Tuesday, March 13, 2012

University of Oklahoma: Land Ronde Omnium

See the brief conference write up on the USA Cycling and Collegiate Cycling News websites. 

At the last minute, I decided to travel to OU with the Texas A&M Cycling Team for the first collegiate race held in Oklahoma in 15 years. It was entitled "Land Ronde" and promised winner's jerseys for every category.

With the weekly Willard case and packing, I only got 3 hours of sleep on Thursday night. We arrived at our homestay just before midnight on Friday, and ended up getting 4 hours of sleep. I was dubious concerning my performance the next day. However, we had the most fabulous hosts ever and awoke to an amazing breakfast of fruit, oatmeal, and homemade cake shaped like a rose. Our accommodations were pretty much in a mansion decorated like a 5 star hotel. We headed to the road race Saturday morning exhausted, yet refreshed.

Sunrise as we arrived at the RR course
photo courtesy of Kim A

This is the face of a honey badger awakened too early.
photo courtesy of Kim A

The women's B course was 2 laps of a 13 mile loop. The first lap was pretty calm, and I took mental note of good places to attack.

Women's B/C field during the RR
photo courtesy of A Stevens

About halfway through the second lap, Ashley (UT) and I managed a breakaway. My teammates Nicole and Kim refrained from pulling hard at the front of the main pack to maintain my breakaway. Sarah (Rice) kept going to the front and pushing the pace to bridge the gap, resting, then going to the front of the pack again. Ashley and I worked amazingly together to keep them just out of sight, until we ran out of hills to slow them down on. I saw our gap decreasing and voiced my concerns to Ashley, who replied "It'll be okay. They'll catch us right at the finish but it'll be too late." I didn't want it to be that close, but I was afraid I wouldn't be able to hold a TT to the end on my own, so I stayed with her. About 400 meters from the finish, I looked back and Bailey (MSU) was almost in my draft with the rest of the pack surrounding her. I turned back around and put all I had into the pedals. I could only see Ashley to my left. About 100 meters to go I stood up and sprinted with all my might. Tunnel vision formed, and all I could see was a tiny spot just beyond the finish line. I got first! Despite the finish being a slight uphill, I managed to get to 29 mph right at the end.

After the RR we watched the other fields finish. Bobby Ehrmann (A&M) and Marc Granberry (UT) had a close sprint for 1st in the men's Cs. Bobby took first with Marc a close second. In addition to the Women's Bs and Men's Cs, Texas A&M took 1st in the Men's Bs and Women's Cs!

Bobby Ehrmann takes 1st in the men's C RR

Marc Granberry takes 2nd in the men's C RR

Saturday afternoon was the team time trial. C rider Cynthia held on for as long as she could and then followed the course in case we needed help. Nicole, Kim and I worked beautifully as a team. At one point, we passed over a bridge and all I could see for miles was red clay, water and grass. We felt like we were in a different country for a while. We turned around and quickly notice the OU girls hot on our trail. We didn't like how close they were, so we picked up the pace. We finished first with two minutes in between us and the 2nd place team and averaged 20.6 mph despite the wind. We put our 1st place medal in the jar from our 1st place TTT at Tunis.

Medal from OU and jar full of rocks from Tunis Roubaix
photo courtesy of Kim A

Saturday night our host cooked us a wonderful feast consisting of penne pasta with squash topped with walnuts, corn bread, herb lemon chicken, and a dessert that tasted like light crème brûlée topped with balsamic vinegar strawberries.

Om nom nom

The rainy and cold weather that was supposed to happen Saturday actually happened on Sunday. Ben and M2 helped set my pink tent adjoining to the A&M trailer so we looked super pro.

Texas A&M Cycling Team setup
photo courtesy of Kim A

I knew the race was going to be a competition of skill rather than athleticism, and I had the advantage of having little regard for my own safety. Sarah (Rice) and I ended up in a breakaway with Ashley and Nicole close behind. Sarah and I worked together to increase the distance slowly. With 3 laps to go, Sarah slid into one of the corners. I was drafting behind her but stopped quickly and missed her by a few inches. I kept going. I saw Nicole catch up with Ashley, and then it was the two of them along with Sarah chasing me. Nicole was working the team tactics and not pulling for the chase group. At this point, I was worried that I wouldn't have the legs to keep Sarah and Ashley at bay for 3 laps. I didn't go all out but I put myself at about 9/10. Half a lap later, I realized they weren't gaining on me, so I went 10/10. I was in a groove. I had moved past the point of pain into numbness. I felt like I was flying. I kept the gap for the remainder of the race and finished 1st without having to fight for it. Thank FSM for bike handling skills!

The results of my first place finishes at OU, along with Tunis results, put me at first place in the conference out of 40 B women.

SCCCC Women's B standings
photo courtesy of Kim A

Despite my success, the golden moment of the OU race was the long overdue addition of a Women's C category. Texas A&M rider Cynthia was the only C in this race, but the numbers will grow throughout the season. I am glad to be a part of this step forward for collegiate women's cycling! I am thankful for Jacque, Matt, Jeff, Kim, Cynthia, and everyone else who helped make this happen. And the promoter of the OU race, James, for being accommodating with last minute changes and providing AWESOME winner's jerseys for the race.

Cynthia, the first ever Women's C rider for the SCCCC!

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