Valley of the Sun stage 2, USA, February 18-20, 2005
Wouldn't you know it...more nighttime drama at the Tempe Holiday Inn with the T-Mobile women's team. Last night, Brooke lay awake for hours with a migraine headache and finally decided around 2am to go wake our soigneur and ask for some ibuprofen. As she walked towards the room, she sees Ina running down the hall pounding on our mechanic's door. Ina and Rebecca were sleeping with their window open and it faced the parking lot. Around the same time Brooke was trying to find Advil for her throbbing head, Ina woke up to a ruckus going on outside. She heard men yelling and in her sleepy daze, thought she saw them all breaking into the truck. Without even taking a closer look, she had Rebecca call security as she ran to get Steve. "Steve!" she yelled in her German accent. "The truck alarm is going off!"
Steve stumbled out of the room and just looks at her. "Ina. We don't have an alarm on the truck." I love this girl's sense of urgency and protective spirit. It turns out it was just men fighting and the fight had nothing to do with our truck. Who knows what may happen to Mari and Lara tonight?
Ok, back to the racing...
We had a 57 mile road race today, made up of 3.5 laps of a 16 mile loop. Kristin almost got taken out before the race even started too. We were rolling up to the line and Kristin had been right at the front. All of a sudden she heard this screeching behind her that sounded rather similar to Tattoo from Fantasy Island (i.e. Da plane! Da plane!) ...except imagine Tattoo yelling, "My cleats are stuck! My cleats are stuck!" Concerned, Kristin turned around to see this girl barreling towards her out of control, with her shoes stuck in her pedals. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank our sponsor Shimano for providing us with Dura-Ace cleats. These cleats never get stuck in our pedals, even after peeing in the pouring rain in the mud next to a cactus.
Despite rain coming down the ENTIRE time, we really had fun today. We raced like a team and it felt great. Right from the start, Rebecca, Ina, Kori, and Brooke went to the front and set tempo with Kristin, Mari, and I behind them. I just had to sit back there for a moment and admire our formation, our jerseys, the "Team." It was a great way to start the season.
The finish line was at the top of a 3-mile climb and with 2 laps to go, time bonus seconds were up for grabs. So that's where our focus lay. Ina had never seen this course before so after the first time up the climb, she rode up next to me and shared that she didn't think this was a finishing sprint kind of climb for her. She didn't feel she had the power yet. No worries. We'll try something else.
But something happened to Ina between the first and second laps. Thinking she wouldn't be that strong, she led into the steepest part of the climb with me on her wheel, hoping to lead me out for a possible attack. But holy cow, that woman was motoring. It was all I could do to just stay on her wheel! There was no attack in me after that. I just kept continuing the lead out for bonus seconds for Mari and Kristin behind me. But sure enough, Ina came BACK around me to take over the lead out again. (We were doing a very long lead-out).
Unfortunately, Geneviève nicked both Kristin and Mari at the line to take the 20-second time bonus. The race was on. Over the top a group formed with those three, Chrissy Ruiter (Basis), and myself. We began rolling through, but due to the long downhill, groups caught back on just after a few miles. The T-Mobile girls really did a great job controlling the race at the front. Everyone did her part.
The real excitement came in the final miles leading into the final climb. Rebecca attacked and got a gap and soon two other girls bridged up to her. It looked like a safe bet and was rolling away. But soon, Ina noticed the third girl in the break was just sitting on. We didn't want Rebecca to get beat in the final sprint. So Ina put Brooke, Kori, and I at the front rolling through to bring back the break and cause tension the final time up the climb. As we neared the top, I tried to shift into my big chain ring, but my hand was so numb from the rain and cold I couldn't manage it. So I was spinning in my 39-12 as fast as I could until it was time for Kristin to come through.
At the crest of the climb, Kristin came through and did a monster pull with Geneviève and then Ina on her wheel. I watched Ina calmly look for her window of opportunity and then floor it around the girls to win the sprint and the stage. Ina's back! It is so great being teammates with her again. Her direction, her knowledge, and her friendship are unbeatable. After taking a year off due to surgery, she's coming back strong and confident and we are so lucky to have her. I crossed the line with the biggest smile on my face. Thanks girls for completely making my day.