Thursday, June 18, 2009

Home Again

Stopped in the Berkshires for a few days - hard to say how much I love riding here. Evidently it rained the entire time I was in Canada so it is very green! Got to ride with my mom. I know her seat is a little low - she likes it that way. Now back in New Haven, where it's been raining non-stop. Trying to hold onto the sensation of being a real bike racer that I rediscovered at PEI, valuing recovery for instance and not buzzing around constantly. Doing some work on a land conservation conference taking place at Yale next week- trying to prepare for the storm, excited for a New Haven festival called Arts and Ideas, and liquidating tons of excess bike possessions. An imminent move promises streamlining. I'll miss New Haven though. Back on the bike getting ready for Fitchburg. Hoping now begins a new phase of the season where I am competitive in races. Housatonic Hills on Sunday.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tour of PEI Stage 5

Missed opportunity in the crit today. Unclear objectives and I underperformed. Bridge to winning break went and at that point I was actually sitting second wheel and just did not make it happen, having tried to go across minutes before. #$*%! Team did not make the racing as in previous days but so it goes. Overall it was a very positive week: 3rd on team gc, QOM, 6th, 10th on gc (and me 16th), three top tens in stages. Such fun racing, and extremely meaningful for me to find my legs again and to race with a strong team where aggressive racing made sense. Still astonished I went from last place last week, off the back every day but one, to riding solidly here. These last two weeks testify to the merit of the sink or swim strategy for fitness adaptation through hard racing, that is for sure. Montreal tomorrow, home Saturday, Fitchburg in the future. Speaking of which, perhaps I should make some plans...

Stage 4 Correction

In the spirit of accuracy, quick clarification: Race leader Tara Whitten (battling on the road for yellow with Australia's Bridie O'Donnell) was in the break, driving it. So MTN would have taken second on GC. When Whitten crashed (along with the others) and needed mechanical service, that spelled doom for the break.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tour of PEI Stage 4

My adoptive team MTN Energade almost won the race today. I can't tell you how exciting it was. After some hard racing that included pressure by a long break of Natasha Elliot and a Quebec rider and some attacking by others teams including us, Carla and Marissa got away on a QOM. They were in a small group at first, then another few came across to make a force of about 10. For maybe 20 minutes the gap was hovering around 30 seconds. Chase was full bore but teams were getting fried, and honestly, the elastic had snapped. I even overheard as much from another team director. Then suddenly, just as it looked like the break was gone - 50 seconds and Carla would have moved into 1st on GC - Carla and another rider crashed in the break. The field saw it on a hill. And just like that the gap came down and the break was caught. Raced hard to the end but it ended as a bunch sprint. QOM won. So close but a great day of racing, with the notable exception of losing the team's sprinter to a crash (her second in two days). Still in disbelief I have legs. Hard race but nowhere near as hard as yesterday. Long portions of the race spent sitting on the chase, then some hard parts. But no echelons and no time riding in the caravan, much less steep and less incessant hills. Could actually take the hands off the bars to drink and eat. Lobster feast after the race and now we are in Charlottetown for tomorrow's crit. Time for a non-Euro to win a road/crit stage - how about a South African or at least a North American!?

Tour of PEI Stage 3

Stage 2 brought a 120k road race contested in very windy conditions. I had heard PEI was FLAT but constant up and down would be a better description. The plan was to go for it to try to split the race and advance top rider Carla on gc, plus win QOM. Maybe it's that question of picking your battles. I was hoping to get in the early break because of my diesel fitness but the field would have none of even the most suicidal of breaks. Race leader Tara Whitten - an unknown to most - was super strong, helped impressively by two teammates. Australia took quite a lot of control of the race, and it paid off when Bridie McDowell, 2nd place on GC, won an intermediate sprint bonus that put her in the yellow jersey. I felt great for 50k, tried to cover some moves but then the legs turned to mud. After that I was basically surviving for 70k. My team killed it on the QOM, with rider Marissa escaping in short breaks to take the jersey. A big downhill crash occured when a rider who had ridden into the gravel shoulder tried to hop back up but instead catapulted herself into the field. MTN rider Cherise landed on her head, shaved the lens off her racing glasses - very scary. Hanka Kupfernagel got a chainring to her forehead. Totally unecessary. The crash followed by a QOM split the field into echelons but the front did not ride hard enough to stay away. Quality time in the caravan. Managed one attack to try to split the finish but I was basically useless. I had eaten 2 gels and 1 bottle all day. Stupid but the race was so windy I felt I could barely take my hands off the bars. After that it is all about recovery, as today brings another day of more of the same: 120k of wind and rollers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tour de PEI Stage 2

