on neti pots and knowing your limits

Last weekend was the USGP of Cyclocross Smartwool Cup in Fort Collins Colorado.  This would be my third time racing at over 5000 feet of elevation but my first time racing cyclocross at over 5000 feet of elevation. Since my oxygen intake would already be limited by the altitude, in totally awesome form I managed to get really sick on the Wednesday before the race (which was totally conveniently also Niels’ birthday).  I had the whole thing, coughing, runny nose, fever, chills, and this guy living in my head.

I pretty much never get sick but when I do one of two things happens:

1. I fight it off by sheer force of will and stubbornness; or

2. I succumb to being sick and basically turn into a helpless adult baby.

I was determined to fight it off and still race but the problem was that I had to be very careful to not take anything on the banned substances list such as Sudifed or pretty much any other effective cold or flu remedy in the history of forever.

I sent a distress call out to several of my friends seeking home cold remedies (not homeopathic, I was sternly corrected on my misuse of this term).

I was given an awesome list of suggestions from my pals many of which included drinking Brandy.  One suggestion was to use a neti pot which I had never used before.  In my brain a neti pot was roughly what is pictured to the left (yes including the flowers, decorative mirror, and ambiance).  “Great! Aromatherapy steam pot!” I thought. “This should be pleasant and relaxing and place me firmly on the road to healing my body in a natural and non-stressful or gross way!”

I happily bounded off to the store to pick up my Ricola, Vicks Vaporub, Emergen-C, saline inhaler, and neti pot.  When I grabbed the neti pot I turned the box over to read the instructions and learn about the relaxing aromatherapy steam bath spa journey I was about to embark on; but when I looked at the picture on the back, this is what I saw.

You guys, how come no one told me what a neti pot actually is?!? I took one look at the box and was like “nope!” and left with all my other moderately effective treatments to go be sick without having to drown my brain and eyeballs in saline.

Saturday came and I was still feeling really under the weather but I was on the mend! I was going to have a great race!

It rained all morning which was actually a good thing since the course had been really bumpy the day before.  Just before I lined up Niels applied a mustache of Vaporub under my nose and I was off to my awesome 6th (of 7) row callup.

I of course had a horrendous start and came through the pits in 30-something place on the first lap.  Determined to at least look like I was trying to get into the top 15 I just focused on picking off girls one at a time.  At the end of the day I finished 17th, only 3 seconds down from my point (which ended up being not my point at all).  An improvement over Vegas in my books but still not quite there.

Sunday was a beautiful day and a faster course.  I was excited to race until I did my warmup laps and realized that I had burned every match I had on Saturday and had literally no jump in my legs.  Even worse, my hamstring which has been bothering me since I was hit by a car in July, flared up and it hurt to get out of the saddle, a pretty essential skill for cyclocross.

Setbacks aside, I applied my mustache, lined up, had a shit start, and went to work.  At the end of the second day I fell apart in the last lap.  My body, my lungs, and my head just couldn’t keep up with the pace.  I finished 22nd on a day that had I been feeling better I could have been in the top 15.  I did however manage to get my picture and a mention into Cycling News which is always great when you’re having a terrible day.

I did come to realize something this last weekend.  I may have been going about this whole UCI Cyclocross thing wrong or at least a little backwards.  When I planned my calendar this year, I planned to do all of these big races, Cross Vegas, the USGPs, Nationals, without realizing that all of these races are the races that the best women in the US and the world come to.  Since I don’t have a single UCI point yet, I’m starting each of these races with a huge disadvantage.  It’s incredibly difficult to finish in the top 10 or 15 riders in a race where there are over 30 women with UCI points all starting in front of me.

I realized I need to be a little bit more of a cherry picker, because I’m not going to do well in a big race until I put myself in a position to do well. For that reason, I decided to go down to LA this weekend and do a couple of much smaller UCI races where I really think I have a shot of finishing in the points.

So this weekend will be the smallest UCI races I’ve done to date but could likely end up being the biggest races of my year.  Stay tuned.

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closing in on the point

One month into cross season and I’m feeling stronger every race.

In mid-September I went down to Vegas for Interbike (aka 3 days of bike porn) and to race my first UCI C1 race, the infamous Cross Vegas.

Jono Coulter DS for Vanderkitten, aka the cutest team in pro racing, stayed with me and Niels for a few days and even gave me the coolest thank you gift ever.

