Peaks and Perks
California knows how to party. It was the queen stage of the Tour of California which meant it was all uphill for the final 45km with an amazing summit finish on Mt. Baldy. It also meant there was a cookie corner on one of the switchbacks—literally a corner on the race course where very enthusiastic fans were handing out chocolate chip cookies! Racing in the USA definitely has its perks.
I knew the second stage was going to be the stage for me. The first stage had been nervous with strong winds and, to be honest, I was feeling a little flat having just come off some altitude and the set-back of my crash at Amstel. The impact on my sacrum was worse than just a hard landing and the doctor had recommended a few weeks off the bike. Not ideal but the Tour of California, a new race for me, was the perfect place for a new beginning and the start of my summer racing.
We hit the bottom of Mt. Baldy and Katie Hall was the first to accelerate. I wasn’t going to jump. My gut told me the best thing to do was to stick to my own hard tempo. More attacks came from Kasia and Anna, me following in tow, as the bunch was left behind and the break was eventually caught. Anna eventually joined her teammate Katie while Kasia slid back, leaving me on my own.
“Steady, stick to your tempo,” I reaffirmed to myself. I was clawing Anna and Katie in, getting the gap down to 14 seconds, but as the gradient at the top backed off, I could only focus on maintaining my position. I crossed the line finishing in third place on the stage and moving up to third on the general classification. Since I had almost cancelled my trip to the USA, I was beyond happy: happy with my race strategy, happy with my physical performance, happy to have a podium, and happy that I managed to grab a chocolate chip cookie from the cookie corner on the way back down the mountain. It was a great day.
The final stage was really aggressive with a really exciting performance from Paulina. I wish there was television coverage so people could have watched how she lit up the race and almost stole the entire show had it not been for the long downhill to the finish. Still, thanks to her efforts, I managed to finish in the small bunch to hold my third overall and get CCC-Liv on the final podium.
When I returned to the team car after prize giving, as if finishing on the podium wasn’t enough, I discovered some fan had made me brownies. I mentioned at the Mt. Baldy prize giving that I loved chocolate brownies and I couldn’t believe someone had taken the time and care to deliver brownies to the team. I couldn’t help but smile from ear to ear. The enthusiasm and hospitality of the USA was exactly what I needed. I was leaving the Tour of California with a renewed sense of confidence in my performance, a fresh excitement for the rest of the season, and the desire to come back and race in California next year. Then again, maybe it was just the brownie talking. Yep, they were that good!