So for the second time this year I have been blindsided by the heat monster. Luckily, the living in Australia seems to have helped as I managed to actually finish the criterium this time, but it wasn’t a pretty sight. Which criterium you may ask – well this weekend saw me at yet another NRC stage race in Arkansas (how many can there be – well 2 and I’ve attended them both). This time the fun was in Russellville at an event entitled Tri Peaks Challenge. Every time I write that I think to myself – why did I put that one my schedule again? Tri Peaks it was with three major climbs in both roadraces that took place on Saturday and Sunday. Our teeny-tiny women’s pack of under 40 had the joy of completing the men’s distances of 92 miles (145km) on Saturday and 83 miles (138km) on Sunday – it was definitely joy on wheel. Not sure that I’ll make this event a fixture for my calendar.
As I mentioned, Friday evening was HOT – I’m thinking upward of 35 degrees in the sunshine. The first few laps of the crit were fairly tame, but that wasn’t an indicator of how things were going to go. I felt great (as one does at the beginning of a race) and I was probably a little too aggressive early on as yet again as I was resting near the back of the pack from an earlier effort when the decisive move with a few Victory girls (in a pack of 35 girls there were 10 of their team, so EVERYTHING had a Victory member), Alisha Lion of Webcor and my roomie for the week and Kate Bates in the Australian Champion styled Nurnberger kit. Everyone knew it was going away and I think the girls in the remaining pack were tired cause we just watched each other. But before long there was another flurry of attacks and I was keen to bring them back – but just blew myself and before long saw myself at the back of the pack as the second decisive move went up the road and I was stuck. The remainder of the group (about 8 of us with like 15 girls up the road) twiddled our thumbs for the remainder of the ride. Not to say that I could have ridden much faster – I was done…silly warm races. True to the spirit – the Aussie thrived in the conditions and Kate Bates outsprinted Rachel Heal in a two-man break that lapped our group on the last lap. As a general note of discontent, I’m sick of race organizers who are too lazy to get the actual results in correctly. They botched up the crit results yet again – this time in the time gaps – I mean how difficult is it really? Alas, all was not lost as I made the front page of the Russellville paper and you can see the kick ass picture on Cyclingnews.com here.
Getting to the line on Saturday was a little intimidating to say the least. The day held 145km of racing in store (with a pack of 35, that is a great deal of racing) and three mountains to ascend. I was climbing decently well, but the uphills were definitely taking it out of my legs. After the first and second climbs I was able to chase back on to the group as they would lollygag after boogying up the hills. The race was long and the apprehension of the distance was evident in the defensive nature of the race. The third climb saw my demise as Victory threw it going into the base of the hill and as we hit the steep pitch, I was out the back and was left to limp up the final climb. I was greeted at the top with a can of Coke which would have been even better if I hadn’t had to take two sips and then discard it as I had to scream down the hill to try to catch a buddy a few hundred meters up front. We road it in and was super stoked to be finished. That evening I made two goals for the following day: 1) to stay positive and 2) to climb with a group I normally wouldn’t be able to.
Was I successful? I think so. Staying positive was a challenge at times, but yes, all in all I did good. :P The girls were even less pressed to go fast in the second of two long days and we tempoed up both the first and second climb. Charm Breon of Cheerwine was not aware of the plan and she road hard up the first climb and got a gap that she saw through the rest of the race to take the stage win. I’m super impressed as this amazing woman stayed away for over 100km on her own on a fairly windy (and dull) course – good on her! After the first descent the group was a little jumpy and I decided to jump in with the aggression (which was kinda ironic as I had just finished telling myself that I was going to take it easy today so that I could climb the final monster well at the end of the day). However, it was well worth it as I got into a couple of spits – neither of which went anywhere. Girls were not willing to work though as they had team obligations making the experience a little disappointing. I did get a little glory though as I went to go contribute to the second split and the girls just let me ride off the front. My time in the sunshine wasn’t super long as I decided after probably 5 minutes that the effort was futile, but I think it was a good experience all the same and trying to actually race made it all worthwhile.
The next 50 odd kilometers were dull. Victory went to the front and cycled through to try to minimize Charm’s advantage. The pace wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t comfortable either (although with the wind, I know that it can’t have been fun for the worker bees at the front) and we sat for what seemed like forever in a single-ish paceline and the best word to describe it was dull. After the second hill a couple more girls went up the road and the pack took it’s time getting to the base of Mount Nebo. I arrived with the group, and unfortunately I was all out of care. I made my way up to the top, but it wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty. My fatigue level was high and as usual, my motivation works to its inverse. I did make it up however and was pleased that I made it through the weekend relatively unscathed. This morning I feel much like a truck has smushed me into the pavement and I’m looking forward to a week of internet and watching movies. I even treated myself to a DQ Sunday yesterday evening (it was even day appropriate)! I would have preferred marshmallow, but strawberry did the trick and it helped the 6-hour drive more bearable. I’m happy that I came out to Tri Peaks – it was great to be able to see a team function in such a cohesive manner as Victory Brewing does and I would love to be able to be a part of a similar dynamic. Congrats to all the girls that were there this last weekend – I think finishing is a feat in itself!