I have heard many different perspectives on the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix course; people either love it or they hate it. Being the first time I have ever raced in it, I was open-minded and ready to create my own opinion. I loved it! I loved the course, the atmosphere and all of the fans cheering the riders on from both sides of the course.
I did not know how I was going to feel during this race, considering I just got back from racing in theTour of America’s Dairyland in Wisconsin for the previous eleven days, so I committed myself to race for my teammate Suzanne Sonye. We had a plan, and all the girls on Team Helen’s were ready to rock the race. Early on, teammates Joy Duerksen McCulloch, Michelle Ignash, Sarah Mattes, Dara Rogers, Emily Georgeson and I were covering moves and making sure the race went in Suzanne’s favor. Everything was going smooth as butter until seven laps to go. I was on Sarah’s wheel going into the first corner, when her bike lost traction to the pavement and she slid across the cement. It was like slow motion watching her slide out and roll to her back with her head looking straight up. I was staring right into her eyes while I was thinking, ‘You can’t run over your own teammate!’ I was squeezing the breaks as hard as I could to try and avoid her; luckily I was successful. I clipped back in and started to chase back onto the group, but I didn’t make it very far when I realized I had a flat tire. I made my way to the pit where I got a new wheel, and a lap later, a push back into the field. I do not know how it happened but when I got back into the race there was a break up the road and multiple girls bridging the gap. Considering we were down three girls (including myself) from the crash, I went straight to the front and started to bring the break back. It was shut down pretty quickly after I pulled off thanks to Joy and a few of the other girls. When we caught the break, Suzanne was left at the front in the wind. I quickly made my way to the front to go protect her, glancing at her just for a second to tell her “trust us, we are here for you.” I could tell she was a little relieved. As soon as I looked the other way Kathryn Donovan was making another fierce attack up the right side with Alexis Ryan on her wheel. I knew it was my turn to cover again, so I jumped on her wheel, thinking the whole field was following, but it was only Melina Bernecker. When I looked back, to my surprise, we had a gap. One more rider bridged the gap to join us, Julie Cutts, making it two La Grange girls.
At that point in time we had five to go and I was still committed to work for Suzanne, so I only rotated through to keep the rotation going. The other four girls in the break did a phenomenal job keeping the break away. After the race I was told that my teammates went to the front to control the pace so the break could get more of a gap. Earlier in the year I got into a break and I wasn’t able to stay in it; I was hoping I learned from that experience and had what it would take to stay with this group. Knowing I was tired from doing a lot of work early on, I held on for dear life, and counted down the laps. When we made the turn to go down the back straight for the final time I could see the pack behind; I was thinking we were for sure going to be swallowed up. Then Alexis jumped, and following were both La Grange riders and me. We rounded the final 180 degree turn (thinking just for a second ‘We didn’t get caught!!’), and when the three girls in front of me went left I scooted right and made the drag race all the way to the finish. The whole way down I was thinking to myself, ‘Don’t stop pedaling! I hope no one passes me on the left side’! When nobody did, I could hardly believe it. I threw my arms in the air and let out the biggest scream of excitement.
I have not won a race on the road since I was a junior, and to win Manhattan Beach Grand Prix is an amazing accomplishment in my book. Obviously, I could not have done it without my Helen’s teammates. They have been rocks throughout the season and came through once again. I credit them 100% for this victory.