Sunday, August 28, 2011

River Gorge RR

Kat, Jonell, Lisa, Valerie, Shelly, Cali, Parri, me, Lee, Anna

I got in a good morning’s work before picking up Kat and heading to Chattanooga for our final ‘A’ race of the season. We wanted to get there early enough to pre-ride the TT course, and though I remembered most of it from when we were there 2 weeks ago, I was really happy to ride it again, refresh my memory, and have Todd give us strategy and tips throughout the course.

It was a short, 4-mile course, and the climb beginning at mile 1.1 was going to determine the outcome of the race. I had heard that in an earlier year, the winning time had been 9:48, so my goal was to get as close to that as possible.

My plan was to race to the top of the climb and then start a new race to get down and to the finish line. It took me 4:58 to get to mile 1.6 (2:18 of that was the climb), and I was racing as if I was being chased by all the other women (that would be because I was; I was the first woman to go, and I had 36 women trying to chase me down! By the time I got to the open road around the dam, I could see a rider ahead of me. That motivated me to go even faster—I had started 4 minutes after the rider ahead of me and thought I had a chance to catch him. Catch him I did, within 200 meters of the finish line. That felt so good, and I knew based on my Garmin that I’d come in under 10 minutes. I watched the next 2 women finish and knew I’d beaten at least the woman a minute behind me, so then I went to cool down a little and cheer on my teammates. I found out later that my official time was 9:58, good enough for 18th out of 37. The winner of this event finished in 9:24, Kat was 4th in 9:37, and then 14 of us were within 20 seconds of that time. This was a fast, tough field! I was thrilled with my time, but I wasn’t quite as happy where that left me in the results. I’m going to have to work on being 35 seconds faster next year so I can win this TT.

Stats: 4 mi, 9:58, 24.2 mph (42.6 max), 177 HR (191 max), 217’ ascent, 417’ descent
This was a fun course. It wasn’t too technical, and the fast descent after the climb was wide open. You can see pretty far ahead of you along the dam, so if someone is ahead of you, you have something to push you to ride even faster. I like a course that has twice as much descending as ascending!

Since I started my TT at 9am and my crit wasn’t until 6:15pm, I had lots of time to chill. Sadly, I didn’t get done what I’d brought to do, but I did relax, spend a little time in downtown Chattanooga for lunch, and almost nap. The Cat 4 women were racing at 3:45, so we went down to cheer them on, getting there in plenty of time to cheer them on before they lined up. During the course of their race, we walked backward on the course to get an idea of each of the 3 corners and then found a good place to sit and watch the finish. When we started our race, the wind that the 4s had faced had died down slightly, so we were expecting a fast, hard race. I was not disappointed. We were quite aggressive during this race, which was fun for me (and I think all of us); it caused us to always be on our toes, watch what each other was doing, and watch what the competition was doing in reaction, too. At one point, I think around 32 minutes (13.1 miles) based on the HR stats, I attacked and stayed away for 2 laps. It forced the other women to chase me down, but it also meant that I was a little more tired for the finish than I’d hoped (I’d actually hoped that when the field caught me, my teammates would attack and get away and we wouldn’t finish on a field sprint). Thus I finished farther back in the field than I wanted to; we’d whittled down the field only slightly during the 45 minutes and still had 16 of the 20 finishers with us for that sprint. My position was horrible and I didn’t move up soon enough, so I ended up 11th of 20 (but with not much left in my legs, so that was a rewarding feeling).

Stats: 45:15, 18.17 miles, 24.1 mph (32.8 max), 179 HR (199 max), 868’ ascent, 883’ descent
This was a very fun, flat, fast course. It looked like there was a hill coming toward the finish line when we walked around, but I never felt it. It was a 3-left-turn wide triangle, with a long curvy back stretch before turn 3 and the long final stretch. All 3 turns were pretty open and clean; we didn’t have any incidents, nor did the Cat 4 women.

Finally on Sunday (after we got to sleep in!), we had the road race that began at 11. This was a course we’d ridden a couple weeks ago as well, and Todd had walked us through it during our pre-race chat, so I was looking forward to it, remembering it, and surprisingly slightly excited. Our field was large for this race, too (36 women), and I had my goals for the race: Climb each of the climbs faster than I’d climbed them 2 weeks ago, and finish the race. I knowingly accomplished the latter, but I wasn’t paying attention to the former at all during the race. I was basically just focusing on wheels.

This race has 3 major climbs:
  1. Queen of the Mountain (QoM)
    • Begins around mile 10.2 and lasts approximately 1.8 miles
    • 8-14-11: 9:40 (1.8mi)
    • 8-28-11: 9:20 (1.9mi)
  2. Stair-step
    • Begins around mile 20 and lasts approximately 2.1 miles
    • 8-14-11: 11:06 (2mi)
    • 8-28-11: 11:13 (2.1mi)
  3. Final climb
    • Begins around mile 33.3 and lasts approximately 3.4 miles
    • 8-14-11: 29:50 (3.4mi)
    • 8-28-11: 25:12 (3.4mi)
Sadly, these are just estimations because I pressed the Lap button for only the final climb Sunday.

For the QoM climb, I was mostly with (but behind) Valerie. When we came to the descent, we worked together, caught Robin, then saw and caught Anna and her group. That was an exciting catch for me. When we began the stair-step climb, we could see lead group ahead of us and I was thrilled. Val and Anna were climbing strong with our group, and Robin and I weren’t able to hang on. After the feed zone, I nearly lost Anna and Val’s group and no longer had Robin working with me, so I had to press in and work as hard as I could to catch them. I kept praying for a car to pass me so I could draft off it, but that didn’t happen. However, thankfully, I did finally catch them and stayed with them until the beginning of the climb before we turned into the TVA property. But when I turned there, Val was just ahead of me and we worked together until the bottom of the real final climb. Then she took off and I climbed my pace. Though evidently Todd’s changing my cassette (I assume—I wouldn’t know the difference by sight or feel), Val and Lee not too far ahead of me, and the thought of being at the top helped me climb faster, because I was over 4.5 minutes faster this time than last time. Hooray! I finished 26 of 36 finishers.

Stats: 2:12:32, 37.08 miles, 16.8 mph (47.0 max), ~164 HR (192 max), 3861’ ascent, 2813’ descent
This is not my favorite course, mainly because of all the climbing. However, it is absolutely beautiful and I will definitely do it again. I managed to maintain a positive attitude throughout Sunday regardless of the terrain. Someday I’d like to climb well enough to stay with the lead group!

I finished 16th of 17 in the omnium, with 5 total points (from the crit). But, Kat's win in the RR put her in 2nd, and Anna and Lisa C finished 4th and 5th, respectively, in the 4s. So this was a pretty good showing for the team.

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