Tuesday, December 07, 2010

US Grand Prix Day 1 12/4/2010

By M.M.Blomberg

National races bring the big guns to town like Ryan Trebon (Kona), Chris Horner (Radio Shack) and our own P-Town lady of awesome, Sue Butler (Subaru-hudz). Even though I aspire to those lofty heights, I came to the conclusion today that I am half way there already. My pit crew (every pro has one) was bike mechanic and single speed enthusiast Beth Hamon (Velo Bella), with Word-RCB domestique Keegan O'Neill on standby. My personal photographer, bike cleaner and “Crap Sherpa” Shane (I love you baby) was on course to document all of the muddy action, provide hydration and cheer me on. To round out the group, my coach John Benenate was on site to provide wisdom, support and post race goals for next season. All I need now is a film crew on a motorcycle. Any volunteers?

A pre ride option was open the day before the race from 2-4 pm. Sunny, windy and low 40‘s sounds great for biking, but the course at PIR was no fun for me. Rain the day before left standing water in the bumpy grass and mucky mud made for a slow and sticky pre ride. A large wide hill on the motocross course was surrounded by ankle deep sticky mud and was run by most. At the top of the hill is a decent into shoe eating territory. I did not possess the quads of steel to push through this so I shouldered my bike for the whole thing. Twisting through the trees, I took a bad line in and smacked my kneecap on a stake. OWWWWW. It’s important to get your crashing out of the way in your pre ride. Seemed to work pretty well for me during Short Track. When I was done with two laps, my bike barely shifted and my shoes had been dipped in muck and covered in grassy sprinkles. Guess it will be 3 days of bike washing this weekend.

Saturday morning brings more wind and temperatures in the 30’s but no rain. No team tent set up today but an 8:45 AM race means getting up at the crack of dawn. 30 min parking lot warm up ride and it’s time to line up. 17 Master’s women (all ages over 35 yrs) showed for this test of endurance. Front row start with Margi Bradway (Team S&M), Jill Hardiman (Existential Velo) and Rhonda Morin (Sorella Forte) and a few unfamiliar faces. Whistle blows and I have trouble getting clipped in. Jill and Rhonda take the lead on the long pavement start. My shifting was hinky before the race so I didn’t go big chain ring here until the next lap. Hitting the right turn into the grass, riders are coming around me and trying to gap me off. Sweeping S turns in the soggy grass slows everyone down and I am able to get up with the leading 6. We caught the B’s/beginners quickly and a couple riders went down in a large muddy section before the gravel road along the back fence as I passed them. The course is slick in sections but dried enough for good traction on the long hilly back section before twisting through the trees by the pit. Margi is just ahead of me and I stay on her wheel in lap 1. Jill and Rhonda are having their own battle with a rider from Team Group Health and Colleen McClenahan (Sorella Forte). Looping back past the pit (my personal cheering section today), it’s a downhill to a 90 degree turn up a small steep hill. Some riders dismount but I am able to ride this hill every time. Unfortunately is doesn’t buy me much more than bragging rites. At the top, it’s back out the gravel road and left to the motocross section. Now for the hill you all have been waiting for boys and girls. First small section of 3 whoop de dos are fast and rideable, not much mud at the bottom. No problem. Hard left onto grass and it’s a boggy ride to the big hill. We all dismount where the grass stops and run the muddy right turn to the top of King whoop de do. I run the whole thing but the mud is ankle deep, sticky and the sucking sound my shoes make as I run mark the time I am losing. A set of two barriers and it’s a short trip to the pavement and back through the start for the next lap.

Still chasing Margi in lap two, she hits a rut and washes out into the tape in a turn. Seizing my opportunity, up goes the speed past her but she is right on me. Out of the saddle after each rooted turn in the trees, climbing the small hill pays off with a tiny gap before the whoop di dos. I try half riding and half running Peanut Butter Mountain but neither seems better. The leaders have made a gap but I can still see them up ahead.

Lap 3 and Margi finally catches me. Guess where. Crap. Just behind me coming down the hill is Virginie Calme (CyclePath). She passes me as I remount but I am able to hold her wheel through the twisting and turning over the roots and grit. The three of us hit the pavement after the barriers and kick up to high gear. Leaders are long gone now.

Final lap and I am able to pass Virginie when she dismounts and runs the little hill as I ride it. Margi is getting a gap on us so I am bound and determined to close it. Too bad for me she has a good run on poop hill and it is eating my shoes and my energy. Virginie comes around me off the grass and sprints up the hill like it’s pavement. Why can I find a freekin’ line here? She is able to remount and get to the grass quicker than I can get out of the muck. Chase chase chase but the gap is too big now and the twists and turns make it hard to build enough speed to catch her. Crossing the last barriers, Virginie finishes just ahead of me as I roll in 20 seconds behind her for 7th place.

No race would be complete for a Pro without people giving you free stuff. Thanks to Chris Snyder (Bike Attorney) for the huge bottle of Hop Works Beer. My pit crew at home thanks you too.

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