photo by BikeReg.comphoto by Jack Miltonphoto by JS McElveryphoto by JS McElveryphoto by JS McElvery


Anna Milkowski’s 2004 Race Diary

 Diary EntriesMay 10, 2004

 On the Attack in Silver City, The Pilgrimage Home


    On Tuesday, I packed up the apartment in Tucson and met up with the team to caravan to Silver City, New Mexico, relieved and excited to be getting on the road. Genevieve was not going to be racing, having just returned from Europe, so my whole set of expectations for the race – easy time trial, riding at the front every day – was off the mark. Erinne, Andrea, and I made up the Rona contingent.

    I Didn’t Step Up
    Stage 1: Tyrone TT – 16-mile out-and-back featuring large hill
    Someday soon I am going to report back on having ridden an excellent time trial, but not today. For some reason I neglected to do some fundamental things about riding time trials such as getting a long warm-up and relying on high cadence rather than brute force for at least the first half of the ride. Amber Neben of T-Mobile won by almost a minute. Erinne rode her best time trial ever, finishing 7th. I finished 13th; Andrea 16th.

    Someone Else is Driving
    As a racer who’s learned slowly how to best use her energy to obtain results, I’ve often wondered what another, savvier, racing mind would do with my body. Now I am racing by way of a voice in my ear, a process that’s turning out to be a great way to see new possibilities, even as it ruthlessly exposes my breaking points.

    You Never Know unless you Try
    Stage 2: Silver City – Mongollon Road Race – 71.5-mile race with six-mile finishing climb
    Our plan was for Andrea and me to go on the attack to force T-Mobile to chase, leaving Erinne rested for the final climb. At about mile 18, I got away with Maggie Shirley of Genesis-Scuba on my wheel. We worked together, calmly, and rode through the first time bonus sprint. Soon we had a gap of four minutes. Terrain was generally flat and we had a strong tailwind. At about mile 45, Maggie dropped off and I continued on, upping the pace and still feeling strong. At the feed zone, I had five minutes. The thought of staying away crept into my mind. Going into the final climb, I had a four-minute lead. I was cracking, though. High cadence, low cadence – nothing would help me get up that hill. At one point Andre was encouraging me to catch a dropped Cat 4 ahead of me on the climb and I just couldn’t. Amber Neben caught me with 1k to go and six others zipped past too. More food? More water? More spinning? Maybe with a few different decisions I would have made it, but most likely I just wasn’t fit enough. Erinne finished 5th on the stage; I finished 8th; Andrea 18th. Next time.

    Aggressive Racing Reveals the Breaking Point, Again
    Stage 3: Fort Bayard Inner Loop Road Race – 77.9-mile race with several big hills and descents
    Before the start we got word that it was snowing on top of Pinos Altos, the first climb. Erinne taped her shoe covers, we donned dishwashing gloves atop thermal gloves, vests, knee warmers, and raincoats with sleeves cut at varying lengths. We were in store for some epic weather, or so we thought. The plan was to get Andrea in a break. The softening process began with my first attack at mile one. And again. And again. I was softening myself up, that’s for sure. Climbing up the first climb, the clouds split and the sun came blazing out. The whole field stopped and shed clothing. We toodled up the climb, but the descent was another story. I was not in a state of descending zen through the unknown parade of switchbacks and had to do some chasing. We climbed another hill, thought the feed zone, and then the truly exciting descent began, led by T-Mobile in full force. We were zipping through switchbacks stationed with ambulances whose drivers stood speaking through bullhorns to advise us against riding off cliffs. I had to put in a serious chase effort through the caravan to catch back on. Catching on after getting dropped on a descent is not a very useful way to spend energy and is something I need to avoid in the future. After the descent we had a long flat stretch where I guess it’s fairly typical for a break to go. Andrea and I kept attacking, but couldn’t get away. Coming out of the feed zone climb, I attacked into a block headwind in an attempt to set up Erinne, and went about five feet before coming to a standstill. I was cracking from all my attacking and from the previous day’s effort. I got dropped and chased hard for about the last six miles. Surprisingly I didn’t lose too much time. Christine Thornburn of Webcor won (after some dispute) and Andrea finished fourth. Erinne moved into 6th on gc, I moved to 10th, Andrea to 15th.

