Collegiate Nationals Part 1: the Road Race

13 05 2009

May 7-10: Yolanda Colon, Nikola Milanovic and I travel out to Fort Collins, CO, for the 2009 Collegiate Road Championships. Our trip out there is smooth except for a slight delay when our pilot gets in a car accident on the way to the airport. Better to wreck  a car than a plane, I think, and I’m happy to hear that the pilot is okay and even happier to learn that we’re getting a replacement pilot. Landing in Denver, we pick up our  mini-van rental, drive the hour to the race hotel, find some pasta at Rasta Pasta downtown, nap back at the hotel, put the bikes together and go check out the course. It is beautiful. Absolutely. The exposed and rocky mountains and hills are a stark contrast to the mountain foliage of WNC. And challenging too, as the course winds its way along the Horsetooth Reservoir and across two dams.

We drive the entire course and along the way witness a huge deer get hit by a pick-up truck driving right in front of us. And right next to a sign warning about deer crossing, too. The driver has been swerving and we were just wondering aloud if he is drunk or maybe texting. The driver is a local and justly mad at himself. He is not hurt.  He doesn’t seem drunk and doesn’t look like the texting type either.  The deer can’t possibly be in one piece but jumps right up and gracefully walks toward the reservoir. We make a note to avoid deer/bicycle collisions and  this particular white pick-up truck, and then Nik hops out to ride the hour back to town. Yoly doesn’t feel well since this morning’s plane ride and decides to save her energy for tomorrow. Back in town, we shower and go back to Rasta Pasta for dinner. The waitress is surprised to see us again but seems up to the challenge. Yoly and Nik keep it simple–wisely not wanting to put anything questionable in their bellies prior to the next morning’s big event–but I experiment with a dish called the Rasta Mon, a recommendation of the waitress: a bed of pasta with bananas, pineapple, and grapes. Which one of these things doesn’t belong?

Morning of the road race: Yoly is still not feeling well. We go to the course, get her all set up and discover that her front tubular is flat. Shimano’s neutral support loans us a front wheel, which will probably serve her better than her deep dish Zipp on this very gusty day. Yoly does a few warm-up efforts and reports that she’s having trouble breathing. Normal, I guess–we’re at altitude. Yoly’s Division II race starts at a little after 8am, about 10 minutes after the Division I field departs. I rush to the feed zone to get a good spot. The Div I women come through split up into chunks. Finally the Div II women appear in the distance and they seem to be all together, no one willing to leave the group and battle the wind. This is good for Yoly. She has a solid sprint. I grab bottles, wait for Yoly, scan the group as it passes and can’t find her anywhere. I wait. I worry. The Div I women come around again. Then Div II. Still no Yoly. Did she crash on one of the steep descents? Get blown off the road and into the reservoir below? Did she roll her rear tubular, the one that I glued on two days ago? A deer? The man in the white pick-up? My thoughts panic. I look for an emergency medical number in the race guide. Why is there no number? I drive back to the start and find Yoly and her bike, both in one piece. I’m estatic. She is disappointed. Yoly tells me that she can’t breath and that her body just wouldn’t go up the climbs. We start planning our revenge for tomorrow’s flat crit.

Nik’s race starts mid-afternoon. Eight riders are off the front by the time the race passes the feed zone for the first time. I anxiously await the peloton, which looks about a minute in arrears. And there is Nik, looking comfortable and riding in the top ten. Great. He doesn’t want a bottle. Never does. I imagine him racing a 200k event in Serbia with one bottle. Each time the group passes, Nik is looking good, maintaining his position near the front of the group. The break continues to build it’s lead and by the last feed only six riders remain off the front. Nik still has a shot at a top ten. I quickly jump in the mini-van and get first position behind the race caravan so I can watch the last few miles, which contain a couple of killer climbs on the way out of the reservoir basin. Nik gets gapped on the first climb and I yell and honk encouragement from behind. Then the police tell me that I can no longer follow the race. Something I said? By the time I take the detour back to the start, the race is over. Nik finishes 33rd. Solid. Respectable. We start planning our revenge for tomorrow’s crit.

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