Friday, September 28, 2007

World Parking Lot Crit Championships

Plan was to bring sprinter ace Jen McRae to corner 2 top three by the last lap, and for Laura Bowles and me to cover breaks (and sit on unless we knew we could win) and maybe go for a prime. Not consistent with positioning, but got two primes and took a 1.5 lap flyer. Not there in the end. Bowles brought Jen up with 2-to-go, but Cheerwine's train was too much and LVG took the win, Jen not finishing where she can. Pretty fun and considerably less suffering than the cross race. Saw Mario Cippolini too. Rode back on the sidewalk down the Strip. Excited to go home.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Combustion at Cross Vegas

I combusted. So much energy invested, so many people invested, and I combusted. Did not even know if I could finish the race, that's how backwards I was going. It was awful. Decent off the line, minus the handlebar lock with another rider. Course was almost all grass, an energy-sapping grass like a sandpit. Maybe one or two spots on entire course warranting the brakes. Tons of pedaling and it should have been good for me. Lyne stamped the race. Barb Howe is back, Mary McConnelaug too, and Chris Jones was rocking. Will just have to show I can do more than this. Hope I can have some legs for tonight, otherwise I will get dropped.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What Goes on in Vegas Stays in Vegas (Please!)

Stock photos since the camera is dead but this is Vegas. Pure excess. Times Square comically tame. Opposite of no-billboard Vermont. Smoking indoors. Buffets and gluttony. Shoot a machine gun. Six-lane streets and a record pedestrian fatality rate. No distinction between day and night inside these casinos. What is the appeal of computer slot machines? But rode today north of the city and behold, Red Rock Canyon. I love the West.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Michigan Day 2: "You Have More Tools Than the Hammer"

Course today was very similar to yesterday, same and different tricky off-cambers, but the grass a bit more worn. Ran only 30psi today in the tubulars (35 yesterday) and it helped me to be much smoother in the corners. Got the hole shot again, led Kerry the whole first lap. But Adam noted what I think is the moral of the story: "You have more tools than the hammer." And said I should have eased up halfway through that first lap once I had forced the selection, made her do some work, because there was a drafting effect on this course. I wanted to lead since I didn't think I was good enough in the corners, but I was better today and maybe if I had not gassed myself I could have jumped ahead to lead those corners I wasn't good at or closed a small gap coming out. But instead I led that entire first lap, went pretty hard even though I did ease up and rest a bit, but made myself vulnerable to Kerry's attack coming through the start finish on the paved stretch. She put 23 seconds into me in that second lap, and the gap at the end was 37 (five lap race). Pack racing and tactics are new to me in cross because so often I ride alone (we all do in the women's fields), but I think it's important to improve in this area. But I was psyched to ride better today than yesterday. Tired now, fly to Vegas tomorrow, but going to get a burrito now, which some of you know is a great thing. Photo of JP winning plus my leg, taken by Steve Balough. I was awaiting the outcome of the 3rd place duel.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Michigan Tailwind Systems Double Cross Day 1

Legs up as usual just here in Michigan after the first race of the weekend. Today's course was a long confusing one, mostly dry bumpy grass with a bunch of tough off-camber left turns, one barrier set, one run-up, plus a trip through a horse barn (Adam said "not quite a beer garden.") Promoter Jeff Notz is extremely dedicated, the venue is fantastic, and you just hope the word catches on that this is a race weekend worth traveling to. 13 women is not a big enough field! I got the hole shot and led Kerry Barnholt around maybe the first half of the first lap, but should not have let her pass me prior to the barrier/off camber section, since I could have procured some Jittery Joes coffee but more importantly if I had led the off-cambers she would not have dropped me through them! She rode away and I was having one of those races were I didn't feel particularly smooth or strong, with too much speed-scrubbing and quite a bit of flailing through all those turns. My race was mainly about holding off the hard charging hometown rider Ann Schwartz to maintain second. But I held second and tomorrow is a new day. Jonathan Page took the win, followed by Swiss champ Mueller, and the attacking Chris Jones got third!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

