Race Report: Rapha West Coast Prestige 2014

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As I was getting ready for this trip, I couldn’t help but be both super excited and incredibly nervous. The women on the Rapha team (Julie Krasniak, Meredith Miller, Elizabeth ‘Bud’ Reeder, Abby Watson, and Cynthia Young) are wicked strong, and all of them had either raced a previous Prestige or just completed the Tour of California stages backwards. I, on the other hand, live in the Midwest—80-mile rides with 640 ft. elevation change, anyone??—and think I like ‘climbing.’ So yes…I felt strong going into the Prestige, but I’d also not climbed 11,000 ft. in a single day, and also have a well established habit of forgetting to eat/drink on long rides/races. Essentially, there were just a variety of ‘unknowns’ that were really only going to be found out come race day.

We all got into Oakland on Friday. The team was from all over the place—SoCal, Vancouver, Portland, Boulder, Chicago—and thankfully we arrived with enough prep time for bike assembly, a ride, and all-important accessories coordination. Polka dots, PDX, and pastel pro Oakelys upped our style game significantly. Gannon—one of our hosts—took us on a pre-ride of Diablo to double check our bikes and discuss the course route. It was 80 degrees, an amazingly beautiful setting, and it felt great to be back riding with these ladies. Later than evening, we all checked out the course route, discussed the anticipated challenge areas, and went over our plan for the race. The race goal was pretty simple, and we really came up with only three rules. First, everyone climb at your own pace. We decided it was best if no one had to break tempo, and we’d just meet at the top each time. Second, Cynthia called middle for the day. Third—and to quote Julie—“We go easy for the first 80 miles, and FAST for the rest.” Essentially, everyone wanted to have a good time and race as a team.

Our start on Saturday was more than a bit ridiculous. Not only in all the excitement of being on the line did we manage not to hear Jeremy say ‘GO!’ when our timer started, but our Garmins took a little while longer than anticipated to register the course map…so we made a wrong turn almost immediately out of the parking lot. After spending a few minutes working out those kinks on course, we were back on track and on our way. Yahoo for technology and a solid sense of humor on our team’s part! The first of the two major climbs was shorter than Diablo, but punchy and a bit steeper on average. The climbing felt great, and I gained a bit more confidence for the day due to the fact I reached the top right in the middle of our team’s distribution, AND we were collectively passing a whole lot of ladies.

When we got to Diablo the team strung out a bit more, but not so much that it was a detriment to the mood or to our pace for the rest of the day—after all the summit of Diablo was only mile 50 of 108. No one wanted to risk blowing up at this point. Though the climb was a long one, the elevation change was fairly even and keeping a steady cadence was key. Though it was obviously challenging, the only part of the climb that prompted a ‘For reals?!’ moment for me was the last 150 yards. That 20% shit was just brutal.

Though for me the climbing turned out to be a pleasant success on the day, the descending was most definitely not. On both the descents I was dead last on the team. For some ridiculous reason, my brain (along with my fingers on my brakes…) seizes up on descents. All I could picture the entire time was what would happen if I incorrectly judged a switchback and went plummeting over the side of the mountain. Despite this having NEVER, EVER happened to me—I could not shake the image. Yay for neuroses! That said, though I cannot descend quickly if my life were to depended on it, both Meredith and Abby rode with me on much of them. Meredith’s tips and Abby’s lines were MUCH appreciated. Thanks ladies!

The other highlight of the day came with the trail section. After 90 miles of highways and asphalt, the dirt was a fantastic change of pace and scenery. As anyone who knows me is aware, I love cx—but in all honesty, I did not foresee just how excited for dirt that I would be at this stage of the race. Rutted out, clay descents! Gravel! Trees and shade! It was amazing—and the trail section could have been made WAY longer, in my opinion. I think everyone on the team agreed that this section gave us that third or fourth wind needed to finish strong. We all crossed the finish line smiling, and ready for beer, espresso and FOOD (!!!).

The Rapha ladies ended up finishing 8th out of 20 teams—a result we were all really happy about. It was such an amazing group of women to ride with, and the team dynamic couldn’t have been better. I couldn’t imagine a more entertaining and strong collection of ladies with which to spend 8+hours over 108 miles and 11,000 feet of climb on a bike—the company truly made the experience. You’re all fantabulous.

Huge thanks to Rapha, The Athletic, Oakley, Trek Bikes, Skratch Labs, Continental Tires, and Giro for the all of the support! As well as to Nick Kova (@nickkova) for all the race day pics.

For additional photos from the race check out our Instagrams! 

Photo credits: Abby Watson, Meredith Miller, and Nick Kova.

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