Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Waukesha Crit

Alright - so I've procrastinated getting the final race report up and now time is tight! I'm flying out of Madison early tomorrow and arriving in Boston for the Fitchburg Longsjo Stage Race that runs Thursday through Sunday. I decided to skip out on the Masters Nationals TT in Louisville as it would have been a lot of racing, travel, and just a bit too stressful. Getting to spend an extra day at home was well worth it!

So . . . the final race of the America's Dairyland Series was a crit in Waukesha. A windy day with temps in the low 80s it was certainly more comfortable than the high heat earlier in the week. I was only one point behind Theresa for 3rd in the overall so I was hoping to somehow gain a point or two on her today. Unfortunately on lap 2 there was a crash in which my friend Rachel from ISCorp went down on corner 1. She ran into the curb and then into a tree and had to be taken to the ER. Collapsed lungs (one 5% the other 25%), two broken vetebrae, and a separated shoulder - a nasty crash. Get better soon Rachel!

The race was fairly aggressive - I was off solo for 5 laps or so after getting a $50 prime but Theresa soon bridged up and then the rest of the field came too. With about 6 laps to go Jessie and Davina from Verducci attacked together and were gone. With a disorganized chase - but a huge effort by Devon - we were sprinting for third. I was in good position and took an inside line on the last corner and charged toward the line. I thought I was going to take 3rd but 10 meters before the line Thersea came around and I finished 4th . . . down two points on her for 3rd overall. Oh well - it was a great series and I had so much fun racing!!

Thanks so much to Dave for coming out to watch me, Monique, Jason and Jessie and other friends out there cheering!

Alright - time to go to bed!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Downer's Ave Race

So Saturday was a criterium in Milwaukee on Downer's Avenue. This race has a long history in the state and has been part of the Superweek race series for years. It had always been a course that only the Pro men got to race. It's in a hip neighborhood just north of the city and always draws in huge numbers of specators. Four corners but kind of shaped like a big triangle there's one turn which is greater than 90 degrees and if riders aren't paying attention they might swing wide and hit the curb. Fun course though! When the promoters of America's Dairyland secured the course they graciously allowed all the categories to race and I was super excited for the chance to race in front of a big crowd on this legendary course.

Just three KENDA riders (Ashley, Jackie, and myself) on the line with Krystal heading home to get a few days rest before Fitchburg. A few more riders showing up for the weekend and we had 30 on the line. Lots of friends and family watching including my parents, my brother Jason, and his girlfriend Jesse. Monique also made the drive over from Madison to be our superfan and take pictures and be on the radios.

I knew I wanted to race aggressively and made sure the girls were prepared to be watching wheels and going with promising moves. It seemed that in most of the crits breaks were sticking and I expected something to work out in this race too. There were some attacks early on and both Ashley and Jackie were involved in some short lived breaks. Things were pretty strung out and about 15 minutes in a $100 prime was called and I attacked hard. I got a good gap and crossed the line solo for the cash and continued to ride tempo. I soon see two riders working their way up to me with a big gap back to the field. Toni from Lipsmackers and Davina from Verducci were soon rolled up and we began to work together.

This was a great break for me. Before the race I was 5 points behind Theresa for 3rd in the overall classification. If this break stuck I had the possibility of gaining some points on her. I also liked riding with Toni and Davina - both strong riders and with all of us having teammates back in the field we were likely to stay away. I figured Verducci might not be super happy with the break since I was relatively close to Theresa for points and I made sure to take strong pulls in our rotation.
As the minutes ticked by and our gap grew I knew this was the race and it was time to start thinking about how I was going to try to win this race. By this point in the series I knew Toni liked to race aggressively and that Davina is a great sprinter. I figured my odds were better by attacking in the last two laps. I was planning on attacking with 1.5 to go but with our rotation my position wasn't right so instead as we came through the finish stretch and heard the bell I went for it.
Figured I'd at least make it exciting for all the spectators watching by the announcing stand! I had a gap through the first corner and made it through the wide corner alone but saw Davina charging up behind me. I knew I was caught and slowed up to try to recover as much as possible. Toni, who had been on Davina's wheel, saw her chance and attacked on the other side of the road. I had been ready for this and quickly got on her wheel. We slowed up again and Toni began to ramp up the speed and essentially lead us out. I knew I wanted to be on the outside on the last corner as I felt there was some wind advantage and as we swung around it was Davina and I drag racing to the line.
As we got closer she was pulling just ahead of me but I continued to push remembering that the line was beyond the banner. We were right next to each other and as the line approached I threw the bike in hopes that I might pip her.
As we crossed I heard the announcer (the very talented Brad Sohner!) call out Davina as the winner and I was bummed at how close the win had been! I congratulated Davina and Toni and I chatted on our cool down lap. There were lots of friends out on the course and many were asking what happened and I smiled and held up two fingers. As we came around the final corner a buddy of mine shouted out to me that I had won! I was shocked and didn't believe him. As I rolled up to the finish more and more people were congratulating me and Brad was in the road on the mic telling me that it was a photo finish and that I had won by millimeters!

