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By Mari Holden, T-Mobile professional cycling team
I can’t believe the first race of the year is already here. I guess that there have been a couple of smaller races in California and Arizona, but for those of us from states where there is winter, this is a complete shock to the system. It’s still snowing in Colorado Springs! I was just out shoveling my driveway a couple days ago.
The T-Mobile Professional Cycling Team is kicking off its season at the Valley of the Sun stage race in Phoenix, Arizona. This race has a great reputation for tough early season racing in the warm sunshine. I always look forward to any early season racing in Arizona. It is always good preparation for tearing it up on the Acacia Park group rides back home (just kidding). Unfortunately, this year it is supposed to rain the whole weekend. There will be no tanning here this year.
The beginning of the year is always interesting. This is the start of my 13th season racing bikes, and 17th if you count racing a bike in junior and pro triathlon. My teammate Ina Teutenberg is starting her 24th season. I hate to say it, but we are the old side of the team. I had planned on retiring at the end of last season, and Ina had actually retired for a year and is now making a comeback. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Rebecca Much. She is our youngster. She has proven quite a talent in junior competition and is now ready to test the elite ranks.
The reason that I am mentioning all this in a story about the opening time trial is that TT’s really aren’t all that interesting. You go hard, and someone goes the fastest. Today’s stage was a 12-mile, out-and-back time trial and there were scattered light showers. There aren’t many tactics, and there isn’t much to say except how you felt. The interesting stuff is the dynamics, and what struck me today was how we all approach the season in different ways.
There is a nervous tension in the air before the race. Not a bad tension, but a good tension. It is the first test of the season. Ina is riding her road frame. She has said that the Giant road frame with aero’ bars is still one of the nicest TT setups she’s had. Brooke’s time-trial bike is still on the way, but all the rest of us have our TT bikes.
My roommate Lara Kroepsch is racing a TT bike for the first time. She asked me about a disk. She didn’t want to ride one. It is beyond comprehension to me that someone would not want to ride a disk in a flat, 12-mile race. It’s not like she was taking a disk from someone else or that she had any additional pressure.
Personally, I was mad that we all didn’t have front aero’ wheels too (they are on the way), because any free time is a good thing. So, I didn’t get it. – until Laura finally told me that she was nervous about controlling the bike. I told her to go for it. Live on the edge, ride the disk. Problem solved. Kimberly and Kristin are fit and ready to go. I could see it at camp. They are champing at the bit and ready to roll.
Before the race, I was talking to Ina and said how 10 years ago I would have been stressed beyond belief to do this time trial. It would have felt like the world championships. I still remember the first TT I won in ’94 in Bisbee. It was huge. I beat Rebecca Twigg by less than a second, and I still remember that day. Maybe no one else does, but it was the day that I thought to myself that I could be a good bike racer. The part that interests me is that somewhere out there is another young girl who is just beginning to realize what she can do. It’s part of what makes racing interesting; the dynamics between the old and the new.
Now, I’ve been racing for so long that I don’t get nervous for the same reasons. This race, I wasn’t nervous about form – I was nervous about my leg. I had a big surgery in the off-season to repair the iliac artery. It had been slowly getting worse over the past few years, and I finally had it diagnosed and fixed at the end of last season. So, today I wasn’t concerned about results, but about whether my leg would go numb on me. It had been fine in training, but racing is different, and psychologically I needed to see if it would hold up in competition. I am happy to say that it gave me no problems. Now, both legs hurt equally! Don’t get me wrong – I care about results, but I also just want to feel good on my bike again. I want to race and have fun.
As far as the results today, T-Mobile had a great day. Kristin Armstrong won the race over Kimberly Baldwin (Bruckner) and then me – a T-Mobile sweep of the podium. It was a great way to start the season. Because of all the rain, there were some unfortunate punctures, most notably Candice Blickam of the Quark team. It was raining so hard after the race that I jumped in the van and didn’t get much information about other riders.
So there’s not much else to pass along beyond the Lara Kroepsch update: The disk worked great. No problem with bike handling, and she said that it even sounded fast. She had her first top-10 time-trial result. Now if I can convince her that she doesn’t need a 25 cog for a flat TT….