NEBC Women’s Development Team: Dragon Slaying!

NEBC p/b Cycle Loft

Tour of the Dragons, May 5-6, 2012

Women’s Development Team Race Report

The Tour of the Dragons consists of three stages with a criterium and time trial on Day 1 and a road race on Day 2.

The criterium is a short 1 km, four corner course around a block of downtown Bennington. It starts on Main Street and makes a narrow turn onto Silver Street which then goes slightly uphill into turn 2. A downhill section then leads into a fast turn 3 with a wide turn 4 back onto Main St.

The time trial is a technical 10.7 mile course that starts into a long gradual climb. It has several turns and rises that breakup the rhythm and force the rider out of the saddle. After a sharp left turn, the course descends steeply and then climbs again. After the climb is a long, gradual descent ending in a 400 m uphill finish.

The road race is 62 miles with five significant climbs totaling about 4000’.

Katherine Snell Criterium 13th, Time Trial 9th, Road Race 26th , GC 26th

My goals for ToD were to improve on my TT and criterium results from last year and finish of Day 1 with a top 10 in GC and then finish in my usual lower 50th percentile in the road race. Last year I had a good result in the TT (7th) but then had some mishaps in the crit, including getting intimate with a hay bale, which resulted in a poor finish and a new helmet. This year with separate Cat 3/4 and Cat 1/2 races, the criterium was early in the morning. My goal was to finish same time and hopefully relatively high in the standings without doing too much work to save my legs for the TT. I had also thought that we might set a team goal of getting the sprint jersey and discussed this with Julianne and Carrie over dinner Friday night.

Despite the early start, delays in getting the race setup allowed us to get several laps around the course which was good practice for the fast third corner. Then it was back on the trainer with one quick inspection lap before the start. I managed to ride ahead of everyone else and secured a front row position but then got rather concerned when the Chief Ref asked if everyone had signed in. I had not signed in since the usual practice is that number pickup constitutes sign in for the first stage. Another lesson learned – always check about sign in before every stage.

We started fast and I was able to maintain mid-pack position into the first downhill turn. I then made sure I was always moving up throughout the race so I wouldn’t get caught out if any attacks were made. I took several turns on the front which despite the effort of being in the wind was sometimes easier, and definitely safer, as I could take the best line through the corners. I stayed in front of Julianne for the first points sprint and led her out to get some points but the sprints were dominated by the Farm Team gals and Emma White in particular. The race was not very aggressive with very few attacks and the field stayed mostly together. At 5 to go, there was a GC time bonus sprint that I stayed with and we had the field well strung out but then the gals on the front backed off right in front of me. I yelled to keep the pressure on to no avail and we grouped back up and bunched up for the last lap. I was in reasonable but not great position coming out of the last corner but did not have my usual turn of speed in the sprint and crossed the line for 13th.

After doing a morning race, I wasn’t sure how the legs would respond for the TT. I tried to rest after the crit and did a relatively easy warm up. Fortunately Carrie and I had arrived early Friday night and were able to get a pre-ride on the TT course which served as both a recon and openers. Time Trials are a sort of catch the rabbit game where you try to stay ahead of the riders behind and catch riders ahead. I knew I needed to stay ahead of Kerrin Strevell (Farm Team) who I knew was a GC contender and was 1:30 behind me. I started 30s behind Kate Leppanen (Quad) and 1 minute behind Julianne. I was able to catch Kate within the first two miles still on the gradual climb so I felt good but was amazed that I did not catch Julianne by the midpoint and knew that she must be having a great ride. I had an incredibly fast descent to the bottom of the last climb but was caught by Kerrin as we topped the climb. I was able to grab back some time on the long descent and ended up finishing a minute faster than last year at 32:03. However, despite the significantly faster time, I finished in 9th place overall, two places back from last year.

