Sunday, November 30, 2008

Jingle Cross Day 1

We loaded up the Planet Bike van and trailer on Saturday morning and made it down to Iowa City for a weekend of UCI racing with Jingle Cross. A full crew this weekend with a total of 6 people (Anna, Bob, Mark, and myself plus 2 support members) and 7 bikes. Plus we would be meeting up with several other PB riders who had made the trip on Friday. It was a quick drive and we got there with plenty of time to get ready for the race. Overcast skies and temps in the mid 40s - very nice for the end of November. We set up camp with mechanic David Kohli putting up the temp, rocking some tunes, and get the bikes dialed in for us. A good day already for PB riders with Gordy winning the 55+ race, new rider Jordan Cullen winning the junior race, and Diane taking a 2nd and 3rd place in the 35+ and womens 2/3 race respectively. Some new features added to the course including a really fun spiraling section in the middle of the field and then several zig zagging 180 turns in a barn. The hugely steep run (this year greasy with mud) up Mt. Krumpet with the continued uphill sections on top and the sandpit through the barn remained the same from last year. Also a tricky muddy uphill section near the bleachers with an off camber section. The good line was a narrow one and the first time through it would be tough.

About 20 women on the line for our race and I was the third rider called to the front row. As we waited to listen to the usual prerace announcements we suddenly heard go and off we went! I think it caught most of us off guard as at the UCI races they generally always give you a warning of 1 minute to go and then 30 seconds to start. Not a great start for me (surprise!) and I settled into maybe 10th as we came into the first set of barriers. I started moving up as we came to a muddy little hill. I wanted the same line as everyone else and a few riders were slipping and putting a foot down or crashing and I was forced to go wide . . . and I slid out onto my right side. I then had to run the off camber slightly muddy section. I was now in about 15th place and as we came to Mt. Krumpet I tried to get around some riders. I was in too big of a gear over the top of the hill and struggled to turn the pedals after I jumped back on the bike to ride up the rest of the hill.

I picked off a few more riders in the next lap and tried to really push the long open stretches to make up lost time. Somehow I ran right into the mattress covered post near the exit of the sand pit and had to get off the bike. I made it up the muddy hill no problem next time and soon saw Linda and Sydney not too far in front of me. A few more hard pushes through the flats and with three laps to go they were a few seconds ahead. The hill run up was taking its toll and I was pretty gassed at the top. I was finding it better to be in my smallest gear and jumping on my bike right over the top rather than running until it flattened out more. By two laps to go I had passed Linda and Sydney and Niki were in my sights. I passed them both near the zig zags in the barn and pushed hard to get a gap. I could see the top three riders not too far ahead - Devon, Lisa Strong, and Josie JM. At the base of Mt. Krumpet some fans told me it was only 8 seconds but I felt they were being slightly optimistic. I pushed hard the last lap but was unable to catch them and finished 4th - 18 seconds back from winner Devon Haskell.
A great ride by her and it was cool to see her take the win. Anna had a good ride and took 8th place.

We cooled down and then warmed up in the van and changed to watch the mens race. Mark had a fantastic race and despite getting caught behind the massive pileup on that muddy hill that plagued me on the first lap, he rode in the group of 3rd-5th place all race. The two Wells bros who were in front of the crash steadily rode away from the field and Mark, Andy JM, and B Matter were in the chase group. Bob was riding a strong race and was able to move into the top 25 by the end of the race. With a lap to go it was just Marko and AJM riding for 3rd place. I was at the entrance to the sand pit and the guys came through with Mark on Andy's wheel. And down Marko went sliding out in the corner. He had to readjust his handle bars and it gave Andy the gap he needed to finish off the last 1K of the course. Mark came across for a great 4th place finish.
Big thanks to all of our support crew and teammates helping out afterward. Kohli did a great job cleaning the bikes and even Gordy, Diane, and Jordan's dad Jim got in on the action. Also thanks to Julie Foertsch for all of the great action shots! Thanks everyone!