This Week at Base Camp

One fantastic aspect of my quasi-urban New Haven life is how little I have to drive during the week. I ride to school, buy tomatoes and bananas at Romeo and Caesar's market down the street, and occasionally even walk somewhere - taking the car downtown is not just wasteful but a major pain. But this week found me wishing for a bit of suburban sprawl as I schlepped three bicycles and sets of wheels in various states of function to and from the mechanic, wheel bags wrapped around my neck, riding two bikes a mile or so over potholes through traffic, etc. Mechanic Bob just broke his leg in a mountain biking accident, and two days after surgery he was gluing my tubulars and replacing cables. If for no other reason than immense gratitude, I sure hope I race well. Besides getting the bikes race-ready, I've been training and catching up on sleep, drawing phenol rings, hearing the story of Phinneas Gage for the umpteenth time, trying to hammer out the focus of my master's thesis, and preparing for the upcoming race swing. Last season I went to the big races and got clobbered - I should have stayed home, recognized and worked within a few more of the constraints on my training and recovery rather than add travel to the mix of stressors. That's part of the context, but the other part is that this is a new year with a different starting point and a different strategy. So off I go, carrying a cautious optimism and strong desire to deliver. Michigan this weekend, then Cross Vegas(!), then World Criterium Championships. Keep an eye out for the pink flair (on my race bag, that is!), but seriously, this Velo Bella team is gradually feeling more like home, and the team's no-nonsense support makes these endeavors possible. As far as school goes, good thing for laptops!

Monday, September 17, 2007

"Good Intensity Regardless of the Final Outcome"

So that's the verdict on this weekend. I was totally exhausted yesterday by some must-be-there life events, too much driving, and not enough sleep. And my big scheme to race masters cross at Suckerbrook then the Postsmouth Crit, with accomplices Sue McLean and Rebecca Wellons, hit a roadblock as a result of my ignorance on the age-up, age-down, cat-up, cat-down rules that govern women racing in men's races. In the end cross won out, and I scrapped an entry in the Portsmouth Crit to stay and race two cross races. Sue left me at Suckerbrook to go to Portsmouth, I camped by the welcoming Wojcik tent (prepared for snow/hail/rain/freezing temperatures with my enormous airplane bag, wheels and everything). I also set the record of time-at-venue: 8am-4pm. In the morning, I helped a bit with Rebecca's women's clinic, super fun and good to realize that after nine years or whatever of doing this sport I've learned something. There were probably 30 racers in the women's 3/4 race! Sue, who is a fantastic starter and shrewd racer, pulled off the win, which gives her the upgrade points needed to return to her rightful Category 2. Finally, at noon I raced the men's 3/4. I started hard and fought for two laps, then settled in. Given how regional women's racing mostly involves riding alone, riding in traffic is so useful, because that's how it is in the national level racing. I even got rammed and cut off a bunch of times - fun stuff though I took a beating and tweaked a muscle that resulted in my going over barriers as though on a pogo stick. The course was pure horsepower with a few off-camber turns and a big sandpit, dry and fast - totally different from last week. In the women's race, my legs were cold and I did not jump well off the line, but I was going to be fine. Then probably 20 seconds into the race I flatted. In retrospect I probably could have finagled a semi-backtrack into the pit, but instead I rode a long stretch on that flat and was last by a long shot before reaching the pit and getting a wheel from Mark Wislocki. So the race was all about trying to charge back up through the field, quite a hard effort. I guess flatting is one way to divorce yourself from being preoccupied with a result and focus on the racing! Chasing down Sara Cushman - these rivalries crack me up - but she held me off and that was it. 5th place. Kate from West Hill won, Cris Rothfuss, then Amy Wallace. So glad I will have tubulars next week - thanks Richard Sachs - because I can't waste my time in the big races getting flat tires. Not so good that I ruined a Ksyrium SL rim... I loved Rebecca's blog tribute to cross from last week, but I would add to the downsides the equipment carnage that can be part of this sport. Paul Weiss photo of Amy about to best us at the start.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

This Silly Soapbox

Shamelessly stolen from The New Yorker, via my friend Marc's blog, but so excellent.

