Hi, I'm Sonja and I'm a bike racing virgin. Growing up my best friends dad was a bike racer and I had such strong memories of the few races I attended. I thought they were crazy. Last year attending a crit here in Denver I started wondering if I had it in me to participate in such an event. The turns scared the crap out of me just watching them! About a month ago Steve called to see if I wanted to do a road race. Unfortunately the registration period had expired, but I started getting comfortable with the idea. About ten days ago Steve called to see if I wanted to sign up for a 78 mile road race. I said "Yes" and so did Beth and Michelle. I was to excited to have to teammates in the race.

Yesterday everyone met at my house early to load bikes into Steve's truck. He had built mounts inside his truck for all our bikes. We rode to the race in Michelle's huge SUV, talking strategy with Steve and then joking and giggling the rest of the way. Troy and Annie drove Steve's truck with all the bikes and goodies.

When we got to the race we grabbed our race numbers and then Steve launched into a Steve I have never seen in my life. He told us to take care of ourselves while he proceeded to get out our bikes, check all of their functionality, pump up all the tires, attach our helmets, make sure our water bottles were in them....for all 4 of us (our friend Sara was with us too...she's in Pink)! He prepared feed zone bottles and got the truck ready for sag. He had a set of spare tires in his truck, and dropped another set with the mechanical car. All we did was get ourselves ready. I felt so unbelievably taken care of, it was insane.

Steve taking care of us, Troy pinning #'s on Sara hugo1.jpg

A short warmup later we were on the line, amongst the start group, and the smack talking had begun. Girls were making fun of each other, they were touting their accolades. And all the while I'm thinking...if you are so hot, why are you in the Cat 4 race?

Pre Race hugo2.jpg

So, off we go. And I tell ya...it's hard to put into words how insane the experience was. The girls would yell at people over the slightest thing. "that's my wheel" "Hold your line" "On the left" "Car up" "Car back" "Squirrel in the road". The group would speed up, then it would slow way down. Then up then down. Girls would attack and right away the group would eat them back up. I went with 3 or four jumps but they never got off the front with any success. Steve and Troy were bunny hopping us in the truck and it was awesome to look Steve in the eye and get a nod, or a signal to do something. At about mile 35, he told me to jump. It was my first solo jump and I went for it. Nicole (used to be with PC) came with me, and we tried to get off, but we got eaten back up. I definitely jumped too hard for my first time and I was wounded.

I sat back in and tried to recover and we came through feed zone 1 (40 miles in). I grabbed the first bottle and suddenly the entire pack went past me and in front of me, and slowed and then surged and just like that...I was off the back of the pack. I am cussing up a storm in my head. The pack is hammering and I'm alone. I worked my butt off and jumped on every girls wheel that went past me. It was the hardest I worked the whole day to get back to the pack. Once I was back in which was such a relief I just sat in and panted. I was exhausted. Michelle and Beth made an attack together and I just sat in and watched. They got pulled in my the group. About 10 miles later I was feeling recovered and I started repositioning myself in the front. Beth and I took a flier, eaten back up. Everyone did some pulling when another lady went off the front. A crazy girl on an Orbea almost took everyone down when she illustrated her crappy handling skills (they were bad and almost took her down several times).

The Pack...they look so innocent..but they aren't hugo3.jpg

The second feed zone I set myself up perfectly, front of the pack, grabbed a bottle at the end of the feed, didn't even slow. It was perfect, that was a lesson learned the hard way. I doused myself in water, it was hot hot hot. Now we were getting down to the wire and the pack was still huge. Michelle made the most awesome move of the day. She just peddled off the front in the most casual way. She never looked like she was hammering, but I knew she was because when the pack tried to catch her they weren't making way. Beth and I were trying to slow down the group, but girls kept coming around us and picking it up. Michelle had it for a little while, but eventually the pack got her back. She got right back in the front and timed it great to hop back in. We hit the 5K to go mark and the whole pack just started screaming, ladies were getting dropped off the back, but we still had a huge group.

We hit the top of a hill and you can see the finish. I am in the front and I start hammering. I'm in the front three, but it's too early and I can't hold it. The pack is still with us and with 40 yards to go it's an all out sprint finish. I was in the pack with 30 or so girls. Beth and Michelle were too, we were all together, Beth first, then me, then Michelle and crossed in the same second as 30 other girls. Insane. I have no idea who won, but the girl who raised her hand like she won never took a single flier, or pull. Most the riders that dominated the day were in the middle of the finishing pack like I was.

Coming down to the finish line Steve was yelling like I have never seen him before, it was wicked awesome.

It was insanely hard. But also crazy fun. I absolutely loved having Beth and Michelle there with me and it was nice to see how strong both of them are right now. I likes seeing them play some cards, and I liked seeing how smart they were in the pack. I am lucky to have such smart and well skilled training partners.

Post Race: Michelle, me, Beth hugo4.jpg

Another funny thing...you know how cycling teams have sponsors on their butt. Well, after racing with those girls, there were a lot of companies that I now will NEVER buy something from. Wearing a sponsor on your butt and acting like a b!#$h does not promote your sponsor very well...

It was an awesome experience, we were high for hours, it was hard core. Lots of lessons learned, too many to put in type. I want to do more.

Steve, and Troy, oh MY GOODNESS, they took such good care of us. Like in a HUGE way. Steve went so above and beyond in so many ways in training our bodies, our minds, talking race strategy, and attending to our machines. Although all three of us were road racing virgins, you wouldn't have known, we were in the mix and up with the front. We took fliers, we had strategy, and we didn't act like newbies. I'm proud of us!

Post race legs...and annie! hugo5.jpg