I was ecstatic! I had so badly wanted Team KENDA to take a win in this series and now I had done it and had won at Downers in front of so many family and friends. What a great feeling. I found my parents and hugged them and then found my screaming teenager teammates and hugged them. After calling Dave to tell him the news I headed back to the podium to see the photo finish.

This picture of me and Davina checking out the finish is pretty classic!
It was a real honor to take the top step of the podium and the chocolate milk tasted very sweet!

By getting first I had also moved closer to Theresa in the overall. She had taken 5th so I was now one point out of 3rd place! It was all going to come down to the final race in Waukesha (race report to come Tuesday!)

Thanks so much to all of my cheering family and friends out there on the course - getting a win in front of people who are important to me is an unbelievable feeling! Thanks also to my fabulous teammates Jackie and Ashley who were blocking and sticking to wheels back in the pack!

All of the photos are thanks to the fantastic John Wilkes of Peloton Pix. John did such an amazing job throughout the series. He was there every day taking photos and his race recaps were always up so quickly! He has a great eye and I really appreciate being able to purchase some shots to remember the race and the series by!

Thanks for reading :)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

America's Dairyland Update

Away from the internet for a few days once again so a brief update on the last three races!
Here we are before Friday's race - we wore one glove as a tribute to the late Michael Jackson ;)

Wednesday was a criterium in Fond du Lac. Team Kenda had 3 riders today - Krystal, Jackie, and myself. Another scorcher and with our 3pm start time temps were in the mid 90s and very muggy. Only 20 women on the line and the field of riders were tired. I was not feeling very good in the heat and the previous day's road race was still taking its toll. Not for Jessie from Verducci though! Twenty minutes into our race she jumped off the front solo and after some hesitation from the rest of us she was clear. I don't think anyone really expected her to hold it. We organized a chase for a few laps but the conditions and fatigue were affecting us all. We were now racing for second and soon Jessie had lapped back into the field. It was definitely the Verducci show with Theresa and Davina taking nearly all of the primes too. Madeleine from BH attacked with 2 laps to go and again no one went with her so she took 2nd and we were sprinting for 3rd. I was trying to stay close to Theresa but couldn't come around her - she took 4th, my teammate Jackie was 5th and I was 7th. Thanks to my parents for coming out to see me for the 3rd time this series!! It's so nice to have a cheering section :)

Thursday was another crit in Sheboygan. Temperatures were cooler and the low 80s felt soooo much better than the previous two days. Another small field (unfortunately!) of 18 riders and this time Ashley joined in so we had a team of 4. I really wanted to get a break off with one or more of my teammates in it. Things worked out well when early on in the race a break of 6 riders with Jackie in it got off. The top overall riders weren't in there so I liked the mix. I liked it even better when a rider went to bridge and I saw Ashley glued to her wheel. So the break had 8 in it with 2 Kenda riders. With Verducci, Lipsmackers, and several strong solo riders also up there I knew this was likely to stick. Krystal and I did some blocking and watched the Verducci riders who tried to bridge several times. I went for a couple of primes mid race and took one while getting outsprinted by speedy Theresa on two others. With about 10 laps to go the break lapped back into the field. Krystal rode a great race and was helping keep the pace up throughout and trying to let us sit in and prepare for the sprint. Team Kenda organized ourselves at the front of the field in the final laps to keep the pace up. I hope there's a picture out there somewhere of all 4 of us lined up at the front! I was trying to communicate to Ashley to attack with two laps to go while we were up at the front. I was hopeful she might be able to stick it out for the win. It would cause the other teams to chase and I know Jackie is smart about position and a good bunch finisher. The worst that would happen to Ashley is she would be caught and finish 8th. It's hard to communicate midrace though and as we came through with one to go Lipsmackers was at the front and through the final corners Verducci took over and I got a bit boxed in with Jackie on my wheel. She gave it her all though and was able to finish a strong 2nd!
Ashley also stuck it out to get 6th! Nice racing girls! Theresa finished a few spots ahead of me and I was now 11 points out of 3rd place in the overall. Thanks to Jackie's dad, Steve, and her grandparents, Bill and Nancy, for cheering us on in the race!