Today will be vastly different conditions. There is about 1.5" of snow on the ground right now and it continues to fall.
A high of 35 and continued slushy accumulation according to the weather channel. It's going to be a messy cold day out there but it will definitely be fun! I'm interested to see what they do with the course today - if we come flying down a muddy, slippery Mt. Krumpet there might be some crashing! I'll let you know how it goes - thanks for checking in!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Wisconsin State Championship

Nice to have a weekend at home and only one day of racing. Dave and I got out on a group ride on Saturday with 8 other hardy folks who were looking to ride in the 32 degree temps. It was a lot of fun and I was plenty warm actually. I've discovered the small investment of a pair of those air activated hand warmers tucked under toe covers and then neoprene booties over that equals toasty toes the entire ride. Nothing worse than coming home and having your feet feel like they're going to fall off. Also I wore my new Planet Bike Borealis gloves and was very impressed at how warm my hands stayed the entire 2.5 hours. Sure, I'm plugging the sponsor but these have got to be one of the warmest gloves for the price and the soft fleece nose wipers on the thumb and finger are a nice touch.
So Sunday morning Cider and I bundled up and headed to Hales Corners for the last Wisconsin cyclocross race of the year. State Championship race just outside of Milwaukee. Actually a really nice day with temps around 40 and no snow on the ground. I still made Cider put her trendy Old Navy down jacket on though. Last year was a snowy, muddy, wet mess and I must say I was looking forward to a relatively clean race course after the past two muddy weekends. Deer hunting in Wisconsin started on Saturday so the roads were full of guys in blaze orange with dead deer strewn across their vehicles.

I decided I wanted to race the Mens 3 race prior to the womens race as I kind of like to get a feel for the course at speed and I like getting the extra workout in on a short weekend of racing. I was intending to just ride a few laps and then drop out and chill a bit before the womens race. I lined up with the 25 or so Cat 3 racers and off we went. A power course with lots of open stretches and one long gradual hill. There was a set of barriers at the bottom of a hill that you had to turn 90 degrees for before running up. The cold hard ground in front of the barriers was starting to get muddy and slick as racers chewed it up. First lap I didn't realize how slippery it was and and I slid out landing on my left side. Great! Won't make that mistake again anyway! picture by peloton pix
I raced hard with the boys for 3-4 laps and then considered pulling off but realized I was going to get really cold. So I let up somewhat and just rode where I was at for another couple laps to finish the race.

I then quickly headed to the car for a jacket, gel, and drink and tried to stay warm before lining up for race number 2. My Kenda teammate Imelda came up from Chicago for the race and it was great to visit with her - thanks for grabbing my clothing at the line! I've been the first Wisconsin rider of this race the past three years but have always gotten beat by visiting riders from other states - last year it was Devon from Illinois and the two years prior by Linda from Minnesota. Linda made the trip again this year so I knew I would have some tough competition in addition to the Wisconsin girls racing.

Sam Schneider put the hammer down at the start and I got on her wheel for the first third of a lap before coming around and trying to open up a gap. I tried to keep the power high on the long climb and then carefully made my way up the barrier hill nervous about slipping again. I could see that Linda and my teammate Anna were not far behind and I wanted to get as much time as I could on them. It was a pretty windy day and tempting to let up on the long open stretches into the head wind. I continued to pick off masters riders and was just focused on pushing hard on the open and uphill sections and riding smoothly through the corners. Coming through the finish and seeing 4 laps to go I knew there was still a lot of racing left and there was no letting up. Linda was about 15 seconds behind me with Anna dropping further back due to a slow leaking back tire. My shoes were caked with the hard grassy mud and the spikes weren't doing much for traction running up the hill.picture by peloton pix
I have to say I loved the fast (and relatively low!) set of barriers in front of the Team Pegasus party tent. It was fun to fly through those and the fans were of course spectacular. Tons of fans on the hill too including the famous trombone player. Racing wouldn't be nearly as fun without all the crazy, cool superfans out there cheering you on. Thank you to all who came out to race, spectate, cheer, and/or drink beer!

I kept my gap on Linda about the same although with 2 laps to go it was down to about 10 seconds. I told myself there was only 10 minutes or less left and I needed to push through and keep my eyes focused in front of me. When you're starting to go cross eyed it's easy to screw up and take a bad line and I didn't want that happening. I really wanted to win this race outright and knew how close I was. With one to go my gap was increasing and I took the barriers on the hill cautiously. Smooth through the final turns through the trees and across the line I came. Linda was great competition and I look forward to seeing her again next weekend in Iowa.

Teammate Anna finished third (2nd Wisconsin rider) and Kaitie behind her. It was great to get on the podium with the two junior riders and my traveling companions from the past two weekends.

