After three consecutive successful stage races, the TRT team was eager to play their cards at the 2018 edition of the Tour de Bloom, a four stage event set in the scenic areas surrounding Wenatchee, WA. For the women’s team, these cards were in fewer quantity than at previous races, as only three of us could make the trip down due to various other events at the same time for our racers — Congrats to Michele on an impressive showing at the Redlands Bicycle Classic! — A team of three doesn’t equal disadvantage, but definitely a challenge compared to when the full roster is out in force. The fewer numbers were not fazing anyone, however, and both the way we rode and the results we pulled off impressed many including ourselves.
The stage race began on Friday with the Plain Road Race, which despite its deceiving name included many interesting features such as a 180 degree turn each lap and an intense 2km finishing climb. Unfortunately this race was not the safest, as people were fighting for wheels with unnecessary aggression and not being super aware of their surroundings. This led to a couple pile ups in the elite women’s field, the second of which I was caught behind with nowhere to go. I had time to react and hit the brakes, and thanks to the incredible responsiveness of our Trek Emonda disk brake bikes, I stopped before going down, and came out unscathed. Very sadly, my beautiful Trek Emonda bike wasn’t so lucky. I must have been rear ended pretty hard by another cyclist who couldn't stop as fast, because when I tried to keep riding and chase the group down, there was an awful wobble and I looked down to discover that my seat stay had broken in three places. Able to wiggle the tube back and forth with my fingers like a straw, I figured it was not longer safe to ride, so I set up camp with four other racers in various states of injury or bike mourning to await the fire truck rescue. Although very sad about my bicycle, unsure how I would be able to continue the stage race, and disappointed to have missed out on the finish and not be able to help the team, I was super stoked to find out that Callie had ridden to a second place finish on the stage, with Anna close behind in 6th, setting us up for a strong GC position already. Now it was time to figure out the plan for the rest of the weekend, sans bike. Being the only one who rides a 54cm bike on the whole team, there was no perfect option for a spare, but after some brainstorming and collaboration it was decided that I would continue the weekend using one of the men’s 56cm bikes, and we would swap parts between races to get the fit each of us needed. Colin was so kind as to offer his steed, and so for the rest of the weekend his shiny red race machine got twice the racing time in. The fit wasn’t perfect, but it would do!
The next morning was an early start for us as we headed to the Merckx style TT, an out and back course with a horrendous headwind to spice up the way back. As I warmed up for the stage, my legs protested heavily, but ignoring the pain I tried to focus on the technical aspects and have the best time trial I could. The bigger bike proved fairly comfortable at least for the 15km ride, and I finished up the stage in 7th. Callie had a super strong ride to 3rd, making sure we kept the 2nd place GC after the first two stages. After the speedy parts swap so Colin could get on his trainer, we wished the boys good luck and headed back to the hotel to rest up before the crit later that day. Two stages in one day is always challenging, but at this point in the season everyone is adept at optimizing their recovery and being as fresh as possible for each race. Washington’s local Tillamook cheese, deli meat, and Anna Talman’s unbeatable homemade sourdough bread made up our mid-day nutrition while we took in some high quality television, talked crit strategy, and buckled down for some mid-afternoon naps.
Conveniently staying just kilometres from the downtown course, we rode along the gorgeous Wenatchee river to get to the crit, where Steve and Brian were already located, setting up TRT corner in some prime real estate. After rolling to sign on, getting in some hot laps on the course, and warming up on our smooth as butter Tacx trainers, it was time to get business underway. Word was going around that they were giving big cash primes on the first lap of every race, and we decided before starting that we were getting it. The race started and immediately we were all at the front, givin’ er in style. Anna sprinted to first across the line and to $100 cash, so we had dinner money and then some. This set the tone for a crit of crackling team fireworks. We sprinted to three more cash primes, chased moves down with grace and Anna and Callie each launched moves of their own, making for an aggressive, exciting elite women’s race. When it came down to the last couple laps, I was pretty gassed. Everyone only has so many matches and I was fairly certain I had burned all of mine. However I took motivation from my teammates to get back in position to set up for the finishing sprint. Heaving hard I let the others know I was still alive and on the train. Taking a bit of a shoddy line in the final corner cost me some distance, but I was able to sprint to second in the race. Most importantly we gave it our all and the smiles were big after a really hard 50 minutes of bike riding. It is so fun when the team comes together so cohesively, and for me even more fun when this happens in a crit. It had been a long day, but the guys still had their race in a few short hours, so we grabbed some pizza with some fellow racers before setting up to cheer on the men in their warp speed event. The twilight crit is one of the big attractions of the Tour de Bloom, and we enjoyed it every bit as much as the local spectators. Seeing the men’s team ride to a second place finish in their race was really cool, and luckily they also all avoided a nasty crash that happened in the race.
Sunday morning, and the final road race was on the menu. The Waterville road race is famous for being really windy, making it easy to force riders into the zone of no protection, and making it easy to get pushed into the zone of no protection. You can probably guess which option is preferable. Our goal for the day was a stage win, as we knew bridging the gap to first in GC was not likely, and we really wanted to get the race win as the three previous stages had been swept by fellow BC racer and TRT Alumni Megan Rathwell — now back to back TdB GC winner as well. We have had few opportunities this year to practice leadouts in races, and had not yet executed one perfectly. That changed at the end of the road race. After a super hard 55km in the cross winds, the team got into position for the final couple kms. Callie led, with Anna in second and myself bringing up the end of the train, trying to tell myself I still had legs for the sprint. They completely nailed the timing, driving the pace until it was only us out front. With 200m left, still on Anna’s wheel, there was no one in my peripheral, but I knew it was time to go, so I got out of the saddle and sprinted hard, finally coming across the line in first position. I owe every bit of that to the team effort, and this is why I love bike racing! We were all super happy to have pulled off our goal for the day and to get the feel for a proper lead out. Just wait till there are 6 of us lined up for the finish! We finished the weekend having held on to 2nd in GC, which was really exciting. The Tour de Bloom was full of highs, so thank you so much to all of our sponsors who make it possible to get to these events.
A big thanks to Steve and Brian as well for all the on-site help, and to everyone who puts in their time for the team! Truckin’ eh!