Friday was our final road race. 60 miles through the rolling, wooded terrain in Greenbush. A beautiful 10 mile loop with some twisty, narrow roads and a set of 2 short steep climbs before the 300 meter downhill finish. About 25 riders on the line and thankfully temps were again in the low 80s. The first lap was pretty chill as we all warmed up the legs and got a feel for the course. Thanks to Peloton Pix!
The second lap the attacks started from Verducci and after several miles of failed break attempts we settled back in to a tempo ride. Verducci and Lipsmackers were both racing aggressively and I threw down a few attacks as well. Nobody seemed happy with the mix of riders though and anything that looked promising was quickly absorbed back by the field. The yellow line rule was being strictly enforced as well and several riders were relegated for attacking across it. As annoying as that can be I appreciate the strict adherence to the rules - there have been some unfortunate accidents when the rule is not enforced and we certainly don't want any more of those.

As we got to the final lap I think we were all trying to formulate how to win the race. Before the final steep hill before the descent to the finish Theresa attacked hard. Those of us near the front went after her and I was a bit overgeared going up the climb. I shifted down and my chain lost tension and I nearly put myself into my top tube and headset! I was able to hold it up though and tried to catch the wheels in front of me. Theresa couldn't hold it and a group of 4 riders (BH's Devon, Lipsmackers Amanda, Verducci Jessie, and ABD Jessie) went clear and about 200 meters from the line I passed Theresa and her teammate and was going for 5th. I saw a rider coming up on my right and I'm ashamed to admit I sort of leaned into her hoping to hold her off. Rebecca D. came around me just before the line and I finished 6th.Thanks to Peloton Pix!
I was really hoping to put riders between me and Theresa so that I could close the gap to 3rd in the overall. My teammate Jackie was able to finish 7th with Theresa taking 9th so I regained some points but am still 5 points out of 3rd place. We'll see how these next two crits go - it will not be easy trying to beat Theresa! Thanks to Steve for feeding all three of us throughout the race - it was hot and we definitely appreciated the bottles!

Thanks again to everyone associated with this race series - the organization is top notch and the racing has been really fun. I know I've said it many times already but these promoters have done a fantastic job and their commitment to womens racing by giving us the entire series of events and nearly equal prize money is incredibly encouraging. I sincerely hope that they are not discouraged by the relatively small field of women and that they will commit to that same level again for next year. I know I will try to spread the word on what a great series this is and believe that attendance will increase for next year. If you raced the series and have some feedback for them they'd love to hear from you - email them here

Thanks also to all of the great sponsors Team Kenda has this season and their support of us in these races - Kenda, Blue, SRAM, Thomson, Powerbar, Rudy Project, Headsweats, Skins, and Plant Solutions.

Thanks for checking in - look for a final series update sometime on Monday!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happy Anniversary!!

Today marks 4 years since Dave and I were married. He's a stud and his support of me throughout all of the racing is unbelievable. The time spent apart is tough but soon we'll be together more! I love you babe!

Fond du Lac Road Race

Thanks to Peloton Pix for the photo
Tuesday was the 5th stage of the America's Dairyland Series with a 65 mile road race in Fond du Lac. The heat was going to be overwhelming with temps in the mid 90s - thankfully our race started at 9AM so that we would be finished relatively early in the day. Road races are worth double points in the series and with me tied for second and two points away from the two riders tied for first in the overall we knew we'd have to race smartly. But with conditions what they were we were all a bit nervous with how things would play out.

Just 4 Kenda riders today - Ashley, Jackie, Krystal, and myself. It was a long race and we weren't too interested in racing aggressively too early. There is a great group of women racing these events but it's too bad just a few more teams/riders haven't come out to support the series. The promoters have done a fabulous job with the race organization and their commitment to giving women such a large prize purse is admirable and appreciated. There is over $17,000 up for grabs throughout the series and there is not much difference between the payout for men vs. women. A big thank you to everyone involved in putting these races on.