A great day for Planet Bike racers with several wins and finishes on the podium. I'll do a more complete recap of finishes on the Planet Bike blog. Congrats to other gold medalists Diane in the Womens Cat 3, Patti in the Women 1/2 35+, Bob in Masters 40+, and Mark in the Mens 1/2. Bob - picture by peloton pix

Mark totally ripped the field to shreds and a after a couple of laps he had at least 2 minutes on his nearest competition. Nice job Marko! picture by peloton pix
Here's some podium shots.
Bob on top of the Mens 40+ podium
Patti on the Women 1/2 35+ podium
Greg and Gordy (and our friend Glen on top!) in the Mens 50+

Another great season of Wisconsin cyclocross in the books and thanks to everyone for making it so successful. Renee Callaway and John Ericsson do a fabulous job all year long really to make our series one of the best in the country. This year's inclusion of a UCI race brought it to another level. Thanks to all of the race promoters, USCF officials, racers, and of course spectators for coming out on the weekends. Also thanks to all of the great sponsors that make it all possible - especially Planet Bike whose continued dedication to the sport of cyclocross is truly impressive.

The weekdays continue to fly by in between racing on the weekends. Got to teach Chemistry this past week and see lots of my students from last year which is always fun. Working at Planet Bike continues to go really well and I'm having lots of fun there. It's a full body workout helping out in the warehouse and unloading the container of products on Thursday morning proved that. I still sort of feel like a wimp compared to the guys but I'm getting better at handling boxes!

I can't believe Thanksgiving is already upon us! Dave and I are headed up to his family gathering in Marshfield before I head out to Iowa on Saturday morning for Jingle Cross in Iowa City. A great weekend of racing on tap with lots of UCI points on the line. It'd be nice to snag a few more of those before Nationals as I would love a second row position for the Elite race. We'll see how it goes!

I hope everyone has a happy holiday and enjoys time with family and friends. Lots to be thankful for. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

USGP New Jersey Day 2

Whew - what a trip. Sorry I'm delayed in getting an entry up. Travel takes it's toll and I haven't had much time to sit down and write or upload photos.

Sunday brought windy and cold conditions with temps in the upper 40s. Mud got thicker and I thought almost harder to ride through. Still several sections where the thick mud made these gloppy puddles that would suck up your entire shoe.
They took out a section of the course also since the racing was so slow so our laps were probably 2.5K instead of 3K. My calves were sore today from all the running on day 1 but otherwise I was feeling okay. A new bruise on my right inner knee matched nicely with one on the left from Toronto - poor legs take a beating during the cross season!

Chris got our bikes all cleaned and tuned up including some new cables and housing. He was such a huge help this weekend - thanks Chris!!

Lined up and off we go. I'm ashamed to say I once again had trouble clipping in and lost precious places because of that. We surf into the mud and I'm sitting in 25-30th as we enter a long gloppy section (note: gloppy is my new favorite adjective). I get around some riders and try to ride as much as I can - carefully trying to stay on the outside line while avoiding the tape. I get a bike exchange from Chris and try to stay upright. I pass several more riders and am at the back of a group that includes Sarah Kerlin and Meredith Miller. They are running (and riding!) faster than me and I soon fall back. I'm trying to catch back up but I'm having a rough time. I slip into the caution tape a couple of times and have to wrestle my bike free. I dread the long running sections and try to ride as far as I can into them. Riding in the mud is actually really fun as you try to steer through it and stay upright. Getting off and having to push your ridiculously heavy bike and run through the slop is not as fun.

A lap to go and I want to catch the riders in front of me but my legs and lungs are screaming at me. Sally has a mechanical and I pass her as she is trying to fix her drivetrain. The long run before going under the flyover is brutal. I try to keep running but I feel like I am walking. I had a blast out there this weekend but wow, never have I wanted so much to stop and just take a break for a minute! Getting a clean bike every half a lap is wonderful. I try to ride smoothly through the remaining sections and keep my position. I make it through the last tricky section, back wheel sliding as I steer the front end through the mud, come onto the pavement and cross the line for 15th place.

Again I was really hoping to finish a little bit higher this weekend but given the conditions and the competition I'm still happy with my performances. I know I'm not a great technical rider and the only way to improve that is to race and ride in less than ideal conditions. This weekend gave me that opportunity and it was definitely a lot of fun. Embrace the mud!

Anna rebounded from her crash on Saturday and finished a solid 19th.

Kaitie, who rode one dirty bike the entire race, rode strong and came in 26th. She rides a single 42 chainring too and I am so impressed at her ability to push a big gear through tough conditions.

