Tuesday, November 24, 2009

North Carolina - UCI win!

We decided to make the 12 hour drive down to North Carolina to race in a couple of UCI events in Hendersonville (just south of Asheville). Sure it's a long drive but we knew it was a chance to get some valuable UCI points, some $$, and a perfectly good excuse to go to one of the most beautiful states in the country. We could also keep the trip cheap as the promoter was offering free entry to all Elites and we were going to stay with my friend and Kenda teammate Kat at the awesome house she rents in the mountains.

So we started our journey on Thursday night with Kaitie, James, Linda, Daniel (Linda's husband and our team support for the weekend!), and myself. We drove to Seymour, IN (the home of John Mellencamp in case you didn't know) before calling it quits for the night and then driving the final 7 hours on Friday.
Things were going well and we were enjoying the amazing mountainous scenery of the drive. Little did we know that a major rockslide shut down our intended route through NC and we had to take a detour - shoot! We were chasing daylight now and our hopes of preriding the course weren't looking promising. Daniel is driving like a champ when all of a sudden we hear a "woop, woop" . . . ahhh yes, we were getting pulled over. Didn't help that the interstate was a total speed trap with a limit of 55 on a major four lane road. We sit politely while he goes over the documents and then a second cop car pulls up. Geez - we get a bit nervous now. Unbeknownst to us, apparently I-26 is a major drug trafficking route and the good ole boys in Tennessee have to search every vehicle they stop. A third car pulls up, we sigh silently in our heads, and one by one file out of the van to get frisked and stand by the side of the road while they start picking through our stuff. Now we've got absolutely nothing to hide so we're not really nervous but rather just annoyed and bothered by how long this is likely to take.
James was able to slyly take this photo. Luckily I only had my ankles patted down. So we stand by the side of the road making small talk with the cop. The two guys searching the van occasionally stick their heads out to spit from the dip of tobacco in their lower lips. After about 10 minutes I think they realize we're really not drug dealers masquerading as a bike racing team and thankfully don't take out the bikes and go through the back of the van. We all sort of laugh at the predicament, get back in the van, and drive slowly and carefully our final hour to Hendersonville.

We actually made it in time to ride one lap in the dusky dark and with the lights at the park we got a good idea of what we were in for. Fun course for sure - a good mix of some trail in the woods, some swoops, straight stretches, a hill run up, and a short steep grassy wall before the finish. We also met up with Linda's coach, Dave, who was also helping us out for the weekend.

We did a little grocery shopping and had some tasty dinner in the very cute downtown of Hendersonville before driving the 10 miles to Saluda where Kat is staying. It was great to see her and we so appreciate her opening the house up to all of us. It is beautiful there and this is the sight we awoke to.
Saturday looked to be beautiful with sun and temps in the low 60s. We got to the course and registered.
Very cool park with lots of wooded areas and I loved that the course went through some of them.
Team PB warming up.
So with only 15 women signed up for the race and not a lot of huge names we knew that this was a chance for us to do well. Maybe a little road racing tactics of attacking and counter attacking if possible. From the gun Kaitie went to the front before Dede came around but we were still a big group. I decided it was time to give it a go and attacked.
photo thanks to Shane Orr
I got a decent little gap and had maybe 5-10 seconds lead by the end of lap 1. I could see Dede Winfield riding alone behind me and kept the pace steady. She bridged up to me by the middle of the lap. I wasn't going to pull hard as I hoped perhaps Linda or Kaitie might bridge up to us and we'd have a better shot of going 1/2. Dede threw down a few attacks but I vowed to stick to her wheel.
photo thanks to Shane Orr
The laps ticked by and as we rode the course I realized that I was climbing the "wall" much better than she was and needed to be in front of her as we went into that. There was only about 200 meters to the line following the climb so the first one over the wall would likely win the race. As we went into it before bell lap I took the shortest line whereas she took a diagonal line and I was forced to put a foot down as I ran into her back wheel. I attacked before the woods hoping to get ahead of her there but I took a bad line and she came around. I got out of the saddle and pushed to get back onto her wheel. As we came into the grassy turns I attacked again and put it all out there to try to get a gap. I could hear the crowd cheering as I crested the wall and as I made the final turn onto the pavement I sprinted, looked back to make sure my lead was safe, and raised my arms. Incredibly awesome feeling to have won a UCI race! Dede is a strong rider and it was great to have the race play out like it did. Linda finished 3rd and Kaitie 4th. Excellent finishes for the PB women. Thanks so much to both Daniel and Dave for helping us out and working the pits. Linda and I got some really cool homemade trophies - sweet!
We cleaned up and then watched James race in the mens race. He was having some stomach issues and wasn't feeling top notch but still finished a solid 12th.
photo thanks to Shane Orr

