Valley of the Sun Stage Race
By Bea Dormoy, Klean Team USA Ambassador – Sponsored Athlete
The Valley of the Sun 2014 Stage Race (Feb 21-23) was on my training plan since last Fall as my first A race of the season. It’s a 3 day race with a Time Trial in Buckeye, a Road Race in Mesa Grande and a Criterium in downtown Phoenix, AZ. It’s always a very exciting and challenging event because it attracts elite athletes from all over the country.
Participating a Team Captain and Mentor
This year, the event was especially meaningful to me. One of my goals, as a team captain and mentor of the San Diego Bicycle Club women’s team, was to use this race as a racing boot camp for my new development team. This is a great opportunity to learn a lot about racing for women who are new to the sport of cycling since this event offers a separate Category 4 race in addition to the Women Pro 1/2/3 race. Four of my new team mates decided take on the VOS stage race challenge. Including Debi Foli who introduced me to the Klean Athlete line of nutritional supplements and encouraged me to become a Klean Team Brand Ambassador.
Stage 1: The Time Trial
The time trial was actually THE goal race for me. Time trialing is not my strengths and not a race type I enter very often. But this year, I decided to work on aspects of bike racing that I find particularly challenging like time trials and road races as opposed to my criteriums, which is my favorite type of race. I had been working with my coach to prepare for this event with a very specific goal in mind: beating my time from 2012 by at least 35 seconds. In spite of windy conditions, I got a PR, beating my previous time by 52 seconds and even ended up on the podium in Women Category 3 (5th place). What a great start, this meant the event was a success for me, no matter what was going to happen in the next two stages.
Stage 2: The Road Race
Things were about to get serious on day 2. In the road race, the category 3 women were to race with the Pro/1/2 categories, the big girls! 63 miles (4 laps) with a field of 70 very fast women, including two Pro teams: Specialized Lululemon and Twenty 16 Professional Team… I knew this was going to be challenging to say the least. Good, new challenges is the motto for 2014, right? I felt the thrill to race alongside women of pro caliber and the butterflies because this meant the race was out of my league. This turned out to be the fastest road race I have ever been in, including previous VOS races. The field was moving at an average of 24.5 mph for the first 2 laps. The first Queen of the Mountain bonus (QOM) was on lap 2. This is when the contenders picked it up and spit me off the back. Not completely off the back since there were at least 20 stragglers behind me, but unfortunately I ended up in no man’s land between groups so had to time trial half of the race. In my book, the worst case scenario in a road race. Many racers, especially among the Cat 3 women, gave up once they got spit off the back. I was in survival mode but I was not going to give up. I knew this race was going to be all about practicing toughness for me, both mental and physical toughness. It’s really important to set the right expectations when taking up a challenge that may be out of your league. No matter how hard it feels to stick to the goal, how you respond to what feels like the worst case scenario in the moment will determine how you will feel about your race later. It paid off, I ended finishing 10th in the women Cat 3, feeling sore but psychologically OK about my race. Most importantly, I was still in the running for the next day.
Stage 3: The Criterium
Once again the cat 3s were to race with the Pro/1/2 women. Today the thrill outweighed the butterflies. Even though I knew it was going to be very fast and very hard on this super technical figure 8 course, I love criteriums and I was going to have fun no matter what. The race announcer told us at the start that there was going to be $200 primes. Serious business. That meant the Pros were going to go all out on prime laps and blow the field apart. Ha! Actually it felt like they went all out the whole time. The race was so fast that it was all strung out. The good thing is that this makes it safer, rather than having a big cluster of 60 women on a technical course. I have been comfortable in the cat 1/2/3 criteriums I have done this year even though we averaged 25 mph with laps at up to 28 mph. That day, I was just hanging on by a thread. I lost the leader’s group half way through and ended up in a “chase” group. We were still racing with a large enough group to make it fast, fun and competitive. Not my best sprint, since I managed to get myself boxed in at the end. I finished 7th in the Cat 3s crit. Nothing to write home about but I was very happy to finish safely considering racing with such a large pack in the early season can be quite sketchy.
Overall this was a good race. It was meant to be a racing boot camp for my development racers doing their first cat 4 stage race but it ended being a racing boot camp for me too considering the caliber of the women who entered my race. Definitely a bigger challenge than expected.
Check out Bea’s 2014 Race Schedule
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