After last year’s highly acclaimed “Woodstock Firebelly” blog, I got many requests for a blog after this year’s Women’s Woodstock Cycling Grand Prix. Well, bad news folks, as I had to tell my host house mommy Joanne in answer to her question the moment I walked in: I had no upset stomach, and no chemical concoction of horror inside of me this year. SORRY TO DISAPPOINT!
But, my trip was not without drama. If you read my last blog about P2A, you may have noted my foreshadowing: waiting until the days before the event to swap chainrings. Not a huge deal. Well, before WWCGP I waited until the days before to redo my bottom bracket and swap from 10-speed mechanical to 11-speed Di2. BUT I WAS ACTUALLY WORKING HARD ON THE PROCESS BEFORE THE RACE I SWEAR! First, I had to decide to bite the bullet and get Di2 (last year I also recabled my bike last minute due to a complete frayed and unusable rear shift cable, thus, I was being proactive on all future recabling fronts). THEN I had to get the Di2. I bought a used bike with used Di2, so all I had to do was take it off one bike and bolt it onto the other. I also had to special order my bottom bracket (BB) stuff. When I was all set to work on my road bike I had to do the CX ring swap, so you see that by now I am weeks into the process.
The week of the event I start the swap, and hey, this is going well, minus some internal routing struggles. So here I am, Wednesday night and all of my wires are threaded and mechanisms bolted on. All I need to do is replace the BB and do the alignment for the derailleurs and I am good to go. Wait. I need epoxy for this bottom bracket? And it needs to cure!? Stores are closed so I get the epoxy Thursday morning, set it and cure it while I am at work (there was some drama with that, too, as the epoxy cured too quickly and I got the cups in all crooked-like and, just, omg), and come home Thursday night for the fine-tuning of things.
Long story short, it is not wise to “fine tune” a strange system late at night the day before you leave for an event. I decide that I will try to take it to a shop Friday morning, they should be able to 1) quickly adjust, or 2) tell me it is beyond repair/I need new parts, and in that case I would simply not race. I went to work expecting to drop my bike off once the shops opened at 10. Guess what, one shop in the area has no one that can work on Di2 (this is 2017), and the other couldn’t look at the bike until 1PM, my expected time of departure. So, I formally withdrew from the race. There were emails, tweets, frustration and sadness.
The worst part is that I knew that this was my fault for not taking the time to do right myself or asking for help early enough. So I was sulking at work, my bike in my car, sad to miss this event. The girls at work couldn’t get anything done because the air was so thick with tension, so they told me to bring my bike home so Nick could look at it with fresh eyes. I was reluctant, knowing that him working on my bike meant he was not working on real-life work. Alas, I take it home. And yea, he fixes it. He made a call to Drew, CX mechanic extraordinaire, who helped him troubleshoot the rear mech, and then figured out what was missing s0 the front mech didn’t work, and he fabricated a fix. Even if the figuring out how to make it work wasn’t a big task in itself, the taking his (at this point) many nights and now a workday to make it work is incredible. The final product was not pretty, but was functional.
Because of his work, I was able to come home, pack up, and hit the road. I stayed with the same hosts as last year (again, reassuring them there was no belly-terror), but they were hosting a second rider, Sharon of the Minutemen Road Club. This was her first time doing the race and we chatted a bit about the course and “tactics”. Frankly, I had no tactics. I didn’t recognize any big teams or big riders like last year, and I was excited to see my usual break-mate Cheryl Clark was signed up! We also discussed what to wear for 60 degrees and rain….
The question did remain: What would happen at the top of Mead’s “Mountain” where the break happened last year?
That morning I ate a good breakfast (already totally beating what happened last year) of eggs and steel-cut oats prepared by papa William. I even managed to park my car without incident!! Though I am curious what volcano erupted to create such an ashy and gross parking lot….
After Billy from Overlook Mountain Bicycles checked my bike out to make sure it wouldn’t overtly injure me (did I mention I drove 4 hrs to Woodstock, NY without even riding the bike down my driveway?), I was ready for the start!
The group was aggressive in a different way than last year: the pace was never super low, and there were constant attacks, but each time someone went, the group as a whole went to chase them down. Last year a break went early and I spent over 20 minutes at threshold chasing them down. This year, it was steady rolling. The course was a little different this year because the construction that altered the course last year was done, and they added a series of 3 QOMs to determine the overall QOM winner, not just Meads. The first QOM was at mile 20, and I headed towards the front of the pack to make sure I didn’t get gapped off. Though I wasn’t really trying to get it, a test of the legs let me get the 1st QOM and string the field out a little.
Here is a link to a drone video of the group headed up to the QOM line
The pace remained high for the few miles leading up to the base of Mead’s Mountain (1.8 miles averaging 11%), and I wanted to be at the front for the climb this year instead of at the back like last. I know that the last bit of the climb is the worst and if you played catch-up up to there then you were toast. Before we hit the base, the rain comes, and it is coming down hard. Once we start climbing, I take off my glasses and then immediately drop them. Byyyeeee Lazerssss!!! I am battling with Cheryl for a while, but soon I gap her and I am alone for the most miserable part of the climb. Last year I was chasing Emma and having someone to chase makes it a little bit easier to stay motivated. Between the rain and the pain, my ascent was 40 seconds slower than last year (this year was 15:24).
I get to the top solo, unsure of my gap, and I take the true reward of that QOM: a solo descent. In the rain, for me, this was a true gift, because with no glasses the rain stung my eyes so badly I could barely keep them open. With the potholes and sharp turns, I am glad I didn’t have to throw other riders into the mix.
Once the decent was over, my moto man told me he would work on getting me a time gap. 40 seconds. There were 3 chasers and then the field was further back. I knew Cheryl was a chaser, and I knew she was smart enough to get the group to work and strong enough to bring me back with them. I wasn’t waiting for anyone, but I wasn’t charging hard for a solo effort because I was at mile 26 of a 62 mile race. The gap was slowly coming down, a few seconds per mile, and I decide that if I can stick it out alone until the sprint line at mile 45.7, I get $125 and that was worth the effort. On the long road going by Catamount (there is a mountain lion on the sign and I love looking at that while riding) I know they are close. Once I cross the sprint line, I see Cheryl’s orange helmet over my shoulder. “It was good while it lasted” I said. I almost sat up. 20 miles solo, with 3 chasers, and 20 miles to go. I almost sat up. “If I keep going tempo, I may be a bit tired when they get me, but they will be more tired chasing me at tempo than I will be recovered if I sit up”, so I keep going. The last gap I heard was 25 seconds, and then it was 33. Then 37. Then 40. And then, at the top of an intermediate hill, 57 seconds. I knew they had given up! If I didn’t bonk or mechanical, I could win!!!!
Though the last QOM was hell, and the last hill before the finish worse than that, I had done it. Winning was secondary to my being pleased that I had stuck to my guns and fought it out for the solo 40 miles.
I was wet, muddy, and sore. I partook in some free food and chocolate milk, hung out at the awards ceremony, and then was MORE than pleased that my gracious hosts allowed me to return to their home so I could shower before the car ride home. Rain+sweat is a gross combination.
I want to thank Martin and the crew for another great event. I want to thank Nick for getting me there, and my hosts William and Joanne for dealing with me like I were family. I also want to thank those for showed up for the event. And for those that didn’t, COME NEXT YEAR AND PLAY HILLS WITH US!!!!!!