Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Firestone 805 Criterium Weekend

Racecations are the best with Kyle as my sidekick. I won't say they are the most organized or are without drama. But they are time away. Together. And sadly, they race by too fast.

cheap floaty and a pool = relaxation.
teaching my man Kings in the Corner
This past weekend we headed up to Lompac and Buelton, CA for the Firestone Walker 805 criterium weekend. The CA state championship race moved from Brentwood this year and we've had this weekend on our calendar since the announcement. We were packed and ready for our four day weekend by the time I got off work on Wednesday evening. Stayed with one of Kyle's old navy buddies in Ventura and headed up to the race area on Thursday morning. We checked into the campground and took a quick bike ride through Solvang {and hopped over private property fences, hike-a-biking, to complete the loop}. Returned to the campsite for some pool time {really ruffing it} and made hot dogs on the fire for dinner. {s'mores too!}

This weekend was all about the criterium. I toed the line 6 times in 3 days and had no idea how my body would respond to that much intensity in such a short time. Quite frankly, I'm shocked at how well it went and have a lot to say but I'll try and keep it brief. Most importantly though, I am indebted to my teammate Deanna. She worked her ass off for me this weekend and I've never enjoyed the view ahead more than when it comes from the colors of my teammate. Her selfless riding is unmatched in the women's racing scene and I cannot thank her enough for the work getting me in position. She made my job of getting to the line easy. 

Firestone 805 Allan Hancock EVOC Track Crit
Friday was a sleep in morning for us {as much sleeping in you can do in a tent} and we headed to the race site 20 min away rather early. The course was on police training grounds and was quite frankly a bit of a disappointment. There were zero turns and the course was the least technical I've ever seen. It'd be like a crit on Fiesta Island. Boring. Windy {another weekend theme}.

W3/4: Toed the line. Attacks happened, but we all know that they can't really be called attacks. More like surges off the front where everyone knows it's going to happen, so accelerating at a moderate pace makes it easy to bring them back, and makes the attacker more tired. Deanna lined me up for a prize prime and we snagged it easily. Winds started picking up and with one to go she brings me to the front. The main headwind section was a bitch. Being on the inside for the last curve before the sprint was critical and unfortunately not where we ended up. I ended up having to come around her into the wind and easily gave the inside line away {a much better line} and sprinted in for second.

day 1. podium 1 (2nd)
WPro123: We weren't too stoked to race as the wind was picking up and the course was so uninspiring. But we paid and were there for the other races anyway, so why not. Attacks were much punchier, but still were not going to stay away. Deanna brought back a couple of breaks and worked hard in the wind. I tried to stay sheltered and to position myself near the contenders. She again pulled me to the near front and I slid in behind a sprinter who took me to the line for 5th.

kyle, bryan, brendan, and vince. Kyle on a break. and day 1 podium 2 (5th)

Firestone 805 Avenue of Flags Crit
Saturday was the same wind story, but much different on the course front. It was an L shaped 6 corner course with a punchy "hill" - but not a real hill. Half the length of the Barrio Logan hill. Our teammate Kim joined in for the fun.

W3/4: The race started off pretty mellow. Deanna got set up for the primes and I was in conservation mode, so I followed her but didn't sprint around the girl who she gapped on the first bell, and was poorly positioned on the second. Deanna snagged both for herself. Maybe halfway though there was a crash {in the straights after corner 2} that I saw/heard before it actually happened and was able to make it through the carnage. In typical 3/4 fashion, everyone is looking around and slowing, and for the next couple of laps we were going not fast. We get setup for the last lap and Deanna is pulling strong again. Unfortunately our line again took us to the windy side and I couldn't catch the girls who got the earlier jump and ended up 3rd.

day 2, podium 3. (3rd) And the ladies! Deanna, Kim, Christy, and I
This was an omnium weekend, meaning there were points for top 10 places all 3 days and an overall podium. Deanna and I had planned to do all of the 3/4 races but take Saturday afternoon off to rest up for Sunday's big race. After getting points on the first day in the Pro123 race we decided to make it a game day decision on Saturday and register after experiencing the hill. It wasn't that bad, so what the heck.

WPro123: Hardest race I've done. From the gun to the finish. So much windier at 1:15pm than 8:05am. Attacks from the start kept the bunch strung out and left me no where to hide. I rode this course as technically smart as possible. I took all the corners clean and on the right "side" for the wind to be most blocked by the one girl next to me. Still, I'm sprinting up the hill every time, and redlining on the "downhill" section tucking myself as low as possible begging the wind to give some relief {it never came}. Girls are popping off the back at a regular rate as the field is diminishing quickly {36ish starters, 16 pack finishers}. Heck, I'm popping off the back. Twice the motor went in front of me and thankfully the pack pace lulled in the slightest amount and I chased like hell to catch back on. Crash ahead in the corner and Deanna get's caught behind. I see it happen enough in advance and the crasher skids out of the corner enough to allow me to take the inside line and catch a wheel to hammer onto the pack. The pack attacks. Because that's the difference between the races. 3/4 girls look around. Pro girls attack when they hear a crash. It's a chance to break, or at least splinter the field. Every time around the finish I'm begging for the laps to get lower and the clock to race faster. Is it over yet? I am seriously wondering if I'm going to finish. Each lap crawls by and I'm running on fumes. I have burned every match I ever thought possible and am somehow pulling out splinters of efforts to just hang. Hopped onto a good wheel on the last lap and turned for the finish. There was a bit of craziness at the fence {as that was the better line with the wind} and I was forced wide {and into the wind}. Came around a girl and the blast of wind almost made me laugh while in full sprint mode. It did make me feel like I was riding into a wall. Couldn't believe I managed to finish. Seriously. Hardest fought battle for 7th place ever. Deanna actually finished without getting lapped begging all those girls who got popped to work with her. The girl who crashed ended up getting a free lap and I was pissed to see her back in and to see my teammate on the back chasing. Felt vindicated when crasher ended up getting popped again from the main group. {RIDE IN YOUR DROPS!}

Saturday evening ended with Kyle's race {last race every day all weekend} and him winning a $100 bottle of wine in a prime when I shouted at him to do so. Love that man. ;) After the races, we were invited to a dinner party at a local gal's amazing house! The food was awesome and the company was even better. Most of the women's 3/4 field was there and it was great to spend some time with these ladies off the bike.

kyle moving up to win me some wine!

