Prinner Report: Hillsboro Roubaix

Hey Team,
                I’m sure most of you tuned in yesterday to watch a very eventful Paris-Roubaix unfold, even though I’m still a little bummed they never show a women’s Paris-Roubaix.  I’m sure women racers have just as much, if not more, enthusiasm about racing those cobbles as the men.  I know I was envious.  I just hope that one day maybe I’ll get the chance to race on one of those cobble stretches with an impossibly long and unpronounceable name, strewn with crazy spectators that make obstacles of themselves.  For now, though, I’ll just have to settle for the bastard son of the Queen of the Classics; Hillsboro-Roubaix.
                With this having been my fourth year of racing the grueling Hillsboro road race, I was surprised at how familiar I was with it.  I could even point out the exact spot along the side of the road that, four years prior, I literally stopped mid-race and lay in a ditch.  Better yet, my mom (who was also racing that day) eventually found me sprawled along the road and even stopped to give me a massage.  Believe it or not, I actually got 13th place that year in the cat 4s. 
                But looking back on that pitiful day, I realize that I have come a long way, and I finally see how ridiculous I must have looked laying by the side of the road.  I hope that most people have erased that from their minds by now.  I can’t have Webcor or Colavita knowing about this.  Quick roadside breaks are not exactly smiled upon in Paris-Roubaix, and worse yet, there’s a slight chance my mom might not be there to give me a massage.
                Anyway, I felt confident as I lined up for the Roubaix once again.  The course consisted of two 22-mile laps with a tough course mixed with nasty little bumps (as Sarah Tillotson once called them) and long, blustery stretches of road with no shelter from the wind.  The final mile to the finish is a loop around the downtown area that takes you up a long, killer hill that leads into town (actually I think the only reason it seems so bad is because it’s at the very end) followed by a sharp turn and a fast descent onto…drum roll…THE COBBLES.  I wish I could say Hillsboro contained 37 miles of cobbles like Paris-Roubaix, but I think it’s more like 0.37 miles.  It’s just enough to make you realize that cobbles really aren’t that much fun.  Just a tip: they look a LOT smoother than they really are.
                Well, the race began and I made sure to situate myself in a decent position in the top fourth of the field.  I figured I would have some time to get settled in before any major attacks came, but apparently the field thought otherwise.  Rebecca Much (a Webcor Pro) sat in second position from the gun, using her unique ability to smell attacks and knowing that the winning move was just around the corner.  We were not more than three miles into the race when the attack came on only the second hill of the day, and the field shattered instantly.  A break of three ladies formed (including Rebecca, Catherine Walberg, and Sydney Brown), setting a record from the year before of the earliest successful break I have ever seen.  Three other ladies and I formed the chase group.  Indeed, this year the field was far more intense than the year before.  Not only was it bigger, but the teams more vast and some of the big guns had come out to claim the prize of a stipend for free racing and lodging for Nature-Valley.  There weren’t just cat 1’s in the field this year; there were Pros.
                Since the break was not so far up the road (just a few hundred yards), I assumed we would reel them in in no time.  15 miles later, the three ladies were still just a tantalizing distance away.  There is a possibility they could have been playing with us as a cruel joke.  And just when I was starting to convince myself they were just a hallucination, the gap closed and we finally joined the front riders.
                With my sharply honed senses, I could tell some of the ladies were getting tired.  My first clue was after turning a corner when one lady hit the apex and made a straight, unwavering bee-line into the ditch.  I battled internally on whether or not this was intentional.  I, too, might have done the same thing four years ago.  It was to no one’s surprise that she got dropped at the beginning of the second lap; I didn’t even see her go, she was just there one instant and gone the next.  Perhaps a spectator can recount seeing a cat 1,2,3 lady laying by the side of the road, and maybe even stopped to give her a massage.
                Once again we set off into the backroads rotating in our neat little paceline for one last 22 mile loop.  We made good time at a pace of a little over 21 mph, especially considering the killer winds, which in some places seemed to be coming at us in all directions except from behind.   The field was nowhere in sight, and a lady wearing all pink got a flat tire. 
                So coming into the final downtown mile there were only five little Indians left; the survivors on a long and treacherous journey over the Roubaix.  The decisive attack came on the final long uphill when Rebecca Much exploded past the pace car (which got caught behind some other finishing riders) and gapped us as if we were standing still.  My legs were shot from the many hard miles of racing, and I was instantly separated from the other ladies, and forced to finish in a grueling solo to fifth place.  I was still pleased as punch that I managed to not only hang with, but work alongside the top riders in the region, not to mention racing and actually competing against a seasoned pro racer like Rebecca Much. 
That definitely gives me incentive to train hard and race even harder to reach my goals this year.  That includes making the junior national team and qualifying for Junior Worlds that will be held in Moscow, Russia in August.  My first test in going to be in late May at the Junior World Trials in Nashville, Tennessee (Jenny Busch, I know you will be happy about this).  If I manage to qualify, I’ll see if I can get away with wearing my ABD booties with my Team USA kit at Worlds.
Until my next adventure,

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