Saturday, July 2, 2011

2011 Tour of America's Dairyland (TOAD)

This is a long one! A recount of each race I did in the 11 days at TOAD from June 16th - 26th and my first big series with the Pro/1/2 women.
This is probably best read in small bits unless your super bored. Maybe I should have posted each day chapters. Oh well. For the 2 people who might actually read this blog, here it is:

June 16th 2011

Drove up from St. Louis and started early for our 6 hr drive. Arrived in Shorewood, WI @ 3pm for our 5pm race. Weather was a bit cooler (70's) vs. the heat we were getting used to, which was nice. Shorewood was an interesting course with 4 corners and a chicane right after turn 3. Road was littered with potholes and patches from corner 1 to 2 (a mess). We line up, there are 60 women on the line. Definitely my largest race and only my 2nd Pro/1/2/3 race. But, I really wasn’t nervous. I always thought I would be freaked out in the middle of a bunch like that on the line, worried about the start, but strangely I wasn’t. We take off, pretty hot from the start and then MAJOR slow down / yo-yo into the 1st corner. I see a girl drilling it up to the front and jump on her wheel for a free ride. She ends up ON the front though, and I found myself 2nd wheel. Its fine, Im feeling ok and just riding her wheel. But as a single rider, and all of those big teams, Im not about to do a lot of work. She slows and everyone swarms around us. I end up back further than I would like and the yo-yo'ing continues. I get hung up in a bad spot and cant seem to move up as hard as I try. My legs felt great the 1st 25 mins, but then they kind of hit a wall. I realize I need to move up, but I just cant. I get caught behind a near-crash on corner 2 and come to a complete stop. I then have to sprint and TT onto the back of the field, which about blew up my legs. Im on by the chicane, but then they call a big prime through the start/finish and moving up becomes impossible. And then the primes don’t stop! Every time I’m almost recovered, there is another prime! I nearly get dropped a couple of times, but I claw my way back on the back. Its SO hard on the back. But, I manage to finish with the front pack and end up 44 of 60. This is not how I wanted to start off the week, but I tell myself that tomorrow will be a better day and Ill learn from this…and hopefully my legs will have opened up more!

June 17th : Thiensville, WI

Today is a new day! Another beautiful day in Wisconsin! Smaller field today of 46. I dont get the best start at the line, but Im able to move up more easily on this course. Legs feel much better today and I stay in the top 15 – 20 for most of the race. Im feeling pretty good about my performance. The race speed picks up and I dont want to get split off the back so I stay well positioned and out of trouble. There are at least 3-4 crashes and one right next to me that I avoided. I also catch a lip in a corner and my whole bike starts skidding around but I’m able to save it! Whew! Here comes 5 to go. Everyone is vying for position and getting stupid. I need to be sitting top ten going into 5 to go or there is no chance to move up. I try to stay closer to the front, but alas, get myself boxed in and behind the stupidity. I end up 36th of 46. At least I raced a better race until the last 5 laps! I’ll take it and learn from it.

June 18th: Giro d' Grafton

Todays course was pretty interesting. 6 corner fast crit with a greater than 90 degree turn at corner 1, and a pretty strong headwind to a long finish. Overall, I did not stay well positioned today. There was a lot of “swarming” again when the pace slowed. Since my positioning was not great, I got caught yo-yoing again and burning up my legs for nothing. After corner 1, it was also a full-on out of the saddle effort up the false flat. Used a lot of energy today! With 2 to go, Im still not in a great position and there is a crash after corner 2 which I narrowly avoid. Its a full out effort to chase back on and I almost let myself get hung up behind some riders who are getting dropped. Cindi Rees comes around me and says “We have got to go Jamie”. She is right! I jump on her wheel. That girl is strong and she pulls us back onto the back of the field just as we see 1 to go. DAMN. OUCH. I tell myself to make it hurt one more lap. We are on the back now and I try to inch up a little, but its hard to do on the last lap! We finish on the back of the strung out pack, but we are with the pack. 38th of 44. Worse than yesterday, but kept it on 2 wheels and still finished with pack!

