This year we were able to take 8 students (plus Coach Kolie) to the Collegiate Road National Championships in Grand Junction, CO. We had 4 A women: Katy Olesnavage, Anne Raymond, Tori Wuthrich, and myself (Emma Edwards), 2 A men: Justin Bandoro and Emerson Glassey, and Berk Ozturk and Youyang Zhao joined them for the Team Time Trial (TTT). All of the A-level riders did the TTT the first day (Friday), the Road Race the second day (Saturday), and the Criterium the third day (Sunday).
Most of us traveled on Wednesday, arriving at our house—a house on a farm which we booked through Airbnb—around midnight. Since we couldn’t see any of the surrounding scenery when we arrived, we were surprised with wonderful views when we woke up. We spent the morning putting our bikes together and meeting some of the animals on the farm, including two dogs and a baby goat!
That afternoon, we pre-rode the TTT course, and we were unpleasantly surprised with two obstacles: (1) the altitude, and (2) the wind! Of course, the altitude was something we had considered a little bit, but we didn’t expect it to affect it as much as it did. We really noticed a difficulty in breathing and much lower power numbers to what we were used to. We had to rely on to how we were feeling to dictate our efforts (instead of power numbers) much more than usual. We really hadn’t thought about the wind at all! It was extremely gusty, so we were being blown all over the road. This made it very difficult to pace-line efficiently but forming echelons was also difficult because of the gusty nature of the wind.
Luckily, it wasn’t quite as windy Friday morning. The gusts weren’t as strong, so we felt a little safer, but it still played a significant role, since benefits from drafting were still decreased. The TTT was about 20 miles, which is longer than any other TTT we do all year. It was an out-and-back: downhill with a head-wind on the way out and slightly uphill with a tail-wind on the way back. This combination made it very tricky to pace, and both the men and the women shed a rider soon after the turn-around. After that, it was a fight against our lungs and the wind. The men finished top-10 and the women finished second! A particularly special moment for me was standing on the podium with my teammates, next to Jen Wilson, an alumni of the MIT team who rode with the Stanford team this year as a postdoc.
We didn’t have a chance to pre-ride the road race course, but we drove it quickly on Friday afternoon. The course was absolutely stunning, with mountains surrounding us and a great mix of windy descents, hairpin steep accents, and many miles of false-flats.
Unfortunately, I didn’t actually get to ride more than 3.5 miles of the course, though, because I went down! I think what happened is that someone got nervous going around a corner on the descent and pulled on her brakes, losing traction in their tires. It results in 10 girls going down, including me. I was able to slow down a lot before I crashed into her (she went flying across the road, hence why she took out so many other girls), so I wasn’t badly hurt (just a cut on my elbow) and my bike was fine, but it was the end of my day of racing. Tori also had bad luck, with her derailleur breaking on a cattle-guard, a couple miles after my crash. She ended up on a neutral-support bike, 5 minutes behind the rest of the field by the time everything was set up and she was ready to roll. She fought hard, though, and ITT-ed the rest of the race, passing quite a few (13!!) girls on her way to the finish line, finishing 36th. Anne and Katy both did wonderfully, finishing 29th and 25th respectively, out of 61 starters (which is probably 3 x larger than our largest women’s-A race this year during the regular season). In the men’s race Emerson and Justin both did great. Emerson finished 50th out of ~120 starters! Possibly the most successful part of the day, though, was the skill shown in this picture:
Sunday was the crit in downtown Grand Junction. It was a 6 corner crit around a couple of blocks downtown. It was a really good location for a crit, and it seemed tame except for one corner, which went from quite a wide road to a narrow road, and the corner was smooth and slippery, with a manhole cover in the middle. Tori and Anne both went down on this corner throughout the race (along with many other people!) but were okay! I tried to use the fact that I had only raced 3 miles the day before to my advantage by attacking with 5 laps to go. I held a ~10 second gap for the rest of the race until the second-to-last corner (~200 meters from the end) when I was caught and passed by the group. Katy also finished with the group! Justin and Emerson had a very fast race, with the peloton (of more than 100 people!!) strung out almost the entire race.
We waited around for a while, the suspense building more and more, until they announced that we had won the D2 club omnium! Unfortunately, Justin and Berk missed the podium and the picture:
This was, without a doubt, a great team effort. We would not have been able to get this national title without every single person that went! Special thanks to Kolie for helping us get ready for races and going over strategies and things to think about for each race. I’m very sad that three of the people who went this year (Katy, Anne, and Justin) are graduating this year, but I’m already looking forward to next year so that I can make it more than 3.5 miles into the road race!