Anna Milkowski’s 2004 Race Diary
Diary Entries – March 31, 2004 – The First Racing Bonanza is Done
Five of the Rona racers competed at the Pomona Valley Stage race. The main objective of the race seemed to be to rest for Redlands, which made for some non-spectacular results. All of us have gotten where we are because we have cared about racing and had the desire to do well, so holding back and not caring about personal or team results doesn’t come easily. We are eager to prove that we are a good team, even without our star Genevieve Jeanson. The primary result of Pamona was that we emerged very focused on Redlands, but here’s a quick rundown:
The first stage was a 90 minute circuit race around a 3.5-mile loop. We had not preridden it, which would have been a good idea. Our field of 98 started out full blast into the highly technical circuit, through narrow archways padded in hay bales, down a pedestrian pathway, then into a 180-degree turn. Someone toppled over, and half the field was gone. The finishing straight, along a dam wall, was extremely windy and the hardest part of the course. I was suffering and hoped this was due to the previous day’s drive, the smog, or the heat rather than my fitness. On the final time up, perhaps due to a recent attack, I finished in the gapped group at 30 seconds. Laura Van Guilder won; two teammates finished in the 5 second group. The men’s pro field refused to race on the course, deeming it too dangerous. One of the race promoters was hosting our team for the week and he conveyed his immense disappointment with the men. Promoters work so hard putting on races. In this case, they had changed the course from last year’s to accommodate the requests of the men to make it more selective. There’s no question though that this course was quite unique.
All of us who were racing Redlands were instructed to conserve in the 4.5-mile uphill time trial. This is hard for me, as I like time trialing and generally derive some confidence from how I do. I didn’t totally dog it, but didn’t max out at the end either. Once I got going I felt good. On the way down my tire blew out, the tire came off the rim, and I underwent an exhilarating avoidance of crashing. I think I finished 21st, my usual time trial place.
Stage three brought a nine-loop road race with QOM and sprint competitions on alternating laps. Candice Blickem of Genesis-Scuba was away for 70k, but got caught on the final climb. We attempted a leadout, but it wasn’t too successful. I started it at the top of the hill with Erinne on my wheel, but before everyone else was in position. Andrea, left as an opportunist sprinter, got fifth.
I made a few attacks in the crit; nothing stuck. Andrea was again the top finisher, in sixth. We finished the race rather disappointed with our performances and eager for Redlands to begin.
On Monday we moved to Redlands, further east and away from the smog, which in Pamona obscured entire mountain ranges. Our group – director Andre, assistant Jim, mechanic Paul, soigneur Mimi, riders Genevieve, Katrina, Helen, Katheryn, Andrea, and me – stayed with three host families on Balsa Street in Yucaipa, a calm residential neighborhood that suffered a fly problem due to a nearby chicken farm. The hosts were a policeman, a fireman, and a loan agent who volunteered her time doing horseback search and rescue and community policing. We drank fresh-squeezed orange juice from the tree in the back yard. Visiting other people’s lives, ones far different from my own, is often one of the highlights of the racing experience.
I had slept ten hours after feeling totally exhausted during our transition day. I had the green light to go hard in the prologue, which was a good opportunity for me. I rode too big a gear and I was kicking myself for not studying the course. There’s a funny line between being a good teammate by being accommodating and being a good teammate by doing the particular things that allow you to ride well. For the prologue, I could have easily picked up five seconds by practicing corners, as is standard procedure for cyclocross. When we previewed the course as a group, I could have made people wait for me a few minutes. Or I could have traveled with the earlier group of racers and preridden the tricky corners. I ended up 21st. Genevieve won, Katrina finished 7th, and Katheryn 10th. I knew the time trial would all be irrelevant in a matter of hours – the hard work was about to begin.
Crestline Road Race:
This was a new course for Redlands, an 85k race with a steep and winding finishing climb not unlike a small Appalachian Gap. The early section of the course was flat with a very strong tailwind. We turned a 90-degree right and the now-crosswind caused a bit of echeloning. Our large field of 138 started getting sketchy, particularly as the pace rose for the intermediate sprint. Riding well towards the front, the rider ahead of me spontaneously crashed on a straightaway and I went down too. I called for and got a wheel change, then started the chase, under the encouragement of our director in the team car and using the caravan for draft. I was happy to tow a few friends. My teammates had slowed the pace at the front after the QOM and I was able to catch back on. At the second QOM I got gapped and had to chase back on, then went to the front to begin winding up the pace for the final 10k before the finishing climb. Helen, Andrea, and I had been designated as the early workers who would prevent attacks on the false flat, then hand things off to Genevieve, Katrina, and Katheryn. We did, then cracked and rode up at a calm pace. We got to the top and learned that Genevieve had won the stage, besting Lyne Bessette by 25 seconds. As it turned out, I hadn’t needed a wheel change at all, just needed to reposition the brakes. Learning to think clearly after crashing seems to be a skill that builds slowly in me.