June 19th: Waukesha, WI

As advertised: “This course features a fairly flat fast 6 corner criterium being 0.85 miles in length. The turns vary from sharp to gradual. The entire course takes place in the dense urban heart of Waukesha giving the racers a high energy feel.” More specifically, it was a 6 corner crit with a greater than 90 degree turn at corner 1, into a 3-5% hill, right turn to a false flat, sharp off-camber corner 5 (after small downhill), and then a pretty strong headwind to a long finish. After corner 1, the hill really started to wear on some people and some sat up in the middle of it in the last 5 laps. I had to keep my head up and get around people who were starting to drag. My legs were feeling pretty good today and I did a good job of moving around the pack more and staying near the top 15 as much as possible. They had $1000 of primes to give out this race! Damn! It seemed they waited for the last 20 mins of the race to start calling them! The first ½ of the race felt pretty mildly paced, but we made up for it the last ½! The field got strung out and I had to keep my head up to be sure I went around wheels that were starting to die. There was a gnarly headwind finish and I had to work hard a couple of times to get back on after the person in front of me lost their wheel. Basically stayed strung out the entire second half of the race and it was all I could do to hang on and finish with the pack. Not a vast improvement in my result: 32 of 42, but felt more comfortable in the pack today. Its bound to all come together soon! :)

June 20th: Greenbush Road Race

Took the day off today. Want a recovery day and seems like the 60 mile road race day would be the day to do it! Went for a nice spin on the bike path then fed the girls during the race and stretched out and got some sun! Thoroughly enjoyed the rest day!

June 21st: Schlitz Park Crit

Todays crit course was challenging with an 8-9% grade climb for one block, then it leveled off a bit before kicking up again into corner 2. The top of the course was a long and windy false flat into a technical 5 corner decent then to the start/finish with a nice head wind. After taking yesterday off, I guess I needed a better warm up. I had a good position at the start, 2nd row. However, the person in front of me was not able to clip in and I was quickly humping it up the hill towards the back of the group. :( First lap around and one rider completely misses corner 5 (I think she thought it went the other way) and cuts straight through the middle of the group! I have to come to a near stop to get around her (thank god I didn’t t-bone her) and then Im chasing back to the group who has flown down the hill. I get on the back, but after chasing, I just cant hold on to the back of the pack who is charging again up the hill. I get to corner 2 at the top w/ some stragglers, and Cindy comes around me and tells me we need to go. I know I do, I try to get out of the saddle, but my legs just wont respond. I sit back down and try to hang on to a wheel. I catch one, but she is gaping from her wheel. Next time up the hill and I realize I've popped. My race is basically over. Gone. I chase with another rider for 4-5 laps and my legs actually start opening up and feeling better...but its too late now. The other rider pulls herself out of the race and I continue to chase solo. I see a giant bolt of lightening as I go through the start/finish and soon after, I hear the announcer say they are going to postpone the race until the storm blows through. We are only 20 mins into our 60 min race! The group heads to the parking garage on the corner to take cover. The downpour blows through pretty quickly. 30 mins later we are back on the line. I go just in case they mess up the gaps and I have a shot to get in a good chase group. Plus, maybe my legs will feel better??! I get with a group, but the first time up the hill I realize my legs are locked up now and its pointless. A lap later, I pull myself and call it a bad day. Oh well. Legs should be ready for the TT tomorrow!

June 22nd: Ripon, WI Time Trail

Time trails. My favorite!....NOT. I go in with a positive attitude though and we get there with enough time to get in a good warm up. I warm up well and head to the start. Everyone has already told me how hilly the course is. Its a 13.9 mile course with rolling hills and some monster cross winds! Fun! I try to focus on my power and find a steady place to hold, but I since I don’t ever practice TT’s its hard to judge how much I should save for the hills and how hard an effort I should shoot for. At times I felt like I was going too hard and other times I felt like I was going too easy. I don’t think I gauged it very well. The bright side was that it was an interesting course for a TT and it actually went by pretty fast. I end up 36th of 41! Ouch.

