Thursday, December 27, 2007

Year in Review

So it's that time of the year where it's fun to look back at the happenings of the past 12 months. And since I didn't start the blog until October I figured it might be fun to go over the earlier part of the year. This being a pretty superficial and cycling focused blog I'll recap how my season went.

First an overview -

64 race days (48 road, 16 cross)
10 wins, 23 podium (top 5) finishes

States Raced in - 10 - California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan

March - A training/racing block in Cali to jump start the season. Starting off racing NRC events after having been on my bike outside only a handful of times in the preceding months may not have been the smartest plan. I had some fabulous experiences, met some great people, and got some solid racing in. I was out there for 20 days and had 9 days of racing.
Plus I got to ride through Sequoia National Park on my birthday and stayed overnight alone in my rental minivan in the middle of the park. It was so much fun! Quite the adventure. The racing was a bit over my head but I had tons of fun and learned a lot.
Half of our Redlands team

April - Soon after getting back from Cali and feeling strong from the racing I had a minor mishap on a training ride and ended up with 14 stitches in my face. This photo is five days after the crash since the earlier pics are a bit hard to stomach. Left me eating through a straw for a few days and sitting on the couch. Raced a local crit with a bunch of teammates and Debbie got the big W for us. I also still ended up going down to Georgia for Athens Twilight and Nalley. Fun races but I was getting hungry for some stage racing.

May - A big month for me. Traveled down to Arkansas for Joe Martin - a sentimental favorite since in 2006 it was my first ever stage race. It was a great race and I was feeling decent on the climbs. Right after that I stayed down there for Tri Peaks - another stage race in AR - and although it was a relatively small field I was pleased to finish 8th in the second road race - my only top 10 NRC finish of the year. Arkansas is a beautiful state and I always enjoy racing on the roads down there.
Tri Peaks TT and view

The weekend after getting back from AR I traveled to Iowa for the Memorial Day races. After winning Snake Alley the year before the pressure was on for me to defend. With the rain pouring down the race was soon whittled down to two riders and an attack with two to go gave me the solo victory. I love the suffering of this race!

The Snake

June - Started off with some local WI races. Took a Silver Medal in the State Road Race behind Julie F who had a phenomenal season. Then the city of Grafton put on a fun crit with a huge purse and lots of community support. After being aggressive all race my solo attack with two laps to go stuck and I came through for the win.

Then came Nature Valley which I had gotten to race composite in last year. It's great because it's so close to home and draws one of the biggest fields of women in the nation. This year over 130 started the first stage - a short technical crit - and by the finish of the notorious Stillwater Crit there were 83 finishers. I was really happy to finish 27th in the GC here and had tons of fun at the races. We had a great bunch of Kenda riders and some excellent host families. It was also nice to have my parents, aunt, and uncle came out to watch a few stages plus Dave was up to help support the team.

The Nature Valley Kenda Crew

June wasn't over yet though and a few of us headed to Ohio for the Grandview crits put on by Jay Baumeister - a great promoter and one who is especially encouraging of womens cycling. These were fun races - huge community support and very big prize payouts - I really encourage folks to support this weekend of racing. Debbie took 3rd the first day. The next day Mackenzie was off the front solo the entire race and I attacked with a lap to go in hopes of finishing second. I was swarmed meters before the line and still took a respectable 5th.

July - A quiet first week of July before driving out to Pennsylvania for the Elite TT and Road Race. Seven Springs is a beautiful area and the course has some great climbs, and one screaming descent - I hit 60mph last year! My races didn't go as well as I would have liked and the competition was fierce. Great racing.

Altoona came next and this would sort of cap off the road season for me - this is pretty much the premier stage race for women in the United States. 7 days of racing - over 400 miles - and the women race the same distances (and get even a slightly bigger payout) as the men.
We had a fun bunch of girls on the team for this one and the racing was incredibly tough - the top teams were pushing the pace constantly and with all of the climbing the GC was quickly broken up. A Team Time Trial started things off and thanks to our powerhouse composite rider Heather we had a strong finish.

