No matter how well training goes over the winter, training just never seems to be the same as racing. In Vancouver, Spring Series provides a great opportunity to get a little racing in the legs before heading to bigger races like Redlands. This year, however, the stars aligned allowing me to kick the 2015 season off a little earlier in New Zealand. Riding for a composite team, I opened up my race day account for 2015 at the Trust House Women’s Tour of New Zealand with five solid days of racing.
Stage 1: 15km Team Time Trial
Team time trials are always interesting - trying to combine the efforts of individual riders and produce the fastest team time over a course isn't the easiest task. It’s even more interesting when it’s the first race of the season, everyone isn't really sure how they’re going and most of the team hadn't ridden together before – until that morning’s pre-ride.
All things considered we put together a pretty good ride, finished as a team and everyone stayed up right.
Stage 2: 140km, Masterton-Martinborough-Masteron
If you stayed upright on Stage 2 it wasn't the most exciting day of bike racing. It was slow at times, which for the first bunch race of the year almost makes it more stressful as everyone gets jittery at low speed. Unfortunately, there were two big crashed that left a few people behind – some on miniature spare bikes (like my teammate Amber), some riding in on broken bikes and some pretty banged up. The front end of the race splintered a few times and it was fun to play bikes at the front end of a race for a few kilometres, but eventually everyone decided it was going to be a bunch kick and the US took their second stage win in a row.
Stage 3: 130km, Carrington Circuit
It had felt a little funny being back on the bunch the day before, but I had been up at the front and involved in the action when there was some – so figured that the second road stage would be better. If anything it got worse.
Every lap I would think that I had gotten myself in decent position for the circuit climb, and then every lap after the turn into the climb I would find myself in a bubble of riders going backwards, unable to extricate myself quickly enough to try to ride back to the front of the race. With a few laps to go a group went off the front on the climb (while I was flailing around in the middle of the bunch) and ended up sticking to the end. The the front group had too much firepower to be brought back – and that was the race gone.
Stage 4: 110 km, Queen Stage Admiral Hill
After feeling like I had forgotten how to bike race on Stage 3 and missing the break, I told myself that I had to get my sh*t together for Stage 4. That meant borrowing Amber’s aeropress to make myself a coffee in the morning (not my usual pre-race beverage), and swapping out the composite team shorts for Trek-Red Truck shorts.
Being the Queen stage, with a 12km climb waiting at the end, I didn’t think that the race would start off too quickly – but after yesterday I wasn't going to be caught out at the back. After the first hot spot sprint at 18km into the race we took a left turn, and found ourselves in a strong cross wind. I wasn't in great position, but I was far enough forward to see the US National Team amassing at the front – and realize that I better burn a few matches to move up ASAP. I got close enough to the front in time to see an attack go and latch myself on to the group.
I was rewarded with spending the next 90km in the break on a rather windy and rolling day. The break was a little divided at first, but once the gap went up over a minute, everyone settled in and got to work. We hit the first longer climb (5km) of the day at 50km pretty hard and lost a couple riders (myself nearly included). By the time we hit the finishing climb we still had 1:30 and it looked like the break would make it. I knew from the first climb that I wasn't likely going to have the ability to accelerate with attacks and was just going to have to ride steady in. The front 5 went away and Linda Villumsen and I managed to work together enough to stay ahead of the closing pack. Thankfully the climb went down and leveled out a bit at 4km to go – I was pretty happy to be with a multi-time Worlds TT medalist at that point.
I ended up 6th on the day and definitely had a good day of training.
Stage 5: 120km, Masterton - Alfredton
This stage ended up being a pretty fun day of bike racing. Attacks went from km 0 and the pace stayed up most of the race. None of the attacks worked until one rider got off the front as we were coming up to the two main climbs on the course. The peloton split over the climbs with a group of about 14 riders going off over the first climb. My racing legs seemed to have come around and I managed to get myself into that group – although not prettily. The attacking continued, with Australia and Tibco trying to stick it to the US – but the US still had the numbers advantage and no one was going to get away without a USA rider. That squashed the attacking vigour and allowed the peloton to re-group on the way back to the finish. I was feeling better in the bunch, and managed to work my way up onto the lead out trains and squeeze out a top 10 in the sprint.
Despite taking a few days to find my racing legs and head, it was great to start the racing season in February. Being back racing also got me excited to kick off the North American season with my Trek-Red Truck team mates at Spring Series and Redlands.