BC Super Week – Tour de White Rock
The Hill Climb up Buena Vista
So basically this event is like a two minute TT up 800m of a super steep hill. Whoever thought of this event is one sadistic puppy for in my entire (although very short) cycling career I have never been in as much pain as I was that night. I had stripped my bike down to bare bones. If it wasn’t absolutely essential to the running of the bicycle it had to go: bottle cages, bolts, computers, heart rate strap, sunglasses, gloves. I had my sexy pink Diablo SLs and man was I ever glad for how light they were. The only superfluous thing on me or my bike was the nail polish: Power plum with cracked silver. As the saying goes “Look good, feel good, go fast!”
With just the bare essentials I set up a trainer in the shade at the base of this wall of pain and methodically went about my warmup. An hour later I hopped off, swapped the trainer skewer for the superlight skewer and rolled over to the start just in time to line up. Now the entire hill wasn’t that steep, that would be much too easy, instead it was a small hill followed by a false flat ending in the wall of suffering for the last several hundred meters with the finish line just past the crest. Basically enough climbing before the actual hill to make sure your legs were on fire and all your momentum and speed were gone before the real kicker. The crowd was surprisingly large and they were cheering and screaming and shaking cowbells as rider after rider suffered up this climb. Donna, my hostess, was volunteering holding bikes and she held me at the start. I sat there shaking with nerves and adrenaline ready to step into the pain cave and she held me steady and spoke words of encouragement (thank you!). Just as I found my focus the countdown started. I rose ever so slightly out of the saddle and on the gun I put it all into my first pedal stroke literally ripping the bike from Donna’s hands. So much power went into that first revolution that my front wheel actually came clean off the ground and I took off at a hill-defying pace.
The woman racing up beside me was out of site in a heartbeat but I drove on relentlessly. It was a race against the clock, not against the other woman, and you couldn’t let up for even a second. Only the top 5 times would get a go at the final round. The first hill was over before my legs even realized what happened, on the false flat they started to burn and then I hit the wall. My heart pounded furiously, threatening to explode right out of my chest, I gasped for air but couldn’t get enough oxygen into my lungs to satisfy my screaming legs. My arms started cramping as I furiously whipped the bike onward and my teeth tingled. A few more seconds and my face started going numb, my stomach cramped, I willed myself not to vomit on my handlebars (vomiting is counterproductive to breathing) and pushed on. The hill got steeper and the pain seemed unbearable but all this just made me more determined to beat it. Only a couple hundred meters left. I dug deeper and embraced the pain. My ears started ringing and the finish line looked blurred, swimming tauntingly close but still so far away.
The last few meters are a little hazy but somehow I got my front wheel across that white line before collapsing on my handlebars completely and utterly destroyed. My throat felt like I had just smoked an entire pack of unfiltered Camels and my legs were shaking so badly I could barely stay on my bike but I had made it. At two minutes and one second I had secured myself a place in the final five along with Jenny from Trek Red Truck and three women from Now Novartis. 90 minutes to recover and do it all over again. Yay!
Now round two was a bit different than round one. There were no rules, all five up the climb at the same time, first person to cross the line wins. Jenny and I got to the line first and waited for what seemed like forever (it was probably only a few minutes) before the Novartis crew rolled up on either side of us. All three of them were lean, strong, hard professionals and I felt waaaaay out of my league. Given that there were no rules I was worried about getting boxed in by Novartis, especially with how close they were on either side of us, so on the gun I jumped hard. Big mistake. All three of them lined up behind me finding the protection of my draft before I even realized the mistake I had made. I panicked. Knowing how bad my position was I eased off a touch making every effort to conserve some energy in my already shattered legs for when their inevitable attack came. Sure enough as we approached the end of the false flat between the two hills they came out on either side of me and flew up the climb. I tried to get back on but my legs just couldn’t go any harder. There was nothing left. It wasn’t the pain that stopped me they just would not and could not put any more watts into the pedals. The Novartis gang absolutely creamed me up that last part of the climb, sweeping the podium, while Jenny and I had to settle for 4th and 5th respectively. Disappointing as it was I learned another lesson about patience and positioning that day. And it was still super cool to even be in the top 5 in a field that was as strong and experienced as this one.
Now you would think that a total of four minutes of effort wouldn’t take that much out of you but I was beyond wrecked. Sorry Donna for eating literally EVERYTHING that wasn’t nailed down that night! And thank you so much for the pity sangria. Also a huge thank you to Russ Hayes for driving me and my bike back up the hill to Donna’s house so that I didn’t have to go up it by bicycle a third time after rolling back to the bottom to grab my bag. My thighs were very grateful!
Market Square Criterium
The hill climb completely wrecked me and I slept like the dead for 16 hours. Until 1pm the following day when Donna came to make sure I hadn’t actually died. She woke me with coffee and the most delicious omelette served up with bacon wrapped yams….yeah, she’s the best! Food then foam roller, maybe another nap…glorious life!
I bummed around the house until it was time to warm up. It’s amazing how the one thing that will make you feel better when you’re stiff and tired and hurting from riding your bike to hard or too much is riding your bike. With every pedal revolution my heart rate came down and the aches faded. By the end of the hour I felt invincible and strong, ready to tear the legs off of my competition.
Finally a crit with some hills! The Now Novartis team made up at least a third of the field but with the hill they seemed like less of a threat than on the previous flat, fast crits. Team tactics would still come into play but they all had to pedal up the hill on their own so that would work out in my favor. The corners were also much wider and less technical than the previous courses so it didn’t seem quite so frightening.
After the gun I got in a break with two Novartis girls on one of the first laps and immediately offered to work with them knowing that their team would not chase down a break of three that had two of their own riders. By now they knew I could work and agreed to this plan without question. Unfortunately the rest of the field reeled us back in a few laps later. Two other Novartis women counter attacked and that break ended up sticking for the entire race, just the two of them, but I had missed that opportunity. Once again I found myself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The field was shattering (almost half DNF’d) but I was feeling strong and having fun so I got to the front and drove the pace as hard as I could. Lap after lap I pushed the pace. More and more women cracked and dropped off the back of the field. I felt invincible. Nothing hurt; I just wanted to go harder, faster and further. The crowd loved it and I definitely dominated the radio time during the race. Wrapped up in the moment and still feeling no pain I took some time to showboat for the crowd and cameras. Thank you Damian (announcer) for introducing me to White Rock, getting some exposure is one of the hardest things as a new racer. Tactics didn’t really cross my mind a single time. I was having way too much fun racing my own race to care about tactics. It was hard and exciting and relentless, no BS-ing waiting for a sprint finish. My only instructions had been to not tail-gun it so I took that freedom and had a blast playing with the field and putting on a show.
The final lap bell rang and two Novartis women managed to slingshot around me in the second last corner to take 3rd and 4th behind their team mates in the break. I had to settle for 5th but it was a well deserved placing against a strong field and I think it was the most fun I had ever had in a race. Totally worth it! Huge thank you to Denise Kelly, the national coach, for taking the time to go over the race with me, tell me her thoughts and give some advice. Your support is much appreciated and I have learned a lot from what you have told me.
Post race I had the most wonderful massage from the race physio people, thank you Jenn! My legs felt so good after worked your magic. Showered and massaged Rob took us all out for the most delicious dinner on the water in a little restaurant halfway between the two climbs of the following day’s road race.
White Rock Road Race
This event was phenomenal! The course was along the beach to a loop up a hill, back down the waterfront to another loop up a second hill. Each lap was about 10km long and we were doing 8 laps…..16 monster climbs with a few little rollers in between just to keep the legs burning. As had become the theme over the past two days, Now Novartis made up almost half the field. What had changed was that there was a sense of camaraderie among the rest of the field. We had all started to work together against Novartis.
At the gun Jasmin from Tibco immediately attacked hard opening a gap fast from the unsuspecting group. Having pulled this trick myself I was less surprised and immediately got on her wheel. The two of us hammered the first few kilometers together which immediately threw the chase group into chaos but also gave us a moment to talk in private. Our hope was that Novartis would send one or two women up the road and we would work with them secure in the knowledge that the rest of the Novartis team would stop working to catch us and this would let our break stick to the end. A quick glance back told us it was working. One Novartis girl was bridging while the rest of the team had organized and were slowing the pack. We kept driving hard but not so hard that she couldn’t bridge, we wanted her with us. One factor that we hadn’t considered was Trek Red Truck. They weren’t about to let the three of us solo away on lap one and Jenny, one of their strongest riders, had made her way to the front of the pack and was leading the chase.