This is another brutal race of attrition - 105 starters, 65 finishers. I was just happy to be one of those finishers this year and vow to improve for next year's version of the race. This is another one of those races that has an incredible amount of community support. Beautiful scenery too - it's so much fun to be riding on these closed courses that wind and descend through the countryside.

August - Not much happening in terms of bike racing this month. I took a little time off and went down to the Chicago area for a crit in Elk Grove and the following weekend Elite Crit Nationals at Downer's Grove. A few girls flew in for EG and the field wasn't huge but it was stacked with some of the best crit racers from the US and Canada. I put in a big solo attack early on and held the field off for 2 laps and took a $500 prime - I was SUPER excited about that. I got caught behind a crash in the last lap but Gina had a strong finish. Just a quick side note here - this event continues to grow for the men but the women only get one race. Next year they are planning on putting all categories of women (1-4) together in one crit. There are many racers and supporters advocating to change this (St. Louis Revolution) and the cycling community needs to respectfully write to the mayor and promoter explaining why this is not a good idea. It is unfortunate that these organizers do not see the dangerous and unacceptable situation that will arise from this change.

Next weekend at Downer's was monsoon like with all the rain. I pulled out the first day and after miraculously avoiding all the crashes the second day I finished near the back.

September brought some time off while watching Dave compete in the Ironman - he did awesome finishing in 11:14. He is the hardest working person I know and I was so proud of him. And he's back for more next year!

I was going to take the whole month off but Rachel helped form a composite team to head over to Michigan for the Tour de Leelanau. A fun one day road race with a UCI designation this year. Being UCI meant there were many hoops to jump through but it was a great race and I enjoyed being on the same team as riders I normally compete against. Beautiful area and we got to stay in an incredible lake house.

Cross season started and I was hoping to take the overall series win for the third year. This was my first real ride on the new cross bike - just happened to be a race too!

October brought more cyclocross - some muddy, some sunny - all incredibly fun. Had a couple of wins but Devon from IL came up and schooled me a few times too :)

November was more local races and then to Iowa for Jingle Cross and my first UCI cross races.

December quickly came up and after getting second in both WI and IL State races (first WI rider for the State Championship) it was time to go to the big dance in Kansas City. Three weekends of racing in the snow was incredibly fun. Despite the hours spent cleaning my bike up I really enjoyed racing for the first time in December. Nats was of course epic and although several crashes and a flat wasn't exactly how I wanted to finish the season it was a great time nonetheless.

Whew!!! I didn't anticipate that getting so long!

So as you can tell I had a great 2007. Accomplished a few goals but definitely left some room for improvement. Throughout it all I've tried to keep a smile on my face (well . . . except for after my crash when it felt like my lip would crack open!) and enjoy the ride.

There are so many people to thank in helping support me in my bike racing adventures. First and foremost Dave for encouraging me and putting up with my addiction. Mom and Dad and the rest of my friends and family who I see rarely due to the busy racing schedule. Paul does an amazing job organizing and supporting this team and I was very pleased to be a part of it this year. Our team mechanic Mike is another one of those extremely generous people and I really appreciate all the support he's given me throughout the season. Also, there are so many great racers and riders from Wisconsin who I am honored to race and ride with - the social aspects of this sport are incredible! Kudos to all of my teammates throughout the year too - it's been a blast racing with you all!!

I know 2008 holds many more exciting journeys and I look forward to making it successful and fun! Thanks so much for reading!!

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cross Nationals

Sorry it's taken me a week to get around to updating. It's that hectic time of year and I guess my motivation was low for posting to the blog :)

I had an excellent time in Kansas City cheering on all of the Wisconsin racers and just getting to hang out with some great folks. The conditions were crazy - each day was completely different. Thursday was frozen icy ground, Friday was a muddy mess with a few frozen ruts, Saturday was snowing and windy with 3 new inches of white stuff covering the ground, and then finally Sunday was lots of frozen ruts with snow and an inch of mud on top. I think half the fun of spectating was watching the racers battle out the elements!