Took an "ice bath" in Lake Michigan:

June 23rd: Sheboygan Crit

On my morning spin, I rode from the host house down to the course. On the way back and only a couple miles from the house it started to pour! From then on, it rained hard pretty much ALL day. I mentally prepped for a rain race. At least it was a 4 corner flat course. Boring, but safer. Magically, the rain stopped while we warmed up and it looked like it was going to clear for a while. The course was still wet, but at least it was not actively raining while we raced. The roads even started to dry up during our race. Corner one was a little slick and about 12 mins in, we are going into corner one and I just feel something is about to happen. I back off out of instinct and some girls in front me go sliding. I manage to break and swerve around someones arm. I promptly sprint back to the pack glad to be upright! The race is pretty active and I try to move myself up but the wind makes it difficult to stay up there. Legs felt good today. My avg power was higher than any other day, but I didnt feel like I worked that hard today. The race goes by quickly. No one drives the pace the last 2 laps and we really bunch up across the road. People start yelling and it gets ugly. I sit on the back and just shake my head and make the decision to stay put and stay safe. I know I need to mentally get my head up to the front. I’m the only thing holding me back. Oh well. I sprint the best I can from my position: 33rd of 52. Much bigger field today than I thought! Felt really good about my fitness despite my finish. :)

June 24th: Fond du Lac Crit

Today was another flat 4 corner crit with a strong headwind into the finish. I started the race on the front of the line! Pretty cool. This made it easy to sit top 5-10 wheels in the first couple of laps. It was nice up there! But, I somehow found myself in the back again. WTF? After a girl swerves into corner 1 for no reason at all, making the whole pack swerve and curse Cindy says to ok? I say “Yeah, Ive gotta move up” I did. That got me pissed off enough to just do it already. I sat top 5-15 for the rest of the race. Carrie came to me at one point and said “get on my wheel and stay there, we are moving up”. So I do. That woman can find some holes! What a great lesson in moving around the pack in places I would not have tried! Now, it only lasted less than a lap before I lost it, but I eventually found it again and stayed where I needed to. I went with chases and stayed active. It was great. Unfortunately the pack bunched again on the last lap and I lost a lot of positions. Ended up 28 of 48. My best result yet. Nice to break out of the 30's! :) I definitely raced better today! More and more comfortable in the pack!

June 25th: ISCorp Downer Classic

If you cant tell by the length of this entry, this was my favorite crit!