Stage 2 featured a time trial across the Confederation Bridge from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island, the world's longest bridge spanning ice-filled waters at 14k. Our director as well as the astute Cascades director Max (who had studied the previous year's worth of wind data on the bridge!) advised a few riders to sit up in the sprint yesterday so they could start the time trial early. Unfortunately I have been time gapped so many times before that I finished a respectable 35th on Sunday! We raced with a fierce cross tail wind that turned into a pure cross, then cross headwind over the course of the starters. I was satisfied with my ride - with my current diesel fitness a 14k flat windy time trial is probably my best event - and the team did great: 6th, 10th, 18th (me), 27th, then the sprinter. Because of the strange results, there is unquestionably a lot of aggressive and very hard racing to come. The team of surprise winner Tara Whitten of Atlantic Cycling Center is going to have its hands full.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tour of PEI Stage 1

Today brought 10 laps of a flat and windy 10k circuit with intermediate sprints. Avoided a big early crash in the wind. Totally different race from Montreal so far, just not nearly as fast. Felt a bit like some of the flat circuit races at Altoona. Wasted some energy jumping into a few splits destined to return but important to be part of the team effort and priceless to remember I actually can race a bike. Sprint finish won by Bronzini. Hoping to do a solid time trial tomorrow - I sure got enough practice in Montreal.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Tour of Prince Edward Island

Hello from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, start to the Tour of PEI and home of Anne of Green Gables. Arrived last night after a nap-filled bus trip and enjoyed a very leisurely recovery day of sleeping, building up the bike, 1:30 easy spinning on the race course, taking care of some logistics, and the opening race banquet. Still missing my race wheels but they should turn up. To my relief the team I am riding with, the South African team MTN Energade, though surprised to have a guest rider foisted upon them, is extremely welcoming and a great group. They/we could win the race. I really hope to have some fitness and contribute to the effort. Hard to know what to anticipate. The field will be less strong since big gorillas Cervelo and Colubmia and smaller gorillas Nuremberger and Webcor went to Philly, replaced by new teams and some ringers flown in. German National Team will be a force. Courses are mostly flat with wind a major factor that will cause splits in the field. A 15k TT across the Confederation Bridge (bridge is 14k long....) on day two will shape up the GC and make room for breaks. I sure hope I gained some fitness from my rough race in Montreal. It is going to be a very fun week if I am strong enough. Pictured: view from the bus window, the bridge we time trial across (from the bus), and Summerside near tomorrow's finish line.

Stage 5: Mt. Sainte Hillaire

Promise to add some photos soon. Final stage, this one featuring the novelty of a hill. Five loops with a 1k hill with QOM followed 3k later by the start finish sprint line. Much better with positioning. Cervelo controlled the race for yellow jersey Kirsten Wild, with World Cup winner Emma Pooley motoring at the front at 40-45k/hour the whole time just to ward off attack. Positioning war into the turn into the twisty bike path section preceding the hill. Finding my legs powering the flats but now how about a hill? Not so good - needed to chase back into the group even on the calm first lap. Second lap kaboom and thus I completed my max-time-off-the-back reintroduction to fast stage racing with 65 of rolling on my own and for a while with a couple tired riders. Moved up almost every day but and managed to secure the Lanterne Rouge. Um ahem... at least I finished! Finish the race at 8pm, then to a banquet, back to Montreal, home at midnight, pack the bikes, up at 5, get lost driving to Elisa's, drop the car, get a ride to bus to PEI, on the bus to PEI for 14hrs. Now today, short recovery ride in Summerside PEI. Legs this week. That is the plan.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Stages 3 and 4: Lachine TT and Little Italy Crit

Rode the bike path the 3k TT. Did not invest too much in this event, given that I was feeling rather wrecked from the previous day, was 27 minutes down on gc, and that even when fresh I don't excel at this length of event. Time trial is done without aero bars or TT bikes given all the Euro teams having flown in, a short out-and-back on a spit of land in the Lachine Canal (maybe?). Scrubbed too much speed in the first set of corners but fine otherwise - 68th place and 29 seconds back. Others are just so much fitter. The winner averaged 53k an hour. Times like this I just realize that is a whole different league. After the TT, Cascade mechanic Gary identified and fixed my binding heatset - and suddenly the bike felt great - wahoo! Maybe I had not just been a freaked out scared rider these past few days, but my bike had actually been slightly unstable. Home for a nap and food. My teammates ate horse (pictured) but I passed... In the evening, we rode urban guerrilla through Montreal (past its bike-sharing stations!) to the Little Italy crit. Fast but non-technical four-corner crit. Riding on the outside you don't even have to stand up. Luckily missed a crash and was comfortable in the group for the first time all week. A bunch of riders caught behind the crash tried to chase rather than take a free lap, but it's nearly impossible to catch this field once gapped, and were sadly cut from the race. So hard to think clearly at times like these. Time gapped at the finish - silly as I had legs to have gotten myself up further. Cascades lost Joanie to the crash/chase escapade. Another got gapped when a plastic bag blew into her wheel and she needed to stop once free laps had ended. Today brings the big stage: 130k with a real hill, preceded by a 5k sprint/positioning war on a curvey path the width of one bike. Wish me luck. We've got one rider 26th on gc. Hope to position well and help her move up.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stage 2: Granby

