It all started at 5:45 AM on Friday, March 22nd…
Rising before the sun, I met my good friend, Sara, for 6:30 AM breakfast at the Cajun Kitchen Cafe to mark the completion of my second quarter at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I had a chemistry final from 8-11 AM, and then what was supposed to be a 2.5 hour drive to Glendora, CA for an uphill time trial–the first day of the San Dimas Stage Race. With such a tight schedule, the USA Cycling officials graciously gave me the very last start time of the day, 4:24 PM, so that I could arrive and have time to warm-up. I left Santa Barbara at 11:15 AM, made a couple necessary stops on my way out of town, and was on the road by 12 PM. I thought to myself, “I have plenty of time to get there!”
After four hours of traffic (Needless to say, I played VERY loud music the entire way as to drown out my stressful thoughts), I arrived at the base of Glendora Mountain Rd with 14 minutes to spare! My team director, Kurt Stockton, was there waiting for me with race wheels and numbers. Adrenaline pumping, I leaped out of the car, jumped into my kit, took a very much needed trip to the Porta-John, and (TRIED TO) ride calmly to the start line.
The clock counted down. “3.2.1. GO. OUCH. THIS HURTS. My legs feel SO HEAVY. This climb is a lot longer than I remember. Oh right, they extended the distance. OUCH. Was it always this steep? Four to six percent isn’t steep, Alexis. Get a grip. There’s the white tent. Almost finished. Give it a final kick. GO. OUCH. Legs, why can’t you just listen to me? Legs, stop complaining. There’s no complaining in bike racing. And there are also no excuses. Just go already.” And so I finished with a mediocre time. Perk of the day: having my own follow-motorcycle.
After what seemed like an entire week jammed into 12 hours, I was happy to arrive to a delicious dinner at our host house and to see all my wonderful teammates!
Day two. Stage two. Road race time! The girls and I were pumped to get out there and execute our team plan. We had extra motivation to make fireworks because the owner of our team and host of The Amazing Race, Phil Keoghan, came out to cheer us on and play photographer! Our race was to be 8 laps, 56 miles with QOM points on laps 2,4,and 6, and hot-spot sprints on laps 3,5, and 7. My Canadian teammate, Lex Albrecht, was assigned to the QOM’s and I was assigned to the hot-spot sprints. It was also everyone’s job to lay down attacks and try for a break. Over the course of the race, Lex was able to secure the QOM jersey, I racked up sprint points, but not enough to secure the sprinter’s jersey, and our teammate, Katie, road an impressive 4 laps off the front–SOLO. Lex and I made the final split of 8 riders over the last climb, but had nothing left for the sprint and finished 7th and 8th, respectively. We may not have won the stage, but we gave it our best effort and that is equally rewarding!
Third and final stage–the criterium. The racing was hard right off the gun, with attacks coming from all teams. Our team goal was to follow moves during the first half and initiate the moves the second half. My job was to conserve energy, but follow moves if necessary, and go for the hot-spot sprints and stage win– if it came down to a sprint. The first sprint wasn’t announced clearly, so the majority of us sprinted a lap too late and got nothing. There was a break off the front during the second sprint, so I was, again, unsuccessful in gaining points. As we reached the final few laps, I lined up behind the Optum train. With their rider, Brianne Walle, being in the sprinter’s jersey, I knew they’d be the team to watch. I was fighting in the wind for position coming into the last turn when Gillian Carleton of Specialized-Lululemon took a flyer up the right side. I wasn’t expecting it. No one was expecting it. What a phenomenal burst of speed she has! Unfortunately, riders tried to follow her and I became boxed-in against the gate. I didn’t have enough in me after the last corner to pass anyone. Crossing the line in 7th place was slightly disappointing, but it’s motivation for the future to be better and train harder!
Final thoughts: This race has been one big learning experience for myself and for my teammates. Instead of flashy results, I’m bringing home a sense of team-pride. These women are fighters; they never give up. They make mistakes, they admit to their mistakes, and they learn from their mistakes. I’m honored to ride by their sides, to learn from them, to laugh with them, to cry, to scream, to cook, to travel, and to create lasting memories with them (especially Snapchat memories). If this race was only a taste of what the future holds, then I’m so unbelievably excited and ready for more!