Monday, October 16, 2006

Bella Loca's Whacky Wild Watsonville Adventures!

By Bella Loca

I was happy to be home for a weekend in between east coast trips, teaching a clinic and racing in Santa Cruz, just a mile from home at Soquel High School. Good ol' Santa Cruz is as weird as ever, and of course my weekend at home was "eventful."

It started on Friday evening, as MattyWabbit and I headed home from our short, easy training ride. Pedaling toward the Boardwalk trestle (yes, the one both Corey's of the 80's jumped off into the fog in Lost Boys) we spied a group of about 30 cyclists in costume in the empty Boardwalk parking lot. We tried to just keep pedaling, as any well behaved cyclist should when spotting a rogue group of costumed bikers in a parking lot at dusk, but they hailed us over with loud whistles and we couldn't resist.

As we approached, their ringleader held up an "applause" sign and the group busted out a well rehearsed round of TV cheers. They welcomed us to the "Friday Night Mystery Ride" and told us the theme this week was "Superhero Costumes." As the only two riders in full spandex team kits, Matt and I certainly fit that description. We were forced to come up with a name for our costume kits to complete the initiation. "The Rabbit!" blurted Matt. "I'm Bella Loca!" I announced. They cheered again.

They lined us up for the main event, a race to the far light post and back. The guys on fixed gears held proud track stands while we waited for the guy in a long black trench coat to unload 30 pounds of chains out of his baskets. The race was off, and The Rabbit took it! His closest competitor was a local fixed gear rider, who promptly collapsed onto his bike, clutching his chest and gasping for air. I was becoming concerned, but someone lit him a cigarette and he stood up and seemed to be doing a lot better. The Rabbit happily accepted his prize, a child's Flash Gordon costume. We thanked them and rode home, the flash costume flapping like a cape around Matt's neck.

Saturday I joined teammates Ann and Barb for Velo Bella's pre race clinic. We had a huge turnout, and I'm glad I got to see the course a day in advance. For all the talk of this being a fast course, it had a lot of running over rough terrain, and several tricky, loose off camber corners. The "fast sections" were often interrupted by very bumpy turf. I started to feel sorry for all those gophers, those course designers really didn't leave any of their territory untouched.

Sunday finally came, and I focused on my strategy for winning Vanderkitten's first lap prime. It was really only 2/3 of a lap, and all the technical parts of the course, between the start and the prime/ finish line. Unfortunately, I suffered a mechanical not 2 minutes into the race, and by the time I got it all sorted out I was at the back of the group. Rachel Lloyd was already clear of the group and on her way to winning the prime uncontested.

In a flash back to last weekend's races, I picked my way through the riders. I came up on Erin, who was having a great ride. I then put my sights on the next few racers, playing leapfrog between Lauren, Mel, Stella, then finally Josie who was in second place. Josie and I worked together, and brought Rachel to within 15 seconds. The crowd was cheering us on, we were closing the gap and still had 3 laps to go! Josie is riding like her old self again, and later after the race (with the help of a few of my special homemade Giant Strawberry Daiquiris) she told me her secret. It turns out she has taken to some secret "pain tolerance" training with Andy, something to do with nipple rings and pulling tractors in the strawberry fields in Watsonville... ouch. I'll stick to my hill repeats, thanks very much.

At some point, Josie and I become separated as we came upon a group of lapped riders negotiating a section that some rode, and others ran. From that time on, I chased Rachel solo, and never quite got up to her, finishing in 2nd. I was disappointed to have raced from the back again, but I'm looking forward to a rematch in two weeks at the Watsonville Fairgrounds when Velo Bella hosts the Surf City Halloween event. Between now and then, I'm off to Philly for a double header UCI weekend up against the nation's best racers.... and hopefully, this time I'll be racing at the front!

Bella Loca


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