Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Gelling together at Central Valley Classic

By Hiroko Shimada

The second weekend in CA turned out to be my familiar weather; freezing rain and flurry in New England. I was going to show off my tan-lines back in CT, but I hear they were having a milder weather. So much for a “Sunny California” for me.

Fri: 16 mi pancake flat windy ITT.

It was supposed to be a 6.5-mi uphill TT which excited little ones on the team. But due to the icy conditions on the course, they changed it to a flat one on the race day morning. Everyone put clip-on-bars on her bike except for me who opted to use drops.

Our powerhouse, Kele, would have loved to use a full TT setup for her dream course, but she left the thought behind and just did what she does well with what she had (50/12). She still looked really good on her blue Kona Queen Zing bike. I just cannot wait until she does her thing on the full equipment.

We may all have, could, should, and would? But we are no whiners and just kept having fun. As for myself, I felt pretty comfortable in the drops on my new bike. This machine will be my best friend for the season.

Sat: CR 75mi (5laps)

I was too familiar with this miserable condition for the race. I felt very much at home shivering on my bike. However, I felt very bad about making my pretty bike dirty and I am usually not recognized for keeping my equipment nice and clean. It is a special bike, you know. The machine felt so smooth on any little bump, in water puddle (possibly contaminated with some waste products from nearby dairy farms), even on gravels.

It was actually a mini-break thru race for me. Not sure if my being Japanese has anything to do with it, but I am not famous for being aggressive and quite often found in a less optimal position in the peloton. However, I felt really confident on this brand-new bike and I was surprised to find myself at the front of the peloton, doing my task called “baby-sitting” to cover the moves without wasting much energy. At one point, I heard someone saying “Little Hiroko is growing up” from behind, referring to my semi-aggressive move to get back to the front. I can trust this bike so that “what if?” type of bad thoughts never came to my mind. This Kona bike really helped me break the mental barrier I had.

At a really strong cross-wind section during the third lap, Nicole and Jane were involved in a crash. It was rainy, windy, and chaotic, and our radios were not working. It resulted in no one waiting for them, including me! Unfortunately Jane was at the bottom of the pile up and had to abandon the race.

Nicole incredibly chased the fast moving pack for a lap and a half with a broken handlebar and caught the peloton literally 1km to go, and passed right by me and went to the front in literally two seconds. After such a monstrous chase, she still gave everything for the final sprint! I had a little bonding with Kele at around a couple kms to the finish when she said, “Hiroko, go all the way to the front.” I just went to the very front without any fear and started feeling the head wind on my face. I stayed there for a bit, then, drifted to the second row. I know what I would do the next time; I will bury myself and keep going at the very front till I die and I cannot wait to have another opportunity.

Oh, I have to mention how smart Alisha was riding in the pack. She was always up there and she would be on possibly dangerous moves. She can evaluate moves in a split second and react accordingly. The only thing I did not like about her was that it was difficult to identify her because of her white rain jacket. In the miserable conditions we had, there was nothing she could do about it.

Mini-Jen J. fought hard on this windy flat course. It is such a challenge for tiny ones to handle this type of race and she still did her work for the team! The other Jen, Jen C., was standing in the cold rain and hail along the staff at the feed zone. It must have been truly difficult not being able to suffer together with us; but soon enough. We’ve gotta be patient sometimes?

Sun: 50min crit.

I’d love to give you some exciting report on this, but I have to admit I was a gate’s keeper of the race. My viciousness did not appear in crit just yet so what I tell you here is what I learned after the race.

Nicole did her usual thing and despite of her not feeling 100%, still finished in 9th. Alisha rode really hard, smart and always at the front. She was so close to win a prime, too. We all had a little plan to do in the race and she stuck with her words and raced well. She finished 15th. It was not Kele’s best day as I sometimes saw her bottom out, but fought back when it counted; five laps to go. Jane fought to stay in a safe spot and never came to the tail end. Mini-Jen J. and I were back and forth in the tail end; her being smart at the turn around and passing me, then my passing her on straight-ways. We encouraged each other and it helped.

I really feel that we were gelling together very well over just a couple weekends of racing. I cannot wait to bury myself and go until I die with the team again. As I am typing this I wonder if I am actually a sadistic person.

Anyhow, I will see my teammates in a month and a half at Gila. Until then I will be showing off my pretty bike to people in New England and train hard so that I can pull harder and longer!


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