Immediately after the race I rode over to the hose and cleaned off the bike and sprayed down my muddy, dirty legs and feet. It was much colder out on Sunday but you're still warm for about 15 minutes post race and I wanted to clean off before I started to get cold. Thus, I don't have any great pictures of the filth but you'll just have to trust me that I was really muddy!

Cleaned up at the van and then rode over to collect clothing from Mark on the line.

Saturday's winner, Tim Johnson, sat out with a knee injury so it was time for a different face atop the podium. It was amazing how quickly the race was strung out. The Wells bros and Jeremy Powers comprised the lead group with several other main contenders quickly falling back. Here are those three riding a muddy section.

It was a fun race to watch and to see how the riders chose to tackle the conditions. Here are riders running that same section. I think you can tell which way looks faster.

Here are Brian Matter's legs as he runs the mud.

Mark was sitting just out of the top 10 when an unfortunate flat tire caused him to run nearly half of a lap. He was riding well but admitted the conditions were taking their toll.

Both he and Kaitie had bruises on their shoulders, arms, and torsos from shouldering the bike and running so much on Saturday. Mark pushed on through until the end and rode strong, finishing 14th for some points and some cash.

After Mark's race we had to quickly clean up and load up the van so that we could get Mark to Philly for his flight back home. By this point in the weekend we had the van packing down to a science and the 5 of us assumed our roles and were ready to go less than an hour after the finish of the race. Thanks again to Chris for all of his hard work in the pits and helping organize us and all of our stuff. I don't think we could have done it without him!

We dropped Mark off at the airport and then began the long 15 hour drive back to Wisconsin. After a stop for some food at a sports bar near West Chester, PA we drove on until past midnight near the Western border of Pennsylvania. We awoke to a snow covered landscape and began driving again in the morning. There was some snow in parts of Ohio but the temps were warm enough that the roads were fine. Pretty uneventful drive - listened to lots of CDs, did a few cross word puzzles. Anna and Kaitie did some homework, watched videos on Anna's laptop, and took some naps - aren't they cute :)
We made it through Chicago quickly and were in Milwaukee by 4pm. Anna and I were hopeful to be back in Madison by 6 or so. Then we got on the highway and saw the brake lights, we got through what we thought was the worst of it and then all of a sudden more brake lights, and then it started snowing like crazy. There was a large accident on the interstate and we got off in hopes of getting around it and meeting up with the highway further west. The snow got worse, the traffic inched along, and the roads got super slippery. I guess they're called "snow bursts" and over an inch of snow fell in under 15 minutes. The van doesn't exactly have 4 wheel drive and we decided to get off, have some dinner at Qdoba, and wait for the roads to clear up.
Needless to say we didn't make it back to Madison until 8:30. Whew - good to be home.

I figured out that in the past 12 days I have spent over 60 hours traveling in the van. And as homey and comfortable as it is I am definitely glad to be sticking around home for the State Champ race this weekend. It's really fun to get to travel to these big races and to see new things but the long hours spent traveling and away from home can also get stressful. I've had some amazing experiences thus far this season, though, and I am so grateful to Planet Bike and all of our sponsors for making it happen. Final push is on towards Nationals and I feel like I've had an excellent preparation for my two big races out there. Three more weekends of racing first though with Wisconsin State race this weekend, Jingle Cross in Iowa City, and then the Illinois State race. Somehow I forsee cold temps, mud, and snow in my future races :)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

USGP New Jersey Day 1

Another weekend of big travel with USGP cyclocross races going on in New Jersey. Same crew as last weekend with the addition of two more. We brought on supermechanic Chris Kreidl to help us out this weekend and Mark flew in last night to Philly. Anna and I packed up the van on Thursday afternoon, picked up Chris and Kaitie and began the journey to the East Coast. We made it to Akron that night for some sleep and then finished the drive off on Friday.
Pulled into Princeton, New Jersey around 4:00 - just in time to preride in the fog and spitting rain before darkness came. The course was already sloppy and our bikes were dirty before we knew it. The super long sand pit was a giant slurry of water and sand and our drivetrains were gritty and sounded awful. The steep steps of the flyover promised to be painful each lap too. We knew this weekend would be memorable and poor Chris knew he was going to be kept busy with lots of bike cleaning.

