March 18, 2013

Tucson Bicycle Classic

The original plan was to return to California after the Old Pueblo Grand Prix and train until San Dimas. That plan changed when I heard there was opportunity for more racing with the Tucson Bicycle Classic, a three day stage race. Jumping on any opportunity to race, I signed up and stuck around Tucson for the week. Super cyclist Alisha Welsh and her husband were very kind and hosted me for the week.

Stage 1 was a short but tough prologue through the desert. The day was off to an exciting start when I sat on a cactus. Bad move. Make sure your bike is an acceptable distance away from a field of cacti before attempting to attach a bike number. The race itself was more painful than the cactus encounter. 3 miles at max effort in the 35 degree desert heat. It was the closest I've ever come to passing out at the finish of a race. The effort paid off in the end and I finished 2nd to Julie Cutts (LaGrange), 7 seconds down on GC.

The next two stages featured time bonuses at an intermediate sprint and at the finish, which played into my strength as a sprinter.

One of the hardest parts for the next day was waking up in the morning, 4 am is not an acceptable waking hour. But after the heat from the previous stage, the 7 am start time had some appeal. It was a bit bizarre to be walking around the start area with head lamps on, stars still out shining. The sun rose just in time for us to start. Chloe Black (Sabino cycles), a fellow Canadian who now resides in Tucson had the move of the day, attacking and riding solo for 40 miles, talk about a long time trial. A chase was eventually organized and Chloe was brought back entering the final lap. At this point Caitlin Laroche (Spy) and Marilyn McDonald (also Canadian) attacked and had a sizable gap. Four of us then bridged up to them. We got organized and stayed away to the finish where I sprinted for the stage win. With all the day's time bonuses and a slight finish gap, I took over the lead by 2 seconds.

The final circuit race stage took place on a fun circuit, featuring a gradual climb then rolling descent, we completed 7 laps for 40 miles. It was once again an early morning up way before the sunrise. The finish sprint was a wide open, uphill drag. I was a bit nervous going in with only a 2 second lead. There were four of us all separated by 17 seconds and time bonuses again on the line. There were attacks through out the race, but nothing stuck. I jumped early at the finish and held on to win the sprint, defending yellow and won a super cool trophy made of bike parts. Overall I had a fun weekend of racing and will definitely return to Tucson in the future.
only thing looking stealthy was my Orbea Orca
Cactus trophy!

Next weekend is San Dimas Stage race then back to Canada for a little more education.


March 11, 2013

2013 Optum/TMC Old Pueblo Grand Prix

Reposted from Cycling Illustrated:
Photo Credit: Mason Ibas

I was very excited to get my first win of the season at the 2013 Optum/TMC Old Pueblo Grand Prix in Tucson, AZ!  There was some pressure heading into the event, with Optum as a title sponsor and me racing as defending champion. Optum p/b KBS had a strong roster with Annie, Amber, Lauren and me. As a team, we knew we would benefit from a hard and aggressive race. If it came down to a bunch sprint, the plan was for the team to set up a leadout for me.

We were aggressive right from the start, taking turns countering each other’s moves. There wasn’t a break that got up the road without an Optum rider in it. I saw the perfect opportunity to launch a counterattack after my teammate Amber was reeled back in and riding on the front with the group strung out.  After a few corners, I was surprised to see I had a decent gap on the field. I really committed to the effort and pretended the race was a time trial. There was still 30 min left, so I would need to pace my effort to stay away. If I got brought back, I was confident that we could set Lauren up for the sprint instead.

Cheering from the crowd and encouragement from my director Rachel kept me motivated. The gap hovered around 26 seconds for a while. My teammates did a great job covering moves back in the field. A disorganized chase allowed my gap to grow to 40 seconds. I could see the tail end of the field with 3 laps to go, and I held my gap all the way to the finish!

Overall, it was a very different experience from last year’s victory that came from a bunch sprint. Winning solo was a new experience for me.  It was a nice break from the usual fight for position and elbow bumping that goes on in a sprint finish. It was crazy to win all of the available race jerseys. The race was definitely a confidence boost for the team going into the rest of the season.

Leah :)