Mt. Hamilton Road Race – NCNCA Championship, Masters women 45-49
Field: 14 combined 45-65 age groups
Awesome teammate: Leila Cavanaugh
As we lined up, I immediately noticed Jane Despas (Leopard-Sapporo Team, Cat 1). She and I battled it out last year at Patterson Pass Districts, with her out sprinting me at the finish from 300m out. She was now going to be my wheel to follow.
At the whistle, Jane took the front and set a strong tempo the minute the road tilted upward. I was second wheel, and stayed there until we reached the Meadow. Leila was also in close contact, keeping tucked in and staying comfortable. At the meadow, I realized we were now down to about 10 (or less) riders. As Jane willingly took up the pacing again, I closely followed. Leila kept reminding me to be patient and just stay on Jane’s wheel, but I had ants in my pants. I knew my strength (climbing) and my weakness (descending), so I decided it would be best for me to climb at my tempo and try to get a gap so I could roll over the top, free of competitors, and take the descent at my own snail’s pace. With 9 miles of climbing to to go, I attacked. After 15 seconds or so, I turned around to see Jane midway, and driving to catch me. I settled into a tempo pace, with Jane eventually joining me for the next 5 miles. Leila was smart enough to call out to me, as she was just a few meters away, so I slowed a bit so she could catch on. Unfortunately, whenever this happened, Jane would pick up the pace, and I had to respond. I asked Jane on two occasions if she would like to work together to stay away, only to be ignored or told, “I don’t really care”. Stunned, I wasn’t sure what to do, so I attacked again 3 miles from the top. It worked! I rode hard the last 3 miles and could not see anyone as I looked back down the switchbacks. I took the QOM and continued to ride hard until the first turn into the descent.
Assuming Jane and Leila would easily catch me at the bottom, I just maintained a comfortable pace. Having two to work with sounded like a good plan for the final 40 miles. To my surprise, I could see no one behind me. I kept a comfortable effort and kept checking back. About 15 miles later, I finally saw a lone figure coming, with intention. Jane reached me just in time for the final 2 hills. Each hill, Jane dropped, but would claw her way back despite my effort to keep her away. With the final 17 miles to go, I tried once again to see if she wanted to work together. No response. If I tried to follow her wheel, she would stop pedaling and move back and forth across the road. To be fair, she never tried to draft behind me either. We rode side by side (3 feet apart) for the next 16 miles, in silence.
On the final decent to the finish, Jane dropped behind me and seemed to be fine letting me cruise ahead. I had noticed all day that she had been a bit timid on the descents (only to find out later she is still spooked by a bad crash she obtained at Winters RR last year). As we neared the bottom, I saw the bridge where I was intending to make my final “move”. Just as my brain woke up, Jane was already flying by me at lightspeed, gapping me by 150m in no time. The only thing I could do was laugh out loud at my lameness. I was a deer in headlights. I guess that’s what 9 years of racing will teach you…how to set yourself up perfectly for the win. That’s why she’s a Cat 1 and I’m still a 3 ; )
Leila was an outstanding teammate, offering to help at any point. Huge thanks to her for her team spirit! She battled on solo, caught between groups but pushing forward in hopes of helping out. She took the third podium spot and certainly deserved it.
Lots of take home lessons to be learned from this race, and good fun.
Leila did an outstanding job trying to offer help. Huge thanks to her for her team spirit! She took the third podium spot and certainly deserved it.
Thanks for reading.