International Tour de Toona - Altoona, July 25-31, 2005
Saturday's stage was not quite the longest but definitely the hardest of all the stages, with 94 miles and three tough climbs. The first QOM came 52 miles into the stage and was the hardest of the climbs. It split everything up, as expected. The same eight climbers came to the top together again, but since all of us were in the hunt for GC, no one was willing to work together. So there was a bit of a regrouping before we hit the second climb. Ina climbed out of her head today through, and was in the group just behind us. So when they caught back on, she attacked her way straight through. Why people chased, I do not understand. Ina was like an hour down in GC at this point. When one of the French girls attacked off the front, no one flinched. More power to her, because she held it for the rest of the race, winning the stage by over 2.5 minutes. Our group coming into the finish was about 12 deep, regrouping over the climbs, and Dotsie Cowden from Colovita won the 'field' sprint for second. Magali Le Floch rounded out the podium for third, making it a great day for the French team.
Sunday's criterium was 30 miles. I ranked it right up there with the Redlands crit in it's difficulty and speed. Yes, we had just 30 miles to go until the end of the stage race, but it was not to be an easy 30 miles! With time bonuses every five laps, it was a race for GC. Genvieve Jeanson was sprinting well and took enough bonus seconds to put herself in the yellow jersey on the road. At the five laps-to-go mark, more time bonus seconds were up for grabs and it was a race to the line. Genvieve took the final corner a bit too hot and slid out into the hay bales. She kind of flipped up. Kristin was on her wheel and scooted under her while Genvieve was still in the air. I was on Kristin's wheel and was not so lucky as I came around just as Genvieve came back down. I went crashing into the hay bales as well, and those things are never quite as soft as you think they're going to be. It does beat hitting a street sign though. Since the crash happened literally 200 metres before the five laps-to-go, we were able to take a free lap. It was kind of surreal. 25 laps of red-line, noise, and excitement. Then all of a sudden, 2-3 minutes of complete silence as we waited in the pit to be pushed back into the field as they came around. Then BANG, complete chaos again, as you're pushed back into the race and the red-line again. At this point, we had jut four more laps to go and the girls started lining it up for Ina. I don't know how it happened, but as Ina stood up to sprint for the line, her chain fell off, and she went flying. When I came by, I saw her laying on the ground holding her head. But she told me later she was holding her head more out of fear of getting hit than anything else! Luckily, she was ok besides some road rash and a slight hematoma on her hip. She had earned enough points to keep the points jersey even though she didn't actually place in the race. We ended up second in Team GC and I ended up fourth overall. With that and three stage wins, it wasn't too bad. We knew we could have done better, but all in all, it was ok.
So guess where we went for dinner Sunday night as a celebration of our completion of one of the hardest stage races in America. Oh yes, we went to Hooter's. It was Kori's idea. I take no credit for this one. She really wanted a burger and her husband had told her Hooters was the best place to get a burger in town. Hmmm...Jack, what have you been doing lately? It was hilarious walking in there with a full team of girls. I think we may have been the only girls in there besides the waitresses. Ina was on cloud 9! It helped her forget all about her bruises and road rash from her crash. And I've got to admit, the burger actually wasn't too bad.
After a very easy spin on Monday morning - 39 minutes to be exact - Steve, Ina, Kristin, and I left dear Altoona, PA for Charlotte, North Carolina. An eight-hour road trip is worth it when your team has one of the fastest sprinters in the country and there's a big money criterium on the line. This coming Saturday is the Bank of America criterium in the downtown financial district of Charlotte. The prize purse for the men is a whopping $125,000. The prize purse for the women is $50,000. So with Ina safely tucked away in our van and Kristin and I acting as her bodyguards all week, we headed towards the money. A few hours into the trip, we passed Nicole Freedman's Ford-Basis team on the highway. As we drove by, Nicole held up a sign in the window saying, "Charlotte is cancelled. Go home." We laughed so hard when we read that. I love her sense of humour.
The host hotel for the Bank of America criterium is the schwank Doubletree Inn. It was a huge improvement over the Super 8 in Altoona. But alas, there are no fridges in the rooms. We figured rich people don't need to store food in a fridge. They just eat out all the time. And where the Super 8 offered free wireless, the Doubletree is $10/day for a wireless connection. So you win some, you lose some. At least we have clean sheets here.