National Championships by
JETCycling Women’s Elite Team
The National Championships always gives me a sort of “high” if you want to call it that. For a full week, I am completely consumed into cycling culture. Tight spandex, compression gear and tall black socks are considered to be completely normal to be worn in public. Those around me understand what it takes to be the best, and sacrifice. They understand the decision of choosing to train for 4 hours, eating extremely healthy and sleeping at least 10 hours, over partying with friends, munching on pizza and pulling an all nighter.
This year was no different. After arriving in Chicago from Orange County late Sunday night, my father and I drove all the way to Madison, Wisconsin where the week’s events would be held. The road race was being held on Wednesday July 3rd, the TT would be on Thursday July 4th, and the criterium would be on Sunday July 7th. The schedule for the week was quite abnormal, as in past national championships you could race 3 days in a row and then leave. However, racing 2 days in a row and then waiting 2 more days to race, gave extra recovery time from the TT. Nonetheless, I was extremely excited for what was to come, and for the competition.
Wednesday July 3rd: Road Race
Wednesday’s road race was brutal and a challenging; the course was quite hilly. The first 8 kilometers were all downhill, and the rest of the 24-kilometer course was all uphill. I did two laps of that, and then made a right, and continued 3k up a hill up to the finish. The last 16 kilometers were no joke and it definitely was a course made for champions.
For the first lap, I managed to stay with the main group until the final hill. There, I lost sight of the main pack, but kept a steady pace and caught onto the chase group, which had several main contenders for the jersey. Focused on making our way back to the peloton, we pushed the pace and created a paceline. As we drilled it up the hill right before the finishing climb, I was shed. My legs were toast and I didn’t have much more to give. Intent on finishing better than 14th, I kept a steady temp and managed to pull 2 girls back. Passing them both before the finish, I snagged 12th place.
Unfortunately, 12th was definitely not what I wanted. It was a blow that really had me questioning the TT and the criterium. I was frustrated with my result, but more so with the fact that I didn’t lose because of a tactical error, or mechanical or other obstacle. I was mad because I had given everything I had and it simply wasn’t enough. I was also mad because this was one of the 2 events I really, really wanted to win.
However, after arriving back to the hotel, a nice warm shower and a talk with my coach, I got my head back into the game. Thursday’s TT was going to be my event, and I became focused again.
Thursday July 4th: Time Trial
Thursday morning started off amazingly well. With a spin ride in the morning, and some good debates over coffee, I was calm relaxed and ready. It was the perfect way to take my mind off of the events for a bit, and have some fun. However, around 11:00 when we drove to the course, I flipped the switch into race mode and became all business. Headphones in, pump-up playlist on, and visualization of the course began. The course was 11.9 miles, rolling hills. The first couple of miles of the course led straight out until you made a left hand turn. That part of the course led you in a long circle back around to the original road. Then, you made the final turn to the finish. It was the perfect course, and I felt like it was tailor made for me.
One thing that was particularly different about the TT in contrast to the road race was that I was incredibly calm. Of course my nerves were present, but I wasn’t nervous because of what would happen. I was nervous because I had an overwhelmingly calm feeling that I was going to do extraordinarily well.
My race started off really well, and by mile 4 I caught 3 girls. Feeling strong even into mile 9, I pushed the pace and realized I was right on track for a national championship time. Coming into the last mile or so, I had an overwhelming feeling. I knew I wasn’t going to win, but that I was going to come incredibly close once again. However, this sudden thought didn’t deter me from pushing myself even harder. Gliding through the last turn to the finish, I started to see black spots and knew I was at my limit. Sprinting through the line, my ‘competition zone’ faded and I heard the crowd cheering. The announcer said, “Amelia Tanner, with a time of 30:55 has the second best time for the women’s 15-16.” Immediately, my heart did a flip-flop. I was incredibly frustrated with myself, but also incredibly proud. On one hand I was second in the nation, a feat not many achieve. However, this was the one race I wanted to win with every particle of my being. In the same vain, I had completed my pre-race goals, which were catching 9 people in front of me and keeping positive self-talk through the whole race.
Following a post-race recovery drink, talking to my coach, and finding out that Emma White won, I became ecstatic about my result. Emma, is an amazing competitor and I’m happy she’s the one I lost to.
