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First racing since COVID shut down!

Saskia Hoppe | Published on 7/6/2020

Saskia Hoppe TONGA p1 crit June 2020
June 24-26, the first races in the country since COVID-19 shut down everything took place. Precautions were in place to keep everyone safe, including limiting fields to 50 riders, social distancing, and, one of my favorite precautions, the cleanest porta potties I have ever seen! Including hand washing stations with real soap! Mind blowing, who knew there was a teeny tiny silver lining to pandemic?

Sorella was represented by Diane Schleicher and myself (Saskia Hoppe) on the Friday night crit. It lasted about 50 minutes, 28 laps, 18.5 miles and a staggering 1200 feet, ladies cat 1-5 all racing together making it a challenging and hard fought race! I clung on as best I could, making the most of the fast downhill turn 4 to attempt to catch half a breath before the little hill to the start/finish and then rolling straight into a short downhill and another climb (this is all relative, it was a 0.6 mile lap, I’m sure most folks would consider the ‘climb’ barely more than a speed bump). The final two laps were fast but I was able to cling on for 4th place finish and Diane finished up 11th. Cheerleaders did the best they could to cheer on despite the hurricane winds drowning out all but the loudest of voices!

Melanie King TONGA P1 RR June 2020
Saturday morning was the first of two road races and Sorella was strongly represented with racers (Melanie King, Diane Schleicher, Sylvia Poulos, Saskia Hoppe)! A hilly 32 mile course which clearly suited Melanie who kept the ‘big girls’ (cat 1-3) on their toes and finished 2nd, impressive for someone who has done less than a handful of road races. I guess that shows you the power of indoor training and virtual racing. Melanie’s thoughts on her racing adventure:

“It was wonderful racing with these strong women. Even better, hanging out at the Sorella tent afterwards with Michelle, Saskia, Sylvia, Diane and Peanut afterwards. Thank you!!!”

Saskia finished 6th, Diane 8th and Sylvia in 9th, a stunning result for her first road race! Here’s what she had to say about it.

“It was great to have Diane help me through my first races and great support to see the Sorella tent and hear the encouragement on every lap! I was really nervous so my goal was to just get a race under my belt and I'm thrilled I finished 9th for the weekend.“

Saskia TT TONGA p1 finish
Next up we had the time trial. Diane, our race expert this weekend, came fully prepared with her TT bike and was the first Sorella to head out on the 7 ish mile (hilly - notice a theme here?) time trial. It felt cruel, first half mostly downhill, then a hard turnaround and a blustery uphill battle to the finish line. After the morning’s race, legs were definitely a little wobbly, but Sorella was strongly represented with 3 of us, Diane (7th), Sylvia (10th) (might as well get your first 2 races over and done with in one day!) and Saskia (5th).

Sorella cheerleaders TONGA p1 June 2020
To finish up the weekend, one last road race. Only 40 miles. Only 3400ft of climbing. Did I mention I’m not made for climbing? I’m a trackie, the biggest hill I have to deal with is getting up the banking. How did I end up here you ask? “It’ll be fun!” they said. “You’ll do great!” they said. “It’ll make you a better cyclist!” they said. The thoughts that went through my mind that last race, when after 10 minutes I saw the big girls disappearing off into the distance, never to be seen again, included what excuses I could come up with to only do one of the two laps (20 miles seemed doable). However, I had to put those thoughts aside and convince the others that were chewed up and spat out by the big girls to work together and help ease each other’s pain. We started with 4, and throughout the first lap picked up more and more riders. By the time we hit the start/finish for the first time, the group had grown to 8 or so. The Sorella tent was bright, unmistakable and just the spark I needed to keep going. I couldn’t dwell nor bask in the beauty of the tent because I needed to focus on picking up a bottle, having come to the realization that I hadn’t actually done a bottle pickup on the fly before and that I really needed to get rid of one bottle in order to pick up a new one! Bottle exchange complete, and off for lap 2! By this point we had a decent rhythm and more of us to share the load. Around halfway through someone decided to pick up the pace and the group split and I managed to cling on to the finish. It was a windy slightly uphill finish but there was the tent, all bright and beautiful and cheerleaders adding some noise to push me through the finish line, fighting for an unknown position as we had no idea how many cat 4/5 ladies were ahead of us. Finishing with nothing in the tank, 6th behind a former Sorella. Sylvia finished up 10th and Diane 11th (despite Diane taking a wrong turn somewhere along the way and getting in a couple of extra miles. Because she hadn’t done enough for the weekend.) Despite that, Diane had a great weekend:

"I would like to say that it was so nice to have our Sorella tent at the race over the weekend, it was awesome. It created an atmosphere of team spirit and was the gathering location of teammates and supporters. Thank you Michelle and everyone else involved in arranging this each day at 3 different locations over the weekend."

Big thank you to our cheerleaders this weekend, Michelle Hollberg, Libby Brown, Lea Rolfe, Peanut and significant others. Could not have made it through the weekend without the cheering, encouragement, bike holding, feeding and everything else ya’ll did for us! A big thank you to the other racers this weekend for being badass and representing the club.

TONGA p1 June 2020