Monday, November 7, 2011

Tour de Femme 70k road race -- the report!

Wanaka always surprises me. Last year, we had the hottest November on record, with most days in the 30s Celsius. This yeas has been... slightly different. The day before the 70k road race,  we had a southerly from Antarctica move through and dump snow down nearly to town level. Out of nowhere, I got hailed on! The winds were whipping fiercely (maybe 50km/hr, with gusts upwards of 70? Not a gale, but close).

The day of the Tour de Femme 70k road race dawned and we were greeted with 7C (45F) temperatures, with wind. The race itself starts at the Lone Star bar just outside Wanaka and climbs up the Crown Range Rd, a 35k climb starting at 300m and topping at ~1200m before it turns right back around to finish at the Lone Star again. It's a very gradual climb up into the mountains over the pass, except for the last 3-5k which are significantly steeper. On a summer day, it's a beautiful ride as we pass over the Cardrona river numerous times, with flowers everywhere. On this particular day, we started off cold, and we rode up to even colder terrain. Snowy mountains, glacial rivers and ice starting to creep onto the roads. Given the conditions on the road, we were forced to turn around about 1k from the top because of all the ice, grit and snow above.

Pre-race, I just had had a caffeinated gel, get ready world.
Photo credit: Emberly W.
Just before the start gun.
Photo credit: Emberly W.
I had never been in a road race before, I didn't even have my road bike (it's in Canada). So, I felt out of place on my geeky tri bike. Nevertheless, I hung with the front pack of girls for as long as possible, but got spit out the back around Cardrona, about 22km in. I worked with 2 girls, first with the hopes of catching the group, and when we realized that was impossible, we just worked together to keep up a good tempo.

Once we hit the turn around, we were all smacked HARD in the face by a brutal, cold Northwesterly wind, maybe 50km/hr. You couldn't BREATHE going into it, and it was cold as shit (1C - 34F). Our group, now of 5 girls, had split up a bit at the turn around and I worked my balls off trying to catch up and get a draft. The difference was huge. The 5 of us worked together to bring it back home. If you were at the front, breaking the wind, you couldn't breathe and stayed up there for 2 minutes, max. If you were behind and had a draft, you were pretty much coasting. It was difficult to split the pack up any, just because there was absolutely NO WAY you could break away in that wind. Nevertheless, we brought it in quickly, everyone sharing their pull equally.

Then tensions rose a bit as we approached the end, but I had no idea as I'd never been in a cycle race so was just drafting along in 3rd position in our 5-woman group. The girl in the front had GONE OUT HARD, and the girl ahead of me couldn't respond. I finally realized what was going on (duh), so gunned it too, dropping the 3 girls behind me. I ended up coming in 3 seconds behind the girl I was chasing, for a 4th age group place in the 20-29 category. I was 2:20:17, 10th overall out of 21 girls. The girl that won was a beast, and came in at 2:03:17. In those conditions, holy crap!!

So, first cycle race and I freaking loooooooved it. What a blast. The race was in its inaugural year and all the ladies enjoyed themselves despite the tough conditions. It could have been because we were then provided with a free meal and a small bottle of champagne each. Maybe.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a challenging race, 900m of climb seems like it would be a real killer! Nice work. I find the idea of doing a road race pretty intimidating, road cyclists seem to be quite a peculiar breed...