Jas and I only had a few moments to strategize before we were within ear shot of the competition. New plan: shatter the field. We were two of the strongest riders on a merciless course. If we worked together and pushed hard we would destroy the field. We were in control of this race, we held the keys to the pain locker and we were about to put the whole field in it. The first lap we went hard but didn’t redline. Get rid of the weaker riders first, thin out the field and give the strong riders fewer bodies to hide behind. The second lap we started taking turns attacking on each of the hills. What was left of the field shattered. At the crest of each hill fewer women remained but we drove the pace relentlessly. By lap 3 there were only four Novartis women remaining and two from Trek Red Truck.
I was in serious pain at this point. The Novartis women remaining were doing no work secure in the knowledge that the other half of their team was behind us and that the rest of us would do anything to not be caught by them. Kristine and Megan from TRT had already done a ton of work and were starting to show it. Jasmin was the best sprinter and therefore our best chance at a non-Novartis win. That left me, so I sucked it up and dragged the women around the course doing my best to protect Jasmin from the wind and stay away from the chase. I buried myself further and further until Jasmin’s next instructions came: attack hard up the climb, she would attack on the second climb. My legs screamed at the thought of pushing even harder but my determination to beat Novartis was stronger. I was ready.
Unfortunately Jas and I had played this trick one too many times and before I could jump Novartis attacked as a team. This was the first time Jas and I hadn’t been in control of the race and it caught me off guard enough that a small gap opened. I closed it easily but they attacked again on the next hill, the one that Jas was supposed to attack on, and I cracked.
That one moment of weakness and the gap opened. Novartis immediately noticed and started screaming at each other to drive the pace. I saw Jasmin trying to slow the lead but Novartis was driving the pace hard. Kristine, Megan, one Novartis woman and I were left on the climb. I chased furiously down the descent into the corner. I defied the laws of physics by actually keeping my bike upright through those two corners but all I could think was to catch back onto that group. It was four Novartis and Jasmin, bad odds for her, and it meant a podium finish for me wouldn’t happen. The gap started closing but we were back along the water and in the wind. The other three women hurting and no one could put in much of a pull. The climb was coming though and the lead would have less of an advantage on the climb. Cresting the climb we found out that the lead had already put almost a minute into us. Not good.
I got back on the front and drove the pace but the men were starting to catch up to us and we were neutralized. We were neutralized again for two more chase groups. The chances of catching back up to the leaders were getting slimmer and so I resigned myself to letting that go and focused instead on who was left with me: Megan from TRT and one Novartis girl. We had lost Kristine on the last climb. My options were pretty limited: work with Megan or try to attack and solo the last two laps. The Novartis woman looked fresh and I had been destroying myself for over 60km so solo attack didn’t seem too promising. Time to make friends with Megan.
Now the great thing about Megan and I working together was that our abilities perfectly complimented each other. She could sprint and climb better than I could, I had more power and higher cruising speed than she did. We both wanted to beat Novartis. So we worked. She pulled me up the climbs, I pulled her along the rest of the course doing my best to give her legs a rest for the sprint. The Novartis girl sat on our wheel. It was absolutely infuriating but there was nothing we could do about it. Neither one of us had enough left to attack and drop her.
Last lap. I wound up the speed getting ready to lead Megan out for the sprint. Somehow the Novartis girl squeezed between us, not what we wanted but with the finish line only a couple hundred meters away there was nothing we could do about it now. I put in a few more hard pedal strokes then watched as the two sprinters battled it out to the line. Megan was gaining but the line came too quickly and Novartis ended up taking it. A disappointing end to a hard race but Jasmin had managed to take third by herself against four Novartis women so we were all super stoked on that. If there is one thing that Novartis has taught me it is just how strong a cohesive team can be, and I can’t wait to be on one.
Well, after 10 glorious days in Vancouver it was sad to pack my bags and head back to Victoria. Donna popped some champagne to celebrate my White Rock success and then it was on the road again. As the last celebration Rob and I decided to have the dinner of champions on the beach: pie and beer. Yup, one entire peach raspberry pie top with one can of whipping cream and washed down with one liter of deliciousness. BC Super Week was amazing. The people, the racing, the food and celebration were unreal. Thank you everyone! I can’t wait for next time around!
We wish you the best of luck!! Enjoy the ride! We will be watching you!
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