Anna Milkowski’s 2004 Race Diary
This entry kept going and going and I didn’t even describe some of the fascinating places I have visited! I would like to make this journal reflect your interests. Please send any feedback to [email protected].
Tour of the Gila: Turnaround, Seizing Racing Moments, TEAm Lipton on the attack
Stage 1: Tyrone Time Trial
During the five minutes I spent warming up on a borrowed disk wheel to dial in the shifting I managed to run over a goathead thorn. This expensive warm-up turned out to be far from the worst aspect of the time trial. I was flat-out horrible. People I normally can time trial with blew by me and finished five minutes ahead. Talk about demoralizing. Genevieve Jeanson won, followed by T-Mobile’s Kimberley Baldwin. Kristen did a good ride, especially given lack of aero wheels, finishing 19th. Liza also rode strongly, but was hindered by the lack of aero bars. (I am not usually one to blame performance on equipment, but this stuff does matter in a long windy time trial.) FYI, if you do ride this time trial ever, you will need a bigger gear than a 53-11.
Stage 2: Silver City to Mogollon RR
This stage follows a highway for roughly 70 miles before turning into a 2000-foot finishing climb ending at 10,000 feet. This was the stage where last year I was away for 50 miles (half with one other person, half alone) and got caught with 1k to go. Ay. Now whenever I am in a break I absolutely stuff myself with food and drink, just to insure that energy supply does not limit my performance. Today I wasn’t sure I wanted to go in the break, thinking maybe my energy could be better spent on other days. I was also doubtful about my condition, given that horrible time trial. I had jumped on the first attack, by Carolyn Donnelly of Landis/Trek/VW, but it go reeled in, so I let the next one go, even though I was right there. As luck would have it, that one stuck. Landis’s Maggie Williams and T-Mobile’s Lara Kroepsch were off. I have raced with Landis in Tucson and I was impressed by them here – they might not be the strongest riders but this was a gutsy move! I grumbled at myself for opting out of the break as we rode slowly on, nobody doing anything for miles. Bo-ring!
About 50 miles into the race, the break’s time gap started to come down as a result of attacks in the field and Lara and Maggie getting tired after a long day in the wind. Jeanson, in the leaders’ jersey without teammates, chased down a lot of attacks. Meanwhile, Kimberly Baldwin rested under the protection of teammates. I ended up in one short-lived break of four riders – T-Mobile’s Kori Seehafer, Subway’s Sima Trapp, and Kele Hulser of Basis, and for a few minutes we drove it hard, actually what seemed super-hard. But I guess we were too much of a threat, probably due to Kori’s presence, and we were chased down. That one effort might have done me in, because I started going backwards after that. I got dropped and chased back through the caravan. People were so encouraging, cheering my name and honking, and I just felt embarrassed. Soon I was dropped for good, my water bottle cage detached and spinning on my frame as I pedaled to add to my annoyance. Suddenly I came upon my field, stopped in the road because of repeated yellow-line violations. Talk about reprieve! I removed the cage and put my head back in the race.
At the front, T-Mobile drove it in the gradual rise leading into the climb and split the field, aided by a strong wind. There was a break of six riders off the front. Kristen was in the next splinter. Had Liza or I been there our job would have been to try to close the gap for her so she could try to race to the summit with the leaders. Instead, she was isolated and needed to decide how hard to ride and how much to allow the other riders in her group to free-ride off her effort. Kimberly Baldwin won the stage, taking over the leader’s jersey from Genevieve. Kristen finished 9th on the stage and moved into the top ten on gc. Liza did respectably. I finished.
Silently, I was wondering what was wrong with me and whether I should even keep racing. I felt so uncharacteristically weak, and the demoralization was real. I am all for toughing it out, but wondered if I was beating my head against a wall. I had finished close to last place two days in a row. I would try another day and assess from there. I did everything possible to recover – legs on the wall, massage, top-notch eating, sleeping, and hydration. My stomach had been feeling weird for a few days so I wondered if I hadn’t eaten enough. Normally a vegetable-lover, I opted instead for bland easily-digested calorically-dense foods like pasta, rice, bread, and my perennial favorite oats. My teammates and I drank plenty of Lipton green tea, which we now travel with in mass quantities. Antioxidants in, free radicals out! My plan was to make it over the first climb then see if I could race.