At Cross Vegas, It was approximately 173 degrees out and -17% humidity during the race. (oh you didn’t know there was such thing as negative humidity?  try racing Cross Vegas, it’s true).  I lined up in the back with call up number 51 out of 60.  Of course. Luckily I lined up next to Robin who I knew would find her way come hell or high water to the front group.  The start was so fast but I just tucked in behind Robin while she cleared the path to the lead group.  1/2 lap in, I was in the front group of ~25 women.  As women continued to get shelled I continued to hang on. I was even next to Meredith Miller for a second!  I knew how long the course was plus we’d done an opening prologue loop so I was sure we were doing 4 laps.  I was mentally prepared for 4 laps.  And then after 3 laps I saw the board read “2 to go.” fuck.  Our pack splintered in the last two laps and I was hanging in no-man’s land about 5 seconds back from Mical Dyck.  On the last lap, Jono was screaming at me “there’s your girl! go get her!” Niels was yelling from the pits “go get her Jess!” However what I wasn’t understanding was that Mical was sitting in 15th place which is the last place that gets any points in a C1 race. I didn’t catch her. I finished 16th, 5 seconds away from my first ever UCI point but still much better than I’d expected.

The rest of Interbike was awesome.  I schmoozed like a real pro and looked at tons of bike porn.  I managed to find the only company that makes glittery pink and blue shoes (want) and ate approximately a million samples.  I got to hang with some of my favorite ladies from the pro peloton and Niels and I even went out to a fancy club where I drank not so fancy drinks but they still charged me fancy drink prices ($97 for 5 drinks?!? I played it real cool though as though It’s totally the norm for me to blow $100 on 5 dumb drinks … no bigs).  After the fancy club we went to another party at the punk club and even street-teamed it up a little bit for the Vanderkittens!

Two weekends ago I went down to Portland to try and win some races since I’m pretty sure Courtenay won’t let me win a race up here in Seattle.  What I didn’t foresee was that Jade would also not let me win a race down in Portland. I walked away with a 2nd at Fazio Farms and a 4th at the Battle at Barlow.  I also walked away with the only runup picture of myself in the history of my cyclocross career where I don’t look like a complete dingus.  (txs Matt Lasala!).

To bring things completely up to date, last Saturday was Starcrossed, a Seattle staple and actually the first CX race I ever watched.  I’ve raced it every year since I started racing.  Up until this year it was a UCI sanctioned race but this year it’s simply part of the MFG local series.  However, Zac and Terry still made it a first class event with a great course and tons of fans and vendors.  I haven’t done a single MFG race with the 1/2 women so I started in the very back and went into the dirt sitting about 15th wheel.  Not good.  The first lap I fought hard to get around one rider at a time as I was getting increasingly panicked watching the front of the race ride away from me.  After the first lap I had worked my way into maybe 5th place.  I saw Jenni and Kari sitting about 10 seconds up from me and I attacked around two more ladies to try and catch them.  I dangled just seconds back from the two leaders for another half lap before I was finally able to make contact.  I sat on for a minute until Kari gapped Jenni and I knew if I wanted any shot at winning this thing I needed to go now.  I attacked Jenni and fought my way onto Kari’s wheel.  I sat on for another half lap before I attacked Kari and rode away to take the win!  Apparently though, I’m a diminutive rider because the announcer didn’t even know I was winning until 10 minutes after the race had ended.

I got to do my first post-race interview which was awesome and left me thinking both “do I really sound like that?” and “so that’s what I would look like with a unibrow.”

Winning StarCrossed was so so cool.  It’s obviously a different race this year without Katerina Nashes, Helen Wymans, and Sue Butlers of the world here to compete but it felt like a step in the right direction for me.  I came out on top over women who have earned UCI points and who have had top finishes at the national level.

Niels and I head to Fort Collins for the second USGP of the season this weekend.  This time I get two days to chase that one elusive UCI point.  My plan is to intimidate everyone at the start line with my sweet bike tattoo and then attack like the diminutive whisper of a rider that I am.

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The most wonderful time of the year

It’s official!  Cyclocross is here!

Anyone who knows and trains with me knows that I’m a cyclocross racer trapped in the body of a road racer.  There’s something so awesome and wonderful about spending 40 minutes just riding on the rivet and maybe crashing a few times for good measure.  I love getting dirty, I love technical and muddy courses, I love the barriers and I love the fans.

I am so lucky to have found a team like cyclocrossracing.com who believes in me enough to give me a ton of support (our team mechanic Kyle was at my car before I even stepped out of it at the race on Monday) and encourage me to do what I love to do, develop the sport.

Monday was Labor Day CX, a bumpy dusty early season race down in Tacoma.  "okay so you attack the hell outta this guy and I'll attack the hell outta that guy and then we'll just put everyone else into the tape."I really wanted to sleep in and eat pancakes for breakfast and the 11 AM women’s race really conflicted with that plan so I opted for the Cat 3 men’s race alongside my husband Niels.  I think about 30-35 dudes toed the line and like a pro, I started in the back.  My start was … okay.  Better than it’s been in the past but I didn’t get clipped in right away and had to really shoulder my way through the first couple turns.  Like a total dick, I attacked Niels about 3 minutes into the race and made it into the single track in the back of the lead group.

