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When you hear “Valley of the Sun” in February, it sounds like an excellent escape from the grey drizzle and crisp mornings of the inevitable early spring of Northern California. Did you say sun? Sign me up! It didn’t take much motivation for me to begin packing a bag full of short sleeve jerseys, sunblock, and skipping the knee warmers while planning a quick migration to Phoenix for some bike racing in the sun. The resulting tan lines and a few wins were merely a couple of the positives of this race. The Valley of the Sun stage race (VOS) has historically been used for early season tuning up of race equipment, and dialing in the fitness for a productive year. I sure hope this is the beginning of a great 2013.
VOS consists of three stages and it combines a true time trial, a challenging road race, and an entertaining criterium. Although the sun was expected to thaw the race legs out of their winter habitat, the desert winds proved to be the most challenging aspect of the race. As for the sun, well, it was welcomed in full force.
The beauty of a time trial is that you do not have to worry about your competition, you only have to ride your race. You can begin the race as prepared as you can possibly be, ride your bicycle as fast as you possibly can, listen to your body closely, and your result simply is that, the result. It is the real truth on the bicycle. That’s why I love time trials. We can compound all of the complexities of the equipment and data, but as you roll down the start ramp, it is just speed, power, toughness, and truth. Oh, I love the time trial. Nothing can test you better than that simple, pure race. I used this opportunity to not only slip into the leader’s jersey, but to also begin training the event that captures my heart, learning about my limitations, and myself. A time trial is all about discovering your capabilities.
The road race may not look as challenging in the technical guide. However, as the desert winds howled through the canyons, it was difficult just to ride, never mind race, in those conditions. The wind, sun, and distance whittled down each field to measure the true grit of the participants. If you don’t know the proper way to form an echelon, a hot sweeping wind to either side will teach you really quickly or spit you out the back.
After a tough day of racing, I secured a time bonus QOM padding and entered the final stage still retaining the jersey. Nothing makes you appreciate a team more than riding a race to defend a jersey by yourself. After following countless attacks in the criterium, I was wishing for the comfort of my teammates, but racing always makes your stronger and I can’t complain. I love to race my bike, and I am so fortunate to be able to do so. I believe we should take every racing opportunity to learn and grow as a cyclist and as a competitor. I used the confidence of the jersey and a little bit of a gamble to secure the win in the criterium–in a sprint nonetheless–and the general classification of VOS. The truth is, I was most excited to be able to race my bike. Don’t be afraid to take chances, to race, to test yourself, and use each opportunity.
I recently talked to the Davis Bicycle Club Racing Junior team, and I had told them that the race is always up the road, and to not be afraid to race. It doesn’t matter if you are in the lead, or not in contention, the race is always in front of you and you are there to race. That being said, they also asked me if I got to keep the jerseys I won. Absolutely. Now, you can bet you will see one of these juniors with my new VOS winner’s jersey. This one is for them. I am so happy to have won the 2013 Valley of the Sun Stage Race. Thank you to all who volunteered and made this race happen.