Stage 3: Inner Loop Road Race
T-Mobile rode tempo up the first climb, which occurred at 12 miles. Thank goodness no one attacked! We did the first switch-backing descent as a big group, then in the climb through the feed zone Genevieve drove it and broke the broke into groups. Kristen made the first selection with Genevieve, Kimberly, and Lynn Gaggioli. I was feeling more like myself and soon latched onto the second group, containing Liza. We made the second exciting descent (hairpin turns and cliffs to ride off) no problem. Last year I had been terrified on the descent and had had to chase back on, so this year marked a pleasing improvement. The two groups merged at the bottom of the descent, though many riders had been dropped for good. Soon after, Cat Malone of Webcor attacked. This was my break! I was boxed in (I always think of the hilarious Australian movie Strictly Ballroom when I use this expression: “It is true that Scott was what you call ‘boxed in’ but that’s no excuse for what he did [dance his own steps]!”) but as soon as I could get out I attacked and bridged up. No one responded, as expected, since I was very far down, it was super windy, and there were still 50 miles to go. Great!
So Cat and I set out on the journey, settling into a brisk pace on the windy flat terrain, splitting the work and the sprint bonus. It was good for both of us to be out there, getting our team names out front and maybe getting a shot at the win. Webcor director Carmen Richardson (newly retired from an illustrious road, mountain, and cyclocross career) and mechanic Todd followed in their team car, giving splits and feeding us both. Carmen has offered me a lot of encouragement and advice about cross, so it was terrific to have her support on the road. I felt strong, totally different from past days. I was mystified at the transformation, but wasn’t complaining.
After about 30 miles, we turned into a headwind highway climb. I was pulling hard, up maybe a 4% grade, going nine miles an hour! Not good. Fortunately we didn’t get caught until the top of the climb, with about 15 miles to go. T-Mobile’s Ina Teutenberg had reeled us in. Other T-Mobile riders soon took over at the front, keeping Kimberly out of the wind. Ina disappeared to the back, then in a flash was off the front. Her attack was textbook – she must have been going 10 miles an hour faster than the field when she attacked. A minute or so later, my teammate Kristen darted out of the field. I wasn’t so sure about this move, given how windy it was, but T-Mobile didn’t respond and I grew more and more hopeful. So there Kristen was, this dot of yellow out front chasing after Ina. Other riders such as Lynn Gaggioli tried to attack, which would bring the gap down, but T-Mobile covered them all. Kristen made it to Ina, then drove it, choosing gc time in favor of betting on a stage win against one of the world’s best sprinters. After the sprint, victorious Ina told Kristen she needed to have ridden her (Ina) into the gutter in the finish. Liza finished in the money with seventh; I contested the finish and mustered 15th. I needed to be more gutsy over the cattle grate. But TEAm Lipton was racing!
Stage 4 Silver City Criterium
Now here is the thing about teams – teammates feed off each other’s efforts. When you see your teammates securing good field position, seeing that familiar helmet-back ahead of you, you think “I better get myself up there.” When you see your teammate do a racing effort and you understand what’s behind the effort, the personal story or the gustiness of it, you become motivated. This incrementally-building motivation is particularly crucial for my team, since we are a brand-new team with no precedent to follow. On Rona, it’s amazing how much motivation we got just from the fact that we were Rona – we didn’t have to fight to ride at the front, it was just expected and understood, and this power of expectation applied to results as well. We just delivered because we knew that’s how it was. On TEAm Lipton, though, we need to establish that we can be competitive at the top level, and to a large degree what we need is confidence. At Gila, we felt like underdogs, racing without our full kit and relying on the kindness of friends and strangers for race support and feeds. But the more aggressively we raced, the more we spurred each other on. Today Liza and I were going on the attack.
Going into the crit, I knew a lot of people wouldn’t be racing that day, but resting for the next day. You have to learn to identify opportunities for racing and seize them. Tour of the Gila is so long and hard and the time gaps between riders so huge, that if you are far behind there are many chances to race. (This contrasts this year’s Redlands, which was super-hard for every second of the race, in part because the race had been shorted to four days, making the competition tighter.) I had absolutely nothing to lose, no gc place, no team gc demands. I was no threat to anyone. T-Mobile might even be happy if a big insignificant break goes up the road, so the whole team could have an easy ride in anticipation of Sunday’s epic road stage. What’s more, I was starting to feel good, probably because those first two days of being horrible hadn’t been too taxing. Once I knew I was tanking the tt and then the Mogollon Road Race, I hadn’t pushed it too hard.