Halfway through the first lap I crashed through the twisty single track and got passed by three or four dudes and managed to gap myself off the lead group.  From there, I spent the whole race just trying to catch every carrot in front of me. After the first few laps I was getting really comfortable on my new Blue Norcross SL and FMB tires and was able to not be a total mouse in the corners.  I wasn’t really paying attention to where I was placed since I was mostly just trying to race my own race but I still managed to roll across the line in 7th (would have been 6th if not for a wily junior who got me at the line)! Not bad for my first CX race of the year on a totally new ride.

This weekend I’m going to race again with the men and then it’s off to Cross Vegas to get my legs ripped off by a bunch of really really real fast ladies.

 

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Winding down and ramping up

Last week marked the end of my first season (half season but really who’s counting?) as a pro road racer. It’s been such an amazing ride and I have met such cool people and learned so much I really wish it wasn’t over.

I have to admit that in the last month I was as close to being burned out as I’ve ever been, more mentally than physically.  Cascade Classic was so challenging to get through just five days after being doored by a cab driver knowing that my body was not performing anywhere near its potential.

The last race of the year was the Blue Ribbon Alpine Challenge in beautiful (and hypoxic!) Aspen Colorado.  I was so excited for this race because Niels was coming with me, we had plans to visit some very dear friends in Fort Collins, we were going to ride roller coasters in Denver, we were getting to see two stages of the U.S. Pro Challenge, and my much needed two weeks of rest was just on the other side of the finish line.

The race was originally supposed to be a three day stage race including a hillclimb TT, a circuit race, and a crit.  Due to lack of funding (I don’t know from who but I have my ideas) it was shortened to just a crit.  Although saying “just a crit” I think takes away from all of the amazing and hard work that Jessica Van Garderen put into making this race a reality and also the fact that racing “just a crit” at 8,000 feet is roughly the equivalent of racing a crit while getting punched in the stomach every lap … especially when you live at about 132 feet above sea level.

Despite a dude saying some dumb shit and then totally backpedaling, the race was super fun and really fast, one of the fastest of the year with our average speed being about 27 mph for the hour.  It was also crazy aggressive as the ladies showed all the spectators (who frankly were there to see the men) that women can be fast and aggressive too.

The day after the race I somehow managed to talk Niels into riding to the top of Independence Pass to watch Stage 4 of the U.S. Pro Cycling Challenge.  The climb from Aspen to the top of Independence is over 4,000 vertical feet and tops off at a brutally hypoxic altitude of 12,095 feet as shown by our sweet outhouse pose.

At the top of the climb we settled in with the least crazy cycling fans we could find to watch the men come over the top.  It was a good thing we did because we got to see our number 1 guy, Jens Voigt come over first on a solo attack that he had launched just miles into the stage and that held through to the finish.

After leaving Aspen we spent several days with some good buddies and even went to an amusement park where we rode all of the terrifying roller coasters and water slides.

So that’s it, road season is done and dusted and I’m totally ready for cross which I guess brings me to my second big announcement of the year …

I have been lucky enough to be asked to ride for the Cyclocrossracing.com p/b Blue Competition Cycles Elite Team!  As many of my friends know, as much as I love to race on the road, Cyclocross is my most favorite.  Last year was a breakout year for me when I won several local races and managed to hold my own at the UCI level.  I’m so excited that Cyclocrossracing.com has seen enough potential in me to give me this awesome support.  I am getting the opportunity to race at Cross Vegas as well as the majority of the USGP series (provided it’s still happening) and possibly nationals.  I picked up my beautiful new Blue Norcross SL yesterday and am building it up this weekend!  The team is really interested in working to build the women’s end of the sport and being the cranky dour feminist that I am, this is right up my alley!

I’m grateful for the much needed rest I’ve had over the last week but I’m chomping at the bit to start cyclocross season where I’ll try to be less of a hot mess and more of a pro!

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Legit leadout

It’s not at all new news that I’m pretty epically terrible at technical crits.  On a good day, I can usually find my way to the front of the race a handful of times and maybe throw down one or two good attacks.

At nationals (which was in many ways a debacle that I don’t totally care to discuss) I got real close to the front in the last three laps in an ill-fated attempt to put my teammates onto the back of a monster Tibco leadout train.  I seriously almost did it, but unfortunately there’s no national champion jersey for “tried the super hardest.”

maybe next year. I’m totally going to petition USAC.

After Nationals (where by the way I somehow managed to get a fire ant infestation in my rental car … how the heck does that even happen?!) I had nearly a month off before my next team race.  In the interim, my amazing teammate Nicky headed up to BC for a bunch of big-money (txs weak American dollar & favorable exchange rate!) races that are part of the BC Superweek.  I went up for a couple of them to try and help her win some cash.

The first race had a freaking U-turn in it which of course terrified me.  What terrified me even more was the roughly 7’8″ (oh excuse me, 2.24 m) German girl who liked to ride real close to me and take the U-turn like she was the only one on course.  On the last lap I got right behind Nicky before I remembered that you’re supposed to lead out your sprinter from in front of her, not behind. Lesson learned.

