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Anna Milkowski’s 2004 Race Diary


 Diary EntriesJune 30, 2004

 The Character-Building Phase of the Season

    Where to begin? I’ve done sixteen races across the country since my entry about a month ago. The basic storyline is that I started out fairly fit and fresh, then became progressively more exhausted from racing and travel, to the point that I was having trouble mustering much excitement for racing. Having a good attitude is easy when you feel good; less so when you don’t. The latter-half of last month will have to be chalked up to character-building and information-gathering. Here’s the pith of my recent adventures:

    Owasco Stage Race: Compelled to Train
    The brand-new Owasco Cycling Club decided to put on a two-day omnium near Syracuse, NY that dovetailed perfectly with a friend’s wedding. The Ontario-based McMaster team tried to work over the riders without team, attacking successively right from the gun in the road race – I liked their spirit. Wisened rider that I am, I let some others do the chasing. With my teammates racing Joe Martin, an NRC stage race, I was feeling compelled to get some hard training in, so when I had a gap on the QOM five miles in I decided to try to stay away and was able to. Some of the signs were a bit mixed up, so in one instance I drove it over the supposed top of the QOM climb only to find half a mile more remaining. I guess it’s good to learn you can do more than you expect you have to.

    Sunapee: No longer Bearing the Responsibility of Making Races Interesting
    Forty-five degree temperatures with rain made dressing the essence of the day. Once again, I was glad for my ridiculously full bad of foul weather clothing. There was a lot of attrition early on due to the weather and the hills. In our lead group, racers tended to drive the pace rather than attack, I attacked a bunch but wasn’t going anywhere so then did nothing. It came down to a small sprint which I timed right.

    Housatonic: The Strength of Teams
    With the unfortunate demise of the women’s edition of the epic Housatonic Valley Classic, we raced a crit in downtown Danbury. My two teammates Helen Kelly and Katheryn Curi were there. Our team and Victory Brewing had the biggest representation, but the field was packed with strong riders including sprinters Laura van Guilder and Sarah Uhl. We wanted to get away. The story from the gun: Katheryn attacked, Helen attacked, I attacked, Katheryn attacked. Katheryn got away. Lauren Franges of Victory bridged up. Helen and I and Victory Brewing chased down everything else. Lauren outsprinted Katheryn. In the bunch sprint, I made a stupid early attack, then when it appeared I was leading out everyone but my teammate Helen, backed off and got swarmed. Mistake! Laura van Guilder took the field sprint. I have to work on the mental shift from working for a teammate all day to caring about and executing my own finish.

    Montreal WC: Important
    Montreal World Cup is the most important race of the year for our title sponsor, the Montreal-based hardware store chain Rona. When you consider that the company’s market does not include the US, the World Cup and Canadian nationals are essentially the only races of the year. On top of this, Montreal is Genevieve’s hometown. Mostly, she is adored; always, she is news, all over the papers and the tv. Immense pressure was on to perform, especially given that she needed to finish top eight in order to enter the pool of Canadian athletes eligible for the Olympics.
    The Montreal course consists of 12 loops on a 10k loop featuring the 1-mile Mt. Royal climb. The race finishes atop the climb. It also starts at the top, so imagine us zipping off the top of the mountain, everyone jockeying for position, cones flying, breakpads squealing on carbon rims, frost heaves launching riders, etc. The race was off! Our goal was to have the race finish in a field sprint for Genevieve, defying conventional wisdom about her penchant for breakaway riding. I didn’t have too specific a role, except to make it to the end, and felt a bit useless as Katrina, Erinne, and Katheryn worked their tails off reeling in everything. When it became clear I was nearing my end, I did a bit of work on the flats chasing down some Quark riders just so I could make some contributions prior to leaving the picture. I was off the back after lap 10. Erinne led the entire last lap and led out Genevieve, who won, astoundingly sprinting in the big ring! As I was riding up the climb the final time I kept asking the spectators “Genevieve a gangée????” and they all said yes and cheered me like I was winning the race. I grinned the whole way up. Amazing! Only in such a context could winning the Montreal World Cup be regarded with relief. Fortunately, there was some jubilation too.

    Montreal SR: Groveling at a Racer’s Race
    Many stage races require excellent time trialing and climbing, but not so much tactical savvy or finishing ability. The Montreal Stage race is not one such race. The four-stage race consists of a short flat prologue, a dead flat non-technical crit, a road race that is difficult and selective but not one on which a pure climber is bound to win, and a circuit race with a technical finish. On top of this, the race features huge finishing time bonuses (20 or 30 seconds for the win) and intermediate sprints for time. After the prologue, Katrina was right in the thick of things less than ten seconds out of first, and the rest of us were not far behind. The road race, held in a dismal, character-building cold rain, was hard enough to drop the sprinters, and Judith Arndt of Nuremburg won the overall. Her teammate Petra Rossner, German sprinting legend, won the crit and the circuit race. I was groveling, considering myself lucky to get dropped as late in the road race as I did. Feeling useless to the team is hard. In other news: dish washing gloves are great for 40-something and raining, Helen got in an early break during the long road race and almost stayed away, and I have some serious work to do in holding position in finishes with such a strong field.

    Philly: Measuring Success isn’t Always Easy
    Above all, Philly is a spectacle, a day when bicycles take over a city and throngs of aytpical cycling fans rabidly cheer you up the now-famous Manayunk wall while smoking cigars and eating bratwursts grilled on sidewalk barbecues. The race is a chaotic drag race into the wall, then a descent, then more drag racing, then a pair of small hills, then a loop around a fountain, through grandstands of fans, underneath a huge TV screen featuring your race, and back out again. The women’s race is a short 56 miles, not long enough for attrition to be a big factor at the front, and typically this race ends in a huge sprint, with racers duking it out for the top fifty well-paying places.

