The Cascade Cycling Classic was initially described to me as a “climbing race.” But when reflecting on the 6 days of racing, the climbs are not what come to mind. The team tactics and success and the many learning moments are vivid.
I decided to take a spin around the course a few times, if for nothing more than to raise my confidence. Both the course and TT bike were brand new to me, so I wanted to get well acquainted with them. Apparently I overestimated my skills because I tried to take a tight turn at full speed in my aero bars and nearly crashed into the barricades. Let’s just say that didn’t exactly raise my confidence, but it did give me a new game plan…get through the prologue in one piece. Going with that as the primary goal, I spent most of the descent out of my aero bars and the rest of the time pedaling as hard as I could until I crossed the line in 5:32, placing 54th. Shelley had an awesome ride to place second behind Alison Powers.
Stage 1, McKenzie Pass RR
My job for this race was to set tempo on the climbs. This seemed simple enough until there were a couple attacks that I felt were my job to cover because I was in good position to do so. Apparently this was a fail because (1) it would have been better to leave that work to another team and (2) it hurt my legs pretty bad so when the climbers took off later in the climb, I didn’t have it in me to go with them to support our GC rider (Claudia Haeusler). I crested the first long climb in a small group that included my teammate Lauren Stephens and Optum’s Jade and Janel. Lauren and I had four teammates up the road and Optum did not have any, so we knew we should not work in our pack. My focus then turned to getting down more water and gels to finish the very hot stage in the best condition possible for the upcoming days. Claudia took the stage win and QOM jersey and our team moved into the lead in the team GC.
Stage 2, Prineville TT
Even though it was wicked hot and my legs were super sore, I was pretty excited for this TT because (1) it would be my first full time trail on a TT bike and (2) there was no ramp to worry about getting down. Just me and my super speedy Fuji going full power, fun! Not so much. Apparently I needed to practice TT starts more. I don’t put force on the pedals until the starter lets go of me, so when he does I kind of just fall over. So it went “3, 2, 1…ahhh fall into barricades, grab them, and yell help help help.” Apparently they can’t help you once your time starts, so I had to unclip and get started again on my own. Needless to say, I was a bit frazzled once I got rolling, but I regained focus and concentrated on the four things my coach, Ron Peterson, had told me to think about: staying aero, my line, steady power, and high cadence. Given that nobody had passed me before the first turnaround, I thought I was doing pretty well. Then I looked at this sharp U-turn and had no idea how to handle it. I decided to play it safe by coming out of my aero bars and unclipping one foot. Well, the temptation to put that foot down once it was unclipped and I felt totally unsteady was a bit too much and I ended up kind of walking it around the turn and then remounting and clipping back in…fail. Two racers soon passed me and although I yet again tried to regain focus, it was hard. Add in that my legs hurt terribly although I felt like I was hardly taxing my lungs, and let’s just say my level of frustration was pretty high. I finally crossed the line in 45th with 38:41, minutes behind the incredible Alison Powers who always crushes TTs.
Stage 3, Cascade Lakes RR
Now this one was an adventure. The race started with a very long descent full of erratic slowing. I cruised down it trying to spin my tingly legs and staying out of trouble. Then came some rollers where I went to the front to set tempo but then learned it was better to leave this to another team. When I went off the front, I soon found myself again at the very back and stuck behind a bad crash that left several racers injured and me chasing in far too heavy of a gear and unaware that I could use the draft of cars to help me get back to the pack. When I finally reached the main group, I was pretty dead and wanted to take a little recovery time. Unfortunately, I prefer to recover by myself off the back of the pack and that does not actually allow for recovery.
When we hit the long flat/rolling section, there was attack after attack and I went to the front to get my head back in the game and see how I could help. My teammate up there told me that I did not need to work on the front but could stay there if it helped me stay in the lead group. Then came yet another attack that my teammate told me I could follow, so I did. As soon as that was brought back, I followed another attack that turned into a break. The four of us rotated through and got a 20-30 second gap. Our break stayed away until Exergy chased us down to take the intermediary sprint. My memory of the rest of this race is a bit foggy, but TIBCO’s Lauren went on to take the stage win after following and then dropping Janel who was bridging up to Donovan who had dropped her breakaway partners and went on to finish 2nd.
I climbed with the final main selection of Oliviera, Powers, McGrath, Dvorak, Abbott, and my teammates Jo and Claudia. Once we had a decent gap on the next pack, I looked at Claudia to see what I could do to help her. She told me to attack, so I did but didn’t get much gap. After we made the final turn headed to the finish, I saw Claudia come flying by with several on her wheel. I ended up 8th, 5 seconds off that group and Claudia gained some time on Abbott and Dvorak but remained 2nd GC.
Stage 4, Downtown Crit
Team TIBCO made several attacks, but in the end it came down to a photo finish with Shelley second and Lauren Hall taking the win. I hung safely with the main group, looking forward to the final stage.
Stage 5, Awbrey Butte CR
Team TIBCO wanted to make this race HARD, although I think the heat and puncher climbs would make it anything but easy even without our game plan. My part in this was to press the tempo on the rollers and then stay near Claudia who would keep the pace high on the main climbs. Add in my teammates attacking and it was a race that would have all of us hurting and make a break more likely to stick.
In the final lap, Amanda Miller did get in a break and went on to take the stage win after putting in two attacks on her breakaway partners. Claudia held on to 2nd GC and the QOM jersey, Jasmin Glaesser remained the best young rider, and we also won the team competition. Add in that Jo Kiesanowski and Claudi took two jerseys in the Women’s Prestige Series, and it is safe to say that Team TIBCO had a very successful stage race. We couldn’t have done it without our incredible sponsors and staff who work so hard for us, and I couldn’t have learned and contributed half what I did without my team, family, coach, Mark Payares, and Dotsie Bausch supporting and encouraging me through the good and bad.