The crit course featured 27 laps of a 1-mile loop with a big-ring hill and one headwind section. I was going to wait a few laps, but when I saw the chance to attack on the hill of lap one, I just went. If you go later, the distance to the finish is shorter, but if you go earlier, people are more likely to think you are crazy and let you go. No one followed me, and as I ramped it up to build the gap I thought “What have you done? This is not patient racing! You have 25 miles to go. Ay.” I figured I would just drive it as long as possible, collect some primes, and hope Liza was ready for the counter. The crowd was awesome, cheering for me the whole way. Our host family was watching the race and I was psyched they would be able to see me out front. So many times people who aren’t familiar with cycling come to watch me and amid the blur of the pack they don’t see me a single time. Relocated New Englander John Verhuel offered some informed commentary to get the crowd excited. I was out for maybe ten laps when a break of five riders started to catch. I eased up, preparing for their attack that fortunately never came, and jumped on their train. I was hoping Liza was in the break but she wasn’t, so I knew I had to stay in it.
I blew it at the finish. I had confidence in my sprint out of the downhill corner, so I would have been happy with a bunch finish. But I also wondered about attacking early, early enough to surprise but late enough that the rest of the break would be too disorganized, each person too miserly of her own energy, to catch me. In some ways attacking early was a good move, like issuing a challenge to the other riders: catch me if you can, but it was also risky since it was so all-or-nothing. If you got caught, you would be too smoked to contest the finish. Before I could decide, another rider, a Tokyo Joe’s rider named Molly, beat me to it. I tried to jump but instead towed, long enough to exhaust myself. When Cat Malone jumped and bridged to Molly, I got dropped from the group. The remaining three riders slowed as no one wanted to work. I caught the group of three, sat for a mile-second until the rise into the second-to-last corner, then attacked them and this time got a gap. I was gaining on Cat and Molly but couldn’t close. Cat won, Molly finished second, and I was third. It was good to be racing again.
Stage 5: The Gila Monster Road Race
The GC would come down to today. Kimberly led the race, followed by Genevieve and Lynn Gaggioli. The course was basically the reverse of the Stage 3 loop. The big climb started with 25 miles to go and had a sizeable descent in the middle. Most likely the field would be splintered just a few miles into the climb, so it would be hard for T-Mobile to uses its numbers to help Kimberly on the climb. She would be on her own facing her challengers. For us, Kristen was in 7th on gc and planned to save energy early in the race and try to have a great finish. Liza would try to get in a break. I would try to help Liza get in a break, or, if she didn’t, get in a break myself. Whoever wasn’t in the break would try to help Kristen save energy and start the climb at the front.
After a few attacks and reshuffles, a break of four riders was up the road about six miles in, with Liza in it. T-Mobile was happy since having a break away for the sprint bonus at mile 11 meant they didn’t have to prevent Genevieve and Lynn Gaggioli from winning the bonus seconds. Step one accomplished. The next part of the race was not as easy as expected, since 3rd-place Gaggioli kept attacking. T-Mobile also wanted to place a rider in the break, probably to help Kimberly out on the final climb, so they kept sending riders on the attack, but the field was not willing to let Ina or Kori up the road, but it was hard chasing them down. Finally T-Mobile’s Rebecca Much got away, with Basis’s Chrissy Ruiter on her wheel. Back in the field, the race mellowed out. Then T-Mobile started chasing so the pace picked up. It was pretty quick for the last 15 miles into the climb. I helped Kristen get to the front and then followed wheels.
Colavita was going to help us with feeding, thank them, but they even missed their own riders. I gave Kristen a bottle, wondering whether anything horrible would happen to me from doing an 80-mile race in the scorching sun at elevation on one-and-a quarter bottles. I didn’t really care how fast I went up that climb, I just wanted to make it without doing lasting damage. Then, noticing my empty cage, Genevieve offered me an extra bottle she had. I didn’t want to take it unless it was really extra – she was racing for the win – but after she assured me it was I gratefully accepted. That’s the funny and great thing about cycling – you are competing against each other (not that I would out-climb Genevieve) and yet you know and enjoy almost everyone. You do your competitors favors – coordinating transportation, teaming up for composites, and arranging host housing – and they do you favors. That’s how it works. We would have spent three hours after the Mogollon stage at a lasagna dinner waiting for a bus (probably fun but not optimal recovery) if the Diet Cheerwine team hadn’t arranged a ride for us.