We hopped back in the van for the "short" 7 mile drive back to the hotel. Of course it was 5:30, traffic was a nightmare, and you can't make left turns on US Route 1 where we were staying. Our dear little GPS also seemed to think our hotel was smack in the middle of a river. Turning around was impossible with the traffic and we ended up driving around the Princeton campus in an effort to try to get back to find the hotel. The gas light came on and we decided to go get gas instead of dealing with the ridiculous traffic. We stopped at three stations and no diesel for the van. All the stations in NJ are full service too so the attendants kept telling us to go down the road. We finally found a Shell with diesel and the dude overfilled our tank and spilled probaly a third of a gallon on the ground . . . nice - I think I could have done a better job buddy! Long story short - two hours later after getting some food we finally found our hotel. One big happy family in our two bedroom suite with kitchen and living room. Good to get out of the van and we chilled while Chris cleaned bikes before going to pick up Mark at the Philly airport.

Saturday morning we were expecting rain as the weather report promised 100% chance of precip. Cloudy skies gave way to sun though and by the time we drove to the course it was windy, mild, and relatively beautiful out. The previous day's rain and all the earlier races had turned the course to thick gloppy mud though. True cross conditions right?
The layout of registration/bathrooms/parking caused us to have to cross the muddy course several times and our bikes were pretty filthy before we even kitted up. Racers were running numerous sections of the coure rather than trying to muscle through the thick mud. And many were switching out bikes in the pit if they could. Chris gave us some pointers and we planned on swapping out dirty bikes for clean ones throughout the race. After warming up on the roads we lined up - 45 women - biggest race of the year thus far for me. Great to see some riders and friends I hadn't seen in awhile.

I was number 16 and ended up in the third row. A long uphill pavement section before a left hand turn into the mud. I was clipped in right away but it was one of the most aggressive starts I've been in. Girls were leaning into each other and I nearly crashed three times as we all jockeyed for position. The herd of us turned into the mud and the quick turns bottlenecked us. I hopped off the bike and ran around some riders only to remount for maybe 100 meters before an unrideable muddy setion forced me off again. I was probably in the low 20s at this point and began trying to pick off riders and make my way as smoothly as possible through the mud. If you could keep your momentum and speed up you could ride through it but otherwise you were better off running. I passed by the pits the first time thinking I didn't need a bike change quite yet. I was running and pushing my bike in many sections - the last thing I wanted to do was put a 30 pound muddy bike on my shoulder and run with it. Pushing somehow feels more stable and easier to me. Trying to carry that thing up the stairs of the flyover was painful. The dreaded sand section of the night before was now my favorite and fastest part of the race.
The sand had firmed up and you could glide right through. Approaching the pits for the second time of lap 1 I headed in and got a seamless bike exchange from Chris. Felt good to be on a clean bike although it didn't stay that way long. I picked off a few more riders and was overjoyed to see we only had two more laps to go.

The running was getting to me - I felt like my heartrate was pegged higher than normal and my legs felt like lead. Here's a cyclingnews pic of me with the superfan gorilla. I passed two more girls and then biffed it in a muddy corner and took out a post. I was up quickly but one rider managed to get back around me. My thumb was sore and I think I bent it backwards in the crash. I switched bikes again and was back on the Ridley. Sally Annis of NEBC was just in front of me and I was determined to stick close to her. I came through the finish with one to go and tried to tell myself it was almost over - just keep pushing - I was ready to stop! I was changing bikes twice a lap and was so grateful to have Chris in there helping out. I passed Sally with a half a lap to go and pushed to get a small gap. Another rider was not far ahead and I thought I might be able to catch her.
The stairs of the flyover were terrible the last lap - I practically crawled up them - but I held my gap over Sally and crossed the line in 14th.

What a day! It was incredibly fun but mentally grueling. The mud zapped all of your energy and you felt slow and cumbersome the entire race. Given the conditions and the incredible field of women at this race I was pretty happy with 14th. Definitely good to practice racing in these conditions and I learned a lot. Anna was T boned by another racer in the start and after racing for a lap her knee was too tweaked to continue and she unfortunately had to pull out. Kaitie was a rock star and rode strongly to finish 18th.

After hosing the bikes (and ourselves!) down we changed and headed back to the course to watch Mark battle it out with 70 other guys. Incredibly talented field of men present. By the time we made it over Mark was riding with Troy Wells and sitting in 7th place! We made our way over to the pit and he had dropped back just slightly to 9th which he would hold the rest of the race.

He was switching bikes up every opportunity as well and Chris was running back and forth to the hose to clean up the dirty bikes.
I got a pretty sweet video of the exchange - . Amazing race for Mark, a former collegiate cross country runner, and he nearly caught Driscoll for 8th by the finish.