With the good result on Day 1, I headed into the RR with the hope of a mid-pack finish, as I was 18th last year. Not being a good climber, my plan was to sag the climb and be on the front for the sharp left turn that would bring us up to the first and longest climb of the day. That way I could control the pace for a little while and stay with the group long enough that I might catch back on the downhill. We arrived about 45 minutes before the start but it seemed like no time (after bike prep, sign-in, potty stop, kit/food prep, and wheel drop-off) that we were being called up. Within seconds of rolling out of the driveway, I heard the tell tale sound of a crash behind and hoped that no one was hurt. Further up the road I looked back and saw lots of red NEBC jerseys and assumed that we were all together. I was sitting mid-pack and wanted to make sure I was in good position to move up for the sprint points so I made a move up to the front. All of a sudden I was on the front with Mary next to me. I tried several times to pull off to no avail as no one would pull through. This continued for several miles and I tried everything including soft pedaling down to 15-16 mph, drinking etc. Finally, in frustration, I just attacked off the front and managed to string things out enough that I was able to move back and rest a bit. This was OK except that half the gals in front did not know how to paceline and I was behind a particularly bad wheel. To make matters worse, every one was riding to the left hand side of the road and sticking to the yellow line. I managed to work my way inside and split us back into a double pace line on the right hand side of the road and away from the yellow line. At this point I was where I wanted to be since we were only about 2 miles from the turn. As we entered Rupert, I was all ready for the turn and watching the moto. To my amazement he kept going straight. Not being total confident in my recollection of the course after a concussion this winter I kept going. After about a mile, I finally realized that I was right and we had missed the turn. I put up my hand to get the moto’s attention and to slow down the field. Kerrin who was next to me also realized what was going on and slowed done and we stopped the field and waited for the moto to turn around and then headed back to the turn. At this point I had now lost my good position and my plan for sagging. Once we hit the climb, I was almost immediately off the back. I did manage to pick off a couple of riders as I climbed but there was huge gap between me and the next group. Once we hit the downhill, I descended aggressively and put a big gap into the riders behind me. That descent ends almost immediately into the next climb which I again struggled up but I could see a group with Julianne ahead of me. Again I descended as fast as I dared and eventually caught the group but was pretty tired out with the effort. We all stayed together until the next major climb at which point my legs were giving up and I was off the back again. I tried to catch back on to no avail and spent the next 25 miles riding solo to the finish for a dismal 26th place. Despite the disappointing finish for me, it was great training and I now know the areas I need to focus on to get stronger again. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I had a great chance with the missed turn but I blew it. I should have trusted my instincts/memory and made the turn. Most of the pack would have kept going with the moto and I would have had an advantage of 2-3 miles or more. Oh well… that’s bike racing!

 

Elizabeth Cummings , Criterium 14th, Time Trial 14th, Road Race 15th , GC 11th

I drove up to the shires of Vermont with teammate Jackie Zider on Friday night for a full weekend of racing.  We arrived in Bennington and met up with NEBC ladies Julianne Oberle, Carrie Mosher and Katherine Snell, who were all staying at the same B&B.  Mary Hynes Johanson and Lisa Ludwig were also staying in the area, so we had a really great NEBC women’s turnout.  Saturday’s schedule consisted of a criterium in downtown Bennington in the morning and a time trial in the afternoon.  Sunday was the road race, with 5 tough climbs and an uphill finish in downtown Manchester.

Criterium
14th place, 33 starters
The crit is a 1km course, with an uphill and pretty fast downhill corner.  We took a few laps before any of the other races started, which was a great time to practice the corners.  The pace started off fast and stayed that way.  Farm Team Elite dominated the points laps, with a number of riders at the front, blocking the field and setting each other up for the sprints.  I was in the middle of the field for most of the race and while I tried to jockey for position at the end, I did not end up at the front of the group and wound up in 14th.
Time Trial
14th place, 33 starters
The time trial is a challenging uphill course.  I felt pretty rested/recovered from the crit earlier in the day and arrived at the start line ready to race.  My pace was strong and steady throughout, passing a few riders in the first half.  I knew that the first 7 miles were pretty much all uphill, so I tried to pace myself as best I could and not overdo it.  There is a short, punchy climb at mile 5.6 and a longer one around mile 7, both of which I tried to tackle as quickly as possible.  Some fun downhills lead into the uphill finish.  Overall, I shaved more than a minute off of last year’s time, so I was very happy.
Road Race
15th place, 29 starters
The road race is a beast: 5 tough climbs and an uphill finish.  The race started off with a bit of insanity: about 2 miles in, one of the riders fell over on her bike in the middle of the pack.  Unfortunately, she fell on teammate Lisa Ludwig, who sustained some injuries to both her person and her bike.  I was behind the crash, so I navigated around it, briefly getting off my bike and then chasing back on to the pack.  After most of the field got back together, we rode at a pretty calm pace through the scenic farmlands of the area.  We were enjoying ourselves (and the flat roads) so much that our marshal took us the wrong way for about a mile!  Thankfully, teammate Katherine Snell actually knew where we were going–the entire field stopped, turned around, and regained the correct course.  Shortly thereafter, we hit the first climb: a dirt climb that is seemingly endless.  This climb broke up the field, as it did last year.  I was nearly with the lead group, but just far enough behind that I knew I wasn’t going to catch them.  I reminded myself that it was going to be a long day and started thinking about finding people to ride with.  After I crossed the summit, teammate Mary Hynes Johanson rode up next to me.  Mary and I worked together until the second climb, which starts off pretty easy and becomes a real challenge as you get to the summit.  We were joined at the base of the climb by about 5 or 6 other women from our field, but the group did not last through the whole climb.  Mary and I crossed the summit together, with one other rider near us and descended together.  Following the descent, our group of 3 started to work together in a paceline.  I was so thankful to have other people to work with–we all knew it was going to be a long race.  We picked up another rider so we had a nice group of 4 and took on the 3rd and 4th climbs.  Somewhere after the 4th climb, 2 more riders caught up with us, so we had a group of 6.  We worked together over the 5th climb and headed towards town.  Mary told me that she wanted to make a break unfortunately, and I had to reply that my legs were shot and I was just hoping to hold on for the remainder of the race.  At 5km to go, there is this little hill that seems insignificant, but somehow always kicks your butt.  Mary went for it on the hill and one rider went with her, leaving me with 3 other racers.  Just when the hill flattens out and you think you’re done, you see that there’s this little extra bit of hill around 3km–this is where I fell off the back of the group I was with.  I had nothing left to chase them down with, so I rode into Manchester and over the finish about 15 seconds behind them and a minute or so behind Mary.

