Nature Valley Grand Prix: Stages 3 and 4

Yesterday was a scary day for our team. Robin and Laura went down in the “horror” crash that took place. Neither of them are going to be finishing the stages, which is really unfortunate, because both of them were doing incredibly well. We are sad to see this happen, and stayed up last night waiting for them to come home, but unfortunately, they arrived at 4am, a little past when we fell asleep. The other four of us have made it through to the next stage, and will join the rest of the field.

Reflections on Stage 3: Missy Erickson – Kowalski’s Markets Collegiate Allstars Team

June 17, 2011

Waking up this morning there is a lot of positive energy in our large host house in Hudson, WI, and for a good reason: Every member of the Kowalski’s Markets Collegiate All-Star Team is starting stage 4 of the NVGP. Yesterday we raced the Cannon Falls road race.   After the previous day with a time trial and criterium I was feeling a bit stiff and sore especially from the crit crash, and woke up with whole new eyes to the world of professional cycling.

This race was the first road race where I have been able to use the full road, and the full road was actually used. We started out rolling through the neutral zone, and then it was on! The first QOM (Queen of the Mountain) was 3 miles in so there was a bit of a tension you could feel in the field as everyone got rolling into the race.  It was hot and humid but the race rolled on. I felt myself wanting to go to the front or off to a side just to get a breeze blowing across my face as I got hotter and hotter sitting in the field. Attacks were thrown back and forth between different teams in the rolling hills we encountered.

For me, the most memorable section was the gravel. I was told way before arriving in Minnesota to make sure I was towards the front on the gravel section. Not having a computer/powermeter on my bike, I didn’t know what mile we were at or how long we had been riding so the only way I knew we were about to enter the gravel was by the lead car’s trail of dust in the air.  I moved up as many positions as I could, putting me in the top 30 of the peloton going through, and I just mashed through the section. I witnessed riders crashing across the gravel, but I was not one of them, which was great.  I came out of the gravel in the back on the first group, and I gave it everything I had, but in the end, my legs got me. I had a full bottle on my bike I was wishing I could get rid of but when you are done, you are done.  I tried to stay with the groups that came by me, and I did for a little while, but once again, I popped.

The best part of the stage yesterday, was riding along in the peloton and seeing my teammates around me.  At one point, 5 of us (as far as I could see) were riding within a few riders of one another, staying with it, and making our presence known in the peloton. Also, I am very proud of myself for not only making it into the final circuit, but being able to finish the race, and not getting pulled.  The hardest part of the stage was the finishing circuit.  I came into it perfectly: In the first group, made it through clear without any crashes or injury, but after the first lap, I suffered on the rise to the finish. With 5 more laps to go I found myself getting farther and farther back getting passed by groups as they went by.

Almost everything I encounter in this race is a learning experience. Yesterday was the first time I have gone back to a car to get feed bottles, for not only me, but also members of my team.  I also found out what the smell of burning brake pads was like. I found myself riding next to Bronzini (Current World Road Champion), and Shelley Olds, not to mention Kristin Armstrong, or Olivia Dillon.  I have found how important it is to set small goals for myself. Looking out of a smaller window, instead of a large one, and realizing that I’m riding for today, to learn from these experiences, and not for anything else.

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