Saturday, October 31, 2009

Trick or Treat

Awww yeah - nothing like racing bikes on Halloween. I even put forth a weak attempt at a costume. The coffin jump scared me every lap but somehow I managed to clear it. Thanks to Kerry Drake for the sweet picture. Report and definitely more photos later.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

USGP Louisville

Second weekend of USGP racing in Louisville. We loaded up the van on Friday morning and a good crew of Planet Bikers headed down to Kentucky. We had several junior riders come with us which was pretty cool. The Planet Bike team has so much talent across so many ages and it's awesome when a bunch of us can come together and race. This weekend we had Emma (age 12), Jordan (age 14), and Sarah (age 14) plus our Elite junior Kaitie (age 17). Marko and myself both raced Elite and then Bob and Greg came out for the Masters races. Mechanic David and Jordan's dad Jim rounded out the group and helped us out all weekend.

After driving in the rain the entire morning it was nice to see the sun as we crossed the Ohio River in Louisville.

Always a good idea to see the course before the race and we enjoyed the 70 degree temps and got in a preride.
Totally flat course with lots of straight power stretches. Soggy, spongy grass with a few muddy ditches and a couple of packed down sand pits. And who could forget about the Green Monster.
Not really as bad as it might seem - the steps are huge though and hoisting your bike up (when you're short like me!) is no easy feat. You also have to be careful not to clip your pedal on the ramp as you fly down - often unclipped.

We got a little muddy on the preride - we tried to stay clean but at some point we just gave up and tried to have fun with it.
After cleaning up and checking in at the hotel we headed out to grab some dinner at PF Chang's. Had a really fun time with everyone and we even finished things off with the Great Wall of Chocolate - 2 of them to be exact.
We had a little competition - 4 adults vs. 4 juniors - who could polish off the wall first? I'm proud and somewhat surprised to say we whooped up on those kids.

The next morning Jim and the juniors headed off to the venue early for the races. Katie and I slept in, ate breakfast, and watched some MTV - we're lazy Elite racers and drove out to the course a bit later. We were pleased to hear that Jordan won the Boys 15-16, Emma won the Girls 10-14, and Sarah was 3rd in the Womens 3/4. Way to go everyone!

We made it to the course and watched the guys finish their masters races - Greg won the 55+ race by a huge margin. Bob was 9th in the 45+. Not bad for a guy who had spent the week overseas on business! Kaitie and I warmed up on trainers and got ready for the race - the sun even peeked out and with temps in the upper 50s the conditions were perfect.

Kaitie and I both got front row call ups in the field of about 40 riders. It was great to see and catch up with lots of fellow racers - the USGPs always have a good turnout. Off we go and the muddy ditches soon after the start caused a bit of a bottleneck. I had a decent start and was maybe 12th through the first set of barriers. I tried to move through some riders on the first lap and settled into the top 10 by the start of the second lap.

By the third lap I was 9th and saw Sue Butler just in front of me. Sue is a really strong rider and I knew she was having an off day. I tried to pass her quickly and continue moving up. As I heard bell lap I saw Alison Sydor maybe 10 seconds up on me. photo thanks to Dave McElwaine

I tried to take advantage of the straightaways and bridged up to her. The possibility of taking 6th place seemed very real and I tried to take advantage. I came around her with half a lap to go but couldn't shake her and she came back around as we headed up the Green Monster the final time. She came back around me and I tried to stick to her wheel through the last twisty, muddy sections. As we came out on the road she turned on the gas and I couldn't come around. I crossed the line in 7th - solid.

Kaitie rode really well and finished in 10th for the final UCI points spot.
The race was a blast - it was just muddy enough to be fun. Bike didn't get bogged down and you still got to play around in some sloppy sections. And being more of a power rider the soft, flat sections suited me well. Kaitie and I post race.
We ditched our dirty bikes and went and cooled down on the clean pit bikes. There's this awesome road near the course that was beautiful with all the colorful leaves.After our ride we cleaned up and headed out to watch the Elite men race.
The junior Planet Bike riders are rock stars. They got up early, raced early, and then hung out on course the entire day to watch the rest of the races. Here are Emma and Sarah during the Mens race.
Marko had a solid race. He wasn't feeling super good but he still managed to finish 13th which is still points for guys at a C1 event. You can see the muddy straights were getting good and rutty by the end of the day.
Post race we loaded up the vehicles and chilled at the hotel for a bit before getting dinner together at a local Mexican restaurant. Another fun night with the team and we relaxed for a bit back at the hotel before calling it a night. So last week we Punk'd Linda by hiding her bike on her and I knew that more pranks would be pulled as the season went on. So I'm crawling into bed and as I sit on the edge of the bed (in the dark room!) I feel all these weird cold things in my bed. Kaitie had put a bunch of juice boxes under the covers - I was pretty confused!
Watch out Kaitie - you're next! Actually Jim got her Sunday morning by putting sausages from the continental breakfast in her boots - eww!

