May 2, 2004 – Stage Racing While Sucking Air Through A Straw

I guess it is a matter of opinion on whether a report is better late than never, but I have a story to tell so I am going to let you in on it whether you care at this late date what happened at Tour of the Gila, or whether you are so over that race. Those that got enough on cyclingnews.com, seeya, those that want to find out what REALLY happened, here’s my version.

Silver City is a tiny mining town in the middle of a hundred miles from nowhere and we stayed in a little town about 7miles from there called Pinos Altos. 7080 feet on top of spaghetti, this little gold rush town is quaint with a capital R for rustic. We were welcomed by the family that runs a little place called the Bear Creek Cabins for about the 8th year running…. this area was once stomping ground for Canadian training camp. This year we just came in to bust ass at the Tour of the Gila, a race known for very unforgiving courses, altitude, and beautiful scenery.

So to the race, we started with the time trial. I think it was around 17 miles of climb over a mountain pass into a headwind, descend down and then turn around and climb back up it, then throw it in your biggest gear and haul ass downhill with a tailwind to the finish. Fast chicks did it in just under 42 minutes, I did it in just over 43 minutes. Probably looking into a 56 for the time trial bike….53 was a tad slow. But the highlight of the day was testing out my super cool, orangerific time trial bike recently gifted to me by K2… my first time trial bike ever! The boys at Tommy O bikes in Phoenix had pimped it out for me the week before so it was all new bike action the day of the race and that made it fun. I wasn’t too fast, but I sure felt fast. Thanks go to Ian Abbott and Rob Hasagawa from Cedar Hill for outfitting the aero wheels, which are the next item on Melanie’s never ending bike component wish list. Busted out an 11th which is pretty good for a mountainbike girl sucking air through a straw on the first few days at altitude, and called it a day.

The next day was not good, at all. We rode from Silver City up to the top of Mogillon Pass, 71 miles or something of wind and mayhem topped off with a mega climb up to what felt like 37,000 feet. I was having issues at altitude and just the cross wind gutter action as the peloton motored to the mountain was almost enough to crack me, but turning the corner into a headwind looking at a 15km climb finished me off. I just sucked the second stage, lost like 10 minutes and went home with my tail between my legs.l

Stage 3 was a bit better, 77 miles of Inner Loop fun in a big circle up to Pinos Altos and along a beautiful road ending up back in Silver City. The climb to Pinos Altos was very civilized, not very hard a pace, then we descended like banshees into Lake Roberts (at one point me and 7 others had a cool little group of kamikazes that decided to maybe go fast downhill and see if we can keep the others away, but they caught us along the flats). The race really got hard in some of the last climbs within the last 20kms of the finish, tornado winds were mostly the reason, lots of attacks guttering us was the other, but I stayed with the lead group which was whittled to around 18 or so, and even without feeling great, some power was coming back to the system

Stage 4 was the criterium and it was a way different story from last year… I could attack. Yay! So right off the gun I tried setting a hard pace, attacked, got away, got caught, my teammate Dara attacked, got away with 2, I blocked, she cruised out front to take a prime and ride away for awhile, their group got caught, so then I sprinted for a prime and got a massive gap. I was joined by six others and then our break proceeded to put some massive real estate on the bunch. Won another prime, then started trying to imagine how to win the race, had a race plan, went into the last lap and got all jumbled up with other race plans, made a dumb move and was outsprinted by like, everyone, and ended up fifth. So much for all the fire power in starting breaks, dumb mountainbiker, but I learned a lot in that race so it was all good.

Anyway, so last day. 71 miles around the Inner Loop in the other direction. A break went really early and noone cared. So as we were meandering along I was super bored and was just about to start attacking just to get some training in and Andrea Hannos went right beside me, so I jumped with her, started busting ass with her right away, we were joined by three others and boom, a break is born. A good one too, as none of us were too high in the GC.. This one stuck, most of us worked, a hard day of hammering along the flats to be greeted by the fun climb we had so much fun careening down the other day. Three of us worked hard on the climb so we lost a couple, caught the first break, and the the decisive move was made by Kim Anderson. She was too fast for me as I was being crushed at 8000 feet, and so I just stayed with my little group of four trying to not have to pedal very hard since I was on the rivets already. Then my group became very unfriendly as they RACED, dammit! So I just held on as long as I could, until the last 500m (which is uphill because the whole last mile is climbing to the finish). At that point I knew even if I completely cracked it was all downhill to my hotel room so I would be all right, and I pulled in a 7th.

