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Laura Weislo's Diary
By Becky Leidy
Date: 9/18/2003
Laura Weislo's Diary
New Page 1 - by Laura Weislo

T-mobile International (a.k.a San Francisco Grand Prix), September 14, 2003

"Why exactly am I doing this?Ē I asked myself as I climbed up Filmore Street during the pre-race ride.† I didnít even get to the steepest part when I decided that my 36x26 gearing was too big and took a left turn before the top.† I had traveled clear across the country, braving the 9/11 anniversary terrorism scares from our State Department, to participate in this race, so I figured I better switch to the 34 inner chainring and get ready to suffer.

Back in August, an e-mail was forwarded to me from a guy named Eric Lynch. They were putting together a composite team, Ashmead/King 5, for this race and needed riders.† Before I could think too rationally, I responded, "Pick me!"† It wasnít until after I was invited to race with the team that I started having second thoughts.† Everyone knows that the race in San Francisco has the nastiest, steepest, hardest hills on the US Pro circuit, and the womenís race would be so short (49 miles) that it would be lightning fast in between those climbs.† A basic 2 hour suffer-fest of the highest magnitude.

Still, I am always up for a new challenge, so I booked the flights for myself and my husband/mechanic/soigneur, Emory, and started exploring gear options.† We initially decided upon a 12-32 mountain bike cassette and a MTB rear-derailleur, but then Eric, the team director, got a last minute sponsorship from FSA, and I wound up with super-nice compact carbon cranks just like Tyler Hamilton rode in the Tour de France.† They arrived via Fed Ex. Emory installed them, and I was ready to race.††

I packed all my cold weather gear only to arrive in California to an unusual heat wave.† We met up with the rest of the girls on the team: Suz Weldon (2003 Masterís National Time Trial Champion), Zoe Owers, Kate Sherwin, April Henderson, Leslie Mittendorf, and Kim Flynn to pre-ride the course at 9am on Saturday and temperatures were already in the 80ís.† We navigated our way through downtown SF, dodging cars and trying to decipher the course map at the same time.† Most of the course was flat except for the infamous Taylor Street and Filmore Street climbs, only a couple big-ring hills in the middle.† As we tackled Filmore, I heard someone on the sidewalk gasp ďOh my god! Itís so amazing they can do that.Ē† Meanwhile I was wondering how or if I could ever make it up this thing four times.† Kate danced up the climb in her 34-25. I hoped that changing my inner ring would help me climb like that.

Ken Ilegems of Team Telekom

fixes Leslie's bike.

When we got back to the hotel, Emory got to play team mechanic, as Kim and Leslie had discovered some shifting problems with their bike during the ride.† Kimís was an easy derailleur adjustment, but Leslieís rear dropouts seemed to be out of alignment.† We took her bike down to the room set aside for the pro mechanics and were able to get help from Team Telekomís mechanic, Ken Ilegems. As he adjusted her shifting, the front derailleur cable suddenly snapped out of the clamp. Good thing that happened before the race and not during!† Ken replaced the cable and made everything work smoothly.† Whew! While he worked, the rest of us ogled the Gilberto Simoniís Cannondale and Rolf Aldagís Pinarello, and caught a glimpse of one of the new Specialized S-works.† Sweet!† A bit later, Alexandre Vinokourov and Guiseppi Guerini arrived from their pre-race ride, but I was too shy to say anything except ďgood luckĒ.

Later that day at our pre-race meeting, Eric and Suz had an impressive spread of bike race goodies laid out in their hotel room.† Race radios for everyone, bars, water bottles, gels, and of course, jerseys.† They had magnetic decals for the team car and everything!† We were going to look so professional!† I only hoped that I could ride well and not disappoint them.† Emory got picked to drive the team car, and it was decided that our rental car would be the best vehicle choice.† I started regretting not accepting the extra insurance when I rented itÖ

Race morning†

My first time using a race radio.

Anyone out there?

5:00AM: Wake up call.† I choke down a bagel and a cup of weak coffee. No restaurants are open for breakfast so this will have to do.† I watch the weather channel and see Hurricane Isabel heading for coastal North Carolina, so much for my beach vacationÖ

5:45AM:† I head down to the lobby to meet the team for warm-up.† Diana Zilute is still in her street clothes, carrying a plate of food back up to her room.† Threshold Sports had a breakfast buffet for the trade teams and race staff, but not for the little folks like us.† Itís dark outside with no sign of the sun yet.

6:00AM: Kim and I head up the Embarcadero to warm up.†

6:20AM:† Sign in.† Weíre supposed to meet to sign in as a team.† Thereís supposed to be cameras and a big media circus, but itís just the riders and the official and the announcer calling out names to the non-existent crowd.† I sign in and head out for another lap of the Embarcadero as the sun finally starts to rise.

6:50:† I get a call on the radio to come to the staging area. The Ashmead girls have scored a prime spot.

7:00-7:25AM: I stand at staging getting progressively colder.† My legs start to shake from the cold and nerves.† Acca Due O finally shows up (still warm from their trainers) and takes their place at the front of the group.

