Race Report: 2017 USA Cycling Masters Road National Championships – Dana Stryk
Masters Road National Championship Race Report
Augusta’s River Region, GA
June 1-4, 2017
When USA Cycling moved Masters Nats from Winston-Salem, NC to Augusta, GA, I thought only about the additional hours needed to drive to the race and not about the topography change. Lesson learned.
Thursday, June 1st: Time Trial
Strom Thurmond Dam, 29 km of rolling hills and little wind.
Field: W50-54, Field size: 13.
Not even the most talented and witty writer could make a TT race report interesting. I hit my wattage numbers.
7th – Dana (50-54)
8th – Christine (50-54)
8th – Laura (45-49)
Friday, June 2nd: Road Race
Fort Gordon, 15 miles and 1023 ft. climbing per lap, 4 laps.
Field: W50-54, Field size: 18.
The course was hilly, nothing too steep or too long, just lots of hills. At mile marker 14, the road slopes upward for the next half mile, with gradients from “Oh, is this a hill?” to 7%. As the road flattens and bends to the right, you see the finish line. I imagined that hill would be nicknamed “Heartbreak Hill” by many.
Christine and I raced at 3:35pm, with Laura’s field starting five minutes before us. As I soft-pedaled waiting for the call to the line, the officials offered the option to shorten the race because of the heat. With temps in the mid-90s, sunny skies and a course with minimal shade, reducing the length sounded good – but I wondered what that would do to the intensity of the race. Dehydration was a serious concern. Chuck and Dave would be in the feed zone at Mile 14 and neutral water supplied at Mile 10. Eating and hydrating during a race are things at which I do not excel. I often seem to channel my inner camel and survive a race on what I already have in my bottle cages.
In our field was the defending champion, Kim Pettit as well as the woman who won the TT (Jan) and some others from hillier parts of the country. I watched to see who seemed to climb well out of the gate and tried to sit on Kim’s wheel. Chuck’s advice about the RR stayed in my mind – you have to stay with the pack up and over every climb since the nature of the terrain will not allow you to catch the group on the downhill without expending a ton of energy. Those downhills were deceptive – they looked long enough to catch back on but….if you could, you were burning matches while the pack was coasting.
At the top of each hill, the front of the pack accelerated. Since I did not have power displayed, I had no idea if my RPE (my RPE = “The Devil went down to Georgia, is wearing lycra, and is in my race.”) equaled my power output, which was a good thing. I was either coasting or out of the saddle. It was hot. I was miserable.
We were up the finishing hill and through the feed zone. Taking a bottle from Chuck, I wondered if my face showed my pain (answer: yes). Through the start/finish, 30 more miles to go.
As we made the first turn, someone cornered poorly, allowing a gap in the field and I sprinted to close it. Legs said, “ouch – pay attention – you don’t have a ton of those matches to waste”. Same thing happened on the second long climb in the lap. I realized that I was climbing the same pace as those around me but a gap had opened. Another couple matches used.
We caught two women from the field in front of us and I heard Laura’s voice giving me encouragement as we passed. How she could even talk, I am not sure. The miles slowly passed.
Our race did not have any attacks, just some accelerations at the top of each hill that was slowly wearing me down. Around mile 25, I popped off, caught back on and then was done. Fortunately, I was not alone. Bessie (who was 3rd in the TT) and I worked together to see if we could catch anyone else who popped. We caught and passed someone and then slowed too much as someone (Gina) behind us pulled the already passed girl back to us. Earlier, Bessie and I made plans to go to the line without sprinting since we were out of the top 5. We all know how silly that looks! While I had no idea where we were in the field, I really didn’t want to soft pedal and drop three places so……I decided to sprint. Silly, I know but I wanted to finish in the top 10 in each of my races (given the field size….well….not so hard). I also figured…when do I get a chance to practice sprinting through the start/finish line at a national championship?
We climb up Heartbreak Hill, turn the corner and I am on Gina’s wheel. With about 150 meters to go, I pulled out and set my sights on the line. Bessie gave chase and nipped me at the line. Wonderful sprinting for 9th and 10th.
Lesson learned: be careful what you do with your hands when you ride through the start/finish! The officials pulled Laura. One of them thought she signaled she was quitting and DNF’d her. Laura handled it with a great deal of grace.
Sunday, June 4th: Criterium
Downtown Augusta, 45 minutes
Field: W50-54, Field size: 11. Combined with the W45-49 for total size = 20.
Last year, the crit course, located in the parking lot of an expo center, contained some technical corners in the first part of the course. Nerves and fear rather than tactics made me jump at the gun, which positioned me in a break from the start and I ended up on the podium in 5th place. This year’s course was downtown and did not have the technical opening. The corners were wide open and the road surface, despite many manhole covers, quite good for city streets. The reigning champ, Kim Pettit had a teammate (Debbie) in the 45-49 field. I expected them to jump from the start and try to get away together. My strategy was to jump with them.
The officials called up the top five as ranked by USA Cycling for the crit. I lined up next to Kim and hoped the hand over my heart during the National Anthem would calm my jitters. The whistle blew and….nothing. No attack. Deep breath.
After a couple of laps, Debbie attacked. I sat on Kim’s wheel. Someone gave chase and Kim joined. I followed. I noticed that Janelle H. (Colavita – who now lives in Tucson) was also watching Kim. There were a couple of attacks that others chased down. Everyone was nervous, I think. As we pulled through the start/finish on a lap, Kim attacked and was joined by her teammate and one other. They had a gap. I heard Chuck yelling to go go go. I knew this could be it. I was up out of the saddle, eyes focused on catching them. Someone was on my wheel (I assume Janelle) and we bridged across and the field was strung out. Once they were caught, it shut down and the field was together. This pattern would continue – quick attack, chased down. I stayed in the pack and let others chase as much as I could. If the race comes down to a sprint, I would need every ounce of energy I had.
At 7 to go and no more free laps, someone crashed just behind me. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt other than some broken ribs.
Soon it was the bell lap. Christine moved to the front of the pack and Kim sat on her wheel. Last year after the race, Kim told me she knew she had to go early since she is not a sprinter. I expected her to do the same this year and waited on her wheel. As we took the second to last corner, they were on the far right side of the road and I was worried about getting boxed in. Laura was sitting on Ainhoa’s (ABRT) wheel. As I moved off Kim’s wheel, Ainhoa jumped, followed by Laura. Everyone accelerated, out of the saddle and into the last turn. I heard gears shifting and shouting. I realized that most of my field was behind me. I thought of the last few weeks sprinting at Ft. Hunt with Chuck – on his wheel and trying to go around him at speed. I thought of last year when I was nipped at the line out of 4th. I realized I was sprinting for a national championship (oh the irony in that…me sprinting).
Dana: 3rd (bronze medal)
Laura: 5th (podium)
Evo BAR Results: