Friday, April 21, 2006

Windy Willamette

Friday, 21 April

Now I remember what I don't like about stage races with the word "Willamette" in the name: being at the bottom of GC. At the old Tour of Willamette, my goal every year was not to be last. And I think I achieved that goal, although sometimes it was pretty close, especially when 10 women would DNF on the last day (and all of them below me in GC, I swear). But today, at the new Willamette Valley Classic, well, what can I say: I get to go first in the time trial tomorrow morning.

We did 3 laps of a pretty flat 16- or 17-mile circuit. It was windy when we arrived and only got worse during the race. I just can't ride in the wind. The bike doesn't go where it's supposed to, and I seem to spend all my time and focus keeping it from migrating across the yellow line or diving into the ditch. Only by some miracle did we escape a huge pile-up in the last lap when a gust blew several women into each other. Our official could not figure out why women kept going across the center line: they weren't attacking, the wind was pushing them.

I got gapped off in a cross-wind section at the end of the second lap. The follow cars passed me, and then stopped cold in the middle of the road (one in the left lane, one in the right lane) as we came around a corner to start the last lap. WTF??? That sure didn't help my chase-back-on effort. And about a mile or two after I did get back on, they neutralized us so that the cat 1-2 men (break, then pack) could pass. That was like a 3-mile rest stop for us, and there was another one several miles later when a huge 1-2 chase group went by. If you're doing the math here, you'll realize there were only about 3 miles left, the first one with a huge cross wind, then a long tailwind straight (great for those lead-out types), and then a right turn and 1K (more cross wind) to the finish. Quite a few people started to sprint at the 1K sign (you could see the finish line), but needless to say they weren't the first ones across the line. And the woman who did win schooled everyone else with about 30-foot gap at the line.

I hope to rebound a little in GC with our 16-mile TT tomorrow morning. But the afternoon circuit race sounds like my race from hell. So I guess I just look forward to long, long climbs (one of which I know all too well--I'll be sure to point out where the logging truck went over the edge to anyone within earshot at that point) on Sunday. And maybe if I hold my GC position at the end of the race, I can DOWNGRADE back to cat 3!

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