Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chicago Crit

So Sunday was the Chicago Criterium. A really cool downtown course that has you right on Lake Michigan near Grant Park. This is a big money criterium that is NRC ranked for men and has a solid purse for women with $7000 up for grabs. With the NRC stage race Cascade going on in Oregon and Superweek finishing up I expected there to be a smallish field of women. I wasn't too surprised when I heard that Laura Van Gilder was there and all in all there were about 40 women on the line. At Fitchburg I had convinced my Canadian teammate and super strong rider, Joelle, to fly in for the event even though it was two days after her Pan Ams race in Mexico . . . which she won! Congrats to her on that awesome result!

Team Kenda had a couple more riders make the trip to the Windy City with Ashley, Catherine, and Christy also there. We also had lots of support in the form of manager Paul, mechanic Mike, and regional riders Monique, Imelda, and Karen (plus her family including Emma who was rocking a Team Kenda skinsuit!). The plan was to race aggressively, go for some primes, and try to keep Joelle as fresh as possible for the sprint.

A talented field of regional riders with a few making quite the trip to attend. The race started out fairly fast and as we finished our first lap the bell was rung for a $100 prime. As we rounded corner one I attacked and got a decent gap. I got into TT mode - not easily done on lap 2! - and crossed the line with maybe 5 seconds for the cash. A lap or two later Ashley attacked and Team BH's Kristen Meshberg went with her. They got a solid advantage on the field and held it for about 5 laps including nabbing another $100 prime which they agreed to split. A few more attacks were going and with many primes being offered the race was fairly quick. Joelle practiced her sprint by going for and getting two $100 primes during the race - her finishing kick is impressive. We were represented in most moves off the front including both Catherine and Ashley in break attempts. LVG put in a strong solo move to grab $200 mid race and Joelle put in a big effort to pull her back before things all came back together.

As we got down to maybe 5 laps to go I attacked once more and Debbie Dust came with me as well as one other rider. We were a bit disorganized and as we went through the finish a hard charging LVG came past us. We worked together for a bit but it was not to be and the field was soon back together. Admittedly I was feeling pretty tired! As we saw two laps to go a gamblers prime was called for $400 and BH's Madeleine put in a strong attack. No one went with her and it seemed like now was not the time to hesitate. Christy went to the front and tried to pull her back before I attempted to bridge up to her. Meshberg was on my wheel and as I got to Madeleine I sensed the entire field was with us. My legs were not feeling very snappy and I was just hoping I had a teammate lurking and ready to go for the big money. Unfortunately we were a bit out of position and former Chicago rider Jen Greenberg got the big money as we saw one lap to go.

Now our original plan was for me to attack with a half lap left to go so that Joelle could sit on wheels. I felt pretty bad that I couldn't get up there and put in the effort. On the back side I tried moving up on the left side but didn't have enough left in the tank. I knew that as the largest team there we should have been more organized with our last lap and attempting to lead Joelle out. The speed was fairly high but as we approached the final two corners things got a little squirrely. I was in a bad spot and couldn't get through traffic. I took a bad inside line on the last corner and got squeezed in a bit. I just hoped that Joelle was on the wheels she wanted to be on. I got out of the saddle to sprint but knew I was out of the money. I desperately tried to see what was going on at the front of the race and was ecstatic to hear the announcer call out Joelle as the winner!

What a race for Team Kenda!! An awesome result and an awesome effort by Joelle and the entire team. We raced well as a team and our aggressive racing style and numerous prime wins proved we were the dominant squad at the event. I feel like we did a lot of things really well but there are definitely some things for us to work on too. It was really fun to be racing with the team and executing some strategy throughout the race.

We cooled down a bit and then watched Joelle's podium ceremony which had LVG (in 2nd) helping show her how to properly open a bottle of champagne. She had no trouble knowing what to do after it was open though and sprayed her podium mates as well as anyone nearby!
Very cool to see the team represented on the top step and we headed to the fountain for a few photos afterward.