I am very edgy in the pack these days and it's killing me. 11 laps of a 10k circuit last night, with QOM on a moderate big-ring rise and sprint laps on a finish line preceded by two fast left corners. For a while I was up there, in the racing mix and even jumping into the action once. I remembered the positioning strategy of following someone good (the alternate to just filling every small hole in sight), so I was riding for a while on the calm wheel of Hanka Kupfernagel - good fun. But then early in the race after feeling totally fine except nervous, on the lap where a QOM immediately followed the sprint, through the sprint I got gapped off and that was it. I was chasing hard for a few k with World Cup winner Emma Pooley, who had been riding on the front for almost the entire preceeding lap, but then she skipped into the caravan and I just couldn't. So it was another 60k alone. I hope I can ever guest ride again. My teammates are impressively solid and fearless (one a Montreal bike currier turned fashion writer, I learn...). Today we have a 3k tt at 11:30, then a crit in Little Italy at 7:15. It should be a calm day in a way - short super hard effort but then a crit that is uber-fast but a simple four-corner affair. The fans at this race are amazing - every lap last night there were probably at least a hundred people cheering me. You would have thought I was the winning break. After the race we eat dinner in a community center or school, with all the teams and race volunteers and organizers. That would be great if only I had not left my toothbrush and toiletries bag there last night. Onward to the race! Today will be better and I will definitely come out of this stronger.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stage 1: Chataguey

Stage 1 done and I am in 96th place over 10 minutes back! As always, there's a story: The course was a flat, four corner 5k loop raced 15 laps with intermediate sprints for time and finish bonuses. We raced at 5:30, mid-50s and rain threatening. The race was fast and nervous from the start, people pin-balling up the sides constantly to improve positioning. I started out positioning well enough, but by lap 3 had settled into about mid-pack. Suddenly the riders ahead of me crashed and I went down, easily but tangled in someone's bike. The crash delayed the whole caravan. I chased too hard too soon, and could not even hope to jump on bumpers when team cars came flying by at easily 35mph towing their respective riders on their bumpers. Burned myself to the point I even fell off a Colavita bumper that would have been my ticket back into the pack. And so the joke that I will go out of my way to do steady hard efforts continues, since there I was riding with two tiny riders not strong on this power course, riding a long sustained effort in the rain for the time cut. Later we picked up Mary Zider, someone I am always glad to ride with but not when it indicates we are both off the back. We jumped into the field for three laps (evidently this was ok), then finished on our own. Four teammates finished in the group, one came out of the crash as though kicked by a horse, and finished solo behind my small group. On the plus side, my legs felt the best they have all year. Today will bring a 110k route with some moderate QOM hills and a technical finish, with time bonuses bound to be hotly contested. Highly unlikely a break would go, let alone stick, unless Cervelo sees that as there best defense of the jersey. This race is pretty much for sprinters - though Thursday's race is a tough uphill sprint - and decided on time bonuses plus tomorrow's 3k TT. Positioning is the name of the game today. Side project is identifying German cyclocross star Hanka Kupfernagel in the bunch.

Monday, June 1, 2009

And on to the Next

Transition between worlds and here I am Montreal for the Grand Tour of Montreal! Made some fitness progress in the last few weeks so here I go. At least I am fresh and motivated and on the way up not on the way down. Racing with Equipes Cascades, a great team of young talents based in Montreal. I am super psyched. Maybe I will even learn some French. Super hard four-day five-stage race with some of the best Euro teams. Generally an exercise in survival, but the team could have a few cards to play. Then on to PEI. Taking a vacation from e-life except maybe I will tend to the blog.

Finishing One Endeavor

Memorial Day this year brought not Somerville but graduation. What a pageant - there was even a scepter on the podium intended to confer some sort of divine right of Yale. But ceremony can be good in how it brings closure, plus my Forestry School has a proud tradition of cap decoration (orange flowers pictured), complete with steel drum band to accompany marching. We certainly seemed to be having more fun than other schools. Great to see my mom and my brother, in from Alaska. Training at odd hours brought delights such as early morning rides in cold rain and lightning, only to have the day clear completely shortly after. I'll miss New Haven!