Gastown Grand Prix was the next day.  The prize purse boasted a $8,000 CAD (oh excuse me, $7,828.55 USD) payout to the winner.  Nicky, in her kind fashion, let me know that she wouldn’t rely on me for a leadout and she just wanted me to attack attack attack and see if I could get away since we all know that’s the only way I can win a crit.

So I did it, I attacked, and I bridged, and I attacked some more, and I chased and I tried to move the giant German off of Nicky’s wheel.

Going into the last lap I had tried everything short of crashing out the whole field to get away and none of it had worked.  I resigned myself to not winning until I realized “oh duh! my teammate is one of the best sprinters in the U.S.!”  Coming across the start finish on the last lap I realized that Nicky was only two wheels in front of me.  I also realized that there was no use sitting in for the sprint where I probably couldn’t do much better than 7th or 8th.  Going into the hairpin corner I came around Nicky on the outside determined to move her up.  On the straight away I just heard her telling me to go!  I sprinted the straightaway like corner 2 was my finish line.  When Nicky did come around I had nothing left and sat up, effectively sweeping off her wheel and gapping off some other sprinters.  There’s even a picture of it so you know I’m not lying!

At the end of the day Nicky finished up 3rd which was awesome exposure for the team. Even though we didn’t win the $8k it was so great to finally make a step towards figuring out a skill that has eluded me for years.

I got back from Gastown late Wednesday night flying high from having such a fun race with such a great teammate.

Unfortunately Thursday morning I was flying pretty low when I got doored by a cab driver on my way into my office and had to spend the whole day in the emergency room not being allowed to eat the delicious pastries that were in my backpack and then promptly throwing up all of my pastries after whatever evil painkiller I was given made me real sick.

Even so, I’m a fighter and I’ll give the treatment I received a big fat thumbs up!

Onward to Elk Grove where I hear there are lots of U-turns and very few German giants!  I’m totally ready.

 

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tulsa knows how to make a lady feel special

It’s been five days since I got back from the Tulsa Tough, and I’m still on cloud 9.

Tulsa was one of the most amazing and fun experiences I’ve ever had in my bike racing career.  It was three days of fast technical crits and by the third and most technical day, I was really starting to feel comfortable and happy to be racing a crit.

Don’t get me wrong, as a racer, I still have a long way to go in my crit racing.  I still struggle with staying in the front of a race and with getting onto a leadout train but I know that those skills will come with time.

The first day of Tulsa was the Blue Dome District Criterium.  It’s a wide eight corner crit with mostly left turns (awesome! I love turning left!).  It’s a lot like the Enumclaw crit which I’ve been terrible at for years so I figured this was a great race for me!

I started in the front and somehow used my super crit racing skills to immediately and magically end up in the back.  cool.

About 15 minutes in after finally figuring out getting back to the front a dinky $50 prime was called.  A NOW rider was off the front and so I decided to go for it and bridge up to her.  I caught her just before the line and came through to take the prime.  We stayed off the front for another lap and a half before we were swallowed up and I used my skills to immediately find my way to the back again.  cool.

At the end of the day, the team rode together, took some primes, and were aggressive.  We really only missed one goal which was to be there for the leadout.  whoops.

Day two was the Brady Village Crit.  This one was L-shaped, a little narrower in some spots, had a small hill, and was still mostly left turns (score!).

Emily was kind enough to initiate a break 20 minutes in so for the majority of the race the rest of us were able to just move to the front and try to shut down any chases or dangerous moves.  There were some crashes but they were all behind me for the most part.  During the race it really felt like I was racing as part of a team and we were able to cover every single move that tried to chase down or bridge to the break.

At the end of the day Emily got 2nd but most of the rest of us still weren’t there for Nicky at the finish so we weren’t able to take the field sprint.

The final day was the Riverview Criterium, home of the infamous “Crybaby Hill.” Riverview is all right turns (lame!) with a steep kicker (Crybaby) that is filled with approximately a million drunk people.   The turn back onto riverside drive is straight downhill (my guess would be an 89% grade) into an off camber 110 degree turn.  Memories of taking myself out in a similar corner at Hood last year kept me real tentative through the corner for the first several laps.

This was our only afternoon race and it was so hot that I filled my pockets with ice and put a nylon full of ice down the back of my jersey before the start.  I was terrified of this race but after the first time up Crybaby I knew I was in love.  Words cannot properly describe what it’s like to ride up Crybaby so I’ll let this video do the talking.

Tulsa Tough: Cry Baby Hill (2012) from Keith Walberg on Vimeo.

At the end of the day, even though it was a blast and I avoided several crashes (they all happened behind me because guess who is learning how to ride in the front of the g-d crit?!) we kind of didn’t pull it together as a team as NOW sent two solo riders clear and took the top two steps of the podium and we were only able to pull off ninth.

After the race the former mayor of Tulsa along with Saris threw a party at her house mansion castle for all of the professional women.  Everyone ate and drank and was social while Niels and I played their sweet star wars pinball machine along with some 10 year olds who thought we were real cool.