This upcoming weekend are some more Chicago area crits with two days of racing at Elk Grove. Should be a similar field as last weekend and Team Kenda will have pretty much the same crew - minus newly engaged Christy - congrats to her and Ben!!! Should be a fun weekend and a chance for us to continue to work on our tactics!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chicago Criterium

Report to come later today but I had to at least update the big win for Team Kenda. Five of us raced in the crit yesterday in downtown Chicago - Ashley, Catherine, Christy, Joelle, and myself. The team dominated much of the race winning 5 $100 primes and with Joelle demonstrating her amazing sprint and taking the big win. What a fun event and a great showing for the Team and all of our great sponsors. More photos and info later!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Superweek and Triathloning

So I decided to enter a few Superweek races since they are in my neck of the woods and have a longstanding tradition. This series has changed in the past couple of years though and I have to wonder what the future holds for it.

Thursday evening brought the Shorewood Criterium in Milwaukee. The course is in a great little community and they always support the races with lots of primes. They stepped it up this year with $1100 on the line for the women - thank you Shorewood! Being that I'm not racing the entire series I can easily say that I'm doing these races to try to earn some cash. And with first place being only $120 (just for reference 6th place at Tour of America's Dairyland was $125) the $100 and $200 primes were looking mighty tempting.

About 35 women on the line (Colavita, Hub, and Ultralink being the largest teams) and I was impressed with the aggressive racing after hearing that in prior days things were a little negative and slow. Money will do that to a field of poor racers! There were several breaks of one or two riders that would stick for a few laps before being brought back. About 15 minutes into our race I attacked at the line and an Ultralink rider went with me. Three laps later we're still off and a $100 prime is called. We agree to split it and after we grab the cash we're caught on the next lap. This is pretty much how the race goes - nothing gets too far up the road but there are some strong attacks thrown down. I try for a few other primes but it's a long ~300 meter sprint with a stiff crosswind and I'm having trouble being patient and go too early. With 5 laps to go I decide to attack and as I come through the line I hear "$200 to the winner of the next lap". I'm alone and push hard figuring that this is my goal for the race. Finish doesn't really matter - but $200 sounds very nice. A couple minutes later I cross the line with the pack just a few seconds behind me. I sit up and get on the back of the pack not too concerned with how the rest of the race goes. Two laps later is a $250 prime but there's no way I'm going to get that and a rider goes off the front to grab the money. We're on bell lap and the solo rider nearly gets the win but is caught as we approach the last corner. Jen and Shontell of Colavita go down on the last corner and luckily I get around. I'm not in the money though and just try to finish somewhere midpack. I end up 18th but $250 richer in primes.

Nice job to Monique on her first real race back after her horrible incident in Iowa in April. She suffered it out and finished off the race.

Thanks to my brother Jason and his girlfriend Jesse for coming out to watch the race. As always it was nice to see them and we got some tasty food post race with them as well as got to stop by their apartment and check out all of their cool pets - 2 crazy cats, 2 guinea pigs, and this awesome gecko.

Saturday I came back to Milwaukee for the Schlitz Park Criterium. A course with a solid climb every lap I figured this race suited me better than a traditional flat course. A cold spell hit WI so temps were in the upper 60s and rain clouds lurked everywhere. It sprinkled as we warmed up and then it looked like we were going to be in the clear. A larger field tonight with a few new teams and about 40 women on the line.

We start the race and 1 lap in the clouds open up and it's a full on downpour. Two riders are off the front almost immediately and I hear the announcer say that one of them is Sydney Brown. I didn't even see Syd on the line and I know she is a great person to be in a break with - super strong. I let some other riders chase the group down and we all are riding a bit conservatively in the rain - especially on the downhill and puddle filled corners with manhole covers. As we reel the riders in a bit I attack on the climb and attempt to bridge up. Success - I'm there and I immediately go to the front to try to open up our lead. I pull nearly a lap before Syd is coming back around me. She's amazingly strong and is taking monster pulls. The third rider is just holding on and unable to help us out. Syd and I take turns and our gap quickly increases. The wet roads are pretty nasty and trying to draft often results in a face full of gritty water. Luckily the rain stopped and with about 15 laps to go we can see the field in front of us. We lap in and I hear that there are 5 more riders off the front of the race.

