Women's Team Wins GC at Tour of Washington County
Tour of Washington County Kick-Off Crit
Thanks to great promotion of this new race, many locals came out to drink, eat, and cheer on the riders as Joe Jefferson called them out on the mike. The course is a six-turn criterium with a little stand-up and over hill on the backside. The women’s race had a great turn-out with local favorites who been frequent contenders in the local NRC events, namely Emma Swatman and Erin Silliman.
It was a quick pace from the gun. Our team was going to ride smart, attack at key moments, and hopefully preserve their designated sprinter (me) for the end. Tight turns, snappy attacks, lots of chasing. A couple riders dropped out, and a little crash happened that brought down 5 or 6 riders with 10 or so laps to go. This is typical drama in a crit, but crashing the night before the region’s largest stage race isn’t the most ideal situation. ABRT’s unfortunate rider, new teammate Shauna Sweet, got up from the pavement and finished the race in typical stubborn ABRT fashion. She also managed to pull herself together to race with the team the rest of the weekend, and do well in the GC too!
With 2 laps to go, Sue McQuinston launched a sick attack and rode 8 seconds ahead of the pack for a lap. Christine and I followed along as Erin Silliman lead the peloton on the chase. Sue fell back into the pack but then hopped right back on the front to keep the pace fast and furious until right before the second to last turn. I managed to sneak to the front to take that turn, all set and ready to hold that position until the sprint. A Cat 4 rider from Syn-Fit came around me from the outside, and I came into the last turn at second wheel. I held that second place to the line, just tenths of a second ahead of Erin Silliman. I was happy to help the winner open her champagne bottle on the podium, and even happier to gather the race earnings with Sue and Christine. This race set the stage for the selfless teamwork that would occur all weekend...and eventually put ABRT on the top of the podium on Sunday :)
Tour of Washington County
Time trial bike? Road Bike? Hmm that was the question and the talk at dinner on Friday night. If you are wondering where classy women eat the night before a stage race in Hagerstown, you should ask the manager of Sheetz. He’ll tell you that we ate our freshly-made hot sandwiches on a “bench” outside. That bench usually held windshield wiper fluid, but after we stealthily cleared all the jugs from one spot, you would never know.
The prologue consisted of short, steep climbs and long straights. I hadn’t ridden my TT bike since last year, so to play it safe, I chose my trusty CADD 10. I’m glad I did because hauling those aero bars up the first kicker would not have been fun...for not considering myself much of a climber, I was happy to place 6th, 25sec off the leader. Sue came in 10th, Amy 11th. Despite the crash the night before, Shauna came in 17th, and Christine and Janet came in 21st and 25th respectively.
Smithsburg Road Race:
During a short rest period, we women looked oh-so-pro hanging out in the grassy patch in our foldable lawn chairs. We looked so comfortable that Nate from the men’s elite team came to join us. Or maybe he came because he saw the collection of food we had...either way, it was good to see Nate back on the bike after a long recovery from a broken collarbone. Now, Nate, you can return to your old habits of eating all of my leftovers :)
Shauna, Sue, Amy, Janet, Christine, and I made the largest team at ToWC. The first 3 laps were relatively uneventful. In fact, I found myself thinking, “This is why I don’t prefer road races.” Going into the 4th lap, two riders for two separate teams rode away. I saw the gap forming and growing but their teammates did a superb job blocking. I couldn’t get around them on the narrow roads. As soon as we could, Sue and I got the front. Now we have ourselves a bike race. We did some attacking, some pulls, and any other efforts we could muster to bring them back. Without help from the rest of the pack, killing ourselves for a lap got us nowhere. I told Sue going into the sixth and final lap that I didn’t think we’d be able to make up that 45 sec gap. I must have been really tired because I never say things like that. Sue probably got mad at me for thinking so pessimistically. She sweet-talked two solo riders to help the effort. The four of us worked for another lap and finally caught the two off the front right before the climb going into the finishing stretch. Whew! Close one. Sue gave a solid effort to lead me out for the sprint (seriously, haven’t you done enough work already?), but I have to admit that I didn’t have much in me. I struggled for a 7th place, and Sue came in 8th, Amy in 12th. I came in 6 seconds after the winner and the podium finishers claimed the coveted time bonuses. Not to fret, though, as plenty of racing was left to be had.
Saturday night’s food intake was substantial, or normal I guess if you are a bike racer. Thanks to Janet’s encouragement, I ate tons of bread and pasta. Sue and Shauna gladly ate ice cream with me after the TT course recon. I’ve always used my age as my method of recovery, but this weekend, I’ve learned that Hammer endurolytes really do make a difference, and even though I don’t own a pair of Zensah stockings, I made up for it by propping my feet on the wall of the Red Roof Inn for the entire evening. This thing called recovery really does work.
Last year, I felt like my TT bike was just a precious piece of carbon I was happy to own. Little did I know that in 2011, I would find it to be THE precious piece of carbon I am happy to own and actually feel comfortable riding. It seemed to fit like a glove, and my legs felt great. Alaina Gurski, PA state TT champion many years in a row, was my 30-second girl. I cruised over the rollers, keeping her in sight, and used the landmarks to mark the start of the final stretch. The cameraman should stand here, where a cyclist gets that funny looking open-mouth evil face, also known as the time when he or she is gasping for air as the legs are just about to give out. I finished 2nd, right behind ABRT’s 1st place TT superstar Amy Kendall, who rode her road bike with aerobars. The other women also had some great finishes with Sue coming in 7th, Christine in 15th, Shauna in 16th. Janet said she felt awesome out there but had the unfortunate luck of a flat. SRAM neutral support helped her out, but what a bummer!
This criterium proved the value of a good team strategy. Our race director extraordinaire gave each of us a role in order to help me gain the 17 seconds I needed to win the GC. Sitting in 2nd in the GC behind a solo rider from XO Communications put us in a unique position. We had the numbers but could be execute the strategy? Knowing I had really strong teammates, I had full confidence we could do it.
I rode near the the front of the pack because I couldn’t let my GC leader go off the front with an attack. There were plenty of fruitless attacks in the first few laps. Sue lit it up to take the 1st 3 second time bonus from the other teams. Amy sprinted for the 2nd one, and Alaina from CAWES launched a nice counter attack. I followed her. Here we go, ladies and gentleman!
I got on the front of our 2-man break and drove it hard. I needed to make up some serious time if I wanted to win this GC. I looked back to see XO Communications dragging the pack around trying to catch us. She didn’t have much help since the two biggest teams were represented in our 2-man breakaway. ABRT and CAWES teamed up and blocked. Alaina and I traded spots for 5 laps until solo rider, Ainhoa Perez Diaz, bridged up and worked with us. Another CAWES rider bridged up and helped us drive the pace. The CAWES rider who initiated the break fell behind, but she didn’t act as a stepping stone for the main pack since they were over 40 seconds behind us now with only 4 laps to go. Riding during the 15 lap breakaway all the way to the finish felt like flying. I was on cruise control, tired but just too happy to realize it. Ainhoa out-sprinted me, yet again, but the breakaway gained enough time to put me 1st in the GC. A team race strategy executed perfectly gave us the overall win of the Tour of Washington County. Full results here: http://www.usacycling.org/results/?permit=2011-1826