Anyway . . . back to the race report! The first lap was pretty chill - everyone just riding and checking out the 10.5 mile loop. By the second lap fewer riders seemed willing to ride at the front and a few attacks were thrown down. Jackie helped bring back the first one and then a counter move went. I saw both Devon and Jessi in it, as well as Jessica from ABD and Toni from Lipsmackers and knew I needed to be there too. I bridged up and pulled through. Turning back I saw Theresa from Verducci and a Mack rider were also there. With all the major teams represented and the top 5 overall riders I knew this break would stick if we worked together.
Thanks to Peloton Pix for the photo
And that was that - we worked together the next 4 laps. The heat was so oppressive and I felt horrible for some portions and then decent for others. Thankfully Ashley's boyfriend Clayton was in the feed zone to give us bottles - I went through 6 during the race. Thanks so much Clayton!!

The last two laps I felt like my head was in the clouds and seriously thought I was going to pop off the group at times. As we came into the closing miles I tried to consider my options for the finish. The line was about 600 meters from the last corner - a slight uphill for the first 300 followed by a gradual decent to the finish. I thought about an attack but I was feeling pretty terrible and decided to just watch the wheels of my breakmates.

We made the corner and the sprint started about halfway up the gradual climb - I was in the mix with both Verducci riders and Devon but as we got out of the saddle I knew I didn't have much left. It was a long sprint and as Devon and Jessi pulled away I was with Theresa but couldn't stay with her and then Jessica from ABD came around as well. I finished 5th which now leaves me in 4th place in the overall - 10 points behind leader Devon who won the race. Congrats to her!

Immediately after the race I found a hose and sprayed down to try to cool off - I also downed two bottles of water and then just sat in the shade hoping I'd feel better. Back in the pack Jackie and Krystal got a bit boxed in for the sprint and finished 13th and 14th, respectively. Ashley was a bit further back at 22nd. Great job by them to help ensure the break stuck! Luckily everyone was feeling okay post race and after some fluids and cooling off we were all doing well. On the drive back to Madison Krystal and I stopped at Chipotle and then I felt even better ;)

Today is another scorcher and we're back in Fond du Lac for a criterium this afternoon at 3pm - pretty much the hottest part of the day. Hopefully 60 minutes feels better than 60+ miles! We'll be staying in Cedarburg with Jackie's grandparents the next two nights and I won't have internet so likely no updates until Friday after our last road race of the series!

Thanks for reading :)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Grafton and Manitowoc

No internet access this weekend so a late and brief update.

Saturday's race in Grafton went well and with 7 Kenda riders toeing the line we knew we wanted to control the race. We won nearly every prime and my team was able to let me stay well rested in the field for almost the entire race. As we rounded the last corner I had an open road and started the 300+ meter sprint. Somehow I nearly took it but wasn't too surprised when Theresa Cliff-Ryan passed by me in the last 25 meters. I was very content with another 2nd place finish and this time did not miss the podium!

With Jessi and Devon separated by one point I was down by 2 points for 3rd. What an amazing job by my teammates throughout the race - Team Kenda worked so hard to try to keep the race fast and aggressive. Great racing girls! Also nice finishes by Catherine for 6th and Jackie for 7th!

All in all a great race at a fun venue. Thanks so much to my parents, Jason and Jesse, and Darlene for coming out to cheer me on!! Also huge thanks to Monique for helping us out, cheering us on, and taking all the great photos!!

Pressure was on Sunday in Manitowoc. We raced aggressively but by 40 minutes in nothing was sticking. I was most concerned with watching the two riders in contention for the overall and was hopeful to get a teammate up the road in a break. A huge group of 11 ended up rolling up the road with both Krystal and Catherine in it. Sort of a weird situation that it stuck and in retrospect we should have chased it down. Theresa from Verducci was also in there and her second place finish allowed her to move up in the overall and she's now tied with me. Catherine took 3rd in the break while I was watching Jessi and Devon in the main field. Jackie and Ashley gave me a killer leadout on the last lap and unfortunately I just couldn't come around to move up in points. Jessi took the bunch sprint followed by Devon and then me. The overall now has Jessi and Devon tied for first and Theresa and I tied for second.

Tomorrow is a 60 mile road race in Fon du Lac with 95 degree temps - eek!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Waterloo Classic

Thanks Mo for the pictures!!

