Race Report: Cascade Cycling Classic

Last year, I did my best to support our GC racers at the Cascade Cycling Classic. Although I was beyond excited if I could help Claudia in any way, the reality is she and Shelley were the ones supporting me and showing me what it means to race as a team. I took home 19 GC. Wait, no, I took home excitement, belief in myself and my team, and many lessons learned. And all of those served me well this year.

The stage race opened up with the always daunting 2.5 mile prologue. Less daunting after our guest director rode the course with me a few times showing me how to start, get aero, choose lines, and descend in my aero bars. I got through the course in 5:15, 17 seconds faster than last year and 22 seconds off our Lauren Stephens who set the fastest time and also won the Stage 1 RR and stage 2 TT. Personally, I shaved 82 seconds off what was a disaster of a TT last year.

Then came stage 3, and what was one of many incredible demonstrations of team work by all of Team TIBCO. With Alizee Brien away in a break for most of the race, our team controlled the front of the race riding tempo. On the final climb, after the break had been absorbed, Andrea Dvorak and I set a hard tempo to discourage attacks. And when the attacks did come, I followed them. With about 3 km to go, I got away with Anne Perry. I played it smart and jumped with 300 meters to go to take the win and my first NRC victory.

Our team also controlled the front of the Stage 4 crit and delivered Jo Kiesanowski to the line with Andrea taking the “Most Hopped Up Award.” Good times!

The final stage was a brutal circuit race that we entered with one goal: defend Lauren’s yellow jersey. We let breaks go, knowing our strong racers could ride the front and keep the gap under control and I could follow any attacks on the climbs later in the race. On the final lap, Lauren asked me to attack and bring her with me on the climb before the feed zone. I did that, with Andrea taking over the hard pace setting when I tired. A select group made it over the final climb before the finishing puncher. I knew I didn’t have it to bridge to Kathryn Hunter and Karol Ann Canuel who were just about ten seconds up the road but thought I might be able to get Lauren within reach. She told me to go, and I did until I couldn’t pull anymore. I went back and recovered until the final stretch into the puncher climb. I then gave her my wheel and everything I had to deliver her to the base of the finishing climb in a position to take third. She was able to do that, and held on to her yellow and QOM jerseys. Our team that worked so very hard to make that possible also earned the top step for the Team GC.

Winning a stage, second in the QOM GC, and 8th in the overall GC show that I’ve made great progress from a year ago, but I’m much more proud of how my progress allows me to have a full role in our team coming out with a yellow jersey.

Update and Interview

My last race was the North Star Grand Prix, previously known at Nature Valley Grand Prix, and you’ll notice I didn’t post a race report. That’s because concussions and withdrawing from stage races are things that are not a whole lot of fun to write about or reflect upon. But that’s what happened: I crashed approximately 40 minutes into the first crit. Although I got back on the bike and continued racing that crit and the Stage 3 road race, I knew my head wasn’t right. As much as I tried to block the pain out of my mind and go into life or death race mode, the pain that I felt at high intensity efforts in the road race was enough to make me question the safety of continuing to race. After some discussion with my coach, friend, and director, we decided that I would see the race doctor prior to the start of the stage 4 crit. She told me that I had a concussion and that racing was extremely high risk and discouraged. I didn’t enjoy spending the next couple days in a dark basement resting my brain, but I felt good about following the advice of a professional and being able to look out for myself long-term.

Fortunately, my symptoms (nausea, headache, pain at high intensities) diminished fairly quickly. By the time I left for Colorado Springs for a month of altitude training leading up to the Cascade Cycling Classic, I was able to get back on the road. I’ve been here for almost 3 weeks now, and training is going smoothly. I am enjoying exploring new roads and spending time with friends new and old.

While in Colorado, I had the opportunity to do an interview with Tenspeed Hero about my path into professional cycling. This interview is more lighthearted than a concussion, but I thought it would only be right to share both because it’s all a part of the journey.

Philly Cycling Classic

I knew how I wanted to race the Philly Cycling Classic, and I believed I had it in me because people who know me as a racer better than I know myself were sure of it. A few close friends told me to race brave, to stay near the front and hold that position even if it’s aggressive and tightly packed up there. And my Team TIBCO director and teammates not only told me this, but they also helped me do it. They “coached me positive” during the race. What does this mean? It’s saying “go” if I am not sure if I should follow an attack. It’s telling me to hold her wheel as she guides me to the base of the first climb up Manayunk. And, maybe most of all, it’s saying “you’re doing great, keep it up.” Because when I hear these things, it keeps my mind where it should be: focused on the race. Not worrying about if my legs will give out or if someone will cut me off…on the race and the opportunities.

