After a bunch of days of hanging out with the Stan's crew in State College going out to fun dinners and parties, doing some video shooting for Stan's and going for ripping group rides with my teammates Vicki and Sarah and Richie from NoTubes, it almost felt as if I was having too much fun leading up to my first big race of the season. The time trial of stage 1 was to be a getting back to business sort of day. A mental flip of the switch. Fun mode to race mode?
Nope. If there's anything I've learned over the years, the more fun I'm having, the faster I go.
Rolling into the TSE staging area for today's TT was like rolling back into the start of summer camp after not seeing all your pals for a year. The sun was shining, the temperature was ideal (almost brisk in the mid 60s), and folks were ready to get the fun started. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces among a huge crowd of, forgive the pun, very happy campers. We were after all about to crack open one big week of mountain bike camp - for adults.
The TSE prologue was a great sampling of what we will be riding all week. Some chunky, technical rock sections, some long stretches of road to throw down power, some super tight, bar bumping singletrack and some uber-rough knock-out-your fillings downhill sections. We even got to spin around a motocross track with whoops, berms and tractor tire drops.
In stage racing, the prologue is often a great way to "open up" for the week. To blow out the travel, to wake up the legs from a taper-induced slumber and to get your head on straight before the big stages. Everyone approaches them differently. Pin it and go for the win at all costs? See how you feel and go from there? Back off as to not tax yourself for what is surely going to be a week of hard, long efforts?
Me? I just wanted to feel fast. That didn't mean burying myself in the red zone. For me it meant riding focused, riding efficiently, and more often than not, slowing down to go fast. It may sound counter-intuitive but somehow that's just the way you have to roll the technical sections here to get through them smoothly...smooth feels fast. I've found that the bull in the China shop approach is not really the way to go.
Perhaps that's why I was successful today. I kept the fun meter pinned. I went out in the prologue to get into race mode, but never once stopped enjoying the ride. I finished the 14-mile course in 1:12:29, winning by about 2:30 over my teammate Sarah, with Vicki very close behind. My other teammate and forever mountain-biking hero, Sue Haywood, suffered a major mechanical when her saddle completely broke, leaving her only rails and nowhere to sit after mile 5. In classic Haywood class, she wrapped a tube around it, tried her best to not get impaled for the next nine miles and finished not too far back. Total rock star. But, also a perfect example of how good legs are only a part of the equation. Six more tries to have a better day!
Tomorrow's stage, Cooper's Gap promises 5km of climbing and 37 miles of riding. Best get to bed!
Thanks for reading.
Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite Team