Stage 2 of the America's Dairyland Series brought us to the hometown of Trek in Waterloo, WI. A 1.6 mile circuit race that included a winding hill through a nearby park and a long 400 meter flat sprint finish. A hot, humid day but luckily the rain and storms cleared out for our race. We were hoping to watch the other teams and be involved in moves but our legs were feeling Thursday's road race. Monique came along to cheer us on, take photos, and be in our ear on the radios - thanks Mo - you're the greatest! :)

30 women started the race and by lap 2 some attacks were being laid down by Lip Smackers and Team BH. After Krystal chased down a flyer I was involved in a counter move and I soon found myself in a group of 4 - Jessie from Verducci, Toni from Lipsmackers, and Rachel from ISCorp. We got a small gap and we began working together - I really didn't expect this break to last as we were lacking a Team BH rider and I wasn't sure Lipsmackers wanted a break to go off without series leader Amanda in it. A prime was called next lap and I decided to go for it. I took it without really any competition and sort of felt bad that I attacked the break. I waited up for the girls and we began rotating through. The pace was high and we held a 20 second gap for several laps. Suddenly the gap went up to 40 seconds for a few laps and then halfway through the race we were at a minute. This looked like this was going to be the race as long as we continued to work together. Huge thanks to Krystal and Jackie for blocking and disrupting the chase back in the field!

We watched the minutes tick by and our gap grow to just under 2 minutes. With 5 laps to go we were still taking equal pulls. Early on in the break Rachel sat on for a few laps and told us she wouldn't outsprint us at the end and I knew she'd stick to her word. With two laps to go Toni attacked but we were quickly back together. Rachel did most of the work on the last lap and I was thinking of attacking on the hill but Toni again laid down an attack. I soon got back to her and sat on as we rounded the last corner. She slowed up and now it was time for the games to begin. I didn't come around her and waited for Jessi to make her move. With about 200 meters to go Jessi made a monster move on the far right side and I sprinted to try to get on her wheel. She was about 2 bike lengths ahead of me and I couldn't catch her wheel. She took the win and I came across for 2nd, Toni 3rd, and Rachel 4th.

I was happy with how things played out and Jessi got a well deserved win - she was doing a lot of work in the break and is a really strong rider. Jackie was able to finish in the money for 11th. This was a really fun race and thanks to everyone for working hard and putting it on. This series has been really well organized and the events have been great thus far - I'm looking forward to the upcoming races!

Thanks so much to Monique for helping us out and cheering! She was so great on the radios and her direction and time splits were perfect!

On Thursday they had taken awhile to do the podium ceremony and I assumed they'd do the same for Friday. So I unfortunately took too much time changing out of my kit and by the time I got to the podium they had just finished the ceremony!! Darnit! Only gives me extra motivation to get back on there sometime this week ;)

Today's race is in Grafton and it's an awesome event. We've got a few more teammates today with Christy and Ashley joining in for the fun. Should be a great race!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Blue Mounds Road Race

Thanks to John of Peloton Pix

Thursday was the first race in the America's Dairyland Series with the Blue Mounds Road Race. A 44 mile race for the women - it included two laps of a 22 mile course that gains 2200 feet per lap. In addition to the constant rollers it included one extremely steep half mile climb on Pinnacle Road at about mile 12 and then a long steep 1.5 mile climb at mile 20 on Mounds Park Road. With the severe terrain we knew that this was essentially a race of attrition and that if you didn't enjoy climbing you probably weren't going to have much fun in this race!

Not many of the girls had preridden the course so few knew what they were really in store for. There were about 30 of us on the start line with Team BH, Verducci, and Lipsmackers, and Vanderkitten being the biggest teams there. For Team Kenda we had Jackie, Krystal, and myself.

I was sort of shocked to see riders attacking on the downhill section of the course which is nearly the first 8 miles of the lap. This made enough other riders nervous though and nothing stuck.

The first time we got to the Pinnacle climb Amanda Miller pushed the pace and over the top a group of 9 of us had formed with only Verducci having 2 riders in the break. After a bit of disorganization we finally began to work together to increase our lead. Once we got to Blue Mounds Road the pace was again lifted and the entire group was strung out with Amanda and Devon from BH getting a gap at the front. Over the top of the climb the remaining 7 of us were all split up and by the time we reached Bringham Park to begin the long descent we had organized together and began to work to chase the duo down. The SRAM neutral car came around us to follow the leaders and we knew we had to work together if we wanted to catch them.

