Today was a great day. It was the queen stage, featuring Tussey Ridge which is pretty much the crown jewel of the Rothrock Forest trail system. After yesterday's mishap, the entire Stan's team came out motivated to make up for lost time. We all did a good job, rode hard and the GC is almost back to where it started before our wrong turn yesterday.
We also got to ride the John Wert Trail, which has to be the hardest yet flattest section of trail in the state of Pennsylvania. Check out some of the photos from Cyclingnews and the TSE, and you'll understand why.
After yesterday's mishaps, Andrea Wilson was sitting second in the GC and showed up motivated. She went for it up the first dirt road climb, and I went with her. Sue eventually caught back on, Sue and I dropped Andrea at the beginning of John Wert and never saw her again.
Having it stuck in our brains that Sue needed to make back as much time as possible, we rode as hard as we could, but smartly, as temps were hitting the 90s, and we knew we had 5km of climbing to do in that heat. We entered and rode Tussey Ridge together, and I only pulled away from Sue in the last four miles when it was safe to go for it.
I got the stage win and the satisfaction knowing that I helped my team as much as I could. I have a 14-minute lead on Sue (who got back into second in the GC) and we are still debating whether it's going to be a race pace or party pace tomorrow.
One thing's for sure - the Stan's Women's Elite Team will be MCing stage 8. If you don't know what stage 8 is, check out last year's videos. There will be beer, there will be costumes and no one will be driving home!
I realized that I haven't gotten too techy on ya'll in my blogs, so I figured I could give a mention to some key equipment choices I made for the week in case it could help anyone out here next year. I brought one bike, my Cannondale Scalpel and it was the ideal bike for this terrain as a 4" 29er is pretty much the bee's knees for a race like this. It locks out in the front and rear, making the high volume of dirt roads a breeze, and it pedaled efficiently through all the gnarly rocky trail with just the right amount of squish.
Except for the enduro stage (during which I ran 2.2 Kenda Honey Badgers), I have ridden 2.0 Kenda Kosmik Lites in the SCT (sealant compatible tire) every day. The SCT version is about 90 grams extra over the standard tube type tire but having a reinforced sidewall in this incredibly rocky terrain was an easy choice for me. I chose this tread pattern mostly because they roll really fast, still have a good side knob to protect the sidewall and still grip well though they have a relatively closed tread pattern. The more closed tread and wider knobs help protect from puncturing in the tread should you bottom your rim on a - you guessed it - very sharp rock. I have ridden Stan's Race Golds wheels every day and of course they are spinning with generous amounts of Stan's sealant. Six days, epic amounts of rocks and not a single flat... knocking on wood, of course, because there is still one day left.
The entire Stan's team has been very fortunate to have great support from Stan's NoTubes Richie Rich O'Neil and another mechanic from the local bike shop, Jared. Their support has been a lifesaver, as these two have washed and tuned our bikes daily as well as met us at all the aid stations with cold bottles. I wouldn't be leading the race without them, thanks guys!
To keep my body going over the last seven days, I've kept my nutrition pretty simple on the bike. Gu chomps in my pocket and bottles filled with Elete electrolyte add-in. It's been so hot and humid here Elete has really been critical to keep the cramps away.
I don't like to get massage during stage races, but I've been in my podium legs multiple times a day every day. On the bike, I carry three CO2s, a spare derailleur hanger, a tube, an empty chomps packet to boot a torn sidewall, a quick chain link and a multi-tool with a chain breaker in my pocket. Out east, I always ride in clear Uvex lenses, I used copious amounts of chamois cream every day, all day and eat pretty much constantly. Good, healthy food but lots of it!
It's hard to believe tomorrow is the last day. My legs feel like it, so it's time for bed.
Thanks for reading.
Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite Teams