After an incredible week of riding with our sponsors in the mountains and along the beautiful coast surrounding Thousand Oaks California at team camp, the race team was prepped and excited for the first stage race since the early season trek to Redlands Bicycle Classic.
Although some had to sit this trip out to due some post camp illness, a small but mighty group of four men and four women headed down to Walla Walla, Washington for this year’s edition of the Tour of Walla Walla. Our regular support crew having also been taken down by the camp plague of 2019, we were mostly flying solo, but were super grateful to have Callie come down as DS for the weekend, despite not being able to race due to injury.
After settling into our respective host houses on Thursday night and getting prepped for the weekend to come, the team convened Friday morning for Stage 1: Wilson Hollow Time Trial. This year the TT was Merckx style, meaning no time trial bikes or bars permitted, only road bikes and tough forearms to put your weight on as you fly along the rolling 11km out and back course.
The men headed out first, and all had good rides in stage 1. After this stage however we were down by two more men as health was not 100% there by this point. The women rolled to the start of the TT just as the rain started, but luckily it didn’t start coming down heavily until after cool down. All the women had impressive time trial performances, and going into stage 2 our guest rider and local Vancouver crusher Claire was sitting 3rd in GC, and I was sitting in 5th. We all headed “home” to rest up before the evening road race.
Stage 2 was the Waitsburg Road Race, and things got super exciting as the women began to bring the heat early on. We started launching attacks, taking turns and forcing the pack to chase us down repeatedly. Eventually a few started sticking, notably we had Brenna get away and she had a solo break for around 15kms of the first lap.
Things slowly came back together on the climb going into the second and final 35km loop, and Jasmine and Claire were both immediately active to continue TRTs aggressive strategy. After the crest of the climb, with my teammates attacks having set things up perfectly, I covered another racer’s launch and quickly got on her wheel. The pack let us go this time, after all the hard efforts that had been put in already. We ended up staying away and working really well together.
My breakaway partner was lower in GC than I was going into the stage, so I knew that by working with her and taking it to the line, we would both move up, but I wouldn’t be in jeopardy of her beating me in the overall unless something unexpected happened. We stayed away right until the finish, and on the final climb, were both hurting but still motivated. I gave my last ounce of energy to get out of the saddle and take the lead in the final 200m, taking the win for TRT. This was exciting in itself, and then a few minutes later we discovered how big our gap had gotten on the field, and found out that I had moved into 1st in GC! The whole team was really excited to have shaken up the overall standings after working so hard and executing a plan perfectly.
The next day, after getting to sleep in a bit, it was time to head into downtown Walla Walla for the third stage which would be a 60 minute criterium on a fun and flowy course.With a relatively small field, we knew it would be best to set a fast pace in the beginning of the race to keep things safe, and somewhat hard.
We raced aggressively starting about 20mins into the race, hoping to set up a break with one of us either solo or with someone a bit lower on GC. That ended up not being in the cards, and the bunch was still together going into the last couple laps.
Claire took to the front for a killer leadout, and I was sitting 3rd wheel. I messed up the final corner a bit after a near crash from a rider beside me, and then gave it my all to sprint to 3rd on the stage. We all had fun and were happy to have avoided the rainy part of the day, which the men’s team unfortunately had to endure for their 90min crit. The team did a great job of working together to support one another, including set up and take down in some iffy and cold conditions.
Sunday, and the final stage, came and went with more than a little excitement. We went into the day with hopes to hold the GC lead, and also to take another stage win. Neither of these ended up happening, but not for lack of a fight!
The whole team gave it their all in the super windy and tough 100km race. An early attack from a very strong racer (who had been leading GC after stage 1) put us to work immediately, and Claire ended up getting up to this break, which was great. The rest of us left in the pack which quickly dwindled in size had the task of chasing, because even though we had a rider up the road, we didn't want the gap to be too big. If the gap had remained under 2:30, it would have moved Claire into 2nd and I would have kept 1st.
Jasmine, Brenna and myself, along with a few other super strong racers, rotated hard for the entire race. In the end, the break had gotten much further ahead than anyone expected, and with it breaking up at 4km to go, Claire finished a little bit back from the leader, coming 2nd on the stage. Jasmine and I set it up for me to take the “bunch” win and 3rd on the stage. TRT was then moved into 2nd and 3rd overall to finish off the weekend, which everyone was super happy and proud of!
Part of bike racing is dealing with unexpected scenarios and doing everything in the team’s power to come out with the wanted results. We certainly did that on the day, and came up just a little bit short of the win, but smiling all the same. The experience of holding a jersey at a stage race for my first time was super fun, and I was so lucky to be there with a team who put everything out on the road to defend it.
A big thank you must also go out to our wonderful host families, to Allegro Cycling and volunteers for the event, and to all the supporters of TRT racing for making this successful weekend possible!