• Keep Calm and Carry On: Wombat on Madera

    by  • March 15, 2012 • opinionate, too random, womyn on weels

    Ed Note. NorCal Cycling News is a community powered site.  We rely on input from racers and folks out in the field to make it work.  We received two articles this week from folks who were at Madera. The first we are publishing is from Bec Werner, a interloper from Oz who spent most of last year racing for Webcor, is back racing for SportVelo.  Having just landed a week ago Bec had a rocky time in the Central Valley and worked out the kinks at Madera before getting started with her North American racing season. 

    By Bec “Wombat” Werner

    Bec "Wombat" Werner

    They say that bad luck comes in threes. Hopefully I got all my bad luck for the season out of the way at Madera. All those ‘triumph over adversity’ stories are getting a bit boring by now anyway, so here’s a take on the Women’s 1/2 Madera Stage Race that didn’t quite go to plan.

    To recap the crit; Alison Tetrick rode off the front, and then proceeded to ride on the front for the whole race, while Kira from Los Gatos kept herself out of the wind, before turning on the track legs and taking out the sprint. There was a bit of a bingle back in the field on the second last corner, which possibly crunched a few bones. Heal quick to those involved.

    I finished in the bunch after having taken a sneaky time bonus preme, so was off to an okay start. Then it was off to the time trial. It’s a pretty quick turnaround, and that is where my troubles began. Having only been stateside a week, I wouldn’t say I’d be first pick as navigator. Needless to say we became ‘momentarily misplaced’. We got to the road race course before we realized something wasn’t right and started gunning it back to the TT course. You could say we didn’t get lost at all, we were just being really punctual for the road race. There’s nothing like a bit of panic to get the heart rate up when you don’t really have time for a proper warm up.

    After the crit things were obviously pretty tight on GC, and the time trial would be a massive factor in such a short stage race. I was last off, and before you ask, no, it was not ranked from slowest to fastest. I just have a last name placed near the end of the alphabet, and unfortunately so did the two fastest time trialers in the field – I was chasing Molly Van Houweling and Tetrick. I would be lucky to keep them in sight, and if you realized from the first paragraph, luck wasn’t exactly on my side this weekend.

    To make it all nice and poetic, I was chasing rainbows, but I never even got close enough to glimpse the gold at the edge, as Molly, resplendent in her rainbow skin-suit was out of the blocks like a bull at a gate. I’d put a powertap on to help with pacing, but days like this you’d rather not have it, as drooling on a screen that’s reading barely at zone 3 while you’re legs are already screaming at you just makes you feel like riding off a cliff. Fortunately or unfortunately, whichever way you want to look at it, the Madera TT is as flat as a pancake, with 3 90 degree turns, so there were no cliffs to ride off, and I’d just have to suck it up and push on to the finish.

    A couple minutes in, while gasping away and trying to find a rhythm, I was attacked by a swarm of killer bees. (More accurately, a single bee flew into me and got stuck in my skinsuit, getting it’s stinger stuck in my stomach in the process.) I fought off those killers bees like a ninja, or depending on your angle… like Winnie the Pooh who hadn’t had a honey fix in months, and continued on my way.

    I rounded the first corner, and Molly and Ali were completely out of sight. Head down, I accepted my fate, and kept plugging away – a little too far away. After stopping to ask a farmer on the side of the road for directions, I had the gut sinking realisation that I’d missed the turn. It was just one of those days.

    Ali, who is returning from injury and trying to ‘get backs some fitness’ won the TT in course record time, ahead of Molly, who also posted a great time and PB. It would be a fight between Tetrick, flying solo, and the Metromint squad supporting Van Houweling.

    Saturday night everyone turned their clocks forward, and luckily, so did I. I may have done some stupid things this weekend, but forgetting the time change was not going to be added to the list. Something much worse was in the offing.

    The women’s 1/2 race had the later start, so I didn’t have to treck out to the middle of nowhere in this horribly cold weather you NorCal natives claim to be Spring. This meanth that I would be driving the coach/team owner/manager’s car to the race on my own with my bike and the TT bikes from the day before on top. No biggie. I was feeling comfortable riding on the wrong, right hand side of the road, and one benefit of getting ‘lost’ the day before was that I knew the way to the course

    After a few wrong turns, and a little bit of over-revving on the stick shift, which was also on the wrong side, I made it onto the highway. Sweet. Keep calm and carry on. Chugging along I see other cars with bikes on top taking different turns off the highway. It’s a little disconcerting, but I stick to my guns  and plough on. Why would locals having raced here year after year have more idea than a foreigner who’s been in the country a week?

    I passed a semi-trailer and BAM, suddenly there is a bike hanging off the back of the car. At this stage any sense of composure is thrown out the window, along with the bike. In times of panic you go back to what comes automatically, which in this case doesn’t help. What side of the road do I pull off to in this back to front, upside down country? It was chaos as I tried to signal and get off the highway. Instead of a turn signal i got the windscreen wipers going. O was  doing everything right, if i was in Australia.

    My heart’s in my mouth. The forks on the bike are broken, and I’m on the side of the highway trying to fix this mess. Anyway, I make it to the race, write a scrambled sorry note saying I’ll explain later, realize I’ve forgotten my helmet, find one to borrow, and roll up to the start line. Racing was the last thing on my mind. Working out how long it would take to ride back to Australia was a little closer.

    The field rolls off, and things are pretty steady for the first part. Tetrick takes what appears to be her mandatory spot at the front of the peloton, before a Metromint rider attacks in an effort to keep the field on its toes. There’s a little bit of jostling for position heading into the ‘cobbles’ and the pace is lifted, with about 8 riders breaking off the front, leaving the rest of us chasing. This pretty much forms what will be the next 3 laps. I could make up some kind of amazing commentary for what was happening in the lead group or chase, but it would all be a lie. I was firmly stuck in the worst position possible, between the two groups, chewing stem, and fighting into the windy course, with nothing but the depressingly crap numbers on my power meter to keep me company.

    Coming into the feed zone on the last lap, I had company for a while, catching a Red Racing rider who had dropped from the lead group, and gave me an update on the situation up front. There had been some frustrations in the lead group, with no one wanting to work together, and finally someone had attacked, breaking the group in two, with Tetrick, Van Houwelling and Flavia Oliveira making the front selection.

    After struggling for the final time over the ‘I hope my fillings are all in tight’ section, I rolled across the line to discover that Tetrick had attacked the other two on the final rough section and powered away to win by just over a minute. Not bad for someone in their first race back trying to find some form. Watch out for her later in the season. The podium ended up a carbon copy of the road race finish.

    As far as my race is concerned, I think I’m gonna be on team car washing duties for the rest of the season.

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