Anna Milkowski’s 2005 Race Diary
Diary Entries – April 27, 2005
Here I am in Silver City, NM, about to start the Tour of the Gila five-day stage race. The race’s no-nonsense tone is set today with a windy (not winding), 16-mile out-and-back time trial that starts with a 4.5-mile climb. Last year Tour of the Gila unexpectedly turned out to be one of the most fun races I’ve ever done – let’s hope this year holds similar excitement. Now to bring you up to speed.
Last year stands out as a learning year, one in which I did my best to meet the trial by fire of Rona, learned from teammates, and expanded my sense of the possible. I tested my limits, experiencing peak fitness as never before in May and cracking by June. I wouldn’t trade last season – better to burn out than fade away – but aspire this season to be more consistent and to be strong for the summer races. I have more respect than ever for the people who are seemingly in top form for an entire season, or, in the case of my remarkable fellow journalist, two consecutive seasons. Only in retrospect could I see that during this cyclo-cross season I had lost the drive that fuels successful racing. This winter, I was exhausted, but also knew that the 2005 season presented a tremendous opportunity to build on my Rona experience.
The weeks after cyclo-cross brought a solid break from cycling and a focus on the other aspects of my life. For me this full-time cycling is an experiment, an interlude I’ve taken to pursue a passion, but not something I expect to be able to forge into a career. Knowing that the first year would be tough, I’ve always banked on it as a two-year project, but have also known that something else must and will follow. I miss the sense of purpose, community, and intellectual engagement that I derived from past employment. Living in manner that’s not exactly financially sustainable, or at least forward-looking, also exacts a toll. Last year, I had begun to worry that I was letting doors close. So this winter I mobilized, laid the foundation for a transition, and once again immersed myself in pedaling.
Antioxidants In, Free Radicals Out
This year I am riding for TEAm Lipton, sponsored by Lipton Tea. The team stems from last year’s AquaFina team and features a traveling road cycling team, a regional road cycling team, and several pro triathletes and duathletes. The travel cycling team will focus on the Women’s Series NRC races – Redlands, Nature Valley, Altoona, and Bermuda; a series of one-day events – Captech, Somerville, Philly, Criterium Nationals, Manhattan Beach, and San Francisco; and local NRC races such as Fitchburg and Chris Thater. Because almost all the riders come from the Northeast, we will be able to develop our tactical skill on the regional level, and then apply it to bigger races. Our roster consists of Kristen Lasasso, Katie Lambden, Elisa Gagnon, Zoë Owers, Liza Rachetto, and me. Sinead Fitzgibbon and Tara Parsons are some of the “regional” riders who are also forces in races. I am thrilled to race with this group! We have good riders who probably don’t know their own strength. By being savvy, we hope to make an impact in NRC races.
Last year I skipped winter and leapt head-long into warm-weather bike training. This year I stuck around, lifting weights, riding when weather permitted, and cross-country skiing. I rediscovered Notchview Reservation, where I had ski raced in grade school, a Trustees of the Reservation Property (like Crane’s Beach) and the site of the Tour of the Hilltowns. For two weeks, the skiing there was pristine. Celeste Drumm, rising cyclo-cross star, showed me the trails, brimming with exuberance for skiing rivaled only by some former co-workers in Putney, VT. One day we skied to the summit of Mt. Greylock, snowmobile traffic having made the auto road skate-able. The trick is to head out early enough to beat the exhaust-spewing masses. For those familiar with the Guinness-record frost heaves on the road, take heart, they are greatly diminished by snow cover. I also went on several spectacular cold-weather rides with the Houstonic Wheel Club. On one, through Stockbridge’s Beartown state forest, I did my best to follow the wheel of the most skilled rider I know (mountain biking got old and he took up off-road unicycling) through dirt roads sheeted in ice, experiencing only one dramatic yard-sale fall.
After ridiculous amounts of deliberation, I drove west at the end of February. Compared to last year’s blitz, I visited friends along the way including one who had competed in the Athens Olympics in Modern Pentathlon. Her level of dedication and her enthusiasm for my project provided inspiration as I headed west to lay the foundation for this new season. I spent two weeks in Tucson, a place I doubted I would ever return to, and was surprised to find that familiarity had bred affection. I did sprint rides in the rolling terrain west of Gates Pass and loaded my legs with low-cadence climbing up Mt. Lemmon. I had a mere two weeks to get myself ready for Pomona. My new stealth Giant arrived just in time and I retired the cross bike.
Early Season Suffering
After all the racing I have done you would think I could just jump back into racing and be comfortable. But no! I was wimpy and scared, with mediocre fitness not doing much to keep me in position. Thus began the slow build to some semblance of racing shape and mindset. Rationally I knew things were going according to plan, but I was struggling. The whole team flew in for Redlands. We were tough but certainly aspire to better performances later in the season. With top-end fitness lagging, I did considerable chasing back on and time trialing off-the-back. Better now than in June, I had to remind myself.
Fitness and the fragile buds of confidence seem too be returning. I competed in a small local race in Tucson last weekend, felt good, attacked, and won. I just finished up racing La Vuelta de Bisbee and was pleased to find I could do some racing. We had a tiny field of about 25 women, some strong individual riders and two large regional teams. Both of the regional teams used their numbers to force the individual riders to work. The courses were not selective (until final climbs) and I found myself a marked rider, so getting away was difficult. During both the road races I struggled with whether or not to do work that others would free ride off of. After a decent uphill prologue up 2.8 miles of 6% grade, I was in 4th place. In Saturday’s road stage, I goofed by not knowing when the finish was coming and found myself in the wrong gear for the sprint, but mustered 3rd. In Saturday’s time trial, I didn’t make any errors in how I rode, but wasn’t very fast, finishing 7th. Sunday I didn’t have the final climb I had hoped for, but managed to move back up to 5th on gc.
Here I am at Gila with Kristen and Liza. T-Mobile brings the strongest team, with gc leader Kimberley Baldwin, all-arounder, Kori Seehafer, the so-far-unstoppable Ina Teutenburg, plus the engine Brooke Ourada, Lara Kroepsh, and up-and-coming rider Rebecca Much. Webcor, Basis, and Colavita also bring strong teams. Genevieve Jeanson is always a force to be reckoned with and mountain bikers tend to thrive in this race. My teammate Kristen is in tip-top climbing form. Gila is hard enough that with conservative riding one can do well on gc. The elevation, climbing, and stage lengths all contribute to a race of attrition in which patience will be rewarded. As a team, we’ll need to determine our goals for the week. I will ride more conservatively than last year but plan to do some racing. I think the fitness is good enough, and if there is one thing I learned last year it’s that you can do more than you think you can. For sure T-Mobile will be on the attack, sending riders such as Kori and Ina up the road. Thursday presents a shot at a break and by Sunday people should be tired and have more to worry about than me and Liza. We will have to see what the three of us can do. Last year Rona was a target and I got chased a lot; hopefully this year my teammates and I can go on the attack, draw some blank looks, and ride away for the win!
Well, there you have it. Next month I will have more time to muse on things such as mountain lions and the fascinating people I meet while traveling, training, and racing. In the meantime, all the best and thanks for your interest and enthusiasm!
That’s all for now. Take care everyone.
©2002-2005 New England Bicycle Racing Association
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