My first race of the summer season was a stage race, a brutally hard 5-day-er at altitude with an on-form field of riders vying for Olympic spots. I knew it was going to be a whipping; I didn’t know if I would survive and I was very uneasy going into it. What I like about road racing is the job allocations. To put it simply, within a team there will be the team general classification leader (generally the fast one who can climb, time trial and hang in a crit), a sprinter, and all the work horses. Sometimes thrown in there is a wicked fast lil young rider and a backup GC leader. But the purpose of all these riders within a team is to support their GC leader, to deliver the leader to the finish line or the base of the climb with fresh legs. So it is very important for the work horses to do their job on the road.
I guest rode the Tour of the Gila for a Texas-based team called FCS-Rouse. Lisa Hunt, a badass director, and one of the friendliest faces in the road scene was directing the team and invited me to ride. I arrived to Silver City not knowing anyone I would be racing with and working for, nor did I know quite where my fitness would be. Lisa assured me it was simply muscle memory…or more like suffering memory. Before I knew it we were in the team meeting and my job was spelled out as I gulped and nodded, feeling the fluttering wings of imminent hard work, like a test you had crammed for. At times the 5 days seemed to crawl by; at times it seemed a whirlwind as all conscious thoughts were directed toward calorie intake, controlling my throbbing legs and envisioning a lasso around the wheel in front of me. Whether the race went by quickly or slowly, I am now sat on my couch at home feeling a similar exhaustion to what I felt after Tour de l’Aude (minus the facial abrasions).
Each day was a test, starting with the first test of getting out of bed. The first day was a bit surreal and the feeling of being back in the peloton and moving freely within the peloton took it’s time to return. I didn’t see the front of the race until there was a “complication” or cluster-fu#k and the break was led astray and the race was paused. We had a girl in the break but she didn’t have the legs on the day so we were told to help Tibco with the chase effort. Suddenly the work horse drive and the snaking through the pack ability returned. The first two days were nothing special for me particularly, aside from doing my job successfully and not getting dropped in the neutral section. I was pleasantly surprised with where my fitness was for the first race. The crit was where everything clicked and I think a smile may have shined through my gritting teeth. I was a part of the racing the entire time, our team rode like a cohesive team and we came up with the goods at the end with Loren Rowney crossing victorious. Tour of the Gila saw a very dominant Kristin Armstrong who won every stage except for the crit…our team reigned in on her sweep. After the high of a wicked fun race late in the day, lots of caffeine, and the morale boost of a team win, sleep was hard to find that night which led to some borderline worthless legs on the final day. But again, I survived and was elated to cross the finish line with five solid days of racing in my legs, a helluva way to kick my summer off.
Lots of stories and laughs populated this trip, too many to tell here. It was a grand group of girls to race with and staff to work with and I thank FCS-Rouse for the guest ride. The week rekindled my love for the team aspect of road racing and I hope to spend some more of my summer surfing through the peloton and maybe even throwing in some attacks.