It was spectacularly sunny for my race and the earlier events had helped soften up the top layer of ground to make it good and muddy. The frozen ruts underneath, though, kept things interesting and you had to really pay attention to what lines you wanted to take and just keep the pedals moving. My few UCI points from Jingle Cross gave me a third row start. I was trying not to be too obvious about my excitement to just be lined up in a race with Katie Compton, Georgia Gould, and other big racers. And to be in a field of about 80 racers was incredible.

We started off on the pavement and I had a good position going through the muddy ditch. A short time later on a sweeping left hand corner I had some trouble keeping the bike going straight and got up close with nature in the woods. It was pretty annoying - I sort of fell over the top of my bike and was all tangled up in a tree. A spectator helped get my bike out and I jumped on and tried to regain my 20 or so lost spots. The course was difficult - it was hard to pass and you had to really focus on what line to take. It was tempting to just follow the wheel in front of you but that wasn't always the best line and if they crashed then you were in trouble too. I was doing alright but later on in the lap I got stuck in a rut and did another pseudo endo. Back on the bike, through another muddy ditch, and up and over the stairs. Then the off camber loopy stuff got me - it was SUPER slick and muddy and I totally went down on my left side. I was back up quickly and the already raucous crowds cheered even more. I tried to power on the pavement but by this point my positioning was not so great. Check out the muddy pic - thanks Renee for all these photos!

The second lap went better and I maintained my spot well and didn't have any spectacular crashes. By this point I was really having fun out there - I mean I'm at Nationals, there are hundreds of cheering fans - a huge bunch of them from Wisco and cheering my name, the conditions are extreme but that's what makes cross exciting! Trying to ride smooth through the mud and frozen bumpy ruts was challenging - but it was really fun too.

I dabbed a few times but started the third lap hoping to just finish it off and enjoy the moment as much as I could while still trying to move up. I was sliding around a few corners and one of them I went down in, about halfway through the lap I heard a loud bang and thought I just hit a rut. A little while later I could feel my back rim hitting the ground - flat tire. I was right before the stair section so I got off, shouldered the bike, and ran. I think this is where I was telling Renee that I had a flat. My plan was just to run and I had this sneaking suspicion that KFC (that's Katie F'n Compton - her nickname - I love it!) was soon to lap many of us for the win. So I ran through the muddy off cambers with the cheering crowds encouraging me. I got passed by maybe 5 girls. I made it to the pavement and I pulled off to the far left and started a slow jog - sure enough as I was about 100 meters from the line Katie comes around me, arms in the air for the solo victory. I get off the course before crossing the line - officially one lap down and in 48th place. I'll take it - I would have ran the entire lap just to finish but it would have been REALLY frustrating.

HUGE thanks to so many people for making this trip so memorable and helping out so much - JP, Glen, Renee, and Dave especially. I had a blast hanging out with all the Wisco folks and watching our riders help make WI the 4th state in the point count for Nationals. Congratulations to our new National Champs - Anna in 17-18 girls, Diane in 55-59 women, Bjorn in U23 men, and Marko in Singlespeed (technically not a nationally sanctioned race but darn impressive!). There were many other podium finishes and I really enjoyed being a spectator for some great races. The atmosphere at Nationals was unreal and I seriously have never had so much fun before at a cycling event. If you're on the fence for going next year I HIGHLY recommend it.

So that's it - my better late than never update! I'll try to do a recap of the season in the next week or so. For now I'm enjoying some time off the bike!

Happy Holidays everyone!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Icy Road to Kansas City

It somehow seems fitting that a major ice storm hits Kansas just days before national cyclocross races are set to go off. Cross is about surviving brutal conditions and thankfully the storms hit BEFORE the races anyway. It made for an eerily beautiful drive from Madison and the trees were thick with ice from Dubuque, Iowa all the way into Kansas. Roads were clear though so JP, Glen, and I had no problem making the trip. My pictures from the car didn't turn out too well so I apologize for how blurry they are.

We stopped in Iowa City for some lunch and after driving around for nearly 15 minutes we finally found a parking spot.
The downtown was packed - we saw this bus and wondered if a political rally was going on. Turns out Mr. Edwards sort of got stuck in the city because of the storm and was making the most out of the opportunity and campaigning extra hard.

This poor tree on the Iowa campus looked pretty sad. Broken branches were a common sight today.

