For my off-season plans, check out my journal entry in Road Bike Action Magazine
Racing the Gateway Cup, 4 crits in St. Louis from August 29 – September 1, was an unexpected opportunity. I came into it hoping to work on my crit skills, extend my season, gain more race experience, test my limits, and support our rockstar sprinter Sam Schneider. And, of course, Team TIBCO always plans on having some fun!
The first race was Tour De Lafayette, and the 8:15 PM start meant the 55 minute crit would be raced in the dark. This was my first evening race, and I was accordingly nervous and curious. Turns out, you do just what you would during the day: focus on the racer ahead of you while staying alert and attentive to the field. I told myself this, and I found it to be true, but how I touched my breaks in the corners suggested my nerves were not totally convinced. Covering attacks and listening to my teammates helped me stay positive and focused, and Sam sprinted to second place behind Coryn Rivera of UHC.
Day two, the Tour de Francis Park, was another 55 minute, 4 corner crit. Sam was again second to Coryn in the sprint, and I found more confidence as I covered attacks and helped my teammates.
Day 3, the Giro Della Montagna crit, was by far my favorite for several reasons. This course had a nice puncher climb, and bridging to a break let me test my legs and ability to recover quickly from an effort. It’s important to learn how to dig deep not only at the end of races, but at any point that your teammates need you. It’s a pleasure to work hard in a race knowing you have a speedy teammate in the bunch. Sam again showed that speed in sprint, finishing second to Coryn.
Day four, the Benton Park Classic was another 55 minute crit but a very different sort. It had 10 corners and our legs had 3 days of racing in them. We didn’t get the result we were hoping for, but Sam maintained second place in the omnium and I held on to my confidence and focus. Our team gave it what we had and walked away proud of how we raced together all weekend.
It was a pleasure racing with Holly Mathews and the Schneider sisters, and I learned a lot from them and Dave Schneider who directed. Not long ago I would have said this little climber hates crits, but with a little encouragement and experience, I’m starting to love them!
Mammoth Lakes, California has a special place in my heart. I’ve spent time there nearly every year of my life: annual cross country ski trips with my family as a child, high school running camp, summer as a collegiate runner, and this time as a professional cyclist on Team TIBCO. Each trip has been special, almost magical, in it’s own right.
On my calendar, this appeared to be an altitude camp leading up to a series of bike races, but really it was a chance to gather some happiness watts. Happiness watts are a boost to performance from things that bring you joy, and Mammoth Lakes has always brought me lots of that. Every morning as I rode out from the Snowcreek Resort to stunning lakes and mountain views, I found my stress level dropping and my mental state improving. And, although four training days isn’t long enough to allow for the physiological adaptations that athletes traditionally seek from altitude training, I find that high altitude allows me to keep up the cardiovascular training load that I enjoy while resting my legs for upcoming races.
After riding in the morning, afternoons were for relaxation and a mental escape from the usual pro athlete regiment. I went to a concert at the Village, strolled through the local shops, jumped in the pool at the Snowcreek Athletic Club, and listened to the wind thought the trees. Nothing feels better after a long day of training than laying down, taking some deep breaths of mountain air, and counting your blessings.
One of the many blessings in my life has been the opportunity to spend time at Mammoth Lakes at every time in my life. When I say goodbye to the mountains and return to sea level, I bring with me memories and happiness that last far longer than the trip.
I’ve had a lot of people asking what’s next for me, so I thought I’d share. I’ll have a busy four weeks of training, racing, and sponsor events before I take a real off-season break. As a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer, I’m also accepting new clients who would like help reaching their health and fitness goals. If you are interested or know someone who might be, please e-mail me at: email@example.com.
August 22-27. Mammoth Lakes altitude training at the Snowcreek Resort: I will stay with a couple other racers in a beautiful condo with full access to the Snowcreek Athletic Club and Mammoth Lake’s spectacular training grounds. I had my best summer of training here in 2011, so I expect nothing but the best.
September 6. Best Buddies Challenge Hearst Castle: This is a phenomenal event, and I can’t think of a much better cause than raising awareness and funds for the incredible people with intellectual disabilities who thrive and inspire others to make the most of their own abilities. I’ll be joining one of Team TIBCO’s main sponsors, Silicon Valley Bank, and riding a scenic century followed by post-ride festivities including a gourmet BBQ concert by Don Felder. Want to join or make a donation to Best Buddies? It’s not too late! Register or donate here.
September 10. TIBCO Sports Analytics Innovation Summit in San Francisco: I will share what I do as a professional cyclist and will give attendees the opportunity to test their legs on our Fuji Bikes and Kinetic Trainers.
September 11. Interbike and the Las Vegas Pedal PaLooza crit: this is where the bike industry and fans gather to see all the new products and have a great time. I can’t wait to say hi to some of Team TIBCO’s fabulous sponsors and race the evening crit.
Life of a professional cyclist, and loving it!
The Tour of Utah’s inaugural event for women was 15 laps on a twisty 2.2 mile circuit on a race track. Exciting? For sure. I think every team came with high hopes and ready to race hard. We gave it our best shot, but it wasn’t our day.
My role was to follow attacks. The many off camber turns and high speed on a windy day made this no easy task, but I did my best. I followed what I could, but that wasn’t as many attacks as I had hoped. I also tried to drive a break with Amber Neben because I saw that it was forcing UHC to chase, but it too was quickly brought back. So a bunch it was, with Coryn Rivera taking the win and Sam Schneider coming in seventh for us.
Although the team’s result was disappointing, I accomplished more than I hoped to in Utah. I’m a better and more confident racer, and I’m proud of the work that I did in the crits.
I came to this race for experience and to give myself a reason to hold off on starting off season. Sure, I hoped I could help my teammates at least a little. But I didn’t know if that would be possible in a four corner crit, even one with a slightly uphill straightaway into a headwind. In stage races, I am happy to survive the crits without any time gap, and I try to expend the least energy possible. I think that had put the idea in my mind that all I can do in crits is hang on somewhere in the main field. But this race was different: it didn’t matter where I placed or how hard I worked, only where our sprinter finished. That meant I could follow attack after attack after attack. I could, and I did because I changed my mindset and listened to my director and teammates who seemed confident that I would be up to the jobs they gave me.
Following attacks lead me into a few breaks, but it was pretty clear they were unmotivated and it would be a sprint finish. Sure enough, Alison Powers just edged out our Sam Schneider who was second followed by Tina Pic. Our 15 year old Skylar Schneider took 8 and Top Amateur, and I finished 20th with a 11″ gap and having gained confidence that crits aren’t beyond the ability of my mind or legs.
One day of rest and then we take on the Tour of Utah Women’s Edition circuit race.
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.