By Amanda Eaken
The first thing I have to say is that I have never had more fun on my bike for seven days in a row than at Superweek 2007. I would strongly encourage everyone on this team to rally for this event next year.
The best part of the week by far was my teammates. As soon as we heard that Cascade was cancelled, Sarah and Jane figured out the details of Superweek at lightening speed. Before I could log on to www.internationalcycling.com, Sarah and Jane had done an extensive analysis of which airline permitted the most bags and charged the least to bring a bike on board, figured out registration, got host housing and pricelined a rental car. They took care of everything! It was incredible how on top of these details these girls were. Either they?ve got a serious knack for trip planning or they were both procrastinating outrageously from work!! I think a little of both is probably the case.
The nice thing was that we got a chance to rendez-vous with my relatives in Lisle, IL, in their 3700 square foot mansion in the Chicago burbs. This was a LOVELY place to come home to for the first few days. Jane had her own suite in the basement, complete with a Versus channel equipped wide screen TV. We had homemade Lasagne, fresh-baked Chocolate chip cookies and a whole lotta love from Jean and Austyn Spyksma.
The racing at Superweek is bizarre. Most races are late in the day and the crits are LONG! 60K translates to 1:45 for the women?s pro ? field. One of our goals for the week was to get Metromint on the podium, so when I found myself lined up well out of the last corner on the first day, and Kelly Benjamin went very early, it was a nice little motivational tool to hold off the fast-approaching competitor from Hub Racing- Jeanette Williams, - who I would see much more of in the coming week. The little town of Blue Island treated the racers well and we were awarded with flowers and Vitamin Water on the podium for the first day. (See this SuperWeek race report for more details)
The first night we decided to do it right. Sarah set up a nice little ice bath that we all spent 5 minutes or more suffering through, and we learned that Sarah has career potential as a sports masseuse as she gave excellent leg rubdowns.
After another crit in another random Chicago burb, it was time for the first road race and a sad departure from our relatives. We drove a few hours up to the Alpine Valley Road Race ~45 minutes south of Milwaukee. See this SuperWeek race report for more details. This race brought Metromint?s first win of the week, with Jane?s incredibly powerful sprint leaving Kelly Benjamin several bike lengths back at the line.
We came home to another glorious meal with the Schlabowske?s ? almost certainly the nicest family I have ever met ? marvelous ambassadors from Milwaukee to the cycling world. Liz, Dave and Frankie (11 yr old daughter) gave us a warm welcome with homemade pesto from the basil in their garden, steak off the grill and delicious summer corn. Natural cycling fans, Dave, Liz and Frankie happily watched the tour with us every night, cooking up a special feast of Raclette for the night the tour passed through a village they had visited a few years back in France.
The next day brought a very different kind of road race ? the Saturn Whitnall Park RR ? a 2.3 mile circuit through a gorgeous park in Hales Corners, WI, 19 laps for 45 miles total ? at this rate ? not much longer than the crits we were getting used to. The circuit meandered and rolled up and down so much that this race felt a little like a roller coaster and was nothing but fun. The race ended up in dramatic fashion with Kelly Benjamin sprinting so desperately for the win that she threw her bike when it she wasn?t quite stable and caused quite a crash at the finish. Still, Jeannette from Hub Racing held her off for an exciting victory. I didn?t time the finish to perfection and was passed by a few girls in the finishing meters, but placed a respectable 5th, mostly due to good positioning through the final turn. Jane took the opposite strategy, taking the final turn in 30th place, but is so damn strong that she ended up taking 9th. At this point, I think I was in 3rd overall, Jane in 5th. Another highlight of the day was that Jane was presented with her stage winner?s jersey for crushing the field at Alpine Valley the day before, and had a short podium celebration on stage moments before the RR started. Oh yeah, and she got a call up to the line right next to Kelly B. That was sweet.
