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It’s not so much that it comes back quickly, Tammy Jacques-Grewal said, considering mountain bike racing on a sunny Steamboat Springs afternoon.
Watching opponents’ body language before and during a race, listening to their breathing and gauging the rhythm of their pedaling, picking out leaders and climbers, champions and quitters — that doesn’t come back.
“I really never lost it,” she said.
She already knew as much July 24 as she kicked away from the starting line of the grueling Mount Evans Hill Climb road bike race near Idaho Springs, but she was reminded all over again. She saw the cycling teams go to work. She saw young women she didn’t know pumping piston legs, and she saw older women she did know, jockeying for position early.
“I didn’t know my competition, and I had to watch the girls,” Jacques-Grewal said. “I saw the teams organizing, and I jumped on.”
The hill climbing — along with pure race instinct, one of the skills that truly separated Jacques-Grewal in a long and proud professional career on the World Cup circuit — doesn’t go away either, and despite her long break from serious cycling, it simply kicked in, her legs and her lungs syncing like a machine.
Teams shifted and riders surged, and after 7 miles of watching, Jacques-Grewal followed an attack and gained time on the pack.
Then, she hit the gas.
“No one else really got off; I thought, ‘Well, I’ll just keep riding at this pace,’” she said. “I got a 30-second gap, and once you get out like that, it’s easy to ride away.”
Less than two hours later, after 27 miles and 6,500 feet of elevation gained, she crossed the finish line alone, back in first place, back on top.
Cyclingnews Interview with Tammy Jacques-Grewal – 2010