Some icy pictures of Iowa City.

I don't race until Sunday so the next couple of days I'll cheer on all of the racers from the Midwest and see what sort of condition the course is in. I'm guessing all of the ice will make things very interesting. Temps are supposed to warm up by Sunday and I'm thinking the mud will be plentiful. It will be a good time for sure.

With free wireless at the hotel and a fair amount of time on my hands I'll probably try to do a few more updates - I'm turning into a blog junkie already. I leave you with a picture of Cider in her stylish new down jacket. Doesn't she look trendy? Now we just need to get her a pair of Ugg boots and drop her off at the coffee shop to get a latte.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cross in Chi-town

Headed down to Chicago with a bunch of guys from Brazen Dropouts for the Illinois State Championships on Sunday. We took Paul's RV to the race and let me tell you - that is the way to go to a cross race in December!

It was downright luxurious to have a warm comfortable space to hang out in before and after the race. A plush chair to lounge in, space to stand up and change in - priceless. And the fact that registration today was a bunch of tents set up in the snow made the RV even more life saving.

It was probably about 30 degrees out and the light overnight freezing rain made the parking lot a bit treacherous. But the course was really nicely groomed and they had removed much of the snow to expose the grassy mud.

Other than the few low hanging branches on some of the corners the course was really fun. Lots of twists around trees, a crazy downhill through the thick snow with a 180 turn and barrier before running up the same hill, two trips beneath a bridge, and a couple short steep hills. A few power sections but today was a lot about technique.

There were about a dozen women on the line and I was pleased to see Kaitie and Ashley from ISCorp (two Wisco junior riders) made the trip down for some fun in the snow. The race started out and Devon immediately was in the lead. Holly was ahead of me and by the middle of the first lap I came around her and tried to close the gap. She was within sight for awhile but I was having a hard time getting around lapped riders. I also had lots of problems clipping into my pedals. My cleats just get all icy and it takes me forever to clip in. By the end of the race I was getting a little bit better at it by knocking my cleats on my pedals a few times before trying to clip in. Devon kept increasing her lead but Holly was always back there hunting me down so I had to try to stay smooth and keep the gas on the entire race. It was a lot of fun to sort of slip around the course - some of those corners were super icy - and I was really enjoying myself out there. Again I managed to stay upright the entire race - probably being too conservative in the corners but oh well. Congrats to Devon on her excellent season - it's been fun racing against her and I'll be rooting for her in the collegiate race next weekend. I was happy enough with second place and the chance to practice my snow skills for another weekend - who knows what the conditions will be in KC - right now I'm thinking more muddy than snowy but we'll see!

Thanks to all the volunteers and promoters of the Chicago Cross Series - it was fun to come down and race with some different folks. Also big thanks to Mike, the team mechanic, who was out with his tent, propane heater, awesome wife Mary, and Oreos.

In between his two races on the day he sat in the pit during my race in case I needed a wheel change. What a guy!

After my race I spent some quality time in the RV getting into warm clothes before cheering on all the WI guys in the 3s race. The guys showed those IL riders how it's done and three of them ended up top 5 - Paul 1st, JP 3rd, David 5th. Glen had a bad start and crash otherwise he would have been right in there. I had a great time traveling with all of them - thanks for letting me tag along guys! Here are some of the BDs post race.

It took me over an hour to clean the poor dirty salty bike but now it's all shiny and ready for Nats. I leave on Wednesday and am really excited for the trip and everything that will happen over those 5 days. My race is on Sunday so I should have plenty of time to scope out the course and cheer on the numerous riders from the Midwest who will be representing. I'll have some down time and free wireless at the hotel so I'll probably try to post an update before my race. Should be a blast!

Monday, December 3, 2007

State Champ

Well the snow ended up being a little bit more than what was predicted and we had about 7 inches on the ground in Madison Sunday morning. Dave helped me load up the cross AND mountain bikes and I was on the road to Milwaukee blaring some music to psych me up WHILE driving through pouring rain as temps were now in the mid 30s. Oh yes - rain, snow, and likely mud - the Wisconsin State Championship race was sure to be that all too often used term . . . epic.