Not wanting those girls to catch us Syd and I go to the front and continue to keep the pace high. With about 10 laps to go Syd attacks and a small group of us breaks off. Syd and I plus three other riders. We mostly trade off pulls to keep ourselves ahead of whatever group is left. Syd is again taking really strong pulls and I tell her that she's got this win - she worked so hard and I'm not going to contest her in the sprint. I don't think there was any way for me to beat Sydney that night - she was riding phenomenally and on the last lap when she attacked on the hill I couldn't match her effort and she pulled away to take the win. I let the other three girls in our group sprint it out for 7th place and came across the line for 2nd.

It was a fun race and I was really happy to be in the break. The conditions made it tough and many riders dropped out. No primes to be won today so finishing place was the only payout up for grabs. I'll be doing one more Superweek race on Monday - the Whitnall Park Road Race. It's a nice 2.5 mile circuit course with a bit of a hill before the finish - should be fun!

Sunday it was time for me to be on the other side and spectate Dave's Half Ironman in Racine. He was racing along with our friends Brian and Vanessa so I had multiple people to cheer for. I got up bright and early and Courtney (Brian's girlfriend) and I hit the road to catch the guys and Vanessa out on the bike. After getting eaten by mosquitoes we drove back to town and watched the run.

The guys literally came in to the second transition at the same time. They were both doing awesome and looked good as they headed out for the run. Check out this awesome setup we saw while watching the run! This guy had two adorable dogs in the sidecar of his scooter and they both had visors on - so cute!

Courtney and her two adorable dogs ran alongside Brian for a bit on the run

Dave was running like a mad man and was on pace to finish the course in 4 hours and 30 minutes. He looked really strong out there and came across the line at 4:27. Way to go babe! Nineteen minutes faster than last year - amazing! 12th in his age group :)

Brian and Vanessa also each had great finishes and both got PRs for the Half.

On our way home we had to stop to properly refuel after a hard day of racing and spectating to get some Kopps Custard. Mmmmm - custard.

All in all a really fun weekend! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

On Tap . . . come to these races!!

It's been nice to have a week off of racing and getting to be at home for awhile. I went for a ride by myself last Thursday and it felt sort of weird to be out on a solo ride. After almost 4 weeks where nearly every ride was a race and the days in between were spent off the bike it was nice to just ride alone. And it's been really good to be home with Dave and Cider. We're in the home stretch to Dave's 3rd Ironman in September and I'm super excited to be a spectator for his half in Racine this weekend. Not able to stay away from racing for too long I'll also enter a couple of Superweek races starting with Thursday's Shorewood Crit and likely Saturday in Schlitz Park. I chose to race the Dairyland series over Superweek this year as I appreciated the larger prize money, equal race days to men, and the variety of courses. It also fit better into my schedule between NRC stage races. I'm curious to see how the SW racing will go . . .

So I feel like I need to promote a couple of upcoming races in an attempt to increase the womens field size for these events. To do my part I plan to race all of them. Here they are in chronological order:

1 - Chicago Criterium - July 26th - Sunday

This is a cool event. I went last year for the inaugural edition and it was fantastic. Big prize money for women - this year is $7000 (down from $10000 last year) The course is right on the lake in downtown Chicago - it's super fun to be racing in the city. Last year TIBCO brought a full team and there were some other talented riders as well - a field size of about 40. This year with NRC stage race Cascade finishing up on the 26th there likely won't be many pro teams sending a full squad. Also this is the final day of Stupidweek . . . err, I mean Superweek. C'mon though - $850 prize purse vs. $7000 - not too difficult of a decision there. I'm really excited that my awesome teammate Joelle is going to fly in for this one - she'll be fresh off of the Pan Am Championships in Mexico.

2 - Elk Grove - August 1/2

Last year this race didn't go spectacularly. There was one day of womens racing (4 days for men) and the $3000 prize list paled in comparison to the $165,000 for men. The race conflicted with the huge money ($25K) Presbyterian NRC crit in North Carolina and the womens attendance suffered as a result with only 15 racers. Did I mention it was an all categories race too - that's right Cat 4s and Cat 1s all together. There was open discussion following the event and promises that 2009 would be better. And so far on paper it is. There are two womens races on Saturday including a separate Cat 3/4 race and 1/2/3 women get an additional day of racing on Sunday. Prize money increased as well with $3K Saturday and $5K Sunday. Hopefully there will be a good showing of Midwestern women and perhaps some will travel for the weekend.

