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The Amber Rais diary 2007
Relatively new to the sport, Amber launches into her second season racing at the professional level for Webcor Builders in 2007. A former collegiate swimmer, Rais found her passion in bike racing during graduate school, where she earned a Masters degree in Earth Systems. Throughout the season, Amber will give an up & comer's perspective on racing, as well as some suggestions for becoming more environmentally conscious with her 'Go Green Tips'.
March 31, 2007
First podium of the season
Quad Knopf Sequoia Classic
Our road trip to Tulare, CA, ( for the Quad Knopf Seqoia Classic) proved an adventurous caravan. Driving the team Volvo, I was pulled over for rolling a flashing red light on a right turn, but my Aussie co-pilot Helen and I sweet-talked our way out of the ticket. Whew! A little later, the (substantially peppier) Volvo dropped the Subaru over Pacheco Pass, so Rachel (co-pilot to Laura in the team Subaru) texted Amber and Helen via cell phone that the sprinter was suffering a bit on the climb; we regrouped for a perfect lead-out into Visalia, as Laura never left our bumper again until the parking lot.
We hit the sack around 11pm, only to awake at 6:20am to get to the course to sign in as per the CAPITALIZED WARNINGS that there would be NO SIGN-IN WHATSOEVER past 7:30am on the website. We were greeted by a friendly fellow who immediately said, "Oh, YOU don't have to be here this early! All the pro teams called to see if they could just sign in later in the afternoon." Given our 12:30pm start times, that would have been nice. However, we did get to drive the course and enjoy a magical sunrise over the spectacularly green hills and surprisingly rugged granite outcroppings just east of Exeter before a leisurely breakfast (complete with morning cartoons!) back at the hotel.
St. Patrick's Day ITT in Exeter
We unloaded the cars on arrival at the time trial course and had the tents, chairs and trainers set up in no time. Laura immediately took over mechanic/soigneur/manager duties (we were without staff for this race) swapping cassettes, putting wheels on bikes and making sure Helen, Rachel and I had all the water and food we needed. She kept us on schedule with periodic time checks, saving special emphasis for me (no surprise that I was first to gear up and get on the trainer: no tardiness for me - not after missing my start at CVC last weekend!).
Laura took care of every detail for us, including re-pinning each of us at the start at the last-minute request of the official. Thankfully the numbers were small, so this task didn't take long, at least for us. One rider, however, managed to fit something like 16 safety pins onto one tiny number. Laura watched as this rider's boyfriend struggled to remove the plethora of pins to re-pin the number. In the time it took Rachel to wait in the line for the porta-john, get some water and have Laura re-pin her number, the poor fellow - clearly outnumbered - had continued to wage battle on the armada of pins. We can only hope his heroic effort resulted in an airtight seal on the number, providing his mystery rider an epic aerodynamic advantage, proportionate to the struggle by which it was gained.
The course starts flat, heads over a hill and down, rolling out and back, then back over the hill to the finish. I metered my effort well on the way out, and turned around into a flat-out headwind that nearly knocked my socks off. I had caught two riders by the turnaround and began reeling in more. The bad pavement and headwind were a little rough, but I stayed calm, reminding myself that we were all dealing with the same course. I began picking off more riders one by one, passing two by the sharp left leading into the return climb over the hill. I passed four more on the climb and began reeling in Suzanne de Goede (T-Mobile) on the descent, spinning like crazy in my 12t. I passed her on the flat heading to the finish, but she came back just at the line.
Laura immediately appeared with cold water - I could barely speak, as I was so parched. I climbed on the trainer as they announced I'd had the fastest time yet of the day. Shortly thereafter, Alison Powers (Colavita) came through 20 seconds faster, and later, Lea Hobson (Cheerwine) came through just 2 seconds ahead. I'd held on for third - my first podium finish of the season. By that time, Rachel and Helen had also finished, so the four of us cheered and high-fived.
We managed some nice winnings among us and celebrated St. Patrick's day at Chili's for dinner. On at least three separate occasions that day, people noticed our matching green hoodies and said, "Oh yeah! I forgot that today is St. Patrick's day!" Nevermind we wear matching green hoodies every weekend.
The criterium the next day also had a hefty prize-purse, so our plan was simple: follow wheels and EVERYBODY SPRINT! So, we did. The strong field made for a fast race with constant attacks. As we prepared for a field sprint, we were surprised to see 5 laps to go after having seen 3 laps to go. Unfortunately, some of the sprinters had already set their sights on the earlier version of the finish and sprinted as the lap counter said 2 laps to go. That's a frustrating day in the office. Despite the confusion, we sprinted according to our complex strategy and managed to place the whole team in the top 20.
We gathered at a taqueria following the race to refuel and divide up our winnings. (We always work as a team and help one another, so we divide these evenly.) Anyone walking by probably thought we were in the midst of a drug deal as we passed around our prize cash and paid for our meals out of stuffed white envelopes.
We caravanned home again, without much incident. That is, until we were about twenty minutes from home. Suddenly the Subaru, which had been following the Volvo, zoomed up the outside and off the front. The startled Volvo gassed it to keep up, and confused, tried to close the gap. Finally, the Subaru texted the Volvo: "Sorry. Have to pee." As the cars finally pulled into the driveway at home, the Volvo watched as the two Subaru passengers leapt out of the car, running straight for the house. Helen rolled down her window and yelled from the Volvo, "Put it in the big dog!"
Having riders from four different English-speaking countries (Australia, England, Canada and U.S.), you'd be surprised how much translation is needed. Here is a quick list of the slang we've learned:
big dog (Aussie) = big chain ring (US);
Stay tuned for the inside scoop on Redlands (and more fun with vocabulary words).
Thanks for reading,
Go Green Tip #3
Save money and your chamois at the same time, by drying your cycling gear (or other delicates) on a clothesline, instead of using your dryer. This will reduce your energy consumption, save you cash (either by saving quarters or by saving on your energy bill - about $135 per year), and prolong the life of your cycling gear. Let's face it: no one wants to ride behind a worn pair of cycling shorts!