And so Philly was an opportunity. An opportunity to prove to myself that I can hold wheels I would usually back off of, go through gaps I would usually consider too small, take corners a little faster than I would like, follow attacks that I would usually let go, and trust my teammates when they tell me I can do something. And then, on the final lap, when all the breaks had been brought back, and Specialized-Lululemon railed it going into the final climb, it was an opportunity for me to see how well I could position myself and what was left in my legs.

Photo credit: Rick Genzer

Photo credit: Rick Genzer

I can’t say I nailed any of those tests, but I gave each my best effort. Not recklessly, but also not afraid. Rather with excitement and looking for opportunities and moments to go. And that’s all I really wanted out of this race: to be brave. And when I accomplished that, I also found myself wearing the Best Young Rider jersey. Thanks to Fuji Bicycles for sponsoring that award. And also a big thanks to all the racers out there, inclining winner Evelyn Stevens, for continuing to inspire me and show that women’s cycling is on the rise.

USA Road National Championship

Last year, this was my first race as a professional cyclist. And as such, it was a huge learning experience and also one of my most disappointing races. Everything was new: bike, teammates, strategy, director, you name it. And as hard as Shelley Olds tried to show me the ropes with much patience, I struggled tremendously and can’t say I helped her much at all. It was absolutely devastating, and I questioned if I could ever ride with racers of this caliber. But my teammates and director at the time never stopped believing in me. They pushed me hard to work on my weaknesses, but most of all they pushed me to keep believing.

A year later, with many of the same teammates and a new director, I was back to Chattanooga with a bit more confidence and skills but still much to learn. The race played out as it did, and a full recount is beside the point of my personal race report. What is important is that I showed great progress from a year ago: the starting circuits did not feel like a full gas crit, my legs had much more on the main climb, and I was able to follow our race plan for the most part. And yet, I walked away far from satisfied with my 11th place finish because I didn’t execute one critical part of our race plan. I knew I needed to be at the front on the wall, especially in the last couple circuits. But I felt more comfortable riding up it alone, so I gapped myself out at the base and climbed it from there. And that hurt me bad when an attack went on the wall. I know my legs could have gone if my mind hadn’t stopped me from being up there, but that’s part of the sport and maybe the part of me that needs the most development.

Developing in this sport takes time and patience from yourself and everyone working with you, but it also takes an eagerness to learn and frustration with your limitations. I’m so fortunate to have amazing people supporting me: family, coach Peterson, physical therapist Mark Payares, Team TIBCO, and mentors. Without them, I wouldn’t be where I am and able to keep moving forward. So forward I go with great excitement but also understanding that it is a long process and Alison Powers didn’t become an accomplished multiple-time champion overnight.

Race Report: Tour of the Gila

Stage 1: Silver City to Mogollon Road Race
Our team had three protected riders that we were hoping to get to the base of the final climb as fresh as possible with the exception of trying an echelon if the wind would make that an effective tactic. The wind was constantly there, but mostly a tailwind. And although we did try an echelon, and that was a lot of fun for me and a great learning experience, my teammates mostly kept me out of the wind. Despite their efforts, the final climb was a big disappointment for me.
Because I gave absolutely everything I had on the final climb, I couldn’t be that upset with myself. But I did want to figure out why I didn’t climb like I had hoped. I could think of several factors: This was my first race where wind made pack positioning crucial, without realizing it I raced old cleats that kept releasing me sending me to the back, not being adjusted to the altitude, probably a bit of dehydration, and jumping too hard trying to follow Mara. But what was most unsettling was that reflecting upon it all, I didn’t really trust that any of these were the cause, and so I started to lose confidence in my own abilities.

Stage 2: The Inner Loop Road Race
Initially we had an offensive plan for this race, but with a couple of us not feeling well, our strategy had to adjust. I was still to attack between the first sprint at mile 6 and the treacherous descent that my team would rocket down, but I was attacking only to get a head start on the descent. I did try an attack right after the first sprint. However, with a hard start to the race and strong wind, the move was easily covered and Jo told me to stop attacking.
The pace didn’t really let up until the first QOM at mile 12.5 when a short descent gave some relief. By mile 15, we were going hard again to the next QOM at mile 21. Entering the corkscrew descent, the group was down to maybe 25 riders. I knew I had to be there for my team after it, so although I gave the lead pack a bit of space, I never let the gap get larger than I could easily close with a few others on the flats. From the time we rejoined the lead pack on the flat/rolling section until we resumed climbing around mile 59, the pace was quite relaxed although there were some strong attacks that forced me to focus on holding wheels and staying up front.
When the climbs began in earnest at mile 59, the pace was pretty strong but never pushed me to my max. This meant that in the last few miles I had the legs to follow a couple attacks and bridge solo to a rider in the last mile after Lauren gave me the nod to do so. The pack caught the two of us going into the right turn that leads to a puncher climb followed by two turns to the finish.
I had trouble with positioning in the final few corners leading to the finishing sprint, and I ended up getting gapped and having to chase with others to join the leaders just before the second to last corner. I took the best and safest lines I could find, and held on to finish 11th. Jo and Lauren were second and third respectively to Carmen Small. I wish I could have been up there to help them, but I am excited to be a part of a lead out in future races.

