This is the official LA Sweat North Star Gran Prix race report. Below is a photo of Brenna and Anna Grace before Stages 1. They were trying to figure out what Time Trials are. JK. But really, what are they? Okay enjoy!
STAGE -1 // SOUND PONY // ?? km
Tulsa Tough was over. So after excessive cheering on Cry Baby Hill, and being obnoxious with 4 foot floats, we pulled ourselves together for a quick stop at Chipotle, then a lovely BBQ hosted by the Schneiders. Then some of us continued onward to the elusive Sound Pony for shots of Fireball, Cheap Mexican Beers and Sweaty Dancing -- while more responsible members of the team (or those not traveling to North Star, except our Mellenial, who is so young she can bounce back from anything) went to bed in preparation for their early morning departure.
From here, Christa and I (Becca) returned to the Boulder Bubble, voiceless and ready to hit the real world, aka WORK. The rest of the team travelled onward to North Star Gran Prix where they'd meet up with teammate Erin Goodall.
Our #1 Pony, Anna Grace reported:
STAGE 0 // DRIVE // 1,136 km
The ladies of LA Sweat arose early Monday morning in a Tulsa Tough haze and piled five full-sized human women into our Jetta wagon with as many bikes attached behind us on our sweet little Yakima trailer.
With Minnesota as our destination, our fearless leader took the first long pull at the wheel – let’s be clear – Kelli is not only a badass organizer/owner/manager enabling our bike riding dreams, she’s also a monster behind the wheel. She can throw down double digit driving hours so long as her supply of sunflower seeds doesn’t dwindle, and she rarely needs a bathroom break. A real machine.
We arrived at our host home in the early evening hours and met the gracious family who would welcome The Rebel Alliance (aka US) with open arms, on their first day of summer vacation (the parents are both teachers) no less. One of the coolest parts of the whole bike racing traveling circus thing is getting to know our hosts, who are a big part of making this all possible. For 6 days, we took over an entire level of their home, they went above and beyond cooking us brownies and dinner and leaving out empty coffee mugs next to a full coffee pot in the morning. The kids took our autographs and we go to hear stories of dance class while playing Uno.
STAGE 1 // TIME TRIAL // 8K
Wednesday morning was rude. After racing a nice crit block filled with leisurely late-morning coffee spins and nighttime racing, being ready to race at 9:30am was a bit of struggle, but we managed. With a change in the rules for NSGP, most riders took advantage of time trial equipment for this stage, but we all were stoked to jam out a short time trial on our Cinelli crit whips. BW$ used some clip on aero bars for maximum road-bike physics advantage. With no time trial specialists on the squad, we were content with our morning openers and looking forward to the evening criterium in St. Paul.
STAGE 2 // ST. PAUL CRITERIUM // 50 MINS
Back to what we know best, CRIT TIME! This stage had a few more crashes than anyone likes to see, but we mostly stayed out of trouble and our sprinty pony, KIM, managed a top 10 on the stage with a well-positioned savvy BW$ just behind her in 11th. Melvin got caught up in the crash that paused our race, gave AG an almost-heart attack when she didn’t see her in the group, and then reappeared with mere flesh wounds. One of the many impressive things about Melvin (or Mel, or Melenial) is her ninja-like magic tricks in instances of chaos. She used to be a gymnast and therefore developed an astute sense for how to tumble correctly.
This skill has translated nicely into being able to fall down at high speeds on a bicycle with relatively minimal damage. Unfortunately, Melvin was already fighting off a little cold bug and this trauma of skin loss put her just over the edge. After a short discussion and hesitation from a fiery Melvin, we were all content with Mel’s decision to sit out the rest of NSGP in favor of healing up and rest.
STAGE 3 // CANNON FALLS ROAD RACE // 104K
This stage began in the hottest part of the day in a sleepy little town just south of the Twin Cities. Historically, this stage is full of surprises; thunderstorms, incredible wind, gravel sections. This year, by contrast, was pretty tame. The cross winds were the main feature of the course before the closing circuits which got turnt up in the last couple laps. Some small moves went off the front of the race, but it all ended in a semi-shattered main group drag race to the finish with an impressive delivery by UHC for the win.
The most of us LA SWEAT ladies finished somewhere in the middle of the group and were happy for icy cold drinks and jorts to change in to. For Erin, it was her first PRO ROAD RACE and she found herself in a smaller group that was misguided out on course and, after some confusion, her and her companions for the day were allowed to continue on the next stage with some time tacked on despite the confusion that lead them astray.
STAGE 4 // UPTOWN CRITERIUM // 50 MINS
THIS COURSE is always smooth and fun with the biggest crowds. We lined up early near the front and gobbled down some last minute snacks. There was one gnarly tumble in this race, but we all managed to steer clear. BW$ was caught right behind, but kept it upright, came to a complete halt, got to the pit, stayed cool as a cucumber, and got pushed right back in on the next lap without any trouble.
Kim got herself right up there just outside the top 10 in the finish and we had a chill cooldown on the Greenway Bike Path, caught up with some pals, ate our dinners packed with love by Kelli, and then got home for sleeps since the next couple days would prove to be the HARDEST and EARLIEST.
STAGE 5 // NORTH MANKATO ROAD RACE // 98K
Someone put a 15% little bump in this race and then scheduled us to ride up it 6 times total, 5 of which were all at the tail end of the race. There was an early move that went off in the flat part of the big circuit and several riders that got themselves up there over the course of a few miles. AG wanted one of those riders to be her, but her timing and top end was just all wrong and/or nonexistent on this day. The pace at the front of the race made the selection toward the end and shed most of us into some smaller groups. BW$ found some motivation and dug deep hanging in there and finishing around half a minute down on the winner. Another impressive finish by UHC for the stage win and we all started feeling the deep fatigue in our legs by the end of this stage.
It was AMAZING to have Melvin and fam AND some other lovely helpers on this day, the feed zone was scattered with LA SWEAT supporters expertly handing us icy cold bottles and words of encouragement.
STAGE 6 // STILLWATER CRITERIUM // 14 LAPS
Oh this one started out HOTTT and FAST from the go and I think we all wished we’d given our legs more rigorous a warmup than we did. As usual, the pace and nature of the course sheds riders immediately and establishes an ever-dwindling front group after the first time up the wall, or roughly 30 seconds in. A pure race of attrition with an 18% climb followed by a dragging uphill around the backside of the course. We all put up a good fight and were rewarded with hugs and smiles and Kakookies upon finishing. We were also stoked to see our friend, Beth Ann Orton, awarded the Carla Swart Sportsmanship jersey at the start of this stage. She’s a good egg.
After a pretty long racing block, most of us were heading home for some rest and training and snacks before our next adventure. Melvin was feeling better and healing up and headed to TOAD with her BF for some good ol’ Midwestern crit jams.
What a team, what a dream. Until next time, stay cool.