The Route de France Féminine was a wonderful learning experience, group effort and war zone. The race started off with a 4.4km prologue. The prologue wound through the narrow streets and the crowd was totally enthusiastic about the race, we gave out autographs, pictures were taken and we rode our hearts out. That was only day one.
The next day was a rolling road race. Carmen McNellis, a rider for Colavita, was a huge help from day one. She was encouraging with our pack surfing skills and was always on the radio. For the race, women were feeling feisty and ready to attack. Alison Starnes, a real kamikaze rider, who rides for Tibco in the States, took a solo flyer for over 60km.
Liza Rachetto, our director, raced up the road in the team car and we could all hear the excitement in her voice on the radio. Eventually Alison made the peloton nervous and they brought her back before we hit the finishing circuits. The first lap through the finish line, 95% of the riders except for Team Highroad sprinted for a fake finish. The girl who won the fake sprint even threw her arms up. But the rodeo wasn’t over…one more grueling lap was left to go. Alison was awarded the most aggressive rider and the US National Team was making its mark in this race and was only going to make it bigger.
Day three was an individual time trial and the roads were wet and the course was windy - a 15km time trial for the power riders. We rode the course, studied the turns and it was business time. On the wet curvy course, we sadly had one rider go down, Evelyn Stevens, but that was our only fatality for the day.
Kristin McGrath, a rider for Value Act Capital, put her gifted legs to the test and found her way to the podium with a third place finish. Once again Team America was turning heads. I was pretty sure we were making the Europeans tremble in their chamois.
On day four the course was a flat stage and we were ready to work. Not only was it flat but the start was a little unusual. I am pretty sure the race officials felt that the neutral starts were a little dangerous so they threw small children in it for 3km.
After the 3km of neutral with small children, we all got off our bikes loaded them up in the caravan. Some got in the caravan cars and the rest of the cool riders loaded up on the bus. Ally Stacher, that would be me, decided that she was qualified to be the bus driver and tried taking everyone to the discotheque, but sadly I was denied.
The sprint for the day was chaotic, it ended with a slight uphill in a beautiful little town in France. (Of course it ended in France).
The next two stages made us all a little nervous as we were going into the hills. Little did we know that the race was going to be hard but also riders were going to be dangerous debbies. One wreck happened and Evelyn Stevens and Kristin McGrath were the riders that went down in the massacre. Good thing they were OK.
The race kept on like normal. Another wreck happened, but it happened because of a crazy girl who needs professional help. This woman unclipped on a decent and kicked, yes kicked another girl like a mule. It caused a huge, horrible pile up.
Chris Franges, our speedy mechanic was on his A-game, getting girls back up and on their bikes. The woman who kicked proceeded to attack the field. We had two riders go down, one of the girls broke her fork and the other eventually had to pull out because she was losing a lot of blood.
Our little young trooper Lindsay Myers was reluctant to pull out and the commissaire had to tell her to stop racing and get in the caravan. Little did we know she had a hole in her stomach and I don’t think that is a good thing.
Evelyn Stevens made the break and then attacked the break at 30km to go and then Kim Anderson bridged up to her. It came down to a photo finish, and yes she did it, Evelyn won a stage putting her into 2nd on GC. We had a rider to protect for the final day and this was going to be one great race.
Last day, stage six, the final day. The stage ended on an 11km circuit with a nasty uphill and a twisty, beautiful descent. Ally Stacher, me again, was the chosen one and got to blow the whistle for the start of the race. WhisI could say it was the USA kit, or Obama, or the legs, but actually it was because of one of my teammates was gracious so I got the power to blow the whistle. It was pretty much was a beautiful moment.
The race was crazy and a break went up the road with climber Kristin McGrath in it. Eventually the break was caught and the attacks started with ladies being dropped on the climb like flies and it was only getting harder. With a nasty downhill turn then 1km to the finish it was a war zone and the troopers on Team America survived.
All in all everyone had a great time, USA Cycling invested their time into very talented women who turned the heads of many. We all rode well together and got along on and off the bike. I am pretty sure Liza knew the talent of the women she was directing, but I think we even urprised her with our accomplishments as a team. The trip was a success.