Downer is truly a classic crit. This course used to be only open to the Pro Men, but has recently been opened to all categories. It is more of a triangle with 3 long sides and the 2nd to last turn leading into a sweeping final right turn. The course is pretty littered with pot holes and cracked pavement, but its all flat and very fast! In fact, it turned out to be the fastest crit we raced so far averaging 25.5 mph and had a final lap average of 27.7! My legs were a little bit tired today, but not horrible. A break went up the road road early in the race and consisted of 5 strong riders representing all but 2 of the prominent teams. I actually had no idea how many people or who was up the road b/c the field was so strung out and at the time, I was in the back part of the pack. I did my normal yo-yoing on the back a little, but also moved up towards the front, mid-pack. I felt comfortable in all parts of the pack today. I quickly realized that I needed to be well positioned on corner 2 b/c it really slowed and then re-accelerated in that corner – its a tricky one...tight and more than 90 degrees. I avoided one crash there and had to chase back on. The back stretch of the course had a head/cross wind, so you really wanted to be ON a wheel! The primes were PLENTYFUL. I think they called it Prima-pa-mooza! They just kept coming! One of my goals was to go for a prime, but it was so fast and SO strung out the entire race that I would have had to been 3rd wheel at some point just to go for one...and I never moved up that far. Nothing too exciting happened. Some strong attempts from Cari Higgins of Peanut Butter and Co. and Kori Seehafer of Team Type 1 to bridge up to the break, but Mello Mushroom (Carrie and Kristen) were not letting any more up the road. So as the race went, the primes kept coming...and getting bigger...$25, $50, $75, $100, $150...then with 3 to go, they call a $300 prime! This is the big one and the sprinters put it all out there...and just as we see 3 to go…another prime bell! $700 prime at 2 to go!? Holy shit. I move up a bit and prepare to hold on for dear life. Those who can sprint and did not go for the $300, are in an all out sprint for this one! Mary Ellen Ash who is there w/o teammates gets it and then basically sits up as we go through corner 1...who would blame her?! Its now the bell lap! Hold on. I'm sitting maybe mid to back third of the pack and I know I need to move up, but now will be a hard time to do so! We are flying...someone is on the front drilling it. However, about ½ way down the back stretch it slows a hair and I see in my peripheral someone attacking up the right is the time, and I know that if I hesitate, it will be gone and Ill be sitting back of the pack for the finish again. I jump on and go to the front with them and we fly into the 2nd to last turn...the previous group gets pushed wide and then we fly into the final corner. I get out of the saddle. Im looking around and Im actually in the mix of the pack sprint! Damn this is fun! I sprint through the front of the field and try to find a good hole. I get around some people and actually manage to finish 15th in the field sprint...20 overall (of 46)! Cool! I get one point! Maybe the only point of the whole series, but Ill take it! :) Great race considering this is day 10! After the race, I sit down and all I want to do is sleep! My throat is sore and my body wants food! (I later find out this is the beginning of my head cold).

June 26th: Madison Capital Crit

Im sneezy this morning and my nose is runny. I think it’s a cold, but I tell myself its just allergies (at least until after the race). My morning spin does not show promise for good legs today. Tired and heavy. :( But, they kinda felt like that yesterday and opened up by race time. The capital crit is literally around the capital building in Madison, WI. What a great city! It was a warmer and sunny day. Good weather. The course has some crappy pavement (whats new). Its flat through the start/finish, has 4 sweeping left-hand corners, has a slight downhill into corner 2, a flat to slight downhill strong headwind section from 2-3, then 3 leads into a 2 block 4-5% grade climb up to corner 4. From the get-go I dont want to race but Im trying to stay positive and tell myself that my legs will open up. From the start they feel like total fatigued, heavy crap'ola! Damn legs, I just needed you one more day! The hill is tough but a couple of times I climb the whole thing out of the saddle and my legs feel pretty good and surprise me. But then the next time up, they might feel like crap again. It was strange. There are a LOT of tired legs in the field today, that is obvious! I tell myself that Im not the only one feeling this way. I’m sitting on the back with others who are struggling as much as me to hang on just a little longer. I look at my computer and 12 mins in my legs still feel like crap...just a little longer I tell myself. Next time I look its 32 mins in. Half over I tell can do this....just a little longer. Next time its 46 mins in...Another mental pep talk...really self, thats only like 10 more mins. You can do this for 10 more mins! Just dont let yourself get yo-yoed on corner 3 and you will be fine. I dig deep a couple of laps and hold on through some primes. Ugh. I see 4 to go...ok. Your fine. Just 4 more laps at this point, its an accomplishment to just finish this last race. I hang on and with one to go, going up the hill, someone drops their chain forcing others to go around them and loose their momentum. Im able to keep my momentum and I power up the hill around them! Cool. I literally go from 2nd or 3rd to last up to 28th out of 43 finishers! Not terribly bad. Ill take it. SO glad this is it. Time to go home and recover my body!

What an amazing experience. I’m a different racer because of this series. I’m so glad to have tried something different, gone out of my comfort zone and really stretch myself. This is how you grow and improve in all aspects of life. I like having to rise to an occasion. I’m looking forward to more racing and Im planning to put in for an upgrade to Cat 2 upon my return home!

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