Words by Gabrielle Lehnert
EUGENE — Day 3 of the Baker City Cycling Classic was the longest and hardest race I have ever done. It was an 85 mile stage with a pretty much never ending climb at the end (14 miles I think). I got up at 5:00 and ate oatmeal for breakfast. I was really nervous for such a long stage. I knew eating a lot would be important but being so nervous made it hard to get much food down. With the race being so long it didn’t require much warm up so I just rode around a little bit before the start.
The first 70 miles of the race were very casual. Nobody wanted to do much, knowing that the climb would leave plenty of time to make the race exciting. The only time the pace picked up was on the 2 short QOM climbs before the final one. I tried to eat as much as I could throughout the race but it was probably not as much as I should’ve. It was just barely enough to sustain me through the race.
At the base of the final climb, the field immediately blew apart. At first, I tried to stay with the front few people but quickly decided that it was a much better idea to find a pace that suited me and stick with that the whole way up. A lot of people started out way too hard so I started passing people within the first mile. My goal for the day was to get a minute and nine seconds back on the leader to win the overall. The leader got dropped at the base and so I just kept my pace and hoped that the gap would be big enough at the top. About 3/4 of the way up the climb I started to feel like it would never end. I was so exhausted and just wanted the finish to come. It seemed to get steeper and steeper and gave no time for recovery. It was all I could do to keep my legs going in circles.
Finally, the finish came. I was so incredibly tired and had no energy left for anything. I won the cat. 3s on the stage but it didn’t guaranty anything about the GC. My dad started timing the gap as soon as I finished and it was a little over three minutes before the leader came in. I was so happy to have been able to win the GC. With an effort like I put in, it would have been a little disappointing not to have won.
I slowly started my recovery while waiting for podiums and started feeling a little better. Being on the top of the podium was pretty unbelievable for me because I was not expecting it at all going into the race. It was very rewarding after such an intense weekend. I really enjoyed the kindness of my competitors on and off the bike. The racing was definitely taken seriously but the fun-loving spirit of the Athletes Lounge ladies and the rest of the racers I rode with kept it in perspective.
After the awards, my dad and I packed up and drove six and a half hours home. Baker City Classic was a race like none I’ve ever done and gave me a lot of really quality race experience. I had a lot of fun this weekend and learned things that will help me in many races to come.