Here they are going over the flyover

Huge thanks to Chris for his help in the pit and pre and post race. It's great to have someone to keep our bikes running smoothly and to help organize all of us and our stuff! As soon as we were back at the hotel he lined the bikes up and began the cleaning process while we showered up and relaxed. Staybridge Suites rock and the complimentary laundry came in handy. The rain fell down in sheets soon after we came back to ensure another wet course for today. With temps in the upper 40s today it will be much colder as well.

Thanks to Bob and Planet Bike and the rest of our sponsors for the fabulous support and equipment and getting us to this event. It's always a thrill to race at this level and we've been enjoying the experience. Wow - this entry turned out way longer than I expected! Guess that's what happens when you're bored sitting around the hotel! Thanks for checking in - I'll add photos in the next couple of days!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Pictures

I was introduced to two great photographers this past weekend in Toronto who gave me some great shots of the racing action. Peter Kraiker and Jon Safka. It was really great to meet both of the guys (and literally run into Jon - I crashed into him Saturday AND at Louisville in the sand pit) and they were both nice enough to provide for me a few shots. Peter's are added to the weekends race reports and Jon's will be added soon. Thanks so much guys!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Toronto Day 2 and Happy Birthday Mom!

Photo: Peter Kraiker, ©
Another challenging course at Centennial Park that had racers going up and down a ski hill. It was crazy to see the twists and switchbacks that traversed two sections of the hill - very steep ups and downs made for tough racing. Luckily the rain stayed away and the strong winds actually helped to dry up the course. Still muddy but not super slimy mud and generally rideable. We watched the earlier races as the men dismounted to make it up two sections that were too steep and slick. Much to our delight they decided to open up some fresh grass for the Elite races giving us plenty of traction. No puddles also meant we'd stay cleaner. There was also some technical twists on the flats at the bottom of the hill which I always feel super slow through. As we prerode it I was getting dizzy and just hoped I could see straight enough by the end of the race not to ride into the tape!

A bit colder out today though and the stiff head wind had us all shivering on the line as we shed our leg warmers and jackets. I didn't have a great start and was out of the top 10 coming into the barriers. I picked my way through riders as we got to the ski hill and moved into the top 5 as we weaved our way back down the switchbacks. Rebecca, Natasha, and Dawn were ahead of me in a small group as I tried to make it up to them. Dawn fell off and I passed her going up the hill. The long steep section was pretty brutal - you had to stay seated or you risked your back wheel slipping in the muddy grass. I was wishing I had a 34 tooth chainring instead of my 36 and maybe a 27 in back! Natasha then passed Rebecca and I could see that I had a good chance of moving into second place if I could continue to ride hard. The next time up the hill I came around Rebecca and tried to close the gap to Natasha. I was making up ground on her on the hill but she was much faster than me through the technical turns on the flats. Photo: Peter Kraiker, ©
At one point the gap was down to 14 seconds and I was trying to make up the time. Rebecca had fallen behind me by maybe 20 seconds and as we came through on bell lap I knew it would be nearly impossible to make up the ground on Natasha. I tried to focus on riding powerfully and smoothly through the course and hold onto my position. The last time up the hill was rough but I made it and came across the line 30 seconds behind Natasha. Very pleased about the second place finish and making another trip onto the podium.
Photo: Jon SafkaIt was also really nice to ride a clean race in that I never crashed! A bit of a rarity for me in these UCI races and it felt good!

Anna and Kaitie both rode really well and came in 6th and 8th respectively.
Photo: Jon Safka
There was also an overall classification for the race which had a nice payout and my finishes were good enough to put me in 2nd. Thanks to the event organizers for putting on such fun races and having such a great prize purse. All three of us will be leaving with lots of pretty Canadian dollars!

The bikes were mostly clean after the race so we didn't have to go through all the trouble of cleaning them as thoroughly as on Saturday. We loaded the van up and watched the mens race as the rain started to pour down. It only lasted a few minutes but it made the course that much tougher for the guys. They are so fast though and Johnson won by over a minute.

We had a great dinner out with Anne and Malcolm afterward and then came home for the much talked about cupcakes. They were just as good as Anne promised! Thank you both so much for all of your great hospitality all weekend. It was so much fun to hang out with them and to have a cheering squad at the races!

