May 23, 2007
Day One: Thursday May 17th, Mt. Magazine
I’ll post my polar data first to give you a race profile and description.
Time: 3hr 35sec
Average Speed: 33.2km/hr
Average Temperature: 25C
Average Heart Rate: 153bpm
Average Cadence: 91rpm
Max Heart Rate: 207bpm
Today's stage started at 8.30am! Now that's a shock to the system after settling into the European racing which always starts mid-afternoon at about 2.30pm!
The start and finish of stage one was at Mt Magazine which is the highest peak between the Appalachians and the Rockies!
The sun was out, but as we were starting from a high altitude and descending for the first 20 miles I decided to wear my long-sleeved jacket. After 30km I sent the jacket back to the car with a team-mate, I rolled the sleeves up and started the day's tanning session!
Racing in America is A LOT different to racing in Europe. I lost a drink bottle on the first descent and was permitted (by race officials, via race radio) to take a new bottle from my race car during the first 20km… In Europe it would be "tough luck - wait until feeding starts!" Then the girls called for a pee stop. I found this amusing and took a stop just for the novelty of it! There were about 10 girls who stopped for a pee while the rest of the bunch cruised along at about 15km/hr!
Then I thought I had a flat tyre so I casually stopped to feel the pressure in both the front and rear tyres, and then made my way back to the bunch again. Apparently the road was soft, not my tyres! I couldn't believe how casual the racing was until we reached the final 20 mile climb.
A group of 5 riders got away with 40km to go and Elodie once again put herself in that break-away group for our team – "Specialized Menikini". The five riders in the break were Amber Rais (Webcor), Chrissy Ruiter (Cheerwine), Elodie Touffet (Specialized Menikini), Andrea Dvorak (Colavita) and Moriah MacGregor (Sport Development). We didn't know the strength of the other riders she was with so we took a gamble and let it go. Elodie took turns in the break but only with about 70% effort.
Two riders from the break, Amber and Chrissy attacked with 10km to go. Elodie was unable to respond and continued to climb with the other two riders.
Once the climb commenced there were continuous attacks from the main bunch, Rachel Heal (Webcor) and Katheryn Curi (Webcor) were the aggressors. I followed each of the attacks and quietly hoped that we would catch the break-away. I was confident I could follow any moves on the climb.
The two riders from the break stayed away and arrived about one minute ahead of Elodie to take 1st and 2nd. Elodie finished 3rd in a 3 up sprint behind Amber Rais and Chrissy Ruiter respectively.
I totally missed the finish line. I thought we had another kilometre or so to go and I was looking ahead for a finish banner. We arrived at the finish line on a fast descent! I was sitting about 7 riders back when I realized the finish was only 100m away. I got out of the seat, and in a frantic panic did what I could but I failed to pass one rider in our group. Even though I would have only finished 7th… I still feel very frustrated that I didn't get to have sprint after doing so well on such a long climb!
My climbing legs surprised me today. I was actually climbing with the bunch rather than just hanging on – I was climbing comfortably!
Day Two: Friday 18th, Epic
Time: 3hr 26 min 45sec
Average Speed: 31km/hr
Average Temperature: 25C
Average Heart Rate: 160bpm
Average Cadence: 84rpm
Max Heart Rate: 208bpm
Today's stage was definitely more taxing than yesterday! I'm not sure if it was the terrain, the speed, the jet-lag or simply just fatigue. The race started with an 8km climb out of Haw Creek Falls. The climb started at 114m above sea level and finished at 472m (367m in 7.9km). I got dropped in the first 2km due to starting cold, very cold! I thought I'd come good once I got into my own rhythm but in fact, I felt pretty average all day.
After 5km of climbing I found myself in a group of five riders. Among us was a team-mate of mine, Karol-Anne Canuel and also a Kiwi - Catherine Cheatley (Cheerwine). It was Catherine who drove our little group for the next 40km! She absolutely amazed me; I could not believe her strength. On the climbs I was only just holding her wheel. When the course turned flat or downhill I would try to take a turn but I'm sure I was just upsetting her rhythm.
I knew of Catherine's strength from riding World Cups with her on the track, but after today I have a huge amount of respect for her talent at as roadie! I'd love to have her as a team-mate in Europe. Further to my respect for her as a bike rider, I witnessed a very rare but impressive trait from a cycling racer today. During our chase back to the main group we had a team director in a race car trying to pace his rider/us/our group back to the leaders….
Catherine moved to the side of the road and refused any assistance from the car, even though two other riders from our group were taking a free ride. Catherine continued to push the wind at the same pace and I continued to follow her wheel, she didn't say a word to the other riders, she just continued her race with a respectful attitude. Catherine towed the four of us for over 30km and then watched a couple of riders move away on the back of a car without saying a word… wow, fantastic!
We caught the front group after 40km and I felt smashed! I had to work hard to get there and shortly after we made contact - they stopped for a pee! The race pretty much neutralized for the next 20km before the stronger riders started to attack.
With 5km to go (climbing) the bunch calmed down, I expected more aggression and was totally unmotivated and fatigued. We arrived at 1km to go all together and I tried to get geed up for a sprint. I was sitting about 3rd wheel with 200m to go thinking I'd leave my move until 100m to go as I could see the line and it was on top of a rise. I got jumped; Amber Rais from Webcor (who won yesterday) flew past us and put about 30m into us, I kicked from third wheel to chase her and had trouble finding the right gear, but she was gone… I didn't even reach her wheel. I was 2nd, again.
