The West Coast got lucky this year with Masters Nationals being held in Bend, Oregon. We stuffed our Prius to the max with the TT Bike and Road Bike and all of the wheel choices that I owned and headed up to Bend where we shared a house with 2011 Bella National Champion Liz Beneshin and 2011 Bella Supporter National Champion Julie Kaplan. We got lucky as our house was within minutes from the courses. I entered the ITT and criterium.
No matter how much research one does for the courses, they have surprises for me when I actually see them. This year's TT course was very technical with a gradual climb out and descending return to a 90 right turn onto the technical part which everyone nicknamed The Lollipop due to its shape. The "stick" consisted of a few sweeping rollers through high desert terrain of sage brush type plants and a few pine trees. There was construction on this part of the course as the whole area looked to be a planned development surrounding a golf course, and contractors were laying pipe along side of the road. The "stick" went into a round about -- Bend is full of these things -- which started the "lollypop" circle. This became my first challenge, how to take this thing at speed as we headed into it going downhill. I practiced this about 10 times trying to get the right lines and getting the shift timing for the hill that started right after. The next challenge for me was the left hand turn in the middle of a down hill, which after the turn was made became a short steep uphill. After a few chacanes and another round-about, you were back to the stick and the return trip to the finish.
The morning of the ITT was cold. Lucky for me, as I don't do so well in the heat. Down the ramp I went and had to curb my excitement a little so I don't blow up on the climb for this first part of the course. I knew I had to save my energy for the LollyPop w/ its rollers. I hit the first turn around and now I can turn the gas on a little more for the downhill. I was flying along around 29 -31mph. Up comes the first 90 degree right turn. What the heck is that orange fencing? It seems that due to the construction, the organizers have divided one lane into two lanes for us, leaving the other lane for construction works and their vehicles. Ohhh this is going to be a tight turn. I'm around it and driving my legs inside the little orange chute made of fencing and cones. At last I am past that and feel a lot freer w/out those boundries. Now comes the round-about and I take it as fast as I dare, hands on the sides, in as straight a line as possible which exit takes me close enough to the curb but I'm okay. Up and over the hill and set up for the next left turn into the middle of the hill. I take it fast enough that I can let the momentum take me over the top of the hill without having to change gears. It's flat for a little while and then down I go still in the bars into the chacane. Oh Sh_t! Yes, they did pave over the dirt like they said they would, but the construction equipment is still there and it makes for a narrower road. I come out of the bars and tap my brakes just a little to make my turn. After that I know I can stay in the bars and pour on what power I do have as the road is wide and very slightly downhill to another left hander. I'm through the development gates, which are now open to us (on recon - we had to trip them with a car or duck under), over a slight rise and now the right hander back through the round-about, which I pedal through, to the "stick" part of the course and return. As I drop over the last down hill I see the one lane divided part of the course with a course marshall waving her flag and saying 'go to the right, go to the right" My brain cells are starting to die off or dehydrate and I'm thinking, which right? There looks like 2 rights or a right and a center. In my confusion, I slow slightly, finally figure it out and enter the "chute" again for the finish. My time is good enough to get me on the podium in 5th place! I am very pleased.
I entered the criterium the next day as -- well -- it was short compared to a road race, after the ITT, and when I entered the course only had 4 corners. When I got there, the course was still short, but the location changed and 4 corners were now 7. On the day of the crit, Bend had a freeze warning with an admonition to its residents to protect tender vegetables. Based on the good advice of my housemates, I warmed up in the house, driving to the course with just enough time for a couple of practice laps. The good news is that I stayed with the pack the whole way. My legs however weren't up to any sprinting and yelled at me when I tried. I did have a lot of fun though and finished 7th.