We leave tomorrow morning for the drive back to Wisconsin. It was a great weekend of racing and thanks to Bob at Planet Bike and the other sponsors for making it happen. Next up will be two USGP races in New Jersey this upcoming weekend. Hard to believe there is only a month of racing left in the season before nationals!

Last but not least - Happy Birthday today to my mom! Thanks for putting up with all of my crazy bike racing mom - I love you!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Toronto UCI Day 1

Photo: Peter Kraiker, ©

Up in Canada for a weekend of UCI C1 racing. I forgot my camera - darn it! - but I'll grab some pics from the girls later. Made the drive with teammate Anna and Kaitie from ISCorp in the Planet Bike van. We got to town Friday afternoon and made it out for a ride with my friend Anne while the temps were still warm. Thanks to Anne and Malcolm (and dog Winston) for hosting the three of us. It's always so great to visit with friends while racing rather than staying in a hotel! The food is better too - thanks for cooking for us Anne :)

We were expecting a pretty flat course today from Anne and Malcolm's prerides but the several short steep climbs were definite leg busters. We prerode this morning and realized it would be a muddy day on the bike. It had rained overnight and the races earlier in the day had ripped the course up in a few spots. The two standing water mud puddles would only add to the fun.

Anna and I switched over our wheels and gave the Rhinos a try for the mud - turned out to be a good choice. There were about 25 women on the line and with lots of points and money on the line all three of us were shooting for finishes in the top 10. I got the last front row call up which left me in the perfect spot to ride right through a huge puddle off the line (cyclingnews pic). From the gun Natasha Elliott pushed the pace and I settled into about 6th place. By mid lap I had gotten around a few more riders and was sitting in third maybe 10 seconds behind the top two riders. We get to the giant muddy ditch puddle and I try to ride it and crash right into it - brr! Back up and running up the muddy hill on the other side trying to not get flustered. The other girls are coming up quick but I hold my spot and ride the rest of the lap without crashing. Here I am riding the other muddy puddle. Photo: Peter Kraiker, ©
I try to push as hard as I can on the flat, straight sections and conservatively ride the tight turns. I don't even try to ride the mud puddle and instead dismount and run across and up the hill. Josie J-M, Anna Milkowski, and my teammate Anne are about 15 seconds back. As the race goes on and the bike gets muddier I have a harder time powering over the short climbs. My foot pops out of my cleat and I dismount and run over the hills - hopefully not losing much time. Both Annas have fallen back a bit but Josie is not far behind me. Thanks to Malcolm for all of the encouragement and cheering! Natasha has gapped second place whom I only occasionally see and is probably 30 seconds up on me. With a lap to go I can feel Josie J-M getting closer and I push hard knowing a podium finish is within my reach. I dismount for all the little climbs - maybe 5 of them? - on the last lap as I feel like running is faster than trying to ride up them. I focus on trying to stay smooth in the corners and hammering the flats. I make it through the mud puddles with my 10 second gap and as I get onto the pavement I breathe a figurative sigh of relief and come across the line for 3rd place. Anna rode really strong for 6th and Kaitie snagged 10th for the last UCI point. Good racing by the Wisconsin girls!

I was pretty excited by making it onto the podium for this race. It was a strong field of racers and it felt good to be mixing it up near the front of the race. The exhilaration wears off quickly though and the cold feet set in! Running through the puddle made for icy toes post race and we all headed back to the van to try to de-mud the legs and warm up. We carefully organized all of the gross muddy clothes and shoes and cleaned up before heading to the podium. The rain and wind kicked in and we shivered as we waited for riders to show up for the ceremony. Anna won the U19 division of the race and Kaitie was second so they also had some podium shots. Second and fourth never showed so we went ahead with just 1,3, and 5. I asked Natasha to spray the champagne on the crowd rather than us and she got them good! Thanks to everyone associated with the race for putting on such a great event - with a great course!

After what seemed like forever we finally got our bikes sprayed down and the back of the van organized and cleaned up. Geesh - 40 minutes racing and 3 hours cleaning up! All part of the cyclocross fun! We made what we were hoping was a quick stop at Wal-Mart and we were all traumatized from the experience. The parking lot was packed and people were everywhere in the store. We were nauseous by the time we finally got out of there and were ready to make it back for a shower and some food.

