Thursday, May 29, 2014

Killington Stage Race (fueled by Apple-Sausage Pasta)

This weekend was a crazy one: I won the Killington Stage Race W3/4 RR, ITT,  QOM, and GC. Winning the GC (general classification, for all you non-cyclists) was one of my big goals for this season so I am thrilled! The weather for the weekend was good, in the 60s and mostly sunny, except for a few scattered showers. It was a world of difference from the pouring rain and snow we experienced last year! Also, we had a big group to travel with consisting of MIT, Pedal Power, and GLV cyclists, which made hanging out between races and dinner time very fun. The race was 3 days, and today I'm giving you a little recap of each stage, as well as a dinner recipe we used!

Day 1, Circuit Race: The circuit was two loops around a fairly flat 18 mile loop that was meant to favor sprinters. This was one of the weirdest and sketchiest races ever. It was like people were racing with fire ants in their pants. People were either soft pedaling or attacking on the downhill flats, but short, unconvincing attacks. Lots of shrieking and near crashes, so when a big crash happened AFTER the finish line, it wasn't all that surprising. I was planning to attack on the "hill" on the back side of the course to get away, however, I forgot how shallow it was. On the first lap, I was on the front going up the last bit of the "hill" towards the QOM, since on a real hill/QOM that's the best place to be. But this circuit's QOMs were really more of a sprint, so I got sprinted around then decided that the QOMs were not worth it. So then I spent significant time hating the circuit course for being the worst and sitting in. In the second half of the second lap, my teammate and I had planned that if I didn't get away, I'd lead her out for the sprint. So with about 5 miles to go, I got on the front and started drilling the pace to string things out. I was hoping to set her up to go at 1k to go. Unfortunately, things got antsy with all the McSketchersons racing and she went at just under 2k to go. It was a darn shame we botched that, because she ended up getting 1st or 2nd in all the intermediate sprints and I would have loved to see her in the Leader's jersey on the first day!

Day 2, Road Race: The RR was a hilly 61 mile route with a major climb at mile 25, and also up the last 5 miles. The first 25 miles (before the climb) were slower than I would willingly choose to go on a group ride. Seriously, my average HR was 125bpm for those miles. People were messing around, but fortunately the crash had given people a wake-up call and no one was being sketchy like yesterday. I got on the front on the short "hill" 3 or so miles in to set myself up to be at the front for the right turn into a steep descent with what they told us would be questionable pavement. That worked beautifully.
At around mile 20 someone asked me why I wasn't doing any work and I said, well on this stage everyone waits for the hill. She said "oh, you're going to pull us all up it?" In my mind, I laughed really hard and said "Oh honey" to her but that's when I decided that I could win it solo of the front if I had to. At the sprint line, one mile to the climb, I started moving up the pack, so I hit the sharp right turn (I've been practicing!) well about 4 wheels back. People were pretty bunched so I didn't have a clear shot right away, but as it started to loosen up, I had positioned myself pretty much right by the yellow line, so I started to inch my way up. Finally (you know, 2 minutes later. But it felt like an eternity), only 1 girl was kinda in my way and she had room to inch right for me. So I said "On your left." (I was once crashed into my someone on a hill when I was attacking on her left and she took the opportunity to paperboy, so I'd rather announce and not risk it.) She yielded and I attacked hard. Not these pansy 3/4 attacks I had seen the day before, but like I have to do to jump on a wheel when a P12 woman attacks on a hill. I hadn't picked quite the right gear, so it wouldn't have worked in a P12 field but it did the trick. I pushed for 30 seconds or so and looked back. I had a gap. Excellent. I kept climbing hard but not too hard, there was still plenty of time. In my ideal race plan two or so people came with me, and I figured I had a minute or two to wait to see if someone was strong enough to use. A minute or two later, I heard the heavy breathing behind me, so I knew I had picked some people back up. I looked back and about 8 girls were back on my wheel. This would not do. Someone tried to psyche someone else out by making a comment about how hard they were breathing. It sounded like the girl who thought I was going to pull her up the mountain, so that annoyed me. I waited 10 seconds and then attacked again, harder than before and continued to floor it for a minute or two until I couldn't hear the breathing anymore. I looked back and only one girl was on my wheel. Perfect! Now I just had to make sure that we opened a sizable gap.

