Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ashlyn's Race Report: Nationals

Ashlyn Gerber
Junior Girls 13-14 year old

1st Place National Criterium Championships
1st Place National Road Race Championships
2nd Place National Time Trial Championships

This year I went into nationals very excited. I felt like I had a good chance and was ready to go out and leave it all on the road.

My first race was the time trail on Friday 13. When I saw the date I was like “oh great Friday the 13!” I was nervous about the TT but I felt confident and was ready to take on the challenge. I got lucky and got a really good start time. I got to start second to last. I had all of the big names in front of me. I got a good warm up and a pep talk from Coach Laura. I passed roll out and was waiting in line at the start ramp.

Finally I was off. I had a good start and felt great. I had some trouble on the weird thumb shaped turn that they added to the course. Luckily I only lost a couple seconds. I had quickly caught my 30-second rider and felt like I was flying. I could see my 1-minute girl and just before the turn around. I had to sprint to pass her because I didn’t want to get slowed up in the turn. I had seen all my competition going the other way and they all were turning themselves inside out. They all looked very fast. I made it to the final little descent before the finishing hill and I was hammering to the line. The final hill was a lot harder than it looked. I felt like a slug! ;-) I crossed the line and heard my name announced in second. I was hoping to win it but I consoled with the fact that there were 2 more races.

The next day I didn’t have a race. They had the younger juniors racing every other day so I just sat around the house and relaxed. That night we had a fun team dinner at the team swift condo. I got to meet former swift riders Nathan Miller and Steve Cozza along with a couple Advil Chapstick riders. It was a blast.

Next on the calendar was the Criterium. I was excited. I have been racing against these girls since 2004 at my first nationals. I knew how well each one could ride. I was excited to see the outcome of the race. Before my start Coach Laura gave me the race plan. Last year I threw my race away. I attacked too much and could have won it. This year the plan was to sit in and wait for the sprint. Coach Laura knew that the race winner was the first one out of the final corner. She greatly stressed that I be the first one out of the last turn of the final lap. With a great plan and good legs I was ready to go.

The race started off at a very easy pace. Everyone was watching the winner of the time trial, Jillian Gardner. She attacked while we passed the finish at the start of the second lap. Everyone jumped and followed her wheel. Once she stopped hammering, the group, which had strung out, came back together. Many attacks went throughout the race. Most were made by Jillian. I did a couple fake attacks that got the speed up but for the most part I was enjoying sitting in the group.

When we came around with 2 laps to go I started to mentally prepare for the final lap. I knew that the winner of the race would be the first one out of the last corner and I wanted to be that person. When we came around on our final lap the pace picked up. The field was spread out. On the backside of the course there was a small hill. From the top of the hill to the line, it was about half a mile, it was all downhill. Going up the hill I was boxed in the middle of the field. Luckily a gap formed between the rider on my left and the rider in front of her and I was able to get out. I went hard and got to the front. They happily let me take the lead. I hammered to the corner. I came in full speed and sprinted out of the corner. It was one of the longest 200 meters of my life. I was able to hold off the rider in second. I had won the 2007 National Criterium Title!

The next day I had off from racing. I rode in the morning and that night my family and I had dinner with the Campbell’s and the Goto’s. Other than that I spent the day resting and being lazy ;-).

When the road race came I felt really relaxed. I wasn’t too nervous and was just excited to get out there and race. Before I started to warm up I got a race plan from Coach. I am not the best climber so I had to play it smart if I wanted to win. My plan was to spend as little energy as possible. I had to stay in the front group but try and save energy for the sprint.

The 13-14 men race was right before mine. I watched Brentley and was all pumped up for my own race. I got off the trainer and had about 10 minutes. I was going up past the start line to check out my gears and my dad took my bike. We had to park in gravel so I started to walk up with coach. Coach Laura stopped me and told me to get on her back because I would ruin my cleats. She carried me to my bike and the paved road. It’s nice to have a strong coach… ;-)

I got to the line and I had butterflies in my stomach. I knew that once the race started they would be gone. At the sound of the gun we were off. Jillian attacked right from the get go. We had to start uphill so she took off like a rocket. I hopped on her wheel and was tagging along for the ride. We crested the first hill and we were in a break of 5 riders. It didn’t stay that way for long though. The field had caught us on the descent. The group was about 10 riders strong. All the big names were there and it looked like it was going to be a hard day in the hills.

We rounded the first turn and started the first little hill. A rider in front of me got her gears all tangled and went down. I almost hit her wheel but I managed to avoid it. Luckily no other riders went down. While I was avoiding the crash Jillian was at the front hammering. She had gotten a little gap. I saw a chance to get to the front. I took it. I sprinted out of the field and got onto her wheel. We crested the hill and she bombed the descent. We made it up the little roller and came to the big descent on our course. She once again was absolutely flying on the descent and when we reached the final uphill she hammered.

I stayed with her as she attacked on the first hill after the line. I was only hoping she would ware down a little before the sprint. She flicked her elbow and I pulled on the descent. When we reached the first corner she looked back and saw 3rd-5th place were hot on our heels. She turned to me and proposed that we work together until the last lap. I agreed. I didn’t plan on attacking so it worked for me. On the next hill, we were caught by the two chasers behind us. They were the only ones I could see so I knew I had a top 5 finish. We went flying on the descent but when we reached the hill a rider dropped her chain. She had to stop to get it back on.

We crested the first part of the hill and it leveled out before it kicked up again. Jillian attacked again and I followed her. We had a little gap on 3rd and 4th. With 2 laps to go I was starting to get nervous about the finish. I had to push the thought of the finish out of my mind and focus on getting to the line with Jillian. We stayed away from the 2 riders chasing for the 3rd lap. When we came around to the finish Jillian attacked. I followed but it was hard. She finally let up and we both looked at each other. She got behind me and all I could think about was how to get her back in front of me. As we descended the hill I was going very slow. The 2 riders behind caught and passed us. Jillian reacted and I was able to get on her wheel. We all stayed together until the final hill.

The hill had 3 steep sections. In between each steep section it leveled out a little. We went over the first part of the hill and Jillian picked up the speed. It was down to the top 3 podium spots. We rounded the final bend and had a little over 200 meters till the line. Jillian attacked hard and I followed. She sprinted up the steep part of the hill but then her speed let up slightly. I sprinted hard. I still had about 150 meters until the line. It seemed like a million miles away. I could hear Coach Laura yelling at me. I sprinted hard. I made it to the line. I was so tired I could only pump my fist. It was the most amazing feeling. I had won 2 National Championship races.

I owe my 2 wins to a lot of people. Of course to my parents, they got me there and supported me all the way. The team sponsors obviously, Specialized, Time, Shimano, and a personal deal with Rotor USA. Also I owe a big thanks to a lady named Karen Whitney. She has supported me since I was 9 years old and about 4 feet tall ;-). But I think the biggest person I have to thank is Coach Laura. She offered great strategies, that worked perfectly, and a lot of encouragement and help.

After the races the most exciting thing was to watch my teammate’s race. They all raced hard and it was a blast to see them do well. Now it is time for some much needed R & R (rest and relaxation..;-) I hope that everyone has a great off season and I hope to see the team soon.

Ride Hard!


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