(photo credit: Josh Dreyfus)
After more than a month away from racing,I was back in the bunch at the Glencoe Grand Prix on Saturday. I felt equal parts nervous and excited to stand on the start line with a number pinned on my back again. My season schedule had originally included Tour of the Gila, the Amgen Tour of California women’s individual time trial and Nationals; however, when it became clear at the Joe Martin Stage Race that my body was begging for a break, I hopped a plane home to Boulder and hit the reset button. This is the first time during a road season that I’ve had five solid weeks of training at home, and it’s done wonders for me mentally and physically.
The weather reports for the Chicagoland area looked iffy all weekend. I had expected storms to greet us upon arrival, but it was clear on Friday, and we woke up to sunshine on Saturday. I was hopeful we’d avoid the rain while racing. Shortly before the start, Sam made a comment along the lines of: “Just wait, it will start pouring as soon as we line up.” She proved exactly right. The skies opened up as we staged. Thanks, Sam, for jinxing us!
Our race was significantly delayed by a serious crash in the category 3/4 women’s race earlier in the day. Prior to our race, the police had to take photos of the scene of the incident for an accident report. Had we not experienced the delay, the rain would have started around the mid-point of our race – sometimes, I think it’s better to start in the rain and contend with the conditions during the entire race.
(photo credit: VeloNews)
We were the strongest team on paper, and we had the most numbers –Sam, Skylar, Rushlee, Melanie and I were certainly a force to be reckoned with in this field. It was as an interesting group. We were the strongest team collectively, but that didn’t necessarily mean we thought we had a win in the bag.
We decided to play it conservative during the first half of the race because of the composition of the field. There were a lot of individual riders, and there was no other big team to combine forces with to control the race. We knew early attacks would likely be fruitless. Normally, the peloton will allow a break to stay away if it includes the right composition of riders. That wasn’t a likely scenario here because there were so many people without teammates. All those individual riders would want to chase things down. It made more sense to save our efforts for the second half of the race when a break was more likely to get away because the field had gotten a bit tired.
Unfortunately, the rain really slowed down the racing. It was coming down so heavy by the mid-point of the race that it became hard to see. The technical circuit included nine corners – and each corner had white lines or a sewer cover (or two!). Two of the corners flooded while we raced, and eventually we were riding through water all the way up to our hubs (at least that’s what it felt like out there). If we had come in too fast to those corners, we would have been launched off the front of our bikes! The rain definitely forced a change of tactics. It would have been a lot more aggressive if it hadn’t rained so hard.
(photo credit: Brian Lee)
Instead, there was a fairly calm start to the race. There were a handful of attacks but nothing threatening. There were various sprint laps and point laps throughout the race, and on one of the sprint laps, Erica Allar (CARE4CYCLING powered by Solomon) jumped to take the sprint. She opened up a gap, and Sam popped out from the field to chase. Laura Van Gilder (Mellow Mushroom) grabbed Sam’s wheel, and just like that, the break of three had established. The trio worked well together to put distance between themselves and the field. We were pretty happy with the move. It was a guaranteed podium, and in such wet conditions, it’s always safer to have a sprint come down to a small group than a large bunch.
Once Sam was safely up the road, we patrolled the pack. A few people tried to get across or pick up the pace and bring the move back entirely, but their efforts proved futile. As the laps ticked down, it was clear that a three-up sprint would decide the race winner.
With three laps left, we were neutralized. Starla Teddergreen, from Vanderkitten, had crashed, and she was still in the road when we came back around. I think we probably could have made our way past her without any trouble, but I understand that they were feeling cautious after the crash that had delayed our start and wanted to keep Starla’s safety in mind. Luckily, the Starla seemed mostly okay (she said it was her hit that she hit), and we were back to racing quickly.
They restarted the break 45” ahead of the field. We were a very small peloton by that point. I’m not sure what had happened to most of the starters – if they were pulled or elected not to continue. After the restart, Morgan Patton (Novo Nordisk) spent some time on the front keeping the pace steady. She was amazingly fast through the wet turns, and that alone kept the field moving at a good clip. Skyler, Rushlee and I stayed attentive just behind her to keep the final bit of racing under control.
The last time up the climb, I attacked. I had been feeling pretty good on the little rise, and it proved a good launching pad. I opened up a decent gap, but I knew it was a big ask to hold it 400 metres to the line. Sure enough, Christina Gokey-Smith (Rouse) and Lenore Pipes (CARE4CYCLING powered by Solomon) came around me in the last turn. I ended up in sixth, with a gap of 1” ahead of the next finisher.
Ahead of me, Erica outkicked Sam to take the win and Laura rounded out the podium. I know Sam had wanted to win, so she was a little disappointed after the race. We reminded her that Erica has been having a really great season, so it’s still a solid result in that scenario. We had said our goal was to finish on the podium, and we accomplished that.
I want to end this thing with a few special shout outs. My parents get the first one. They drove over to Glencoe from Rockford to watch me race. It’s always nice to have my best supporters on hand. They definitely give me extra motivation – and extra nerves!! At the start, when it began to rain, I heard my dad saying: “Please be careful. Please be careful.”
The team enjoyed a special cheering section in the form of our host family. The Scheinfield family included five children of which there are two sets of twins and a bike racer! Charlie did the kids’ race in the morning, and he stuck around to cheer for us later in the day. We got to spend a fair amount of time with their entire family despite only being in town for two days. By the time I had landed in Denver, one of the ten-year-old twins, Natalia, had already emailed all of us asking if we made it home safely. And I have her drawing that she made for me tucked away in my backpack. Thank you Scheinfeld family for a wonderful stay.
My final shout out goes to Skylar Schneider. The 14-year-old is a double junior national champion (road/criterium) who is well on her way to equaling the number of national titles earned by her big sister Sam. I loved watching her holding her own in a race with us. She doesn’t just want to be in the pack, she wants to be among the action. In the rainy conditions, she was fearless, and her bike handling skills through dicey corners are really impressive. Skylar stuck on Sam’s wheel until the break went up the road, and once the gap was established, she checked in with me to see what she needed to do. I’m already looking forward to racing with her again this season.
Finally – I want to extend a congrats to my teammate Claudia Häusler who nabbed the final podium spot and won the QOM jersey in Philly today. It was an exciting race – made even more exciting than usual by aggressive racing and excellent live coverage to showcase the action. And Shelley Olds finished just one spot off the podium in fourth.
Whew! Happy to be back to racing (and race reporting!). Next up: Tour of America’s Dairyland