milan-world-cup-butler-a.jpg Sue Butler (Monavie-Cannondale.com) and Rachel Lloyd (Cal Giant Berry Farms – Specialized) checked in with their two tales from their Milan World Cup adventure on Sunday. The two roomed together in Italy and recall their different races. If you enjoy these reports, throw a comment below to let them know or wish them well at worlds.

I’m Done with Dismounting – A Milan World Cup Report by Sue Butler

Only in Italy can a forecast of snow and rain showers and 35 degree temps turn into beautiful and sunny! An upside surprise for sure. In Italy, it seems many things take their sweet time, but this race was a certainly not a slow one. From the gun it was full throttle. I had a pretty good start, and the lower numbers made it seem a bit more manageable.

The course was not technical, per se, but it was not easy. There were a lot of little steep climbs, some steep dips and ups, a set of stairs and even some barriers. The first steep up was definitely, as predicted, a run up for most on that first lap. But even with people dismounting and running, things got moving again quite fast, only to be disrupted by a crash in the front. Saskia Elmans went down and I saw it happen, so I squeezed around ever so slowly as people were picking themselves back up. Unfortunately this happened right before the 2nd ‘technical’ section with a dip that had to be hit with speed to get out of it. Without speed or the right line, it was hard to ride. It wasn’t being ridden at this point and the pile up of girls clawing their way up it was almost comical. I was off and running, but caught in the masses. As someone said afterwards, ‘it was complete chaos.” It was. Everyone that had crashed was fighting around and those that were still in position were trying to get in front of the next person before the next little climb. This climb was easy, but a sharp corner before it made you enter it slowly. I rode it with girls running on each side and just barely made it. It was each woman for herself.

The traffic jams continued as some could not clear the next dip, which was pretty easy if you could keep speed. It was the keeping speed that was the problem in the first lap. We had a set of stairs and some steep S turns to navigate after going by the pit the second time. Speed was again key. I didn’t quite have the speed the first few laps. It’s that feeling like you are almost at the crest and just can’t quite get over. And I caused the next little bottleneck. One foot out was usually all it took. But with that foot out, it had to go back in. Clunk, clunk, clunk. It took a few whacks to get the mud off and be on my way.

Without much natural terrain features to work with, the organizers found a way to make you dismount. It was good. After the first lap, things settled down and spread out a bit. There were still clumps of riders and the fighting for position continued. On the second lap, I didn’t trust myself to make the first steep up in my group, so I just decided to run up it. One thing I started to notice about the dirt in Milan – it’s really thick! It is so thick, that it loves to stick to your shoes and once you put that muddy shoe in your pedal, it likes to stay there. I was having issues, so later on after it became a mere annoyance to try to clip back in, I decided I had the solution. NO MORE DISMOUNTING! Finally on the last two laps (we rode seven) I began to clear all the steep ups and ride them, only struggling with the pedals after the steps and the barriers.

Throughout the race I lost a few places here, gained a few there, but towards the last few laps, it was pretty much set. I had two riders in my sights and I was going to chase them down, until I botched the steep up after the stairs and the gap got just big enough that I couldn’t shut it down. There was no one behind me that I could see, so although I didn’t give up, I knew I was stuck where I was and had no idea where that was. It turned out to be 21st.

The World Cups have been rough this year, but they have prepared me well for the World Championships this weekend. I have gotten all the bad stuff out of the way. Crashes, mechanicals, mistakes – I have made them all as well as being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But now I am ready. Rain, snow or sun. Mud, dry or ice. We have seen it all these past five weeks. It has been a long season and a great season, but there is still no place like home. And I am ready to make the journey back! Thanks for reading and for your support!

-Sue Butler

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My Best World Cup – A Milan World Cup Report by Rachel Lloyd

We raced the last World Cup race of the series today in Milan. The weather turned nice for the weekend despite forecasts for rain and snow. After spending the last few weeks in Belgium riding in harsh weather conditions it was a delight to not only see the sun, but race a whole race on one bike. The course was fast and flat with a lot of turns and steep little climbs and dips. The Italians appear to like having their races in beautiful parks. We checked the course out on Saturday and rode around the lake watching the kayakers and scullers paddle back and forth; they were sleek and fast looking.

The course started on a paved section for about 300 meters and then headed out for the rest of a mostly grassy course. There were a few very steep slick uphills that were difficult to ride with tired legs and a lot of turns. Just what I like! I got called up on the second row, and when the whistle blew at 1 p.m. we were off to a drag race start. Everyone wanted to hit the first hard uphill that was only about 400 meters into the lap in the lead. I think Daphny got through the first turns with a gap, then extended it while the rest of us battled for position. I made my way up into the top ten, then got lucky when there was a crash before a dip (down/up) that I got around. I soon found myself in around 3rd position (I think). I could see Daphny ahead, Hanka chasing and a French girl, Christel. I started chasing but we seemed to be maintaining our gaps. A couple of laps into the race they showed five laps to go, and soon after that Maryline Salvetat (former World Champ) caught me. I could tell that Christel was fading, and I thought I would use Maryline to pull me up to Christel. Somehow, that didn’t work, she just slowly rode away from me.

I finally caught Cristel by the end of the lap and saw four to go. I didn’t want to sit on Christel’s wheel, because I was worried about 6th place catching us. I could see a rider in blue and white (Mirjam Melchers I think) so I tried some small attacks to shed Christel. They didn’t work, so I figured maybe we could work together. I don’t think the French women like ‘working’ with another racer, so I would just go to the front when I thought she was riding too slowly, or if I wanted to ride a technical section ahead of her. Often she would speed up if I tried to go around, so you can see, there wasn’t much working together. We went back and forth from fourth and fifth while third place rode away from us.

With two laps to go, my legs felt pretty trashed and I was making mistakes. I didn’t think I was as tired as Christel by the sound of her breathing, but she was riding the steep uphills better than I was. On the last lap she got around me before the hardest steep uphill (we were both trying to hit it first) and I slipped when trying to put a foot down at the top of it. She got a gap on me, I had to get off the bike and Mirjam came very close to me. I got up and went as hard as I could. I finally caught Christel on the back side of the course and we rode the last couple of turns in the woods together. While looping around the turns I could see Mirjam about 20 feet behind and a hard charging Maryann Vos (the former World Champ and fast sprinter) closing in fast! I thought to myself “oh, shit, I ride around in 4th and 5th for the whole race and get out sprinted by Vos.”

It wouldn’t have surprised me, the girl is fast… and a former World Champion in ‘cross, road, and track! We hit the pavement and I gave it everything I had. I came across in 5th and held off the other girls. My best World Cup finish ever! It was a very hard race. My legs didn’t feel great, but that is probably because I was going as hard as I could.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for all the well wishes. We fly back “home” to Belgium and then meet up with the US National team on Thursday. So now it’s all about recovery and resting up! Stay tuned for the World Championship report next weekend!

-Rachel Lloyd