    Stage 4: Silver City Downtown Criterium Race – Four-corner crit with a big ring hill
    Discouraged from the day before, I had an ominous feeling going in. Would I get shot out the back again? Warming up, the hill seemed big. The plan was to spring Andrea in a break. Erinne got the job of making some softening attacks; I had no instructions. My personal plan, if it was still together at the end, was to sit in and put in one good attack with two laps to go to set Andrea up for the sprint. Candice Blickem attacked from the gun so the first lap was fairly fast. Andrea got away with two others for a few laps, but the break got reeled in and two riders countered. Climbing the hill in good position, I saw and took a chance to bridge up. So we were three. Eventually four more, including Mari Holden, bridged up. At one point I took a prime and no one followed so I just went and stayed away for a lap. I got caught on the hill and was able to leap on the train. I was feeling strong. I didn’t do the best sprint. Mari Holden, whose wheel I should have been on, won handily, and I got pipped at the line by Kate Maher of Basis. I was still pretty astonished and pleased that I had been able to ride as well as I had.

    A Weird Day / Sitting in Proves Boring
    Stage 5: The Gila Monster Road Race – 71.8 mile race (the reverse of the Inner Loop Road Race) with big climb at 18 miles to go, then a descent, then a finishing climb
    Our plan was to sit in and climb as well as possible. We hoped Erinne could move into 3rd place. Mundane almost! I went for the time bonus sprint but Lyne Gaggioli, who was chasing Erinne on gc, beat me out. Kate Maher of Basis attacked early with Michelle Beltran and the field didn’t really respond. Later, plans having changed, Andrea initiated a large break of almost ten riders. T-Mobile, the most powerful team at the race, didn’t chase since Kim Anderson was the top placed rider in the break and only six minutes down on gc. In the field, we toodled. I stayed in the little ring for probably 20 miles. It was bizarre. Christine Thornburn and Amber Neben, doctor and microbiologist, 3rd and 1st on gc, were talking about science. Maybe I should have tried to bridge, but I didn’t. The break had ten minutes on us going into the final climb. I didn’t kill myself in the first steep section, then gradually reeled myself back to a group of racers including Kori Seehafer, Sue Haywood, Jo Buick (injured super-climber), Sandy Espeseth, and Mari Holden. I wasn’t sure how far up the break or Erinne’s group was and since I was riding someone ahead of Erinne on gc, I didn’t want to do too much work. I descended badly again and tried to take responsibility for closing the gap I created. We all finished together. Kim Anderson won, completing an impressive week for T-Mobile, and moved into third on gc. Kate Maher held onto second for the stage. Andrea got third on the stage with a terrific final climb. She is so used to her role being doing a team time trial into a final climb, then exploding/toodling that I think it was pretty exciting for her to be racing up a climb and prove that she can do it well. I felt fine up the climb, though I had this weird let down feeling of having ridden wholly within myself. Erinne rode a great final climb, riding with the lead group, and finished in 5th on gc. Andrea and I roughly swapped places, with her moving into 9th and me moving to 14th.


    Henryetta, Oklahoma
    I typically associate the cheap motels of cross-country travel with abductions, people gathering to plot crimes, and with traffic-ridden strips. Tuesday morning I forced myself to leap on the bike. Turning out of my motel right off I-40, I entered into rural springtime Oklahoma, pedaling through rolling hills adorned in wildflowers, horse farms, and past many small turtles. Lumbering pick-ups passed only occasionally. I was exuberant about the scenery, and my legs felt quite fresh.

    Boone, North Carolina
    By Wednesday afternoon I was in Boone, North Carolina. I had decided to race on Saturday, which made Wednesday my big ride for the week. I checked in with my friend Dirk at his workplace in Banner Elk and headed out to do some intervals prior to riding with him later that day. My training prescription was to do some maintenance threshold training. I opted for low cadence climbing up one of the finishing climbs for a former Tour du Pont/Trump stage, Beech Mountain. I decided to try to ride the climb in the big ring. It was kind of an irreversible decision, since once I was applying so much force to the pedals there was no way I could shift into the small chainring. I had to stand up on several occasions, cross chain 53-23 a few times, and still I thought at a few times that I was going to fall over, particularly on the final pitches up the winding private road to the houses on the top of the ski mountain. This was definitely the most destructive interpretation of my training possible, but it was a pretty epic climb and a piece of hard work I was excited to do. After that, Dirk and I went touring from Banner Elk. He’s a former mountain bike racer who doesn’t ride as much as he used to and likes to, given a demanding job and two-year old twins. Having ridden in Boone for twenty years, he knows just about every back road there is. We went on a ride where every road name ended in “Gap.” I could barely pedal at first due to the climb up Beech Mountain plus the ensuing freeze, but the marvel of riding my bike amid that scenery quickly took over. We wound our way up mountain climbs, switchback after switchback, on tiny narrow roads squeezed in amid valleys and hills, spring all around us in full green. All roads lacked shoulders, most lacked a yellow line too, but there was next to no traffic on the back roads. We finished the ride with a seven-mile gradual climb back to Banner Elk. The next two days I rode in the flattest place I could – the Blue Ridge Parkway – having driven down the mountain from Dirk and Karla’s home, high on a hill like a beach house on stilts above the ocean. I rode the famous Viaducts, sections of road alongside a steep hillside and supported only by bridges. The road is pretty wide, the speed limit 35, and there was no traffic and no haze. Again, I found myself exuberant from the landscape. (I suspect the lack of green in the Southwest primed me to be astounded by Eastern springtime.) Karla is training for the 100-mile ride to Ashville on the Parkway, something that will be a feat given the multitude of demands on her time. I need to come back here sometime when riding forever in epic hills is actually how I am supposed to be training.

