By Vicki Barclay
Ah, the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic. For being a local race, you challenge me in so many ways! I laugh out loud when I read about all the signs of “overtraining” and think about how they relate to one’s general well-being during stage racing: Lack of appetite, yep; low heart rate when racing, uh huh; difficulty sleeping, you betcha; emotionally unstable, oh boy!!
By Stage 7, I could not believe how much I had come apart at the seams. I was sick with a chest infection, had road rash on my knees and elbows (my one wish not to happen during TSE before our wedding!), and had to gain back the remaining 41 seconds from Andrea Wilson that were lost during our 30 minute detour at the R.B Winter stage. Truthfully, I just didn’t know whether I had one last race effort in me. In previous years, the final stage had been party pace, with the GC positions firmly decided. This year, Andrea asked if I wanted to ride party pace. I said, sure, if you give me my 41 seconds. She said no. The duel was on.
I knew Amanda, bless her sports psychology brain, would have something motivational to say the morning of Stage 7. Like previous days, I thought to myself, ok, today Amanda is going to give you some motivational advice and it’s totally not going to work. But each day thus far she had proved me wrong. Take Friday for instance, the start of the “Queen” stage, when the temperatures were set to climb into the 90’s and I had to gain back 17 minutes and 41 seconds from Andrea. I had been looking particularly glum at the start. How was I going to pull this off when I was feeling sick? “If you don’t have the power, just ride smooth” Amanda said. And you know what? I cleared the entire ridge that day, and brought back the 17 minutes.
So there we were at the start of Stage 7, with those 41 dang seconds hanging in front of me. After searching un-intentionally for some sort of solace from various people (who mostly looked like deer in headlights at my uncharacteristically lack of composure), Amanda looked me straight in the eyes, and simply, but rightfully said “just pedal Vicki”, and with that we took off. Amanda set me up to be first into the single track (where she was unfortunately then knocked off her bike), Sarah soon caught up with me, and we pushed the pace until we knew we had a comfortable lead. Riding behind Sarah, I could have wept for the support shown for pink that day.
Richie O’Neil was at the aid station, as he had been religiously every single day with our bottles to hand. Sue and Amanda caught up and we almost relaxed to party pace. Sarah was on for the win, and she deserved to take it. We crossed the line as we had most days 1-4, mission complete, and with all the aches and pains of the week already reducing in magnification.
I guess what I am saying is that Stage 7 was my most memorable stage this year, because I managed to pull myself together with the help of my teammates and gain back all the time that I had lost during the Stage 5 detour. But there were so many other highlights to the week my brain is still digesting them! For example, I love this video of the women’s peloton on Stage 3 and all the muddy photos that went with it. I also loved the course changes that Mike and Ray came up with for Cooper’s Gap Stage 2, that pair seriously know how to put on a good race. Each day it was amazing to see the pink train powerhouse take some form of the top three steps on the podium.
Our week would not have been possible without the support that we have behind the scenes, in particular: Richie and Jared for providing awesome mechanical work; Rich for looking after me and providing housekeeping while I was off my feet; my coach Chris Newell from Sublime Athletics for providing hard workouts and great feedback; Mike Bush for providing technical support and taking cool pictures; and Cindy for visiting and championing our efforts as well as the providing the best sponsorship a group of girls could ask for: 4 girls, 7 days, NO flats.
I would also like to thank all our other sponsors because each of your products was used to their maximum each day during TSE: Stan’s NoTubes; Cannondale; Kenda; Verge Sport; Magura; Uvex; Griggs Orthopedic; Gu Energy; Elete Electrolytes; Fizik; 3T, Northwave; Crankbrothers; ProGold; King Cage; ESI Grips; SRAM; Light and Motion. Also, a special shout out to Bruce Dickman from ProGold for providing all of the TSE racers with ProGold products (essential before, during, and after racing) and doing a great job announcing each day.
Of course, now that I am back at work and it’s all over I wish we were still racing. The TSE hangover is always a difficult one to recover from, especially after saying goodbye to Sue, Amanda and Sarah. I have raced my eyeballs out over the past 8 weeks though, and I hope to use the next few weeks to let all that goodness soak into my legs, let my body fully recover from being sick, and then start preparing for the second half of the season. I am already excited!