|by Laura Weislo - Team Squadra Coppi|
The poseur exposer. A former teammate described one hill on the local hammerfest ride that way. Any Fred could hang on the ride and pretend to be a cool bike racer if they just sat in the pack on the flats, but once you hit that hill all the poseurs got sifted through the pack and spit out the back for all to see.
Iím at that point in my bike racing career (can I call it that?). Iíve got the cool Zipp carbon wheels and the Laurent Jalabert DMT shoes. I have the snappy Squadra Coppi-International Motor Saab team kit with zillions of sponsor logos. Iím about to launch myself into an ambitious season of serious bike racing: Redlands, Shelby, Fitchburg, Nationals, and perhaps Altoona. Maybe Iíll find out that I am an actual bike racer, or maybe Iíll come home with my tail between my legs, poseur exposed. At any rate, itíll certainly provide material for some entertaining race reports along the way.
This is my fourth season racing bikes. Iím not sure exactly how I got started with this whole sickness; it just kind of crept up on me. The first race gave me something to improve upon, I guess, and being a perfectionist, Iíll just keep doing it until I get it right. Itís like that, bike racing: even in the worst race thereís always something that keeps you wanting more.
This year I have a couple distinct advantages over the past three years. One, I hired a great coach, Saul Yeaton of Time To Ride, and have been diligently following his training plan all winter. Two, I got the most incredible dream assignment, an all winter company paid "sabbatical" in the cyclistís paradise of San Diego, California. And it wasnít even my idea! I owe a great debt to my boss, John Salmeron, for this and to Syngenta for footing the bill. The winter on the East Coast has been particularly brutal, but Southern California has been sunny and dry nearly every day. I swear, I have been going to work 40 full hours every week, honest. And last, but not least, my husband has also decided to succumb to the sickness and is training as hard as I am. Now he doesnít complain when I want to go to sleep at 9pm, since weíre both comatose by then every night.
And so it begins.
Race season starts early in Southern California. Even though Iím not even out of the weight room yet, and have just finished a period of long, hard training, I ventured out to the races for a shock to the systemÖ.
Sickness on the waves of early season ups and downs.
Boulevard Road Race, Campo CA, February 1, 2003
Bike + gear + clothing: $4000
Entry into first race of 2003: $38.00
Getting ass handed to me by Southern Californians: priceless.
I'm tired. More tired than any human ought to be. See, I hired this coach to make me a better bike racer. I do what coach says. Coach says ride lots. I ride lots. Coach says lift weights. I lift weights. Coach says do intervals. I do intervals. Coach says race, but not to place. I race. Coach says, if I want to get faster, I have to get slower first. Considering how slow I am right now, if this holds true I'll be burning up the tarmac come July.
SoCal racer chicks can seem a pretty elitist bunch. I get soundly ignored when I try to make nervous conversation with some of them before the race, and these are the women I have been riding with all winter long! Maybe theyíre nervous, or just getting their race faces on. I feel like the outsider, the new kid on the block. Oh yeah, I am the new kid. Oops. A kind person from Colorado chats with me, though. Thanks Missy.
The course: 22.5 miles, the first 11 are almost all downhill, the last 11 are uphill - over 1,000 feet each lap. I had pre-ridden the course the week before and am nervous about the descent - itís very fast and twisty. Iím nervous about the wind. During the pre-ride, I almost got knocked down by the Santa Ana crosswinds. Iím nervous about the pain I am about to experience. This course is way too hard for February.
As expected, we fly down the hills at breakneck speed. I try to keep the legs spinning to stay warm and fight off the urge to feather the brakes. The descent isnít as bad as I remember, and we hit the first hill together. First hill: gasp, gasp all around. I keep up. I see Lynn Gaggioli, formerly Lynn Brotzman, up ahead, not following the attacks. Nothing gets too far up the road, and so I wait, thinking "I'll just follow Lynn. She's a pro, and she knows the other racers better than I do." It occurs to me that my legs hurt. I try to concentrate. A short flat section allows some recovery, more climbing, more gasping. I'm at the back, too close to women who are breathing way too hard. It sounds like an emphysema ward back here. I need to move up.
Another short flat section, I move up to Lynn's wheel, getting ready for the big nasty long climb ahead. We hammer up a short incline and make the turn that starts the real climb and my legs just quit. Goodbye pack, hello no man's land. As the pack gets further away, I time the gap, less than a minute. I deliriously convince myself I can close that. Ha ha ha. Two women bridge up to me, and we work together. One of them is a cheerleader, and every time I struggle she yells "C'mon Laura, you can do it!" I decide she has a surplus of oxygen and want to strangle it out of her. I have a great desire to tell her to just piss off, but sheís too nice, and I just pedal along like a puppy - pant pant pant. I try to pull a couple times, but the cheerleader wants to do all the work. Fine with me.
Second lap - group of 3. The pack is gone. We swap recipes. The teeny bopper 22-year old birthday girl rides away on the second to last hill. I drop my companion on the last hill, seeing some riders ahead I want to try and catch. They're just stragglers from the collegiate field. Darn. I cross the line, finally, but seem to get completely ignored by the referees even though I call to them. I'm certain they didn't score me. All the chicks from the front group are having a tea party on the side of the road and I'm not invited because I'm not fast, boo hoo. I ride back to the car with a nice woman from Mexico who got 5th. She's very modest considering she was on Rona in 2001.
Race over. Time to pout. I wasn't last, but considering climbing is supposed to be my strength, I thought I'd make the front group. Disappointed, I question my sanity, my abilities and just about everything else. Itís not until a week later that I figure out who won, and looking at the list of names I donít feel so bad.
Women 1/2/3 (24 Riders)
1. Lynn Gagglioli Four Wind
2. Rhonda Quick Red 5
3. Rook Cambell HiTech Bikes
4. Dolly Ginter Veloce
5. Gabriella Farrat Mexico
6. April Henderson Andersen Helens/Trek/VW
7. Jenny Eyerman Red 5
8. Carol Lynn Neal Amgen
9. Jen Stevens Red 5
10. Lynn Albrow Zombies
11. Tammy House HiTech Bikes
12. Linda Strada Simple Green
13. Jennifer Franklin
14. Laura Weislo Squadra Coppi
15. Erica Schwartz Red 5
16. Susan Cooper Zombies
17. Missy Thompson Vitamin Cottage
18. Laura Perdew HiTech Bikes
19. Cindy Morgan HiTech Bikes
20. Annette Padilla SDBC
Stay tuned for more of Lauraís diary tomorrow and check out her website here.