3 - Downer's Grove - August 15/16 - I don't think this one needs any promotion ;)

4 - Gateway Cup/Tour of Missouri Crit - September 4-7

This Labor Day race series in St. Louis has always been a really fun event. I did the races in 2006 and had a blast. There are 4 crits including a super cool twilight (as in the womens race starts at 8:30, men at 9:30) crit on Friday night in a hip neighborhood. Each day showcases a different locale and the courses are interesting and fun. St. Louis is the stomping ground of some awesome riders, clubs, and teams including my pals Carrie and Chris and their Team Revolution. A great group of women who focus on riding and racing they have always been terrific advocates for womens cycling. This year these gals and others involved in the event have gone above and beyond and have secured solid prize money for women with $1900/day for Fri/Sat/Sun and then on Monday is the second running of the NRC Tour of Missouri Womens Crit with $9000 up for grabs (plus $1000 overall points competition). It should be a great weekend and a fun way to finish off road racing for the year. Also, despite a scare last week when the state considered cutting out the 1.5 million bucks it planned on giving the race it looks like the race is safe for at least this year.

Soooo - if you're looking for some good events in the Midwest - take your pick! Hope to see lots of familiar faces out there!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fitchburg Update 2

Took me longer to get to this post than I intended - better late than never!

So stage 3 of the Fitchburg Longsjo Stage Race was the 64 mile Wachusett Mountain Road Race. 6 laps of an 11 mile loop with the start at a ski hill in the middle of a rip roaring descent and the finish at the top of a solid little climb (maybe 500meters and fairly steep) into the small town of Princeton.

With three fields on the course at the same time and a relatively short lap this race has the potential of being messy due to riders being lapped by another field. This happened last year and we were neutralized on our 5th lap just as things were starting to hit the fan and the pro men passed. It was annoying and I forewarned the girls that it would probably happen again this year. We were also thinking the yellow line rule on narrow, twisty roads with a 110 rider field would also make things interesting. 7 KENDA riders today – with Krystal needing to head home due to a family issue.

Off we go. At about mile five a couple of girls in front of me run into each other on the edge of the road and I’m off into the brush. I have to come to a stop and nearly fall over but just unclip and sort of jump off the bike. Quickly back on and am in the caravan but luckily am back into the pack after a minute or two. A few steady rollers before town and the pack is riding well but not too aggressively yet. The first time up the climb into Princeton I’m feeling pretty bad. My position is not the greatest and I decide I’m not going for sprint points this lap. The pace is pushed and I’m still “warming up”. The worst is the slight uphill through the finish line and into the feed zone – a steady grade that seems to go on for too long. A few more rollers and then we go down . . . fast. And did I mention how windy it was? Coming down this hill going 52mph with gusty cross winds is a nerve wracking experience.
I’m riding my deep dish Edge wheels (I love these!) and my front end is shimmying. I’m freaking out a bit and try to slow down and stop my wheel and handlebars from shaking. I get down alright and make a mental note to try to put more weight on my front wheel in the future laps.
The laps go by quickly. Attacks are thrown down and breaks are forming. Most are short lived. Joelle pulls one back by herself – impressive. I try to move up for the sprint points but everyone else feels too fast and I can’t get up there for the top 3. On lap four a split is made in the field and there are maybe 50 riders in the front group – Joelle, Denise, and I in it. Another 5-10 riders, including Silke, catch on after the descent. The pace is high and soon after we start our 5th lap we hear the beeping of the motos. We are being neutralized due to the passing pro mens field . . . hmmm, déjà vu? They force us to pull over and stop for nearly a minute. And you can probably guess what happens – a group of about 30 riders catches us and when we restart the field is nearly all intact. They need to figure this situation out in this race – either pick a new longer course or learn how to neutralize two groups of riders equally. Frustrating.