I honestly got a little weepy thinking about how cool it is that there are people and companies and promoters who genuinely care about getting more recognition, media, and money behind women’s professional cycling.  Shawn Brett, the director of media for Tulsa Tough genuinely cares about moving towards parity for the women’s peloton and as a result I will always support his race.

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lessons learned at every level

The last four weeks have been obviously huge for me and I feel like I’ve barely had time to breathe!  I feel like I should back up and try and recap and evaluate everything that’s happened since my big result at Sea Otter.

Tour of the Gila

After getting home from Sea Otter (literally right after) I had messages from both Liza Rachetto and Susannah Gordon from Primal/MapMyRide Women’s Racing asking me if I could fly down to New Mexico to race Tour of the Gila with them.  Within 6 hours I had talked to Niels and coach, bought my ticket, and was working to adjust my work and training schedule to prepare for what would be my very first race on the NRC.

I could probably write a novel about Gila but I’m going to keep it to the highlights.

I got down there and was racing for the first time on one of the team’s BH bikes that they had done an awesome job setting up to fit me.

The first day was a little bit of a cluster with the break getting sent the wrong way and then being neutralized.  We were fast from the gun, averaging over 25 mph in the first hour.  I tried really hard just to stay in the front, take direction from my teammates, monitor the race, and cover moves.

Just before the decisive climb of the day – the legendary Mogollon – there was a huge crash just to my left when a girl went into the dirt, lost control, and her head actually bounced off my leg as she was going down.  I was able to stay upright and work with my teammate Emily (honestly she did most of the work … I was pretty gassed) to try and catch on to a move that was going up the road.  We worked together at the base of the climb and Emily was able to finish in the top 10 with me maybe a minute behind in 11th.

I don’t have any pictures of myself climbing Mogollon but I’m pretty sure it looked roughly like this.  It was really steep.

The second stage was the inner loop road race which oddly I didn’t think was going to be too hard.  I guess I hadn’t looked at the course profile? Or noticed that there was a sprint at mile 6 and a QOM at mile 12? Or really paid attention to the fact that there was a terrifying descent followed by a much more terrifying descent in the first 30 miles.

This was definitely a day that I showed my grit.  I feel like this should be in an itemized list.

1. I missed the split of about 20 riders over the first QOM;

2. I descended like a maniac to catch the break;

3. I got popped again through the feed zone;

4. I descended like a maniac again to catch three other girls who had been dropped from the break;

5. I Caught the break just in time to get popped again and fall outside of the caravan;

6. I dangled maybe 100m back from the caravan for probably 20 minutes before the pace let up a little bit and I was able to chase back through the caravan, grab bottles from my car for Emily and myself (I took bottles from a car! pro!) and get back into the group.  Once I was back in the fold, I did my best to feed and protect Emily since I knew I was probably going to blow again.

7. I got popped again with Tara Whitten over the next feed zone climb;

8. Tara and I (along with a couple others) chased back on just in time to hit the final QOM climb where … I got dropped again … and chased back on again to finish with the break.

I don’t know what to say about that race except I guess I like to do things the hard way? Lesson learned.

The TT and the crit were pretty straightforward.  Emily and I were able to go 12th and 13th in the TT and she was able to maintain her GC position after both races.

I spent a little time (like, very little) off the front of the crit and it was nice to know that I was able to even be up there like that and do my job covering moves.

The last day my job was to take Emily as far up the Gila Monster climb as I possibly could.  The race was hot from the gun with NOW attacking like crazy.  I was able to feed Emily once or twice and just tried to stay in the front and monitor the race.  At the base of the climb Emily made the break and I popped off.

Then I looked up the road and saw she’d been popped from the break too.  I burned every match I had getting to her and did my best to push and pull her back to the break.  And I did!  We worked together and we both made it back into the break.  I immediately went to the front to do some work so that she could sit in and be ready for the next attack.  When the next attack came, Emily was able to stay with the move and I fell off again, my job was done.  I mostly soft-pedaled the last 10 miles of the race, totally elated that she’d been able to stay in.

Emily was able to finish around 7th on the stage and hold on to her 6th place GC, right up there with several of the best women in the world!

Mutual of Enumclaw Stage Race

Enumclaw was originally an “A” race for me but became a training race after signing with Primal/MapMyRide.  I decided to do it anyway since I had a free entry, Carly wanted me to race with her, and the weather was looking pretty good.

Enumclaw was a weird lesson in tactical racing for me.  Basically, I won the time trial by 4 seconds and got another 3 bonus seconds in the crit but missed out on the big bonus seconds at the finish where I did what I often do in crits and was just like “no you guys sprint, I’ll just sit here and take same time.”

Not going for it in the sprint in the crit cost me the leader’s jersey since Jen Wheeler who had gotten 2nd in the TT won the crit taking the full 10 bonus seconds.

