June 3, 2012
Author California/Nevada Road Race Championships:
Amber M. Gaffney
After what seemed to be an eternity of waiting, we were allowed to line up for the SCNCA Championship road race. Ruth finished the 45+ race with an amazing win, we had a quick pre-race meeting, staged and waited, and then finally we were off (us SC Velo/Empower women wearing our new kits from Champion Systems and looking pretty spiffy). This course is similar to Vlees Huis, minus ten miles and one climb (I did try to talk the officials into a third lap to give us more miles, but I think that I was in the minority with this desire in the Bakersfield heat). The pace started off very slowly- I felt as if the other teams and solo riders looked to us to make a move, and our moves eventually started.
Holly launched our first attack and had soon created a sizeable gap on the field. I noticed that the other riders at the front at first felt confident that it was one of our sprinters off the front in a road race, but Holly used this to her advantage and increased her gap on descents. Eventually, the field, lead by Helens and La Grange and a strong solo rider got nervous and picked up the pace. Lisa and I sat comfortably second and third wheels, doing little work and listening to the others breathing hard in their effort to catch Holly as we traversed the rollers of the first lap. As the field slowly crept up on Holly, I wondered if I should make the next move, but I’m learning patience and I watched as PC positioned herself for the next attack after the turn around.
As PC began to launch herself to counter Holly’s long effort, a Cynergy rider did the same, and together the two created a nice gap very quickly. Once again, the field seemed confident in their ability to reel in a sprinter, until the motorbike ref informed us that the gap was one minute. Nearing the end of the first lap, the field picked it up, with Helens, La Grange, and the solo rider working hard. Lisa calmly reminded me to sit in, and I did. We entered the feed zone, and as I successfully grabbed a water bottle from Jacob (many thanks to Jacob and Tammy for the cold water!), Helens and the solo rider picked it up right before the start/finish turn around. I did not know this at the time, but we lost Lisa due to mechanical around this point.
Holly and I tried to stay near the front and out of the disorderly paceline’s way as the field started working hard on the flats to catch PC and the Cynergy rider. They rotated through the flats and rollers and Holly and I tried to keep good position. On the few descents, the field was a little sketchy- lots of breaking. A few times, on the rollers, I thought that we might catch PC and Cynergy, but not yet. We made the left hand turn, descended, and then started climbing. Finally, the field had PC and Cynergy within grasp. I slyly (yes, I can by sly occasionally), shifted up to the big ring and positioned myself third wheel.
Just before we caught PC and Cynergy with about 15 miles to go, I attacked hard. As I passed PC, I noticed that she looked both exhausted and pleased (pleased to finally be off the front, perhaps- but probably more pleased to see her effort wasn’t in vain!) Nearing the top of this climb, I looked behind me and realized I was alone. Now, if you know me, you will not believe this, but I actually descended quickly by myself. I used every climb as a chance to increase my gap. At the turn around I punched it and when I passed the field, Ruth yelled “GO!” and I did my best to oblige. I watched my numbers and climbed at a pace that was just above my comfort level. The motorbike referee told me that my gap was 44 seconds. Not good enough, so I worked harder. I punched the climbs and worked even harder on the descents, always telling myself that the field was just behind me (I couldn’t see them but I felt their presence). I knew that if I were caught we would be off the podium. My team had worked too hard to create this opportunity and they were now exhausted. I owed all of their hard work a hard effort to keep my gap.
As I descended I passed Cat 3 men and yelled to them (see, I can descend- I even passed people!) When I hit the flats I practiced my time trialing and made sure to keep my pace strong but not too strong as to avoid blowing up. My mouth was dry and I alternated water with GU brew (lime- my favorite!) and pushed my pace, not looking back. The motorbike official informed me that my gap was 1:05, comfortable, but with six miles to go I also knew that I could not slack. I continued my time trailing practice and eventually I saw the last climb in the distance. I knew that I had clinched the win when I hit the feed zone and Tammy told me I was in the clear. I switched down to the small ring and had a little break. I crossed the line alone but I was there due to the hard efforts of the team. Ruth’s strategizing on the course, Lisa’s calmness and command of the field, and Holly and PC’s attacks gave us the win. A nice and warm day in Bakersfield!