Now back to the race: The climb started and T-Mobile drove it. Kristen was right on Genevieve’s wheel and I watched the leaders disappear around the switchbacks and rode my own pace. I rode in with a group, not a terrific climb but far from the disaster of Stage 2. At the front, Kimberley got away and caught the break, winning the stage and the whole race. Liza fell off the pace from the break leaders, but still rode a great race. Kristen started the climb awesomely then bonked. She still did a good climb and only fell one spot, to a strong 8th on gc. Liza’s climb moved her to 21st on gc. She had been getting stronger every day.
Jiminy Peak: Practicing Team Racing
I returned home just in time to reunite with my team for Jiminy Peak. I mentioned before that one of the good things about Lipton is that we will be able to practice team racing in a regional setting to prepare for national level races. When my Gearworks team first formed, we found that in the beginning when we tried to work together we did worse than we would have had we been racing individually. Learning to ride as a team takes a lot of practice and we will make a lot of mistakes. Even though we are all learning, we don’t have a master tactician among us.
Our plan was to save Kristen for the finish and begin a flurry of attacks at the start of lap two. We knew Kristen could stick with Sue Palmer-Komar under any strenuous uphill circumstance. But the Jiminy hill has gotten smaller over the years and so we miscalculated – this isn’t a climber finish, it’s a sprinter finish. Our team is so new to each other that we don’t really know each other’s strengths. We probably would have been better off trying to get Kristen off at the bottom of the climb (on Route 7 before the turn onto Brodie Mountain Road), where she would have plenty of uphill distance over which to build a lead before going downhill. Either Elisa or I should have been saved more for a bunch finish instead of Kristen. Zoë was also a top candidate for the finish. She was supposed to be part of the attack mission but we mis-communicated about this so she ended up resting – which worked out for the best!
Lap 1: No one did anything. It was boring. We want to race hard, but to win not just to make the race interesting.
Lap 2: We started attacking and countering. It was very windy. Once we had someone off the front and attacked, chasing her down. Oops! Sue Palmer-Komar and Mackenzie Dickey shared some working in chasing down attacks. Verizon also did some work in chasing – why not attack instead? They seemed to have the numbers and the strength. Shortly before Five Corners (the turn onto Route 7), Elisa got away alone. On Route 7, Katie attacked the field. I was screaming “no, no,” not wanting her to chase down Elisa. Astonishingly, she bridged up alone. This does not happen in racing! So we had two riders off the front. I covered some bridging attempts. After a while, Sue Palmer-Komar came to the front and just drove it for maybe four miles, through the top of the climb, narrowing the gap to Katie and Elisa. I came off from the lead group but caught back on the descent, with a fairly big gap on the rest of the field.
Lap 3: We still had Katie and Elisa off the front, but the gap was almost closed. Kristen wanted to drive it to stay away from the rest of the field and I thought that no, we should maintain the gap and make Sue and Mackenzie finish the work. But Elisa and Katie were clearly tired. In that group plus the break we had all five TEAm Lipton riders – Katie, Elisa, Kristen, Zoë, and me plus Sue, Mackenzie, Sara Bresnick, Hiroko Shimada, and maybe two more at most. On the one hand, if we could drop all those riders on the second time up the climb, we can drop them the third time up. But on the other hand, here we had a chance at a break that was 50% TEAm Lipton. Could we have stayed away? Should we have called the break back and had me go to the front and drive it as hard as possible for the entire lap? I would not have been able to attack, but did this matter? But I was thinking about how we could win, not how we could get the most top ten spots, and at that time it seemed to make sense to tire out the rivals and save energy for late attacks. (But how much was a little tempo riding really tiring them out? Sue is after all the Canadian National Time Trial champion?) It would have been very hard to stay away – this race often comes back together, but for sure it would have been good to get rid of the field, even if we could finish ahead of them. There were a lot of riders who were just chasing things down, doing work for other people not even on their own team, negating our teamwork. We did not drive it and the field came back together. Heading south on Route 7, Katie had been off the front with Heather, and Sue’s chase strung out the field. We missed a huge opportunity here for Kristen to counter.
