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The Aarons Team Diary 2006

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Tour de Toona Diary

A successful week for Aarons

All images copyright Aarons Cycling Team, 2006©

This past week the Aaron’s Pro Women’s Cycling Team spent an entire 7 days racing in the hills in and around Altoona, PA.  This race is one of the toughest if not the toughest multi-day race for women on a national and international level.  The races each day are longer than any other race all year long, with more climbing and the race lasts day seven days.  To top things off, the temperatures soared into the high 90’s, with very high humidity, and the women raced in the mid afternoon when all of the torrential downpours seemed to occur.  

This race tests the individual’s capability but on top of that it tests the team and their capacity for sustained and repeated efforts.  Bottom line, this race has the ability to make even the most tolerant and mild mannered person become irritable!  Now here comes what was so impressive about the Aaron’s Women…none of this was able to affect them.  Sure, they were tired and worn out and would have loved to see a flat criterium, but there was never a day where laughter wasn’t present as well as an overall positive attitude.  Every single day each and every one of the team members was willing to lay it on the line for the other and they worked perfectly together making sure that plans could be executed to the best of everyone’s ability.  

So how’d the week go? 

Well things were off to a rocky start as Shannon’s flight was cancelled, Jessie (the Soigneur for the race) had her flight delayed and was stuck at the airport and Oscar (the Mechanic for the race) had to make two roundtrip drives at 2-1/2 hours each to the airport.  Once everyone was at the housing the team came together immediately.  Rebecca Larson, who rode for the team in Nature Valley was already becoming family and guest rider and Mountain Biker Extraordinaire, Sue Haywood, fit right in immediately. 


Stage 1-Time Trial (TT)-3 miles in Altoona, PA 

The Time trial went fairly well for the team with the exception of Catherine Powers crashing in the first turn on her run and giving herself a few scrapes to start the race off with.  Everyone else on the team finished within 30 seconds of the winner.


Stage 2 Johnstown Circuit Race-3 laps for a total of 63 miles

This race winds it’s way in and out of Johnstown with a finishing section that worked well for teams that had depth and numbers in terms of riders to be able to form a long lead out.  The team lost radio communication with each other and were not able to hear any instructions from Jeremy.  The final stretch had Mackenzie on Shannon’s wheel allowing Mackenzie to come in for an 11th.


Stage 3 Johnstown to Altoona Point to Point 96 miles

This was the first of the BIG days.  There are 2 days where the race is near 100 miles and goes over the Blue Knob Mountain.  This was the first of them.  The major climb didn’t come until roughly 70 miles into the race.  On this climb Kristin Armstrong of Team Lipton out in a tremendous effort and went over the top of the climb by herself wit the rest of the field broken apart.  Rebecca powered herself over the top in great position in the first main group which was an extremely select group of riders including all of the best climbers in the country.  Following Blue Knob there were a number of smaller hills to test what was left in the legs of everyone.  The group was made up of roughly 20 women and when they came across the finish Rebecca sprinted in for 5th out of her group and 6th on the stage. 


Stage 4-Holidaysburg Circuit Race-3 laps for a total of 60 miles









This day was made up of 3 laps on a very tough and hilly circuit that had two major sections; one had a sharp left turn with a very short and steep climb and the other also had a sharp left turn with a steep but slightly longer drag to the top that had the sprint line for the mountain competition.  This second climb was followed by a very twist, fast descent and several turns as well as a railroad crossing and then the finish line.  Hence the final steep pitch was a key component to the finish.  This stage was the first stage that the women were treated to incredibly heavy rains.  When the first downpours came Rebecca was involved in a crash that took many women down but Rebecca bounced back so quickly that by the time Oscar and Jeremy had run up to check on her she was already back in the race!  As the last lap approached Mackenzie moved to the front for position on the final climb with Rebecca close behind.  (Mackenzie admitted later to using Oscar’s secret motivational chant from the movie “Cool Runnings” to get her over the top…”Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme…..”)  Mackenzie and Rebecca crested the top of the climb in the top 10 as the two of them put their descending skills to the test Mack brought it back into town with a strong drive up the last finishing stretch to take 4th place with Rebecca right on her wheel for 5th!  Another truly great finish!


