By Jen Dial
Editor’s note: Jen Dial, riding as a teammate of Jeannie Longo on Office Depot at the HP Women’s Challenge, is providing an inside-the-race look at the biggest women’s stage race in America. The latest from her diary:
The warm ups are getting shorter as the days get longer and hotter here at the HP Women’s Challenge. It’s the time in the race when everyone has had a great day and a not-so-great day. Everyone is tired, and people become easily amused and excited by things other than the bike race.
As we left Twin Falls on the way to Buhl, Idaho, Trout Capital of America, we crossed a pretty big bridge over a gorge. As we came to the center of the bridge we heard “woo hoo!”
A dude backflipped off the bridge with a parachute as we came by.
“Cool,” I said, “that dude is gonna get arrested just for our entertainment!”
And on we went to the trout capital.
I spent time in the caravan today collecting water bottles. I went back twice to the car, filling my jersey pockets with full bottles. For those who might not think of this, bottles weigh about a pound each full. I was at the bottom of the climb when I remembered the mountain sprint coming up. All the extra desserts I gave up all winter to lose a few pounds were offset by the three bottles in my pockets.
I got a bottle to Jeannie. After that I offered to the rest of the team but there were no takers. Pretty soon I started asking other friends if they wanted water.
“You must be thirsty,” I pleaded, “c’mon, take one, you know you want it!”
But I couldn’t pay anyone to take them. Finally I bullied one of my teammates into throwing her half-bottle and taking a full one. I threw the other at the bottom.
I was happy to have lightened up for the climb into Buhl, but even that wasn’t enough to stay with the front bunch. Happily, Jeannie got all her mountain points, and a “same time” finish in the front. I sprinted into Buhl for the festivities.
Every year the mayor of Buhl, Idaho sets up in the town center to fry up trout for the race fans and riders. I am not a trout eater, but I do enjoy the salads and rolls that accompany the fish, and the free Buhl hats.
I think I have a few more of these hats at home. I get one every year. They are your standard issue 70’s-style, foam-front, mesh-back baseball hats.
They’re just like the one Cooter on The Dukes of Hazzard wore, only brand-new. There’s one for everyone who finishes a race in Buhl, and one more of the great local traditions of HP. At this point in the race there isn’t even energy to bend the brim, so it sits right on top of my head, like a truck driver’s hat.
Tomorrow’s stage is the longest, and then it’s back to Boise for victory laps. Saturn has the race pretty tied up at this point, so I’m hoping they’ll go easy on the rest of us. Maybe the fried trout will keep them slow for the next few days!