BB #3: Upgrade Earned!
But before we get to Mollinator’s ass kicking greatness, let’s cover some other bases first .
Neil decided that being sick is over rated, and racing in the snow is under rated, so he brought his very cool sister and dog to the race to root on their younger brother. Molly and I stuck around to watch Neil’s race and were having a blast driving around watching him mark 4th wheel and stay in the perfect position. Neil looked very comfortable and ready to pounce at the right time. Unfortunately his cold had a mind of its own and affected his breathing significantly the second time up the finish hill. Neil smartly pulled off the race to make sure all was okay. Neil’s best form is coming and when it does the Cat5s are in for a warm cabbage and Arugula mouthful, because I tried to match Neil’s acceleration up the Highland bump leaving town Thursday night, and it was about as possible as trying to catch a speeding train passing your stop.
Chris Heron makes the Honey Badger look like a timid and mousy creature. For some reason known only to the flat tire demons Chris again flatted early in the race. After a quick exclamation ‘YOU’VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!!’ He had his hand up for the wheel car and jumped to get his front wheel off the bike. For some reason that will only be understood by people who drool out of both sides of their mouth at the same time, the wheel car was only carrying rear wheels……. I would like to think of something witty to say about this, but there really are no words. Chris being the US Army hero that he is doesn’t take no as an answer; he only understands a call to action! So he called for the race director who jumped to Chris’ Gunny Sergeant barking and picked up a front wheel from a 90 pound junior who read somewhere that pumping your tires up to 40psi improves rolling resistance. When the wheel finally arrives at Chris it is as splashy as Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. (If you haven’t watched this movie you need to IMMEDIATELY). After procuring this comically low pressure wheel Chris decides that no time on the bike will be wasted and proceeds to TT the entire last 50 miles working on his aerobic capacity with help from no one. Not surprisingly he set a personal record for three hour power. I didn’t know there was such a thing, and please Will don’t ever ask me to test myself with this personal torture endeavor :-/. Molly and Neil and I watched as he literally sprinted the finish with a monster Grrr face after that huge effort! The man takes Army of One seriously! I found Chris about 200 meters after the finish line off his bike and lying on the cold pavement looking an awful lot like a crime scene cut out!!! You don’t ever really get to know someone until they face adversity, and I can say Chris is as good as he gets. Despite obvious frustration, and we are all frustrated for him, he continues to crack jokes and keep good humor. Molly and I said to him that he has heaps of good Karma and luck coming his way, and he calmly stated that he received plenty of that in Iraq. To merely say I am impressed by Mr. Chris Heron is to commit a poverty of description for his character.
Now to the star of our show: Mollinator. To bring everyone up to speed Molly got third in the first Banana Belt race three weeks ago the day after doing her first mountain bike race! The next week Molly over came a flat tire to sprint away from the field for first place. This week Molly followed her strategy perfectly of conserving energy the entire race to be ready for the sprint. She did no pulls leading up to the finish and stayed nicely tucked in the top five. Yet getting to the finish was not that simple. There was a two woman crash at the base of the long hill after the left turn, and Molly was glad to be up front and away from the carnage. And in the second half of the final lap a few women must have found Molly’s magnetic personality or beautiful Land Shark bike too much to resist and collapsed on her from all sides. The woman in back cross wheeled Molly’s wheel significantly. This caused both the women on her right and left to close in on her and Molly’s training paid off. She protected her cockpit by getting her elbows out and defended her space avoiding a crash! In the final 500m a two woman team lead a break with Molly sitting on their wheel. Molly went with the sprinter at the bottom of the hill and was not quite able to come around her giving Molly a strong second place finish! That means Molly got a first, second and third and the Banana Belt series and finished in second for the series having tied for the most points but not getting the tie breaker. Molly earned her Cat3 upgrade in 4 races with two firsts, a second and a third!!! Talk about making a statement. Welcome to the Cat3s Molly! And in a testament to Molly’s personality she had Cat3 women coming up to her after the race to talk with her, and tell her how excited they are to race with her, and how much they want to work with her!
This was my best Banana Belt race yet. I knew my strategy needed to be to bring fresh legs and mark the breakaway that unquestionably would get away for the day just as it had done the previous two races. I’ve made friends with the Soraz team who brought three riders. They asked me our strategy, and we agreed that I would go on a break that they would initiate, and that I would work with them. A little more than half way into the second lap two Soraz boys jumped to make a break after nodding to me and we accelerated away from the field. But the field was too fresh and too many jumped on the move. As soon as the group was back together the reigning Cat3 climbing champ jumped to make a break. Kyle Medlin of Soraz marked him. I didn’t immediately go with it as the group had just pulled back the last one, and I didn’t want to put myself in the wind for another unsuccessful break. There were about 6 riders in front of me stretched out between the top two and me. I used the accelerations of the others to get closer and closer until one by one they all fell off the pace. I then came around the last guy and bridged up to the top two guys. One more guy came with me, and then the breakaway pace was on. Kyle did a ton work to get us away, and my legs were not feeling as good as I hoped. Luckily I did have the legs to mark the moves and accelerations I needed to mark, and I was one of the four man break. We put a quick 2 minute lead on the group in the first lap and added about another minute per lap as we continued. When we had a three minute break we took a minute to introduce ourselves and get on a first name basis. We agreed to not contest the Hot Spot sprint and work together on the hills and flats and not attack each other. It was extremely rewarding to work in such a harmonious group where we all pulled to the best of our ability.
At the finish line with two laps to go I shifted into my big ring from a climbing gear and my chain fell of the big ring toward my pedal. I tried twice to change gears and pedal it back onto the big ring, but the chain kept getting caught on the pedal spindle. I was watching the three men get away from me, but chose to not panic and try again. I shifted down again and gently rolled the pedals until the chain re-sat back on the small ring! WHEW!!!!! I got into my tuck position for the descent and pulled them back pretty quickly. In a cruel stroke of fate Kyle Medlin got a flat with one and half laps to go. We decided as a group to neutralize our pace to allow him to change his wheel and get back on, because he had done so much work to make the break stick. Despite our respectful slowing of the pace, Kyle still had to TT his way back up to us, and that took the best legs out of the strongest rider of the day. We then continued to work together until the final 1k. After that none of us were willing to take hard pulls and the jockeying began. It was clear in the group that I didn’t have great legs, and the other three were marking each other much more than they were marking me. Perfect! I stayed squarely in 4th wheel for the rest of the race and did everything I could to keep my heart rate low, just as I had worked to do for the entire race. At the bottom of the final hill the race was on in earnest. I marked the Cat3 climber and Kyle thinking they were the strongest riders. But Kyle’s legs were shot and the climber flatted in the middle of the hill!!!!! I didn’t jump on the other guy’s wheel fast enough and even so I think he had stronger finish legs than me. I sprinted to a solid second place finish, and Molly said he and I were squarely ahead of the other two. It was an extremely rewarding race and result, and my legs are getting better all the time as they go through the cycle of stress, recover, build and repeat. I look forward to the race where I feel like I have crazy energy like I did last Fall!
I just looked online and saw that I got fourthin the series points. I had no idea and am super stoked! I didn’t really set up for these races as A races in terms of training or strategy, so I feel extremely proud to have this result.
I love our VCC Team and every race has been a unique and rewarding experience!