2015 Chico Stage Race
Saturday-Sunday Feb 28-Mar 1
Amy Cameron with Julie Cushen & Shelagh Fritz
Road Race - A 45-mile loop with several rollers, excellent to fair pavement and approximately 4 miles of the famous Paskenta gravel.
Crit - An L-shaped course, with six corners and good pavement.
TT - Flat out 10-miler, 2 right turns
Julie - DNF 2014 (flatted on the TT course. I hear they found her throwing rocks at trees on the side of the road later!)
Shelagh - 12th 2014
Chilly but warm enough for the road race Saturday; Sunday chilly/windy on the crit and just plain windy on the TT.
* Team - Work together, communicate
* Personal - Race smart
RR - be near the front going into the gravel, go with an attack/break
Crit - stay near the front, out of trouble
Stage 1 - Road Race, 45 miles
The (in)famous Patenska gravel loomed large on this one, and with it coming just 12 miles in, we knew it would make a difference. About 30 women rolled out and the pace went between fast-ish and hit-the-brakes slow for the first 10 miles. Clearly nothing was going to happen before the gravel, so we just played it cool, hanging around the front third of the pack.
Leading up to the gravel, the pace picked up and we established decent positions, though not together - I was on the left side of the road, Shelagh toward the middle, and Julie on the right. On the first stretch, Julie got cut-off/bumped and went down with a couple others, which caused the group to shift left as I was following a wheel moving quickly up the left side. I got bumped into the deep dirt, lost speed and traction, but stayed upright and tried to move back to shallower gravel as the pack went by. Shelagh looked great, moving through smooth and steady toward the front. Once I re-established a good line, I started chasing back on, until after a couple miles I made it to Shelagh's group. Two women were off the front by that point. I picked up the pace and lead a group of 4 out of the gravel - 2 Metromint and 1 Chico Masters. Meanwhile, Julie had pulled herself up, hopped back on the bike and begun her monster chase (establishing a new threshold in the process!); Shelagh was with another small group chasing mine.
With a Metromint in the break, my two Minty companions (Leslie and Tiina) weren't in the mood to help out, so Chico and I took long turns pulling our chase group, with me periodically yelling at the Minties to pull through in the wind. No surprise, they didn't respond to my "encouragement." After 15 miles or so, Chico got tired of our group dynamic and attacked, quickly opening up a gap. L & T then agreed to work together so we set up a rotating pace line and *mostly* they worked. Chico dangled ahead, but the two in the break were long gone. In the last 5k Chico was looking back a ton and it was pretty clear it would be possible to catch her. With 1k to go the road pitched up and I attacked, passed Chico, and left the two Metromints behind. Good enough for 3rd.
Shelagh was in a chase of my chase group with one other rider, torn between knowing I was up ahead and not wanting to bring people up, and wanting to stay away from the pack behind to get a better time. Her duo realized the pack was closing in so they joined the bigger group, but she skipped some pulls and didn't work too hard. Olivia had given us a heads up about attacking with 1k to go, so Shelagh went for it there and sprinted in for 10th.
Julie busted her ass all the way in after losing the pack in the gravel. She says, "I went into put-your-head-down-chase-and-never-look-back mode, which ended up being super dumb because there was actually a group of 3 behind me working together that could see me the whole time and ended up catching me 5 miles from the finish when I bonked. If I'd only looked back and let up enough to join them we could have all worked together and I probably would have fared much better than I had by myself, especially with the wind and the fact that the groups in front of me were chasing/not letting up at all and I was never going to catch them by myself. Being a stage race, I would have also saved much more energy this way for the next day. A call that could be made either way depending on circumstances but I should have been more aware." Wise words.
Stage 2 - Crit, 30 mins
Your typical 3/4 crit - no breaks, sketchy cornering, stop-go speeds, and a crash in the last corner. Highlights: Shelagh set a really nice, strong pace for the first few laps out front and narrowly lost a prime sprint. Julie sprinted for the wine prime (yes!) before grabbing her spot on the podium with a 3rd place finish and some Chico redemption! I rolled in 6th and we all stayed safe.
Stage 3 - TT, 10 miles flat
Wind was the name of the game for the final stage. Julie was the first of our group to start and she crushed it, passing 6 women in front of her, snagging 5th (more redemption after flatting last year) and moving up in the GC! Shelagh battled it out on her road bike (also gutsy!) and I wobbled my way to 9th with just enough cushion to retain 3rd in GC.
* Our first stage race of the year was great fun (despite crashes, etc). Spending time together, talking through the races, and then racing together definitely brought us closer and got us even more excited about the season.
* Position on that gravel was absolutely the key to the road race.
* Julie is cleared (and totally ready) for crits now!
*Our New Balance podium shoes are awesome. We got a bunch of compliments for being matchy-matchy!