Saturday, June 28, 2008

5th Annual Balloon Festival Classic – Cambridge, NY – June 8, 2008

Independent Fabrication/Kempner tops the podium!
Race report by Silke

Boy, was it hot! With the exception of the near record-breaking temperatures at the Tour of the Battenkill back in April, it has been a fairly cool spring in the Northeast and I assume that everyone was feeling a little uneasy with the heat radiating off the pavement at 9 o’clock in the morning already.

Before the start of the women’s race we watched some of the juniors finish. Jack Macclarence, the winner of the Juniors 10-14, sprinted across the line by himself way ahead of the next finisher, without a victory salute, but simply with the raw determination to give it everything he had until the very end. Awesome. Sometimes I wish I had gotten into competitive sports at a much younger age to enjoy a few years of racing fearless, unencumbered by thoughts of responsibility and reason.

So off we go! I led the pack through town, soft pedaling and giving my legs and body a chance to get into a rhythm. Before we hit the stepped climb at mile 16 there were a couple of attacks, short-lived, but enough to stretch the legs, get the heart rate up and to get a feel for how this day might unfold. The steep climb was going to force a selection without a doubt and with the sun beating down on us no one seemed too eager to expend precious energy early in the race. My teammates Pauline, Zoe and Michele all looked strong and showed their presence at the front of the pack. I felt confident that if I could initiate a break they would use their experience to effectively control the pack.

When we reached the second part of the steep two-tiered climb, I was in the lead and had a small gap on a group of four. I continued to push the pace over the top and into the downhill section that followed hoping to increase the gap on the field and encouraging the group of four to get organized and catch up to me which they did before long. I was happy to see Debony Diehl and Yvette LaBombard in the mix and we immediately started to work together to increase our lead. On our way out of town at the beginning of the second loop we got stuck in a bit of traffic and I was afraid our lead would fizzle like a drop of water on a hot stone. Things evaporating seemed to be the theme of the day anyway. Once we were able to continue I was trying to increase the pace a bit to make up for lost time, but it seemed like everyone was starting to feel the heat. On the first few rollers after leaving the town of Cambridge, I noticed that some of the girls were breathing pretty hard. I saw my chance to whittle down our group of five even further and increased the pace to see if anyone would respond. When I looked back there was no one with me and I had a good sized gap. So without much further thought, I focused my energy on extending my lead.

Once I settled into what seemed like a reasonable pace to get me to the finish without blowing up, I realized that I still had a pretty long way to go, including the climb and the last four miles to the finish into a headwind, and after about four or five miles on my own I was beginning to wonder if I had made my move too early? My face had turned a significantly darker shade of red than your proverbial carrot and it felt like I was dangling precariously on the edge of a complete melt-down. What was going to happen first: spontaneous combustion or my muscles turning into one big twitching heap of rotting flesh? I could almost hear the flies buzzing…. But thanks to the neutral water that was graciously provided by the race promoter to all racers in response to the extreme conditions, I was able to cool off a bit and when I crested the steep climb for the second and last time and still didn’t see anyone behind me, I was beginning to feel vaguely confident that I might actually be able to make it. I forced myself into a steady tempo and pressed on until I finally saw the finish line banner. I did it! I won the 5th Annual Balloon Festival!!

Overall, Team Independent Fabrication/Kempner did extremely well on this hot and challenging day with Zoe taking 7th and Pauline very close behind in 12th place.

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