Day before the race we headed out for a spin
and swung by the Scott tent
this is a picture of Theresa's hand...yes, she broke it at Reading unfortunately. So keep her in your thoughts and wish her speedy recovery!
So morning of:
Jess and I are sitting together...umm...guess which leg is mine?
Let the race begin...
Here I am sitting in
Trish and Kele climbing the Manayunk "wall"
Commerce Bank Liberty Classic – Philadelphia, PA, USA June 8, 2008 – Race Report #4
This was the second year I’ve participated in this race, but last year lets just say I wasn’t in the race much. I’ve been on pretty good form this year so far and I was looking forward to this race, although I was still nervous per usual. The Philly course is a challenging one that starts near center city Philadelphia, circles a few of the fountains (the start/finish is on a straight between the fountains), heads out along the river, narrows, widens, narrows again just before turning toward Manayunk, where we scream threw the streets all fighting for position before we hit a few tight corners, cobbles and the climb known as the “wall”…it isn’t too long really, but with its steep grade, length and the speed at which the race demands you climb it, it defiantly hurts. Following that there is a bit of a false flat downhill, but no one slows down and if you aren’t jamming on the pedals you will be off the back. As leaving Manayunk area we head back up a small grade, which can pretty much just be sat in on. There is another gradual uphill section that is a bit longer and can hurt if someone decides to attack, which of course they did! Then it is pretty tame again until we hit Lemon Hill, which is the last of any climbing before the finish and it is twisty but it isn’t too steep and it is really quite short, so if you roll into it with good position and don’t get stuck behind the wrong rider it is doable. Lemon Hill winds down just as it did up and it spits you onto the main straight, where the feed zone is on a fast flat section, before you loop around threw the start finish section again.
To start the race we were lined up super early as usual. Meaning we were all staging on our bikes far before the race would actually start. The reasoning behind this is to get a good spot on the start line, which gives you the best chance to gain a good position and also keeps you out of any havoc that might take place in the mob of girls behind you. This might sound easy but let me tell you, this good starting position thing is something many of us fight for and if you get in the way or we think you might be trying to take our spot, you can bet we will figure a way to stay in front of you. Personally, I value a good starting position and I’m pretty good at getting it. Occasionally, I end up in the wrong spot and start farther back than I want but usually I’m in the first 2 rows. And today for Philly I was on the front line, ready to go. Everyone was inching forward and they finally blew the horn to release us. This is probably one of my favorite parts of a race because before a race I just keep running the course threw my head, thinking about who will be out there with me and how I can play off of them, and of course I generally have nervous energy floating around, but all that nervous energy disappears as soon as the race starts and I got into racing mode! It becomes no longer about being nervous but about staying calm, watching who is around me, making sure I’m in good position, trying to see where my team mates are, reading the race and trying to be a part of it.
We started at a quick pace as anticipated and it didn’t slow down much. I was maintaining good position but trying to stay very protected from the wind in the pack at the same time. I ended up out front a few times just in order to assure a good position going threw the narrow section and then I drifted back a bit again. One of the most important things I needed to do was to gain a good position as far toward the front of the pack as possible before we hit the base of the Manayunk “wall”, this is because although I’ve gotten stronger and better at climbing, it still is not my strength and if I start at the front it gives me a lot of time to drift back as we climb but still have a wheel to get on when we crest the top. I know, it sounds easy, but when you have to fight 80 other girls who all want the same spot it becomes a bit more difficult. In any case I wasn’t as far up as I should have been on the first lap and I paid for it by having to push harder than I should have on the climb and then having to chase the lead group down after we got over the climb. I gave myself a lecture that my position was unacceptable and I best change it next lap! At this point Kristen Armstrong was on a break off the front and as we came through the start finish the announcers said something along the lines of “and here the women come faster than we had expected, this might be the fastest lap they have ever turned over”…and I think…”oh thank you Armstrong, the hottest darn day ever and you decide to go attack and make this race just a little faster…wonderful!” Then again if it weren’t hard I probably wouldn’t enjoy doing it. As we head toward Manayunk for the second time I fight harder for position and stand my ground. There was one girl who was apparently frustrated and wanted to get out of the pack and I’m not sure if she was ramming my butt with the hoods of her shifters or her fist but she picked the wrong girl to do that with, as I just decided that it would be fun to box her in even more and NOT move! I got a better position for the start of the climb, although I still had to chase a little after the top. After we had been given 2 laps to go there was a break of about 12 riders that branched off the front. I had started to go with them and then