Kaitie and Linda goofing around as usualMmm, post race bagel
Following the race we headed back to Kat's to clean up and James and Daniel even rode their bikes down the mountain to let their tires touch South Carolina. The setting sun over the mountains was spectacular. Then dinner at the Purple Onion - a cute little cafe in Saluda. Yum.
Followed by some intense air hocky action. Kat is unstoppable. No one was able to beat her, I think the duck slippers must have had something to do with it.
James did manage to score a goal against her somehow though.
The next morning we awoke to rain and temps in the 40s. We knew this was coming and my crazy mud loving teammates were super excited for the wet course conditions.
The spitting rain turned steady maybe 30 minutes before our race. The course was thin, slippery mud but luckily wouldn't bog the bikes down and bike changes would probably not be necessary. Brr it was cold though and all of the women huddled under a tent and shed lots of layers on the line. Off we went and Dede took the hole shot with Kaitie and I close behind. The third swoopy corner I took a little too hot and down I went - sliding across the mud. Back up and in nearly last place I began trying to move up. Linda was on the front killing it.
photo thanks to Shane Orr
I kept picking off riders and as I neared the end of the first lap I came upon Linda trying to put her chain back on! She had gone down and dropped her chain. I passed by her and she lost nearly a minute with the mechanical. Soon I moved into third place with Kaitie in front of me and Dede in front of her. That would be the rest of the race. I tried to get to Kaitie but just couldn't get there.
photo thanks to Shane Orr

She's an excellent mud rider and she finished second - about 30 seconds behind Dede. I was 3rd about 20 seconds back from Kaitie. Linda fought incredibly hard after her mechanical and was 4th.
photo thanks to Jeff Zimmerman
After the race I couldn't really feel my fingers or toes and Linda and Kaitie were shivering uncontrollably. We wanted to take more pictures but we needed to get cleaned up and into warm, dry clothes. Here's a picture of the bike.
I sprayed down with a hose and oddly enough the water almost felt warm compared to the air temp. We warmed up the van and got toasty before heading to the podium. More cool trophies.
Yakima had some tents set up with firepits so we went and hung out there to stay out of the rain. They also had free coffee and brownies.
The course was a sloppy mess. Here's the wall - it was virtually unrideable although a few guys were making it up.
James was riding really well in the messphoto thanks to Shane Orr
It was cold and rainy
James rode awesome and finished 6th - he was just a little bit dirty after the race

Ouch - mud in the eyes!
Congrats to fellow Wisconsinite Brian Matter who had a great weekend of racing to take 3rd and 2nd on the weekend.And then we got in the van and drove . . . or moreso Daniel drove. That guy is a rockstar - he got us all the way to Chicago. We pulled into Madison at 3:30AM safe, sound, and a little muddy. What a trip. Hands down one of the best race trips of the season. Granted taking the win probalby skews my perspective a bit but it was a beautiful drive, an awesome course, varied conditions, great people, and overall just a fun experience. Thanks to all the sponsors who help make it possible - Planet Bike especially.

Huge thanks go out to all of our great helpers this weekend!! Daniel helped us with bikes, worked the pits, and drove much of the way. He also entertained us with lots of fire fighter stories.
Dave helped make sure the bikes were dialed in, worked the pits, and helped clean them all up after Sunday. We really appreciated all of his hard work!
And Kat for hosting us for the weekend. We loved staying with her in the mountains and really appreciated her hospitality. And not only will she kick your butt in air hockey but she makes really good pumpkin pie too. Thanks so much!

