Ramblings, musings and generally boring stuff. Mostly about bikes...

Monday, June 1, 2009

O'Fallon Grand Prix 2009

Saturday, May 30 was my second (annual) O'Fallon Grand Prix.(That's me hiding behind the Metro-East Cycling girl. See my white helmet?!?)

I love this twisty, turn-y road race in rural Illinois. So I was pretty sad when I woke to the sound of rain....solid, thunderstorm-type rain. After a brief attempt to talk Phil out of going (unsuccessfully), I got my proverbial and literal Sh*t together and we headed off to O'Fallon.

Just as we arrived, the rain stopped! The Sun peaked it's head out! The humidity increased! Oh, well, two out of three ain't bad.

Cory and Jay pulled into the parking lot in front of us. I was happy to see Cory and excited to hear that she would be racing with me.

As I registered for the Women's Cat 4 race, I noticed some of the other names on the list. We were up to 9 or 10 at that point and the list included Gina Champion (Team Mack), Natalie Carrol (Dogfish), Lauren Half (Dogfish), Susan Kloha, Cristel Santiago and Kate Keeler (Ghisallo), The Suzanne's from Veloforce, Gina Richards (Big Shark). Cory Redmond (Fulcrum coaching) registered just after me. Ouch, some tough racers in that group.

We got ready at a nice pace, took wheels to the wheel trucks, warmed up and headed to the start. The Pro 1,2 had already started.
We noodled around and made small talk as we waited. At first, we were mixed in with the Women's open. I like to guess who's a 4 and who's in the open, but it always makes me more anxious. I started to notice that the great majority of these ladies were in my race. (we had 19 total, whereas the women's open had 6!).

Since I procrastinated writing about this until several days later, some of the finer points of the race are now forever wiped from my memory. There are some interesting and somewhat inconsequential parts I DO remember.

1). As we were waiting for our start and Sharmin, our lead official, was making the obligatory announcements, an ARCH helicopter landed in the field next to the start. I felt both completely freaked out and relieved - if it's possible for both of those to exist in the same second! It took a few seconds to realize that it was there just in case, and not due to a crash in one of the fields that had already gone off.

2). The first thing I noticed during our neutral roll out was that someone had lost their wattage meter computer thing. We rode over it near the start. I also noticed Gina had the same kind on her bike and like the BIG DORK that I am, I suggested that she stop for it so she could have an extra!

3). Just after we passed the "Begin Race" sign, scrawled in pen and attached to a street sign, I was at the front and commented to Gina (Team Mack) that there was a big garage sale in the neighborhood we were passing and we could all just pull off and go shopping. (I am firmly planting myself in BIG DORK category here!)

4). After the first turn, I look up the road and notice what appears to be a dog, running across the road. I immediately think that it's the kind of dog that is going to chase us as we pass. When someone goes charging past me from behind, I initially think she's trying to outrun the dog. I realize, simultaneously, that she is attacking AND it's a FOX, not a dog. I can't help but verbalize the later as we pass. I jump and cover attack 1 (I think Cory may have tried to go with her).
We head into turn 2 and Anona (Wild Card) attacks again.

5). There is a pattern beginning to form. Anona attacks at every hill and turn. We scramble to cover. I drift to the middle/back of the pack.

6). There is a hill. It's longer than expected and hurts. The field splits up. I chase to get back on. I pass Susan Kloha and Suzanne Johnson. We bridge, only to see the 1k to the sprint sign. ARGh. I am toast.

7.) I watch Suzanne Woodard sprint with Anona and Gina. I yell "Go Suzanne". As this is happening, I am trying to bridge, again, to the back of the front group (I'd fallen off again as they ramped up to sprint). I am on Suzanne Johnson's wheel and realize that as I am cheering on Suzanne Woodard, Suzanne Johnson thinks I am yelling at her. We sort this out, I get on her wheel and she bridges us up in one smooth acceleration. Our group has been thinned to 11. (Anona/Wild Card, Gina/Mack, Gina/Big Shark, Kate/Ghisallo, Cristel/Ghisallo, Suzannex2/Veloforce, Susan/St. Louis Tri Club, Lauren/ Dogfish, Natalie/Dogfish & Me).

8). We go down a hill and I see a Turkey. I say, aloud, "Oh, look, a Turkey!"

9.) Later, we go down another hill and pass something that looks like a hunk of wood. As we go around it, some one comments and I recognize the "wood" as an upside down Turtle. I am sad about this! I hope someone saw it and turned it over.

10). We go through the tunnel. It's not as bad as I think it'll be. There's a hill afterward and someone attacks (again). I am climbing and realize I am hovering over my saddle. My legs feel strangely good and very strong. I don't get dropped! Our group of 11 strings out but stays together.

11). I stay at the back. I watch as Anona and Gina trade attacks. I comment to Lauren (Dogfish) about how predictable they are getting. We slow to a near stop on the flats. Anona questions if anyone else is going to pull. I comment, from the back, that we should not be so eager to pull because she will just rest and attack again. Natalie moves to the front to pull. Within 2 minutes, this happens.

12). We are on the flats with about 6 miles to go (?). I am still at the back of the pack. Suddenly, there is swerving ahead and the next thing I know Natalie is in a ditch filled with water on the side of the road!. Cristel also went down. Someone to my right barely avoids getting tangled up. I brake, look at Natalie, look up the road. Gina, Anona and Gina are quickly getting away. I take off after them.
Suzanne x2 and Tri girl join me. We quickly catch Gina/Big Shark, who didn't quite bridge to Gina/Mack and Anona/Wild Card. We're all tired and wheels aren't as steady. There's a headwind.

13). We go down a hill and up a short one. It hurts but it's short enough that the hurt doesn't last.

14). There are two SLOW moving trucks in front of us. We can't go around. One is a wheel truck and the driver pulls over to let us pass. The other is a citizen. He's slowing to stay behind a Cat 5 racer. We are screwed. The lead group is getting further and further up the road. Suzanne (x1) goes around the truck on the left! (we'll discuss this later). The rest of us stay back and the truck pulls off the road into a drive way. We surge forward and I catch Suzanne. We climb the last hill. She's strong and I make a note just to try to stay on her wheel. We give a steady climb and at the top, I ready myself to chase her sprint. BUT - Suzanne sits up! I hear someone behind me adding gears. I go for it.
I find myself passing Suzanne. The noises from behind me become more distant. I can't believe it, I am going for 3rd! Then I realize I will be finishing right in the middle of the women's open pack as they complete their first lap. Since there's no one close behind me, I kind of sit up, allow some space between me and the Women's Open and make my number as visible as possible as I cross the line.
I want to make sure my 3rd place finish is seen!!

Wow, this podium stuff is starting to become addictive! what an awesome race.

Cristel ended up taking the wheel truck in. She was pretty banged up and there was fear of a torn calf muscle (I think it was sprained). Natalie broke her frame in two places. The top tube was nearly broken through. But she finished! After the race, we realized that she had borrowed my wheel from the truck to finish on.
I'm glad I could help and even more glad that I didn't have to battle it out with her in the last 6 miles. I'm not so sure I would have gotten 3rd!

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