Verducci worked hard to bring them back and really all of the riders were taking turns at the front. Our group split up slightly on the Pinnacle climb again but over the top we reorganized and really pushed the pace - at one point I thought I was going to pop off the back of the group! Thanks to John of Peloton Pix
The SRAM car came closer and closer though and we finally caught them with about 4 miles left in the race. We rode together with no one really wanting to push the pace as we all knew we had a solid 2 miles of tough climbing. As we reached the base a rider attacked but we were soon all back together. As the pitch increased the group strung out with Amanda and Devon leading the charge. A group of 4 formed with myself and another rider dangling off the back. I got past her and tried to push hard over the slightly flatter section before the final corner. The group was just 10-15 seconds ahead and as we turned and came to the steep final half mile I got out of the saddle desperate to get any last power out of the legs. I couldn't get there though and as we neared the top I just tried to hold my spot to finish 5th.

Congrats to Amanda on the win and Devon for second. Those two valiantly tried to hold onto their break and their ability to still take the top two spots after we caught them is a testament to how strong they're riding this year. Our chase group rode really well together too and the vibe was positive and encouraging. I'm really looking forward to racing with this field of women over the next 11 days. Check out Verducci's wild looking bikes - it's like a carbon skeleton!

Krystal hung tough and finished in the money for 14th place. After a lap Jackie knew this course had the potential of killing her legs and she smartly pulled out to conserve for the upcoming 9 races of the series.

What an amazing course and a well run event. Everything from registration, to the corner marshals, to the race vehicles was flawless. This course is the proposed 2016 Olympic road race course if Chicago gets the bid and I think everyone racing agrees that this would be an excellent venue. Very tough terrain and beautiful scenery make this a true test of fitness and skill. We'll find out in October whether Chicago gets the bid or not!

Congrats also to local ISCorp rider Matt Busche for winning the men's Pro event in an extremely talented field of riders. It was so cool to see him cross the line nearly 30 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor. ISCorp helped put on this race and it was awesome to see one of their most talented riders take the win.

After the race we "Skinned" up (gotta give props to the sponsrs!)

and headed back to Madison to get some food and rest up. Today is a 1.5 mile circuit race in Waterloo near the Trek Headquarters. Several severe thunderstorms passed through Wisconsin last night and there are more coming our way this morning. We're hoping we somehow race in dry weather but it's not looking good. So we're preparing ourselves for 60 minutes in the rain/storms. Sounds like fun!? :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nature Valley Wrap Up

Kat is missing from this picture since she was getting drug tested!

So of course the last couple of days got hectic and the blog updates came to a stop. Here's some pictures and an update of how the last two days went.

Saturday was the 92 mile Mankato Road Race. A nearly 2 hour drive to and from the course it ends up being a long day. We really lucked out with weather this year and we got sunny, upper 70s, and calm winds. The race takes you out on an 86 mile loop through the rolling countryside of the area before you come back to Mankato and race 4 finishing circuits. There is a rather long, rather steep hill each circuit and the race always splits up here. Generally the race is not terribly hard the first 86 miles as everyone knows the circuits are coming. Crosswinds can sometimes be a factor but this year they were virtually nonexistent.

Fueling up on PowerBar!

So off we went and there were several attacks as some riders were hopeful to get a break off. Webcor was especially aggressive as they were caught up in crashes at Cannon Falls and lost many of their GC spots. I played around at the front for a bit and was involved in a few moves but I knew conserving for the end was very important. There were times when the race was fast but it generally was relatively easy. A break of 4 riders formed somewhere around mile 60 but they were lower GC riders and I think everyone assumed it would be brought back as we got closer to Mankato.

I took a feed from the car at one point and was yelled at by a few riders from big teams when I dropped back a bit behind COM1. Geez - I'm sorry I'm not a P-R-O like you girls and don't take feeds very often. I don't understand why they can't try to be a bit more positive and encouraging with the smaller teams!

We roll into Mankato and the pain cave begins. I had decent position and as the girls charged up the hill I was at the tail end of the lead group. The second time up a split happened and I ended up at the back of the second group. Whew - that hill is a grinder! It seems to never end and is darn steep. The third time I tried to hold my position but was falling behind the group. I could see a group of about 10 riders but could not reach them and the final time up the climb I tried to push hard and fight for every second. I finished 41st on the stage and 1'45" behind the leaders of the race. The break of 4 stuck and finished 2 minutes ahead of Kristin Armstrong's group. She nearly lost her yellow jersey but at the end of the day held onto it by 12 seconds.

My teammate Ally had a great race and finished 21st - in the group with the leaders. Poor Jackie got a flat tire with one circuit to go and ended up waiting nearly 5 minutes for neutral to help her out. Silke, Christy, and Kat were giving their all out there and finished strong.

We had photographer Frank Rowe in the team car for this race and he took some pretty amazing shots throughout the race. Check them out here

Christy was a little tired after the race!

