Race Report – 2012 Madera County Stage Race, MW 35+
At what is a Velo Promo classic and apparently quite an event on the domestic men’s Pro 1,2 calendar (but that’s another story), the Bellas were well represented (in alphabetical order): , Liz Beneshin, yours truly, Linda Locke, Sue Martine and Julie Porter (Comstock). Erika Donald was also on hand to provide loads of morale and technical / logistic support.
Stage one – a flat crit, 4 right corners, in an industrial park. Our primary goal was to keep the GC riders safe and finishing at the same time as the other GC contenders. But if opportunity knocks….. Julie took some great fliers – it was loads of fun to watch the field chase. Sue shepherded Liz and me safely to a sound bunch finish – Liz scored a top 10 finish and Sue was 8th. Trish Black (Red Peloton) soundly nailed the win (again!). Then the mad rush to the hotel to prep for the TT.
Fast forward 3 hours to the almond orchards in fading bloom, balmy temperatures and a rising wind. The field seemed to me to be very focused perhaps edging on stressed (maybe that was just me). Not a lot of chit chat at the lineup. was off, then Liz roared away in ’99 Natz Champ style, then me (following the human bullet Trish), then Linda, Sue and finally Julie. I was on the rivet the entire ride – focusing first on catching Trish as fast as possible then matching output the remainder of the ride. I never really saw Liz, so I knew that she, too, was having a great ride – later to find that her bars slipped down on a bump – a bit low and maybe more aero but probably not ideal….. Anyway we were delighted to find that we were 1st and 2nd (separated by 10 seconds) coming out of the TT. The race was not yet won, however, because 3rd and 4th (Marianne Levinson the national 50-54 40K record holder and Kim Wik a proven fast bunch finisher), were only 14-17 seconds behind Liz and that relentless attack artist Lauraleen Fenech also within striking distance.
Don’t forget that Saturday night was one hour shorter than Friday night!! For an 8:30 start that means everyone was up before what was 4:30 PST! Cars arriving at the staging area in the breaking dawn and 37F temperatures welcomed us. Overnight Trish became ill and unable to start (we wish her the best / hope she’s better) so the odds on favorite for winning a field sprint and gobbling up the 30s time bonus was out. We knew that Kim would go for it – the win and any significant gap over Liz and me would take it – she is such a strong competitor and her team is solid. The first 2½ laps are a blur. Lauraleen and Laurie Furman ramped it up viciously over the rollers every lap. A cross wind started lapping and became howling. Sue protected me from the wind the most exposed section of the last lap until…..~5k from the finish in the “Roubaix” pavement section Kim jabbed it hard in the saddle and rode off the front. Liz was on her instantly. I followed Liz but struggled to get any draft and was in the gutter sputtering. A gap opened behind me. Lauraleen bridged up valiantly. Just as she caught us, the field nearly closed up the gap. Kim and Liz just kept pounding away and the elastic snapped – it was going to be the four of us but it was going to hurt like hell. Finally, mercifully, the flat rough pavement section (and gutter position) came to an end. Shifting into the little ring for the first of the final rollers (no repeat of the Pine Flat chain drops for me thank you very much) Lori suffered some mechanical glitch. The three of us rode on. I finally felt my legs after what seemed like endless calling down to the engine room without response. One roller down, two rollers down, then in the final dip Kim got her gap. Liz and I were spun out and I couldn’t react fast enough to close it up, so it was a dash to the line to limit damage. Liz graciously led me to the final blip, I took second and Liz right behind me in third. We had preserved the GC win but until the final results were posted was concerned that had I (a) known Kim’s gap and (b) done the math in that split second, should it have been the other way around – would I have squeaked the GC win and Liz the 2nd spot on the podium??? As it turns out, Liz’s quick thinking did indeed save the GC. Final Bella GC: Cammy 1st, Liz 3rd, Sue 8th, Julie 10th, 15th.
What a weekend!! The Bellas were all awesome! Sue was the ultimate pilot fish (apologies to Paul Sherwin) and protector – we could not have achieved the win without her level head, steady nerves and solid, whirling legs. Julie’s attacks on the field and protection when taking a breather from attacking (hey – they probably have one foot in height on me between the two of them – it was like getting into a comfy seat every time I could hang on one of those wheels) were tremendous. Linda, as always, the master strategist and inspiration, giving it everything. And lastly I owe Liz an enormous load of thanks for selflessly assuring I would get the win at cost to her own GC. For her to work so hard and give so much is truly Bella! Can’t wait to repay the good deed – so I say bring on the next race!