaw. He saw his neighbor standing on his porch holding my front wheel, then returned home with the wheel to news that Karen had found iPaw! Thanks iPaw - I owe you one.

Monday, July 20, 2009


Hi from Bend, Oregon. Sometimes when I visit these Western outdoors sports meccas I wonder why I live in the East. This place is cycling and nordic skiing paradise. This is without even mentioning kayaking, which seems fair since I don't kayak... Anyway, staying with wonderful hosts who happen to be land use planners. Psyched to get dialed in with the new team. Rode the TT course and well, it's basically a 7-mile climb and a 7-mile descent. My biggest challenge is going to be going fast downhill - I am not well-practiced with high speeds on this bike. Pictured: plane to RDM, TT course (going up). Now for the next pre-race activity - food procurement!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Go West!

Set aside my Fitchburg exasperation and am moving forward with plans to race Cascade and road nationals in Bend, Oregon. Hitting these races in tip-top form had been the plan all along, but I had not anticipated so much struggling up to this point. When I get as frustrated as I did at Fitchburg I come close to wanting to pull the plug - do a 100-mile mtn bike race and ride the 120-mile dirt-road Deerfield Randonee with friends - after all this is supposed to be fun! Maybe I am overly hopeful but I feel so tantalizingly close to being strong and so here I come! Can't stay mad at bike racing. Cascade is going to be epic - 6 days in the mountains at elevation racing in a 120-rider field largely self-selected for climbing prowess and with many going super strong in advance of nationals. I expect to struggle on some epic climbs, but absolutely plan to make intermediate climbing selections. I will be racing with the Colorado-based team DFT p/b Treads and hope there is occasion for my beloved long breakaway, maybe on the day with some ridiculous finishing climb up Mt. Bachelor. Hum... better check the race bible! Psyched for the time trial at both Cascade and nationals - this event actually capitalizes on my lopsided strength profile. Bike is supa fast so it is up to the rider. Pictured: my disk wheel (and other things round)! Too bad it's only 6-speed... In other news my brother just launched on a six-week paddling trip of Alaska's Yukon river. Craziest part is that in order to write they have the laptops packed up inside the canoe!

Decathlon Weekend

Notes to self: don't underestimate the toll of moving, don't mess with your whole bike position prior to racing a technical crit, and Philadelphia really is far. What was supposed to be a good confidence-building and cash-cow weekend at the Iron Hill Crit and Union Vale was instead, well utterly exhausting (getting lost on the way to races is a key indicator of mental acuity and I was a disaster!) and a horrendous crit in which I simply could not corner. I am holding out it was good training... plus a friend's excellent birthday party where I caught up with many missed racing friends who've graduated to new endeavors, plus a visit with my aunt and cousin. Have I said before "less is more?"

Fitchburg Wrap

Not good enough on the Princeton climb and I plummeted in the GC. Pretty disappointing since I should be able to make that modest selection. Sure it was hard, harder than past years due to the absence of the finishing climb, but it was basically a bunch sprint of 50 riders. I am quite strong in general power riding but when it comes to drilling it up a short climb I am sorely lacking - and this allocation just doesn't cut it in road racing. Thus the fitness trading concept... I will trade you some power on the flats if you can give me some zing for the hills. Voluntary exchanges and everyone is better off, efficiency maximized. Worked for a complicated problem like SO2, why not fitness deficiencies? Suffered from demoralization in the crit - I wasn't going to get dropped but when I made one attack and saw how windy it was then I gave up on breakaway ambitions and pretty much wallowed in 50th place. When I heard the motorcycle right behind me I would move up lackadasically. Not good. Lip Smackers kept Evelyn in the jersey and Tina Pic took the stage win again. The men's crit was astonishing - local hero Will Dugan procured the sprint jersey and the second-place gc rider bridged to the break in the final laps of the race (leader Zirbel's team having combusted in the chase) to seize the overall win. Wow! Great racing for Fitchburg's 50th!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fitchburg CR

11 laps of the 3-mile circuit with a stair-step hill gaining 100ft per lap. Lackluster race by me with energy wasted due to mediocre positioning but mission accomplished - mostly (small time gap to front 3) - still 8th in the gc, legs saved, and now I get to race today! Without the Wachusett finishing climb, and with Evelyn Stevens in the lead over Alison Powers by 1 second, the race promises to be a slugfest! See what I can do.

Ftichburg TT

I was motivated for this one. Getting good at the TT had been a project for this season that got postponed with my early-season "fitness emergency," but I got on the bike as much as possible during the last two weeks and was ready to give it a go. I have a sick fast position and bike - it was just a matter of getting used to my position and pacing. Pre-rode the course four times this week which was probably good given that we raced in dense fog. Rode the race and maybe I went out too hard because I was pedaling through mud on the way back, at times the speed dipped to 17mph - yikes - but made it to the finish. But it was good enough for 8th! Two seconds out of 6th so of course I wish I pulled that off - because you could find two seconds just in the turn-around - but exciting. Alison Power won, with Evelyn Stevens just four seconds behind. Good to know that the woman who has been killing all of us this season in the Northeast is actually phenomenally fast!

Housatonic, East Hartford, Exeter

Backlog of races to report so quick! Dead at Housatonic and Evelyn Stevens killed us again. Made that mistake of thinking I was totally out of the race after the first selection when in fact it was very close up the road. East Hartford - back to my wreckless racing self for a day - wahoo finding legs! Exeter was cool cool though I needed to follow that fast Nicole Freedman up the right side at the finish rather than get caught behind a near crash!