Thursday, June 14, 2007

Jen McRae - Liberty Classic Race Report

"I'll be there". My response when asked by my team director how I wasfeeling about a sprint finish in Philly. Arriving at the Liberty Classic International Women’s Road Race as the team's sprinter, there's really no other acceptable response. I knew my form was good, I knewwe had the team and resources there to pull off a good result, so I had every reason to be confident. To actually execute it, was thrilling satisfaction. My sole responsibility during the race was to conserve. Simply said - anyone with experience in this race knows it's not so simple to accomplish. During the liberty classic, there's tremendous mental energy negotiating the peloton, the mental chatter required to keep focused, 'there's a good hole to sneak through, watch her handling, get up there, danger left, cone on the right, high crash potential here, darkness in the tunnel, gutter on the left, drink, eat, jump on that lead-out for the wall, defend, downshift," for 2.5 hours. The mental energy is more exhausting than the 'wall'. The 3 kilometers leading to the wall are just like the final kilometers in a criterium, massive speed and jockeying of position. Lead-out trains form by the big teams towing their sprinters to the front. My tactic was to start at the front so that I could minimize my effort on the hill and afford some drift – I never managed that top position, entering wall each time in about 15-20th position – So I didn’t have to go hard on the climb, but I couldn’t afford to drift either. The climb is outrageously fun, it’s not long, the roar of the spectators accels you up and before you know it, you’re making that right turn seeking the descent. The last approach to the wall, t-mobile was reeling in Alison Powers who had a minute lead on the field. They caught her right at the base and I anticipated my first hard effort up the wall. I entered the bottom in the same position as the first 3 laps, but with all the aggressiveness on the last lap, I was soon anaerobic and at the top as I took my first look forward – I saw the field strung out and splitting. I took a gamble just sitting on the chasers and thankfully, we caught at the bottom of the descent. Now it was show-time for the sprinters and I was getting psyched. The last time through the start finish, following killer-teammateHeather, I had visualized where I would initiate my sprint to the line. Heather protected my position the last time up lemon hill and I was in the sprinter zone, really excited that this opportunity was moments away. Soon after lemon hill and the 2k to go mark, I moved passed Heather to the top 10 and found myself easily on Ina’s wheel & right there with me was natl crit champ, Teresa Cliff-ryan, at first glance, this seemed ideal, but then I got a gut feeling that it felt too cramped and I needed more mobility, we were about 700 meters from the finish, 200 from the round-a ‘bout. I saw an opportunity to move when Brooke Miller moved out left. I hopped on for the ride and appreciated being on the outside on such a good wheel. BOOM, bad crash right behind me that took out 2 sprinters, Cliff ryan and Shontelle Gauthier(6th in 2006). That's where luck and good instincts are very good things in the finale. As we hammered through 500 meters and around the round-a’ bout coming to the straight away, I was in 7th position, nothing but pure speed in front of me, Brooke on my left , Van gilder on my right, Inain front of Van gilder and Regina & a T-mobile lead-out in front ofIna & to other girls on the right. Everyone was sooo patient. It seemed almost surreal, I looked up & saw the finish banner, realized I had a great position and the world seemed to be standing still. At 300 meters there were 2 jumps, Brooke went left, the rest going right, I went to the right thinking there was more horsepower in that move and then the 2nd jump went again at about 150 when the t-mobile lead-out pulled off - I jumped left passing 2 riders. While my goal was a podium position, I was happy with 5th and to grab the unspoken title of top American in the international field. 1st thru 5th:Germany, Germany, Canada, New Zealand, USA. I called my friends to let them know my name would be the first they could pronounce.