Tuesday, 21 June
It was a great weekend at the tenth edition of the Elkhorn Classic. There is so much to love about this race. It’s challenging. It’s rewarding. It’s beautiful. You make new friends and are reunited with old ones. It’s a city girl’s chance to hang in a friendly small town. Highlights for me this year:
New discovery. It took 10 years of thinking Sunday’s road stage was 118 miles out in the middle of nowhere, but this year I discovered that there is a CAFÉ halfway through the race. It’s making me rethink my strategy for next year. Coffee and pie might hit the spot after the first feed zone: unless you want to vie for that coveted 12th place in GC, what’s the difference between being 15 minutes and 30 minutes down? There will still be beer and pizza for you at the finish—and there will still be men stragglers on the course behind you. :)
Nature breaks. In Friday’s road race, it took the women’s peloton about 3 miles of talking and waving to organize a pee stop. Best comment: “Don’t tell Candi. We’ll all get flamed on OBRA chat!” In Sunday’s road race, the cat 1-2 men passed me as they were trying to take a nature break. Some appeared to get stage fright with me hanging off the back of their bunch (I hid behind the follow car—out of sight and no chance of any downwind drift). Some had to stop, some nearly ran into the ditch as they tried to go while riding on the edge of the pack. Kept me distracted from my solo pity party at that stage.
Ego. I think my GC finish this year was tied for my highest place ever at Elkhorn. I was also DFL, so it wasn’t much of an ego boost. But I forget that on the way to and from this race, I pass by a stage race prologue course where I still hold the women’s course record. I won by one second. Happy memories every time.
In-race entertainment. In Friday’s road race (after the pee stop), one woman rode off the front of the pack on the descent into Union. She had about 300 meters on us coming up to the second of two turns on the entire 73-mile course. A man in a wheelchair rolled out into the crosswalk. The lead car had to stop. The rider had to stop. What’re ya gonna do? Her team then proceeded to hammer away at the front of the bunch (there were a sum total of 20 women in the race this year) while one of their members tried to deal with a mechanical at the back of the bunch and got dropped, never to catch back on.
Memories: When you’ve been at a race 10 times and in it 9 times, you are distracted by memories of people you’ve raced with and accumulated race highlights. When stage 1 and stage 4 were run in the opposite directions. When it snowed. When the TT course ran straight out to the Elkhorn range. When the NZ women’s team showed up on their way to the HP Women’s Challenge, shattered the field on the first climb on the last day, and then DNFed at mile 18 because they didn’t want to ride that far right before HP, leaving the rest of us in onesies and twosies for the remaining 80-some miles. Riding in cattle drives on stage 4. Climbing Dooley Mountain with women who’ve never ridden 100 miles in their lives and surprise themselves by making it up that final climb. (I’m still trying to block the memories of the year we rode down to Hell’s Canyon in horrible heat on a substitute course because of road work.)
Baker City peeps. It is quite amazing to ride your bike 50 miles into the Oregon mountains, come to an intersection, and discover two friendly corner marshalls stopping traffic so that you can roll through a stop sign. Lead and follow cars are staffed by devoted local supporters. The crits (when not cancelled because of rain) are loaded with more primes than there are laps in each race. The people in every feed zone, all 20 of them urging you to take THEIR bottle (but I only have two bottle cages….) and no miffed hand-ups. And all the businesses that welcome riders (they know who you are when you walk in the door) and ask how the race is going.
Going solo. I was flying solo at the race this year because Mick was off jousting with other windmills at Race Across the West. But it is such an easy race in terms of logistics, and many people generously “looked after” me. And they are some of the ones I will remember while I’m racing out there next year!