Thanks so much for reading! A quick trip home for Thanksgiving followed by 3 days of UCI racing in Iowa City for Jingle Cross and then the Oregon beckons. USGP Portland and Nats in Bend. We're in the home stretch and I'm enjoying every minute.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Muddy Jersey

The third installment of USGP racing in New Jersey last weekend. Left on Thursday with Kaitie and our buddy Chris (who served as our mechanic for the weekend) for the 15 hour drive. Big Beaver Falls, PA served as our resting place for the night before finishing up the drive on Friday and picking up Marko at the airport in Philly. Linda also flew in and met us at the course for the preride. The preride was actually cancelled but we were on the road all day and did not realize this . . . so we rode anyway :)

Rain all day had left soft grassy ground primed to turn into thick mud. If the course had a chance to dry out it would have been flat, fast, and all about power. But it misted rain all night and we knew this would be a sort of deja vu experience from last year in NJ.

Headed into downtown Princeton for some tasty pizza at Cafe Theresa. It was a hopping place and we even ran into Meredith and Cody from Cal Giant who also decided pizza was a good prerace meal choice. Alas I forgot my camera but the highlight was Mark getting a pizza that had egg on it - called the Uova - it was pretty impressive.

Saturday we woke up to more misting rain and reports that the course was a mess. Bike changes were going to be key today and we were ready although poor Chris was a bit worried about having to help 3 of us in the womens race. This would be tricky. This year at least more of the course was rideable but there were still a couple sections you had to run. It was thick, grassy mud that quickly bogged down the drivetrain and wheels - ick.

I'm going to keep the report brief. Huge field here this weekend - except for Compton - all the top riders were present. Getting anywhere near a top 10 would be awesome. I had a great start - clipped in, up in the top 10, and then we hit the muck. I was doing alright and just trying to get through the mud. I was in the top 15 for awhile but decided to not take a bike change until the third lap. This was likely a mistake as it was getting clogged up. There were about three sections you had to run and this was definitely slowing me down as well. I was at least happy to not fall down at all today. I was balancing fairly well through the slop and my lines (while not fast!!) at least kept me upright. I ended up 19th on the day with Linda finishing an impressive 12th and Kaitie 14th. Not super happy with the result but so it goes. I'm trying to improve my technical, muddy skills but that's a slow process for me! Thanks Chris for all your help in the pit! Trying to help out 3 ladies in one race is a feat and he did a great job!

We cleaned up and watched the guys race. Another slogfest and Mark finished 19th.

We then headed over to Linda's friend's house for dinner. She cooked us up a bunch of pasta which was awesome.

Thanks for the dinner Anjou!

We headed back to the hotel and made ourselves some dessert. Smores!

Sunday the sun was out and the course dried out a bit. It was definitely tackier and would make for a faster race but it was still soft and messy. Luckily dry enough that the bikes didn't get bogged down and getting bike changes would not be necessary.

Another good start for me. That has long been a problem for me and I was happy to have a weekend where that wasn't an issue. I didn't exactly get the hole shot but going into the grass in the top 10 is good enough for me. A muddy 180 turn with a slight hill caused many to dismount and clogged things up a bit. I picked off a few riders and just tried to take advantage of the straights. There were some muddy turns that I was taking awful lines through. I felt ridiculously slow and after the race Kaitie told me she was running them. She was riding like a rockstar, by the way, KFA is her new nickname. Doesn't quite have the ring to it that KFC does but you get the point. She ended up a very strong 10th place and nabbed the last UCI point spot. Linda passed me on the last lap to finish 13th and I was 14th. An improvement and given the field of tough riders I'll take it. Check out the team blog for more pictures, links to various reports, and full results.

PB girls post race

We cooled down, cleaned up, and watched some of the guys race. Marko in action

The fans were pretty good throughout the weekend and by the stair run up the cheering was great. During the races they stuck chips and dollar bills in the mud for riders to grab. Odd but funny.

Dorito and dollar bill alley

We had to hit the road right after the mens race so that we could drop Mark off in Philly and he could catch his flight. A quick stop at a Chipotle after that for some burritos and then began the long drive home. Made it to Akron, OH on Sunday night and then finished the rest on Monday.

