The 2009 racing season is now over. Feels kind of anti-climactic. I guess I had hopes of finishing it out stronger than I did.
Last weekend we raced the US Cup "Unification" race. Same old Bonelli course, wicked heat, no new racers in our group. In retrospect I could have skipped this race and been fine with it. I really wanted to race at Bootleg.
On the first lap the usual suspect attacked, but Marco is really good at Bonelli. The course somehow suits him, and it is cool to see him have great results there. The group stayed together behind him on the first climb and we all hit the fast fire road descent together wheel to wheel. Pretty sure there were 7 of us all together. I was about 4th wheel and felt really good. On the next climb I shifted down to my middle ring and chainsucked. I was forced to jump off and yank my chain out. By the time I looked up the entire group was out of sight. By my estimate I was now 7th or 8th and alone.
I put my head down and went as hard as I dared in the heat with no intention of letting up till I caught the leaders. I passed some people, but didn't ever see the group I was expecting. Little did I know the group had come to pieces and I had clawed my way into third. I was thinking I was 5th or further back and when on my second lap I caught up to the raging battle for the top step on the Pro Women's podium. I sat up a tad so as not to interfere. When I sat up I noted that Matt had tagged onto my wheel, he passed me shortly thereafter. When I felt that I could safely pass and not influence the outcome of the battle in front of me, I did so and then tried to catch up to Matt who had gone by already. It was then that my mental game and leg strength gave out. The heat was getting to me and I just cracked. I had no idea I was in 4th or maybe I could have mustered some strength to stay on the podium. On the last lap I was sitting up and trying to hydrate and get cooled down, I didn't want to DNF. All of a sudden Gary goes by with Umberto in tow and they are racing like they mean it. I was so confused!!! How did Gary get behind me?! What position do they think they are racing for?! I couldn't summon the strength to catch them and find out. I finished out the lap rolling across the line in 6th. I was toasted. Anti-climactic.
The week following was jacked. I planned on not riding Monday, but doing a short hard workout on Tuesday. That got cancelled when I forgot my helmet and there was a fire nearby that was ruining our air quality. Wednesday I was up at 3:45AM to catch a flight to San Francisco for work, didn't get home till 9:45PM. LONG day. Thursday I rode with Allison and felt okay but not great. Friday I couldn't ride due to 5+hrs of driving. Saturday we did openers on part of the course in Big Bear.
Sunday morning my legs and lungs didn't feel spectacular, but I was all-in for the last race of the year. Off the start a group of 5 or 6 of us were setting the pace. Near the top of the first climb there was an acceleration that I couldn't match from a guy that had never raced with us before. Turns out he is CAT1 roadie and CX that has raced in Europe (no wonder I can't match it!). I did my best to manage the gap but the fast fire road and wind favored being part of the group. When I hit the descent I decided to try to make up time but on a corner my rear tire felt soft. I got really worried and dialed it back a bit. Just before the Cabin 89 descent I got within a few yards of Matt's wheel. I didn't push too hard on the climbs figuring I could catch up on the descent, he pulled a bit more of a gap. Then the worst possible thing happened.
Entering the single track a rider came up behind me (it was the top of a climb and I was taking a few deep breaths before I unloaded on the descent) and screamed, "LET ME GET BY!" I had no idea who it was but figured they had to be a wicked descender to be that assertive. WRONG! Two guys go by and then proceed to skid and slide and brake check me the whole descent! At one point they had skidded up a huge cloud of dust in a corner and I couldn't see at all and washed out. I came off my bike and STILL caught them just a few turns later!!! LAME. To all racers out there, please be honest about your self assesment of your abilities. If you suck at descending don't demand a pass at the top of a climb and then hold people up on the descent!
I was frustrated, pissed really, and wasted some energy. Bad move on my part but I had just seen my race strategy blown.
My mom was supporting us at the feed zone. It was great to have support! I grabbed cold bottles and started the climb up Pine Knot but not far into the climb my legs started cramping. Basically my race ended at that point. I did my best to keep moving and put down power where my legs would permit. Matt pulled 4 minutes on me to get 2nd. Griffith had been right with Matt apparently and he pulled 3 minutes on me. I was in 4th.
So now we enter our first "off-season". I am not really looking forward to it. I hope that after another winter of long base miles and drills, and revamping the training plan I can make it past 1hr 20mins without cramps.
I will try to do a Year In Review post that is more up beat. I know I should be celebrating a lot of success. My first year training and racing CAT1 has been more successful than I had originally expected. I think I will try to cling to my 2nd place performance at Windham as my best race of 2009. It's gonna be a long cold winter. :)