Monday, April 6, 2009

Cherry Blossom: Stage Two and Three Reports

Here is my second installment of the Cherry Blossom 2009 race report. By the way, did anyone actually SEE a Cherry Blossom while they were in The Dalles? I thought I might have seen one yesterday while climbing up Seven Mile Hill, but that might have just been my cornea exploding.

Stage Two: The Time Trial. Unlike most sane, rational human beings, I like time-trialing. This might be the case for me being neither sane nor rational, but that is a topic for another day.

One of the more insane things about time trialing is that the most important part actually takes place before you race. Warming up for a TT is an art form. It's all about kicking your own ass and minimizing the time at the start of the TT when all you want to do is throw up in your mouth. For an eight mile race such as this one, I would ideally warm up for an hour.

And ideally, we wouldn't have had to coordinate six people, seven bikes, four trainers, three extra wheelsets, two pots of coffee and 100 pounds of gear at 6AM on a Saturday morning.

So we ended up only having about 40 minutes to get ready. Which involved getting my heart rate up to 85% as quickly as possible.... in 37 degree weather. This is why Metallica and Red Bull exist.

The course was an out-and-back course with about 400 feet of elevation gain in the first 4 miles.

It was hard. I was on the edge of barfing the entire time. So all in all, exactly what needed to happen. Overall time 22:32. Averaged about 21.3 MPH. Caught my 30 second, 60 second, 1:30, 2 min, 2:30 and 3 minute persons.

I ended up second (I am listed third in the results, but the posted winner of the TT was the victim of a clerical error) by about 11 seconds. Not bad, but the TT was my best chance to win a stage and I know that an extra 15 minutes of warm up would have gotten me those 11 seconds.

But....moving on to my favorite type of racing...crit racing.

Stage Three: Cherry City Criterium. I was hooked on crits after my first one in August of last year. Fast, dangerous and over in less than 45 minutes. (Sort of like junior prom, but just a little bit). I am a confident bike handler and frequently sport an overabundance of ego--so it was a natural fit.

I got a call-up for my TT finish and it was pretty awesome to hear all of the cheering When the inevitable ejection from Cat 4 comes within the next few months, I'm going to miss the ladies that I've met in the last two months of racing.

The call-up also got me up front for the start of the race, which cut down on my pre-race anxiety. The only place worse than the middle of a Cat 4 women's crit is anywhere in a Cat 5 men's crit.

I wanted to start fast and out front, lead as little as possible and fall no further back than third or fourth wheel for the entire race. We were having to deal with a backside headwind and there were only 4 corners-all easy, so there probably wasn't going to be an opportunity for a breakaway. But if someone jumped, I wanted to be in the position to go with her.

I executed my plan perfectly, more or less. By "more or less", I mean that I was exactly where I wanted to be going into the sprint...until I took the final corner too tight, had to make a correction and lost both speed and the wheel I wanted to be on for the sprint. I did fight my way back to fifth, stood up and sprinted....IN MY DROPS.

The post-race relief I felt lasted about 45 seconds. Someone rolled up to me and told me that I had a teammate that went down in the final sprint. I didn't see anyone from my team and panicked. Basically rode another lap of the course at a faster pace than we had raced at.

Turns out Mindy went down with 30 meters to go. A lot of road rash and a busted front wheel, but otherwise OK. In fact, she was able to get up and RUN her bike though the finish line, "Breaking Away" style. You might not know if from looking at her, but Mindy is a seriously tough cookie.

We stuck around until the end of the women's 1/2/3 crit, which ended with a great finish for Burns but also with a horrible crash on the final turn. One of my former teammates from Group Health and a friend from Veloce were two of the four taken off via ambulance. Very sobering.

As was the prospect of climbing 1800 feet in 5 miles the next morning. We drove the dreaded Seven Mile Hill on our way home and I promised myself I wouldn't think too much about it until the morning. I broke this promise repeatedly.

Fell asleep in the middle of "My Cousin Vinny" and dreamt of climbing.

No comments: