By Rikke Preisler -- Valley of the Sun *GC* (W1/2) -- 02/12/12
Valley of the Sun Stage race
Category W P/1/2
Field size: 35
Metromints: Lisa M, Ellen, Molly and Rikke
Niki also raced with us, since the W3 raced with the W P/ 1/2s but the 3s were scored separately
Gale raced the W4
The TT course is a 14.7 mile out and back. On the way out, there is an ever so slight uphill grade the entire the way. This year, there was a fairly strong tail wind out, and a strong head wind back on the downhill part. The TT was not super eventful. I mean, it’s a TT. What do you do? You keep your head down, go as fast as you can for x.y miles, keep your head down, tug your shoulders in, keep your head down, control your effort, and keep your head down. I had been traveling for work in the week leading up to VoS and I had spent 4x1 hr. on a lousy stationary bike in a golf resort in South Carolina (no, I don’t play golf) so I didn’t feel particularly fit for fight. However, I did feel very rested since the 4 hrs. of stationary biking wasn’t hard in comparison to a regular training week.
On the morning of the TT, under sunny skies and in 75F Arizona “winter” weather, I went for a short spin. Then I briefly talked to my coach on the phone to see how I should warm up and how hard I should go in the time trial. Last year, I placed 35 of 43 riders so my goal this year was to be in the mid-field for the TT. Last year, I did not have a TT bike nor did I have a disc wheel or a deep rim front wheel so I was hoping for a better placement this year. I told my coach that I didn’t feel particularly good or particularly bad, and then she suggested that I should take a nap (this was about 2 hrs. before the TT). I did not object to that suggestion and I did a quite short warm up before the TT and had decided to only do an 80% effort since there is no point in going all out to place mid-field.
I started the time trial and I was somewhat relieved that I didn’t have 39 minutes of insane hammering ahead of me. As I started I remembered that last year I got passed by the first rider less than one mile into the TT, and then I kept being passed throughout the race. At 1:59:30 I went down the start ramp hoping to go at least for a mile before getting passed. After a mile, no one had come by me yet so I thought it wasn’t too bad. I felt fairly good and I tried really hard to keep my head down and not go too hard. At the turn-around, my time was looking really good, so of course I couldn’t help myself and I went way harder than 80% on the way back. When I saw the finish line I wasn’t quite sure if that could be the finish already. After I passed the line I checked my time, and I thought that maybe my bike computer had started a minute into the time trial or something, but it turned out that I ended up in 11th place, taking 3 minutes off my time from last year. As the reigning champion of the stage race in 2011 and winner of the TT in 2011 Molly did extremely well and logged the by far best Metromint TT time and got 3rd place, only four seconds behind Kathryn Bertine in second place. The winner of the TT was Evelyn Stevens, current national TT champion who made us all eat her dust as she came in 1 minute 24 seconds ahead of Bertine.
The road race is a triangle-shaped loop with a flat windy stretch after the start, then a right turn and quite a bit of long flat windy riding. Another right turn takes the fields onto the finishing stretch which starts out with a 2-3% grade for about five minutes followed by a steep section of 7 %(?) for a few minutes, followed by a short 2-3% grade to the finish line. Our plan was to be in “the break” as we were fairly certain that the two Specialized lululemon riders, Evelyn Stevens and Ally Stacher were going to attack and get a break. About five minutes into the race, our field was stopped by the motorcycle referee due to a crash in the P/1/2 men’s field. Our group was allowed to pass through the area but we rode a neutral lap back to the start line. The road race was supposed to be about 60 miles but due to the neutral lap and the crash, we ended up racing just two laps, about 30 miles. Once we were restarted there was no more neutral riding. The pace was fairly high from the get go. There were a few attacks, but everyone was waiting for the climb to split up the field. As we started going up the grade leading up to the hill the pace just got higher and higher and more and more painful. Our team goal was to have at least one Metromint stay with the two Specialized riders, as we could not imagine they wouldn’t be in the break. Once we got to the top, a group of 10 of us had gotten away from the field. Unfortunately, Molly had a chain incident up the hill and Ellen, Lisa M, and Niki heroically helped Molly get back in chase group #1. The group I was in was immediately attacked again by Stevens and Stacher. There were about three of us who took turns responding. Specialized wasn’t going to get away and we ended up all pace lining at a good pace until we got to that finishing hill again. Once we started climbing Stevens and Stacher took turns attacking. Two other girls also launched attacks too but Specialized was covering those attacks efficiently. Everyone was playing attacking and/or waiting games and I was desperately trying to not get the short end of the stick. In the end with about 800 m to go, Stevens got a gap, and I was with Ally Stacher and Sabrina Forbes (i.e. two pros vs. two mere mortals). I very, very! foolishly thought I could ride Stacher and Forbes off my wheel so I ended up dragging them both really close to Stevens who was almost going backwards, waiting for Stacher who was supposed to win the stage. Stacher jumped up to Stevens and I couldn’t quite follow. Then, Sabrina Forbes jumped around me as well as I was spinning at 120 rpm in my small ring - doh!!! Note to self: when the finish is an almost flat sprint, don’t be in the small front chain ring. Although I ended up in 4th place, last in my little group, I was super, super excited about that result. The reason is that last year, I was dropped like a rock on that climb. And this year, someone most have come by with the world’s biggest iron and flattened out that mountain there used to be where the finishing not-so-bad hill now was.