Stage 3: Dan Potts Memorial Tyrone Individual Time Trial
I have a serious love-hate relationship with time trials. This was my second one on a TT bike, and let’s just say my experiences before this one had been rather painful and not in a good way. We did what we could to make me comfortable before my start: adjusting the fit, practicing starts and turnarounds, and lots of reassuring that I have the fitness to produce a good result.
Then I was off, nice and calm. Maybe too relaxed of an effort early on, but maybe not because within the first couple miles my glutes already hurt and my eyes were watering terribly as they continued to the whole race. Apparently the TT bike works different muscles, and mine are far from developed. On the ascents, I wanted to work really hard but my legs would give out before my lungs. And on the descents, I just didn’t have it mentally and would rationalize that it was okay to just get aero and recover.
It seems odd that my lowest average and max heart rate for a sustained race effort at Gila would be in the time trial. But apparently that is what happens when you lack muscular strength and could also use some mental training for time trials. I’m excited to work on my TT skills and see how much I can develop in this discipline because part of me does really love it.

Stage 4: Downtown Silver City Criterium
Crits are never my favorite day, but I did what I could for the team and kept myself out of trouble. I seemed to prefer the inside line on corners and this sometimes meant giving up wheels and finding myself at the back circling to the front. Unfortunately, this wasted a lot of energy and killed any chance of me successfully bridging to the four person break. With none of us able to bridge, Jo was left to sprint out of the break and took third to Alison Powers and Carmen Small with Jessica Cerra coming in fourth. That was not the result and impact on the GC that we had in mind, but we learned from it as a team and then focused on the final stage.

Stage 5: Gila Monster Road Race
Our team had a really solid plan for the final stage, and knew that executing it would require immense teamwork. Lauren, Jasmin, Scotti and myself were to conserve until the final climb that we wanted to enter with a lot or speed. Fortunately, with Jo up the road in a break, other teams drove the pace. When we hit the climb, I was to pace the three of us, nice and steady. Hard, but steady and always in communication with Lauren who did a fantastic job of telling me when to ease up and ultimately when it was okay to leave her with a pack approaching.
Nearing the top of the climb, I had caught most of the riders behind Mara Abbott, Flavia Oliveira, and Abagail Mickey. But I knew Lauren needed me, the situation didn’t feel right, so I eased up to wait for the car talk to our DS. With another rider unwilling to wait for Lauren, he had to ask me to do so. It was a hard thing to do, but it also felt right. I waited, and then when Lauren’s group came up on me on the rolling section, Egon said to go to the front and work to close the gap to the group I had dropped myself from. I closed the gap with the help of a couple others and then Lauren, Scotti, Jasmin, and myself went into attack mode.
In the last few miles, I asked Lauren what she wanted, and she said when we caught Scotti who had attacked and was working with another rider, she wanted me to attack and then she would counter me. She said to attack as hard as I could, all in. I did, countering Jasmin’s attack, and I got away with 3 others. I knew to sit on and hope Lauren would bridge or her group would catch us. With 200 meters to go, it was clear that would not happen, so I went on to attack on the uphill with Katie Hall countering me. I was second out of the break and 5th in the stage.
I wish we could have moved Lauren onto the GC podium, but I still learned a ton and had a great experience working with her and my other teammates in this stage and all the others. Even though our team’s efforts couldn’t challenge the performance of Mara and her United Healthcare teammates, I’m proud of us for fighting until the end.