Oak Glen Road Race:
With Genevieve in the leader’s jersey, we took a lot of responsibility for controlling the race to ensure that the field arrived intact at the base of the 10k Oak Glen climb. We covered a lot of attacks, often trying to maintain a gap of about 30 seconds to ward off future attacks. The final 40k felt like a three-person team time trial, with Andrea, Helen, and me riding to the cracking point then doing the climb simply for the sake of making it up. Helen recounted a tip from one of Lance’s books: “Maintain form when shattered,” which brought a good laugh. Riding up we would occasionally hear blips through the radio and try to infer what was happening up front. The race ended with a “Good job,” which everyone surely did though not necessary to the desired result. Genevieve finished third on the stage; Lyne Bessette won; Christine Thornburn second. Genevieve still led the race. After the race Katheryn, Katrina, and Genevieve rode down from the finish. We were just ahead of them in a car, feeling far too delirious to ride the bike, and they were really going fast. Genevieve missed a corner and fell, we learned later. Her crash could have been much worse, but as it turned out she injured her back.
Panorama Road Race:
Soon into the race Andrea and I attacked one from each side. We were quickly covered. I won’t be able to do many “she’s crazy, we’ll let her go” attacks wearing the Rona colors. Up the climb, I was cooked and got gapped. Andrea, Helen, and I chased like mad. We arrived at the field just before the second climb. Andre radioed for Helen and me to attack right then, and somehow I did. Three people came with me. I sat on, then upon receiving instructions to work with the break, took one pull. When the climb came, I imploded, and got caught. So much for the adage “NEVER fall out of the break.” I was back in the field and reeled in a few attacks. On time three up the climb, Lyne Bessette attacked with a strong leadout from teammates, and I got dropped. I chased in a group that included Helen and Andrea, then imploded again and got dropped for good on final time up the climb. At the front, Genevieve was not able to follow the attack of Lyne and Kristin Armstrong from T-Mobile. She was having trouble standing up. Katheryn and Katrina worked to try to minimize damage but in the end it was Genevieve pulling a group to try to save her jersey. Lyne Bessette moved into the lead by 51 seconds.
We canned our plan of rotating attacks with Genevieve on our wheels when it became apparent that she was not feeling good at all. I was a bit confused about what to do, whether to ride at the front and be an aggressor (or at least try to), or whether to stick around Genevieve in case she needed help (what a preposterous thought!). In the end, I waited far too long to ever be able to move up and finished poorly. Laura Van Guilder won; her teammate Tina Pic was 2nd. Or was it the other way around? They are both great racers who’ve always been supportive and friendly to me – I like to see them do well. Katrina was our top finisher with 8th. Genevieve finished in the field and maintained second place.
Sunset Road Race:
Sunday’s race consisted of an 8k neutral climb, then 8 loops of a circuit, then a finishing descent back into the criterium course of the day before. The circuit consisted of 3k of gradual uphill, 4k of technical downhill, and 1k of rolling. Even in the mid-morning, it was quite hot. Points in the climber competition were up for grabs on the first climb, so the pace was fairly fast. The descending was fun, though wickedly hard if getting yo-yoed out the back. Andrea had flatted at the end of the neutral and never caught back on. Katrina and Helen patrolled the front, keeping the pace as calm as possible. Katheryn rode with Genevieve. I helped out a bit in both departments, but after five laps, cracked for good and was off the back. I should have been able to hang on in a race like that. Genevieve was truly impressive. She seemed to be working extremely hard just to stay in the field, a situation that for her had to have been not just physically but mentally difficult, given the humbling novelty of the situation. Nicole Demers of Victory Brewing, twenty-eight minutes back in the overall standings, won the stage after breaking away on lap one. I hope that can be me some day – being far behind in the overall sometimes gives you liberty in going for stage wins. Lyne Bessette won, Genevieve remained in second place, Katheryn finished 12th, Katrina 14th, and Andrea, Helen, and I finished well back.
I am back in Tucson with lots of magazines to read and the chance to take stock. In the next training block, I will focus on getting stronger, and maybe do some specific work on pedaling mechanics to allow me to better maintain form when shattered. Once you are at a race, though, the game is to maximize what you have. “You run what you brung,” Paul might offer from auto racing. Lyne Bessette won Redlands with only three teammates and fitness shy of her peak – that was great racing. I stand to gain a lot by better managing my energy use. Moving through the field rather than around it, maintaining a spot near the front, not at it, recognizing the sweet spot of draft in crosswinds, using momentum and field position to minimize the need for accelerations, sitting and spinning as much as possible – all these non-revolutionary things will add up and allow me to race more effectively. Driving back to Arizona, Paul and I encountered a rather long stretch of I-10 without a gas station, which didn’t bode well for an SUV towing a trailer full of bikes. He drove masterfully to minimize gas consumption, and when we rolled into the station with sighs of amazement and relief, the 25-gallon tank gulped 26 gallons of gas. I’ll keep this in mind as I hope to do on the bike what might sometimes seem impossible.
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