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Tucson Bicycle Classic March 3-5th, Tucson, AZ

Tucson Bicycle Classic was March 3-5th and I (Anna) was the only Orion rider able to go. I’ve done a lot of mental work in preparation for this race to not repeat my paralysis at Valley of the Sun and while I was still nervous, I was glad to try again. I’ve also been working on my sleep because my insomnia began making a comeback. Historically, I’ve been a bad sleeper and always joked with my sister who could sleep for a minimum of 9 hours (and up to 11) that one of us must have been adopted. My sleep has improved considerably with more structure to my day in the last couple years, but periodically, I still wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep for hours. However, the week of TBC I slept well, felt rested and was excited to see what was possible.

These short events usually have a schedule they follow, a time trial on day 1, a road race on day 2, and either a criterium or a circuit race on day 3. Day 1 was a time trial, but only road bikes and road-acceptable aero equipment were allowed, Eddy Merckx style. I don’t have a time trial bike, so I was really excited to have a more-level playing field. The course was short, a one-way rolling hill climb that took me less than ten minutes to complete. It’s hard to pace for such a short, intense effort, but I didn’t feel like I faded at any point and finished 9th out of 55!

Day 2 was an 82-mile road race that was mostly uneventful until the last 2km of the race. I found it so much easier to move around the pack, hold my position, and even tried a couple attacks of my own just for the fun of it. There was a break that dangled in front for some time, but it was eventually brought back. The course, for the most part, was limited to a single lane road with one stretch that expanded into two plus a shoulder, but it was more difficult to move up in parts of the course because the center-line rule was strictly enforced and the

A ref rode up a few times to give out warnings. The finish line, unfortunately, was not on a wider stretch of the course and only opened up for the last 200m for the final sprint. As you can imagine, 55 riders jostling for position in one lane without a shoulder does not a clean, crash-free finish predict. I decided to move up on the wide stretch to the very front early and while I’d be battling the headwind the last five kilometers before the finish, that was my best bet to stay out of trouble and I wasn’t wrong. At 2 kms to go I was already shuffled to top 15-20 riders when the first crash came. It happened right behind, someone crossed wheels, then came a scream, raised voices, screeching brakes and clash of metal. It sounded serious. In the moment, you try to block stuff like that out until the finish line, you don’t want to rattle your own concentration. Yes, people are hurt, but if you give it room and tense up, your chance of mistakes go up. Then another crash came, this one to the side and not as big, but multiple people still went down. And at 250 m to go, one more. A rider was trying to squeeze into a tiny space on the far right but couldn’t make it and crashed into the dirt and gravel. I had to slam my brakes to avoid the bike traveling without its rider but managed to keep it upright. I finished the race 14th in the reduced bunch relieved it was over. Three bad crashes in the last two kilometers rattled most of the field and I was asking myself if this early race was worth the trouble. Nobody was seriously hurt, but it’s still so early in the season, I was just struggling with being back in the pack at Valley of the Sun two weeks prior, and once I finally started to feel better and talked myself into coming back for another race, the exact thing I was trying to come to terms with happened three times in the course of a few minutes. Crashing, of course, is part of racing, there’s no way around it, but I will consider these factors twice next year before coming back.

Day 3 was a circuit race, and I could tell the peloton had a nervous energy about it. A couple GC people didn’t start, some said it was due to miscommunication, others said it was done with consideration of the rest of the season, but either way, riders were antsy. I actually felt really good power-wise, but circuit races and crits aren’t my strongest suit so after sitting in the bunch for a while, I tried a couple attacks, but they didn’t stick, then I had to put a foot down when a crash happened in front of me, and chase back on as a result, then we were neutralized because one of the mens field had a serious crash and the ambulance had to get on the course. Lastly, I avoided one last crash in our field on the last lap and finished the day mid-pack, but 6th overall on GC.

I was glad to be heading home, having gotten some confidence being an active participant of the peloton back and with a strong result to show for. But I was already looking forward to the Redlands Bicycle Classic, April 12-16th, as there was still so much prep work to do. Every year I’ve gone to RBC has been a great experience from the way the event is organized, communication, accommodations, school visits, meeting new people, and of course, the racing. This year we’re going to be a squad of seven girls, three from Orion and four guest riders and I can’t wait to share more information about that in the next post!

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