Things spectators like to yell during a bike race in a misguided attempt to make you feel supported when you are sucking:
You’re looking good!
Keep it up! Just one more hill!
Only 25 more miles to go!!
If you think it’s bad now, wait until the next stage!
If you’re not back here in twenty minutes, you can walk home.
I heard various iterations of these sentiments at Valley of the Sun in 2014, and I was determined not to repeat that this year. My training has been better and more focused, and I felt stronger. It’s also helpful to know the course in advance.
|Ready to roll.|
Things got off to an ominous start as I was packing my car to meet my borrowed teammates from CRJ/Reynolds Racing. (Dennis Furuta, STOP READING NOW BECAUSE THIS IS THE PART WHERE YOU WILL TRIP OUT ABOUT THE COST OF MY NEW PHONE.) I couldn’t figure out why the stupid trunk on my Chevy Cobalt wouldn’t close, so I just kept slamming it down as hard as possible and dropping expletives while my neighbors looked on, shaking their heads….until I realized I was slamming said door on my phone. I then threw the device on the front seat of my Cobalt, jumped in my car because I was running late, and dropped an entire Trenta Iced Coffee ON THE PHONE. Ultimately, I don’t know if it was my hulk-like strength or the coffee, but the phone just sat on my seat, pulsing and vibrating, and nothing else. It took me some extra minutes and some dolla dolla billz, but I managed to get on the road in a reasonable time frame.
I met up with Danial, Peg and Troy, and we drove to New Mexico for the night. We hooked up with their old teammate, Tim, and grabbed dinner at the finest restaurant to use plastic squeeze bottles, also known as “Applebees.” Tim was busy recounting his adventures doing some crazy endurance race where he was forced to hike all night up Boulder Canyon and back float with a backpack over his head and worry about when his toenails would fall off, which pretty much made the rest of us look like a bunch of Nancies. Danial was busy dozing off next to me most of the time, like some kind of narcoleptic…which seemed weird but plausible, given that we’d been driving and sleeping on the road for a solid day.
We crashed at a Quality Inn near Albuquerque, and woke up early the next morning to the woman at the front desk rocking a 70s porn ‘stache and reeking of an old ashtray, and to the free continental breakfast of refined carbs and bad coffee. We cruised out of there and made it to Phoenix earlier than expected.
I’m going to make a controversial statement here: I don’t like Phoenix. The town literally consists of skeezy restaurants and fern bars, a Subway, a crappy foodmart, a burger shack, and, inexplicably, a town museum (maybe they wanted to commemorate the day they scored a Subway franchise). Smattered in there are a few good bars and some decent fusion cuisine, but you have to drive through wicked traffic and brave herds of drunk college kids and old people driving Hoverrounds in bike lanes (for real) to get to them.
We got to our rental house, which was nice, and unloaded bags and bikes. We decided to spin the legs, and everyone got ready to head out for some openers. We rode north of town along Indian School Way, and found ourselves on a nice stretch of country road. Danial went ahead to get in some intervals, and Troy stopped to make some adjustments on his TT bike. Peg and I kept a solid tempo until, moments later, we heard barking dogs. I looked up, and there was a pup going right for Peg’s thigh like it was the fried chicken at Claim Jumper. I yelled, she stopped pedaling, and eventually, Cujo retreated.
About every two feet, another pack of dogs would attack. At first, we thought they were pets people hadn’t kept fenced in, but we quickly realized these were stray dogs. They didn’t respond to commands, and they came at us in groups of six or eight. I’d really like to thank all the courteous and concerned passing motorists who would angrily swerve and honk at us on their way to Wal-Mart or a monster truck rally or a Larry the Cable Guy viewing party or wherever else they were going while we were trying to avoid getting mauled by canines. Nice.
Finally, we decided we were over the whole debacle and were talking about how quickly we could withdraw our annual contributions to the ASPCA when we heard a lot of barking. I looked over and two tiny little dogs were bounding toward us. I waved Peg on, and told her to keep going since they were small. Seconds later, they were joined by two German Shepherds, a Boxer and a bunch of other big dogs, and all were aggressively chasing us. I swerved quickly to avoid one of the Shepherds, and clipped Peg. She went down, which only seemed to encourage the dogs in their charge. We finally decided to just throw down some watts and try and get out of there. We made it away from them, and elected to get our race packets at the bike shop.
After driving to the wrong bike shop, we finally found our way and got our race numbers. It was super busy, and a poor man’s Burt Reynolds with a crazy toupee was doling out packets and giving riders instructions. In the middle of all the confusion, we met up with Josh, another teammate who had driven down in his personal car.
I was first off the next morning in the TT, and Peg was a few minutes behind. I was expecting to be well under 38 minutes for the 20k Time Trial, but the course was super windy and I hadn’t been feeling great. My stomach was rolling during my warm up. I attributed it to early season nerves and the heat, and I just kept drinking water to try and remedy the situation. In the end, I was right around 40 minutes, which left me super disappointed. Peg was also over her goal, but we were consoled by the fact that everyone was posting slower-than-expected times.
|Warming up with Peggers!|
The guys went out next, and had solid results. By then, the crosswinds were scaring the ever-loving crap out of everyone, so I don’t think anyone was really hammering it except for the Tri guys for whom this was THE race of the weekend. Troy started complaining that he wasn’t feeling quite right and, by the time we got back to the house, he was pretty sick. He went straight to bed, and we started giving him fluids to see if it was dehydration. After a lot of liquids and rest, he seemed to be okay.
