All I can really say about Redlands is HOLY SHIT!!!!!!!!!!! Seriously, that was the craziest race I have ever done!! It put to shame everything I have ever done, honestly it makes Utah races (and even regional races for that matter) seem like riding around on tricycles in comparison! Lining up with some of the fastest girls in the US and in the world was an incredible experience. These girls are my heros, the names I've read about, heard incredible stories about, and the girls I have always looked up to! Now I was lined up right with them. Intimidating to say the least, and that was before the race even started!! Those girls can really ride their bikes and are absolutely insane (and fit as hell!!)
It all started on Thursday with the 3.1 mile long uphill prologue. It is hard not to feel intimidated and like a bit of a scrub as all the pro teams roll up in their sweet team vans/buses/cars etc. fully loaded with the best bikes, mechanics, and team directors there are! I did okay, not my best and my legs weren't feeling very responsive and climby like they usually do but I was okay with 32nd out of over 100 girls, 1:30 down from the leader Amber Neben, the world time trial champion (at first I wasn't okay with it, I was really bummed, and then I realized I needed to calm down cuz it was my first NRC race ever and I was only there for the experience).
HTC has some sweet stuff!
I'd die to be on Tibco, they have some amazing girls!
They weighed and measured each bike before the prologue. One of my teammates bikes was too light so they taped a chain and allen wrench to it! It was hilarious!
The starting ramp for the prologue!
The one and only Ina! She is something else! Two time winner of Redlands and man is she FIT!!
Amber Neben took the stage win yet again (she isn't the world time trial champion for nothing!) Her bike is sweeet!!
Stage 1 (a 65 mile road race with a little bit of everything) was balls out from the beginning even in the neutral roll out! There were girls hitting pot holes with water bottles flying everywhere!! Those chicks will push you right into a curb and not think twice just to get around you. I'm not gonna lie, I was completely terrified for the first 30 minutes, until I realized I needed to hold my own and stop being such a wuss! I tried to stay in the front when we were climbing, one of the climbs they call "little Europe" because it weaves through these tiny streets and gets really narrow. The first time up it I was in the front climbing next to Carmen, Mara Abbot and Amber Neben, pretty good company!! The course wasn't too technical so I stuck with the main pack and had a pack finish, and left with a whole new respect for racing...which grew more and more with each stage!
The start/finish of Stage 1
The Pro men racing Stage 1
I sure love to carbo-load at the Spaghetti factory!:)
Ice bath survival!!
My big failure came with the crit! This was my first big crit ever and I had good intentions to do what so many people had told me to, but somehow everything went totally wrong and I did just about the opposite. I got to the gate about 30 minutes early so I'd be in good position to line up (which everyone told me to do), only to find out at the last minute that I was at the wrong gate! So of course I was in the back row of the starting pack at the crit, AND in the freakin middle! I didn't stand wide enough or stick my elbows out nearly far enough because people pushed passed me like I wasn't even there! To make matter worse they shot the gun and I, of course, couldn't get clipped in! So everyone raced past me and I didn't catch up till the first corner where I was at the VERY back of the pack! This course was 1 mile, with 9 turns, not exactly my style and with hardly any place to move up! There was only one long stretch and it was through the start/finish, which happened to be a false flat with a seriously unforgiving headwind!! I was screwed!! I knew I only had to make it 40 minutes to make the time cut and race the final stage so that was my goal, and a heart breaking goal at that, I never wanted to settle for just making the time cut. I chased on after almost every corner and battled on that long false flat just to hold on, I've never been so spent in my life! I made it to 40 minutes and then with 9 laps to go for the group I fell off the back and they pulled me. I cried like a baby right as I got off the course because I was really disappointed in myself, and really embarrassed. I'd just gotten dropped in front of all of my heros and it hurt pretty bad!
Pure HELL...I mean the crit course ;)
After the first road race I'd thought I'd learned what racing with the pros really was...but the final stage on the sunset loop changed everything and taught me a hell of a lot more than the first road race did. We had a car right in front of the pack for the neutral roll out to make sure it really was neutral, since the first days neutral roll out rolled along at a good 35 miles an hour, not so neutral! As soon as the cars pulled off it was absolute madness!!!! The first KOM was around mile 9 up the climb so they were gunning it!! And I mean GUNNING it!! What I didn't know was that within those first miles of climbing was some CRAZY technical descents that led to more climbing! I hung on in the front 10 of the pack up the first climb, hit the first super technical descent and got passed by most the field because I am such a chicken and don't have the technical skills to descend with them...it was heartbreaking! I held onto the back of the pack through the next climb that was a lot longer and more sustained watching one rider after the next get dropped off at the crazy pace they were climbing. I moved my way up a little bit and was feeling good, until we came to a wonderful descent with a crazy high percent grade!! Most people hate climbing and love descending...NOT me, I would sooo much rather be going uphill than down! Those girls cruised down that mountain like there was no tomorrow, one girl took a corner into some gravel and landed FACE FIRST on the ground. If I wasn't scared enough before than, that sure did the trick and I was off the back yet again!! I chased and chased and that is pretty much how the sunset loop went for me! Got dropped on every descent and chased on on every climb! The pack got completely shattered and the finishing group only had 10 girls in it and they were 15 minutes ahead of the next group of 10! It was absolute insanity!! I don't even know how to explain it, there are no words!! All I can say is that I REALLY need to learn to descend and I need some SERIOUS technical skills and the ability to remove all fear from brain as I cruise down a mountain in a pack of 50-100 people at 65 mph...yeah that's not scary at all!! Sheesh!! It did give me the fire to get better because I want so badly what all of those girls have!! I've never wanted something more in my life, I want to be with that pack of ten that sprints it out in the hardest stage of the hardest NRC race, and I would do just about anything to get there!! I was heart broken being at the back of the pack because I want so badly to be able to ride with those girls! And someday I will, I'm more determined now than I have ever been to get better and reach that level!! Redlands is a beautiful place, and it smells like orange blossoms everywhere! It was an incredible experience...incredibly painful, incredibly heartbreaking, and incredibly inspiring!!
I'm obviously not a light packer!
Our lovely hotel!
My flight left on Monday morning and my team left Sunday night so I had this lovely king size bed all to myself!!:) After riding to chipotle to get a burrito that weighed 10 lbs, and to starbucks (sorry Matt;) for my much needed Chai and chocolate chip cookie, and cuddling up to watch "Home Alone," I was a happy and completely exhausted girl!!
Home sweet home!
I can't wait to go back and prove that I can do it!! You may have gotten me to cry like a baby, but it's not over Redlands!! :)