|Fontana, CA, March 7, 2003 - San Dimas, for those who’ve never been there, is this crazy little town east of Pasadena. Pulling into San Dimas is like entering a theme park. All the street signs are in that classic western frontier font, and the downtown looks like a scene from a Roy Rogers film. It has character, and it was the town in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, so it’s gotta be cool.|
The circuit race course in Fontana was quite different, brand new homes circle a country club that is like an oasis in the middle of complete desolation. Smog obscures the views of the San Bernadino mountains, pushed in from LA on strong westerly winds. The 2.5 mile course appeared flat on the first ride around, so I got help from the very nice mechanic from the Women First/Red 5 Racing team changing my cassette from the 12-25 climbing gears to my 12-21. Little did I know I’d be begging for a 23 by the last lap…
I swear, this must have been the first mass-start race of the year for half the field. Cornering was a definite issue, and being a total dumb-ass and getting myself shuffled to the back made it even worse. We’d barrel down the straight-aways, women scrambling to move up, and then SLAM on the brakes before every turn. These weren’t exactly technical turns, either. I hit the brakes so hard once that my back wheel fish-tailed.
Early in the race, a break of 4 or 5 went up the road. I’d love to be able to say who was in it, but my view from the back half of the group wasn’t too great. It wasn’t the right mix, because shortly thereafter someone up front had us in the gutter on the cross-headwind side of the course. After a brief re-grouping and rest, this drill was repeated a couple times, and then a break of two, Laura Van Gilder and Katrina Grove, stayed away for a good part of the race.
More hammering ensued, followed by hard braking in the turns, followed by more hammering. The bunch was so tight, and so nervous that I was certain there would be a crash at any moment. About an hour into the race, I was proved right, although it didn’t happen at the back where I expected but near the front (or maybe off the front?). Laura Van Gilder of Saturn lay on the ground motionless as we came by, and a lap later they were carrying her off on a backboard. Word is she’s OK, nothing broken.
The bunch was all together on the last lap when we had another near wreck. One of the tall cones used to divide the course from the traffic lanes had either been knocked over or blown over, and there was much brake being grabbed. We all negotiated the obstacle successfully, and the pace picked up for the finale. The tiny incline after turn two now an alpine mountain, my legs screamed in pain as I tried to get out of the saddle once more.
Strung out by the T-Mobile train, we blasted down the back straight and (finally) managed to negotiate the last two turns with minimal braking. Despite T-Mobile and Saturn’s best efforts, Genevieve Jeanson somehow managed to pull off a win, with Nicole Freedman close behind. I wish I had been up front to see it, but I was too busy trying to see through all the stars behind my eyes as I fought to stay in contact to the line. In the end we pulled off 41 miles in those 90 minutes. That’s fast.
I really dig the stage racing concept. As long as I can stay in the bunch I get to hold my rank and don’t have to kill myself in a sprint! The bad part is the pain that you endure day after day. I can’t imagine doing this for 3 weeks like they do in the Tour de France. All I did was sit in and I’m in a world of hurt. Saturday is a 72-mile road race with enough climbing to really break things up. Don’t look for bunch sprints today, especially if these winds keep up. I hope my legs feel better than yesterday or else I might find myself in a reverse breakaway, off the back.
Laura Weislo’s webpage can be seen here.
Results can be found here.