|- by Laura Weislo|
San Dimas, CA, March 8, 2003 - What a beautiful day for a bike ride. The day was warm, the breeze light, and the sky clear. A perfect day for a leisurely roll around the lake. OK, so 72 miles in a race with many of the top women racers in the North American continent isnít exactly leisurely. Our field rolled out a little later than scheduled, and after standing around waiting to start for 30 minutes, any trace of warm-up was gone from my legs.
Fortunately, the better part of the first lap was more a parade than a race, and was sufficient to get the blood flowing again. The pace was so slow that it encouraged more of what I dubbed XTREME BRAKING. Seriously, I wondered, are these really the elite women riders of North America? Must still be first race jitters, or everyone is really tiredÖ I threatened to get wire snips and cut everyoneís brake cables. I knew there was going to be a crash. It was just a matter of where and when.
I was pretty cautious on the 40mph descent on the back end of the course, as everyone was still pretty nervous, and a mistake here could be really painful. My crash radar was spot-on, and coming into the second lap, someone locked up the brakes going up-hill (huh??) in front of me and I had to put a foot down and then chase back on. I could tell what was going on in the minds of a lot of the women out there. They were just like me, afraid that they lacked the fitness to race for 4 hours, afraid they would get dropped, content to just sit in and hang on.
A few brave souls decided to make a move before the halfway point, and Jennifer Stevens (Women First/Red 5 Racing), Alison Dunlap (guesting for T-mobile) and Megan Elliot (Saturn) escaped the field. The whole of Rona patrolled the front of the pack, keeping the break in sight and their GC leader safe. This made it really nice and easy on the rest of us, but it got really boring after about 5 laps.
Coach Saul had told me not to worry about the GC after my TT placing, and just to race hard. I wasnít about to make up 7 minutes. My friend Jenís coach told her, "Whoís the most dangerous guy in prison? The guy who already has life and has nothing to lose." Sitting at 30-something on the GC, I didnít have much to lose either. I wanted to win a stage. I was tired of grabbing brakes, tired of watching everyone sit in, and itching to make a move, so I attacked on the hills before the start/finish and tried to bridge up to the break solo. The announcer said "2 to go" as I came past the start/finish about 20 seconds ahead of the pack. I settled into a rhythm, hoping someone else would come across.
As I rounded turn one, I heard a motor behind me, and thinking it was my field, I moved left to get on the leeward side of the pack so I could jump back in easily. It turned out to be a menís field being brought around, and I made sure I wasnít "taking pace" from any of the men which would bring immediate disqualification.
They came by me, and I could tell that they were wondering if I was lapped (thus deserving pity) or off the front and warranting cheers. I got a few cheers. I guess I looked like I was going fast enough. Up the hill through the feed-zone, I heard some "aawís" of pity. Címon! Iím making a move! Iím trying to bridge to the break! Iím not dropped! The pack was not too far behind, though, and being gravitationally challenged, I was caught after the fast descent through the park. I joked that I hoped someone at least got my picture. No one did. I had picked the right time to attack though, because apparently there was another wreck in the field while I was away.
I have to hand it to my coach. He gave me great advice. He told me to eat and drink a lot in the first half of the race, so I did. I felt terrible in the first half of the race, but by the end, all that Gu and Gatorade had kicked in, and I was ready to rumble! I pushed my way through the pack on the fast downhill on the last lap, and reached the front part just as the break of 6 went off. I stupidly waited, and the break stuck to the finish, but I felt good enough to jump onto the T-mobile train for the sprint.
The train got swamped, so I decided to back off and save my skin for the last stage and I rolled in 23rd. Lyne Bessette got a well-deserved stage win ahead of Genevieve and Amber Neben. More than 20 women lost more than 3 minutes or didnít finish at all, so I was really pleased with my finish! I had just raced almost 80 miles with a star-studded field and survived! If someone had told me a week earlier that I would finish this race 23rd, I would have called them a liar. I would have been happy just to hang on. Instead I really surprised myself. It was an awesome feeling.
Of course, I still have to survive the crit. But itís only 55 minutes long. How hard can that be? (cue ominous music)
Until next timeÖ
Laura Weisloís webpage can be seen here.
Results can be found here.