I had gone back and forth about participating at Tour of Galena this year. While I had planned on it going into the season, the travel expenses and race fees from April and May were starting to add up. JB and I chatted it out and decided we could afford for me to go and he would sit this one out. While I would miss his cheers and support, we made the right decision and I signed up for the omnium (a time trial, road race, and criterium over two days) two weeks before the race.

I have been to Galena, Illinois once before – for the Galena Triathlon in 2012. I knew it was hilly but also breath taking beautiful. The team house did not disappoint with a wrap-around porch and huge floor to ceiling windows that gave us gorgeous views of the lush green hills, it fit all 13 of us.

My teammate Sean and I rolled in late Friday night, ate some amazing pulled pork provided by the culinary master, Jen G., then hit the hay. The Saturday morning time trial would come very early.

Sleepyheads rolled out of bed at 5 am and waited not so patiently for coffee. Fuel up and ready to roll by 6am! I wanted to pre-ride the course and get in a good warm up before my 7:51 am start time.

Sean and I arrived and the course and set about our individual warm-up routines. I jumped on the course and found it to be rolling and easy heading out. Passed a grouping of cones and proceeded down the STEEP hill that I had heard about leading up to the race. About halfway down the hill, I spotted Sue W. of xXx Cycling setting out course cones and I thought to ask her, just exactly where is the turn-around for us short-course Women 4? Turns out it was the group of three cones about a quarter mile back – lower categories did not have to do “the hill”. So I headed back to race start and found that the return was more difficult than the outbound. I would need to get in a great warm-up.

I had a planned spin for the trainer and got busy on that. I had everything ready – number pinned, helmet and glasses ready to go, HRM on, etc. so that I could arrive at the line as late and as hot as possible. I timed it perfectly as they called my number as soon as I rolled up.

I had looked at last year’s results and knew that the top three women had gone under 8:20 for the 3.7 mile course. I had my eye on that time, and as a former triathlete, I figured that was within reach. In minutes I was off and in the biggest gear I could spin at 80 rpms. There were some good rollers and at the turnaround, I started to feel them. My legs felt heavy, like they wouldn’t open up. It hurt. I looked down at the Garmin and it said 7:59 and I knew I was good – until I got to the finish and I realized that was the clock time. My actual riding time was 8:50! UGH! Crap!! What happened?

I immediately went to the trainer to spin out my legs and make a frantic call to JB. OMG! OMG! OMG! What do I do wrong? Do I suck? Why was I so slow? He calmed me down and said to just focus on the road race and wait for the results.

Results were posted and wouldn’t you know it, I came in 3rd. (Freak out for nothing.) With results posted, we had our “marked” riders for the rest of the weekend – Lauren W. of Spidermonkey and Maria L. of Cuttin’ Crew were 1st and 2nd. Half Acre Cycling women put up some AWESOME results for the TT with two other teammates in the top 10, and almost all of us in the top 20.

We headed back to the house to chill out. Some took naps, we all ate and hydrated. I put on my recovery socks and put my feet up until they went numb. Drank a ton of water and ate the pork fried rice JB had made as my recovery meal.

At Noon, the team headed down to the road race start/finish. With the effort in my legs from the TT, I only did some easy spinning around the start/finish just to get a feel of what visuals to key off of for the finish line. Before we knew it, it was time to line up and we were off!

Make no mistake, while only a 22.3 mile course for Women 4, the course is killer hilly! Neural roll out is short, about 1.5 miles – and it includes the first of many steep hills. Just a little hint of what to expect. The race “starts” at the feed zone, which is just a few feet beyond the top of the hill. Pace picked up only slightly as the race began and we were all having fun, laughing, joking, and maybe a little nervous.

Everyone had been talking about “the hill” – the one that some people walked up last year because it was so steep. We came across a couple of those, so each time we would slow to 2 mph, and 10 rpms, pushing 400+ watts up  the hill, I would wonder, “Is this THE hill?” I never really found out which one it actually was, but there were plenty of times that I thought to myself, “How is this even physically happening? Don’t stop mashing or you will fall over!”

