What a weekend it was! I had the opportunity to represent the KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo Cycling Team at two great events this past weekend. My husband Brian and I had put together a weekend in Big Bear, CA for our coaching athletes and friends to tackle the Tour de Big Bear – a 100 mile event traversing 8,400ft of climbing. All of which took place above 7,000ft. We arrived on Thursday for sponsor events and I soon found myself confronted by the elevation and lack of oxygen. I tend to feel better arriving the day of an event and clipping right in. However, spending 2 days at altitude prior to the event put me in the nasty gray zone of not feeling so awesome. Fortunately, Saturday morning boasted temperature below 60F and the day was fantastic. Brian and I joined 1,700 of our closest friends to tackle the route along with the several Strava “sprint” segments and the coveted QOM/KOM climb up to Onyx Summit. This was one wild ride! We made sure to stick with a big group on the first climbs so that once we got to the 2, 3.5 mile sprint segments, we could rotate as if we were going for a Green Jersey so that I could snag the two QOM segments. It wouldn’t be fun without a little competition thrown in, right!? And I will be sure to share whatever I won with Brian.
The QOM segment was 7.5 miles long climbing up to Onyx Summit where the elevation reaches 8,400ft. I soon realized that I was isolated with the other remaining lady in the front group and that we would have to fight it out to the top. There was a massive headwind through out the arduous climb, and despite my attempts, I just couldn’t shake her. I opted to attack going into the final 300 meters and soon found that we were going into a long finishing chute. I charged as hard as I could to stave her off by a mere bike length or two. However, these pesky competitions are something I need to figure out a bit better. Since she had crossed the timing tape half a bike length ahead of me at the bottom of the climb, she beat me out for the top honors by 0.5 seconds after 34 minutes of climbing! And then it was time to ride the remaining 50 miles of the event 🙂
Fast forward 24 hours to Sunday, and man was I sure thankful it was crit day! I was getting the stage race vibe, which I really love and have missed these past few months! The Manhattan Beach Grand Prix was really exciting for multiple reasons. First, Brian was able to race for the first time since April 9th when he broke his pelvis! I am not sure who was more excited between the two of us, but it was a great day. Second, the majority of our team would be assembled as this was one of the final criteriums on the schedule for SoCal, and I sure do love my teammates! Third, we were going to have several of our great sponsors in attendance! Wen Hsieh, owner of KHS Bicycles, came out to watch the team race, as well as Ken Yamakoshi of Xpedo Pedals. We have amazing sponsors and partners and having the chance to race while they are there is really a season highlight. And finally, Brian and I had many local friends and junior clients racing that day who chose to stay and cheer us on in the afternoon. It was time to put on a show!
They always say breakaways never roll on this course. And in the 6 times I have raced the women’s event, I sure can’t think of a time it wasn’t a sprint. Paul and I made the deal that I would wait for the sprint considering how much I rode the day before and the fact that the peloton most likely would not release me from their grasp. But remember, it is always OK to change the plan.
Looking at the start list, I knew Katie Donovan of Colavita would ride hard and want a breakaway for sure. There were several NorCal sprinters in attendance along with several Arizona wildcards. One of the “unknown” riders fled the group after a prime and had a significant gap on the field and despite the on and off attempts of the group to reel her in, she was holding her gap. Perfect! I knew from her previous results that she raced OK City Classic and Tulsa Tough, so she is no foreigner to suffering and turning corners fast. Knowing the counters would start to be launched, I went to the back and patiently waited. Katie soon attacked with Pam Schuster in tow and I knew there would be a fraction of a second where it was time to go, or the window of opportunity would close for the remainder of the 55 minute race.
We came through the start-finish and the group fanned out across the road with way too much chatter for my liking. Ironically, we were directly alongside Paul and our team camp and although I knew our original plan, I dropped a gear and launched my biggest effort of the day to bridge across to the leaders. I knew I had made the right decision and could tell by Paul’s posture that yep, this audible change of plans was solid. Karen Meske of the SkyFlash team came with me which was perfect as we could rotate together to get to Katie and Kimberly. Once we settled into the groove, it was full-gas and full-commitment from the three of us. There was no way that this trio of solo riders would allow the race to finish in a bunch sprint!
I can’t remember the last time I was in a breakaway and I surely can’t remember when I rode this hard in a local criterium. It took the advantage of a strong headwind on the back side of the course as well as riders with the horsepower and commitment to go all in to ensure it would stick. I have been researching the state of “flow” – being in the zone, losing track of time, and being so integrated with the activity you are achieving, everything else melts away. This was the sensation on this ride. Things clicked. I didn’t think once about my sore legs and body and my focus was forever forwards. Not second guessing if this was the right choice, but committing to make it the best choice. Perhaps it was the emotional boost from watching my dear friend Mara Abbott in the battle of a lifetime at the Olympic road race as we drove to the beach that planted the seed to just freaking make it happen. No BS. No excuses. Just ride your bike hard and smart.
These ladies had me on the limit more than I would like to admit as they continued to turn the screws in the finishing laps. I have never had 6 laps go by so slowly before in my life! My brain had to shift from how would I win, to how would I not get dropped with 2 to go! I used every piece of the course, especially the turns to my advantage in order set up to attack going into the final 180 degree turn. This was my best bet at sneaking across the line first, but I knew it was also my way to solidify 2nd. I haven’t practiced my sprinting in a hot minute, and as Kimberly passed me going to the line, I just kept charging forwards even with a bike throw to ensure that on that day, there was nothing left in the tank. No “what ifs”, no “I could have done better”, no pity parties. Just solid bike racing.
Being able to share the podium with my amazing teammates, husband, friends, racing family and fellow bike racers will stand as a big highlight for my 2017 season. A top 5 result wasn’t even on my mental radar in the morning, but the energy, passion and excitement I was able to soak up at the event sure acted as a catalyst to throw it all to the wind. Thank you!
Thank you to our sponsors: KHS Bicycles, Maxxis Tires, JLVelo, Serfas, Shimano, Velo Saddles, Praxis Works, Xpedo Pedals, Kali Protectives, Infinit Nutrition, Bicycle Blue Book, WD-40 BIKE, Chamois Butt’r, Cycling Illustrated, Rennie & Associates, 4iiii, Big Wheel Coaching, Ultra Cycle, and Q2.
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