Later that night, we went to the podium ceremony, where I was awarded a silver medal and got the chance to congratulate my competitors. However, being awarded the medal wasn’t the most amazing part of that night. The greatest part was watching my coach and father tear up together as I handed them the medal. All at once, the three of us felt what it took to get to that point, and the work it took to earn the medal. Countless hours of training, re-cap of races, and sacrifice had been thrown into this one race. After dinner, our group went outside to take photos. I started to tear up while taking photos with the team, our mechanic, some parents, a couple fans, my father and my coach. I don’t cry very often, but I knew at that moment everything I had done was worth it and I was incredibly happy.
Sunday July 7th: Criterium:
Sunday morning waking up, I did not want to race a bike. Exhausted from staying up late two nights before, my legs ached and all I wanted to do was sleep. However, I got into my kit and went to the criterium course with the team.
The course was a rectangle, each side ¼ of a kilometer long, with all left turns. Turn 1 was nice and flat, Turn 2 was right after a downhill, and turn 3 was off camber leading into a hill. Turn 4 was into the finish, and a little too tight for comfort. Knowing this, turn 1 would be taken middle of the road and turn 2 would be coming from the outside, and swooping into the inside. Turn 3 and 4 would both have to be taken on the inside. We would be completing 20k or 20 laps of the course. Our team goal for the day was to try and get 2 riders, on the podium and lead out Danielle for the sprint.
The race started off fast and furious, and kept pretty steady. Mid-race, a breakaway was formed. With two riders who could definitely win, the peloton started a chase. I rode up to the front, and drove the pace trying to bring them back. Finally after several laps, the girls in the break shook hands and were swallowed by the group.
The tempo stayed steady with attacks every now and then. With 4 laps left, following our game plan, I went to find Danielle. However, as I floated back on the right hand side, Danielle was charging up the left. I waited until the end of the group passed me, and then jammed up the left hand side eager to help our sprinter. With only 3 laps left, I moved into the middle-front of the group right behind Danielle. We passed through the finish, and there were only 2 laps left. Following a girl up the left just before turn 3, I was almost taken out. One girl started to lose control in the turn, and was swerving towards me and panicking. Slamming on the brakes to avoid a collision, I lost a valuable place in the group and was transported to the back. Coming into the last lap, I was playing a dangerous game of catch up. Danielle was driving the front and I was trying to make it up there. Around turn 2, a small group of riders got away. Thankfully Danielle made the split, unfortunately, I did not. Staying calm, I kept driving and swimming upstream through the riders dropped from the small break. Coming into the finish, I placed 7th.
In the end, while I didn’t complete the goal of getting 2 riders on the podium, I was happy. Danielle got a well-deserved 4th place and Tori kicked butt at her first nationals taking 19th.
Overall, I really enjoyed national’s this year. 12th in the Road Race was made up for by the 2nd in the TT and 7th in the criterium. I’m extremely proud of my teammates who worked really hard. Danielle showed the heart of a champion and battled back from the TT and RR, taking a medal in the criterium. Tori did amazingly well for only having raced for 6 months; this was her first national championships and she took top 20 in every event. While I didn’t get to race with my 17-18 teammate Karen Brocket, I am also very proud of her. She did an awesome job, while being the only JETCycling rider in the 17-18 women’s field.
I want to thank the group of people around me contributed so much. Without them, I wouldn’t have accomplished all that I did. As I reflect, the silver medal doesn’t really belong to me. I claim only the small seam holding the ribbon together. Everything else, the ribbon, the screen printing on the ribbon, the medal and the engraving on it belongs to someone who contributed. While that includes those who were there: my amazing coach Michael Heitz, my incredible family, our stellar mechanic Jake Schilling, the incredibly helpful parents of my teammates, friends and fans, it also includes the people who were not present at nationals: Dave Jordaan, who gave me an amazing bike fit, the race promoters who produced a race for me to compete in earlier in the year, sponsors who gave product, friends, family, sponsors and friends who gave donations, the fans and friend who encouraged me along the way, and those who have quietly worked behind the scenes. Without you all, I wouldn’t have achieved anything. You are my inspiration, and motivation to do great things. Thank you.