My morning routine was identical to yesterday — right down to the bowl of oatmeal I ate before leaving the hotel. I arrived at the parking area a little before 6:00am and started warming up. The first event was the 40K road race — basically two laps of the road race that we did yesterday. At least I was familiar with the route now and had a pretty good idea which parts of the course were likely to give me trouble. I made a point of finding Amy and reminding her that my wheel was hers if she wanted it and that I’d be more than happy to work with her during the race. I knew she was a strong rider and that we’d do well together. She seemed interested and was by my side when we lined up at the start line. Monica and Lynn were also right there. I noticed an exchange between Lynn and the male rider (in a black shirt with red ‘Specialized’ across the back) and it looked like they were cooking up a plan for Lynn to take his wheel. Hmmm, guess Mr. Specialized would be someone to watch. Other than that one new piece of information, it looked like it was going to be a repeat of yesterday’s start. Fine with me! I hoped the outcome would be the same too!
When the race started we all rolled out as a group. I kept my eye on Mr. Specialized and Lynn as well as Monica. Amy was on my right hip and life was good. As things sorted themselves out in the first couple of miles, I stayed up front and made sure I didn’t get boxed in anywhere. A couple times Amy started to surge ahead and I was quick to tell her to be patient, just stay on my wheel and conserve energy. About the same spot as yesterday, Lynn and Monica dropped off as they could not hold the pace. That left me and Amy behind Mr. Specialized. There was another small group of 4 riders about between 300-400 yards ahead of us. I kept my eye on them now. As we approached the end of the frontage road straight-away, Amy called out, “Hey, THIS is fun!”. I smiled, but over my shoulder I gave her a “Shhhhh”, pointed to the guy whose wheel we were on and whispered, “Not so loud, it isn’t fun for HIM right now!” But, Amy and I did our fair share of work on that stretch — no more than our share, but certainly we were not ‘wheel suckers’.
We turned into the Cimmaron development and I asked Mr. Specialized if he had any interest in catching the group ahead of us — since Amy and I were in the lead for the women, it really didn’t matter to us much whether or not we caught them…. well, that’s not quite true, but certainly no rider ahead of us was a threat to our finishing position. He replied that he thought his current pace was what he needed to ride, so we settled in for a bit. We pulled closer to the foursome ahead of us over the next couple of miles – they were now only 25-50 meters ahead of us. I started to think about a little longer term strategy and quickly realized that right now I had all my chips on one “horse” — Mr. Specialized. If he ran out of steam or “blew-up” then it would be just me and Amy the rest of the way. I looked up ahead of me and saw a whole stable of horses! And, they all looked to be riding well. At that instant I decided that on the next incline I would make my move. That opportunity came as soon as we turned to go south, back towards the start. I jumped, raised my pedaling tempo and stared at the group ahead of me, willing them to come closer! It took me 30-45 seconds to bridge the gap. There was a fleeting moment when I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do it — that I’d wasted my energy and was going to end up in no-woman’s land only to drift back to Mr. Specialized and Amy. But, that didn’t happen. I caught the wheel of Tim (wearing a Wonder bread jersey!). He welcomed me aboard. Once I caught my breath, I took my turn at the front. I wanted them to know that I was an equal partner and not looking for a free ride. We hadn’t gone a mile yet when I hear Amy and Mr. Specialized — Amy had mustered the energy and realized the importance of not letting us get away. She brought Mr. Specialized along with her (which was great!) and now were were a group of 7 riders working together.
I encouraged everyone to conserve a bit of energy as we headed south with a slight tail wind. I pointed out that we still had another lap to do and that we’d need plenty of energy to keep our position or improve on it. But, that you generally don’t make up much ground when you’re either going downhill or have a tailwind — and letting up just a tad doesn’t cost you much in terms of progress either. So, that’s what we did. We set up a nice revolving pace line and took turns pulling the train. Before we knew it we were at the turn-around point and heading back north on lap #2. Riding into the wind (although not too strong yet) we were motivated to make the pace lining work. Amy and I got it right away, but there were a few guys who struggled to keep the line moving smoothly and without gaps. If nothing else, focusing on trying to make the pace line work kept our minds off our pains and it really did help each of us individually conserve energy. The rest of the ride was rather unremarkable — that is, until we were heading down the home stretch. You’ve probably already realized this and are thinking to yourself, “Sandy, you are such a fool! You’ve brought your competition right to the finish line!” Well, yes, I had. And, I was well aware of this — and from the outset, worried that Amy might take me at the line. But, what’s life without a little competition, eh? Going into the race, I knew that I would have to make some sort of a move before we got too close to the finish. For a couple of reasons. First, if I made a move and Amy stayed with me, I’d need some room to make a second try to get away. And, I suspected that Amy might be able to hang with me for a short spurt of effort but I was counting on having a little more “staying” power than her. Not sure why I felt that was true, but I did. I was also prepared to make another final sprint effort on the uphill finish — which I thought also favored my powerful sprint. So, with a little less than a quarter of a mile to the line, I jumped. I jumped hard. I didn’t look back, I just went. After what seemed like a lifetime — but was actually less than 20-30 seconds — I had to let up a little or I was going to explode. I took a peek back and I had achieved a good gap. Amy was not going to take me today. That didn’t mean I could let up, I still rode at 110% effort right to the finish, but it was clear to me that I would survive and be the first woman across again today! YAHOOO!!!