The Race

7:30AM/ 49.6 miles to go: Call-ups are over, we scoot to the start line, a woman sings the anthem and weíre off.† The pace is immediately flat out, and although I clipped in the first try in every other race all year long, it takes me three tries to get in the pedal and Iím at the back of the pack.†

7:31AM/ 49.3 miles to go: First crash of the race!† An Acca Due O rider hits a cone in turn three and goes down.† I brake and go around her, and then Iím at the whip end of the pack and have to sprint out of every turn.†

7:34/ 47 miles to go:† We head out for the 5 mile loop. †Iím totally anaerobic, still on the tail of the pack.† A rider just ahead of me hits a pothole and her bottle falls out. I narrowly avoid hitting it.† We make it up the big ring hill on Broadway, and I start to move up, heart rate still pegged.

7:42 AM/ 44 miles to go:† Taylor Street climb.† Iím mid-pack and have to concentrate really hard on not running into anyone as girls start to figure out they are really over-geared and start tacking back and forth up the steepest part.† I can see an attack going further up, and hear the announcer saying itís Ina Teutenberg.† Wow!† Over the top, the hammer goes down and weíre single file all the way back to the Embarcadero.

7:46AM/ 42 miles to go:† The pace is so high, I feel like Iím going to puke.† Iím coming off the back as we head out for the first large loop.† I look down at my computer to find that weíve only been racing 17 minutes!† I canít get dropped yet!† The caravan starts to come around me, but as we head up Broadway, the pack slows a bit and I am able to catch back on.

7:48AM/41 to go: Another crash! Two riders go down in front of me at Broadway and Columbus and I have to go left of the median to avoid them.† Suitably adrenaline filled, I jump back into the pack and start moving up.† The pace is reasonable, and I am below my threshold for the first time in the race.

8:00AM/37 miles to go:† I can see the front of the pack as we head down Marina. Hot damn!† I figure a break must have gone, and hope it has all the big names so the pack will let up and I can survive.

8:05AM/35 miles to go:† I hit Filmore Street solidly mid-pack, and hear the announcer shouting Inaís name again.† Damn, that sprinter can climb!† Again, all I can do it try and avoid running into anyone.† I feel like I can climb faster, but the girls in front of me are coming to a stop at the bottom of every pedal stroke, inching up the road like caterpillars.† As I crest the hill, the peloton is once again in full flight, screaming down the other side.† I look back for some help closing the gap and thereís no one there. The climb has blown the pack to pieces.† The tail end of the pack is not far, but I totally wuss out and canít get up the effort to close the gap. We make the turn onto Polk, and the peloton ahead of me is like waves breaking over the cross streets as they speed down the hill.†

8:10AM/33 miles to go:† Iím in a group of stragglers as we hit Taylor for the second time.† Climbing is much easier with plenty of elbow room, and I start passing people.† Unfortunately, thereís still a big gap ahead of me to the pack when I hit the top, and the effort of climbing was like doing 100 reps on the leg press. My muscles have reached failure and I cannot close the gap.

Filmore! Yes, it's really that steep and this isn't the worst part.
The next block that you can't see is even steeper. Ouch.

8:15AM/32 miles to go: Iíve raced about 45 minutes and am completely tapped out.† I get passed by the caravan and my race is over.† I see my teammate Suz and a couple other girls, and we head out for another lap, but I know I wonít finish it.† Whatís the point?† As we climb up Filmore, I decide that I donít have to climb the last torturous pitch, and scoot out the barriers onto the cross street.† I donít want to hear the crowd cheering anymore, and I feel profound failure as I head back to the hotel to shower.† I pass two separate crash victims along the way, one of which is Diana Zilute who apparently got nailed by a moto. I consider myself somewhat lucky.

9:40AM:† Cleaned up and dressed, I watch the womenís finish first from the big screen, then live as the winners speed past.† I radio encouragement to Zoe and Kate, who are still in the race, telling them to sprint for the last money spots. Zoe takes 4th in the sprint of the second group and Kate finishes in the middle of the group, having lead out the sprint.† Iím really happy for them, and it cheers me up considerably to see them finish well.†

For some reason, I found my eyes welling up with tears as I watched Dede chasing Nicole on that last lap. I really wanted Dede to win. She raced with so much courage, sacrificing everything to try and win while the others just sat on her.† I know that sounds clichť, but it takes great strength of character to go all out up a hill like Filmore and then find extra power to attack over the top.† I choked back the tears ofÖ of jealousy?† Of a sense of failure?† Of a sadness that the race and my season are over?† Of sheer exhaustion?† For my bank balance after seeing the bill from the Hyatt Regency?† A combination of things, but mostly they were tears of awe at the beauty of the sport, of admiration for greatness that I will never achieve.

I want to congratulate to all the survivors of the first edition of this race, especially my fellow North Carolinian Alisha Little who finished 21st in her first full season as a bike racer.† Now thatís talent!† I also want to thank Eric and the entire Ashmead/King 5 team for all their hard work. Many thanks to FSA for the awesome carbon cranks, and to Emory for being an excellent mechanic, an awesome husband, and for supporting me in all these crazy adventures.

Until next seasonÖ†††

You can learn more about the intrepid Laura Weislo at her personal website!

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