Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Get Your Carbon Fix Here: Stradalli Bicycles

I'd just like to take a moment to showcase one of the Colavita Fine Cooking sponsors that is keeping us looking good and fast at the same time.
Most people know Stradalli makes high-end carbon bikes (road, track, mountain, time trial...pick your flavor) for prices that crush the brand name bikes.  Most aren't aware that Stradalli also competes the same way in other markets, by selling high quality products without the pricey brand name.  That's why Team Colavita Fine Cooking wasn't just outfitted with fast bikes, but also sweet shoes, clothing, and a multitude of cycling accessories.  The bright red kicks are one of my favorites, and their women's t-shirts actually fit a normal person instead of becoming a belly shirt after one wash.
  Stradalli products are for all the people who feel cheated buying the brand names they know are making huge profit margins on them, but don't know where else to look for assured high quality.  That's exactly where Stradalli shoots the gap between cheap useless product and price-bloated high performance equipment.  It's the best of both worlds, low-cost and high quality, which is a product strategy market gurus call "best price".
If you don't believe me yet, you will when Team Colavita is winning on Stradalli bikes this year.
Visit their website at http://www.carbonroadbikebicyclecycling.com/ to see what the company is all about.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Collegiate Road Nationals, 2013


For the second year in a row collegiate road nationals was to be set in Ogden, Utah, home of mountains and Mormons.  I love travelling to many different places and seeing different ways of life, and the Salt Lake City area was certainly a cool one. 

                It took us three days to drive from Wichita Falls, TX, to Ogden due to a snow blockade on I-70 through a Colorado mountain pass.  We were stuck up on the mountain for hours, not sure if we’d have to camp the night.  Luckily we wouldn’t have to drink our own urine as the pass opened and we carefully drove down the mountain. 

                The first day of racing was going to be a challenging one for me, as I’d have to race two time trials in the course of three hours.  Up first was the team time trial, a 30km, out-and-back course along Antelope Island, a mass of land in the middle of the Salt Lake peppered with herds of bison.  In fact, we were all a bit concerned about bison wandering across the course.  I don’t know about my teammates but I wasn’t stopping for anything, especially during my individual time trial.  I only had about 2 hours of down time between the TTT and ITT, which I spent stuffing my face with sugar and re-warming up.  I also got to wear a really cool speedsuit from Vie 13 which was just half a step above nudity, but was crazy fast.  I didn’t feel too tired from the TTT going into the ITT, which was good.  The course was the same except only 20km instead of 30km, and I was to go off last according to the USA Cycling race predictor rankings.

 

                In the first few km there was a painfully long hill, and I almost caught the rider in front of me, who dangled there for the majority of the race until the final few km when we hit the backside of the nasty hill again.  I must have felt way better than most racers at this point because I started passing a bunch of girls a warp speed on the ascent, and held my position down to the finish line.  It took me a while to figure out I had won (only after the drug testers chased me down, put a bag over my head, and dragged me by the scruff of the neck to a small tent and port-o-potty).  Apparently I was so overjoyed I couldn’t pee for hours, and when I did finally decide to go, I just barely made the minimum pee requirement line of 90mL.  In the doping control process, you have to pour your own cup of pee into two glass containers, one marked “A” and the other marked “B”, and usually it isn’t a problem filling to the line. But since I barely made the minimum pee requirements, I had to carefully shake out every drop of pee I could into the glass containers.  It was as if suddenly my pee had the value of gold.  That last drop was worth $1 million because it would decide whether I had to sit there for another decade and pee again or if my team and I could finally go home.  Luckily the amount passed inspection and we got to go home.

