Wednesday, 16 April 2014

MBG in America - Louisville Criterium Race Report

Whilst other Mulebar Girl teammates were sipping cocktails by the pool in sunny Andalucia, Spain, for the team’s training camp, Di was busy conquering Half Ironman distance in Texas and I was off to Louisville, near Boulder in Colorado…for work! But who said it had to be all work and no fun?
Considering that I was just back from a week in Nice, France, where I managed to put in some decent hours in the saddle particularly on climbs, I knew I could have a little rest in Colorado and recoverWell, that was before I came across the Louisville Criterium flyer! The race was happening just 3 miles from my hotel and since I was staying over for the weekend, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss…so here I was just the day before my flight, packing my bike once again!
On the morning of my departure, I woke up early to get at least 1 hour of spinning on the rollers before leaving for the airport as my legs needed loosening following the Sunday’s Twickenham CC Dave Peck Memorial Road Race (part of the National Team Series)Travelling across time zones and dealing with jet lag is never easy on the body whether you’re an athlete or not. With a 10 hour flight leaving UK late afternoon on Tuesday and arriving in Denver late evening on the same day, I had to make sure not to sleep too much so I could get a full night sleep once in the U.S.
Despite being based in Louisville, I was only 15 miles away from the beautiful and chilled city of Boulder, located at the foothills of The Rockies and at an altitude of 1500 metres. The surrounding mountains along with its numerous sports facilities make Boulder one of the healthiest cities in the United States and a place that many professional athletes call ‘home’. With 3 long days of back-to-back meetings ahead of me and the most breath-taking views of The Rockies from the office, it was important for both my fitness and sanity that I got to enjoy the outdoors.
Spring weather in Colorado can be very unpredictable as it proved during my visit as the snow fell heavily during the Wednesday night but had already melted by end of the day Thursday under the warm sun. Having crashed on black ice just 2 weeks earlier, I opted for a run to stay safe although the snow didn’t seem to affect the local riders – Colorado is used to snow and by 10am on Thursday morning, snow ploughs had already cleared the roads and with the air being so dry, the snow rarely freezes.  Once the snow cleared and thanks to the long lunch breaks, I managed to fit 2 rides of 1 hour each – every little helps!
The Louisville Criterium was not due to start before late afternoon on Saturday so I decided to join some work colleagues on an easy 2 hour spin in the morning to Boulder and back with some visits of the local attractions: a supercar exhibition and the newly built Valmont Bike Park which will be hosting the U.S. National Cyclocross Championships in January this year followed by a coffee stop at Vic’s Café. Accompanied by a workcolleague, I got to the race which was held in the middle of a trading estate, on a 0.7 miles rectangular circuit with a 300 yards long 2% climb to the finish. With plenty of time to spare, we decided to watch the supporting races. Aside for the rainbow coloured team kits, criterium races in the United States seem no different to the British ones except for the women’s races being split by categories with separate 4th cat, 3rd cat and Pro/1/2 cat races which makes for much more a level-playing field. The Women’s Pro/1/2 has 15 riders on the start line and having no idea of the teams or riders to watch, I have a quick look for anyone riding with teammates and go straight off the front full gas, downhill, through a few corners and up the gentle slope aided by a tail wind to see who is chasing. With the group forming behind me, watching me in the distance, I ease up and decide to sit in for the rest of the race before a rider in red attacks on the climb! I immediately hear the commentator mentioning her name: “Meredith Miller”, I believe I heard that name somewhere before…so I go after her before the group re-joins again until 5 laps to go where a few attacks go unsuccessfully. On the final lap, two teammates are working together to set up their sprinter so I stay as close as possible to them until the final kick up the climb where I lost touch by two bike lengths with the 3 leaders which included Meredith but managed to catch another rider to come to the line in 4th place. With the altitude and the climb to the finish, I wanted to save my legs and launched my sprint a too late and although I was hoping to win the race, I’m happy to have finished close behind the leaders and to have had the chance not only race but meet the lovely Meredith Miller.
On the Sunday following the race, I was invited on a 4-hour ride by some ultra-fit work colleagues to Lyons and Left Hand Canyon with a stop-over at Amante in Boulder to re-fuel before heading back to Louisville…in pieces!! It was great to be back riding in Boulder after my last visit 2 years ago but also very sad to see the devastation brought by last year’s floods which have left the area destroyed with many mountain passes left inaccessible and many sections of tarmac gone so my thoughts go to all families and businesses who have been affected by the floods.

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