The juniors again made us proud on Sunday with more great finishes - Jordan repeated and won again, Emma was 2nd, and Sarah won the womens 3/4. Greg also won the 55+. Way to go everyone!

Temps were a bit warmer on Sunday and again the sun was out so the course was a bit drier and faster. A few changes to the course had us go through a muddy section with a stair run up and then through a sloppy puddle that had formed from the bike wash near the pit.

Off we go. I had one of my best starts of the year. Clipped in immediately and was sitting in 7th place through the first set of barriers. A group of 5 had formed and Amy Dombroski and I were chasing after them - actually I was desperately trying to stick to Amy's wheel!
By the end of the first lap she had gapped me slightly and I was riding alone. This was pretty much the entire race for me. And I even took a dollar hand up on the second lap - the guy made it so easy! I was feeling slightly worse than Saturday and found myself slowing down a bit and with just under 2 laps to go was passed by Kari Studley.
On the last lap I was trying to stick with her and at one point went through the tape and off course. Luckily I stayed on the bike, lifted up another section of tape, and rode back onto the course. But my hopes of retaking 7th were gone and I just tried to stay smooth and finished 8th.

Kaitie (rocking the white skinsuit!) had another strong race and finished 10th again after attacking Devon on the last lap. Nice riding Kaitie!
Another really fun race! The USGP events always seem to have a good crowd of specators and the announcers also really make for an exciting race. We had some Wisconsin folks travel down to Kentucky also and it's always great to hear people yelling your name.

We again grabbed some recovery drink and clean bikes and headed out for a cool down. This time with Devon for company. We miss having her in the Midwest!

Required muddy leg shot.
We cleaned up and went to cheer on Marko in the Mens Elite race. He was feeling better today and had a good ride to finish 10th.

And that was pretty much the weekend! We hit the road for the 7 hour drive back home and made it to Madison just before midnight. All in all a really fun weekend of racing - great to have such a big crew of PB riders and lots of success for the entire team. Thanks so much to Bob and Planet Bike for the support. Also huge thanks to David and Jim for all of their help throughout the weekend. Most of the photos are also thanks to Lyne Lamoureux - I can't say enough great things about her beautiful shots. I always admire the folks that travel across country covering bike races and putting photos up online. Check out Podium in Sight for excellent photos/reports.

The next couple of weekends will be spent at local events. We almost made the trip out to Boulder for some UCI races but after hearing about the wicked snowstorm that's hit the area with nearly 3 feet of snow I think we made a good choice! It's been a crazy month of travel and it will be nice to stay home before things ramp up mid November into Nationals. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Canada, eh?

Last weekend several PB riders headed up to Toronto for some international UCI races. I went last year and the racing was awesome and it was a good place to try to pick up some points as many racers choose to attend events in the Northeast. So Linda, Kaitie, James, and myself loaded up the van along with Linda's friend Dave who would help support us for the weekend. Getting through Chicago is always interesting - we lost about 40 minutes in traffic - could have been worse I guess!

We picked up Tristan at the airport Saturday morning and headed to Centennial Park for some ski hill racing. The course is super cool and goes up and down (and up and down again!) a ski hill.

photo thanks to Dave McElwaine

It's especially cool that you can see almost the entire course from the parking lot. Very spectator friendly. It was a beautiful day out - 50s and sunny - perfect conditions for racing! About 20 women signed up for the Elite race. The odds on favorite was Canadian Natasha Elliot who has been having a great season and won both these races last year. From the gun it was her and fellow Canadian Pepper Harlton pushing the pace. I had my usual mediocre start and had to pick off riders on the first lap. By the start of the third lap I passed by Kaitie who was in 4th and saw Pepper and Linda not far in front of me. Linda got a gap and I sat on Pepper's wheel figuring I'd attack her near the end of the race. I just didn't want any of the girls behind us to catch us. With just over a lap to go it was clear she was fading so I went around her and bridged up to Linda. As we heard the bell I pulled through the straightaway before Linda came back around in the technical twisty section.

photo thanks to Jon Safka
Linda was riding incredibly strong and I knew she had rightfully earned 2nd. I crossed the line with a big smile on my face for 3rd. I had an even bigger smile on my face when I saw Kaitie come across for 4th. After some stomach issues in the middle of the race she made up some impressive ground and passed 4 riders on the last lap.

photo thanks to Jon Safka
It was awesome to have 2 of us on the podium. And really if they had done the 5 person podium as they did with the guys we would have had 3 on there. Great results for the Planet Bike women!