                The next day was the criterium, a wide-open, turney course with a slight blip of a hill that really didn’t do anything but cause everyone to swarm you every single lap.  The swarming was a problem because it was a super sketchball field, probably because many of the riders competed in small conferences and had little experience racing a 70 rider field.  Nonetheless, I feared for my life and tried my best to stay at the front and out of the way of kamikazes, as crashes happened randomly and seemingly without reason.  The final lap was a panicked frenzy for most of the field where I weighed my risk of flinging elbows with riders that aren’t so familiar with flinging elbows.  To put it simply, I had a hard time trusting that most of the riders wouldn’t crash if I raced aggressively, and the final lap didn’t string out the field so I had to navigate around riders carefully.  I was top ten around the last turn, but took the inside line where I was held up behind a slow turner and got swarmed on the outside.  I settled for 17th, dissatisfied because I was hardly tired.



 

                The road race demanded an early 8am start the next day, and my body was tired from consecutive racing.  The first part of the race consisted of a couple 17 mile laps around a lake that had mild rollers. There were many futile attacks that dangled for a while, but nothing threatened.  Finally we veered off the short loops into the large loop, where I made sure I was top ten entering a narrow, curvy, construction-infested canyon road.  Out of the canyon the wind was super blustery, and we made our way toward the final 3 mile climb.  I was in perfect position going into the climb, top ten and sheltered from the vicious winds that kept blowing riders around.  As the grade increased, I settled into a rhythm in the top five.  Within a half mile though I was struggling hard, and I realized I’d have to back off the pace a little or I would red line and blow up.  I settled into a group of about 15 riders, just within view of the five leaders up the road.  The altitude was testing my cardio system as I struggled to breathe.  By the time I reached the top of the mountain, my group had dwindled to maybe five or six riders.  I accelerated over the top and descended quickly, only one rider keeping pace.  Eventually three other riders joined us, and we pacelined the final 8km to the finish.  When I saw the finish banner, I started my sprint early, probably from the 350 meter line (maybe further), but by the time I realized this there was no going back, I had to commit.  So I sprinted for forever.  And so did the riders behind me.  I was going and going and going and started to wonder “why isn’t everyone coming around me?” so I looked back and the closest rider was about half a bike length behind me, sprinting full kilt.  Then I was going and going and going and began to wonder again “why the heck isn’t anyone coming around me????” and so I looked back and saw the same rider about a bike length behind me now, flopping around in something that resembled a half-dead sprint.  I really don’t blame her though, my sprint was turning ugly, too.  I managed to win my group sprint, though, and capture 6th place on the day.

                I was out of breath for a good 30 minutes after my race.  I think my lungs are still holding a grudge against me. 

                Overall the weekend was a success: a win, a 17th, and a hard-earned 6th.  The team was satisfied, too, with a 12th by Tony Baca in the road race for the men, and a 6th in the men’s team time trial.  My celebration was short lived, though, because I had finals to cram for on my return to Wichita Falls, TX.  The life of a student cyclist.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Presbyterian Criterium

I know I’ve been pretty bad about not posting reports for a while…being a student athlete is difficult! In case you’re interested in knowing what it’s like for me in the Spring semester at college, here’s a little glimpse: I race just about every weekend from mid to late February, leaving campus Friday and returning late Sunday evening. I always bring textbooks and work with me, but if you think I actually get anything done on race weekends then HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. You’re wrong. Racing starts ridiculously early on Satureday, and after we finish the road race we drive to find some lunch, return to the venue with just enough time to get ready and race our team time trials. By the time we roll out of the venue it’s usually late afternoon, and we are starving and tired. After grabbing something to eat it’s back to the hotel where we have maybe two hours before bed, and usually I can’t get motivated to crack open a book. Sunday is another early wake up call in order to make it to the crit course for the lower category riders to race. Soon after my race is over, we’re back in the van and driving home. And if I so much as glance at a textbook I become seriously carsick. The weekdays aren’t much better. Between classes, training, and a ten hour workweek, there’s not much room left for truly relaxing (in that “I have nothing to do/borderline boredom” way). In fact, my training rest days are the days I crank out assignments, reports and study sessions like a well-oiled machine because I know my brain will be a useless pile of mush after my VO2 workouts or 4 hour endurance rides. Usually it’s during this semester my room takes a turn for the worse and everything in my drawers and closet ends up on the floor. Sometimes I find myself putting the almond milk in the cupboard. And of course I have every intention to write up reports on my race weekends, but just never end up doing it. It can be crazy and frustrating at times, but the semester ends in a few weeks and I’ll have so much free time!


