Saturday, July 31, 2010

Team Peloton

Stage 1 Tour de Bowness - 11 loops, 5.3 km circuit

One of the most fun road races I've been in lately... highlights were having two awesome teammates Chantal and Danika, lots of action with pulls/attacks from a great field of women, and a course with hills giving total elevation gain 2700' for less than 60 km distance.

Into the 4th loop, four of us broke away. It was cool to work with my teammate Chantal, Pepper from Juventus and Heather from United Cycle. Within one loop, our foursome grew by a few more riders and my guess is BC Bike Race Podium champ Katy worked it with my teammate Danika to bridge up to us.

Halfway into the race, the Cat 3 men began to pass our peloton on the long descent. Bummer for the women when this happens as we have to "neutralize" which is a term in cycling to stop our race while the faster men's peloton is cleanly past before we can race again.

I was on Heather's wheel with the women's peloton following, when this occurred. It was tempting to follow her as she continued forth. It was a large men's peloton so I immediately "neutralized" with the women's peloton and slowed down to allow the men to pass. The race pictures clearly show the women's peloton being passed by the Cat 3 men in the series of 5 pics with all the women together.

Heather, a very accomplished racer placing 3rd at the recent Canadian National Crit champs and has been racing the US Pro Women circuit this summer, did not seem aware the women's peloton neutralized to allow the men to pass. She continued to race forth. It was not reassuring to see the Commissaire vehicle which was driving on the left hand side of the road next to the Cat 3 men's peloton which hid Heather racing on the right hand side of the road out of their view!
It was flustering seeing a rider go as our peloton neutralized. Women expressed concern as we eased the pace together waiting for the last guy to go by. The women's peloton wondered what to do... chase, chill, race... Pepper gave good advice that the race was not over. It seemed unfair to have to chase down "given time".

The race dynamics were now altered, though in a cool way despite the predicament. The peloton worked together like a team. We eventually caught up to Heather as she soft-pedalled into the last laps. The peloton wisely stayed behind Heather. With 1/2 lap to finish, Danika attacked, Heather jumped, we all followed. Various strong efforts on the last climb with Chantal challenging Heather to the finish. I sat on their wheels in 3rd.

Ended up the Commissaire in the vehicle watching our race "missed" seeing Heather not neutralize with the women's peloton, losing track of her for a lap(?). Officially, racers need to present a protest to the Head Commissaire post-race for any issues. Even though women expressed dismay at the time, no-one came forth officially. Possibly lack of knowledge of the procedure as this situation rarely comes up. The protest was delegated to "heresay". It just wasn't pleasant to be waiting neutralized seeing a racer ride away. I'm not sure why Heather didn't wait for the women's peloton to catch up from our neutralized position.

The race was ultra fun up to that point... learned to keep persevering when stuff out of our control happens...

It ended up awesome working with the rest of the peloton to the end.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ogopogo Sightings

Good cycling kilometres have been spent riding in the Okanagan valley with rides along Lake Okanagan. Lake Okanagan spans 135 km. The coolest paddling race in the falltime called The Length of the Lake is on my list of things to do.
Marg with Ogopogo - summer 2008
CBC radio just had a documentary on the famous Ogopogo lake monster first spotted in 1872. It had me laughing as the Ogopogo topic comes up when I'm at the Lake. It's worth a good laugh...
Give it a listen... CBCradio: Ogopogo Mystery Put to Rest
My cousin and siblings with Ogopogo back in 1968... - photo Dad

Ogopogo looked tougher in the '60s and is abit cartoon-like now.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Smurf-hand at Creampuff

Riding high in the Cascade mountains descending an 11-mile swoopy singletrack trail, I would usually have a wicked grin on my face. With my right hand swollen smurf-size (pudgy like a smurf not smurf blue!) due to my right index finger ligament sprain from a crash at the OrganGrinder weeks ago not healed... there wasn't enough endorphins for a grin as I was grimacing from each nudge of the handlebar vibration. At the bottom of loop one, my finger dexterity was gone and hand like a smurf. Concerned as functioning hands are helpful in mountain biking!

Marg in the swoopy singletrack of Oregon scenery - photo by Sasquatchmtb

This was halfway into the 100-mile Cascade Creampuff mountain bike race. Yeah, for some reason I thought my hand would be ok and I took a chance on the startline. It was a brain battle to make the decision to stop. When I was using my fourth finger to brake, that was the final call (awesome powerful Formula R1s!). I had already ridden 56 miles (90 km) and 8200' elevation gain... Thought the heat wasn't bad as the course was very sheltered in the trees though it was only 10 o'clock in the morning when I stopped. The race started at 5:05 a.m.
The climbing on this course was designed for me... I thought my La Ruta friend Charlotte was poking fun at me when she said I'd be climbing it in my big chainring - she was right! Chilled at the pace of the lead woman which was Rebecca Rusch until I went ahead more comfortable at my own pace. Kept in mind, that I'd be climbing that forest road again later in the heat and to go at a pace I'd be able to keep a 2nd time.

The descents were all fairly smooth, fast and swoopy, not technical by Canadian standards. Nothing at all like the OrganGrinder course in Canmore. With the super early morning light, I was blinded in the first single track going from light to dark to light within the shadows of the trees. This got better as the morning went. My tire pressure was set abit high and I was clumsy to start. Got smoother on the singletrack as the day went. There was loose movement in my headset as I discovered on the fast fireroad descents making it scary so chilled out.
I was leery at intersections hoping the volunteer would direct me the correct direction as we looped around various ways. In the past, I've gotten misdirected 'cause I'm small and mistaken for a junior rider or definitely not elite category! The roads/trails all looked the same to me.
A boy rider noted the rainbow stripes on Rebecca's jersey sleeve and asked what they were from. Not an official UCI event though I guess Specialized put them on after her WSC 24-hr wins. I could put stripes on my jersey too!
Rode with a few singlespeeders on the climbs who noted I rode like a singlespeeder and should try it - yeah someday it'd be cool. One singlespeeder guy raved (in a male oriented way) about riding near my TA teammate Louise Kobin last year. I let the comment slide and agreed Lou is wicked strong. Don't the boys know all the girl racers are friends? I'm much of an unknown name these days as the race organizer decided to take me out of the Pro category and put me in masters' age class. I corrected that race morning. Getting older, not ready to leave Pro.
Definitely a 29-er course, for those interested.
Camping in the school yard was the way to go. Ample time to meet cool racers from all over. Easier to get up for the 5:05 race start from the school. The pre-race food not up my alley so glad I prepped my own. One of the more expensive race entries I've ever paid and almost a deterent. The unique big ring non-technical course makes it enticing to race. All in all, well organized.
Will give it a go another time.
Next time, I'll race fully healthy! Facial bones intact (see "there was NO banana!" blog June 15) and functioning finger ligament! Yeah, stupid or stubborn to try but I did!!