Stage 1: Silver City to Mogollon Road Race
Our team had three protected riders that we were hoping to get to the base of the final climb as fresh as possible with the exception of trying an echelon if the wind would make that an effective tactic. The wind was constantly there, but mostly a tailwind. And although we did try an echelon, and that was a lot of fun for me and a great learning experience, my teammates mostly kept me out of the wind. Despite their efforts, the final climb was a big disappointment for me.
Because I gave absolutely everything I had on the final climb, I couldn’t be that upset with myself. But I did want to figure out why I didn’t climb like I had hoped. I could think of several factors: This was my first race where wind made pack positioning crucial, without realizing it I raced old cleats that kept releasing me sending me to the back, not being adjusted to the altitude, probably a bit of dehydration, and jumping too hard trying to follow Mara. But what was most unsettling was that reflecting upon it all, I didn’t really trust that any of these were the cause, and so I started to lose confidence in my own abilities.
Stage 2: The Inner Loop Road Race
Initially we had an offensive plan for this race, but with a couple of us not feeling well, our strategy had to adjust. I was still to attack between the first sprint at mile 6 and the treacherous descent that my team would rocket down, but I was attacking only to get a head start on the descent. I did try an attack right after the first sprint. However, with a hard start to the race and strong wind, the move was easily covered and Jo told me to stop attacking.
The pace didn’t really let up until the first QOM at mile 12.5 when a short descent gave some relief. By mile 15, we were going hard again to the next QOM at mile 21. Entering the corkscrew descent, the group was down to maybe 25 riders. I knew I had to be there for my team after it, so although I gave the lead pack a bit of space, I never let the gap get larger than I could easily close with a few others on the flats. From the time we rejoined the lead pack on the flat/rolling section until we resumed climbing around mile 59, the pace was quite relaxed although there were some strong attacks that forced me to focus on holding wheels and staying up front.
When the climbs began in earnest at mile 59, the pace was pretty strong but never pushed me to my max. This meant that in the last few miles I had the legs to follow a couple attacks and bridge solo to a rider in the last mile after Lauren gave me the nod to do so. The pack caught the two of us going into the right turn that leads to a puncher climb followed by two turns to the finish.
I had trouble with positioning in the final few corners leading to the finishing sprint, and I ended up getting gapped and having to chase with others to join the leaders just before the second to last corner. I took the best and safest lines I could find, and held on to finish 11th. Jo and Lauren were second and third respectively to Carmen Small. I wish I could have been up there to help them, but I am excited to be a part of a lead out in future races.
Stage 3: Dan Potts Memorial Tyrone Individual Time Trial
I have a serious love-hate relationship with time trials. This was my second one on a TT bike, and let’s just say my experiences before this one had been rather painful and not in a good way. We did what we could to make me comfortable before my start: adjusting the fit, practicing starts and turnarounds, and lots of reassuring that I have the fitness to produce a good result.
Then I was off, nice and calm. Maybe too relaxed of an effort early on, but maybe not because within the first couple miles my glutes already hurt and my eyes were watering terribly as they continued to the whole race. Apparently the TT bike works different muscles, and mine are far from developed. On the ascents, I wanted to work really hard but my legs would give out before my lungs. And on the descents, I just didn’t have it mentally and would rationalize that it was okay to just get aero and recover.
It seems odd that my lowest average and max heart rate for a sustained race effort at Gila would be in the time trial. But apparently that is what happens when you lack muscular strength and could also use some mental training for time trials. I’m excited to work on my TT skills and see how much I can develop in this discipline because part of me does really love it.
Stage 4: Downtown Silver City Criterium
Crits are never my favorite day, but I did what I could for the team and kept myself out of trouble. I seemed to prefer the inside line on corners and this sometimes meant giving up wheels and finding myself at the back circling to the front. Unfortunately, this wasted a lot of energy and killed any chance of me successfully bridging to the four person break. With none of us able to bridge, Jo was left to sprint out of the break and took third to Alison Powers and Carmen Small with Jessica Cerra coming in fourth. That was not the result and impact on the GC that we had in mind, but we learned from it as a team and then focused on the final stage.
Stage 5: Gila Monster Road Race
Our team had a really solid plan for the final stage, and knew that executing it would require immense teamwork. Lauren, Jasmin, Scotti and myself were to conserve until the final climb that we wanted to enter with a lot or speed. Fortunately, with Jo up the road in a break, other teams drove the pace. When we hit the climb, I was to pace the three of us, nice and steady. Hard, but steady and always in communication with Lauren who did a fantastic job of telling me when to ease up and ultimately when it was okay to leave her with a pack approaching.
Nearing the top of the climb, I had caught most of the riders behind Mara Abbott, Flavia Oliveira, and Abagail Mickey. But I knew Lauren needed me, the situation didn’t feel right, so I eased up to wait for the car talk to our DS. With another rider unwilling to wait for Lauren, he had to ask me to do so. It was a hard thing to do, but it also felt right. I waited, and then when Lauren’s group came up on me on the rolling section, Egon said to go to the front and work to close the gap to the group I had dropped myself from. I closed the gap with the help of a couple others and then Lauren, Scotti, Jasmin, and myself went into attack mode.
In the last few miles, I asked Lauren what she wanted, and she said when we caught Scotti who had attacked and was working with another rider, she wanted me to attack and then she would counter me. She said to attack as hard as I could, all in. I did, countering Jasmin’s attack, and I got away with 3 others. I knew to sit on and hope Lauren would bridge or her group would catch us. With 200 meters to go, it was clear that would not happen, so I went on to attack on the uphill with Katie Hall countering me. I was second out of the break and 5th in the stage.
I wish we could have moved Lauren onto the GC podium, but I still learned a ton and had a great experience working with her and my other teammates in this stage and all the others. Even though our team’s efforts couldn’t challenge the performance of Mara and her United Healthcare teammates, I’m proud of us for fighting until the end.