Clemson, SC was the sixth stop in the SERC series. We had a good team showing with six riders. Star, Helen and I drove down from Chattanooga, Emily and Amanda came from Knoxville and Catherine had the short drive from Athens, GA. The trail in Clemson is really fast fun single track accentuated by steep climbs that don't feel bad during the pre-ride but HURT on race day. The weekend was made more interesting by the time trial Saturday afternoon. There were bonus points up for grabs so the TT was a must for those of us in the hunt for the overall series. It was a fairly long TT, over half of the 11 mile race loop including the steepest long climb. GREAT.
We arrived Saturday in time to set up the team tent, have a picnic lunch and relax before our pre-ride. The pre-ride was less than ideal. Catherine and I rode the fast sections at a fairly fast pace in preparation for the afternoon's time trial while Star, Helen and Mark took it easy to save the legs for the overall. The excitement started when Star broke her chain and no one had a tool to fix it. Her pre-ride turned into a pre-walk. Helen, meanwhile, was finding out that she was NOT over the illness that she has been fighting for the past week. It took everything she had to finish the pre-ride loop. After some assessing we determined that it was not smart for her to race the TT or the cross country race. She was demoted to bottle girl for the weekend. Mark rescued Star with a chain tool and we were finally done with the pre-ride. Whew.
The afternoon was becoming really long and the time trial start was fast approaching. All I really wanted to do was relax and eat dinner but I needed the bonus points. I WANT to be on that final series podium. The first part of the course was downhill and twisty. Now I am a good bike handler, it is one of my big forte's while racing; I take pride in being able to handle a bike. As good as I am, Shelly is better (hands down one of the best bike handlers I know, male or female)and she was my big competition. I did not want her to catch sight of me in the time trial so I lined up after her. I knew I was a stronger climber than her, I wasn't worried about the second half of the course. I felt fairly certain that I would make up some time over her bike handling with my climbing ability, but I wanted the advantage of being out of sight. It worked!!! I raced what felt like a miserable, slow time trial (don't they all??) but I won!!! WHEW. I was actually 13th overall; take THAT boys... Catherine won the Sport women's category and posted the third fasted women's time of the day. Go girl!!! Emily soft pedaled to get her points and save her legs. It was a smart move.
Dinner was a picnic in our hotel room. Everyone brought something and we had taco/burrito/make-your-own-tex-mex dinner. It was WAAAAYYYY better than anything we could have gone out and eaten. After that it was bedtime; it was going to be an early morning.
As predicted, morning came way too soon and we were loaded and heading to the race before my body wanted to be awake. I really wish these things started later once in a while. While warming up I noticed some stiff competition had shown up; my friend Niki was here. Great. She's a phenomenal climber (not so good for me on a course that finishes with a mile long climb) AND she has fresh legs since she skipped the time trial. They said "go" and I stuck to Shelly's wheel like glue. I was NOT going to let her get away today. We rode away from Niki and off the front of the race. About half way through the first lap Shelly told me to go around her and before I knew it I was off the front alone!!! I rode that way for over a lap. Suddenly, at then end of lap two, my legs started to remind me of the time trial from the previous day. Just keep pedaling. About half way up the final climb Niki passed me. Damn. Keep pedaling. After a moment of really being bummed out over losing the lead, I rallied the troops and decided to start chasing. It took about 10 minutes and she was back in sight. Unfortunately, every time it went up my legs started screaming. Keep pedaling. We got to the last climb together and that was all I had. Niki rode away for a well deserved win and I was going to have to settle for second place. I rode a great race and was proud of what I did out there; even if in the end I lost by less than a minute in a 2:15 race. Amanda rode in for 4th place with Emily in 5th. Catherine took second in the Sport race. It was a good weekend for the team.
Thanks for reading...