January 30, 2013

Tour de Twin Cities

After spending many days resting and getting healthy again, I hit the road. This time to the Twin Cities for a "mini-tour" which means over the course of 5 races, our times were added up from each day and an overall Tour Winner was crowned for having the fastest cumulative time. Unfortunately for us, Minneapolis was hit with a serious cold wave and on top of that had little to no snow. So we raced all five races on a man made 3.3km loop in frigid temps. The name of the game for the week was to keep your spirits up and to master the many transitions on the relatively flat loop.

The first weekend was made up of a 5km skate and a 15km mass start classic race. The first weekend was also combined with a college race, junior race, and high school race so there were over 1000 people racing! As one of the only places to ski in the Twin Cities, the trails were busy all day everyday. I started the tour out with a bang wining the first race by 14 seconds. I was ecstatic to have continued skating strong and to put so much time on my competitors the first day.

Thanks David Owen for making some of your beautiful photos available on Facebook! I greatly appreciate it!
Podium day 1 L-R Caitlin Gregg, Rosie Brennan, Erika Flowers
Our boys also had a great day coming in 1st and 3rd!
 The morning of the 15km Mass Start, I arrived at the venue and went to the course to see how the boys were doing, only to see many boys yelling for new poles as they had broken one and many others falling on the icy patches around the corners. Panic set in as I struggle with ice and being confident around corners. Boys will boys and girls will be girls however, so our race didn't involve any bad crashes or pole breaking despite the icy fast tracks. The challenging part was to figure out how to put a move on your competitors when it was that fast and flat. I thought my best chance would be to wear people out so I attempted to keep the pace high through the 5 lap race and on the last lap went for it, seeing if I could get away. I did manage to get a gap on my chasers over the more hilly first half of the loop, but by the time we hit the flat I was loosing time. Jennie passed me in a fury over the last 300m of the race and I couldn't respond leaving me to fight for second. I managed to hold onto 2nd, but was disappointed in my technical skills over the last kilometer of racing, something to work on for sure.
Jennie and I leading

The front pack making its way up one of the steep climbs
Jennie bringing it in for the win and me in the background holding on to 2nd
Did I mention it was really cold that day and after succumbing to frost bite while I was home, I had to wear tape on my cheeks to protect them. 
Masked bandit
Originally, we were supposed to have a sprint race on Monday but with a high around -5, the organizers decided to postpone that race until Friday. I am very thankful for this and enjoyed exploring downtown without going outside via the many skybridges.

Sprint day came and I felt I was struggling with morale. I was getting pretty sick of skiing around that same loop in the cold, I was way too concerned about "having" to win, and I wasn't a fan of the course. This left me stressed and concerned about things I couldn't control. This is often the hardest part of racing, especially in the middle of a big series with nothing else to think about. My skiing showed this and I skied poorly the whole day. I managed to squeak by in 4th place at the end of the day, but still lost quite a bit of time on my lead of the tour. Fortunately, I recognized all my silly worries and did my best to put myself in a different place for the final two races. I don't even have pictures from the sprint...

Saturday brought a 5km classic race and my goal was to simply go out hard and to really focus on those sections that I lost time in on the 15km classic day. I came  out on top, but by only .6 seconds....so things turned around for me and I felt I had even started to improve on my weaknesses.
Hammering into the finish

 The last day was a nerve racking one. It's called a pursuit start so everyone's time from the previous 4 days is added up and each person starts based on their time back from the winner so the person that crosses the line first wins the overall tour (although may not have the fast individual time of the day). I was the leader meaning I went out first and the whole field followed at various intervals, all hunting me down looking for that big win. I had a 17 sec lead on second, 30 sec on third, and about a minute on 4th. My only hope was to go out hard and not look back. Being the 3rd day of racing in a row, my legs were exhausted and it was really a trying effort, not to mention that due to the twisty nature of the course, I could see my pursuers all the time. Trying to judge time and distance while racing is challenging, but I could tell the girl who started in 4th was flying and I couldn't stop pushing. I managed to hold everyone off and cross the line first about 30 seconds ahead of second place. However, Caitlin, the 4th place starter and 2nd place finisher, was just flying around the course and had the fastest time of the day. I have always admired her ability to skate so I was very satisfied with 2nd place on the day and 1st for the overall tour.

Time of the Day podium L-R: Me, Caitlin Gregg, Kate Fitz
Out front trying to hold everyone off

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Men's Overall Podium. Patrick was actually 6th, but failed to show up for the prize ceremony....

Girls Overall Podium!
More exciting than my win at the Tour, is that I have accrued enough points to take over the SuperTour leader position. The SuperTour is the professional domestic circuit in the U.S. that I have been racing all year. The leader at certain points in the year is granted start rights for the World Cup. So, this means I have start rights for Period 4 World Cups which begin in March. I am beyond excited about this. I had set out this season with a goal of qualifying for World Championships, but even though I am having a spectacular season, so are a lot of other girls and I ended up being the first person they chose not to name to the team. This was disappointing, but there are always more opportunities around every corner so being able to race World Cups in Scandinavia is hardly consolation.

From here I will continue to race in SuperTour races from the month of February and then I will head over to Europe for a full month of racing in March!

Thanks for cheering, supporting, and following! 'til next time