Words by: Starla Teddergreen (Fearless Femme p/b Haute Wheels)
Déjà vu la course.
Perhaps it is a simply a matter of forgetfulness, or a mechanism of self preservation, yet I stand at the starting line of San Dimas Stage Race unable to recall my experiences from years’ past. Glimmers of special memories reserve a spot in my mind while the rest fades away. Memories of chasing Ina Tutenberg into the fog, or trying to hold on up the cobbled neighborhood ascent. Each memory recalls a distinct kind of suffering and before I know it that memory door slams shut. If I could fully remember the suffering of each race, I might not start the next.
Although the memories are sparse, this year was very clearly unlike any other in many ways. The field consisted of an incredible 110 women suffering through unusually high temperatures. I arrived with a team of four amazing women who had driven a tightly packed car 23hrs across country directly from team camp. We came prepared for a hard race, yet breathed calmly as there was no stress, no pressure, and no expectation. We were there to watch, learn, and have fun. Mentally this changes every thing.
San Dimas Stage Race opens with a winding uphill TT. The secret to doing well at this stage is conserving just enough energy to navigate the endless switchbacks with smooth, steady, and measured suffering. I was not the fastest on the course that day but was satisfied given my TT experience. I was focused on learning to pace myself. Photos from the event revealed a cool, calm and collected Starla. Winning.
Day 2 consisted of a newly revised Road Race course, including Heckler Hill. It was fast, exciting, relatively safe, and spectator friendly. Perhaps the first year in which I did not witness a crash. In short, the road race was awesome to be a part of: Watching Visit Dallas Cycling Team take control of the pace as they defended teammate and race leader, Amber Neben. Observing the finesse of Optum as they dominated hot lap points, defending teammate Briana Walle in the green jersey. At the start of the Road Race, Walle was a mere 30 seconds down from Neben. It was a beautiful dance of control and suffering.
I said I was here to learn, and that is what I did. Floating near the front of the peloton I was able to observe the race and team strategies. I was gaining confidence in my fitness, hanging with the lead group up every climb with minimal struggle. Then it struck; I had become so immersed in the learning experience that I had underestimated my fluid intake. At two laps to go and no longer any opportunities to receive a feed, I was out of water; covered in salt, and watching the field ride away. What had I done to my self? I was joined by several other riders and we worked together pushing each other to make time cut. One poignant memory from this moment was the final ascent up heckler hill to the tune of “Yesterday” by the Beatles. Really? Yesterday?
Finally, the stage I had been patiently waiting for. San Dimas Stage Race concludes with a Criterium. At the start, the Visit Dallas Cycling Team was still in the lead with Optum close in contention for the overall win. The race was fast, controlled, and splintering at the back.
I was reminded that road racers do not race Criterium and vice versa. So I made sure to stay near the front at all times. With two laps to go, Amber Gaffney of 2016 attacked and had an 8 sec lead. Entering the bell lap, a crash ensued. With some evasive maneuvering, I chased back on to the group. With all teammates accounted for, we got in formation ready to delivery a podium finish. Only to be neutralized with two corners left in the race.
We resumed now with 3 laps to go. Amber Gaffney re-established her lead, but now with a whole peloton of rested cyclists on the chase. I fought hard to regain position. With one lap to go, Gaffney was caught and our team was together again only to be pinched in the corner while evading another riders’ crash provoking maneuver. I chased back on to catch the GC leader’s wheel in the final corner. Still separated from my teammates by a field of breaking riders. Teammates Christy and Mandy made it through taking 3rd and 6th respectively, while I closed it down for 13th. It was not the finish I know I am capable of but I was stoked to see my girls up there and representing on the podium. Impressed by Visit Dallas for keeping the yellow jersey by a mere .07 seconds. A hard fought win.
For a training race I think we accomplished a great deal, learned lessons in hydration, TT pacing, and racing Criteriums with Road specialists. I also had a lot of fun getting to know new teammates and enjoying the CA sun! Next up is Redlands where we will be ready and focused to apply what we have learned.
Starla Teddergreen lives in Portland, ORE.