Post race we had a nice team dinner in Mankato and Kat dispersed out some of her special cookies - squirrels this time!!

What a long day though - it was past 10 when we got back to the host homes and we had to prepare for Sunday's hellish Stillwater Crit the next day. Ally had eaten a bit too much sugar throughout the day's race and had some extra energy and challenged Christy to a wrestling match.

Ally wrestled in college and has got some skills - Christy was a trooper for sparring with her!

Sunday is the toughest and final stage of the NVGP. This is always a crazy race with generally only 40 or so riders actually finishing and everyone else getting pulled and getting a prorated time. Stillwater is a beautiful town right on the Mississippi River and is thus located right on a steep bluff. The 1.3 mile course climbs up Chillikoot Hill which is a 700 meter climb that averages 22%. After you get to the top of that there is some false flat and another little kicker before you finally get to turn and come down a fast but really fun descent. I took a picture of the hill but it's not very good!

I really like this race because I like power climbs but I also love this race because so many of my family and friends come out to watch it. Thanks so much to my parents, aunt and uncle, Mike and Karla, Ryan and Rachael, and anyone else out there cheering me on!

We prerode and then hopped on trainers in the shade and tried to get the legs ready and stay cool. You start at the very base of the climb so positioning is important as you don't want to have to be navigating your way up through tons of traffic. This is it - just under an hour of pain!

I had decent position and tried to pick my way through riders the first time up. Still a big group over the top but by the second time up riders were popping. I was out of the saddle and trying to move up and stick to wheels. I was feeling decent but as the laps ticked by I found myself in a second group maybe 30 seconds behind the leading group of maybe 15. I was so happy to see my teammate Ally in my group of 15 riders and we rode together for the next several laps. The fans were so awesome and people were lined up on the hill screaming. This race has such a cool atmosphere!

With about 3 laps to go I found myself hitting a wall. I struggled to stick to the wheels in my group and was gapped off. Myself and another rider worked together and we could see the group just ahead of us. On the final lap I pushed through and charged up the hill nearly catching the tail end of the group. I finished 32nd on the day - 3 minutes behind winner Kristin Armstrong. results

Ally rode awesome and finished 22nd. All of my teammates rode well and everyone made it through to finish off the race. The GC can totally change after this race and I was able to move up to 23rd - my best finish in my 4 years of doing this race. I'm really happy with how things went for myself and for the team. Team Kenda ended up 10th on the Team Classification out of 18 starting teams. It was a great showing for us and as a team we had so much fun throughout the race. We had an awesome group put together for this race and the comradarie and positive energy made for a successful and fun race experience.

Thanks so much to Team Manager Paul, Team Mechanic Mike, and all of the sponsors that helped make this team and this race possible.

After the race I got some lunch with my parents and my aunt and uncle. It was so much fun to chat with them and get some good food - mmm salmon burger (with bacon!) and sweet potato fries.

After lunch I gathered up the girls and we headed back to host housing to pack up and head back home. Jackie and Ashley had been stalking Floyd Landis all week and after Stillwater they surrounded him and got him to sign their arms. Such groupies! :)

The car was pretty packed to the gills with three people, 4 bikes and lots of luggage and wheels. Gotta love the Subaru!

Thank you so much to all of our wonderful host families throughout the week. We had such great accommodations and it was so nice to have us all within a few blocks of each other. Thank you Kirk and Angela, Robbie and Linda, and Jeff and Nancy!! We really appreciate your generosity and hospitality!! Also thanks to Ryan and Rachael, and Mike and Karla for taking Kat Sunday night and helping her get to the airport Monday morning!

Wow - this entry ended up way longer than I intended!! Jackie and I are in Madison waiting for the America's Dairyland series to start tomorrow. Krystal will arrive tonight and a few more Kenda riders will join in on a few days. The racing should be great with solid prize purses and great courses. Tomorrow is the Blue Mounds Road Race which is sure to be tough! I'll try to post race reports as often as I can!!

Thanks so much for reading!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Nature Valley Day 3

So Friday's stage was a crit in Uptown Minneapolis - a very hip neighborhood with lots of cute restaurants and shops. We didn't race until 6:30 so we had a leisurely day beforehand. Our host family has an electric Razor scooter and we decided we had to just give it a quick spin. Here's Ally taking a lap.

And then she decided to hit a slight bump in the driveway and nearly took herself out. Check out Kat's expression!

