One of the great things about bicycle racing in Northern California is that I get to travel and see lots of exotic places I might otherwise pass by - places like Ripon, Atwater, Turlock, Merced, Madera and Bakersfield. And, some even more exotic places like Snelling and Dinuba. These place have lots to offer - easy freeway access from highway 99, a view of the Sierras, meals served in diners with lumberjack portions, and best of all lightly traveled roadways perfect for a bike race! Now, some of these roads haven't been repaved since the advent of the automobile, but that just adds some technical 'features' for the excitement of the bike racers!
This race was a chance for me to get out, stretch my legs, check my fitness, and reacquaint myself with sizzling pack riding. It was also a chance to bond with and break in some new team mates :)
We ponied up to the table in Merced at a Southern Italian eatery on Main St. We ordered up our lumberjack portions all smothered in cheesy goodness. I think there was more cheese on my plate than I ate in 2007. Yep, it was a good pre-race meal. We overnighted at the Travelodge on Yosemite Parkway with the High Road chicas as our hotel mates. After a good meal and some requisite harassment and camaraderie, we had a super-secret strategy meeting and went to bed.
The race itself was fast and furious. Some got a quick lesson in pack placement as the group split in two almost immediately. I looked over my shoulder after the first roller only to see a big expanse between me and the next chunk of pack. One of my teammies, Lala realized she was being caught out and came flying across the gap - I was happy to see her move and yelled "Go Lala!". I decided I better move myself up a couple rows, knowing the first 'real' hill was coming marking the feed zone. I powered myself over that climb and was thrilled to see that I was still in contact with the pack. I moved up a bit around the descending chicane (good terrain for me). About this time, I felt the green monster in my lungs starting to stir, which was making it hard to get the precious oxygen to the legs. I made it up and over the next stair step, but was really starting to wheeze and was having trouble holding wheels.
I tried to work with Lorri a little, but had to back off to cough up a hariball. As I headed into the brutally windy part of the course, I sat up and looked for help. I saw two team mates and a 3rd person coming about 3/4 of a mile behind. So, I soft-pedaled and waited for them. The 3rd person was a new racer named Kathleen. Kim, Dana, Kathleen and I worked together and picked up Lorri eventually. I wanted to make sure Dana finished her first race, so we kept the group working together as best we could. As we continued, it got more and more windy. On the tailwind section, I thought I could ride for days. Then, when I turned on to Figmond into the wind with the terribly bumpiness each time, I thought I would die. But, having a couple folks to pass the time with made it go faster, and overall, it was a good day out there. It never got started raining, so that was great!
Lala and Tanya survived to be in the mix at the end. Tanya had some unfortunate equipment issues as her seat clamp came loose and she ended up making love to the nose of her saddle the rest of the race! She did great, and kept good position. I can tell she is going to have a great season once she fixes her seat! :)
Cyclist Rick also got to experience his first real pack race yesterday. He went out with the 45+ open category. He said it was a suffer-fest from the moment the moto pulled off signaling the end of the neutralization. He made most of the first lap in the pack and then circled for two more before throwing in the towel. Apparently, the 45+ boys aren't into 'working together' off the back to finish a race. It must be a girl thang...so rather than circle 11 more miles in the rain, he came back to snuggle with me in the Toaster. Good call!