Firestone 805 Avenue of the Flags Crit
Sunday I woke up tired. Like really dead to the world tired. We packed up the car the night before but still had to get the tent and sleeping crap loaded in. I made oatmeal for breakfast and we were off to Lompac for the final day of racing. I was basically sleeping on my trainer, trying to ingest as much caffeine as possible. I even had half a coke at 7:30am. 1 vanilla Gu. 1 motivator. Come on body, work with me. Wake up!! The course was an 8 corner course, but was longer than Barrio or Brentwood, so there was quite a bit of road between the corners. It was also a bit wide for most of the course making it less technical than I'd like to see. And those straights meant the wind would yet again play a role.

W3/4: We again worked on the lead out for the primes. Missed the first one again due to energy conservation {I gave up midway though the sprint}. The second prime was for omnium points for the top 3, and I ended up getting 3 points for 2nd. The rest of the race was a bit fidgety. Searching for safe wheels. Controlling the race. And on the last lap while following Deanna's wheel, I got pushed into the gutter on the one tight corner. She pedaled out and I had to let off the gas to not go down. I watched her ride up the road. I sat in and decided to make a move on the next corner. Deanna was making her move and an unnamed competitor decided to move to the inside and they bumped shoulders and bars and seriously almost went down. I was angry. And was holding my breath through the entire fiasco. I was watching Deanna leadout the wrong team! I gunned it out of the next corner and had to maneuver around quite a few riders. I was on a good wheel, but found out later her chain dropped and she couldn't shift to the big ring! Went into the last corner in a crappy position and sprinted in for 4th in the most disappointing finish of the weekend.

lead out for a prime
WPro123: What a fun race. Yeah I was dangling off the back for a while, but this race was significantly more manageable than the heart attack of a race the previous day. The attacks were strong, as was the freaking wind. I knew there would be the omnium points prime half way through and what do you know, 25 min in and they are singing the bell. I had warned Deanna and she did her best to move us up, but the peloton was a bit jumpy and I had to use my brakes a little more than I like. Was fighting for position all through that lap. 

An attack shortly after left the race split. Joy {the eventual winner} was still in our group so I was concerned, but not alarmed. A coupe corners later and she attacks the chase group and I freak out. This is it. That's the race right in front of me. Deanna drives me to the front and I launch. I put in an effort that I know is more matches than my book has. I have to believe in every pedal stroke. I hit the windy section and tuck so low. My thighs are pumping harder into my chest, mashing the pedals more than ever before. I'm gaining on the break. Dangling. I hit the corner and thankfully the tailwind pushes me to the back of the group. Holy hell I made it. I seriously quoted Top Gun and gave myself a pat on the back {Gutsiest move I've ever seen, Mav} knowing that it could've been the winning break. And Danny Munson of  Cycling Illustrated snapped a rad photo of my move! Instagram. Cycling Illustrated.

Unfortunately a lap later, the chase group got their engines going, the break was unorganized, and the gap was bridged. Dang it! All that work! All those burned matches. 5 laps to go. I'm in recovery mode. The pack is getting squirmy again and I find myself near the back using the brakes all too often. With 1 to go Deanna brings me to mid pack and grabs the pro girl's wheel and heads into corner 4. We are on the outside and we all get pushed wide. And then she brakes. Hard. I'm screaming. The Monster Media girl gets forced on the other side of the fence! I'm at a standstill and manage to get around and sprint down the windy section to catch the field. Crap! {that effort was at a higher max wattage than my sprint}. Made it through the narrow corner, take a breather on the tail wind section but know I need to be moving up, not back. Moved up in the next two turns and hit the last turn on the inside stuck in traffic. Go to sprint and some crazy bumping is happening on the fence that I manage to get around and put on the afterburners for a second sprint attempt which lands me 5th! I was so happy at the finish to actually be there! After the crazy last lap and the bridging efforts, I was just so relieved to cross that line alongside some great competitors. 

Phew 6 races and 7 podiums. With the consistent finishes all weekend I managed to place 3rd in the women's 3/4 Omnium and 4th in the women's  Pro123 Omnium! I couldn't have done this without the help of my amazing teamie. Mad props to her aggressive and selfless riding. So much fun. No bear jersey this year, but I had much more fun racing more and not sandbagging for one race. Testing my legs and fitness and will to ride hard were much more rewarding experiences. I found some new pain thresholds and dug deeper than I thought possible, while still being there in the end. Gaining that experience and muscle memory will only make us stronger racers.  

Day 3. Podium 6. (5th)

Kyle was yet again the last race of the day in a desolate town. I enjoyed my well earned Firestone 805 beer and had fun cheering for him and Greg. It was a late night on the road but so worth it. Definitely on my list for next year, although sadly I'll be solo as Kyle will still be deployed. {more time for team bonding!} 

so much fun. 
I'm really starting to believe the pro123 races aren't that scary and that my ability to hang on and be there at the end is greater than my mind once thought. Good thing I'm switching gears to half Ironman training now. :/ 

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