After yesterday’s meeting, each of us knew exactly her role in today’s race and no one had it easy. Of course, I replayed my role over and over in my head all night long, anxiously awaiting the start and keeping my fingers crossed I could make it happen for my team. With a 9am start time, our morning wake-up call came early so that we had time to fuel up at breakfast and digest before hitting it hard on the roads in Mendrisio. Disappointingly, we woke up to rainy skies, which certainly injected a little apprehension into all of us because of the speed at which we’d hit the technical descent that followed the first climb. Well, there’s not much you can do about it when nature tries to spoil your fun so we headed off to the race with the hope that at least it would be a safe and successful race.
We pulled up to the course and immediately felt the energy that surrounded us. Spectators, police, and team buses filled the streets. Team Columbia’s bus was our home base for the day, and that in its self was a nice treat that pumped a little more energy into us. It’s not often that pro women get to enjoy the luxuries that the pro men probably often take for granted, so yeah, we were kinda giddy. But, regardless of the extra perk, we hadn’t forgotten our task at hand and how hard the race was going to be today. Keeping our nerves in check we rolled off to sign in and then each country was called up to the start line according to ranking – we were the 6th country to be called up so were pretty close to the front of the line, which was especially good for me. My job, to force the pace on the climbs for as many laps as I could, essentially started from the gun since the first climb came just several km’s after the start. The gun went off and I followed Kristin Armstrong straight to the front. We hit the climb, I went to the front to set the pace, I got to rest on the descent (it had stopped raining so it was slippery but at least not as sketchy as it could have been), and then went right back to the front on the 2nd climb of the lap. I got to rest again before we hit the 1st climb on the next lap and then didn’t have to worry too much about the pace up the climb because other teams were setting a solid tempo. Over the top someone ran into Mara’s rear wheel and broke a spoke so we decided that when we hit the 2nd climb I would give her my rear wheel (we had decided in the team meeting that a rider would be able to do a faster wheel change than waiting for the car because of the nature of the course and I was the first rider to give up a wheel) because she would be able to catch the peloton easier on the climb than on the fast and short flat section between the climbs. Just as I had gotten my wheel out, the team car pulled up and gave Mara a spare. She took off and caught the group but I was stuck in no man’s land – day over, back to the bus to watch the race on TV. Then disaster struck for real a couple laps later when Kristin and Amber both crashed. Amber ended up in the hospital with a broken metatarsal, but Kristin was able to chase back on with help from Kim. Then Kristin needed a bike change and once again had to chase back on – a lot of energy lost there – but she made it. Evie, the freakin’ energizer bunny that she is, kept setting a tempo up the climbs that was blowing riders out the back as if they were standing still. Evie kept coming back again and again to the front to set tempo, to chase, and to attack as if she had an endless supply of energy wrapped up in those legs of her’s. The woman is a freak of nature, no doubt, decimating the field like she did. Mara, Kristin and Evie pushed harder and harder to break the legs of the few women who were left in the very select peloton, but it was Guderzo (Italia) who made the move of the day. She attacked and a chase containing Kristin, Vos (Holland) and Cantele (Italia) ensued. In the end the 3 weren’t quick enough to jump on the chase and Guderzo took the gold, Vos silver and Cantele bronze. In our minds we knew that if Kristin had not had to waste precious energy chasing back on twice today, she would have made the podium – gold, silver or bronze who knows but it would have been one of those for sure.
In the end we didn’t get the WIN that we had hoped for and knew we were capable of obtaining, but we each did our job and gave it our best. Cycling is a tough sport and all you can hope for is that things go your way on the day. As far as the results go, today wasn’t our day but it certainly wasn’t for lack of leaving everything we had out there.
Now IT’S THE OFF SEASON!! Woooo Hooooooo!!!!! Well, for a couple weeks anyway. One season ends as another begins. ‘Cross has started and I’ll be anxious to join the races in a couple weeks in Providence, RI. Bring it on! First, tonight I will celebrate the season’s end and Kristin’s retirement with the team in Lugano and then will enjoy several more days here in Switzerland with Ben and friends in Lausanne.