Monday, February 16, 2009

Valley of the Sun

The trailer is full, it must be time to race!

Pheonix, Arizona

So this past weekend was the first race of the season- Valley of the Sun, in Pheonix, Arizona.  I wasn't too sure what to expect after riding by myself 95% of the time for the past 4 months and was pretty anxious (and apprehensive) to find out.  It was great seeing everyone Thursday evening.  I'm pretty sure Shannon, Ashley and I had too much fun making worms, or in Ashley's case, spiders, out of straw wrappers.  Don't worry we cleaned up our mess :-)

Friday was a 13.9 mile time trial on the world's most straight road.  It was slightly downhill/tailwind-ish on the way out and slightly uphill/headwind-ish on the way back if you were to average it all out.  I had never ridden the TT bike on the road before- just a little on the trainer once (it didn't have brakes then), but I was happy with the position Nathan figured out.  Nathan gave us all pretty freaking fast time goals for the TT.  The BH TT bike was awesome and the Selle Italia Ladies saddle was perfect.  I was a little bummed when I came across the line with a time 5 minutes more than the goal but happy with the average speed, an improvement from last year by far.  Well, I ended up in 12th out of 60- better than I expected (I was actually confused/surprised) and a minute and a half off the leader.  Shannon, Ashley and I were all within two mintues of the leader.  

Saturday was the 57 mile road race.  The course was odd in my option.  There was a 3k climb gradual enough you could kinda big-ring it, about 8 miles of very gradual downhill, and then another 6 miles of flat cross or headwind.  We did 3.5 laps, finishing 200m from the top of the climb on a flat/downhill section.  I'm not quite sure what the deal was but girls were crazy sketchy and we had probably 5 crashes.  I guess maybe it was because it was the first race of the season and everyone has been riding by themselves all winter.  Andrea and Casey did a great job controlling the beginning of the race, trading off attacking and keeping the pace high.  A bunch of girls fell off the back because of them.  Those two not only did their job the first two laps, but they did a great job in the latter half of the race with anything and everything.  Huge kudos to them.  Ashley was the guardian angel and worked to bring back breaks once Casey and Andrea's work was done.  She also kept an eye out for Shannon and I and made sure we were positioned well.  Unfortunately she was in a crash during the second lap, but being the total beast she is, she caught back on almost 10 miles later after working her butt off and got right back to her job- no problemo.  Shannon had me attack in the crosswind with a lap and a half to go.  I had maybe a minute or two on the pack at some point and stayed away for half a lap but they caught me by the top of the feed zone.  Shannon countered, but the rest of the pack wasn't interested in letting that happen.  The rest of the race we kept the pace high and got ready for the leadout.  Things fell apart a little (plus there was another crash, imagine that) but Shannon finished 7th and thanks to Ashley, I finished at the end of the pack which was by then 24 people.  Ashley almost crashed herself trying to give me a little shove right at the finish line- she's probably the best guardian angel out there :-)  Overall, it was a great first race together.  Nathan picked out one key thing from that race for us to concentrate on for the next race.   We got compliments from a few of the other teams, which was nice.  

Sunday's crit was a whopping 40 minutes around a 6-corner 0.8 mile course.  4 of the corners were downhill while only two were uphill (these Pheonix folks seem to like courses like this).  Unfortunately, we ended up starting at almost the back of the pack and with the massive number of sketchy girls (think of all the crashes yesterady), it took almost 15 minutes to move from the back to the front, especially since there were so many turns.  Nathan redevised the plan and Ashley, who was at the front early, was able to launch a great attack for a lap and Shannon countered and bridged up to a girl up the road.  Those two never came back.  The rest of the us were supposed to get up to the front and keep control of the race.  Ashley, Casey, and Andrea did great keeping control when they were up there.  I died during that race- I woke up sick that morning with gunk in my chest, throat and nasal passages and during the race my throat closed up so much I sounded like a walrus while trying to breathe.  I made it up to the front like a whopping 2-3 times to help, but other than that I was on the tail end of the pack dying.  I felt bad not being able to do more.  Shannon won the race which was fabulous!

Shannon moved up to 7th in the GC.  I ended up in 11th in the GC.  We definitely have a strong team and we're only getting stronger and better as we continue to train and continue to ride and race with each other.  Thanks to Tammy for dropping me off and picking me up from the airport (in the middle of the night!).  Thanks Nathan for taking care of us all and taking care of all the details. 

Thanks to freaking Andrea Gonzales for being Mister Bike Mechanic and cracking jokes all weekend.  

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