And now we're hitting the road again! This time to North Carolina for some racing in Hendersonville. These are UCI events and are generally not attended by lots of people so it's a good opportunity for us to go after some points. Kaitie, Linda, James, and myself will make the trip down. We'll be staying with my KENDA teammate Kat for the weekend and I can't wait to see her!

Thanks to all of the sponsors for making all this travel and racing possible - Edge, Lazer, Ridley, TRP, and especially Planet Bike. Thanks also to Chris for all his help this weekend!
And thanks to everyone who still checks in to see if I've posted yet - sorry to be such a slacker about updating!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Race Local

photo thanks to djonnymac

This past weekend was the last time I'd be racing in Wisconsin for the rest of the season. I've got an ambitious and busy travel schedule these next 5 weekends leading up to Nationals. So I was excited be at home and have two back to back races in the state series. Sure it's cool to travel and do the big events but we've got an awesome group of people and events here in Wisconsin. Racing local is fun.

Saturday we were in Whitewater and the course went up and down this huge hill at a local park. Very physically tough course with lots of climbing. We had our Indian Summer this week too with temps in the upper 60 and lots of sun. I'll take that any day over rain and cold and it felt awesome to ride in short sleeves. Dave decided to come along too despite recently getting over the flu. The bug he had was bad - out for a solid week - and I'm not sure how I managed to avoid it but I did. A brutal course to come back to as there was no going "easy" and only one stretch to "recover" on.

It was a small turnout and we had 6 women in the race including my teammate Kaitie (that's my junior teammate Kaitie A. - KFC was off in France smoking the competition). We start and Kaitie takes the lead with Sam S. and myself following. She goes off course on a corner and we come around as she tries to get back on the bike. I sit on Sam's wheel figuring that Kaitie can catch back up - I really want us to go 1,2 in the race. After two laps I can see Kaitie has moved up well and is not too far behind us. On the longest climb I attack around Sam and give it a go. This race hurt! All of the climbing made it tough and it seemed like we did a zillion laps. On the last two laps I could see Kaitie had moved up into second place and was now hunting me down! :) I wouldn't have minded at all if she had passed me but I admit I was trying to hold her off! She has great endurance and really seems to get stronger as the race goes on. I took the win and she finished 2nd.

I then stayed and watched Dave race with the 30+ guys. I often do this race too but not on this course when there's another race tomorrow. He rode well for a guy who lost 5 pounds in a week and hadn't been on a bike much the past 2 weeks. It was fun to cheer the guys on a bit and chat with some fellow racers/fans.

Sunday was Estabrook in Milwaukee. I've always liked this race - in a park along the river. Pretty flat and mostly a power course but a few twists and turns and a fun little stretch in the woods. Dave decided to sit this one out so Cider and I drove to Milwaukee and met up with my parents, brother, and his girlfriend who came out to watch some cross racing on a beautiful day.

I decided to do two races today and wanted to really go out hard in the womens event. My starts haven't exactly been a strength for me and I wanted to push it now in preparation for the UCI races to come. The women in those races certainly don't ease into things and my version of "fast" is still slow compared to theirs! So off we went and I was out of the saddle and sprinting hard. Sam was on my wheel for two laps before she slipped off. I was passing a lot of masters men who started in front of us and used them as carrots the rest of the race. It's easy to settle in and be complacent when you're off the front but I tried to accelerate quickly out of the corners and push it on the straightaways. All the cheering superfans made doing that so much easier! Thanks especially to my family for coming out and for Chris and Billy yelling for me over the barriers! I took the win and then lined up for the 30+ mens race.

photo thanks to djonnymac
I didn't quite have the energy to push super hard in this race so more just tried to have a good steady effort and get some more solid training in. Seeing that we had 11 laps in the race made me wonder if I'd really make it through them all! I settled in though and just tried to keep up a good pace and have some fun. That really is the whole point of cross! I ended up 8th out of about 15 guys. James killed it in the Mens Elite race and won. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did a nice little write up of the race here.
thanks Renee!
After the race I went out to dinner with my family at Cafe Hollander. Cool little restaurant on Downers Ave. that sponsors a cycling team. Tasty food and fun to hang out with my family and celebrate my moms birthday a day early.