Day Three: Saturday 19th, Tech
Time: 48min 20sec
Average Speed: 38.3km/hr
Average Temperature: 23C
Average Heart Rate: 186bpm
Average Cadence: 95rpm
Max Heart Rate: 213bpm
Today's crit was a flat 1.2 mile circuit around the Arkansas Tech University Campus. There were eight 90 degree turns which I didn't find too technical. I was impressed by the aggression from the stronger teams like Webcor, Colavita and Cheerwine.
Sometimes a crit during a tour can be quite boring and uneventful as it's not likely that riders will take a lot of time (on GC), and trying to do so can use up a lot of power and energy around such a tight circuit. Even though the peloton knew they had to 'back-up' for a TT this evening, they still raced hard. There were a few break-away attempts during the race, some by Elodie, my team-mate. I feared one particular group of riders would stay away but fortunately my team-mate Marie-Pier Bedard was able to pull them back.
With 3 laps to go I started my attempt to stay near the front - within the top 5 riders. This proved to be more difficult than I expected. The American women have brilliant criterium riding skills and I had to fight hard for position until it strung out with half a lap to go. There was an unfortunate crash with 500m to go which saw a strong Webcor rider, Katheryn Curi fall hard. She dislocated her shoulder and took some skin off, but I'm sure she'll be on the start line this evening.
I was ahead of the accident and heard the tangling noise of bikes behind me and tried to stay focused on the finish. It was an Australian friend of mine, Tiffany Cromwell who had started a lead-out for her Colavita team mate, Alex Wrubleski. I was on Alex's wheel in 3rd position. Tiff's lead-out was amazing; she took Alex around the last corner until Alex kicked with 200m to go. I kicked off Alex and kind of came to a stop next to her and felt like we were drag racing, I had to find a little extra power with 30m to go and throw for the line! I only just beat her, she's a strong and stylish rider. I watched her all day and she was floating with poise.
Finally a win! It was a beautiful day to win a race, I'd like to thank my Specialized Menikini team mates, Elodie Touffet, Marie-Pier Bedard, Karol-Anne Canuel, Sara Tretola and also Emilie Roy who DNF'd yesterday due to ongoing injury.
Day Three: Saturday 19th, Time Trial
Time: 14min 05sec
Average Speed: 36.6km/hr
Average Temperature: 27C
Average Heart Rate: 179bpm
Average Cadence: 88rpm
Max Heart Rate: 188bpm
The 8.7km TT course was flat but not so fast with the wind coming from all directions. I was relaxing in the sun before the start admiring all the nice TT bikes, disc wheels and aero helmets. I was so jealous! I was starting the TT on a standard road bike, no skin-suit, no bootie covers, no aero helmet, no TT bars and no disc wheels. I even gave my race wheels to Elodie for the TT so I was racing on my training wheels.
I had no ambitions for the TT – I also had no reason to conserve energy. I was just out there to ride. I settled into a rhythm and rode on the white line, the first rider passed me after 2.5 km, than another… then another! 3 or 4 people passed me. I finished 2:25 behind the leader and had no particular feelings about the result afterwards, only that riding a TT on a standard road bike is tough. My arms were so fatigued after a few kilometers, I couldn't get comfortable and I was continuously trying to find an aero position that didn't hurt my wrists or forearms.
Amber Rais (Webcor) won the TT, her 3rd stage win at this tour! Leigh Hobson (Cheerwine) was 2nd followed by Rachel Heal (Webcor) who was 3rd.
Day Four: Sunday 20th
Time: 2hr 52min 52sec
Average Speed: 32.4km/hr
Average Temperature: 25C
Average Heart Rate: 164bpm
Average Cadence: 82rpm
Max Heart Rate: 200bpm
It was the last stage (stage 5) of the Tri-Peaks Challenge today and I decided on the start-line that I wanted to unleash out there and feel exhausted at the top of Mt Nebo. The stage finished at the top a 4km steep climb, so I knew if I was to arrive at the bottom of the climb with the main group I'd have no chance of finishing top 10.
My plan was to get in a break with riders who I might be able to out-climb. I would have been as equally happy for Elodie or another team-mate to find themselves in this same situation. We (Specialized Menikini) attacked continuously for the first 35km, but it seemed as though most teams wanted the race to stay together until the final 4km.
Finally one of my attacks was successful. I had five riders with me, but only two women would help establish the break. The three of us worked hard to take the break out to two minutes. The other three riders, Betina Hold (Cheerwine), Katheryn Curi (Webcor) and Tiffany Cromwell (Colavita) did not take one single turn. They were instructed by their directors to sit on. This was extremely frustrating for me and the other two women (Heather Sborz and Jane Ziegier).
I hit a wall (tough moment) about 15km from the finish and then stopped taking turns, the two women who were doing the work kept the pace high and we arrived at the base of the climb two minutes ahead of the main bunch. As expected, the three riders who didn't take a turn took off at the base of the climb and rode off, out of sight.
I climbed at my steady pace from the bottom but half way up I was informed that there was a group 15 seconds behind me - This cracked me mentally! They (a group of about six) past me with about 700m to go - I struggled to the line!
Betina Hold (Cheerwine) was 1st, Katheryn Curi (Webcor) 2nd and Tiffany Cromwell 3rd.
I'm happy with my ride today and feel as though I could continue with good form if the tour was a few days longer. It's a good sign leading into more tour racing!