All photos by Brian Keller

by Sarah Rice

Like everyone else who raced the Tour of Galena, I came away thinking it was a terrific, tough, and humbling race series. I enumerated my mistakes to Kristen Meshberg: “Corners are a touch tentative. I still think about the facial fractures… On the TT I was just sloppy. At the crit… I got demoralized and made more mental mistakes… Ugh.” Those Galena mistakes haunted me like ghosts. But in bike racing you can always line up and try again next week, and depend on the camaraderie and hospitality of others to get you to the next start line. Sue Wellinghoff’s parents offered us a place to stay, so I packed up the car with two xXx riders, Bill Barnes and Sandra Samman, and headed down to the O’Fallon Grand Prix.

First stop: Time trial. The keys to success are precision and pacing. I dialed in the new TT bike till it was perfect, looked up the course, the wind, and the heat, and figured it should take me about 35 minutes. But even after the 5 ½ hour drive that day, I came in 34:06, very fast, very smooth. I blew up and threw up right at the end. Well done! Galena ghost #1 exorcised.

After having stomach cramps and vomiting at Galena and at the O’Fallon time trial, I thought maybe I had a problem with HEED. So I decided to try out a home-brew race beverage. Here’s the recipe:

3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
2 teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon lite salt

Makes 1 gallon.

This is approximately the World Health Organization’s rehydration beverage for adults with cholera. Be aware of 2 things. #1, it tastes crappy and #2, you must NOT overdo the baking soda. Baking soda is a laxative in slightly larger amounts than is in this beverage. Try it on a group ride first, and I don’t mean Judson.

I made a gallon of home-brew, and froze two bottles of water solid for my back. The next day Bill and I were driving to the races and the car got a flat tire. Bill put the little donut tire on the car and we drove 50 miles to the race at 45 MPH with our hazard lights on, just missing the conclusion of the W4’s race. I admit, I was surprised to see a smiling Vanessa Bucella wearing the State Champion jersey. She and Half Acre teammates Annie Byrne and Erica Gaddy worked extremely well as a team, and they were smart and let others pull for most of the race. I took mental notes: one can take advantage of being underestimated. Go Lil V!

I was also pleased to see a lot of day-of registrants in the Womens Open race! We had about 12 riders, including a very strong Cat1 (Jenna) from California! It was 95° at high noon for the start of our 60-mile, 3-lap road race. Right before the race, I got my jersey and hair soaking wet. I put one of the ice bottles in my rear pocket, and had two bottles of home-brew on the bike. Lap 1 was chill. I ate half a clif bar, wet my head and mouth with ice water, and downed a bottle of home-brew. No tummy issues, and despite the heat I was sitting in and feeling great! THANKS, xXx riders Sue Wellinghoff and Sandra Samman for feeding me. On the first hill of Lap 2, Jeannie Kuhajek threw down a good attack. I countered into the wind. Cali Cat 1 Jenna followed suit. It split off all but 5 riders, me, Jeannie, Jenna, and two others. We worked to create a gap. I looked back, and two other riders were a pull away from us. I yelled up to tell the others. We had a snippy little gal on the front taking a very weak pull—her first. As she rotated to the back, she said “you can’t yell at people to go harder from the back!” So I said I’d do it from the front then, pulled out of line, and attacked. Not super-hard, just enough to punish Snippy and intensify the pace to make sure those riders didn’t catch on. By the second hill of Lap 2, I was sick of Snippy and this squirrely triathlete, so I mimicked Jeannie’s attack. Jeannie countered into the wind this time. Jenna went, then I went again. The three of us formed a tight paceline and said goodbye. It stayed like that for most of lap 3. About 5 miles from the finish, Jeannie and Jenna fell off a bit. I had maybe a 5-second gap, so I punched it a little. 10 seconds. Harder! I settled into a fast TT pace. I looked back, they were sitting up a bit. I COULD WIN THIS THING! But they were just baiting me. They caught back on and both of them attacked at the next (last) hill. I fried my legs to close the gap. Jeannie had been smarter than me. She had only attacked twice. I hate when out-of-staters win our state championships. So I whispered to Jeannie that I’d lead her out. I really would have, and I think I could have led her to a win. But Jeannie jumped early with 1200 yards to go and then Jenna jumped. We were too far out, and way out of position for a 2 on 1 Illinois leadout, so I sat up. Jenna won, then Jeannie, then me. Boo. A disappointing finish, but I was pleased that my attacks were effective. I was also pleased that I had fared very well in the heat. Galena Ghost #2 exorcised.

The final sprint of the O’Fallon crit

The heat on the road race had been so intense, it melted tar on the road. My tires were really screwed up by it- in fact, there was a gash in my rear tire that I did not notice till the crit on the next day. Dave from Chicago Velo Campus fixed it with Shoe Goo. I practiced cornering on my shoe goo tire a little ways from the course, round and round, smooth, in the drops, at speed. I didn’t feel the repair. In fact, the cornering felt PERFECT. Too bad only a few riders were signed up for the crit…

But when I got back to the course I saw lots of strong gals warming up! Jenna was still in town, Jeannie was there, several Missouri riders, I was counting, 10, 11, 12… and then I saw a woman in red, riding a bike while carrying another bike on her shoulder. Wow, it was Carrie Cash! The race did not disappoint. It was a white-knuckle, foaming-at-the-mouth, attack fest on a technical course with 10 turns. It felt like a roller coaster ride. I’ve never cornered that fast, and only had about 3 bad ones the whole race (for me this is kind of incredible). Galena Ghost #3 exorcised!

I tried to maintain good position, 5-ish wheels back, while Carrie, Jeannie, and Jenna beat each other up at the front. I remembered Lil’ V’s win and and devised a strategy. On the last lap, I’d go early and hard, take my own path FAST through the last few sketchy turns, then just blast it and try to hang on. Someone would have to ruin her sprint to catch me, no one would want to. Maybe no one would. I punched it, hard. No one followed. Gunned through the sketchy turns. All out sprint! I COULD WIN THIS THING! But no. I got caught, it turned into a huge bunch sprint, and 5 of us crossed the line within a bike length of each other, 3 others just behind. 5th place. It was a good move, but the timing was not quite perfect. Last night I kept playing it over and over in my head, thinking if I had gone a second earlier and a touch harder… haunted by the ghost of O’Fallon.