Once restarted we have 1.5 laps left and girls are itching to get a break off. And I admit I didn’t even realize riders got off – 4 of them. Guess that’s what happens when you’re not up at the front enough on a narrow course. I’m pretty sure they went after the neutralization but honestly I’m not sure. With about 15 miles left in the race Denise attacks on the rollers before Princeton and it looks promising. A group of about 7 forms but no one is willing to work. We’re back together and as we come into Princeton the pack isn’t going too hard and I decide to go for the sprint points. I attack on the climb and get a gap. I turn the corner at the top of the hill and get out of the saddle for the line when I hear the announcer say there’s a break of 4 riders off. Whoops! I felt like a total idiot – no wonder why no one else went with me. But as I approach the feed zone I see a group of about 10 riders coming up on me – including yellow jersey Evelyn Stevens, Allison Powers, Jeannie Longo, and my teammate Joelle. I latch on to the group and off we go. I see the rest of the field back there and think that this is a good group and perhaps we can hold off the field for the final 11 miles. We’re a bit disorganized at first with Evelyn, Jeannie, and Alison doing the majority of the work. After the descent we begin to work together but the field is hot on our heels and we are caught with about 6 miles to go. The break is still off. The pace is fast and I’m tucked into the group. I try to move up for the climb but it’s tough. I don’t even realize that three of the 4 riders from the break are pulled back in the last 1K. I fight for the line knowing that gaps will open and that the time is extremely important. I end up 21st, and Joelle ends up 3rd! I am 17 seconds behind her and most of the riders finish alone or in small groups with lots of time gaps. Joelle is so amazingly strong and fights so well for position. And she's incredibly funny to be around - check her out prerace shouting at riders from the car.
Denise finished 25th in my small group, Silke is 2 minutes back, Jackie at 5 minutes, and Becca at 8. Results There were enough time gaps for most of our GC spots to move up – Denise and I both sneak into money spots at 17th and 20th, respectively. Velonews report

We congratulate Joelle and watch the
podium ceremony and then we ride our bikes back to the start and then head to Outback for dinner. Mmmm – burger and sweet potato fries :) Thanks Paul for being in the feed zone for us today! It’s really nice to have him here supporting us. For just one guy he does a phenomenal job of getting our bikes ready, packing up the car, and keeping us organized.
A few hours after dinner a few of us decided to check out a local ice cream place. Definitely a good idea!

So Sunday brought the final stage of the race a 25 mile criterium in downtown Fitchburg. Another windy day and with a long 300 meter sprint into the wind. There will be 7 sprints throughout the race and although I’m now down in the competition I still figure I might try for a couple. It’s 5 points between leader Kelly Benjamin and Theresa Cliff-Ryan. Three laps in the first one is called and I’m in a good spot. Both Kelly and Theresa are also up there and after we turn the final corner I decide that I’m going for it even though I know I’ll never hold anybody off for that long. I go and about 50 meters to the line both Theresa and Kelly come around me with Theresa taking the top spot. I come across for third and some token points. The race is mostly fast with lots of attacks but it also has it’s lulls when things bunch up.
Luckily everyone is riding pretty safely. As the other points sprints come I find myself a little too far back and I don’t end up going for any more. The laps tick by and as we come to the finish we’re one big group. I try to get good position but I chicken out a bit and end up finishing 26th. Joelle once again proves herself with 9th place.
Velonews crit report
After the race it’s sort of chaotic as we all pack up and try to get people on the road back home. Jackie and I hop on the train to Boston where we’ll stay at a hotel for the night and fly out Monday morning. Once we got there we walked to Revere Beach and got some overpriced food for dinner and watched the moon rise over the Atlantic. My flight the next day was uneventful and I made it into Madison late afternoon. It was so nice to see Dave and Cider and know that I’ll be home for awhile now! What a month! I’m very happy to say that I survived the 19 days of racing and all in all everything went better than I expected. Two great NRC stage races and an awesome 10 day series – it’s the most racing I’ve ever done in a month and I thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Great teammates and support crew, excellent events and competitors, and the opportunity to get to know lots of wonderful people.
Now I’m looking forward to a few quiet weeks although I still plan on doing some races. I’ll enter a few Superweek races next week, the Chicago Criterium at the end of July, and Elk Grove in early August. All in all about a dozen road races left, one mountain bike race (haven’t done one of those in 3 years!), and then the cyclocross season looms!! I love cross and can’t wait to be racing for Planet Bike come September!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fitchburg Update 1