Anne, being an amazing host, had dinner all prepared for us so we quickly cleaned up and scarfed down her tasty pasta. Tomorrow she has promised to pick us up some cupcakes from the local famous bakery for after the race so we're already looking forward to those! Tomorrow's course promises to be epic with a pretty ridiculous switchback climb up a ski hill, and also down the ski hill. I think running will be a necessity for several sections of the race. Will be a little colder and windier and maybe even muddier - we'll see if the rain holds off! It'll be a blast regardless!

Thanks for reading - I'll add in photos once I get some!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

More Wisconisin Racing

Another weekend of racing at home. I love traveling to the big races but it's also nice to spend some time with Dave and Cider and partake in the local cyclocross scene. And what a fun scene it is. Lucked out with some more nice weather - mid 50s and sunny - not bad for November. We also hit up Madison's Farmers Market on Saturday morning which is always one of my favorite things to do on the weekend.

Two races in Milwaukee this weekend with Team Polska putting on Saturday's race at Kletzsch Park. A fun course with some singletrack and a killer steep hill to run up every lap.

In an attempt to work on my starts in a setting other than a UCI race I focused on clipping in and riding hard from the gun. I was first into the course and tried to keep the pace high for the first lap as I worked to get around a couple of Masters men who started before us. Sam and Holly were with me for the first lap but dropped off as I continued to put the gas on in the second lap. photo thanks to djonnymac
It was a fun course and the superfans were out cheering in force. I always like coming upon Niles and his boombox - nothing like Guns n' Roses "Welcome to the Jungle" for motivation to ride harder. Thanks to everyone yelling my name out there - I appreciate the support!

Not wanting to get content with my lead I pushed hard throughout the course and tried to pick off as many men as I could. Always attempting to chase down the hypothetical Katie Compton in front of me! Ouch that hill hurt by the end! I felt like I was running in slow motion.

thanks to Peloton Pix
After the race Cider and I became the fans and cheered on Mark, Bob, and Dan in the Men's race. Mark took advantage of the clean course and chose the white skinsuit. He was fast as lightning and put a good gap on Brian for most of the race.

The superfans on the hill were awesome! You can see and hear their energy in this video. Matter was jumping back on his bike after the barrier at the bottom of the hill and riding. Fans were loving it.

After the race I met up with my brother and his girlfriend who recently moved to Milwaukee. We got some tasty food at Cafe Hollander on Downer Ave. Cool place that is filled with lots of cycling photos and bikes. They sponsor a team and it's always good to support those that support the cyclists.

Sunday's race was again in Milwaukee at Estabrook Park and put on by the Hampshire Cycling Club. A little more overcast and windy but still a nice day out. I got there earlier and signed up to do the Mens 3 race before the womens race. I figure it's good for me to get another hard effort in and it would let me get comfortable with the course. It was a lot of fun to try to stick with various groups of guys. It was pretty fun to be out there hearing people yell "you're getting beat by a girl" at the guys behind me. The trombone player was joined by a trumpet today and their music was adding to the scene. Lots of getting on and off the bike today with a total of 3 barrier sections and a muddy hill run up with a log.

thanks to Peloton Pix
I tried to not ease up at the end of the men's race even though I knew I had another 40 minute race ahead of me. Thanks to everyone cheering me on as I finished 13th. I then had 10 minutes of rest to slug down some water and a gel and headed to the start line for race #2. Wanting to get as much training advantage as I could from these races I tried to ride hard from the gun and never let up. Sam rode with me for the first lap and then I started to get a gap. I kept trying to chase down the men in front of me and ride hard the entire race. The superfans were begging me to take a beer or candy hand up on the hill but I just smiled at them instead - sorry guys!!
photo thanks to djonnymac

After chatting for awhile after the race I watched the men. Bob was the only Planet Bike rider out there but he raced really well and snagged a 5th place finish in the Elite Men's race. This is the one picture I took all day - I was very bad about taking photos today!
Check out the Team Planet Bike blog for more photos and video from the weekend - I'll add more photos as they become available.

Abby and Steve joined me for the drive back to Madison and it was fun to chat with them. They also got to witness Cider have a choking fit as she decided it was a good idea to eat the burrs that were stuck in her paws. We stopped to try to give her water and she instead ate as much grass as she could and proceeded to turn into a licking monster on the drive home. Thanks guys for helping try to calm her down! She's fine now!

It always feels good to come away with a couple of wins but I know I've got several very tough races ahead of me in the next month. I'll be traveling to Toronto this next weekend for two C1 UCI races. I'm super excited for the races and to stay with my Kenda teammate Anne who lives up there. Should be a blast!

Thanks for reading and GO VOTE!!