July 14, 2009

High Desert Omnium - Race Report

An unfamiliar feeling for me; going to sleep in my own bed the night before a stage race.

Unfamiliar, but welcomed.

My sister, Kacy, brother-in-law, Andrew, and nephew, Max, came over from Portland for the weekend, partly as a "get-away" and partly to see what this bike racing thing is all about.  A bit of pressure; the home town crowd, my family and Ben standing on the sidelines; I had better put on a good show.

Having spent Friday night relaxing with my family, eating at Jackson's Corner, and playing with little Max, I woke up Saturday morning refreshed and ready to ride.

Stage 1: Criterium – 35 minutes

I set the alarm for 8am, woke up just after 7am and felt like I had slept half the day away. My race didn't start until 11:15am; plenty of time for a walk to Backporch for coffee, enjoy breakfast and warm-up. No rushing, just fun.

By 10am, I was on the trainer, on the back deck, trying to get my heart rate up and flush out my legs. Already sweating, I looked at my watch, 60 minutes till go time. Funny when the warm up for the race takes long than the race itself.

I rolled over to Summit High School, arriving just a couple minutes before the course was open for pre-riding. I looked around and didn't see many women; I had expected there to be a larger field. Coming around the last corner of my second warm-up lap, people were already lining up – I don't know where they had been hiding, but the field was definitely large; strong women, lined up and ready to race.

The bell rang and we rolled out. One girl attacked right off the line and while the rest of the group fumbled with pedals, she got just a little gap on us. That quickly closed, but I got stuck toward the back of the pack for the first couple of laps.

I didn't like being back there. I wanted to move up, but intimidation got the best of me for a bit.

I have no business being toward the front. Get over yourself, this is a race.

I worked to move up, staying wide on the corners and gaining ground with each turn. Soon I found myself 3rd or 4th wheel. Safe. Good. Then another attack, followed by a counter attack. I did what I could just to stay on and keep a good position. It was a constant battle. If I wasn't moving up, I was moving back.

The bell rang with three laps to go and the pace slowed……. On the back side of the course, an attack, then a corner and the group got back together. I got out on the front at one point, and quietly moved back into the pack. 2 laps to go, the lead pack was smaller now, but still good sized and everyone was fighting for position.

As we crossed the line with 1 lap to go, I expected an attack; a lightning fast final lap, but this was not the plan of the powerhouses controlling the race.

I knew position would be key going into the final turn and I tried to move to the outside, but I got boxed in on the back side corner and couldn't move over.

Work with what you have Bishop – be safe.

I took the final corner tight, sitting in about 12th position. With 200 metes to go, the sprint started. I shifted and stood up. My selection gear was not hard enough. I shifted again.

A couple of girls blew past me and ran out of steam. I passed them and couple others, the line was right there, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl on the far left pass me at the line. I finished 8th or 9th overall, 4th for the Cat 3s.

Not bad. Safe, fun, and smiling.

Back to the house; food, water, and rest. A walk to the river for cool dunk of the legs. Hanging out with my sister, talking about the crit. She was inspired, she wants to ride bikes.

Stage 2: Time Trial

My starting time was 4:12:30; about 3pm I started thinking about racing again. Aero bars; check. TT helmet, check. Back on the trainer, this time in the heat of the day. I found the only semi shading spot on the deck and started spinning – OUCH. This whole warm-up thing hurts. It seriously hurts. But only for about the first 10 minutes, and then I am so glad to have done it. It hurts, but it helps. Seriously helps.

I road over to the start of the TT, on Skyliners, and had about 15 minutes until my start time. Did I mention how awesome it is to warm up on my deck and then ride to the start of a race. 2nd time in one day – sweet! I did a couple of sprints up the Summit High School Hill and rolled to the starting line. The count down began, 15, 10, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

Stand up, get some momentum and then into the bars; big gears. Heart rate jumped to 184 with in 30 seconds. Only 9 miles, 4.5 out, 4.5 back – just like the 20 minute test.

With my bike computer set to distance and my watch set to HR and time, I could keep a good eye on where I was in the race and how hard I was working. At mile 1 I realized I might have gone out too hard. Too bad, you dealt the hand, now play it.

I passed my 30 second girl within 2 or 3 miles; she was the first to go, so no more carrots for me. Too bad, suck it up, ride harder. I climbed the first steeper pitch feeling good; it was when the road flattened out that my legs started screaming. 12.7mph – on the flat, unacceptable, lets go. I was turning my legs over as fast as I could, they just wouldn't go. Work through it, come on.

After about 20 or 30 seconds, I got my legs back, shifted and stood up, settled back into my aero bars and picked up the pace. One more little rise and I could see the turn around point. I made turn (much too slowly), and headed down hill for home. I got as aero as I could and held on. With 2 miles to go, the road flattened out. This is where I wanted to make up time. I pushed the pedals, legs burning.

With 500m to go, I went to for it. Biggest gear I could manage, head down. I crossed the line; Ben and Kacy were there. I wasn't sure of the exact time, but I knew I was somewhere between 24 and 25 minutes. Now I had to play the waiting game.

Kacy, on my mountain bike, Ben and I took a cool down lap through Tetherow. Talking about bikes, teaching Kacy how to shift, and laughing; this was turning out to be an excellent weekend.

By the time we made it home, my legs were flushed out, the cold river was sounding delightful and Kacy had ridden about 10 miles…. She was loving it.

When the results were posted later that evening, 1 second made the difference between winning the tt and 2nd place. I was 1 second too slow. 2nd place gave me 13 points.

