I am writing this last bit from the comfort of home. Yesterday was an extremely long and tiring travel day, complete with many mix-ups and delays on the flights coming back to the USA. However, these set backs didnít really bother me too much because I was on a bit of a high coming off of a good result from the road race two days ago, in Austria.
Although I was not expecting much from myself in a hilly road race, I figured I would lay it all on the line and hold nothing back since it was the last race of the championships. Many of the other girls must have felt this same way because the riding was very aggressive. In many ways, the race reminded me of riding the Wachovia Liberty Classic this year in Philadelphia. I have to really thank my team, Victory Brewing, for giving me the opportunity to race in Philly because I think that experience really let me remain calm and let me concentrate on really riding the race smart. Instead of panicking when the group rolled away from me a little on the larger climbs, I was able to fall into my own rhythm, grab a wheel, never push into the wind, and easily rejoin the group. And, I was comfortable taking the bumps and unkind words in other languages that were abundant in the middle of the group.
Again, the race reminded me of the European racing, as seen on TV. When a median strip came up in the road, there was an official standing in it complete with whistle and flag, warning the riders of the hazards. Usually, though, there was at least a couple girls who ran into it in some way or another; half the battle of the race was staying upright and on the road. Many times girls would drop chains up the steep climbs or get pushed into the gravel on the side of the road, and this made the race all the more challenging. The only really close call I had, though, was on the steepest climb on the last lap when an Austrian rider dropped her chain in front of me and had to put a foot down. She was very close to the right side barrier. I tried to squeeze by with some speed but ended up putting my shoulder smack into hers when I rode by, thus causing me to loose a bit of balance. I ended up coming to stop, although still clipped in, holding the barrier to my right side. After a taking a second to realize what just happened, I gave myself a mighty push and turned over the gear to get rolling again on the uphill. I fortunately grabbed a wheel over the top of the climb and rejoined the group once again on the other side. On these climbs, and even the backside of the course in the woods, there were a lot of spectators that were very supportive. The other thing that reminded me I was in Europe was when a spectator ran alongside of the group, shouting words of encouragement, when we were riding uphill. I was disappointed when they didnít offer a friendly push, though.
So, to keep a long story short, I survived the race until the last lap when I moved straight to the front under the one-kilometer-to-go banner. I was surprised, when I got there, to find there was really no organization by the teams with four or five girls still left in the selective group that remained as the main field. The only lead out that seemed to be in the works was with Australia. Amanda Spratt, also from the track, had one teammate working for her. So, I pushed my way onto her wheel and took it for the ride. Her teammate left her hung out to dry way too early, with at least 700 meters still to ride. I kept right on her hip, even through some other girlís handlebars being pushed into my own hip. Right when I saw the 300 meter sign, I could feel the rush around the outside begin to close in, so I knew that the time to go was then, or I would fall subject to the wave of riders already sprinting toward the line. I took off, in my biggest gear, and almost held it to the line. The Lithuanian rider nipped me in a photo finish. There were two girls that snuck off the front in the closing couple of kilometers in a counter-attack to a larger group that went off in the beginning of the last lap. So, I finished in fourth place, four seconds behind the two leaders. I was ecstatic with the result. Although, now that it has sunk in, I really wish my throw of the bike at the line would have been enough to hold on for another medal. But, fourth place is pretty good for a trackie on one hilly course with 84 of the best road riders in the world.
Shannon finished the race a little further back, having gotten caught behind a gap caused by some slow climbers on the third lap, which was one of the hardest out of the five. In the guyís race, Chris was the top finisher in 29th place. Tejay also finished the race in 96th. They suffered through nine laps of the tough course and rode strongly to finish it out. Now that itís all over, everyone is enjoying bad-for-you food and all the things we have refrained from indulging in leading up to this block of racing. I am glad to be back home, but enjoyed myself in Austria and would easily take another opportunity to travel to Europe, again.