I get a nice parking spot where I can see the course laid out in front of my windshield - perfect for spectating from the warm confines of my car. The park is completely snow covered with about a 2 foot wide icy muddy path for us to ride on.
photo by renee
I walk to registration and see that in addition to two sets of barriers with hill runups we also get to ride through a big fat puddle. Maybe it will clean some of the mud off the wheels every lap anyway?

The toasty warm registration area is like a battle zone. Riders looking zoned out sitting around with their feet bare - just hoping that they'll thaw out and the pain will subside. Boy oh boy! I can't wait 'til that's me in another couple of hours! But Hampshire Cycling did a great job putting on the race and in addition to having access to showers they also had lots of warm snacks and drinks for racers.

I grab my umbrella and decide to walk parts of the course. I've decided not to preride in an effort to keep my bike fairly clean. I run into the Queen of Cross herself, Renee, who is sick with a cold but like the trooper she is she's out taking photos and cheering crossers on. I'm a wimp and am starting to get cold so I go sit in the car for my "warm up" and pump some Kanye and Eminem and try to convince myself this will be the best race of the year. My view:

Finally race time comes and I emerge from the warmth to ride the roads. To try to keep the dreaded toes warm I've put plastic zip lock bags over my socks before I put my shoes on and then put some wind proof socks with the bottoms cut off over my shoes. I spray the bike and my cleats down with PAM cooking spray and hope for the best. I listen to the wisdom of the experts and ride the cross bike and the mountain bike goes in the pit - thanks Dave T. for putting it there!

A good group has shown up for a shot at the title and even a few Illinois riders. Pressure was on since I'm the defending champ but I'm looking to go out there and have a good time. Being me I neglect to realize the dire importance of lining up in the center today and from the start I'm riding off in the snow trying to move up when possible. The muddy icy ground is the consistency of a snow cone and while not too slick it is slow going. No coasting in this race and you hardly needed your brakes. Devon and Sam get a gap and after a half a lap I am around the other riders and trying to chase them down. I am catching up to Sam and am on her wheel after the long gradual climb. I pass her, she passes me back as I dab a corner, and then I get around her in the long start straightaway. Clipping in is a nightmare as the snow freezes to the cleat and after each run up I am riding unclipped for 20-30 seconds.
photo by renee

I am actually having a lot of fun though. The mud isn't thick and sticky and the snow actually provides a fair amount of traction. My bike is a mess and probably weighs an extra 5-10 pounds due to all the snowy mud that has piled up on the brakes and down tube/deraileur. It's no easy task hoisting it over barriers and I decide to push up the hills. On the third lap I come through the start area and see 3 to go. Devon is so far gone I don't see her anywhere so I focus on just staying smooth and powerful. I have a good gap and one by one the laps tick by. Marko passes me with 2 to go and I am happy to have one less lap. Finally bell lap, I manage to stay upright the entire race and come through in second place but win the State Champ title being the first Wisco rider.

Congrats to my fellow Wisconsin podium finishers Kaitie in silver and Elicia in bronze! Nice job girls!!

Amazingly I was not cold at all after the race and the feared painful frozen toe experience was averted for now. And I cannot say enough about the amazing wicking and warm qualities of Craft base layers. Here I am post race - gotta love the mud!

The bike was pretty much a mess but the PAM seemed to do a decent job of keeping the drivetrain running smooth.

So it was a really fun race despite the conditions. And c'mon it's cross - HTFU - I don't think we could have really asked for a better way to close out the season. It's been a great year for racing cyclocross in Wisconsin and huge thanks go out to Renee and John for their tireless work to make the state series one of the best in the nation. Here they are in action - photos from madcross

Also thanks to my hardcore cheering section of guys from Team Magnus and Machinery Row. They've been out there every race, always offering me a beer hand-up (of which I politely refuse!) and yelling my name. I appreciate the support guys - thank you!! Here's some pics of them - all shots courtesy of madcross.

Derek "Ruckus"

Chris B.
Dave T.

Zac R.

Two more weekends to go! Chicago next Sunday and then the following weekend KC better watch out because a HUGE contingent of WI crossers are making the trip - can't wait!