The Aarons Team Diary 2006
Good Times in Pennsylvania
We spent the past week with excellent host families in Westchester County, Pennsylvania. Our guest riders, European pros Helen Kelly and Annette Beutler and their entourage settled in with Viktor Ohnjec and his family. Shannon, Jeremy and I stayed with Kim and Jeff Dubeck and Mackenzie and Candice were just down the street at Bob and Mare Perna’s. Our hosts went way beyond the call of duty, from making us home-cooked meals to showing us the best country roads for riding – even picking up some key items at Beans Bike Shop! We got to spend an evening playing celebrities at a meet-and-greet with the Westchester Cycling Club, courtesy of the Ohnjecs and club president Susan Zabo. As an extra bonus we were treated to the company of 18 month-old Max “Wild Thing” Dubeck. A picture of his smiling little face with round blue eyes is now taped to the driver’s side visor in our luxury Jag Wagon and he has become our unofficial mascot.
Following a tough race on Sunday, our team geared up for a recovery ride on Monday, followed by a visit to Reading’s many outlet malls. After our ride, however, we received some sobering news. Candice’s apartment in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin burned to the ground and almost all of her belongings had been lost. Her downstairs neighbor, a young father, had not survived the blaze. We were stunned and saddened. Immediately the Aaron’s family began pulling together to support Candice. Aaron’s Corporate Furnishings pledged to provide new furniture; teammate Lee-Anne Asbury offered to send her time trial bike out to Wisconsin along with a care package; and the rest of us made plans to set up a fund and even Mackenzie’s dad made a contribution. As tragic as the events were, it was heartening to see that we have really become a family over the last few months. Jeremy booked Candice a flight home for the next morning and our tireless hosts Bob Perna and Jeff Dubeck helped pack up her bike and drove her to the airport.
The remaining team put in a good training session together (with Annette driving the pace until we all cried uncle) and rested up for Thursday’s race in Reading.
criterium in Reading was not quite as fast as Lancaster but it wasn’t
lacking for action. Aaron’s patrolled the front of the race and made sure
we were represented in the breakaway groups that formed and re-formed
throughout the first half of the race. Midway through the race Victory’s
motor Katherine Carroll attacked the field and dangled at 10 seconds. We
were not terribly concerned but thought it wise to bridge up. Helen attacked
in an attempt to cross the gap but as she was brought back German powerhouse
Ina Teutenberg countered her move. Ina’s timing was impeccable and all the
other major teams missed the move. She soon joined Katherine, who struggled
to keep pace with her. As the largest team, Colavita had the responsibility
to bring the break back but their domestiques made little headway. Aaron’s
Helen and Catherine made repeated attacks to bridge but were shut down. So
the field was racing for 3rd place. The last few laps were
inconsistent, with frequent lapses in speed resulting in field swarms.
Aaron’s riders fought to stay ahead of the swarms. With 1 lap to go we got
together to lead out our sprinters Shannon but our train got shut down. I
was able to escape the swarm and accelerate up the right side of the field
and kept the pace high through turns 5 and 6 but riders bunched up on the
straight-away into the last turn and our sprinters Shannon and Annette had
to weave their way through for 10th and 11th place.
Eager for revenge, we rested up on Friday and Saturday focusing on the big race to come: the Commerce Bank Liberty Classic in downtown Philadelphia. Friday night the Dubecks treated us to one last meal at the local Mexican restaurant, where we got to watch Max get his first taste of hot sauce (followed by much spitting). On Saturday we took a spin on the beautiful Westchester country roads and then packed up for Philly. We checked into the Sheraton and engaged in a massive schleppathon, as we’d not thought to pack separate race bags but rather had to bring all our bags and bikes up to the rooms on the overburdened hotel elevators.
Sunday morning we were up early, nervous and excited about the big race. Our teammates Glen and Kari had flown up to help us out and it was great to have them there to set up camp for us in the tent city across from the Philadelphia Museum of Art (famously featured in the movie “Rocky”). We ate at the buffet in the hotel and headed to the race course. The weather was cool and clear, promising to be a beautiful but windy race day.
The race is a huge spectacle. There are huge television screens set up so spectators could keep track of us along the whole course. Cycling fans and press crowd the streets and lined the course. The local bike clubs had set up recreational rides in the area and people in the Manayunk area host cookouts and rowdy parties in honor of the event. It is such a blast to be a part of it.
We signed in, put on our radios and warmed up a bit. Then we rolled up to the line, ready to rock. On the first lap as the road narrowed into the left-hand turn towards the Manayunk area there were two big crashes. Shannon and I were caught behind them but managed to avoid going down. We chased hard to rejoin the group just at the base of the climb. That was the worst of it – Manayunk, the first time up. The climb is just under half a mile long with sections of very steep grade. Mackenzie, Annette and Helen blazed ahead and Annette got the first of many mountain points.
The field came together on the descent and as the race wore on it became clear that no breaks were going to stick. This was primarily because the T-Mobile squad was actively chasing anything that went up the road. The high winds also didn’t help the breaks’ chances. Mackenzie did her part when a dangerous group got a gap, bringing Annette up to the leaders. On the final lap, we drove it into the climb to keep it fast for Annette. She clinched the Queen of the Mountains jersey, earning Aaron’s a spot on the podium and lots of media coverage.
In the end, the race came down to a field sprint. Helen and I helped get Shannon and Annette into position. Annette came in 4th and Shannon 10th. I rounded out the team’s overall team points lead by coming in 22nd. We were very pleased. We had such great support from everyone and it really paid off. The team has decided to give half of our winnings to Candice to help her rebuild.
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