Julianne Oberle, Criterium 10th, Time Trial 18th, Road Race 18th , GC 18th

The Tour of the Dragons, albeit early in the race calendar, continues to be one of my favorite race weekends with the team. The roads in this part of Vermont are beautiful, the town has a certain New England charm about it, and the racing community is all together to attack three extremely challenging race stages in pursuit of defeating the Dragons. It is quite an excellent experience of racing, team bonding, and being free from the normal life we all lead.

For me personally, I was very interested in seeing how this years experience would compare with last year. I’ve worked hard to build the fitness in hopes to have a better race experience. Last year was an eye opening experience during the road race. The climbs were harder than I ever imagined! The crit was where I had any chance at seeing podium glory, if I were able to figure out my position. For most of the race I had no trouble cruising the front keeping close to the fast superstar junior women. The pace was fast but the Farm Team controlled the front keeping their rockstar Emma White protected. I went for some sprint points on lab 15 to go, but decided not to go for it again on 5 to go in hopes to be ready for a counter attack. Nothing happened and we all stayed together. Moving into the last lap I was sitting third wheel when I all of a sudden was swarmed on either side. Getting trapped in I wasn’t able to safely get myself back into the position to go for it in the final sprint. Bummer. On to the Time Trial. I opted to use a heavier powertap wheel so that I could pace myself through this effort. I was hoping to improve last years time and I absolutely did! I stayed steady and conservative to get through to mile 7. Then I started dumping out any power I had left in my legs to escape getting caught by riders behind me. I didn’t get caught until about 1 k to go and it was Katherine on her super Aero TT bike on a downhill that caught me. I was happy I made it that far before I saw her!  Overall I improved my time by 4 minutes compared to last year! Zoom zoom!

The road race was bright and early in the morning so the team got an early dinner and headed back to the B&B for a little movie night. We watched Pretty Women and were safely in bed at an extremely early hour for a Saturday night.

8:30 am Start times are the worst. But at least there’s not a lot of time to get nervous about things. Last year I started in the back and was totally sketched out by people pack riding skills. This year I sat in the front and made sure I stayed there until we hit the climbs. This was a good strategy since someone crashed out three women just after the start line. We took the scenic route to the climb, literally, the lead motorcycle led us to the wrong road.  The climb broke up the field and I sadly watched the front group climb away, again, but they didn’t get terribly far. I was able to stay in the middle. Melissa Lafleur and I found ourselves together and spent the rest of the race pacelining through and picking up riders along the way. I took my first feed while moving by BONK! Support. This was exciting since I can only use my left hand to do it. I was happy I didn’t crash.  With 5 k to go I was ready to get off the bike and started going a little faster to push the pace a tiny bit. Near the finishing 1km mark Melissa attacked our group and tried to sprint away, I thought “oh fun! :) ” and got on her wheel. I finished fast up the hill because all I wanted to do was get off the bike. I was so happy to be done for the day and as soon as I crossed the line I had to rip the helmet and shoes off and lie down immediately. Everything was hurting! I think I finished 30 mins faster than the year before.

FYI This is tricky when you can only use your left hand.

Results:

Tour of the Dragons – TT (May 5 2012) Women 3/4 : Katherine Snell 9 / 33, Elizabeth Cummings 14 / 33, Mary Hynes Johanson 15 / 33, Julianne Oberle 18 / 33, Carrie Mosher 31 / 33, Lisa Ludwig 33 / 33

Women Pro 1/2 : Jacqueline Zider 25 / 29

 

Tour of the Dragons – Crit (May 5 2012) Women 3/4 : Julianne Oberle 10 / 33, Katherine Snell 13 / 33, Elizabeth Cummings 14 / 33, Mary Hynes johanson 28 / 33, Carrie Mosher 31 / 33, Lisa Ludwig 33 / 33

Women Pro/1/2: Jacqueline Zider 26 / 29

 

Tour of the Dragons – RR (May 6 2012) Women 3/4 : Mary Hynes Johanson 11 / 29, Elizabeth Cummings 15 / 29, Julianne Oberle 18 / 29, Katherine Snell 26 / 29, Lisa Ludwig 28 / 29, Carrie Mosher 29 / 29

Women Pro/1/2: Jacqueline Zider 27 / 29

 

Tour of the Dragons – GC (May 6 2012) Women 3/4 : Elizabeth Cummings 11 / 29, Mary Hynes Johanson 16 / 29, Julianne Oberle 18 / 29, Katherine Snell 26 / 29 , Lisa Ludwig 29 / 29, Carrie Mosher 28 / 29

Women Pro/1/2: Jacqueline Zider 27 / 29

 

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