My first Virginia’s Blue Ridge Twenty24 team camp was an unforgettable one. Before this year, I never had the opportunity to be a part of a team. The VBR Twenty24 ladies, old and new, accepted me with open arms making me feel at home and deserving of my spot on the team.
At team camp, Sofia, Emily and I spent 3 days riding around Tucson. We challenged ourselves and each other by racing for strava segments at 9,000 feet on the top of Mt. Lemmon, practicing sprints in the rain, and rotating tired pulls with heavy legs. A witty Gary Wolff had us laughing each night and kept our bikes running smoothly and sparkly clean. Nicola kept things simple for us by taking care of logistics for daily schedule, travel and meals. Barb made us look and feel pro by working her magic and taking beautiful team photos.
On Thursday, we packed our things and made our way to Phoenix to prepare for the 3 day road stage race Valley of the Sun (VOS). Emily and I got to experience our first ride on time trial bikes as we scouted the time trial route, stage 1 of VOS. Sofia showed us how to tuck our heads and keep our cadence steady.
Time Trial - 1st
I, having a background primarily in mountain biking, had only raced one road race before the weekend in Phoenix, and had never stepped foot (well, tire) on course for a time trial or criterium. Because of my lack of experience on the road, I had the opportunity to race alongside eight of my savvy junior VBR Twenty24 Devo teammates in the cat 3 race.
On Friday, the stage one time trial was set to go at noon. Emily and I didn’t quite know what to expect as it was our first time racing a time trial and our first experience on time trial bikes. I surprised myself and was able to finish my day in 1st place for the cat 3, about 22 seconds up on 2nd place.
Road Race - 3rd
On Saturday, we began stage two of VOS, the road race. Shelley Olds stepped in as team director for both our pro team and the cat 3 team. She shared knowledge and tactics with us, preparing us for the race ahead. My goal was to use my junior teammates to help me mark 2nd place throughout the day, as 3rd place was more than 2.5 minutes behind after stage one. The juniors and I were able to execute our plan and I finished the day in 3rd, gaining myself an additional time bonus. Junior teammate Alexis Jaramillo had a standout performance, finishing 5th in a bunch sprint and taking the QOM on lap 2.
Criterium - 1st GC
On Sunday, the final day of VOS, I prepared with Shelley and the juniors to compete in my first criterium. I entered the race with the GC lead, and around 30 seconds on 2nd place after a few time bonuses from stage 2. To secure the GC, I needed to finish at least in the bunch and not allow 2nd place to get away. The juniors executed attacks and followed moves and we were able to protect my standing in the GC! A standout performance of the day was junior Eire Chen finishing off the day in 2nd place in the bunch sprint.
I learned so much from every single member of our team at Valley of the Sun. It was so special to share a GC win with my junior teammates, and it was so fun to watch them execute plans and goals of their own in each stage. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to grow as an athlete this year by trying new cycling disciplines. Cheers to the amazing year ahead!