The road race, my job was to just make it hard.  This was a frustrating race because it was pouring which of course sucked; and every.single.time over the climb Courtenay, Jen and I would get into some combination of a break that wouldn’t really work together and we’d get caught just in time to break away again over the climb.

The last time over the climb, unfortunately Courtenay dropped her chain (which sucked so bad because she was racing so strong and was #1 most awesome teammate the whole race).  I drilled it (sort of) the last time up so I could establish a break that would stay away until the finish but I didn’t go so hard that I screwed myself for the last few miles.  It worked and we got a break of 3 with me, Wheeler, and my pal Kristine.

I knew Kristine likely wouldn’t go for the sprint and going down the descent and through the last flat miles to the finish I was feeling good.  I came through the final corner with maybe 250m to go sitting third wheel.  I jumped early and then the most amazing thing happened.

I

WON

A

SPRINT!

(i put in three photos because i’m not sure if this will ever happen again).

At the end of the day, I won two races but Wheeler won the race by 4 seconds.  Lesson learned, never take same time when there are bonuses available.  I thought I could maybe win the road race solo but that wasn’t the case that cost me the GC.

Lake Bluff and Glencoe

Last weekend were the Lake Bluff and Glencoe crits, both are just outside of Chicago and are part of the NCC.

I got to Lake Bluff and was immediately terrified and intimidated.  The course was narrow! and technical! and these girls are really fast! and aggressive!

I’m not going to lie, I really didn’t do well at Lake Bluff.  I was too scared to try and move up even though I knew it would be easier in the front.  Other than monitoring the front and blocking for maybe (?) a lap after my teammate got off the front, I didn’t do much at all to help the team and I braked into (and sprinted out of) every corner.  We still ended up 2nd and 7th on the day but it was very little thanks to my help.

Thankfully, Kori Seehafer was racing with and directing us and she and I talked for a long time about what I need to do to be more of a benefit to the team in a crit (i.e. stop being terrified).  I felt so crummy about my performance and it was really good to be able to get some excellent feedback from such an experienced racer about what I needed to do better.

Saturday was another day and  I was determined to do better.  The Glencoe Grand Prix was still technical but the roads were wider and I had my mental cheerleader turned up to roughly 11.

I worked the whole race trying to stay in the front and know where all of my teammates were.  I tried to cover moves and even spent a lap off the front of the race.  In the end, I still wasn’t able to figure out getting in line to lead out Nicky (I was in the front but on the wrong side of the race) but it was the first time that I didn’t let myself move backwards in the last two laps and I aggressively fought for position through the last corner (money went 20 deep so since I couldn’t be there on the leadout train, I wanted to at least get myself as far up as possible to win more money for the team).

We ended up with three in the top 20 but just off the podium with 4th, 13th, and 16th.  We may have made a tactical error as a team spending a lot of our energy fighting NOW rather than watching the individual sprinters and making them do the work.  At the end of the day, Laura Van Gilder and Erica Allar, neither of whom had many teammates, were able to go 1 and 2 with NOW taking 3rd.

I feel like I’ve learned more about racing in the last month than I have in the last 3 years.  It’s such a different ball game when you’re on a team of super smart, strong, and experienced women (not that my Peterson gals aren’t all of these things, It’s just so … different at this level).  I’ve always raced my best when I’m racing for someone else and even though I’ve got a long way to go I’m so excited to keep learning.

This weekend is Tulsa Tough and I’m so glad that I did Lake Bluff and Glencoe to prepare.  I am so enamored with my new team and I can’t wait to turn myself inside out to get us on the podium!

Thank you to Kevin Tu, Ali Engin of Endurance Picture, and Lyne Lamoureux of Podium Insight for the photos. Please contact the photographers for purchase and licensing information.

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Earlier than expected

I was getting ready to get my thoughts together and write a post about racing Tour of the Gila as a guest rider on the Primal/MapMyRide p/b BH Bikes Women’s Team but I decided to do share my big news first.

After having a really fun and hard race at Gila, I was offered a mid-season contract by Primal/MapMyRide. After much deliberation (actually not much at all because these ladies are amazing!) I have signed a professional cycling contract to race for the remainder of 2012 (and hopefully beyond!) with Primal/MapMyRide!

Here’s an artists rendering of what I will probably look like as a pro cyclist.

All joking aside, I am so excited to have found such a good team for myself and doubly excited that they liked me enough to sign me right away!  Everyone involved with the team is so supportive and kind and the sponsors are extremely generous and committed to supporting our team.  There is a huge breadth of experience on the team and I am so excited to learn from and race with these awesome ladies!

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sea otter 2012 or how i learned to let off the brakes

I’m going to try real hard to not turn this into a complete novel.  Anyone reading this can feel free to skip to the bottom to get to the good part.

Niels and I took off on the long drive to Monterey for the Sea Otter Classic Pro Stage Race on Tuesday afternoon.  We made it to Monterey on very little sleep at around 3:00 pm on Wednesday and checked in before rolling out to check out the road course/TT course which are run on the same circuit.