Stage 5-Martinsburg Circuit Race-4 laps for a total of 78 miles







Once again the women were greeted with incredibly heavy rains.  The race was such that first place had a very solid stronghold on the race with almost 3 minutes to spare but the next 20 women were separated by just a minute.  This meant that any women that were in the top 20 would be watched very carefully as a few seconds difference could mean several spots in the overall standings.  For this reason there were select women that the different members of the Aaron’s team would look to escape the field with.  About half way through the race a group formed with what looked to be a great combination for the team.  There was one person from each of the major teams represented including Aaron’s rider Rebecca.  Colavita and Advil were the only major teams who had missed the break.  This was a perfect combination as the power in the group was truly greater than what was left to chase it down.  Well all looked great for a lap as the group gained a minute gap on the rest of the field.  At this point Team Lipton decided that they didn’t like it and stopped working in the group and actually contributed to the chase.  The group was then brought back and all was together again until a small group of riders, all of whom were very far down in the overall rolled off the front of the race.  Again the radios had given out due to the weather and the team had just lost communication with Jeremy.  As Jeremy was asking the team to get a rider other than Rebecca in the break they were asking if that’s what needed to be done. (Note-Yes the team purchased new radios for the next day!)  As the main field decided the group was not a threat to the oerall they rolled off the front and quickly gained a lead of over a minute as the main pack took a deep breath before the finish.  This finish was made up of 6 corners in under 1 mile and resembled a criterium finish.  With 6 riders off the front the race was for 6th place.  Well the Aaron’s women wanted to make sure they put their mark on the race without being in the break.  Rebecca attacked going into the first of the 6 corners and Mackenzie got on her wheel.  Mack came around Rebecca as Rebecca got right back on her wheel.  The two of them came in strong for a 1-2 in the field sprint and 7th and 8th for the stage.

Stage 6 Blair County Road Race 93 miles

This was the second BIG DAY and this made the first day look easy!  The climbing came early on at 12 miles in with the first of the decent sized climbs (~1 mile) followed by continuous rolling climbs that really hit at 40 miles in and then continued for the next 12 miles with the last 4 miles ascending Blue Knob from a different direction that added a number of steep pitches.  The rest of the race had 2 more major climbs.  Again the team work was tremendous as on the Blue Knob climb Sue had found her legs and was climbing with a group just at the tail end of the elite climbing group.  Rebecca had fallen just 100 yards off of Sue and was turning herself inside out to keep them in sight.  At the top of the climb Sue waited for Rebecca and they crested together with Sue using her world class descending skills they came right up to the main select group of 20 or so riders.  By the finish there were 5 riders still off the front and Rebecca sprinted for 4th in her group to take 9th for the stage.

Stage 7 Altoona-Criterium 30 Laps

The final day had arrived and the Aaron’s Women were prepared to leave a lasting impression.  Team Lipton had wrapped up the overall competition and was deterined to keep the race as fast as possible….and they did!  Time bonuses were available in the race and as tere were a number of positions within seconds of one another these time bonuses were precious.  Rebecca had the opportunity to move up in the overall with some of these and that was the goal.  The overall goal was stage win first and time bonuses second.  In a race this fast you have to be careful not to go so hard for time bonuses that you end up blowing yourself out of the race!  This race was incredibly comfortable for Sue as it closely resembles her Short Track competition and as such she was able to sit at the front the whole day.  Rebecca was able to win one of the time bonuses towards the later part of the race.  As the laps wound down the team got in formation with Catherine bringing Rebecca and Mackenzie over the top of the hill on the backside coming into the final 6 corners before the finish.  Over the top Mackenzie took over and with several corners to go Rebecca attacked getting a gap on the field and almost holding it to the finish.  Down the final stretch Brenda Lyons just nipped Rebecca with Tina Pic and Mackenzie following with Sue not far behind.  So the team certainly did finish off strong with 3 riders in the top 10 and one on the podium!  The entire week saw Rebecca finish in 11th just seconds out of the top 10.  She also had garnered enough points for 6th in the sprint jersey.



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