Some days, if it weren’t for bad luck….
By Dede Demet Barry, T-Mobile professional cycling team
The Vuelta Castilla y Léon is a three-day tour that started in Valladolid and traveled to Salamanca. The field was incredibly strong here, 160 riders, including several world and Olympic champions. The terrain is rather desolate in this region of Spain, as there are not too many trees, mountains or small towns in the countryside, so the high winds that nature provides have had a profound effect on the racing.
T-Mobile started this race with five girls – Dotsie Cowden, Amber Neben, Kimberly Bruckner, Stacey Peters and me. After day one, we began calling ourselves the “Bad News Bears,” as luck was not coming our way.
Dotsie came down with the cold two days before the race, but decided to start in spite of that. We were warming up together before the first stage and shortly after Amber mentioned that her glands were swollen and she was not feeling so hot, a car hit me.
Fortunately, my bike took much of the impact. The wheels were wrecked and I felt winded and nauseous, so my teammates radioed our director, Jim Miller, to let him know of the accident, but he was out of range. It was twenty minutes before the start. Kimberly and Stacey sprinted back to the start line to get Jim. Jim came with Kenny Whelpdale, our mechanic. They got me rolling on the bike. The race was delayed a tad and we all made it to the start. Needless to say, I felt a little uncomfortable at the start and my teammates did not even have time to take their wind jackets and leg warmers off before the gun was fired.
The race was fast from the start and after 30 kilometers, the peloton was splintered and echelons formed up in the crosswinds. I was at the back and found myself in the last group. I started jumping groups and found Kimberly, who looked like she was wearing a sail, with her windbreaker flapping in the wind. She had pinned her numbers to the back of her wind jacket because she was super cold at the start and now she could not take it off and was sweating like crazy.
There was some regrouping and our whole team ended up in the groupetto, with exception of Stacey, who was having a super day, riding in the breakaway. We were pedaling along, trying to make the most of a rough day and soon Stacey came drifting back to the groupetto. She had flatted out of the first group and could not regain contact. We did not know whether to laugh or cry at that point. We crossed the line, five minutes behind the lead group with our heads down and heard that Regina Schleicher had won the stage in a sprint.
As we pulled our clothes off and placed them in the laundry bag, Kimberly had the heaviest load, as her undergarments were dripping wet with sweat. It’ll be interesting to compare our SRM files from the race; she was probably pushing double the watts that the rest of were pulling her floppy sail.
I woke up feeling a little stiff from the accident the next day, but my teammates all seemed to be feeling a little better and were ready to rumble. The next stage started and ended nearly the same way, as the wind was strong, echelons were splitting off over the hills and then regrouping, but in the end, two riders slipped away and finished 17 seconds up on the field. Unfortunately, I did not make it to the finish, as my knees and back were bothering me from the accident.
I spent the next day trying to sleep away my aches and pains, while the girls raced the final stage, from Zamora to Salamanca. They faced more wind, more echelons and more cold weather. It did not sound inviting. In the end, Mirjam Melchers rode away from the peloton to claim the stage win and the overall.
At dinner, T-Mobile was happy to have the Vuelta Castilla y Léon behind us and finally got some good news, as Kristin Armstrong had won a stage at Redlands. This brought a big smile to our faces. We now have one day of rest before the Castilla World Cup in Salamanca Sunday. We’re all looking forward to a fresh start.