Our awesome club president, Karen Wilkinson is currently is California, riding the Amgen Tour of California. The only woman riding all the stages of the ATOC this year!
Here’s a quick Q & A with Karen after the first two stages:
– Tell us, what exactly are you doing at ATOC?
I am doing the Tour of California Race Experience, which is one of the bucket list events through Carmichael Training Systems. I am here with 16 men, Chris Carmichael, CTS coaches, four mechanics and four soigneurs. We ride all the stages leaving with a 3-4 hour head start and need to be off the course before the pro peleton catches us. We stay in the hotels along with the pro cycling teams and eat breakfast and dinner with them. They make us travel like them also, with our one suitcase and race bag each day. Each day ends with a massage and dinner/team meeting. The rides are supported with a follow car for neutral support. And after we finish each stage, we get to hang out in the VIP tent to watch the finish of each stage.
– That seems like quite a feat, what possessed you to do it?
I had a very hard year with career change, etc and decided I needed to do something big. [My husband] Dave and I were planning to go watch a few stages of the race if [my son Steve Fisher] got selected to race for Team Jelly Belly. When I started researching about pre-riding some stages, I found the bucket list application. I applied figuring they would just laugh but they called me to set up my interview and before I really thought about how hard it would be, they had offered me a spot.
– What are your goals?
My main goal is to finish every stage and not have to get put into the sag vehicle for being too slow. Second goal is to get stronger on my climbing ability. Third goal is to keep up with some of the men. I am the second oldest rider however so that is a challenge. So far do good though as I finished with six of them.
– Is it more exciting for you to be able to ride ATOC or to watch your son compete in it?
So far it has been really exciting to watch Steve as he is racing with some amazing pros like Wiggins, Sagen, Cavendish, Phinny, etc
– Hows it going to so far?
The first day was the longest day with 127 miles in heat and wind. Today was somewhat a rest day as we just rode 25 miles to the 12 mile TT. Stage 3 is probably the hardest day as it is the KOM day with two mountains for almost 11,000 feet of climbing with the forecast of 98 degrees. Stage six is another mountain top finish after 11,700 ft of climbing.
“View looking down from top of Mount Diablo waiting for the pros to come up. I made it up both climb for 108 miles and over 10,000 feet of climbing. They announced I was the only woman to ride the stage up and the noise of the thousands of people banging on the fencing and cheering was unreal. It took every last ounce of me to stay upright and not fall off my bike for the last 200 meters that was at a 19 percent grade!”
Karen, we are so proud of you! Go get ’em, girl!