Johanna Trueblood and Ellen Sherrill W Cat 3/4 Mt. Hood
24 participants - representing Boulder, CO; BC, Canada; Missoula, MT; Boise, ID; Seattle, WA; a local team and us.
Ellen was the motivator for getting us to this race. She was excited to do a big out of town race and gave me a list to pick from. This race was the only one that fit with kid/life schedules, and I am so glad that it turned out that way - it was an absolutely amazing race!! However, before I knew it was so amazing, I spent the weeks leading up to the race with quite a bit of trepidation about the weather and the crazy criterium (crit) course. Even though we were hearing about 8 foot walls of snow, cold/rainy weather, and the "thrills, spills, and chills" promised by the race promoter about the crit course, we decided to be adventurous and stick with our plans to go. Our adventurous spirits paid off with great sunny weather, melted snow, and a crit course that wasn't too bad.
So.... here is how it went:
Stage 1: Columbia Gorge Road Race - 28 miles, 2200 ft of climbing
Ellen and I prep'd for our race by getting autographs and chit chatting with Kristin Armstrong - we probably looked like a couple of teenagers at a Justin Beiber concert. We decided to use this stage to check out the competition. The race took place on a beautiful road that climbed alongside the Columbia River gorge - some day I will need to come back and just ride it for the views. During the race Ellen and I were able to pin point the strong climbers that would be our competition on the big hill climb stage and those we didn't need to worry about. The final sprint of this race got a little confusing with some relegation's over a center line crossing before the 200km marker. With the relegation's I was able to finish 2nd and Ellen in 10th (got caught up in the confusion). Both of our finishes got us pack time going into the TT.
Stage 2: Trout Lake TT - 10.6 miles, 400ft of climbing
This course was quite technical in the first 5 miles with several sharp turns and rollers, but the real test came in the last 5 miles as you steadily climbed to the finish (400ft doesn't sound like much, but those last 5 miles seemed to go up forever!!). If I hadn't have been hypoxic during the race I am sure I would have enjoyed the amazing views of Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood blanketed in snow, but I was being very focused on the gorgeous black asphalt instead. Like any stage race the TT is key to setting up your placement for the rest of the race and Ellen and I went into the race knowing we needed to do well. I was using Nathan's disk wheel, which was great, but it meant that I couldn't use the power feedback that I was used to, so I had to rely on HR which isn't something I have done before. I was feeling pretty good about my ride as I approached the turn onto the second half of the course and the hill, when my 30 second person passed me (she was the girl that had won the race the day before, so I knew she could climb and I started to worry about what this would mean for the final day). As we turned onto the uphill grade she got out of her saddle and I got my first glimmer of hope that she had hit the course too hard at the start and was going to crack. I passed her and then two others on my way to the finish - luckily for me I got back not only the 30 seconds she had gained on me, but even put an additional 29 seconds on her. In the end a TT specialist got 54 seconds on the field, I came in second and Ellen in 4th, only 15 seconds back from me.
Stage 3: Hood River Crit
This was a super technical course that circled Full Sail Brewery. It's six turns included a downhill hairpin turn and a couple of short hills to get back up to the descent, all of this in less than a mile. Ellen was totally in her element during this race, I on the other hand was like a fish out of water - the impressive crash on lap two that happened in front of me didn't help. My goal was to get pack time, which I did with a 5th place finish, but Ellen wanted podium and she got it with a great sprint for 3rd. We celebrated with an awesome India Red Ale from Double Mountain Brewery.
Stage 4: Three Summits Road Race - 57 miles, 6,270 feet of climbing
Ellen and I came into this race 54 seconds down from the race leader. She had stayed with the pack on the first stage, so we knew she could do some climbing and was a rock star in the flats. My strategy in the race was to get upfront on the hills and climb at my pace and see who was able to keep up. I had used this strategy at Challenge Challenge last year and it had worked - I never feel like I get much draft or benefit from making others do the pace making up the hills anyway. So, as we hit the first hill I moved up front and set the tempo. There was a girl, Jen from Boulder, that Ellen and I had been watching over the past couple of stages - she was always ready to work and a strong climber. I thought she could be handy in a break, so I came along side her and said (a little cocky, but....) "you will not beat me up the hills, but if we work together, I can get you on the podium". She jumped at this and she and I worked hard setting the pace, with me on the hills and her on the flats/rollers. After a couple of miles, as the climb started to take on more of a pitch, we had whittled our field down to 4 riders and the GC was nowhere in sight. Throughout the rest of the race the four of us worked well together. I was, true to form, totally paranoid that the GC was going to catch us, so I pushed our group to keep the tempo up - reminding Jen, that if she wanted to get on the podium she needed at least 1min 30sec on the GC (we all had a good laugh over my paranoia at the finish as we came in 22 min ahead of the GC). The finish was perfect for our cyclocross phenom, Ellen, as it had more sand and gravel then pavement on the last 200km (a steep pitch at a right angle from the course). Ellen and I had talked about the finish and how we needed to enter it in front of the pack, so I blocked Jen, Ellen cyclocrossed over the gravel and we got 9 sec on Jen and 28 sec on our other break rider. Ellen took the stage win with huge hugs, high fives and congratulations from everyone - I love how women bond over high anxiety and pain! After the win, the waiting began, the next group of two to cross the line came in 12 min later, confirming my GC win for the race and Ellen's second (and Jen third).
This race was amazing - the weather, the views, the company, the organization, and the strategy that actually worked!! Ellen and I lived up our win, knowing that if we do this race again it will be dangling off the back of the Pro 1/2 pack competing with the likes of Clara Hughes and Kristin Armstrong.
CAPTION: Johanna Trueblood and Ellen Sherrill on the podium for the GC awards at the Mt. Hood Stage Race