    Richmond, Virginia / Captech Classic – You Don’t Win by Mistake
    I spent Friday night in Richmond, Virginia with a host family arranged through the Captech Classic. Matt and Kelly were associated with the race as medical director and as participant in the Captech’s corporate challenge relay race. They were Virginia Tech football and Tour de France fans, connoisseurs of espresso and French food, and avid readers of many novels I want to read. Their elegant house seemed to me to represent Southern décor. Sarah Uhl of Quark was staying there too and in the morning we took a spin by a river that I think might be the James River.

    The Captech Classic took place in downtown Richmond. We drove in on a street lined with immaculately kept Southern brick homes with bright floral gardens and punctuated every few blocks with huge stone and cast metal Civil War Monuments in the middle of the street. The course was a 2k circuit with a fairly long, several-block, big ring hill and a downhill chicane, then another downhill corner into a flat finishing straight. I was pretty disorganized planning my cross-country trip from Gila and the race organizer, Tim Miller, was very helpful in getting me into the race and arranging host housing. The race has NRC status and organizers are trying to build its prominence in the local community and among cycling teams.

    Our field was small, with full and powerful teams from Genesis-Scuba and Colavita-Bolla, a smaller group from Victory Brewing, plus Sarah Uhl and Lyne Gaggioli and many others who love crit riding. I went in with the goal of getting top three. Starting out it was pretty evident that the hill would take its toll. At one point I tested how fast I could go through the chicane, in preparation for a future attack, and got a mini-gap with Kori Seehafer but did not believe I could hold it up the hill into the headwind and just backed off. At least I seemed to be descending just fine. Midway through the race Kori got away and her Genesis-Scuba teammates tried to keep things calm in the field. When Lyne Gaggioli went a few laps later, taking Laura Van Gilder with her, I missed the boat. Then somehow I abandoned my plan and did nothing for the rest of the race. I lost some ground on the last uphill corner after getting cut off, and then entered the final sprint from the back, finishing 11th. Laura van Gilder won, Lyne finished 2nd, Kori 3rd. Tina Pic won our field sprint to complete a dominating day for Genesis-Scuba. I am not going to beat all the Tina Pics and Jo Kiesenowskis and Gina Grains by sprinting from the back, and maybe not even if I had a head start. I knew I needed to get away on this course and I didn’t even try. So what if I wasn’t feeling good. What had Gila taught me if not the value of trying?

    Bear Mountain, New York / Bear Mountain Spring Classic
    After Captech I followed Sarah home to Pennsylvania and slept a satisfying but not-long-enough five hours before jumping in the car to head to the Bear Mountain Spring Classic. The gracious hosting of so many people enables my racing endeavors (and is also one of the highlights of being in a new place), and I hope to reciprocate as much as possible. I was feeling the start of a sore throat, but after all that driving, wanting to see my friends, and being thankful that the organizers let me in at all, I was definitely racing. The Bear Mountain course is a hilly 14-mile circuit through a state park, without a single building along the way, surprising given its proximity to New York City. Women 1/2/3 did four loops. We got started after a bit of a delay and the freeze left my body. I attacked some on the hill but was not feeling overly zippy. The field was big with a lot of strong riders. In the end, it came down to a field sprint. I have become a lot more aggressive at establishing my position in the field this year. Catherine Powers went very early, with my former teammate Marianne Stover, now of IF, on her wheel. The two had a gap. I jumped over from the group behind, then waited (for once I had actually planned where to start my sprint on a previous lap), then came around them. This is the first time I have ever won a race in a field sprint. Confusion over results put a damper on things at the end, especially since everyone was crabby for lack of food, but it was great to see everyone and the Bear Mountain course is always excellent.

    Housatonic, Massachusetts
    I made it to my mom’s house for Mother’s Day and finally ate some vegetables. This morning I am feeling a bit sick, but still have some energy to wash clothes and water bottles. Tomorrow I head home to contend with the mouse-ravaged pantry. I am not sure yet where the next blitz of racing will take me, so I guess I had better just be ready.

    That’s all for now. Take care everyone.


photos by Jonathan McElvery, Jack Milton, and

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