The scooter fun didn't end there because once we got to the race course there were some neighborhood kids setting up some sweet ramps and jumping their scooters over them. Ally decided she'd use her newfound skills and challenged one of the kids to a race. I think the helmet may have given her an advantage.

Once the shenanigans were over it was actually time to race our bikes. Most of us were just concerned with staying safe and making it through this crit as we knew it wasn't going to affect the GC. This stage race really comes down to Saturday and Sunday so we wanted to conserve some engery in preparation for those races. The race was incredibly fast though and we averaged just under 27mph. Unfortunately Ashley was gapped off early on but the rest of us made it through safely.

Thanks so much to my parents, aunt and uncle, and Dave's brothers Mike and Ryan and their wives Karla and Rachael for coming out to spectate and cheer us on. It was great to see everyone and we had a nice dinner afterward. Happy Birthday Ryan!!

On our walk back to our car we noticed that someone had decided to TP the Team Type 1 Van. We were not involved but we decided to take a photo as it was pretty funny!

We leave shortly for our 92 mile road race in Mankato today. Should be a very important stage in the race and the big hill on the finishing circuits should split everything up. It'll be a blast!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Nature Valley Day 2

Thursday night we had Stage 3 of Nature Valley with a 67 mile road race that didn't start until 5:30. We enjoyed our lazy morning by sleeping in and going for a team shopping trip at Target. Good times!

We arrived in Cannon Falls with plenty of time to relax and go preride the notorious gravel road and gnarly paved descent that takes you onto the finishing circuit. Getting onto the gravel in the top third of the field is super important if you don't want to kill yourself trying to chase onto the surging field of riders.

The race started out pretty quickly with a QOH (Queen of the Hills) sprint just under 4 miles in. I decided I would give these a go but didn't have enough kick to make it to the line and finished 5th - points are only awarded to top 3! There was a minor crash about 5 miles later that Christy got caught up in but she recovered quickly.

The race went by really fast. There was some attacking at the front and I was in a short lived break at about mile 20. Nothing seemed to stick and as the miles ticked by we were a big field of 100 some riders. About 5 miles before the turn on the gravel road a huge mass of riders went down in the middle front of the field. I was able to slow down and get around it fine but many girls were caught up in it. Luckily no Kenda riders were involved. The field surged ahead and there was no attempt to wait up for fallen riders.

Mike was on the radio warning us of the coming gravel road so we knew to be prepared. I was in a great position in the front third of the group on the inside of the corner. For whatever reason the front riders didn't realize how quickly the turn was coming and either missed it or overshot it causing everyone on the outside to be caught off guard. I took advantage of my position and was in the top 15 onto the gravel.

I rode hard trying to move up and ride solidly through the section. As we got onto the broken up paved descent I hung onto the drops and bombarded down the hill. I heard someone say "I'm right here Kristin!" just behind me and once we had safely on the circuit was ecstatic to see my teammate Jackie on my wheel.

The first circuit was wicked fast as riders were hoping to open up a gap on whatever chaos had occured in the gravel. I encouraged Jackie to be smart with her position and hold on for the next 5 laps. The pace slowed slightly after the first lap and we rode smartly. Gaps were opening though and we had to jump around a few riders who were getting popped. There were just over 40 riders in the lead group and on the last lap I wasn't in a position for a top 10 and was just pleased to get the same time as the leaders. Jackie ended up 26th and I was 31st.

Ally and Silke were in the first chase group just over a minute back and Kat and Christy 3 minutes back in the second group. Ashley got a flat in the gravel and rode awesome considering her predicament!

What a crazy race! Totally shook up the GC with Webcor and TIBCO being the major teams that got caught up in the crashes. I've now moved up in the GC to 30th with Jackie in 39th. This race is really decided on Saturday and Sunday though so there is plenty of time for things to change.

After the race was over we enjoyed a quick cool down ride. Check out Kat wearing Mike's jacket - she looked like a superhero!

Huge thanks again to Paul and Mike for all of their hard work. Mike was great on the radios giving us a heads up on things and our bikes were tuned up perfectly. It was a late night and we didn't make it back to host housing until after 10.

Luckily today is only a crit in Minneapolis this evening so we got to have another relaxing morning/day. We went for a nice spin this morning with the guys.

Tomorrow will be a big day with the 92 mile Mankato Road Race. The finishing circuit that we do 4 times has a killer climb in it and the field will shatter once we hit it the first time. I'll try to give an update on tonight's crit if possible! Thanks for reading :)