After the podium we cleaned up and watched the men race. James made up lots of ground after staring in the last row and finished 13th.
photo thanks to Dave McElwaine

Tristan had an awesome ride and finished on the podium for 5th. Impressive!
photo thanks to Jon Safka

After the race I hung out with my former Kenda teammate Anne and we got some dinner and coffee at the Buck! It was a lot of fun to hang out with her and chat. I haven't seen her since last year when we came for the races and it had been too long! Thanks for coming out and cheering Anne!

The next day's race was on the opposite side of the park. The course was more technical with a few ditches, some twisty sections, and a few short steep climbs. Still plenty of power but not quite the same as Saturday. Here Kaitie, James, and I are hanging out waiting to preride.

photo thanks to Jon Safka

I at least clip in quickly off the line but again I settle into about 10th as we hit the barriers - which they moved on us! During the prior races they were on a hairpin turn and you had to dismount before the turn. Kaitie and I were both fooled and dismounted before the turn and there were no barriers there - they moved them about 100 meters further on a straight section. Woops!
photo thanks to Jon Safka
As we approached the first steep ditch leading to a steep climb Pepper (riding second wheel to Natasha) hit the ground hard forcing nearly everyone to dismount and run up the hill rather than ride. This clogged things up a bit and I spent the lap trying to move up. I was having some trouble with a hairpin turn on a hill and was taking the corner waaaay too slow. At one point I was in 5th place and coming into that turn had to dismount as I nearly hit a tree. Two riders came around me and I was only able to pass one of them before the race was over. On my last lap I was ecstatic to see Kaitie sitting in second place not far behind Natasha! What a great ride by Kaitie - and she was making up time every lap. At the finish Natasha only won by 15 seconds. Watch out for Kaitie - she's having an awesome season thus far!
photo thanks to Dave McElwaine

Linda was riding well also and finished a strong 4th place.
photo thanks to Jon Safka

I ended up 6th - a bit disappointed as I was close to 5th for much of the race but just couldn't close the gap.
photo thanks to Peter Kraiker

They went 5 deep on the podium today so once again Planet Bike had two riders up there. Sweet!
photo thanks to Jon Safka

Kaitie was a rock star today and had lots of post race interviews to attend to.

After all the paparrazi let Kaitie go we went for a cool down before watching the guys race. Here Linda and Kaitie are hamming it up for the camera.
And a bit of refueling with some oatmeal bars - Linda digs in.
The guys raced really well and we had fun shouting at them and handing out Planet Bike beanies to specators. Same finishes as Saturday with James in 13th and Tristan in 5th. Nice job boys!
Here James is jumping on the compression bandwagon with his cool socks.
Tristan representing on the podium.
It was fun to hang out and chat with lots of folks associated with the races. Photographer Peter Kraiker traded me this awesome hat for a couple of Planet Bike beanies. I've been looking for a cool cycling cap and this totally fits that criteria. His son, Zef, makes them and you should check out his website here.
Kaitie wanted her photo taken with Saturday's winner and all around nice guy Tim Johnson.
Tim then asked Kaitie to tell Jeremy Powers that he's not as cool as Tim and that she doesn't want a picture with him.
Kaitie bravely told him what Tim said but quickly clarified that she was just joking. I mean who wouldn't want their picture taken with J Pow.

The Planet Bike ladies also got their photo taken with race promoter Craig - thanks for all of your support of cross and giving the women such great prize money!
photo thanks to Jon Safka

We had fun goofing around with the Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld guys as well as Natasha.
photo thanks to Peter Kraiker

We also Punk'd Linda when I decided to move her bike which was parked near the podium area. I hid it behind a truck and Kaitie and I watched from afar as she proceeded to freak out thinking someone had stolen her bike. It was pretty hilarious and she got pretty worried. I'm sure she's scheming of how she's going to get us back - I'm prepared.

We packed up, dropped Tristan off at a hotel, and hit the road to head back home. It was pretty smooth sailing other than about a 15 minute wait at the border.

We made it back to Madison about 2AM and collapsed into bed. Another weekend of travel and racing down. All in all a really fun and successful weekend of racing. Huge thanks to Dave for helping us out with driving, getting the bikes ready, and keeping us organized. Thanks to Jon Safka, Peter Kraiker, and Dave McElwaine for all of the photos. It was great to see all of you guys again. Also much love to the sponsors for helping make it happen - first and foremost Bob and Planet Bike.

