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Conquering the Monster – Stage 5

Stage 5 of the Tour of the Gila could arguably have been the best demonstration of OUR smarts and teamwork for the entire race! I think we were all a little nervous. Marilyn and Heather were sitting in 26th and 30th, respectively. There was room to move and we believed we could make something happen and perhaps get into the top 20 — that was the day’s goal at least!

Heather was a bit under the weather with a sore throat and fatique. Mel was a bit achy and Spring was still hardly able to breathe. Marilyn, Kathryn and Judy were also tired, but ready to roll!

This day is infamous for full out attacks prior to the valley – essentially, early in the race. Getting away early is key in this stage as the riders will hit a heavy head-wind in the valley and not want to go to the front and chase. As expected, Webcor launched some attacks in the first 10 miles of the race, creating a break of 5. The bigger teams were all respresented — Webcor Builders, ValueAct Capital, TouchStone Climbing, Colavita and Lip Smackers. The Touchstone rider did not make it that long in the break and came back to the main peleton. The break contained a very strong group of riders who were all ahead of our riders in terms of GC.

Judy and Spring got into some difficulty up the last hill before going into a 50 per mile down hill and headed in the the Lorenzo-Mimbres Valley. They stayed steady, but it was obvious their legs had had enough of big climbs and altitude. At the bottom of the hill, Marilyn flatted. I quickly radio’d the girls and let them know they may have to come back and help bring Marilyn back into the peleton. The SRAM guys did a heck of a job quickly changing Marilyn’s flat and off we went. In this situation, Marilyn is allowed to draft the team car since she had a mechanical. When a rider gets dropped with no mechanical issues, the rider is not allowed to use the cars to make up time. Marilyn stuck on my bumper and pedaled hard to get back on. I let the girls know that she was coming back to the peleton and all was fine. As I pulled back into my spot int he caravan – who do I see in my rear-view mirror? Judy! Unbelievable — Judy has true grit and never gives up! She and Spring were back in the race — albeit tired, but back in!

The break created a 6 minute-plus gap and now it was time to bring it back. Prior to the start of the race, we discussed getting ourselves into a break and what to do if we didn’t make it. In this case, there was no reason to help pull back the break. Kelli Emmett asked Melanie if we would come up to the front and help and Melanie called me and asked — my answer? NO WAY! So the girls could sit-in and get ready for the monster climb up Pinos Altos.

These climbs are very difficult with some areas are up to a grade of 18%. We came out of the valley made the left hand turn and the peleton blew apart right at the base. As I drove behind the riders, I came up0n Spring who was really in the hurt locker at this point. I handed her a bottle of water and once she was okay, went to thenext D4W rider. Along the way I asked a few other girls I knew if they needed water, but they didn’t. I encouraged them to keep going and off I went to find the next rider. I came upon Kathryn. She was in a great rythym and she was looking strong. She did not need anything, so again — off I went. I came upon Melanie and Marilyn! Melanie was turning over those cranks like it waseasy! Marilyn was having some difficulty, but with a little direction and encouragement they got into sync and continued to climb. They had a Webcor rider with them and I could see Heather up the road. I encouraged all of them to keep up the pace and catch the group in front of them. This group came togetherand they all worked together. I asked Marilyn to just sit on and not go to the front – Melanie did most of the work and kept the pace very high. This stage is great forgaining time on riders ahead in GC. The strategy paid off and Marilyn just kept going and going. The group got smaller — Heather had a mechanical and quickly fixed it but lost time and the group. I asked Marilyn and Mel to hit it hard the last 1k, which they did! Melanie’s committment to get Marilyn up that mountain was not only amazing to watch, but a truedemonstration of how teammates win together. Cycling is not an individual sport. Marilyn would not have been able to pace herself like Melanie paced her — in fact, Marilyn said she couldn’t let Melanie down, so that helped her hang on! I believe this was a defining moment for both riders who felt so good when it was over even though it was one of the hardest things they had done! Their energy fueled each other!

So — for all of you who want to race on a team or who are already on a team! This is where the good become great andthe teams that don’t work together fail.

By the way, the start of this climb waswhere Kristen Armstrong made her move to close down the gap. She not only caught the break of 4 — she rode right through them to win the stage. She is truly an amazing athlete and cyclist.

It was a great day. Marilyn’s GC moved from 26th to 22nd. Very close to goal! We have already agreed that next year, we will return to vindicate ourselves and work hard to acheive the top ten! That’s a big goal, but this is also a great team of women — inspired and courageous in their pursuit to be a true contender in the women’s US pro peleton. I have no doubts . . . and will be there every step of the way!

Next up . . . .local races, the Ironhorse Classic and Cascades!


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1 Josh { 05.09.09 at 7:39 am }

Nice job ladies!

It’s great to read what bicycle racing team work is all about.

2 Melanie { 05.14.09 at 2:51 pm }

nice story about helping out a teammate!

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