This past weekend I flew to North Carolina to race the Presbyterian criterium in Charlotte, an NCC and USA Crit Series event. This race is infamous for its super high drop-out rate due to the difficult nature of the course. I don’t think I can sufficiently describe the course in writing…that requires eccentric hand gestures and maybe a napkin drawing, but to say the least it’s a continuous round of quick, fast turns followed by uphill straightaways that make it a very very bad idea to sit at the back of the field. I raced the first few laps super aggressively, in either the top five riders or even on the front, because I know that spending the energy now would keep me out of the chaos of the 70 rider peloton. As the race continued I drifted back into the field, and rode with the ebbs and flows of the race. Most major teams were represented; Optum, Tibco, Colavita, NOW and Novartis, and many other smaller but strong contingents. A break with just about every major team got away in the latter part of the race, with my teammate Lenore Pipes bridging up. The break got brought back, and the race entered the final few laps and became a mixture of aggression and exhaustion from too many laps on the painful course. Going into one lap to go I was sitting about mid-field, and going into the final two straightaways I gunned it past another twenty or so riders. Then it was around the last turn and into the long uphill sprint that turned my legs into floppy tree trunks by the time I hit the line in 20th place. My teammate Erica Allar had sat in excellent position the entire race, but had burned too many matches chasing down moves and settled for 12th in the blazing field sprint. I also found out I was leading the U25 competition in the USA Crit Series which was pretty awesome as well.

Of course my schoolwork followed me all the way to Charlotte and I had to take an online test the very next morning before catching a flight back to Texas. I got an A on it too. #winning

Photo: Jessi Prinner takes the lead in the U-25 competition after Charlotte Criterium last night

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tour of Elk Grove 2012


This year I really got to see how the Tour of Elk Grove has blossomed in terms of its Pro women’s tour.  Not only was there more prize money to be had, but we actually got to do the same circuit race as the Pro men on Sunday, instead of two back-to-back crit courses that were exactly the same last year.  The attendance was more impressive than last year as well, with most of the big pro teams represented, including Optum, Exergy, NOW, Primal, and TIBCO for a roster of 60 riders.
Friday was the same TT course as last year, a 4.5 mile course with long straights and a U-turn.  It was hot and windy, so I guzzled 5 bottles of fluid before my race.  Prologues like this are always over in the blink of an eye, and I can hardly remember much about it besides the wind blowing my rear disk and front wheel around.  I finished with a time of 10:01, about 8 seconds better than last year which put me in 21st place (and of course it only paid 20 deep. typical.).
Saturday was a crit course which took us around a U-turn and into a series of turns through a neighborhood and back out to the finish straight.  Since the field was constantly braking, it was a race of attrition with multiple accelerations per lap, where the field was always strung out down the finish stretch.  This makes for very hard racing because there is just no place to really recover, and no period of time to just coast and relax coming out of turns.  I also nearly avoided a mid-pack crash just after the finish line with a very severe brake-check that I’m pretty sure almost set my wheel on fire, and then had to catch back onto the field from a near dead stop.  As if I needed more intervals that day.  By the end of the 60 min race, I was gasping for breath (not to mention it was painfully hot) and my legs were trembling from incessant jumps.  I was quite proud to finish in 27th, seeing as though a large chunk of riders had gotten dropped during the race (it’s a good indicator of how hard the course/race was).
Sunday finished off the stage race in a 10km circuit race (5 laps) that took us around three 180 degree turns per lap.  By now my U-turning abilities were quite stellar to say the least.  The race was once again fast and string out in sections, but for some reason I was feeling awesome and the fast efforts didn’t seem so hard.  I sat in for the majority of the race, and then fought for position on the last lap.  With roughly 4km to the finish, several riders decided to turn a block early (probably disoriented from the massive amount of U-turns in the last few days) and caused a massive pile-up in the middle of the field.  Luckily I was in good position to dodge around the outer edge of the crash.  The front of the field waited for a kilometer or so to let unfortunate race leaders and stragglers catch back on (once again, a show of race etiquette) and the race resumed.  I was mid-pack with one turn to go, and I made a mad dash toward the front which put me in the top 15.  Around the last turn the jockeying began, and the field opened up the sprint, which always blocks the whole road at Elk Grove so if you’re not top 5 you’re most likely going to get screwed.  I was overjoyed to finish 14th since I’ve never gotten that type of finish before at Elk Grove.  My place on the last day moved me up into 17th in omnium.  Pretty good for an NRC race, especially since I didn’t have to catch a flight afterwards and send my bike box off with crossed fingers.  Local racing rocks sometimes. 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cascade Cycling Classic