The crit was the first stage and is run as basically a double out and back on the lower part of the Laguna Seca Raceway.  It’s really narrow through a couple spots.  Of course I managed to line up at the very back but Alicia was nice enough to let me move up to the second-ish row.  I had of course also just put new cleats on which is always a great idea the day before a crit. Luckily once the gun went off I was able to clip in right away.

The first three laps were fast but not too fast.  I was moving up really well until this happened.

I was pretty much right on the wheel of the first girl who went down and luckily I was able to see that it was happening and basically just unclip and ride up onto her wheel.  Another girl fell onto my wheels but I was able to get my bike untangled pretty quickly, do a super rad cyclocross mount back onto it and make it to the pits to take my free lap.

The rest of the race was pretty good.  It didn’t feel too fast and I was able to pretty easily sit in and take the same time as the pack, finishing somewhere around 20th on the stage.  I kind of regret  not going for the sprint only because the first 7 girls finished 7 seconds up on the rest of the pack, it would have been nice to have those seconds.

Next was the road race.  5 laps on a roughly 8 mile circuit with two punchy climbs, bad pavement, and a lot of rollers.  The finish is off-circuit up a 3 or so mile climb that gets steeper as it goes.  It was really really hot on Friday, probably close to 90 on the road.   I don’t always do well in the heat so I was just really careful to keep drinking

I mostly sat in for the first few laps although I did get in one short-lived but well-represented break with race lead Alison Powers.  The attacks started coming on the last lap and Olivia Dillon from the NOW team got off the front for most of the last lap.  Coming through the steep feed zone climb on the last lap, a break got away.  I heard a girl yell “go!” as we came over the top of the climb so of course I assumed she was talking to me.  I attacked HARD over the end of the climb and got a gap on the field.  I was a little too late to catch the break but I did manage to catch Alisha Welsh from Primal after about two minutes and the two of us worked together until part way up the climb when I got a small gap over the first steep kicker.  We came back together just as I caught Pascale Schneider and Emily Collins who had both been in the break.  I attacked again at less then 1k to go and was able to come in 4th on the day about 1:00 down from Powers who took the stage.

Going into the Stage 3 Time Trial I was sitting 4th GC.  I may or may not have been so nervous beforehand that I started crying at Niels for the horrible crime of smiling at me.

The TT has two fairly technical and bumpy descents and in all honesty I’d been descending like a total mouse on the same circuit the day before.

I honestly can’t recount much from the TT except that I had a really good start and I totally buried myself and managed to catch my 1 minute girl (the top 10 GC riders had 1 minute rather than 30 second staggers).  I just about fell off my bike after I was done. 

Then I really did fall off my bike when Niels told me that I’d finished 3rd in the stage behind national champions Powers and Samplonius!  Even Cycling News thought it was pretty cool!  Even cooler I had moved myself into third on GC going into the final stage.  So like … no pressure.  Either way, it was time to celebrate!

The final stage is a 2 hour or 17 lap (it was unclear which it would be) circuit race on the Laguna Seca Racetrack.  There’s one ~2:20 climb every lap that gets steeper at the top and then dives straight into the “corkscrew” descent.

Despite saying that I wasn’t nervous about this race I was in fact a total headcase (surprise). I cried about 10 minutes before the start because my freshly glued wheel (gluing a tubular three days before a race also always a good idea) was hopping a little. I snapped at both Niels and my teammate and was generally a total jerk.  Also, I’m embarrassed to say that I’m a totally timid descender and was terrified of the corkscrew.

One cool thing though was that I got a callup to the front line and got to take a glamor shot (“make sure you get my good side”).

Once we got started, the first time down the corkscrew I braked through all the straightaways like a real pro and got yelled at (deservedly) more than once to get off my brakes.  I was nearly gapped at the bottom of the descent every time and had to work hard to stay with the slowly shrinking pack.  I had to fight a real mental battle to not give up on my GC hopes and just drift off the back.  Finally, after 16 previous fails, I totally nailed the descent on the last lap, unfortunately the winning break of two had gotten away 5 laps earlier.

I stuck with the pack and avoided a crash on the last lap finishing 16th in the stage but close to a minute down from the break of two which contained an Exergy rider who had been sitting only a minute down from me on GC.  Thankfully she still finished 9 seconds down on me in the final GC so I closed the deal!  I finished 3rd on GC!  Since my new podium pose had gone over so well the first time I thought I would do it the same this time around.

Right after the podium Niels, Alicia and I started the 15 hour drive back to Seattle.  To practice not being so scared of descending, I didn’t use the brakes in the car the whole way back down any of the descents.  It’s cool, I’m a totally pro descender now.

I am so pleased with how this race went.  This was my first time racing a stage race at this level and it was again awesome to see all my hard work pay off with an unexpectedly good result.  I went down there with the hopes of getting noticed by some pro teams and possibly finishing top 10 in one stage.  My “reach” goal was to finish top 10 on GC and I never imagined I would finish top 3.