I hammered and let her ride my wheel until the QOM, when she went around me to take the points. Now, the girl who came with me is a junior and I knew getting away with me was a good and surprising result for her. I also knew that she's even more tentative on descents than I am, so if I wanted us to stay away from the pack through the descents over the next 20 miles, it was up to me to drill the pace going down. So as I came around, I told her that last year the race was won by 2 people who got away and worked together, so as along as we both committed, we'd get 1-2. Then we executed the most beautiful 2-person effort that I've ever seen. I made sure to get on the front for the descents and looking at Strava files, I descended just about as fast as any of the women. I was so bold I even dropped her by a bit on the dirt descent. I tried to make her work a bit more than me and I ate about a million gels (translated: 7 gels for 60 miles!) to make sure that I'd have my kick on the final climb when I needed it. (Side note: at this point I was telling myself that if I couldn't win this race, I should quit racing bikes.)

When we approached the final climb neither of us really wanted to be on the front going into the turn, but after a moment's hesitation I decided I'd take it. We had worked so well together for 25 miles, no need to mess that up now. I knew I was punchier than her and the final climb is steep enough that I'd have no trouble attacking from the front. So we started the shallow part climbing steadily together with about 2 minutes on the field. Finally, the first switchback appeared and the road started to go up so I put in yet another real attack. A minute later, I looked back and saw that I had put a sizable gap on her. Only 25 minutes left in the race and as long as I didn't bonk or crash and kept it at threshold, I knew that the race was mine. I went hard, but within my comfort zone. I felt like I could have done better with someone pushing me. But it was a good hard effort and enough to win the day by three and a half minutes!

Finally got a coveted winner's photo from velocity!

Day 3, Time Trial: The TT was 11 miles, steadily uphill at about 1%. This was a decent effort, and enough to beat the 2nd place woman by almost 3 minutes, but really it wasn't my best. The wind was quite gusty in the morning: it seemed as though the morning race times were almost as slow as last year's. It's hard to compare, but I can say with certainty that I did better than last year. I have also been messing with my TT set-up and I finally felt like it was feeling good, so that was a bonus. The race started strong, but after I passed 5 people I started to wonder if I had it in the bag. And there was a flat spot in the middle where the winds suddenly made conditions faster so I didn't feel like I was slowing down. And then the next person to pass was way off... basically I spaced out for like a mile and then looked down and saw that my heart rate was at 166bpm. (It should be at 180bpm for a good TT!) Oh no! Time to get going again! I kicked it back into gear for the finish but that lack of focus cost me a good chunk of time, I'm sure.
As a side note: My teammate who I lead out for the sprint ended up 6th on the TT with no aero gear whatsoever. If she'd have even just had an aero helmet, she'd have been 2nd as she was only 30 seconds back. Man, she was hauling!

Also, as an FYI, after this wonderful weekend I asked for my upgrade to Cat 2. However, they denied it because I only have only earned 24 points since my Cat 4 upgrade. So if you are a Cat 3 woman upset about my sandbagging, please send complaints directly to USA cycling! Fortunately, if I get at least 3 points at my next race, I will have over 40 points in the last 12 months, which is a mandatory upgrade.

Anyways, I was asked by some people what I used to fuel myself. During the RR, I had a bottle of Hammer Heed, a bottle of Hammer Perpetum, 4 Accel Gels and 3 Honey Stingers. I was determined not to bonk this year and as such, managed to do the final climb 9 minutes faster this year than I did it last year! Saturday night, we ate Veggie Lasagna (and salad topped with beets) and Sunday night we had Apple-Sausage Pasta. The recipe for Apple-Sausage Pasta is shared below. I hope you enjoy it!

The vegan version, without smoked gouda cheese

Apple-Sausage Pasta

1 bag whole wheat rigatoni pasta
1 package vegetarian sausage, sliced (we used Tofurky brand)
4 apples, cubed
1/2 block smoked gouda cheese, cubed (omit to make it vegan)
1 bunch basil
4 cloves garlic
1/2 onion

1. Bring pot of water to a boil and prepare according to the directions on the package.
2. Meanwhile, chop (or food process) basil, garlic, and onion.
3. Saute basil, garlic, and onion with sausage.
4. After a few minutes, add the apple cubes and continue to cook until the sausage is browned and the apples are soft.
5. Just before removing it from the heat, add the cheese cubes. Stir for 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
6. Serve apples and sausage over pasta. Enjoy!

My favorite podium picture from the weekend. QOM with the mountains!

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