All in all a great weekend of racing. Next up is the third weekend of USGP racing - this time in New Jersey. Last year this was a mudfest. This year's forecast thus far looks better. Kaitie, Linda, Mark and myself will represent for Planet Bike. Should be fun. Road trip starts tomorrow! Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Wisconsin Halloween Race

So after some fleeting thoughts of going to Boulder for some UCI racing in the mud we decided to take a weekend off of travel and race locally. The Midwest has a great scene and it's always fun to stay home and support the local events. I missed out on the Halloween race last year as it coincided with the Louisville USGP so it was nice to be a part of it this year. Breaking out of my normal boring routine I decided to actually attempt a costume this year. Granted I wasn't quite as intricate as many of my fellow racers I was proud of myself for at least making an effort! Devil horns and red fish net stockings are cheap and easy!

Teammate Kaitie was a cute lady bug - nice!

Made the trip to Milwaukee alone as unfortunately Dave has caught the dreaded swine flu. He was laid out on the couch for 4 days so I headed to the race planning on doing both the womens and mens 30+ race. Dave is leading the overall 30+ category so I told him I'd do my best to try to beat some of his closest competition!

All in all a perfect day for racing with cool, windy temps. Course was a bit wet in a couple spots from all the rain the day before. Two sets of barriers (one set on a hill) and the dreaded coffin jump were the obstacles for the day. Lots of people were choosing to run the coffins as they were pretty wide. I figured I'd make my decision once I got to them! About 10 women on the line so a pretty small field - awesome to see about 30 women raced the two lower catergory races earlier in the day though. Kaitie, Sam Schneider, and I formed a group early on. Halfway through the lap I came around and tried to push the pace a bit. By the start of lap 2 I had a gap on them and soon saw that Kaitie had pulled away from Sam.

Other than the first and last lap (when there were some riders nearby me and I decided to run) I jumped the coffins. I have to say that I was pretty nervous about smacking my rear wheel each lap. I also heard about some nasty endo's and I really didn't want to do that. All the pictures I've seen show me with this goofy look on my face - jaw clenched and bracing for impact. I'm just happy I made it over.

With two laps to go I saw my teammate Patti down on the ground near the start/finish. She had several people around her and it didn't look good. She was unable to finish but luckily nothing was broken. Then I noticed I couldn't see Kaitie anymore and as the course looped back I saw her shouldering her bike and I knew she had a mechanical. Her front deraileur bolt had popped out and she had to run for nearly half a lap.
Unfortunately Kaitie's mechanical caused her to drop back and finish 4th behind Sam and Holly Klug who were 3rd and 4th, respectively. So after the womens race I tried to stay warm and then lined up with the guys for the 1/2/3 30+ race. There were about 15 guys on the line. Off we went and I tried to steadily move my way up as the race wore on. It's fun to do the mens race because you can stick with a group of guys generally and try to be more tactical. I was trying to be smart and ride the course technically well. I decided to use some Dugast Rhyno tires today and I have to say those things are amazing. They really handle well and I feel so much more confident taking corners hot with them. By about halfway through the race I had picked off some guys and was feeling alright - admittedly I was ready to be done though too!
On the last lap I was with another guy and I wanted to try to beat him so I turned on the gas through the twists and turns and then put my head down for the final pavement stretch before the finish. I was happy to hold him off and finish 5th. Thanks to all of the costumed super fans on the hill - they were awesome.

Some more costumes on the day included the classic Tighty Whitey

Katy's impressive hand sequined showgirl outfit (during the mens elite race she put on a trench coat and was "flashing" riders as they ran up the hill - hilarious!)
and Holly's Cruella deVille

We've got lots of creative and artistic racers and it was super fun to see everyone's creations.

Another weekend at home planned with two Wisconsin races. The next month will be filled with travel after that so I'm enjoying the down time. I'm also desperately trying to avoid getting sick - Dave is finally starting to feel better but I figure I'm not out of the woods yet. Keep drinking that Echinacea tea!

Thanks to Renee for all of the great photos used here!