I was so proud to be a part of HPC p/b Altarum last week at the Tour of Fitchburg! This season of cycling just keeps getting better and better. I know it's not everyday that one has the chance to have an Olympian come guest ride with their team, and so I wanted to take full advantage of the opportunity to race with Sue Haywood and try to go for something. "So cool" doesn't quite do justice to the whole experience, but yeah, it was so cool. When Sue wasn't giving me a pull, she was right next to me up front for so much of the races, and I learned so much from her. For someone so famous for her mountain biking prowess, I couldn't believe what a head she has for road racing. She always knew exactly what was going on, where we should be, and how she could help me. I still can't believe SHE was helping me. Beyond her amazing cycling palmares, she is a lot of fun and the six of us girls laughed our heads off together in our down time at the house.
Above: Lesley, Sue, Jeanette, Lorena, Genevieve
Below: Sue and I discuss tactics after the race

I should also say what a "brilliant" and "lovely" addition Genevieve Whitson, our guest New Zealand rider, was as well. She is a rollicking good time and excellent racer to boot. Anna and I spent half the drive home entertaining ourselves by trying to talk like her.

Back to the race...after the Wachusett Mtn road race, when my team mates saw that I was in the running for the green jersey, they immediately decided to put themselves out there for me the next two days to chase points. And that they did. Jeanette, Sue, and Genevieve all took many, many trips to the front of the field to lead me out for the sprint on the points laps. I couldn't believe how easy it made it for me to do my job! I've never had lead outs like that before. I felt so lucky to have team mates who would sacrifice their own results like that to get me in the green jersey. It really meant a lot to me, and made me work harder than I could have otherwise. I didn't want to let any of them down when they put themselves out there for me like that. And somehow, it worked that we won the green jersey on the third stage! I was actually tied with Kelly Benjamin of Cheerwine on Stage 3, but got the jersey because the tie breaker went to the person with the most wins. So we were tied in points going into the final stage and we really battled it out. But she came out ahead quite handily, winning most of the sprints on that stage while I just kept racking up second place points. Overall, she won the points contest, and I got second, surprise, surprise. It was fairly flat, and more of a true sprinter's course for her. My skinny little toothpick legs measure up better on a hilltop sprint like the day before. And I think she was smart and capitalized off of our leadouts. It seemed like she just kept popping out from behind my draft. It wasn't any secret what we were doing with our leadout. In hindsight, we realized we should have had someone on my wheel as a sweeper. Oh, but then there would still be the little problem about her being really good, so who knows, really! (3rd picture: my first call up at a national race. Yay.)

Oh well. It wasn't like that points competition was even the main event. It was just our little sideshow. Just something we were having fun going for. In fact, we kept going for it even after her first place and my second place were already set. Then it was mostly just for pride. And I was having a blast with it, getting in the best training intervals EVER (it felt like my stomach was coming up my throat after the last two sprints), and just wanting to play the game. And wanting to get some respect. I wasn't sure if the other ladies thought it was respectable that we kept going for it even after Kelly clearly had the lead, or just stupid. But Kelly was nice and we even got some props in Cyclingnews (scroll down to the women's race here)- that was nice! We were out to play and I think were the only other team out there to organize ourselves for anything besides Cheerwine and Colavita, who dominated every other aspect of the race. (4th pic: Genevieve (?) giving me a lead out...even though I clearly botched this one. I am WAY off her wheel. Don't know what I would be doing way out there.)

Lesley mostly saved her legs for the finish (it was a good thing that at least one of us was still fresh) and landed herself a top ten finish at BOTH of the last two races! Nice. She really knows how to finish a race off. And Anna also got a top ten finish on the same stage in the 3/4 race. Way to go ladies!

Another noteworthy part of the trip was meeting and hanging out a bit pre/post races with Kathryn Bertine, a racer who has been writing for ESPN about her chase to make it to the Olympics this year - going a round about way by gaining citizenship in the very small nation of Saint Kitts and Nevis and trying to gain an Olympic spot for that country. Clever and gutsy! She didn't quite get the UCI points she needed to gain an Olympic spot, but said she had a wonderful time trying. Funny stuff. She wrote a book that I have read as well, so it was fun to meet her in person. She was so friendly. I love the sisterhood in cycling.

And lastly, I can't help mention having participated in my first race with a pee break. Some of us newer on the big scene found it highly fascinating. On really long stages, sometimes nature calls. The pro men who are really skilled have a way of peeing while still on their bikes. They get a teammate to put a hand on their back to keep them rolling for a minute while they do their thing off the side. Women clearly don't have such a luxury, and so if it is a really long race and everyone is still rolling along all together without any breakaways or much happening, then if you are an IMPORTANT person (example: GC leader, non-example: me) then you can just yell out "PEE BREAK!" and everyone pulls over, and those who want to pee quickly stretch out the leg of their spandex shorts over far enough for an opening, and go on the grass on the side of the road. Susan Hefler had just recently taught me how to do this when I had wondered how to do it quickly in bib shorts (think overalls - you can't just pull em down), so I was excited to try it out, and wanted to get rid of any extra weight with all the climbing still left in the race. But I just couldn't go. Someone next to me said "think of waterfalls", which made me laugh but didn't help me release any weight. On a funny note, there was a girl who obviously had not been mentored in how to perform a quick pee break. She went a few steps further off the road, took off her jersey top so that she could undo her bibs, and then there she was over half undressed on the side of the road when the IMPORTANT girl (the race leader) was done peeing (the fast way, out the leg), back on her bike, and the rest of us followed suit and raced away. Funny cycling etiquette. I hope she caught back up!
(Next to last pic: Jeanette, Lesley, Genevieve, and Sue. We are out cheering on Anna.
Last pic: Amanda, Christina, Sara, Anna - we Mid-Atlantic women bond together when we are off home turf.)

Anna  – (8:56 AM)  

Nice race report!

Oh, and you won the points jersey in your heart ...and that's all that matters!

Andrea J  – (11:44 AM)  

Congrats Lorena! I'm really happy for you that you've found such a great team to work with, and that you're having such excellent results! Keep up the great work. Somehow if I were a character in your story I think I'd be the girl caught with her shirt off :)

Mrs. Anderson  – (3:31 PM)  

How fortunate you were to be with such memorable people but I have to say, they were just as fortunate because we all know how talented and humorous you are!! And I love the pee explanation - oh the things you learn!!!

Chickin  – (11:03 AM)  

Watching you defend that jersey was the most exciting thing I've witnessed in a long time. Not sure if you heard me but I was positioned by the start/finish and was yelling at you for every points sprint. Even had the locals on the bleachers all riled up and cheering for you once I explained what was going on with the points. Great job, Lorena. You are probably sick of hearing this but you are truly a ROCK STAR.

Hans and Michelle  – (8:34 PM)  

Hey, I'm a complete novice, but wondering if you could give me some pointers on what to keep my cadence at, how to shift, when to change gears, etc. I'm still learning. But I'm in love with the sport.

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