Stage 4 - Hollidaysburg Circuit Race - 60 miles (95km)
It's so hot here. At night we sleep with 3 fans going in our room, it sounds like we are sleeping on a airport runway but a least it cools us a little. I can't remember what its like to be cold, I guess its going to be shock next week!
After yesterdays long stage I thought today might have started fairly easy, but everyone else must have taken better recovery drinks than me and on the first of the rolling 20 mile laps there was a flurry of attacks. Lap 2 and a break with just about every team represented got away. It was a major bummer to miss the break, but a relief for the tired legs. One of our team riders Erin Mirabella (Team Total Trainer) made the break.
Our teams doing great - basically we were just thrown together at the last minute and had never met before the event, but at the start of the day we were tied for 3rd place in the team GC! They have really good money for team GC this year. Once the break was out of sight the bunch seem content to stroll along... in fact the gap grew to a staggering 7 mins. What was amazing was that the riders placed 2nd-5th on GC at the start of the day were all in the bunch and losing major time.
Our team tried a few attacks on the last lap to liven things up but the bunch chased all attempts down. About 2 km from the finish was the last QOM and on the last lap our bunch was flying. I got over the top in 5th place and it's a mad dash to the finish which is an uphill sprint. I finished somewhere in the front crowd and took 16th place (I think) and move up to 15th on GC. Laura Van Gilden takes the win in the breakaway and Heather Albert stays in yellow.
Stage 5 - Martinsburg Circuit Race - 80.2miles (130km)
A long hot day - the pace in the peleton was slow today. There were numerous attacks but everything was chased down, no one wanted another break like yesterdays to go. It was another 20mile rolling course, today the average temperature while racing was 99F and the max reach 112F!
At one point the race was stopped, we were going so slow that the Cat 4 men who had started behind us had caught us! So we stood on the side of the road for 5 mins, great opportunity to get more waterand water the local fields though!
The last lap and finally people were interested in racing, but it all came down to the sprint. It was a fast and technical finish with a series of sharp corners. I just held on and stayed upright... 24th over the line I think. Laura Van Gilden took out yet another sprint finish!!
Stage 6 - Altoona Road Race - 93.8miles (150km)
Today several of my teammates started the morning in tears... a lack of sleep and total exhaustion, but soon were all laughing about how we were meant to be doing this for fun?? The 8am start means an early start but at least we miss the worst of the heat.
RONA attack for the gun... most of the people in the bunch are swearing at them (many of us didn't bother to warm up with such a long day ahead), but I think its kind of cool. I wish I had the guts to do this.
The first 20 miles are undulating and the speed high, I'm dreading the first major climb at about 50 miles... the road rises gradually at first and I ride near the front. It keeps going up and get gradually steeper, somewhere about 2/3 of the way up I pop and drop from the front 7 riders. We form a chase group and struggle to the top. The last 200m is really steep - in fact some riders are zig zagging across the road!
Phew... 1 mountain down 2 to go. On the descent we form a chase group of about 15 - there are 3 from our team. The second climb of the day has a 1km gravel section at the top... it's agony on the legs (you can't stand as the back wheel slips out).
Down the hill and it's time to chase hard... our team rider Erin Mirabella is in 5th on GC and losing time to the front group. The last climb of the day isn't to bad and from here its all downhill. By now there are several other teams pulling hard - but the gap to the front rider is out to 7 mins. In the last 10km we pull back1min 30sec on the leaders. It's a fast finish and I just miss the top ten taking 12th place. Heather Albert has another great ride and wins the stage and extends her lead.
Stage 7 - Altoona Criterium - 30miles
Oh boy, this morning my legs fell really bad, I wish it was over. It's a long morning waiting for the 3pm start and as we line up on another sweltering day.
It's a mile long loop with several up hill sections. The first 5 laps are always the worst and I suffer really badly. Trying to stay near the front becomes the goal of the day. There are lots of attacks but everything is chased down. Somewhere about 10 laps to someone got off the front and then a couple of others several laps later.
I don't even know who won today... this is really bad I know... I was really impressed that they had the energy to attack today, but I'm just relieved its all over (I was 23rd). Wow! Our little hack team (put together at the last minute... we had never meant each other before this race) did great, we finished 3rd on the team GC and took away $2200 for our efforts. I finished in 14th on GC. Our team GC finishes were Erin 9th, Kirsten 15th, Laura 21st, Melissa 28th.
Many thanks to our host family - Joe & Marcy, and my teammates Erin, Laura, Melissa, Cindy, and Kristen. We had an awesome time. Penny Farthing Cycles, Wgtn - 2 months of trashing and the bikes still going sweet and all the local Wellington riders (see ya next week). Tom Coleman of Wobble-naught - Precision Bike Fitting at www.wobblenaught.com.
Phew its been a long 2 months with heaps of hard and fast racing... in the 60 days away I raced 30 of these, in fact I probably just doubled my total days of road racing! I've learnt heaps and as always will go home with lots of new ideas and plans. Highlights of the trip include riding the HP Women's Challenge with the New Zealand Team, racing Tour de Gastown in front of 24 000 people, Road tripping, eating TCBY and staying with Liza, Mike and Matt (you guys rock), snow falling while racing and suffering in 100F plus and all the cool people that I meet and who helped me along the way...
The Daily Peloton wants to thank Suze for her awesome reports!