Valley of the Sun Stage Race
February 21, 2000
Valley of the Sun is a three-day stage race, with a 12-mile out-and-back time trial on Friday, a 4-lap, 67-mile road race on Saturday, and a 40-minute criterium on Sunday. I wanted to race to see how my fitness was coming along after a frustrating!, critter-filled winter of interesting and continuously interupted training. My friends Laura and Derek from Albuquerque drove and we all stayed with their friends, Dan and Debby. Laura, unfortunately, got flu somewhere along the way and did the super-great, super-considerate thing of flying home, so as not to infect her friends and their parents (also staying with them), her husband, and me with what she had.
The time trial was an awakening. I haven't raced on my own (spoiled me) without a mechanic and team for years. So there I am working on my TT bike, having trouble pumping up the tires of my fancy Zipp disc and front wheel, and being generally flustered doing my warm-up and all sorts of other things normally done by support people. I wasn't used to it! It was a good reminder that support people do so much and are way too often forgotten. The Rolf mechanic was there, supplying neutral support. He totally saved me.
The course was rolling to flat, with a cross headwind out and cross tail back. I felt good. I used the 1999 Morgul Bismark TT bike, I love so much. I still love it so much.
About one-fourth of the way through the race, I see ahead of me three riders together up the road. I couldn't imagine how they had been allowed to warm-up on the course. How was I going to pass these riders spread across the road? As I got closer, I realized they were doing some sort of rotation and that maybe I would be able to pass if they tightened up the paceline a bit. I still couldn't figure out how they had gotten on the course. As I got closer still, I realized they were racing and taking draft off one another. This is illegal in a time trial where each rider is to race the set distance alone without assistance.
Genivieve Jeanson (the Canadian 1999 double junior world champion, 2000 World Cup winner and Olympian) won. I finished second and Tina Mayola was third.
The first lap of the road race was uneventful. The second lap had a bonus sprint at the top of the one climb (also the finish line). Tina took second in the sprint for a 10 second bonus. For the next lap the AutoTrader team took turns attacking, one after the other, in rapid succession. Jeanson did a great deal of work to keep the field together or to get into the breaks herself. I hoped to get in a break as well. This was not to happen. Up the climb the third time, Gabriella (a friend of Jeanson's I suspect) rode hard at the front most of the way.
Then Jeanson took over and (no kidding) just rode away from the rest of us. Kim Smith, who was closer to her than I was, says she made a few standing accelerations to get rid of the competition.
No matter what her technique, she had a good gap at the top of the climb. The next group -- Julie Young, Tina Mayola, and Kim Smith (autoTrader), Kim Bruckner (Saturn), Amber (Harbor Lights), Jane Cosmetics rider, Gabriella, and Cybil DiGustini (a French team) and me chased for the next lap in the head wind and cross wind. We didn't work that well together. Two riders weren't consistently taking pulls, causing gaps to open up in our paceline. When they did pull through, they were slower than what we should have been going. Even so, we were ten chasing one in a strong wind. We lost. We lost almost a minute by the finish line 16 miles later. Tina had a great leadout by Kim Smith followed by Julie Young. She answered the team pressure to win the field sprint and gained another 10 seconds of bonus time. I finished 6th.
The criterium got to a late start. The course was on wide-open roads with good pavement interrupted by a few road turtles in a back corner. AutoTrader did their team thing and sent riders off one after the other. Not wanting to make any excuses, I simply fell asleep and missed Tina when she went up the road. I then had to chase her. I was the only one who really cared about her going up the road since with a gap of about 25 seconds plus the 15 second bonus for first place she could move ahead of me into second place overall. And that's what she did. AutoTrader helped her out by having Pam Schuster lead through corners and slow things down. Kim Bruckner took turns at the front. Jeanson did once when I begged. She had no real interest in doing so since she was about three minutes ahead of Tina overall. So, lesson of the weekend: one must stay awake while racing.
All in all, a great way to start the season. Results took forerver (as they often do) and poor Derek waited around while I hoped to collect prize money (which never did happen). Seeing old racing girlfriends was awesome! I miss them all during the winter. Traveling is a pain -- bad restaurants, lots of travel time, unfamiliar surroundings. Staying with hosts cheers me up, especially with hosts like Debby and Dan, who were a real treat to meet.