I definitely felt really sheepish and shy about approaching any of the pro racers or team directors after the race but I swallowed my fear and introduced myself around and got lots of nice compliments.

One other thing is that I could never have done this without the support of my amazing husband, Niels, my teammates, and our fantastic host family in Salinas.  Niels dealt with me panicking before every race (although I only cried before two stages, a new personal best for me).  Alicia and Lindsay helped talk me through being scared of the descents and the corners in the crit.  Niels cooked nearly every meal for me and waited on all three of us hand and foot since this race is kind of a logistical nightmare.  Our host family (Alicia’s fiance’s aunt and uncle) were awesome and gave us beautiful private rooms and a ton of garage and kitchen space.

My upcoming schedule is still kind of TBD but I’ve got a few big ones coming up in the next few months.  Thank you again for everyone who has helped me to take the first big step towards my goals.

Thank you to Lyne Lamoureux and Niels for the photos

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off with a bang

I’m sitting in my office waiting for Niels to pick me up to head down to California for the 4 day Sea Otter Stage Race.  It’s my first full stage race with a majority pro/elite peloton and I’m feeling pretty good.  I’m nervous and I think totally realistic in my expectations but I’m still just feeling good and excited.

I have no illusions about being able to race like I’ve been racing against these girls and I’m sure I’ll eat my share of humble pie while I’m down there but I think I can hang and maybe even be just a little bit aggressive.

This weekend was a real confidence booster. I had a fairly easy training week last week with all of my workouts been fairly short VO2 and higher type efforts (aka riding up madrona in the aerobars at 12 mph looking like a total dip).

Saturday I had two TTs up North.  The first was the Skagit Valley TT, an 8 mile out and back with a couple rollers in the last mile and a half.  I did real shitty at this race last year finishing in ~20:30.  This year my goal was to go a minute faster which is pretty ambitious but also the conditions were a lot better.

I woke up with a real bad stomach ache and immediately was totally crabby and petulant towards Niels because, you know, me having a stomach ache was totally his fault.  Despite my childish fits about not wanting to race and hating TTs I still managed to get in a decent warmup and drag myself to the line.  My stomach was a bit better by the start and I had the ridiculous idea to actually follow my coach’s pacing plan and not burn 90% of my matches in the first 3 minutes of the race.

I went out really controlled chasing my 30 second girl, Michele (who has been my TT idol since I started racing bikes).  Amazingly, a mile and a half into the race I wasn’t totally giving up and was able to start slowly ramping up the effort.  By the turnaround I had already caught my 30 second and 1 minute carrots and was closing in on my 1:30.  I made the third catch just before the little kicker about a mile and half before the finish.  I knew I was having a really good race.  At the hill I stayed in the aerobars and just railed over the crest.  At the top, I saw my 2 minute girl and made it my goal to catch her by the finish.  I made the catch just after the 1km sign.  I was totally tanked.  I had a hard time keeping the pressure on for the last minute but when I looked down and saw my garmin was still under 18 minutes I found one last match and burned it to the finish.  I finished in 18:08, 48 seconds up on second place (a pro, yo) and close to 2 minutes on third.

I was snotting and choking all over my bike by the end but I’m so pleased with the result and with how comfortable I’ve been on my TT bike.

After the race Sharon and I went over to the afternoon’s hillclimb course to drive it and determine which bike to use.  I had been told by coach to ride the TT bike so that was my plan but I may or may not have brought my road bike juuuuust in case.

The hillclimb was 2 miles that started on a downhill pitch into a ~ 1 minute kicker followed by a bunch of rollers with a steep 200m finish.

I went pretty much full throttle from the gun.  I tried to stay in the aerobars up the first kicker.  I gave up the ghost on that plan exactly 2 seconds into the climb.  Once I hit the rollers I was able to be back in the bars and moving pretty well, hitting speeds over 25 mph on a few occasions.  I sprinted up the final kick and saw 5:5X on the clock.  I railed across the line for the win and the only female time under 6:00, finishing in 5:57.  I was also the 8th overall finisher.

Carly “I’m not a climber” Tu also won the Cat 3 race officially banning her from saying she’s not a climber.

Here’s a bonus picture of me and Niels doing the SVTT last year on the tandem.  Please note the look on my face.  Yup.

Sunday I opted for a hard solo ride rather than doing the road race back up in Bellingham. It’s all good though because Courtenay took the win for the team!

Obviously time trialing well does not equal road racing well but I think I’m ready to step it up and race with the ladies I’m going to face this weekend.

One little post-script.  After my last post I have gotten tons of nice emails and people approaching me to offer their support regarding the negative vibes my team and I have been getting.  This made me realize two things.  One, that despite a few debbie downers and negative nancys the local women’s peloton is extremely kind and supportive and two, people actually read this blog which is super cool.

Thank you to everyone for their support and kindness.  I will try to not disappoint this weekend!

Thanks as always to Kevin Tu for the awesome photos!

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