So some good riding at the end of the week, some really crap at the beginning, and an 18th overall despite the meltdown on Thursday. Tour of the Gila all over, I have some dope legs to take with me to Sonoma and Europe, and the race was so hard I was further chiseled by calorie deficit. Went back to my spring training base in Phoenix to do some last laps in the pool (okay, okay, I lay in a chair beside the pool and thought about doing laps….) and to say goodbye to my wicked hosts Jerry and Erin, and with a twinge of regret knowing I am done with Arizona, which has been my training base and home away from home since March. But they just served us vanilla ice cream on this flight so I am over it already!

Thanks so much go to my support people. Most importantly to my coach Houshang Amiri of the Pacificsport National Cycling Center. I would also like to thank Ford Motor Company, Ford Cycling (www.quickrelease.com), K2 Bicycles, Saucony, Maxxis, Compex, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano, Giro, Powerbar, Descente, Rider’s Cycles, Arq Salon, Pacificsport, and Deuter. Ian Abbott, our massage therapist, thanks for coaxing some power out of very tired legs, TommyO, thanks for the mechanical hookup and the friendly group to ride with, and again to Jerry and Erin, look forward to seeing you guys again soon!

Next stop Sonoma…….some NORBA action to tune up for the big World Cup campaign in Europe…Rice A Roni, anyone?

April 18th, 2004 – Ford Claims Podiums At Sea Otter 2004

The Sea Otter Classic has finished, and our team had some highlights and lowlights to color the weekend. The race was held in Monterey, and for most of the weekend it was cool but sunny, perfect mountain bike racing weather!

All three of us raced, myself, Dara Marks-Marino and LIsa Matlock. The race had four stages, ie four individual races all of which counted towards an overall GC…. stage racing!

The race opened with a new stage, the Super XC, which was a circuit race with a lot of paved road and a small bit of gravelly singletrack. The race was to go for 75minutes, so we didn’t know how many laps we would do at the beginning. It was pretty windy, so it meant the race was a bit negative because it was very difficult to get away from the group with all the wind. It was somewhat flat-ish as well, so hard to make moves. The group came in as about 25, and I had a good sprint and finished 3rd (first team podium of the weekend!) and Dara came in 16th.

The next stage was the time trial, which was 6 miles on a new course. It was a lot of downhill and then a big wide open fire road climb basically to the finish. I raced as hard as I could despite feeling a bit off, and ended up rolling in 8th, and my teammate Dara was within seconds of me (we were actually all within seconds in the top 10) and she took 10th, and moved into 10th overall while I was in 6th at this stage.

The short track was on Saturday, a 20minute criterium offroad… this is the exciting spectator day as tons of people were there to watch. It was very cool. I wanted to erase some time from my disappointing time trial and attacked very hard to make a break go, and it did. It was like deja vu of last year as I was in a small group with two Luna girls, Alison Dunlap and Katerina Hanusova, and the two of them worked me over with team tactics and I got outsprinted to the final critical turn again, and took second. We had a good gap on the field which achieved my goal and I moved into third overall. Dara finished with the group and remained in the top 10.

So the final day was the cross country, two giant loops on a new-ish course. I was very focussed and went hard on the start to make sure I made the initial selection, but very early in the race I knew I was in trouble. I had no legs at all, and for a lap I fought to stay with the leaders where I knew I belonged.. but after an hour and a half of racing I was shivering with cold while RACING . I was having real trouble at that point and decided not to risk anything and I cut my losses and had to retire from the race. Dara was racing quite well until a mechanical sidelined her and dropped her just out of the top 10, but a good showing regardless.

So two podiums for the team in a world class field. A disappointing finish but it looks like all is in order for the big races coming up in Europe. Next stop for the team is Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico, a road stage race, then the team will go to Sonoma for the second NORBA stop.

Thanks so much go to my support people. Most importantly to my coach Houshang Amiri of the Pacificsport National Cycling Center. I would also like to thank Ford Motor Company, Ford Cycling (www.quickrelease.com), K2 Bicycles, Saucony, Maxxis, Compex, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano, Giro, Powerbar, Descente, Rider’s Cycles, Arq Salon, Pacificsport, and Deuter.