I now stood in 3 place overall.

Stage 3: Road Race

Fueled by an amazing dinner Kacy prepared (now to be my first choice in pre-race meals), I woke up Sunday morning with racing on my mind.

Crazy thing about an Omnium Race versus a Stage Race; people who haven't raced on Saturday can race on Sunday. They may have fresh legs, but I had on my racing cap…..

The field would be bigger today and as I drove up to Edison Snow Park with Kerry and Lisa, I got just a bit nervous. I was racing with the big girls now; girls that raced in the Pro1/2 field at Mt Hood, girls that just return from racing in Italy, girls that were preparing for Cascade Cycling Classic.

Today would be a challenge, but I knew the course. I rode it just last weekend. I would be smart, hold the wheels I knew were strong, and try to make the break.

At 10:40am, the Women's Pro1/2/3 field rolled out of Edison Snow Park and down hill toward Sunriver. The pace wasn't too fast, people were being conservative and no one wanted to make a move on the down hill.

We made the right hand turn onto Road 40, and the attacks began. They weren't attempts to break away; but instead steady increases in speed to tire out the legs of some and drop a few. I stayed toward the front, attempting to stay on the wheels of the few women I knew would be strong in this type of race. As we turned left to circle around Crane Prairie, I felt good, continually drinking and being a bit more aggressive about sticking on my wheel of choice than I have been in the past.

A few break away attempts occurred on this long, flat stretch; but with a little organization, they were reeled back in. I tried not to work too much, but took my turn when necessary. The head wind was fierce in spots, making the thought of being out there alone for too long very unappealing. Each time we climbed a rise, the pace picked up, then settled down again once everyone was back together.

I was hanging in, so far so good.

As we cruised along Cascade Lakes Highway, smooth pavement beneath our wheels, the pace increased as the hail began to fall. A couple of girls launched an attack that I was a little nervous about, but I looked around and all the top contenders were sitting tight. I did the same. The wind helped the pack bring the attack back in and as we passed the feed zone and turned right back onto Road 40, I could sense something was going to happen.

Girls were jockeying for position as we approached the start of the climb, mile 40 of the 60 miles race. I sat tight on a wheel I knew could climb and spun my way up the first steeper pitch. A couple of women were out front, working hard to pull the group up the first hill, but as the grade faded, so did they and they slipped back as my wheel and I went on through.

Teri and Becka shot off the front.  Now the real work began.

Everyone knew that if those two got away, they would stay away and no one was willing to let that happen. A short descent began and I held on tight to the group in front of me. I was not going to get dropped on the downhill…. Again.

We started climbing again, reducing the gap between Teri & Becka and ourselves, soon catching them. It was then that I realized the chase group was only about 10 or 12 girls.

I had made the break, now I had to hold on.

Pace lining along the flatter sections and each man for themselves on the steeper pitches, we rolled back toward the Sunriver cutoff at about 25mph.

I looked around me. I couldn't believe I was riding next to these girls. Stupid strong women I had watched kick ass and take names all season.

As we made the final left turn up toward Edison and the finish line, I was nervous that the chase group might catch us, but no else seem too worried. Follow their lead.

The head wind slowed our pace considerably; working together we were only going 13-14mph. I took my turn in the rotation, everyone taking short pulls as we made our way up hill into the wind. I felt good, strong and comfortable. We continued to rotate through the pace line until about 2 miles from the finish when I pulled off left into the front and no one was behind me to take over.

I looked over my shoulder and motioned for someone to come around. No one did.

I slowed down a bit, hoping that would encourage someone to help out. Failed tactic.

I moved from the right side of the road to the left. Nope, nothing. No help at all.

I sat up, going pretty slowly. Still no luck.

The photo motorcycle was just to our left, I moved into its slipstream (probably highly illegal) but that didn't last long; a whole 10 seconds of relief before it sped away.

At this point, I was unsure what to do. With 1 mile to go, I was still up front, not where I wanted to be.

I knew Teri was behind me and the only thing that gave me comfort from my own stupidity was that I might be helping her.

Still out front, we approached the 200m sign; I shifted and stood up; trying to accelerate into the wind.

At about 50m, the inevitable happened. Of the 10-12 girls in the break, 7 of them past me. I stood up, turning over the pedals as fast as I could. I couldn't respond to their speed. I crossed the line in 8th place.

I wasn't sure who in this group was a 1/2 and who was a 3, but it didn't really matter, I had made the break. Finally.

I didn't know until late Sunday night how I had finished; but for once it didn't really matter. I had hung on with the big girls; I had pushed myself; I had made the break. I didn't let myself get dropped on the downhills, I stuck to the wheels I planned to and had ridden strong.

No, High Desert Omnium isn't a huge race, but to me, it was a huge accomplishment to race well. And to race well at home.

When the results were posted, I learned I finished 2nd for the Cat 3s in the rode race; behind a women in a Poplollies Kit I had never seen before. The little disappointment I felt for not having won fled when I learned I had won the overall.

I think it was sometime in April that I decided to set a goal for myself: To race Cascade Classic next July as a Cat 2. Until this weekend, I wasn't so sure it was possible. Now, I am pretty sure it is.  

Thanks to everyone that has given me so much support this season. To Sunnyside Sports, Don, Damian, the girls of BBNS, and most of all to Ben, who puts up with me each and everyday.

As the road season comes to a close for me, I have cyclocross on the brain. Mud and cowbells – and Cyclocross Nationals, only 5 months away.