The next day brought another road race, and marked the longest number of days any of us had ever raced in a row. Something about Day 5 meant we were seriously lethargic. For some reason, we rolled into the The Hammer Nutrition Proving Grounds Road Race two hours too early, but we were greeted by a lovely couple from Canada who were traveling in a seriously decked out Vanagon. They were cooking up scrambled eggs, French toast, pancakes and bacon in their faithful Westie and Tim saved the day by fixing my shifting, and Arlene agreed to feed us! These were lovely people. After a little pre-race nap in the parking lot, it was time to slug it out for 65 miles, but today we had extra motivation to get through the road race. Dave and Frankie had given us directions to their cottage on Lake Tichigan (yes Tichigan, a lovely little spot for post race relaxation). We were happy when a break with no one of GC consequence finally got away. We all got to rest up and took advantage of a relatively flat course for a 3 hr recovery spin. Still concerned about overall standings, I asked Sarah to lead me out for the somewhat technical finish. She did a perfect job and I went a bit early, but held on for 3rd in the field sprint, moving up into 2nd place overall ? just 2 points ahead of 3rd place. Jane held on to her 5th overall. We celebrated in glorious fashion by picking up a Thai food dinner, feasting with a gorgeous lakeview, and fighting over the inner tube, canoeing around the lake with Frankie. What a wonderful way to spend an evening. This was definitely the highlight of the trip.
Day 6 brought a non?technical four corner crit in Shorewood. Day 6 also brought another unbelievably nice Milwaukean experience. We pulled up to the race course, parked in front of someone?s house and promptly started unloading our eight thousand sets of wheels onto their front lawn. When a woman materialized at the front door I braced myself for some curmudgeonly exchange about how we should get our crap off her lawn. To our great surprise, Susan introduced herself, asked if we needed anything, and told us that she was going to leave the front door open if we needed to fill up water bottles or use her bathroom! I couldn?t get over how nice the people were! Total strangers inviting you into their houses! We were definitely not in Kansas anymore! The race was fairly uneventful, most of my time was spent making sure to stay nearby my main competitor in the GC ? who was only 2 pts behind. Trick was, with half a lap to go, she was in terrible position, so I abandoned her in favor of Kelly Benjamin?s wheel ? a tried and true strategy. Jeannette found her way to the line in good form, and just passed me, gaining one point on me in the overall.
Day 7 was a the last race of the women?s pro tour, in northern WI in a small resort town called Green Lake. My only regret is that we didn?t get to spend more time in this town, since our race started at 4pm and we had a 4 hour drive back to Chicago, bikes to pack up and a 7am flight the next morning back to CA. Mental note: budget in at least one day after the races are over to RELAXXXX.
This was a FUN RACE! It was the most technical of the crits with 6 or 7 turns, one hairpin and a short power climb, that we did 45 times! My pre race planning was all about marking Jeanette to make sure to maintain my 2nd place overall finish. However, two laps in, Jane came to tell me Jeannette dropped out of the race, I found out later, due to an injury. This was not the way that I wanted to beat her, still it freed me up to race a more aggressive race, since I no longer needed to worry about the overall. Jane, Sarah and I took turns covering attacks, getting in breaks and chasing down dangerous moves, legs getting a little more weary each time up the climb. Kelly also realized she had #1 locked up so she was more aggressive in this race than usual and went on a few lap solo break that Metromint had to chase down. Despite her aggression, Kelly still masterfully positioned herself for the win and wrapped up her week with an impressive fourth first place finish. I finished this race in 6th, happy to maintain my overall standing. Jane finished the week in 6th, putting her solidly in the money for the overall as well.
We topped off the day with a skinny dip in Green Lake, and tacos at Chipotle and enjoyed a celebratory glass of Chardonnay and some late night tour viewing before we disassembled our bikes and prepared for the journey home.
Those seven days will always live very fondly in my memory. Thanks to Jean, Austyn, Dave, Liz, Frankie, Tim, Arlene and the boys at the SRAM tent and the boys at Ben?s Cycles in Milwaukee, Metromint and all our sponsors, and all of our other guardian angels for making an excellent week possible!