So we all made it to soggy Massachussets on Wednesday. I flew out and had sort of a crazy day - 3 hour delay in Madison and then another 1.5 hour delay in Detroit. At least I got upgraded to first class for the flight to Detroit! So five hours later than expected I finally landed in foggy Boston and met up with Jackie. We had an awesome cab driver who sounded just like Borat (and who nearly killed us several times!) drop us off at the train station. Here's Jackie waiting for the train.
We then hopped on the train with all our gear and rode to where our host house was in Leominster. Jackie had her bike (Paul had taken mine in the car!) and we stuffed it into one of the train seats - we had so many people eye it up wondering what it was - it was pretty funny!

We're staying at an awesome host house in Leominster - thanks so much for opening your home up Thom and Janice!! We've got 8 girls for this race - Ashley, Becca, Denise, Jackie, Joelle, Krystal, Silke and myself. A really fun bunch of strong riders!

We woke up Thursday morning to a downpour - there was tons of local flooding and we hoped somehow the rain would move out before our TT. The drive there was foggy and very wet!

It was just a mist as we were warming up though but the fog was moving in as our start times neared.

It was a 9 mile winding course with a few rollers but nothing too big. The fog was so thick it was hard to see anything beyond 50 feet in front of you. Several of us had TT bikes and that was a definite advantage for the course. 118 women started the race so the competition was pretty fierce. Alison Powers, as expected, won the TT. Our top finisher was Denise in 39th (1:30 back) and Silke in 40th, I was 1:45 back for 45th. Solid finishes by everyone and we headed back home and had a feast of burritos for dinner!

Friday was a 35 mile circuit race in Fitchburg - 11 laps of a 3.5 mile course. A two step 500 meter climb to the finish every lap that would tire riders out as the race wore on. A beautiful day though with sun and warm temps - we were all excited for some good, fast racing. But first . . . Team Kenda had to continue the scooter tradition and Jackie and Ashley kitted up for some antics!

And after that we got to the course and got ready for the race :)

The race started fast and as everyone had some first race jitters a crash occured on the first lap on one of the fast downhill sections. Luckily only a few riders went down and Kenda stayed safe. Lip Smackers and Colavita both raced really aggressively and the racing was fast. We were staying near the front and trying to be involved in some break attempts. At one point Joelle was on the front and the group was strung out - gaps were starting to form and the main group whittled down to about 60 riders. With 3 laps to go the final points sprint was called and as we rounded the last corner I was in a good position and I attacked. The announcer was calling out my name and then I heard him say that Theresa Cliff-Ryan was moving up on the right. I pushed towards the line - feeling a bit of deja vu from last week! - but she came around me at the line and I finished 2nd for the sprint. We had a gap and while Theresa sat up Rebecca Wellons was also with us and the two of us began to work together. We had a decent gap and worked it for maybe a mile but we were brought back just before we heard one lap to go. The pace was high and we were all trying to move up and not let gaps open. The GC is tight and you have to stay in contact with the group to get the same time. Joelle is a rock star and despite being quite far back after the last corner she was out of the saddle and sprinted to finish 6th behind winner Tina Pic! Nice work! Jackie, Denise, and I also finished in the main group with Silke unfortunately getting gapped off just at the end and finishing 37 seconds back. Becca, Ashley, and Krystal all finished in another group behind us. The GC was shuffled a bit and Denise moved up to 30th and I moved into 35th. It was an exciting race since Evelyn Stevens from Lipsmackers got a time bonus for her 3rd place finish and moved into the yellow jersey - one second up on Alison Powers.

My 15 sprint points are good enough to put me 4th in the competition so today we'll see if I can add some to the tally! Kelly Benjamin and Theresa Cliff-Ryan both have a huge amount of points (70 and 60, respectively) but 3rd place only has 25 so perhaps I can try to move up!? Should be an intersting race - 64 mile race, 6 laps, and yellow line rule with 108 women. Position and moving up will be difficult!

Thanks for reading :)