Tuesday, April 2, 2013

First few races and team camp in California

After my false start in France (described in a previous post) I arrived in the US in March without racing legs, no idea about crit racing and went straight into a stage race (San Dimas) in 30 degree heat. I've described the race in previous posts for Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3. In short, my uphill TT wasn't too bad, but definitely not my best, I had left too much in the tank. I cramped 2 hours into the road race stage and had to roll around the rest of the course by myself, trying to stay within the time limit. I got dropped in the crit 15min into it. That was not a good start and my confidence was at an all-time low. Was I really that bad?
Nice training road near Ohai!
But you pick yourself up. After San Dimas we spent a few days training around Ventura, before moving on to our official team training camp in a super nice place in Carpinteria. There I met the rest of the riders and staff and everyone was really positive and encouraging and slowly I started rebuilding my confidence. We had fun during our official team photo shoot too!

Not a bad location for our training camp!

Team photo shooting!
Team portrait
Good (and in hindsight quite a lot of) training was had and it was nice to meet some of the people that make it possible for Team TIBCO to exist, our sponsors, with representatives from Fuji explaining their carbon framing, Shimano showing off the functions of the electronic shifting technology, Reynolds telling us about the importance of their patented Swirl Lip Generator during camp and us making the most of showing off our Rudy Project sunnies.

Team training camp!
Then we rode another stage race, the Redlands Classic. The TT at altitude was hard, and my time was below what I would have expected of myself (and surely my team had expected of me). The next RR stage was OK, my job was to control the race for the first 20km before the hill. I rode it a bit too hard and spent too much time in the wind and got dropped on the hill, but my job was done. Jo made the podium in 2nd place (after a controversial sprint finish with Alison Powers). I got dropped again in the crit the next day. I also got dropped in the last technical and hilly RR stage as did most of the peloton, just riding around the laps waiting to get pulled off the course. But it was great to see Claudia fighting with Mara for the stage win, Mara won, but Claudia won the mountains jersey and Jo managed to get onto the podium again for a third place, thus finishing 5th on GC. While I did my job, I was still not delivering the performance I was hoping for. But on the upside we were really lucky again with our host housing - our host mum was known and coveted amongst the racers, there's a competition each year of who gets to stay with her! No wonder, she was amazing and a great cook!

Beautiful Big Bear Lake at the start of the Redlands TT

Alison Powers passing me to go on and win the Redlands TT

My results were:

Stage 1 (TT): 35th
Stage 2 (RR): 70th
Stage 3 (Crit): 71st
Stage 4 (RR): 54th

Full race results can be found here.

After Redlands, we had part 2 of the training camp, visiting the factory of our clothing sponsor, Voler, which was super interesting and spend some more time training at the beautiful town of San Luis Obispo.
Voler factory visit
Lots of jerseys made by Voler
Ride with Voler staff
Training ride near San Luis Obispo
Finally, our training camp moved up California even further and we finished off with a visit to FRS in the Bay Area.

Team TIBCO visiting FRS

To improve my crit racing I entered the Santa Cruz crit solo where I snatched a 5th place, but the field was small with only a couple of pro-level riders so it was hard to judge my performance. I did get dropped in the men's masters 35+ Cat 1/2/3 race that I did just before the women's race, but I used my powertap in that race to see what kind of numbers I have to put out - you're either sprinting or cruising! I won 40$ and a T-shirt though and caught up with some Irish friends of mine!

Power data from the first 10min of the men's 35+ Cat 1/2/3 crit

Mel in Santa Cruz!
To find my racing legs, I entered another stage race solo, more known to the mtb crowd, the Sea Otter Classic at the Laguna Seca Mazda Racing track near Monterey. Ryan actually did his first ever mtb race there in 2006! But I didn't have good legs in that stage race either. Coupled with an 8am start for the crit that I nearly missed because of traffic and because I couldn't find my way around to the start I was dropped again. The RR stage was better, I felt I was getting better at my positioning in the peloton and liked the hilly course. The TT wasn't bad, but wasn't great either and had a lot of climb in it - some of the girls did it on their road bikes. And I should have really done a practice lap of the circuit race course on the last day - I got dropped after the crest of the climb when I let a gap open before the very fast corkscrew descent. But the buzz around the tent village was amazing, and the weather was great for the whole weekend. And I was so tempted to grab a mountain bike to do the mountain bike race, which was won by a roadie - Marianne Vos!!! On the plus side, I stayed with another wonderful host family in Pebble Beach!

Sea Otter Classic Tent Village at Laguna Seca
Beach along 18-mile drive at Pebble Beachthe Volvo team car got lots of attention! 
I made it onto Slowtwitch!
My results were:

Stage 1 (crit): 29th
Stage 2 (RR): 14th
Stage 3 (TT): 13th
Stage 4 (circuit race): 23rd

Full results from Sea Otter Classic can be found here.

All my USA racing results can be found on the USA Cycling website here.

My next blog post will cover my Speedweek experience - where I go from being dropped and hating crits to and not being able to get enough of and loving them!