The group stayed together for the most part. There was one hill where we reached the top and, as I recovered, I saw someone up ahead. I looked at my teammate Erica G. and asked, “Is that one of ours or a junior?” It was one of ours.  A girl who had just ridden away without attacking. We let her dangle for a bit then Erica G. and I started talking. We were about 12 miles into the race and we were wondering if I should bridge across while Erica G. and the team held back the pack. I had success with going on a break at the Sheehan Road Race, but we still had 10 very hilly miles to go, and I did not know that girl up ahead. Would she crack? Would we burn up all our matches and then be spent for the sprint? I went after it and was unsuccessful. The pack came with.

With the girl still dangling, we climbed another hill and yet another girl just rode away. She joined the solo rider and we could see the two of them talking to each other, perhaps plotting and trying to organize. Meanwhile, the pack kept it’s pace and with maybe 4 miles to go, we caught them. As we approached town, I knew that I needed to be at the front as the pace would start to ramp up for the sprint. My teammates did an excellent job of ramping up the pace and allowing me to stay rested. Erica G. did a great job of pointing out wheels and telling me to fight for position.

The finish is so fun and rewarding after all the climbing! Three or four fun, fast and swooping corners lead to a flat section for the sprint finish. As we came into the final turn, I came close to my teammate Annie, and not wanting to take either of us out, I faltered and lost a tiny bit of speed. A quick apology to Annie and momentum regained, out of the saddle and giving it my all. 1st and 2nd were out of reach but I had 3rd if I wanted it. Done and nailed it.

Once again, Half Acre Cycling women did amazing! Erica G. in 5th and Annie in 9th gave us three HAC women in the top ten and a solid bunch of us in the top 20.

I was so appreciative of my teammates and all their work! They were amazing and I was so happy to be able to share that with them.

After the road race, I was in 2nd for the omnium (by one point!); Lauren W. again in 1st, and Maria L. now in 3rd.

Post-race, the team hung out in the grassy lawn of the Galena Community Center, ate ice cream, and looked forward to the potluck meal we had waiting at home. Later, we ate until we were bloated and drank Half Acre brews while watching the Chicago Blackhawks win in overtime. I made sure not to party too hard – one beer, one glass of wine – and then switched to water. Recovery socks on, feet up, and then lights out.

Sunday – last day! I have not been doing all that great in crits this season – for multiple reasons – and I was really looking forward to the fact that it would all be over in 30 minutes. But I also had fire in my belly and a great team supporting me and my omnium position.

Warm up was quick and light – 25 minutes easy with three :20 sprints on the trainer, and again, arrived at the line hot. My goal was to follow Erica G.’s lead and her direction, stay protected from the wind, and never let Lauren or Maria get more than a couple wheels ahead. The team did a lot of work and were all over the pack. Erica G. threw down – and won – both primes! Half Acre women had this race! No flyers today as the pack was feeling yesterday’s race in their legs.

With one to go, Lauren went down. Not sure what had happened, but I saw it out of my peripheral to my left and was close enough to feel a slight tap from the impact, but was clear. Maria moved into 1st and started to move – that girl is strong and I’ve seen this move from her before. She can hold it for a long time. My plan was to get on her wheel and have her lead me out, nipping her at the line. She is SO strong, and I was having a hard time getting her. She kept looking back and even told me later she was slowing down, waiting for me to come around, but I just had no pep. It was a close sprint finish, and even with a bike throw, Maria won by half a wheel.

I was elated to have made 2nd but concerned for Lauren, so we all went to see what happened. Lauren told me that she rubbed wheels with someone and lost control. Unfortunately, she took out her teammate and another girl, as well. Shaken, cut, and bruised but otherwise okay, Lauren still made the omnium podium for 3rd overall. Maria secured the 1st place win, I earned 2nd, Erica G. claimed 4th, and Maria’s teammie, Jamie, rounded out 5th.

It was such a fun weekend and I am so glad that I went. So happy to have gotten to know my teammates better and to work with them during the races.

Props to all the Women 4 competitors for making the field fierce! Big thanks to JB for his support from afar (many phone calls, texts and Facebook posts) and above all, a huge thanks to my team for just being awesome, welcoming, and supportive.

 -Andrea Devine