We had a big, family dinner at the house that night. I love me some food. I am pretty equal opportunity with post-race nutrition. Admitting you ate two huge bowls of cereal or a Krispy Kreme donut is pretty weaksauce compared to gorging yourself on the sketchy cash-only taco truck parked behind a Home Depot. But for the sake of good performance, we kept it healthy. Another teammate, Mitchell, brought over a salad and Peg and I made some pasta and salmon for dinner. This was not easily executed. For starters, we could not locate a can opener to bust out the Fire Roasted Tomatoes from their tiny tin prison. I resorted to using a screwdriver and hammer, and picking the shards of metal out of the can by hand. I managed this with only a moderate amount of bloodshed. And we had no salt or pepper, so we sent Josh to go get some by knocking on the doors of random neighbors.
Danial went to bed, like, seconds after dinner. By morning, we all knew why. Dude was siiiiick. He had chills and a fever, and was throwing up about once an hour. This was bad enough, but to make things worse, Troy and Peg had a busted loo in their bathroom, forcing them to use the one remaining in the house. And now, Danial was setting up camp in there, and it had become some kind of strange biosphere of disease. The situation reached a critical breaking point, however, when I broke the flusher off the toilet. THERE IS NO GREATER PANIC IN LIFE THAN A HOUSE FULL OF NERVOUS BIKE RACERS AND TWO PEOPLE WITH THE FLU, AND NO TOILET.
Ultimately, we left Danial to die in the house with provisionally-working potty, and went to GO RACE. Danial made plans to fly home.
I gotta tell you, I wasn’t feeling it. I was warming up for the road race, and my head totally wasn’t in it. I got to the line without a hint of nerves because I was still lamenting internally about my craptacular time trial which was, in my mind, the best bet for me to podium. (And by podium, I don’t mean 4th.) So we went out, and I just kind of sat in for a bit. I found myself getting pushed to the back, and then I kind of freaked out because I knew that, once we hit the base of the first climb, I was going to get dropped like a bad habit if I stayed in that position. As we approached the turn off to the climb, I noted that all the girls were bunched up in the shoulder when we had full use of the road. I made the decision to go wide, move up the outside, and hammer my way to a good position on the hill. I yelled at Peg to get on my wheel, but she couldn’t make it over in time. I picked up a couple of other girls and, at the crest, we fell off from the first group of about ten riders, leaving us to chase with a lot of people behind us.
|Troy about to die.|
I realized I could totally catch the field since they were dropping more women who couldn’t hang in on the fast and flat stretches. Ultimately, we ended up with a chase of eight riders, and six up the road. At one point, we had about a 30 second gap, but we could never quite close it. Still, I was totally happy with my race. I made solid, smart decisions and the chase group worked really cohesively until the final climb.
Peg finished just after the chase pack came through. We then went to work the feed zone for the guys. By this time, unknown to us, Troy was feeling really lousy. He was going to make a go of racing, but he was in rough shape. I saw him come through on the first lap, and I could tell he was hurting. The cherry on top of the sundae was the heat, and the fact that the volunteers ran out of water for the neutral feed. I saw a dude from KHS MAXXIS come through and beg me for the bottle I was holding, and I just had to shake my head sadly.
The last day of racing was the crit, which takes place a few blocks from the homeless shelter next to a bar that looks like the one where Jodie Foster got raped in the Accused. I woke up with ZERO ambition because I was pretty much guaranteed to finish in the same place in the GC. I was nearly four minutes down from the girl sitting in third, and the next person behind me was five minutes off. No one is making that up in a criterium. Then, however, I saw the race communique. The chick ahead of me was relegated TWICE during the road race for drafting off the dudes, and was assessed a five minute time penalty. That put us less than 60 seconds apart.
I had a great position at the beginning. I have no excuse for letting myself fall back in the race except that I lacked the confidence to race it more aggressively. Peg had a killer start, and I was trying to follow her line because she was racing much smarter, but I just didn’t make good decisions. Ultimately, we broke off in a chase again, with about a 20 second gap.
|Peg on the front!|
At this point, I was trying to motivate greater effort and cohesiveness on the part of the riders chasing, by which I mean I was alternately imploring them and yelling at them. It did no good. One chick from Holiday Rock flat out said, I’m kind of over racing today. Freaking helpful. Most of the other riders had teammates up the road, so they really had no incentive. And there was this CRAZY CHICK from Strava Racing who was the single most terrifying person I have ever met on a bicycle. My seven year old daughter corners better than that on her Huffy. People kept begging her to just not kill them.
Troy was yelling at me to be more aggressive, but I finally committed to just sitting in and doing as little as possible until the last lap. I figured I would just smash it then and at least get ahead of the rest of the chase…which worked, except that it didn’t matter because the officials scored the entire chase with the same time. This left me 4th in the GC. I protested because I should have been third by nearly 20 seconds, but it wasn’t my day.
|Totally sitting in. See everyone work? See Becky sit up?|
The guys fared better, and Mitchell and Josh came close to breaking the top ten.
After podiums, we all piled into the car with our sweaty selves, and made the 12 hour drive home, in the snow and ice, but not before deciding to test our bellies with a combination of tacos and pizza.
So, all said and done, it wasn’t awful….it wasn’t great. I got to see several of my Colorado friends race, including Meg Hendricks and Kim Turner, who were supportive and wonderful as always. I spent a lot of time in a feed zone talking junior development with the great guys at Prestige Imports, and I'm now collaborating on a women's development team for 2016. Lots of exciting stuff! I am happy with the result at this point in the season, and I am looking ahead to 2015.