Last weekend was the Merco Cycling Classic. For the women, the race was a points-based omnium, which consisted of a 12mi. TT on rolling terrain, a technical 32lap/40mi. Crit, and a 3lap/72mi. RR. La Grange was represented by Anna, Bee, Julie, and Nicole.
Julie and Bee raced the tt. From the 50 women that competed, including Olympians Kristen Armstrong and Clara Hughes, Julie got 19th and Bee got 32nd, respectively. Julie told me her tt was nice and smooth, with the exception of having a moment’s delay when her chain got bound-up and she was unable to pedal while approaching the course’s turn-a-round point. She furiously started shifting gears all around and was able to get the chain loose. Great effort by Julie and Bee, among an insanely fast group of women!
The following day was the downtown Merced criterium. The course consisted of 7 turns, with 1 chicane, and it was sure to be a lightning-fast, and very technical, intense race. Anna, Julie, Bee, and Nicole lined up and tried to ready ourselves for the craziness that was about to happen. From the gun, it was extremely fast. And with the tight corners, high speeds, and narrow roads, it was very important to be near the front. Attacks were going constantly, but nothing was sticking. I (nicole) was able to go with a couple moves, and at one point, got in a break of 10 that looked promising. But it got caught, and in the end it came down to a field sprint. I hung on for dear life the last two laps and finished at the back of the field. Ina Tuetenberg won the race. Anna, Julie, and Bee were unable to finish, but all in all, we learned a lot from this race, and are slowly shaking off the early-season cobwebs :) Of the 80 starters, about 1/2 finished.
On the final day, we lined up for the rolling, 72mi. road race. During the first lap, we made our presence known at the front. There were constant attacks and counter attacks we were able to respond to, and Julie did a fantastic attack of her own. The rider of the day, was our teammate Julie Cutts! At the beginning of the 2nd lap, she suffered a flat, and was helped by the sram vehicle, who immediately put on a new wheel for her. As soon as she started chasing back on though, the sram guys told her to stop again! The components on the wheel were campy and she doesn’t ride campy! After that was fixed, Julie got in the sram draft, in order to get paced back to the field. She had to fight with all she had, and eventually reached the caravan of follow vehicles and made her way through the cars and back to the field. At this point, Julie’s adrenaline was through the roof, and as soon as she made her way to the front, she attacked! She thought it wasn’t the brightest idea, since no one would probably chase, but she was bored and needed something to do :) As she assumed, nobody chased her and she sat up.
On the final lap, Julie sat in and recovered for a bit, hoping no attacks during that time would stick. On the back stretch of the course, she could feel the anxiousness in the pack – all the leaders up front just waiting for somebody to go. Julie was right behind all this nervous energy, and she decided that obviously someone was going to attack soon, and it may be the one that sticks, so she attacked again! Nobody chased, so she put her head down and went. She would rather take this risk, and not worry about riding the bad roads and rollers with the group and ending up in a bunch sprint, which is not her favorite thing. Julie eventually got 45 seconds on the field, and she almost stayed away. However, with 3km to go, the pack closed in. Right before getting caught, a bee stung her on her chin, which actually got her adrenaline going for the final moments of the race. Having been caught, she was able to slip into the group in good position, and her legs still felt sharp. She gave all she had in the final 200 meters and crossed the line in 19th place. Bee finished a few minutes down in a chase group, and unfortunately, Anna and Nicole did not finish. Getting back to Julie – Her aggressiveness during the race was recognized, and a reporter interviewed her afterwards. That interview is incorporated into the Merco Cycling Classic Race Recap on Cyclingnews.com! Julie rode an aggressive and smart race – Next time, that solo effort will stick!
The weekend was a great experience, and a motivation booster for all of us :)
Thanks for reading.