One of the best parts about bike racing is all the neat places you get to visit.  My first stop on the way to Cascade was Reno, Nevada where I would stay at the house of a member of the team I would guest ride for, called Stevens Bikes p/b Pactimo.  I’d never given Reno a thought before as a good place to ride, but it’s the perfect combination of altitude, climbing, good weather, and bike routes.  Amy Thornquist, my host, was a brutally strong ironman triathlete stud that was new to bike racing, and could stomp all over the competition just because of her incredible fitness.  To exemplify how new she was to the sport, during Cascade she once asked me “what GC meant again”, even though she was in the top 30.
                We eventually made the trip up to Bend, Oregon, with a brief pit stop in Sacramento where I got to finally meet the team’s director, Bill Nicely.  The team consisted of mostly guest riders including a Brazilian rider named Flavia Oliveira, two Aussies named Kate Finegan and Loren Rowney, while the actual team members consisted of Nicole Justice and Amy Thornquist. 
                Day 1 was a 2.8 mile prologue time trial.  There really isn’t too much strategy to a prologue except to ride as hard as possible (indicators of good performance include scratchy throat, shakiness/dizziness and throwing up).  I did a decent performance for myself with a 40th place out of 96 starters.
                Day 2 was the brace-yourself-for-a-lot-of-pain road race, which included a twisty 20 mile climb followed by a 10 mile climb to the finish.   At the base of the climb the field slowly picked up the pace until riders fell off and groups began to form.  I settled into a large chase group, riding at threshold for what seemed like hours.  When we finally crested the climb I was filled with relief and gels (8 gels in your stomach doesn’t feel too great).   Since the race was up the road my group just rode tempo to the finish, and I was in 52nd place.  My teammate Kate Finegan, who was in a group behind mine in the race, reported that a rider decided to attack her group in a race for the finish.  Good job in riding your brains out for your 70th place, whoever you are.
                The next day was a 16 mile time trial, which I typically do well in, but my legs were completely shot from the start, so I decided to save my muscles and float the rest of the course.  Amy, who is a dietician, believes I didn’t eat enough glucose following the previous race and I simply bonked, and I agreed with her.  So what did I get to do that most dieticians won’t recommend to most people?  Pig out!!!  That’s right, carbo loading every two hours following the race.  In fact I was so bloated from carb binging I felt bad for Amy who was my bed buddy for the week.  Seeing how much Amy ate though, she was probably in the same state I was in.  In fact we both probably just acclimated to the stench of our copious “food processing” and could no longer sense it.  Anyone else would surely have dropped dead if they went in our room.
                My overwhelmed digestive system served me well, though, because the next day I was feeling fresher for the 70 mile road race.  We started with a long descent at a temperature in the 40s because of altitude on top of the mountain, and then the race turned aggressive over the flats and brief 4 mile climb in the middle of the race.  Since Amy was so new to the sport I was advised to keep an eye on her and help her move up when necessary, so I was a little worried partway through the race when she disappeared from the peloton.  I searched the field thoroughly several times, and after a while I just gave up, convinced she had been dropped for good.  Then suddenly I glanced to my left and saw…..what??! Amy?!?! Who scared the beejezes out of me and informed me she’d broken a waterbottle cage and lost about 3 min on the field trying to fix it and then somehow superhumanly motorpaced the team car at 45 mph (while the field was in attack mode I might add) for 15 min to catch back on.  It must be the ironwoman in her because this just confirmed to me how insanely strong she is.  Then, of course, she manages to stay with the front group on the final climb while I get shafted off into another chase group to finish in 48th place.