Monday, September 10, 2007


It was so rainy on Sunday in Vermont that I didn't want to ride so instead I went to the Milford Cross race in New Hampshire. I hadn't been on the bikes yet this year, which was a bit nervous-making, so I decided to race the race before the women just to remember how to ride in an environment where I knew I would not be preoccupied with how fast I went or what place I came in. So I just rode around with the men's 3/4, trying to be smooth and use little gears. The course was pretty technical, a short lap with not much pavement, lots of turns on wet grass, one sand pit and three barrier sets. It was a good thing I did this because the seats on both my bikes slipped because I had not tightened them enough, and I would have been irritated if this happened in the women's race. The women's race just felt calm - it was a totally new experience for cross, this trying to be smooth, racing without gasping and flailing. I don't think I had a choice since my legs were pretty dead from the hill climb. Rebecca (Wellons) had more horsepower than I did, but I was doing some corners better and held my small gap. A goal of mine for the season is to learn to treat races according to the purpose they serve in the bigger picture, to not care how I do or read too much into a result. So I am glad to meet the objective of being smooth, but after last season - make that the last two seasons - I would be lying not to say it feels really good to win. I LOVE NEW ENGLAND CROSS. Altogether this grass-roots weekend killed all my cynicism about racing. Photo from Paul Weiss.

Burke Mountain Hill Climb

Friday morning I had an email from a riding acquaintance from the Berkshires asking me to do the team competition in a hill climb race up Burke Mountain in North Vermont on Saturday. I had to be in Vermont for a wedding later that day, the prize list was good, and it sounded pretty fun in a masochistic sort of way. All I knew about the climb was that Sara Cushman reported that Shauna Gillies-Smith said it was the hardest climb she's ever done - and this is the Shauna who routinely raced cross right up to the point of almost blacking out. The race was so low key I can't even tell you, a window into this cult sport of hill climb races, one I never thought I would dabble in. Warming up (one of two on trainer/rollers), I overheard a conversation between two older guys: One said "oh I am going to do some more road races this season," and the other replied "road races - I don't see well enough to do those anymore." And there was another guy there, in his 70s, riding a mountain bike covered in bumper stickers - "This bike climbed Mt Washington" and such - racing in leather work boots and toe clips. I guess he's a regular on the circuit! The team competition was based on the cumulative time of one man and one woman. My teammate Jeff Daigle had a 22-26 on his bike, and needless to say I was a bit overgeared with my 34-27. It was pretty much 30 minutes of low cadence grinding on 12-20% grade, trying to go as hard as possible without blowing up and ideally finishing ahead of all the other women. We did it, and won the team competition. So now I have a season pass to Burke Mountain, which means I might be forced to take up tele skiing again. On the way to the wedding, I went swimming at the GMSR circuit race finish - why haven't I done this before!!?? At the wedding (right above Kenyon's Field) I confirmed with a friend that this super-steep Burke Mountain was indeed the hill he roller-skied down (as in training devices for cross-country skiing that lack brakes) and remarkably did not crash on when one of the roller skis lost a front wheel at 40 or 50 mph. Now he is a physician.

GMSR Crit: Not to Be

Meant to write this last week: Sometimes we forget to complement as well as criticize when we critique, and it's always easier to criticize something than attempt to do it yourself. I think I am critical of myself - most hard-driving bike racers are their own harshest critics - but I got called on this blog giving some wrong information/unwarranted criticism and need to make a correction. PLEASE if I ever say something dumb or offensive on this let me know! First, TRIA had 4 riders not 6, and they did not race as non-aggressively as I reported in the circuit race. They got the sprint jersey too, which was a big objective. In cyclocross, I had a realization a few years ago that "this is a good course" basically means "this course suits me." Listen and you will see - the technically strong consider technical courses good, the horsepower riders consider power courses good - it's actually pretty funny. And so now I think this about my frustration with negative racing, because what it really means is that I am not a good enough bike racer to do well in all kinds of racing, aggressive and negative. And just as a good cross racer can race all kinds of courses in all kinds of weather, so too can a good road racer find ways to win on all types of courses and in all varieties of aggressive and non-aggressive racing. The crit: I did not have great legs, wanted a break but it wasn't happening and I wasn't doing much. Kristen made a great charge for the intermediate sprint that put her in the lead. Could have jumped to third on gc with win in a break. And why not try. Hiroko made an awesome attack with two-to-go, and I got across clear, but wish I hadn't, because this might have triggered a response from the field and there are few I would rather see win this stage than dear Hiroko (ok, so I wanted to win!). So I felt - good grief did I chase her down, which was a pretty awful feeling. But my effort with two-to-go was it, and I had nothing for the sprint. Megan Gaurnier had the finish dialed but got nipped by Nicky Wangsgard at the line. Kristen got the gc, Amy ended up second, and Mary Zider did a fantastic all-around race for 3rd. I ended up 5th on gc. Ok, I still need to check my Polish dictionary to reply to one comment on this blog!

