Today was the Bald Eagle Coburn stage. Other than a few short rock garden sections of trail that were so slick you had to walk and a quick singletrack intro, it was road, road, road. Gravel road, pavement road, and doubletrack road. And a ton of climbing on said roads.
We awoke to the sound of rain on our little cabin's roof. When the alarm went off at 6:30 am, it was holding steady at a light drizzle but as our morning's preparations continued on that sound of rain on the roof just kept getting louder as the start time loomed. Sigh. We were going into a full-on rain stage.
I decided that a warm up would in fact do nothing to warm me up. I instead opted to put on a bunch of layers, blast 50 Cent on my Pandora station and have a little pre-race dance party to wake up the body and mind. I'm a pretty terrible dancer, so needless to say I went into the start cold as ice.
The thing about racing in the rain is that I actually quite enjoy it. Slippery conditions don't stress me out at all - it is just water after all. What I dread is the pre-race and the post race mayhem created by mud, evidenced by the fact that I am blogging from a laundromat in town and continually plucking mud from my eyelids rather than resting in bed and napping.
Bad weather adds a level of complication to a stage race that you'd rather be without. Dry stages are hard enough. In wet stages, you tend to suffer more, are more susceptible to dumb crashes and mechanicals and most importantly the post-race cleanup just takes longer for both the mechanics and the racers. We were fortunate that the rain mostly tapered to a drizzle shortly after we started, but the trails remained muddy and slick and the roads were wet all day.
Back to the road. I did one season as a Cat. 4 roadie years ago and boy, I was a terrible, terrible road racer. All brawn, no brains what so ever. Today's stage took a form of patience I always (and to this day) struggled with as a road racer. We kept it together as a group of six women most of the day, four of whom were Stan's riders. I certainly wasn't going to attack the group with the lead I had, and yet it was sort of awkward having three teammates in the bunch who were all within a minute of each other in the GC.
I started stage 3 up 10:30 in the GC, so I went into today's stage from a much different angle than the first two. Today was all about being conservative and cautious, and it tested my mental commitment to "lead management." The mellow group pace made me cold, I was getting bored, and I just wanted to get it over with! Yet, instead of getting all worked up, I just took on the job of covering any gaps that would form on climbs, pulling the group as much as I could and looking after my teammates.
After riding in a pack all day, Vicki [Barclay] went for it on the last big climb. I sat on, got in front for a little and then Sue [Haywood] blew by us on the last major downhill.
I got back in front and got into the last singletrack section first. I blew a slick corner, Sue got by, I got back on then got a big stick lodged between my crankarm and my frame. A small gap opened when I slowed to take it out and that was that. Sue took the stage win, I was 11 seconds behind, and Vicki was a very close third. Though the stage lacked excitement, it came down to a very exiting roadie type finish.
Tomorrow is the enduro stage, so any memory of roads will most certainly be erased from our minds. Party pace on the way up, as fast as you want on the down!
Stan's No Tubes Women's Elite