VO2 and Lactate Test at TRIO

There are people who love numbers and data. And, for better or worse, I am one of them. There certainly is something liberating about going out for a ride or run with no power meter, heart rate monitor, Garmin, or even watch. I’ve done it once or twice, but in general I’m a big fan of using data to reach peak performance. I’m one of those people that will have a near meltdown if she loses her ride data. It’s not just because I’m a wee bit obsessive and perfecting in everything I do. And it’s not just because I have to see it to believe it. It’s also because I find great value in those numbers. And that value increases exponentially if you know what those numbers mean in reference to YOUR body. I’ve always used 20 minute power tests on Mandeville Canyon to estimate my power and heart rate training zones. ESTIMATE using formulas that assume my body and it’s response to work correspond with the norms. However, my body doesn’t run by a formula, and so I decided it is time that my training and nutrition don’t either. Enter TRIO, the best sports science testing and training facility I’ve seen.2With the VO2 and lactate test performed on my Fuji bike in the TRIO lab, I was able to test the oxygen content of my lungs and lactate level of my blood to determine how much fat and carbs I burn at every workload as well as my aerobic efficiency and anaerobic capacity. With some analysis, Coach Gareth at TRIO gave me precise training zones and indicated what areas I need to target for improvement. My coach and I are no longer estimating when my body starts to produce exponentially more lactate and rely almost purely on carbs for energy, now we KNOW at what workloads these responses occur. This enables me to train in a way that targets the appropriate physiological responses and to fuel these workouts effectively. In addition to helping structure my training and nutrition, this first VO2 and lactate test serves as a baseline from which we can measure progress. In particular, we would like to see it rely more on fat for fuel. By retesting in a few months, we will be able to see if the changes we make in my training/nutrition are effective.1I’ll never fully understand my body. It’s always presenting my coach and I with new surprises. But with the testing at TRIO, we get a glimpse inside that helps us understand how to effectively work WITH my unique body and ultimately reach peak performance.

Race Report: Sea Otter

Stage 1: Crit
Our game plan for the 50 minute hotdog shaped crit full of tight corners that create an accordion effect and series of jumps was quite simple: We needed to have one of our three racers, Patricia Schwager, Kendall Ryan or myself, represented in any dangerous break. We hoped that if one of these breaks stuck, it would be Kendall contesting the sprint, but we were all ready to work in a break. Break after break we joined or brought back until Kendall got away with Denise Ramsden of Optum, Lex Albrecht of Twenty16, and Amy Charity of Vanderkitten. From that time on, Patricia and I controlled the front, either riding tempo or following anyone trying to bridge, and we were very happy to see the break gaining time on the field. We were even happier to hear that our Kendall had taken the win!

I didn’t feel great, but I was happy with my effort and how well our trio worked together. It’s always fun when your legs and mind feel sharp. But the reality is that a whole host of factors can make that far from the case on any given day, and yet your team still needs you to go give your best at the moment. When each team member does that, and especially when your team comes out with the win, you can only finish smiling and looking forward to the next day.

Stage 2: Road Race
This 48 mile race consists of five times around a 7.8 mile loop that gains 780 feet each lap as you power up some punchy climbs. I knew those were where a break was likely to go, and I also knew that was where I was likely to be hurting bad enough that I would think twice before following a move. Twenty16′s full roster ready to attack and counterattack gave me the feeling I would be working hard.

All of my pre-race feelings were correct. Dotsie Bausch attacked early and got away solo putting over a minute on the field. Obviously we wanted to bring her back, but with just three of us representing Team TIBCO, we were also careful not to waste energy. Our goal was to bring Patricia Schwager to the final climb fresh, but midway through the race she told me to conserve a bit as we might need me at the end. I stayed up front and followed any attempts to bridge and chase, but I did not actively contribute to the efforts. Finally, going into the final lap, the pack caught Dotsie, and of course Twenty16 sent off counterattacks with Alison Tetrick making the decisive move that allowed her to finish the final loop and take on the 1.6 mile climb to the finish all alone. That had to feel good! Back in the pack, we were soon neutralized and later some of us tried to attack, but entering the final climb we were one big bunch. Twenty16 sent riders to the front that did a beautiful job of keeping the pace strong into the headwind. With 1k to go, the field was down to a select group, and the attacks picked up. I didn’t have the legs to follow, but could slowly bridge only to watch yet another attack go. Lex Albrecht came to the line second to Ali who had finished minutes earlier, and I crossed the line seventh overall and realized I had been racing a rear flat…that’s some bad luck, but it happens to everyone from time to time.

Stage 3: Circuit Race
Our trio rolled up to the 75 minute circuit race with some of us excited for the climb and others for the corkscrew descent that we would face each lap. We were all hoping to get away in a break, but we also knew that bringing Kendall fresh to a pack finish was an option. Of course, I wanted a result for my team and possibly even myself, but all I really hoped for were good legs and a fighter spirit. Although a mechanical and no free laps meant I was essentially out of contention, I walked away happy with myself because my legs and spirit had the most fight I’ve seen from them in a long long time. I held on mostly solo for about 50 minutes, battling the frustration that my efforts couldn’t go toward helping my teammates that didn’t have their best day. However, Kendall Ryan and Patricia Schwager also fought hard coming in 9th and 10th respectively.