USGP weekend #2 on tap with another roadtrip planned to Louisville, Kentucky. We've got a huge crew of Planet Bike riders headed down for some big races. Weather looks wet right now so it may be muddy - oh boy!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ohio 3 day

Another belated race report but it'll have to do! Lots of pictures anyway!

First road trip of the year for me with some PB teammates - Mark, Linda, Kaitie A. and myself hit the road on Friday to head to Ohio for 3 days of UCI racing. We would meet up with Katie Compton who has been unstoppable so far this year and won the World Cup last Sunday.

We pulled into the race on Friday to soggy conditions. Rain for pretty much 48 hours preceding the race meant it was going to be a muddy race. A hilly venue that was actually on a golf course - it was a little surreal to see this beautifully manicured course and this muddy lane that had become the race course. Lots of off cambers and some short little climbs.
It was a frustrating race - the off camber sections were so difficult to ride (at least with my poor technique!) that I ended up doing a lot of running. And a lot of crashing! I got a nasty scrape on my forearm from my first slip slide in the mud into a course stake. I sort of settled into a rhythm to the lap but my bike was getting super mucked up and I decided to not go with a bike change.
With two laps to go I was disappointed to see Kaitie A. on the side of the course with a shouldered bike - turns out she snapped a derailleur hanger and she had to drop out. It was too bad as she was riding so well and was sitting in 6th place before the mechanical. KFC took control of the race in typical fashion after the first lap. She was riding alone and easily took the win.
Linda rode an incredible race and finished a solid 4th. Way to conquer the mud!
I ended up finishing 11th after a last lap crash and an unclipped foot allowed two women to pass me. I was just happy that the race was over - it was one of those races I just wanted to get through. I know I need to embrace the mud but I'm still figuring out how to ride it in all it's permutations. After spraying down the bike and myself and trying to contain the resulting sopping mess I headed over to watch the men and see how Mark was doing.
Mark was having an awesome race and was sitting in 3rd when I first saw him. Parbo ended up passing him with about 2 laps to go but Mark was able to finish a really strong 4th place. He was a little muddy after the race.

After cleaning ourselves and the bikes up and loading everything back into the van it was dark and we were hungry. We headed to one of my favorite post race dining establishments. Mmm - burritos.
After dinner we headed back to the hotel to relax. You know what they say about chamois time.

Saturday brought the race in Middletown. Beautiful sunny day with a mostly dry course. Just one slightly muddy section. I had a bad start - seriously . . . clipping in to your pedal shouldn't be so difficult - and then got caught behind a crash in the sand volleyball court. Took me a lap to get my bearings and then I needed to work on hunting people down. Katie C. of course was riding incredibly and was alone off the front. Linda and Kaitie both had a great race and were sitting in with a good group.
In the end Katie C. won, Kaitie was 6th, Linda 7th, and I was 8th. Fun race and solid results for all the PB girls.
After our race we watched the exciting mens race. J Pow was impressing the crowd with his barrier bunny hopping skills. It was pretty cool.

Mark had an awesome race. He and Wicks were sitting about 30 seconds behind Powers. On the last lap Wicks attacked him and he couldn't quite respond but finished 3rd - on the podium!

Final day was the big one at Harbin Park. The great promoters of the event worked hard to secure huge prize money for the race and even had equal payout for the top 5 men and women. A good course for me with lots of power sections and not too many technical twists. There were 3 large mud puddles, 2 long sand pits, and 2 bunny hoppable wood playground borders. I had a much better start today and was feeling decent. I was actually hopping the borders (I was told only myself and KFC were doing it cleanly - sweet!) and was soon sitting in 6th place.
Dede was just up ahead and behind me were my teammates Kaitie A. and Linda. I tried to reel Winfield in but all of us remained in the same spots the rest of the race. I was 6th, Kaitie 7th, and Linda 8th. Our superstar teammate repeated once again - she is fierce. I only wish I could watch her race rather than struggle minutes behind her!A little muddy after the race due to the big mud puddles. Finally after a few laps I found the good lines but I still got plenty dirty.
Hung out after the race and chatted with Katie, Mark, and her cheerleader mom Debra. Check out Mark's awesome T shirt!
We also watched Mark's race - he put on a good show once again and finished 7th.

We loaded up the van after the races and hit the road right away. We had 7 hours back to Madison and finally made it home around midnight. Thanks to everyone involved with the races - it was a super fun weekend. Thanks also to our helpers before, during, and after the races - Daniel and Mike did a great job helping make sure the bikes were ready to go. Thanks also to all of the sponsors for helping make the weekend happen. Planet Bike, Edge, Lazer. All of the race photos are thanks to Lyne Lamoureux - she does such an incredible job of covering events and her photography is beautiful.

Travel continues as I leave for two UCI races in Toronto tomorrow morning!