Dear Promoters of the Tour of Walla Walla,
I have been wanting to do your race for 2.5 years now. Considered one of the premier stage races in Washington, I jumped at the opportunity to take a day off of work, drive 5 hours across the state, to race up and down the rolling hills of wheat and wineries. I really wanted to fall in love with this race, but unfortunately, I just couldn’t.
You don’t value women’s racing. By stripping the women’s Pro/1/2 field of a Friday road race, stealing the women’s cat 3 race separate criterium, and starting the TT with an obscene 7 am start time for the cat 4 women, it is obvious that you do not actively support women’s cycling. I was disappointed and angry that you offered more prize money to the cat 3 men than to the Pro 1/2 women’s field. The sign-in table for the criterium was only available 15 minutes before the women’s 4 race started! Not okay, especially since you started the kids’ race in plenty of time for the table to be present. I was also disappointed that instead of offering a call-up for my category at the crit—you know, acknowledging the merits of those competing—you just made sure last year’s top 3 weren’t still in the field. Which, heaven forbid, if one of them was there, could have possibly embarrassed them. Not awesome.
I also waited around around for 2 hours after the road race for results. 2 hours. Nothing. I got my automated email faster than that. That meant I had to go home empty handed although I was 3rd in the GC. I don’t even know what my ‘merchandise’ will be and for such a large stage race, I’m dumbfounded by the lack of a podium presentation.
The courses were wonderful, the volunteers were wonderful, the planning was anything but wonderful. It was an expensive endeavor and unless you decide to take women’s racing seriously, I will not be returning, nor will I recommend your race to anyone else.
Okay, now that that is off my chest and out of the way, I can talk about the rest of Walla Walla—the good part!
After picking up pounds of pasta and sauce from our amazing bike team sponsor, Brad at Cucina Fresca, and after an amazing breakfast at Toulouse Petit on Friday (yay for Happy Hour breakfast!), Kevin and I dropped off Wrigley with his parents and departed for Wine and Onion Country. Walla Walla!
Everyone speaks well of Walla Walla, so I was looking forward to my first trip there. Granted, I wasn’t going to be able to partake in the massive amounts of wine tours and tastings that make this town appealing, but I was still curious about what the area had to offer. Not suprisingly, the weather was horrid on the way over. Sleeting in Snoqualmie Pass and rain the rest of the way. I was fearful that we had dragged our miserable clouds and moisture with us.
After registering and settling into the house we rented with teammates Eileen, Sarah, Courtenay, and her boyfriend Chris, Kevin and I drove to preview the TT and road courses. The road course is out in the country. I’m talking eerily-quiet, not-another-soul-in-sight country. No houses. No cars. Just rolling green wheat fields for miles. Because it was so grey and pouring down rain, I knew I was missing out on its true beauty. I felt like I was watching the Wizard of Oz and waiting for the technicolor part to kick in.
Then, ‘DING!’ The gas light comes on. What??!! We couldn’t be closer to the middle of nowhere. Kevin asked me if I wanted to try to make it all the way around the 36-mile course. Heck no. Neither of us had cell reception and again, it is horror-movie quiet out there, and I was ready to take the first shortcut back to civilization.
Which is exactly what we did.
I’d just have to ride the second half of the road race blind. Totally worth the trade-off. We got gas in the tiny town of Waitsburg, drove back to Walla Walla, and enjoyed a wonderful pasta meal with our housemates. Then, it was lights out. We all had a big day ahead of us—an early morning TT and an afternoon criterium.
7:02:30 am. That was my assigned start time. That kind of start time should be reserved for summer triathlons that last 17 hours when the days are warm and long. I woke up at 4:45 am to eat breakfast in bed. I always try to eat two hours before race time.
The weather was cloudy but dry. I was content with dry. There should have been 5 women in front of me, leaving every 30 seconds, but with 2 DNS, only 3 were out there as carrots. It didn’t take me long to pass my :30 second girl and I was feeling confident that I could catch the other two. As I made my way around the right-hand bend and up the hill, I could see the next racer up the road. I got out of the aero bars and started cranking. There was no aero benefit to this slow steady climb into a headwind. I passed her half way up the hill. Two down, one to go. I got to the top of the hill and my legs and lungs were burning. Kevin was a welcome sight because I knew he had strategically placed himself right at the top. It would be mostly downhill from here on out. After a few seconds of recovery, I hammered the pedals again but couldn’t get into a great rhythm. The descent felt too easy. When I got to the flat section that leads into the finish, I passed the last girl in front of me. No more carrots. Actually, I’m really glad I previewed the course because there was nothing in front of me. I could have easily taken a wrong turn.
As I came into the finish, I was relieved to be done, but was scared of what I might find if I turned around. One of the strongest riders in the field started 30 seconds behind me. I began to count. 1, 2, 3, …..17, 18 … 21, 22 … I never made it to 30. I think she probably bested me by a few seconds. We rode back to the staging area together. Her name is Jessica and she lives in Coeur d’Alene.
Turns out, I was right. She beat me by 3 seconds. I wasn’t going to let it bug me because 3 seconds is nominal in terms of a stage race. It did confirm though that she would be a force. She beat me on a road bike with clip on bars, regular road helmet and regular wheels. It was freezing and she wasn’t even wearing arm, leg or knee warmers! I was convinced she had won the stage.
She didn’t. Someone else had crossed the line 55 seconds faster than her, leaving me in third and 58 seconds back. Sarah B. from the Tri Cities was in a league of her own.
9.3 miles 25:35.94 (21.8 mph) for 3rd place.