Monday, June 11, 2007

Maillot Jaune...if only Tour of Kensington Valley

by Monica

What a fantastic weekend, spent playing "Tour de France" at the 2007 Tour of Kensington Valley (Brighton, Michigan). My Bella Fella and I both took the plunge this weekend, trying out this newly converted stage race (was an established road race until this year) as our first "real" road race. ("Real"? ... something other than a time trial.) For beginners, this was an omnium (points) style race. Many thanks to Bella Dianna Rose & Priority Health’s Kathy Kirk for answering my many many (MANY) naïve questions & offering lots of advice last week! Here’s the scoop:

Stage 1: TT / Prologue (May 19). 1st/5

For such a super-short race, the 2.7 mile closed course in Kensington Metropark caused a lot of pre-race angst ! Last week, message boards were filling up with discussions about “the huge hill” on the TT course & debates about TT bike vs. road bike were flying through cyberspace. Race organizer Joe Lekovish even posted a video series of the course to help people decide “which bike to use”.

As it turns out, “the hill” was greatly exaggerated. It was very short and gentle & I was extremely happy that I chose my TT bike. A 1.5ish mile descent with a slight rise and swoopy curve at the end, turnaround a cone in a wide road, then climb back up to the start line. It was over and done in 6.5 minutes, which was fast enough for a cat 4 win & and put me in the yellow jersey for the next stage !J

Stage 2: Criterium (May 19). 4th/6

Bella cheerleaders!!! Yay! Dianna & her little guy Matthew came out to watch and visit (& maybe to make sure I was following all of the great tips and, sorry if I disappointed!) – THANK YOU!!! You’ll see some great photos taken by Dianna later in this thread. (And maybe she’ll post a picture of Matthew too – he’s a little sweetie!)

Ok…back to the race. Held in a business park a couple of hours after the TT, the crit was 8 laps of a 1.5ish mile closed course. After hearing so many “crash” stories & being very new to group riding, I was grateful that the cat 4 field was small…only 6 riders. [And also grateful that I saw the horrendous men’s cat 5 finish line crash after my race was done.] The more numerous 1/2/3 women were on the course at the same time, but we didn’t see them. I tried to apply all of the “teachings” from Kathy, Dianna, and velobellabb for riding w/out team, but in the end I wound up just doing a lot of experimenting and learning about how people (and how I) would or wouldn’t react. A very good learning experience on many levels......and I wasn’t last…...4th/6 & bye bye yellow jersey!

Stage 3: Road Race (May 20). 5th/7

By Sunday’s road race, I had answered some questions about what my strengths/weaknesses are, but hill climbing (relative to the other riders) was still an unknown. The course was 3 x 8.5 mile loops of scenic, quiet roads in Kensington Metropark, including several rolling hills, one steeper climb, and a Paris-Roubaix-esque turnaround in a shelled/gravelly parking lot.

I rode along for the first loop to get a feel for the other riders & how I would climb relative to them…and, unfortunately for this course, quickly determined that climbing is a weakness (…for now)! I skirted a crash that took out one rider and delayed another, & things went well until the steepish climb on the 2nd loop -- when I and another rider were dropped. The other dropped rider was no where to be seen, so the rest of the race was a “reverse breakaway” for me … trying to bridge back to the lead group of 4. Embarrassing confession: Trying to catch up was actually really fun! I did get the lead group back within sight & the gap was diminishing as the final lap finished. But I couldn’t make up the difference in time & finished 5th/7. Many thanks to Sarah McGuire (Priority Health) for encouragement & coaching tips during our cool down lap!


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