This weekend the team went to the Tour de Bloom in Wenatchee, Washington. The islanders got picked up from the 7am ferry and the road trip started from there. It was not long before we were stopped and outside of our vehicle at the border. The nexus cards this time didn’t help us save time because a few of the cards were deactived. An hour later we were back in the van headed to the apple capitol of the world! On the way down I was able to take advantage of the time and write an English essay. On trips like these when I am missing classes I have to take the opportunity when I am fresh and still have some brain cells to do my homework, especially as exams are approaching.
Our accommodations this year in Wenatchee were the most unique experience, they were at a cross fit gym. We were spread out across the gym floor in sleeping bags and air mattresses. I was lucky enough to make use of their equipment and slept on a high jump mat which almost felt like my own bed. The first morning we were woken up to lights turning on and people working out at 5:30am. Luckily it was about the same time my alarm was set for, to get up and get ready to race!
Tour De Bloom is a three-day stage race with four stages. The first stage being an 85km road race with a 2km hill climb finish, followed by a TT and Criterium on Saturday and the final 55km road race known for the brutal and game changing cross winds. Last time I raced Tour de Bloom I was a U-13, and since then a stage has been added and the courses have been changed. I was super excited for racing to get underway and to race aggressively this weekend with the team.
Our plan going into the first stage of the weekend was to attack and try and get a rider off the front in a break but we realized soon into the race, every move we made was being covered immediately. Despite our effort of attacking and countering attacks we realized we needed to adjust our plan. We knew we had other opportunities to consider at the end of the race, with it being a hill climb finish because we had Jasmine who is a very strong climber.
We were able to organize ourselves at the front of the pack and make it a hard few kilometers out from the base of the climb. We had discussed prior to the race how we wanted to enter the climb if it was still one big group, and Jasmine told us that she felt most confident if it was hard at the base of the climb, so Holly hammered at the bottom of the climb and completely splintered the field, followed by another effort by Brenna, and then Jasmine was left in her element. She flew up the climb and pulled off a second place only a few seconds back from first which set us up well for the following stages.
Saturday morning, we had the TT which was an out and back course with a tailwind out and headwind going back. It was a hard course to gage your effort on due to the crazy winds. I personally found it tough going out in the tailwind because of my junior gearing restrictions. I found myself on my top tube quite a bit on the way out as I was spun out. On the way out I was wishing I had more gears but on the way back I was wishing I had fewer.
As soon as I turned around at the U-turn I was hit with the wind which I thought was a gust but turned out to be the entire way back. It was a tough time trial but the team rode their hardest in the tough conditions and put out some solid rides.
It was a very quick turn-around between the TT and Criterium for the girls. We had a few hours to grab something to eat, have a quick power nap, and get race ready for the Criterium. We were so excited to show our aggression in the race and make it fast!
From the gun we were controlling the race with riders off the front. We would have a rider off the front and as soon as they got pulled back we would send another off the front. Between our attacks we were also sprinting for primes, and we ended up collecting every single one -- earning enough cash to get some post-race ice cream, with more to take home!
In the final laps of the race a break was brought back with Brenna in it, and Holly, Jasmine and I were in the pack. The last few laps got very chaotic with some very close calls for crashes. We weren’t able to find each other to create a lead-out train which was our plan but Holly and I ended up sprinting to two top 10 finishes. We were very happy with how we raced, we just lost a bit of control in the final laps but despite that we showed we were the strongest team out there which brought us confidence heading into the final day!
The final stage was the 55km Waterville road race, with rolling hills and exposed conditions. Our race plan heading in was to make it HARD and try and establish a break by creating an echelon in the cross-wind section of the course. It is a pretty short race so we knew it had to be hard from the start.
The race started on the tailwind section of the course so Brenna and Holly threw some attacks early on to see how the field would respond. As we expected they were chased down pretty quickly so as soon as we turned the corner to enter the cross-wind section we created an echelon to string the pack out. Brenna, Holly and I rotated through with Jasmine being our backdoor so they weren’t protected from the wind.
We were able to stretch the pack out but not to the point we wanted so we started to attack. Brenna was the first to go and she was out in the wind solo for a few kilometres forcing the other teams to chase while we sat on. Then when she got pulled back Holly went for the attack and was out solo for a good 10km. There were some hard chases with people trying to pull her back while we covered. We were strung out on the white line near the gutter when Jasmine got taken out by another rider and ended up in the ditch. I heard some screams but wasn’t able to look back to see who had gone down. Holly was still up the road so we were focused on covering moves.
After making teams chase hard Holly was brought back into the pack and Brenna said “Sarah go now!” So I went, even though I was hurting. I went hard and established a gap and in the end I was able to hold on and take the win! I went solo for 25km but there were many moments where I thought I was going to get caught but then they sat up. It was at about 8km to go that I was finally out of site from the pack. Holly and Brenna were back in the pack covering moves and disrupting the chase group. I ended up finishing with a 45sec lead over the pack and Holly ended up finishing second in the bunch sprint to take third in the stage. We returned to the start to find Jasmine who was a bit beat up but okay. We all walked away from the day super happy with how we rode as a team and I am over the moon with my first ever solo win for the team.