#FullGas Race Recap
The Tulsa road race season kicked off Sunday in Skiatook, OK with the #FullGas Road Race (aka Tall Chief) hosted by the Tulsa Wheelmen. This long running event is a fan favorite with all the features that make racing “fun” – rolling punchy climbs, headwinds/crosswinds on the flats, a stretch of rough pavement, and a punishing finishing climb up a steep slope to the dam of Skiatook Lake. The Women’s 1/2/3 field had two laps on tap for about 40 miles of racing.
I woke up early and drove from Fayetteville, hoping sunny skies would help the temp get above freezing (hint: it did not). The race starts at the base of the dam with a neutral climb to the top. Two rolling hills follow immediately. From there, the course is fairly flat, with one more climb before the headwind/crosswind section, and then a final stretch back to the dam. Coming into the race, my teammate Leigh Ann and I discussed a couple of different strategies. We decided to try and be together if possible for the finishing climb. We weren’t sure of our legs, so we wanted to feel out the race to make a call on if we would attack the climbs and who would lead out the finish.
[Photo: Lindel Fields]
It turned out we didn’t need to make any attacks, because Cassie Cardoza (Isocentric) had a fire in her belly and was determined to drive the pace from the gun. Her attack on the first climb split the field and left us with a break of 6. We rotated at a steady pace the first lap. After the dam climb leading into the second lap, a few of us started to push the pace a little bit to see if we could shake a few more people. Cassie attacked again on the first hill. I followed, with Ariel Wyant (Pandemonium) on my wheel. We got a gap and started to roll it. The whole ride, I’d been feeling okay enough to hang on and rotate, but a bit on the edge and just not great. So it was a beautiful and welcome sight when Leigh Ann bridged up to us solo. That gave me a teammate in the break and an extra person to help us rotate the last lap. During that time, Leigh Ann and I had a little “negotiation,” which went like- Me: “I’m hurting. This is your race.” Her: “Nope – this is your race, and you’re going to win today. Just be patient at the finish.” Me: “My legs hurt.” Her: “You’ve got this.” Having a good teammate is a beautiful thing.
Leigh Ann drove the pace in the last 1k to the finishing climb, which is about 45 seconds. In years past, I’ve gone way too hard at the base and exploded short of the finish. This year, I stayed on Leigh Ann’s wheel and pushed smooth steady power for the first half. I came around her, pushed a little harder, and then just went deep as I could up (literally) to the finish line. I set a 1 min power PR, so I think I did it right. Cassie finished less than a bike length behind, and Leigh Ann finished third. It’s a sweet feeling to get on the podium with your teammate.
This race is another example what I’ve found to be key to good bike racing, which is mental strength. It’s common knowledge that there is a direct link between the mind and performance. For me, it’s not just how much I’m willing to hurt, but also what I believe can happen. I perform better when I believe I can win a race. If I let myself feel intimidated by the size or relative talent of the field, I tend to let the pain shut me down sooner. It is a delicate balance between having realistic expectations while not putting limitations on ourselves. This area is always a work in progress for me.
[Photo Tulsa Wheelmen]
Thanks to the Tulsa Wheelmen for putting on a great race and to my coach Robin Farina and Rofa Endurance for keeping us strong. Also thanks to our sponsors for supporting Breakaway Cycling! [Title Photo: Biff Stephens]