2023 Lago Vista Race Report by Monica Merced
Last weekend, hundreds of cyclists traveled to the lakeside city of Lago Vista. This town is primarily located on a peninsula and is home to easily one of the most challenging road race courses Texas offers, La Primavera Lago Vista. Celebrating its 31st year, this (roughly) 5.2-mile circuit consists of punchy rolling hills, incredible views overlooking Lake Travis, and lots of pain. The race is traditionally held the first weekend of March, so the weather is usually a gamble. It has been freezing with rain for some years, while the last two years gave us deceptively warmer temps. One thing that’s always guaranteed year after year—plenty of deer. Let’s just say they add an extra element of spice to the race. There’s nothing like bombing down Highland Lake Drive at 40+ mph when a herd of deer decides to pop out and cross the road at their leisure.
SATURDAY: Saturday started off relatively tame. All eyes were on Roxo after their dominating performance the previous weekend at Pace Bend. This race usually results in a breakaway, and after seeing Katie Kantzes (Velocio // Exploro) roll up to the start (along with Maeghan Easler of Roxo, who we all knew is a fan of riding away from the peloton), I had a feeling Saturday would be no different. The peloton managed to stay together for a few laps, then Roxo decided it was time to make some moves. Maeghan launched back-to-back attacks that were eventually brought back. It would be the third attack from her that sealed the deal, with only Katie Kantzes being able to respond and go with her. After an attempt to chase, the peloton realized they would not be brought back and thus began the race for third. The rest of the race remained relatively animated with attacks from United, Roxo, Jennifer Real, and others. One attack on the finish line hill created separation, dwindling our field.
With two laps to go, Jamie Larmer (Roxo) picked up the pace significantly when we turned onto Boggy Ford Road, causing the peloton to stretch into a single file line. When it let up ever so slightly, Carolyn Defoore (United) countered the attack, with only Nicole Mertz (Austin Aviators) able to respond. They were able to stay away for the rest of the race, with Nicole snagging the last step on the box for third and Carolyn in fourth.
As we entered the final lap, I prepared myself for the sprint for fifth. Not being a natural climber, I knew I would have to go earlier than usual to take advantage of my momentum and power to get me up the around 5% gradient finish line hill. As soon as we passed the tree at the bottom of the hill, I gunned it for the finish, when Rachel Smith (Night Owls) blasted past me, snagging fifth, while I was sixth on the day. That placement might not sound like much to write home about, but I was ELATED. This race was always so challenging for me and I usually got dropped early on. Staying with the peloton was a win in itself, while snagging a top ten made it even more special.
After the race, I decided to do a cooldown lap going in the opposite direction and do a course preview for Sunday. Ouch. At least I knew what I was getting myself into. I think.
SUNDAY: Of all the years I’ve raced Lago Vista, I had never raced Sunday’s course. It always intimidated me, especially knowing I would be racing on tired legs from the day before. I figured it was time to face some fears and lean into the uncomfortable. Rolling counterclockwise, the climbing starts almost immediately. With this course profile, I knew I wanted to get a good warm-up, but I had to be careful as it was another warm day, and I didn’t want to overdo it before the race began.
With a slightly smaller field than the day before, we were off! Maeghan wasted no time on her attack, launching it *maybe* five minutes into the race. Katie Aman (United), Katie Kantzes, and Aubrey Drummond (Austin Aviators) were the ones to respond. I had a feeling that was the move of the day, and sure enough, it was. In the distance, we could see Aubrey losing contact with the three others. Shortly after, out of the corner of my eye on the right side (as I was boxed in), I see Carolyn Defoore launch a move and start to bridge to Aubrey, with only Jamie Larmer of Roxo able to respond. They eventually caught Aubrey, and it appeared as though they they were working together. I stayed calm: they are still within view, and surely we would catch them since it was still early in the race, right?
There was a bit of cat and mouse those next few laps, with us single riders trying to assemble to catch the chasing group of three. All major teams were represented in the break and the chase, so the riders from Roxo, United, and Austin Aviators were not going to work to bring anyone back. Fair enough, I would have done the same had I been in that position. After an attempt to rally others, it was brought to my attention that a good portion of the peloton was Category 3 women, they were racing for their own podium and did not have the desire to work and catch the few up the road. Understandable, but it did make for some relatively slow moments during the race when no one wanted to pull.
I was stuck between wanting to keep the race moving but not gassing myself and having nothing left for the finish. There were a few spirited digs going up Highland Lake Drive from a few riders, but nothing that was able to stick. The rest of the race more or less went that way without much excitement. Going into the last lap, Emily Slack (PHENOM) gave it some beans on the first set of hills, and folks quickly single-filed at the top to start fighting for position spanning almost the entire back stretch of the course. I was feeling calm and ready, reading what other riders were doing. I heard Nicole signal to Melanie Jarrett (Austin Aviators) that she was on her wheel. I knew then Nicole would go for the field sprint, so I stayed close to their wheels with about 1km to go. This finish is tricky. The course turns left into a little downhill section before the 200-meter marker appears…on an uphill. Not being a punchy climber, I knew I had to go early to build a small gap. I decided to take a risk and start my sprint as soon as we approached the final downhill section and managed to hold it to the line, winning the field sprint for seventh. Again, not a result I’d typically be excited for, but my only goal going into the day was simply to finish since I had no idea what to expect. Maeghan took the win again, with Katie Aman in second and Katie Kantzes rounding off the podium for third.
As I type this a week later, I can still feel the fatigue in my legs, yet I am already looking forward to next year.