    I was doing more groveling, hanging out in the dangerous not-the-front section of the 180-strong field, evading a multitude of spontaneous crashes and entering the wall in less than ideal position. Up front, Erinne was dashing her way to the Queen of the Mountains title. All the groveling could be redeemed by the aggressive finish I was psyching myself up for. Then I got the call to attack and drive it into Manayunk on the final lap. So I did, and then I was off the back. Katrina attacked on the final hill, Lemon Hill, and had a gap with Judith Arndt on her wheel. The move might have worked, as six-time winner Rossner would not chase down her teammate Arndt, who would sit on and win the sprint, but the Italian “Pasta Team” chased it down. And so Katrina got swarmed and Petra won again. Andrea finished twelfth and Erinne won the Queen of the Mountains. I pedaled in alone, hoping my effort had done something good. Practicing my mob sprint would have to wait.

    Nature Valley: True Groveling, Inspiring Performances by Teammates
    The Nature Valley Grand Prix is a five-day stage race held around Minnesota, starting in the rustic north and finishing in the Twin Cities area. Day four’s 120k road race brought the low point of my season: mistaking the extent to which I had recovered, I followed instructions to make the race hard too directly for my own good, and soon, halfway through the race, I was off the back. What’s worse, I lacked my usual tenacity in making one last attempt to catch back on. So there I was, riding through rural Minnesota, at times not even sure if I was on the course or not, with 60k to go. Eventually I ran into some other dropped riders, coming toward me, informing me that we’d missed a turn. Misdirection occurred at the front of the race too, at the finish, and left a sour taste in people’s mouthes. The next day, I started and dropped out, my first time ever. Yuck. But here are the highlights: In the circuit race on the final day, featuring a 22% hill, we had three riders in the lead group of eleven, then two riders in the final four. Katrina held Lyne Bessette’s wheel in the race and secured second on gc. Andrea is coming into her own as a sprinter, able to beat some of the best! She finished third on one stage in spite of a hard crash early in the race. Erinne finished fourth on gc and is emerging as one of the North America’s top racers. Helen got to contest a finish, and got fifth. Katheryn is riding very strongly. I was fried, and couldn’t believe I was headed to Nationals.

    Nationals TT: Watching
    Webcor’s Christine Thorburn pulled off a huge upset by winning the 24k time trial. The favored T-Mobile riders, who just swept the podium in the time trial at a prestigious international stage race, filled the next five slots, followed by my teammate Katrina. Christine is a rider from Northern California, a physician in her thirties who’s only recently given cycling top priority who is one of those super nice people whom almost everyone is thrilled to see succeed. With no legs for a TT, I watched on the biggest hill, cheering and observing. In general, those who finished best spun, those who finished farther down lugged; a surprising number took a time-wasting line through up the hill, staying to the outside of a gradual curve; several of the best did quite a bit of climbing out of the saddle; others just stood up occasionally to get back up to speed; there was significant difference in the speed carried on a downhill that followed a climb, then a false flat. I’d love to see a set of intermediate splits of the race, to associate who excelled in the beginning then dropped off, who excelled at the end, who was steadiest throughout, with the different riding styles of the riders and how hard they appeared to be working.

    Nationals RR: Running what I Brung on an Unforgiving Course
    I would do what I could: position well, climb as near to the front as possible, try to be on the right side of splits, and, if I was there at the end, do some racing. The race consisted of six loops of a course that’s a mix of two Redlands Classic race courses, featuring one sizable hill called Wabash, then some more climbing and a kicker, then a downhill finish. The race was up to T-Mobile to dictate, as this nine-rider powerhouse consisted of climbers (whereas Genesis brought two riders with dominant sprints, Tina Pic and Laura van Guilder) and had the deepest team. I was racing with teammates Katrina and Katheryn, both of whom has as good a chance as any non-T-Mobile rider of winning. After one lap, more than half the field was gone, without anyone even having attacked. This was going to be hard! After getting gapped on the second time up the climb, I caught a ride back to the field. When Kristin Armstrong attacked on lap three, Christine Thorburn the only one able to follow; I was off. Chasing seemed not really an option, as I would just tow back competitors for my teammates, but in retrospect maybe it would have been good if some of us who’d been dropped could have helped chase until we blew up and at least cause a reshuffling of the race. As it was, I just kind of toodled in my group, not even really noticing or caring when a group splintered off the front. There is no excuse for apathy. At the front, the break stayed away. They were riding on a mission, and back in the field, there was not sufficient coordination among non-T-Mobile riders to put together a chase. Armstrong won, Katrina finished fifth, Katheryn seventh. The whole Olympic selection is pretty brutal. There are a lot of deserving riders who are not going.

    What’s Next: Beloved Fitchburg
    Currently I’m cramming in as much rest as possible before Fitchburg, hoping to bring some zip to this favorite race. Katrina, Katheryn, Helen, Andrea, and I will be racing. Genesis-Scuba is stacked for the race, bringing ten strong riders including Sue Palmer-Komar, flying last week at Canadian Nationals, Tina Pic, and Laura van Guilder. I hope we can employ some guile, as I don’t know that I can race with the strength of two. Victory Brewing, Colavita, Basis, TDS, and not-to-be-underestimated regional teams will also be out in full force. My guess is that either Katrina or Sue will win the time trial to kick off the GC battle. Genesis, TDS, Victory, and Colavita are sure to have their eyes on the combined QOM/Sprinters jersey. It should be exciting!


    That’s all for now. Take care everyone.

    Anna



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