sat up, but when I turned around and saw a gap a put in the effort to get pack up with the lead girls. I realized there were strong girls there and there was representation from some of the top teams, which meant it was possible it could stick. Although I figured the group was too large to be let go and I didn’t feel all the right girls were there, I sat on anyhow and it proved to be the right decision. For a large portion of the 3rd lap I was with this break and it was really like recovery in a way. I could ride wherever I wanted and I didn’t have to fight an entire pack for good positioning in the more technical sections. Of course as I started to look around I discovered that most of these women were probably going to climb Manayunk a bit faster than me and I was not looking forward to the solo chase I would have to pull off over the top. Sure enough I struggled up the climb, but so did a few others and we were able to work together, along with a small group who had bridged up to us, and catch the lead group. I was thankful for my little period of “recovery”, as the pack all came back together and it was time to fight for positions again. It was now the last lap, which meant the positioning would be even more important and everyone would want it that much more. This last lap was the only lap I made it up the “wall” with the lead group, I was on the back of the lead group, but there was no chasing, I was with them. I was so excited to make it up that climb for the last time and still be with the lead group, I actually verbally said, “I did it!” I knew I still had Lemon Hill to make but I wasn’t concerned with that. As we made our way up Lemon Hill I road my usual line and was feeling great, until a few little cramps started to act up in my legs. I quickly went into conservation mode and just told myself it wasn’t far. I had been doing everything I could all day to fight the heat. It was between 95-100degrees without humidity, the pavement had been measured at 120degrees, and the sun was blazing on us all day. I had been taking gu’s to keep my body feed, I brought a container of electrolyte chews and I was popping those. I fell back in the feed zone every lap to get liquid, just to find myself in a full out sprint chasing the lead group…but I needed that fluid, without it nothing else would matter, I knew that. So now lemon hill was over and we were heading for the home straight. It is flat out around the fountain and back to the finish, which meant it was going to be FAST, especially with a European field. I was struggling to maintain position but kept grabbing good wheels and refusing to get pushed back too far. I was probably sitting top 10 around the fountain and heading into the straight. I told myself not to overgear, it wouldn’t help me…I geared down, no geared up, back down, stay calm. Everyone started kicking and it was time to go. I got out of the saddle and tried to stay calm but that wasn’t working so well, my body was giving out on me. I pushed and kept pushing but eventually I just blew about 100-200meters from the line. I had to hop over a crash, but luckily I stayed upright. I was disappointed I didn’t have more and I was just kinda rolling in when I realized there were still girls behind me so I picked it up a little and got across the line. All I could think was that “I could have pushed harder”, “I made it all that way and to blow then…”, it was frustrating to say the least. But it is always easy to look back and say I could have gone harder, when at the time you just couldn’t. I ended up 31st overall and I actually won the best of U23 award. The Best of U23 award goes to the first American under 23 to come across the line and I’m pretty excited about that accomplishment.
When I look at the big picture I consider the fast that last year I didn’t even make it up the “wall” with the pack on the first lap and I didn’t finish the race. This year I make it up the “wall” every lap and I stayed with the lead pack to the finish!
As for my teammates they did well also. Theresa as I mentioned earlier has a broken hand so she did not race. Kele served as great inspiration through the race with comments of encouragement, or just common sense…like telling me to get on a wheel as I was straggling off the back after the climb…I needed that little push, and she also did a great job of positioning and keeping things smooth the first lap. Jess took the lead with positioning through the tough sections in the second lap! I saw both Trish and Lisa in the first few laps and Trish ended up finishing in the 3rd group to come in. The hot weather took its toll and Kele flatted again adding challenge to her race, but as the saying goes…”that’s bike racing.”
After my race I got to hang out a bit with:
Consorto made us these amazing signs!!!! THANKS CONSORTO!
this is without humidity factor...which I can assure you was very high
The men are about to finish...long day!...over 6 hours...wow!
Waiting for women's awards I got a picture with the top 3 for the day!
one day I'm going to go as fast as them at the right time and win big races too!
Best of U23 Podium
We laughed at this picture for a good bit...Gary says I landed a 10 on my floor performance after a triple twist round off!
Back at the house this is my favorite wall
the bikes all lined up
and here are a few pics of the oversized check from the U23 award
So then we had one day to go for a spin and pack our bikes before we left at 5am this morning for the airport and onto a plane to MN, where we are going to start racing the Nature Valley stage race tomorrow! Wish us luck and I have internet as of now so hopefully I can keep up some pretty regular updates while we are here...if I have the energy!
Wow...this marathon blogging update has taken a lot out of me...I need to go eat dinner now!