|Cervelo P2 and TriRig Omega Brake|
photo courtesy Lynn Hayner
The Fayettville Stage Race consists of a road race and time trial on Saturday, followed by another road race on Sunday. The Women's Open Saturday road race was two 23-mile laps. It started off mellow until Jubilee Subaru started launching attacks after the climb to the hot spot. That day's winning break formed once we got into the windy and flat back section of the course. Jubilee and Think Finance blocked us, while teammates Sheri Rothe and Danielle Bradley (Jubilee), Andrea Thomas (Think Finance), and Mandy Heintz (Shama Cycles) got away. My teammate Marla Briley noticed that her front shifter was loose and, as a matter of fact, the whole left side of the handlebar was snapped in half. She could not get into the drops or stand, so with the exception of a couple of pulls she did, we sat in. The break finished about three and a half minutes ahead of the pack.
After a good four hour break we lined up for the TT. The 8.9-mile course is flat on the way out with two sharp right-hand turns. It was hilly on the way back, with 11-15 mph gusts that created a headwind going up the hills. In order to do well you had to conserve the hardest effort for the last 4 miles, which is difficult when you know the clock is ticking. With a time of 21:49, Michelle Hayner of Velossimo Racing placed first, with Mandy Heintz (Shama Cycles) coming in second, and Camilla Schmitz (Think Finance) third. I placed 9th.
After a good night's rest I felt good going into Sunday's 3-lap, 49-mile road race. On the first lap, Sheri Rothe and I steadily led the pack up the KOM hill. Attacks from Jubilee began in almost the same spot as Saturday, but nothing stayed away. The attacks spurred a faster pace with faster cornering on the course's sharp right-hand turns. I believe it was shortly after the turn onto Ehlinger Road when the first crash occurred. I was behind the whole thing and saw at least three women go down hard, but don’t know what caused it. After slowing down to avoid crashing, I had to bury myself to catch back on to the main group. I ended up pulling Michelle Hayner with me, which was a plus. Luckily everyone slowed the pace, and that gave me a few minutes to recover before the KOM hill.
Unfortunately, I started the climb towards the back of the pack, which meant that I was not in the group that attacked at the hot spot located at the top. I saw Kathleen Hattaway (Jubilee) chasing the group, so I instantly got on her wheel. We worked together to bridge ourselves up. Once we caught on, we joined the smooth rotation with more Jubliee women, Mandy Heintz and her teammate Jennifer Wagner, Michelle Hayner, and a few riders from Think Finance. We had managed to drop the rest of the field, so we felt good until we heard a horrible screeching. Danielle Bradley had some kind of mechanical, so her teammate Kathleen stayed behind to help her out.
Our breakaway continued until the sharp turn before the feed zone. That is where Sheri and Mandy, our GC leaders, collided mid-turn. I saw Mandy fly over her handlebars and hit her head hard. I looked back and she was not getting back on her bike, but Sheri, with the encouragement of her teammate Kim Jennings, shot up and started checking her bike. I remember Kim shouting, "Sheri! Are you ready? Are you ready?" Michelle Hayner was looking back at me as I rode up to join her. Andrea Thomas and Catherine Moore from Think Finance were in tow, so we regrouped, rotated, and pressed on. At some point Jennifer Wagner (Shama) joined us, and then, maybe five minutes later, Sheri was back on and looked frazzled but okay. After sitting in for a few rotations, she took her turn in the wind, and we kept a fast pace for the rest of the second lap.
Going into the third lap we wanted to maintain a steady but fast pace. Michelle and I had a lot of incentive to make up time, as we were not in the winning break the day before. "Don't slow down! Faster!" Michelle kept the intensity up, and we all worked to our maximum capacity. Each hill became a painful fight. Whenever I felt like I was on the verge of getting dropped, I looked at the expressions on the others’ faces and was reminded of one of my favorite quotes: "Your suffering is not special.” We lost Jennifer on the rolling hills before the feed zone, but we kept pressing. I felt relieved after safely cornering the final right-hand turn. With 1K to go we upped the pace. The final sprint was more of a fast train rolling in. We stayed together, with Sheri crossing first for a GC win. Michelle was 2nd on GC and I ended up 5th.
At this time last year I was in the hospital recovering from a crash that happened on day two of the 2012 Fayetteville Stage Race. That was my first Women’s Open race as a newly upgraded 3, and I remember barely hanging on off the back the whole time. After the crash I was so discouraged that I almost gave up racing. It felt amazing to be able to ride well enough to contribute to a winning break this year. Man, I feel the pain of those who crashed. Most of them got back up and finished, which, to me, is harder than any sprint or climb. Kudos to Sheri for getting up and winning after taking a spill. Congrats to Jubilee Subaru for incredible sportsmanship, much respect. Congrats to my teammate as well, Anne Flanagan, for placing 4th GC in the Women 4's!
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Click here for the full Fayetteville GC results