- the most picturesque small town, with beautiful estates surrounded by rolling green fields, amidst Amish settlements and some of the nicest, happiest people on earth. I'm thinking back to some of the small towns that I have had to stop at en route on different road trips, and what a sullen and depressed feeling some of them have. Millersburg was the flip side of that coin. As if people just become happy and nice just by virtue of living there. I'd love to spend an entire summer living there. It was the perfect place to have a stage race.
(pic: recognize this man? Bob Roll!)
I can't say enough good things about The Tour of Millersburg! We stayed at an awesome host home (the wife happened to be a professional nutritionist and had all this great food for us), the volunteers were super friendly and organized, all of the courses were fun and with excellent road surfaces, Bob Roll came out and was doing the announcing (how cool is that to have Bob Roll, a Tour de France announcer for Versus, call out your name at a race? And then talk to you at length about tactics for the following stage afterwards?!), and everyone just seemed to be having a good time. It was fun to meet some new faces too. I was a little envious of team C3-Sollay, who even had the awesome opportunity to be hosted by an Amish family (read about it here). The best part of the road race was the huge groups of the Amish families out cheering in the fields along the road for us. I've never seen anything like it. They were great. They must have taken good care of C3, judging from all the attacks they threw out on the road race.
Team HPC p/b Altarum results were great and we picked up two podium spots in the GC - Jen in 2nd and me in 3rd with Leslie and Michelle doing a lot of work for the team, both spending a lot of time off the front. This was an omnium style stage race - based on points rather than overall time. It gives less favor to time trialists, unfortunately for Jen, but I think it makes the racing more aggressive and fun this way. Every stage matters and every place matters. It was great to get two podium spots, but a little bittersweet because Jen was leading in the overall points right up until the end of the final stage. She totally killed it in the 1st stage time trial and won! Our whole team tried our best to help her defend the lead, but she ended up getting beat by a single point on the final stage after Laura McCaughy of Juice Plus won two stages in a row.
(Pic: Jen Cheng, Bob Roll, Leslie Golenor)
Laura is not only one of the best sprinters, but she is also a crafty fox. I've never had so much fun getting beat by someone before. It also made me feel better to find out that she is an Australian national track champion in the points race. I already knew she is a better pure sprinter than I, but her track background made her difficult to out-sly as well. In the second stage, the criterium, Leslie was up the road for a long time in a solo break. She ended up getting caught right as we came through for the bell lap, and I counter attacked. The idea was to force the other teams to chase, have Jen in a good position in the draft while it strung out the field and make it easier for her to stay up front and finish strong. But Laura bridged up to me and that made it tricky, because neither of us wanted to help the other. So she would jump, I would catch up, she would slow down, I would jump her, she would catch up, I would slow down...and so on. Finally we got to a point that we slowed down so much - not wanting to lead each other out - that the field, hot on the pursuit, caught back up. We played a little more cat/mouse right on the finishing straight, and in retrospect I wish that I would have tried to jump sooner. But the truth is that she was watching like a hawk, matched everything I had, and there's probably very few scenarios where I really could have had her. And they might all involve flat tires. That's when I just admire and learn. She won, with me 2nd and Jen 3rd. Still a good finish and kept Jen in the overall lead.
The end of the third stage (road race) played out very similarly. Leslie up the road...brought back...I attacked...Laura bridged...people chased...Jen good position. The main difference is that I attacked a couple miles away from the finish, so since it was still so far to go, Laura and I worked together a little this time. I took a turn hot and inadvertently gapped her a bit so I gassed it again...but she isn't an easy one to drop, she caught back up, and we slowed again. She wouldn't pull through - smart for her, of course, but bad for me. The field came up behind us. There we were, flying in for the final sprint, and I'm trying to think tactics for how to keep Jen in the lead, but at a total loss for what the smartest thing would be to do. I still don't know what the ideal thing for me to do would have been. It's harder to think what to do for a team mate than it is for yourself. Since I am totally afraid of crashing right now, and am impatient, I decided to just continue to lead it out and hope Laura got a cramp and Jen was up front. Jen needed to be within two places of Laura to win the GC. Of course, there were no cramps, but Jen was up front. The only obvious tactic was once I saw Laura coming ahead of me, and saw Jen close behind me, was to make sure I myself wasn't one to be between Jen and her and ruin the point spread. Jen had a strong finish at 4th, but it was one place off to win GC. So close. Oh well.
Laura didn't need to do much convincing after the race to get me dreaming about track cycling now....
(Final Pic: Eating out at Wayne's Restraunt. The man in this picture is Wayne himself. He was a sponsor for the race, and so we ate at his restaurant. This marks the first time I have ever had the owner of a restaurant come out multiple times to check on us and our dinner, chat it up, and even come out and help bus our table - even when the restaurant was packed! Seriously, Millersburg is a nice place.)