This week, USA Cycling Masters National Championships are happening in Bend OR. Newly upgraded TAI hardwoman Stacy Westbrook took on the best in the country and took a podium spot. Congrats to Stacy being the only Oregonian to do so!! Awesome!
Our race was originally scheduled for Thursday, Sept 5 but was delayed for a day by an epic thunderstorm that brought quarter-sized hail to Mt. Bachelor. On our drive down the mountain we came across areas with hail on the road 3 inches deep! I was deeply relieved not to race in that! Friday’s weather was much better, though still pretty brisk and windy. At least we’d stay dry and not suffer hypothermia on the 10 mile descent.
Due to the reschedule our already small field of 13 was whittled down to 10 because some women had to leave town earlier on Friday. Still, it was a pretty tough group! Several of the women had raced Cascade Cycling Classic earlier in the season, and were winning races in their Cat 1/2 fields. I’m just a newly upgraded Cat 2 happy to finish in the top 10, and I’m a USAC Cat 3. I was also the only Oregon racer in a field full of women from California.
The descent was uneventful, and I mostly relaxed in the pack for the first 20 miles. I made the selection over the Three Trappers climb (which we didn’t even take that fast) and found myself in the podium group. Some seriously strong ladies there! We rode in a fairly organized paceline and had a huge gap on the the rest of the field, which I believe got completely spread out from that point. Our sunny ride on NF-40 turned into a windy, cloudy cold ride on Cascade Lakes Byway. We spent the next 15 miles rotating through the paceline in relative silence, just focusing on getting through the race.
At mile 43 I had just rotated off when the eventual winner attacked, just as the real climbing started past the Elk Lake Resort. Ouch. I tried to catch back on but my legs said no and my HR was frantic. I put in a chase for a couple of miles then got passed by our follow cars. The cold weather was really hard on my climbing legs and they felt a little leaden. I think the previous 40+ miles also had something to do with how tired they felt.
I just plugged away at the climbs, trying to make up time when it was flat or a slight descent. I could see the #4 woman ahead of me at times and I worked hard to catch up to her as much as I could. It helped that I pre-rode the climb a few days before the race, so even in my suffering I knew I was nearly done and how hard I needed to go on each climb.
Looking at last year’s race, the leader finished in 2:48:29 and I finished in 2:37:51. 11 minutes faster in windier and colder conditions! And I was the #1 USAC Cat 3! The women I was with all win races as Cat 1s and 2s. Overall it was an amazing, challenging, fun experience! -Stacy Westbrook