Monday, September 3, 2007

GMSR Road Race: Better Day

This 64 mile road course is 18 miles of flat to the sprint line, then a selective climb, Middlebury Gap, at mile 35, then fast descending, flats, and a few kickers leading into the Baby Gap and the final steep and switchbacking climb, App Gap. TRIA raced with their numbers today, and in the first 20 miles pressured Kristen to defend the jersey by firing off one attack after another. It chilled out into the Middlebury climb though. I saved energy and positioned well, but came off at the QOM, maybe 15th over the climb. But the chase was not too tough and we regrouped. Alison Testerote in 2nd place had been dropped. I tried to motivate the group to rotate, to wear out the pure climbers and those with less endurance in their legs (and keep us moving). Bascially no one attacked (well, except for me, once on my favorite dirt section). TRIA attacked into Baby Gap. I guess it was supposed to be a two-rider attack, but instead one rider chased down the other. After Middlebury Gap I wasn't sure how I would climb, but just stuck to the plan of saving energy and racing that climb, no early attacking. Amy Dombrowski attacked at the base. Kristen rode her own climb, clawed her way back, but got second in the end. Mary Zider got 3rd. I rode my own climb too, stronger on the flatter sections and struggling relative to those around me on the steep stuff. I could have used a 34-27! Rebecca Much nipped me in the last few hundred meters, but I managed 6th, which I feel pretty good about. A spectacular crit can still move me up on GC and I love this crit. Kristen lost the leader's jersey by one point and you can bet she wants it back. Mary Zider is racing awesomely, in third place now. Back at the condo, we were elated to read online that Chris Jones, one of Hiroko and my fellow New Haven cyclists, finished 9th in the US Pro Road Race! WOW.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

GMSR Circuit Race: Spending Energy Doing Nothing

I went into the circuit race trying not to be demoralized by the TT result and sticking to my plan of riding for gc in this points race, which meant no sprint jersey, no foolish attacking, and doing my best to win. Things went ok, 4th place, but I guess it was a small victory in my "race the race" campaign. With 20-20 hindsight, there are two risks I should have taken and did not. The course is a circuit race with a QOM hill and a flat finish, a loop we did 2 3/4 times. At one point we were going 12mph on a flat, that's how negative the race was. The one team in the race, TRIA, (6 riders to everyone else's 1 or 2) attacked maybe once the whole 50-mile race (even after getting the sprint jersey) and chased down the few attacks that went, even when the top two on gc were totally isolated without teammates. Most of the energy I spent today was in reigning in the desire to attack out of boredom and embarrassment. In spite of the horrendous TT I was still in the mix given points scoring so I just rode for the finish, because I can sprint ok these days and because I am marked in this field and because everyone is chasing even when it's not their job. With 5k to go, a TRIA rider launched a good attack - and this is the one I wish I gambled and went with - even more clearly than I wish I countered with 1.5k to go after Alison Testerote reeled her in. But I waited for the sprint. I know the left side is better, but Silke and Suz Weldon led it out way too early, so I was sprinting on the left way too long while there was still a fast-moving mob on the right that ended up launching the top three places. I went from 1st to 4th. Kristen got 3rd, which moves her into the lead. The rest of the standings are tight, with me in 8th. As we all know, today is the big day. Mad River is going to be epic!