Argghhhh, I really haven’t had so much hesitation and worry leading up to a road race before. Before this year, I didn’t really care where I placed, I knew I’d be down in the last half of the pack and it was just all exciting and new. I started like that this year, then the Boulder Roubaix happened and I pulled out a 5th place finish… so that led to expectations for Koppenberg. After all, it is “my” race, or so a lot of people tell me. Half dirt, and includes a steep, rutted dirt climb that approaches 20% grades at certain points over that tenth of a mile – easy for a mountain biker to tackle! Suddenly I was really worried about how I would do as I didn’t want the Boulder Roubaix result to be a fluke.
Since I was staying with my teammate Brittany due to all the team activities that weekend, I didn’t have a long drive from Wyoming which was nice. I quickly got ready and headed out, opting to grab breakfast near the venue in Superior at McDonald’s… until I pulled up and all the employees were outside and they were explaining they were closed. OMG, do you realize how many other McDonald’s I had passed?! UGH! I noticed an Albertsons next door, so I ran in and grabbed two donuts, a chocolate milk, and a banana. Thanks McDonald’s, I’m pretty sure you just caused me to eat something even worse for breakfast 😛
I didn’t really do a big warm up… Wendy and I rode out to the start of the dirt to see what all the hoopla was about regarding supposedly muddy conditions. Mud, whatever. Mud would’ve made it fun! No mud to be found… the dirt was kinda soft, just enough to be a bit power sucking. Not wanting to repeat last year’s rendition of Koppenberg where I got forced back at the starting line by all the girls on large teams, I staked my claim on the front row. Whistle went off and I fumbled clipping in, but was out in the lead pack. Unlike last year where we stayed together until the climb, it was all out right from the beginning with no uniform peloton. It was ON!
The road was rough and we all seemed to give each other enough space to maneuver around the bumps and larger gravel hunks. They had put straw down on the right hand line of the hill, but none on the left. I’m not a fan of riding on straw/hay (and I admit, I wanted to show off some dirt climbing skills), so as we hit the bottom of the hill I went to the left line and just flew… seriously, one of the most surreal moments on a bike ever… I averaged 395 watts during that tenth of a mile climb, and it didn’t hurt at all. My legs spun fast and powerful, and I had such an insane concentration on the road in front of me that everything was silent and I didn’t notice everyone else on the right side, except I knew I was passing each and every one of them. Yep, the Hill is MY HILL!
So I thought I had a teammate, Ava, that had gone off the front, so once I crested the top of the hill I took off, determined to catch the phantom in purple in front of me… except there was no one. I was essentially in a solo break 5 minutes into the road race, ha! The dirt portion on top of the climb was super rough, then pavement for a fast downhill into a corner. It wasn’t until Marshall Rd that Ava and another teammate, Gayle, caught up to me. Crap, Ava was behind me the whole time! Had I really gone on a couple mile solo break on the first lap?!
The Naked Train rolled through the start/finish and we started lap two of the 3-lap, 15.5 mile circuit race (I really need to be a cat 3 so I can race more miles…). A few more girls latched on, notably Wendy and Natalia, and then Errin and someone else I didn’t know. The second time up the hill was a bit more frustrating for me personally as I was behind people and I just can’t grind out climbs at a slow cadence, so about halfway up I was able to safely transition through the center rut to the right hand side and get up my pace. I heard Shawn say “You need to be in front next time, Heidi!” and I replied “I know,” to which some spectators laughed.
We rolled through for the final lap, and it was whittled down to Gayle, Wendy, Ava, Natalia, and me from Naked, and then Errin… poor Errin, the lone brave one on the Naked Train! Shortly in Wendy mouthed to me, “Let’s go!” and took off like crazy in a break. I couldn’t quite follow, as I was in the pack so the rest of us stayed together. Once again I couldn’t get out front on the climb, but I was more patient this time. Ava dropped back after the climb, so it was Wendy way out front, and Gayle, Natalia, Errin, and I in the chase group. There’s two high speed corners (aka you enter at more than 30mph) that scared the crap out of me so I’d always drop off a bit, but quickly regrouped. I knew the final corner, which lead into the finishing straight, would probably seal the deal for me in not being on the podium, but I still tried anyway!
We came out of the final corner, and it was clear Wendy would win so the sprints were on for the rest of the podium. I finally sat up shortly before the finish as I knew I was solid for 5th place so no sense in continuing to sprint for nothing once I saw no one behind me… woohoo, I finally knew Boulder Roubaix wasn’t a fluke, and realized this roadie racing stuff has worked out well for me!
As a team we ended up 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 11th out of a field of 19… can you say dominating?
So wow… road season has been quite the surprise this year! I had no idea I’d be placing where I’ve been placing, and now I’m kind of sad I don’t have too much more road stuff planned. I’m now debating the Superior Morgul road race in a few weeks, but it’s quite expensive, and lacks dirt. And I like dirt! So we’ll see…