River Gorge Omnium: Race Report
Written by: Jennah Dunham @jennah_dunham
River Gorge Omnium is a race weekend favorite that has landed a permanent spot on my race calendar. The omnium consists of a picturesque time trial, blazing fast criterium and a lumpy road race. RGO always draws a stacked and mighty women's peloton. My Swisse Femme Équipe teammates had prior commitments - frolicking in France, coming off of Colorado Cycling Classic, rejuvenating from a busy season - and I was preparing to ride solo for the weekend. Lucky for me, we’ve got a wicked team group chat and they are sometimes, quite literally, always in my back pocket with jokes and the best team banter. A month prior to the race, a couple birdies mentioned at Intelligentsia Cup that my dear Chicago Women’s Elite Cycling pals tacked RGO onto their calendar. I connected with a few of my friends to discover if CWEC, an organization that has my utmost respect, could use an additional rider for their RGO roster. By golly, CWEC extended the invite to join in on the fun and I jumped on the opportunity!
So, why guest ride? Guest riding for teams, especially in the women’s peloton, is a true nod to women supporting women to achieve their goals and aspirations. Guest riding offers opportunities to race invite-only events, develop at the elite level, learn from seasoned riders and push yourself beyond your local and/or regional cycling scene. Guest riding is a phenomenal way to build connections with other riders, see the ins and outs of team production, and experience team dynamics. Our Swisse Femme Équipe team is eager to support women rise through the ranks next season through offering guest riding opportunities. Be sure to drop us a line as you identify race targets!
The RGO Omnium weekend that felt like a month-long adventure had some tremendous highs and opportunities for growth - as it should be! I came into this weekend with practical goals and room for improvement based on my 2017 experience and 2018 season.
Time Trial - Don't blow up in the first 2 minutes. Fact, I struggle immensely with pacing for time trials - when to push, recover and fully empty the tank. My coach came up with a guide of power metrics to hold throughout the course. I came across the line out of the saddle feeling strong, but not empty. Next year, 500 meters to go, I will fully waste myself and not conserve. Oh, and probably ride a spaceship, er, time trial bike. Or, suggest that all TTs be Merckx style...amirite?
Criterium - Ride as a team, communicate with one another and animate the race. Maria Larkin (Chicago Cuttin' Crew) made an excellent point that RGO is the last race weekend for many of us - there's nothing to lose, waste yourself and try things. Her text updates during the day changed my focus from merely surviving the crit as the tail-gun queen I have been and into establishing myself as a crit racer. Hands down, my proudest moment was launching an early attack that had me off the front for nearly two laps. Yes, I may have died a 1,000 deaths in that time, but damn it felt amazing to make a bold move.
Road Race - This course hurts. A lot. My dream big goal was to make it over the top of Sand Mountain with the big hitters. The race turns up to 11 because it is the first QOM climb - points and cash money are on the line. I knew my only chance at doing that was if I could position myself near the front of the group before the left turn into the climb. The squad got me there in so many ways - allowing me to conserve energy by giving me their wheels early on and pulling me up through the field in the last bit before the turn. I found myself among some of the top climbers pushing a hell of a pace. I eyed my Feed Hungry Kids Project friends who turn me inside out weekly on our local group ride to follow their lead. I surprised myself up that climb in the best way. I didn't meet my dream goal, but I made it a little more than 3/4 of the climb with what would become the lead group of the race. It was a tremendous improvement from the year prior. This course sucks the legs, but what comes up must go down. In the past year, I've found a knack for bombing descents, so I knew I had a few "rewards" coming my way for getting up and over these punchy, grueling climbs. I came in at a solid 13th place, scooping up a few omnium points and taking off a fair amount of time from 2017.
Guest riding for CWEC was a special opportunity and made for the greatest cap to a full road season. Lauren and Katie are racers I looked up to when I started in my Cat 4 glory days, I fell in love with Rachel's humor at Intelligentsia and learned so much from my bedmate Mia the crit crusher. I had raced against these fierce competitors many times, but it was so much fun to join forces with old and new friends. You know what was extra special? My Swisse Femme Équipe teammates sending encouragement, constantly checking in, watching the live stream and all the sharing of exciting moments and those aspects for improvement. Despite not being physically at the race, my ragtag crew was there every step of the way. I did my best to channel their strength, grit and perseverance in each event - Stef’s killer TT skills, Lori’s mountain climbing prowess, Amelia’s crit savviness and Cat’s megawatt smile and shared love of the big, dumb rides. Seriously, those ladies are amazing cheerleaders…jury’s still out on whether or not we will be doing flips and cheer routines in the future.
I would be remiss if I didn't brag about the greatest on-site support crew of all time - Cathy, Cairn and Angela! Seriously, they are superwomen. These gems of humans managed all the nitty gritty details, prepped meals, kept our steeds rolling, fielded our requests (um, can I get a power braid?) and encouraged us every step of the way. I also cannot forget the power couple - Nathan and Morleigh- who capture our pain faces and finish line smiles all while cheering wildly as pedal on by.
Thank you, CWEC, for bringing this goofball along for the weekend! The cycling community is comprised of spectacular people and I am fortunate to have some of the best in my corner! Cheers to the off season! You can catch me hitting the trails and rocking all those base miles. The countdown for my teammates to join me in the Southeast for some fondo fun is on...45 days!