I know I’m the mountain girl, but even a mountain girl has to go to the city once in a while. This trip took me to Staunton Illinois as a roadie on a mission to win the Tour de Donut.
The day started out to be sunny and cool, but the humidity was still proving to be a killer. I woke up early, threw all my stuff in the van and loaded my bike, then sat outside in a lawn chair and waited for the others. Jenny arrived first, she planned to follow me to the race then Daryl one of our domestiques for the race pulled in the driveway. We loaded his bike on the van and took off for the race. We were lucky and were able to snag two of the last parking spots in the field close to the start. Mark rolled up on his Lemond and asked if I ever turned on my cell phone. I really did have it on this time, but it was sitting in the cup holder in the van, so I didn’t hear it. So much for me having a phone.
The team at the start
Mark had already run recon at the starting line, he said we had to get our bikes up there soon to hold a place in the front. We hurried to registration and grabbed our numbers and shirts, then rolled our bikes up to the start. Mark and Daryl were our domestiques for the day, we usually have more bodies, but life got in the way and some of the regulars couldn’t make it. Mark has been our domestique for 4 years now and this was Daryl’s first time, both as a domestique and at the Tour de Donut. We spent a few minutes going over the course and explaining his duties.
Mark and Daryl went out for a warm up, while Jenny and I held spots at the starting line. As I looked around there were so many people, we had been able to find a spot about 8 rows back. Usually the front rows go to those people who are experienced racers and know how to handle a bike in a big group, but for some reason as I looked around I found that this was not the case this year. I saw a lot of people with comfort bikes and hybrids in the front rows of the race start. I also saw one guy with his helmet on backwards, I really didn’t want to tell him, but I did snap a picture when he wasn’t looking. This was not a good thing, meaning things could get really dangerous right off the bat with individuals riding who had no experience riding in a group. My feelings were confirmed during the first mile of the race.
When Mark and Daryl finished warming up, Jenny and I went out for a short warm up, and during the warm up we stopped for a picture with the Metro Tri Club, we all 4 are members.
The announcer went over a few concerns and course changes due to road construction. He also stated that in the reroute there were some freshly rocked roads and for everyone to be careful in the gravel. Of course there was over a thousand people are at the starting line, not many really heard the announcements.
The race started right on-time, with near crash in the peleton before we even made it a block from the start. Our team, Jenny and I and our Donut Domestiques, Mark and Daryl stayed together, but came close to going down within the first mile as we encountered another near crash during a quick stop in the peleton again. In my opinion it was due to inexperienced riders getting freaked out by all the people and breaking when they shouldn’t. Daryl locked up his wheels, but stayed up and Jenny said later she really thought she was going to take me out during the incident, but all came out well. Although we were running at about 25 mph on the way out of town there was still about 80 riders in front of us. We finally made the turn onto the country road that would lead us out of town and to the first donut stop.
This is where the fun really started, not far from the turn you cross some RR tracks and soon after that we came upon the first crash. There were bodies and bikes across most of the road and it looked like most of the O’Fallon team was down, as we passed we saw a friend on the ground knocked out and people all around her. I yelled it’s April, Jenny said should be stop, Mark said keep going they have plenty of people there now, we will only be in the way. We decided since her husband Greg was in the lead group, maybe we would cross paths at a donut stop to tell him she was down. Soon we heard the ambulance as it came screaming past us. We also passed a second crash with some guys and their bikes and loose wheels down in the ditch. We continued riding up and down giant hills to get to the first donut stop. I was anxious due to the number of people and speed of the group, if one person does something wrong then we are all in trouble. I was really concentrating on where everyone was and not crossing wheels with anyone. I do fine when I know the group I’m in, but when I ride with people that I’m not sure of their riding skills, I sometimes get worried.
We made it to the first donut stop unscathed, rolled through and were marked zero donuts. We got back on the road and started passing small groups that were falling off the back of main group. We picked up a couple riders and one offered to help do the work up front. I’m not sure he was as fast as Mark and Daryl, but it was nice for them to have a little more rest between pulls. Jenny and I hung on without too much effort, I was really feeling good and we were in the 21-23 mph range. Finally we hit Possum Hill, which is a very steep hill, but lucky for us, it’s rather short, we all made it up together and quickly had the group back in a pace line again. There was a change in the course this year due to a bridge on the course being out. The problem with the change was we hit a few newly graveled roads, which caused us to slow down some. We came past a club member who told us he thought there were 4 girls in front of us. So we picked up the pace a bit. By then we had picked up some more riders, and as we all worked our way through the deep gravel, we saw another crash, this one had a few riders we knew in it, they said they were ok, so we kept going, just as we passed them we heard another crash and looked back, yet another group was down in the gravel. We were thankful we made it through ok. We caught two more guys, who happened to be Metro Tri Club members, one of them was Terry, who also happens to be my nemesis. Terry and I battle it out at every race. As we passed him, I couldn’t help but look over and laugh, he laughed too and I told him to hop on our train. He stayed with our group for the rest of the ride.
We pulled into the second donut stop at almost the same distance as the usual course, we rolled though on our bikes and took another zero on donuts then got back on the road. We quickly rolled up on a couple girls, we strategized and decided to let them work for a while before we passed them. That was a good move when we passed them they were too tired to hang on for long. Soon we were back to the paved road heading back into town and we saw another girl she was riding a Felt, we passed her, but she got on our wheel, I yelled for Jenny to go, she is stronger than me and I didn’t want the Felt girl to pass her and we only a couple miles to go. Mark pulled for Jenny while Daryl pulled for me. As we came into town Felt girl passed me again, Daryl and I pulled to the outside and stayed just behind her, but not close enough to ride her wheel. As we made the next curve I closed in on her, we were together turning onto Main Street and as we sped through the rows of BBQ tents, I passed her again. I could still see Jenny not far ahead, I yelled for her to go. Mark rolled back and I took his wheel and gave it everything I had, we made the second of the last two corners and finally dropped Felt girl. I saw Jenny ride though the finish as I came up the last straightaway into the finish shoot, with Mark in front of me and Daryl right behind.
We were talking to people at the finish and they thought we were one and two, but come to find out there was one more girl in front of us that we didn’t catch, she won, so Jenny took 2nd and I took 3rd overall in the women. Lucky for me I’m old, so I ended up 1st in the 40-50 age group, while Jenny was 2nd in the 30-40 age group. What is even funnier is that I got 3rd for adjusted time in the 40-50 age group and I didn’t eat a donut. Oh, let me correct that, I ate a donut after the race. The donuts were not as good this year, they were some prepackaged donuts not the usual ones that come from the local bakery. I hope they go back to the bakery donuts next year.
It was a great day for me, Jenny and our team of Domestiques, both those that came solely as our domestiques and those that joined along the way. Thanks to Mark, Daryl and all the other boys for working so hard for us. We can’t wait for next year, it will be a 1-2 finish.