The crit course was a figure eight shape, flat as a pancake, mostly with good pavement and a long finishing stretch. Race time was 40 minutes, and there was a bit of wind. Our team plan for this race was pay-back time: we wanted to give the Specialized team a hard time! Two of us were to cover the two Specialized riders, and the other two of us were to keep the pace fast at the end, and attack just in case no one else was attacking. Well, the situation of “no one else attacking” never became relevant. Specialized kept attacking the entire race until five laps to go. I was very focused on taking revenge from the day before, where Specialized was enjoying our cat and mouse game on that last hill. And no, I was not the cat :)For the crit I adapted the strategy of a leech (preferable over a mouse) and I attached myself to Evelyn Stevens’ wheel for the entire crit. I did lose it a few times, once to Stevens’ team mate who wasn’t quite going to give it back to me. Other than that, I covered almost every single Stevens attack during that crit. I’m not sure how many there were but it felt like one gazillion. About 20 minutes into the race when once again second wheel to Stevens and the two of us slightly off the front I thought to myself “why don’t you just go back in the field and chill? This is really too painful and you even paid $115 to do this. This is stupid”. About 25 minutes into the crit I figured I’d better eat something or else I would die really soon. I chugged two gels, and then the rest of the race was still tough, but do-able. Stevens was hoping to get a solo break and time trial home. Metromint had decided that it was simply not going to happen. With five laps to go, Stevens had given up. After the race she told us “with five to go I decided that I basically hated dots. Every time I looked back, all I saw was dots!” Hence, with five laps to go Molly went to the front just as planned and she kept the race really nice and fast. With about one to go, Molly was still in front, Nicky Wangsgard was second wheel, and I was third wheel. I was thinking this was pretty good because if Wangsgard was on my wheel she would out-sprint me any time so I stayed where I was. Molly hit it really hard and took us to the third to the last turn. Out of nowhere Lisa M comes FLYING by like a rocket. Lisa sprints (with Molly on her wheel) to the second to the last corner where Lisa elegantly peeled off for Molly to take the corner super smoothly. Molly then took us to the last corner where Nicky Wangsgard jumped so hard around Molly that I was unfortunately surprised and couldn’t follow Nicky. I jumped too, and sprinted like a maniac just hoping that no one would pass. As we sprint up the finishing straight I was thinking “this is insane, I’m actually sprinting for top 3”. In the end, Wangsgard won (by several bike lengths) I got 2nd, Chloe Black got 3rd, Evelyn Stevens 4th, Molly got 8th and Lisa got 10th. Overall, we had an amazing three days with super support between team mates and a super thrilling last race to finish off the stage race. We had some stellar Metromint team moments and I just can’t wait for the rest of the season to practice more team work. I think this was the best possible start to a great 2012 season.
In the end, Molly placed 6th in the GC, Lisa was 22nd, Ellen was 27th, and Rikke was 7th.
Niki who raced in W3 got 4th in the GC and Gale who race in the W4 landed a nice 10th place in the crit.