The Finish: Elisa and Katie both put in early attacks, but none of the big rivals jumped. Others chased them down. I tried to make it fast as we approached the finish, because Kristen for sure would have a better shot at the finish the harder it was. Probably I should have just waited. As it was I went hard too early, not even close enough for a good lead-out, and died. Zoë came around for a strong 3rd, Kristen for 6th. Mackenzie smoked us all for the win, followed by Sue Palmer-Komar. Good job Mackenzie!
The Williams Criterium: Thinking on the Bike / How to Win
Kristen, Elisa, and I raced the Williams College Criterium on Sunday. It was cold and windy and our field was small, only 18. The narrow course had a big-ring climb and a twisty descent. I attacked from the gun which broke up the field. Kristen, Sue Palmer-Komar, Rosanne Lent, and Hiroko were in the group. Elisa had been caught in traffic. Kristen and I countered each other for a few laps but Sue was quite strong. We might have been attacking too late on the hill, since it was hard to get a gap big enough to carry through the descent. We settled in and began racing for primes. Lisa Jollett bridged up.
I observed that Sue was winning primes (securing batches of cookies for her daughter) by being first out of the corner into the uphill finish. I was not as far off from Sue in a flat-out drag sprint as I had thought I would be. I diagnosed that the best possible finish would be for me to be first though the corner, followed by Kristen, who could let me open a gap. I even said this to Kristen, so it’s not like I wasn’t thinking. In the laps leading into the finish, Kristen rode tempo at the front, followed by Sue, then me. And then, coming into that final corner, Sue moved into first and I just followed and did not race her to the corner. What was I doing? I had told myself exactly what I needed to do to try to win and then I didn’t even try to do it! This is not how to win races. It’s almost like I need to talk myself through the finish: This is what you need to do. Ok, now attack into that corner. Ok, now sprint. So Sue won, I finished second, Rosanne third, and Kristen fourth. Learning learning learning. In the meantime, I think I need to hang out with Paul Curley more.
Sponsors Make it Happen
More and more I am learning how cycling works. Sponsors make racing happen and enable us to pursue this passion we share. As bike racers, we don’t always realize how lucky we are. I haven’t in the past. Nothing revolutionary here, but support companies that support cycling by opting for their products and services. Email sponsors to tell them you appreciate their support of cycling or even to tell them you saw their team ride a good race. Support the shops that support you and others. Go about your bike-racer existence in a way that would make someone proud to have you represent them and proud to be affiliated with bike racing. We might be rivals out on the road but we are all allies in keeping our sport going and growing.
My terrific sponsors are headed by Lipton Tea, which is committed to building a top-notch professional women’s cycling and triathlon team and promoting a healthy lifestyle. It’s exciting to be part of this big project. We also have the support of Giant Bicycles, AquaFina, Powerbar, Fizik saddles, Easton, VitaMuffin, Upton Performance Systems, Weleda, Camelback, Think Racing, Rider After-Sport Footwear, Vredstein tires, Sidi, Catlike, FSA, Hincapie, and Look.
There are too many individuals to thank, but several stand out for keeping the bikes in tip-top shape. Dave Drumm at Dave’s Bike Shop in Lenox, MA rebuilt my cross bikes about once a week this fall. Gearworks Cyclery in Leominster, MA, perpetually helps me out. If your bike breaks during Fitchburg, this is the place to go – they even offers free service to racers during the race. Finally, Ken Gonsalves at the Arcadian Shop frequently rescues me from mechanical mishaps and entertains me with accounts of his mountain unicycling exploits.
This weekend five of us head to the Owasco Stage Race in New York, which promises to be a very challenging race. The field is small but strong, featuring the Diet Cheerwine and Terry teams and numerous strong individual riders, headlined by Merrill Collins, second in last year’s Canadian National time trial. She doesn’t travel much for races but is a terrific rider. The race will again present a great chance for us to develop team cohesion on the road.
I may or may not race Sunapee the following weekend. Storing up on travel energy will be essential, since soon we begin the next big blitz: Captech, BikeJam, CSC, Somerville, Philly, Nature Valley, Nationals, and Fitchburg. I also have some exciting media events coming up that will see me on the road to places such as DC and Chicago and appearing with mayors, the Washington Redskins, and Mia Hamm as part of a National Park Initiative by Lipton. The adventures continue!
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