                Day 5 was a fast and furious criterium that I approached with the mentality of conserve and stay mid-field.  Even though everyone knows me to be a more bulky-sprinter type (haha couldn’t keep a straight face there) I just wanted to get past this stage because I have a bad tendency to implode in the final few days of a stage race.  I made it to the finish with no race crashes in 34th place, while teammate Loren got 3rd in the field sprint!
                The final day I knew was going to be the kicker.  I’ve finally learned to stop being fooled by short-length race days because they always turn out to be the hardest.  Even though we only had three laps of a circuit totaling 51 miles, there was a brutal section consisting of a steep kicker followed by a steady ascent followed by another two steep kickers I knew my legs would not be up for.  I knew it was vital to be in the front of the field when we made the right hand turn into the first kicker.  We had just gone a 1 km climb, and then drag raced through the false-flat section leading up to the right-hand turn kicker section, and even though I didn’t have much in the tank I forced myself to fight to the front despite the utter chaos and painful pace.  I made it around the infamous right hand turn in good position, and was even on the front leading the charge down the quick descent into the first kicker.  Then we hit the bazillion-percent grade and my legs just up and deserted me.  Anyone who is familiar with the fatigue of many days of hard racing will know the horrific leg-lock that occurs when there is just nothing more the body can give and the field rushes away with tremendous power.  Luckily, there was a decent group of victims off the back like me and we formed a group and just finished out the race.
                I’m really glad I got the opportunity to guest ride for Stevens Bikes P/b Pactimo, thanks to Bill Nicely, because racing with a team and having that social atmosphere is such an indispensable experience.  Of course I got to race on my two Treks (road and TT bike) provided by Prairie Path Cycles, the main sponsor of ABD.  Amy was green with envy when she picked up my Trek Madone and gushed how light it was.  If Amy had it to ride on she probably would have just broken away at mile 1 and won the race by 10 minutes, and none of us would have ever lived down getting wupped by a triathlete ;-)


Friday, June 15, 2012

Tour of Galena


The only races I’ve ever considered to be run by sadistic promoters were in Europe.  By this I mean organizers who agree to make the race 140km along narrow, windy roads, throw in a few destroyed cobble sections about five feet wide, start 180 riders neutral out of a tiny town, and then not even consider postponing the event in freezing, wet conditions.  I have simply stopped doubting what they might throw at us next.
This past weekend’s Tour of Galena was the first American race that made me fear the event organizers.  Friday’s circuit race was a 7 mile loop that took us up two very steep and long walls, and they expected us to do this six times.  It took us 3 hours to do the 42 miles, and by the time we finished everyone was limping through the finish line one at a time.  Some women were walking up the wall by the last lap.  I did not realize I would so desperately need a feed, and just three laps in I was completely out of fluids. Finally, after much begging, I got a feed from one of my competitors’ supporters on the last lap. By that time Jeannie from PSIMET had broken away, and her teammate Kelli had rode away from me.  I managed to catch Kelli during the course of the last lap, but promised not to sprint her since her team had given me a hand-up.  Some people seemed puzzled by this, but I am still convinced that that bottle was worth the one place, considering how destroyed I was during the latter part of the race.
Saturday I woke up early for the 6 mile time trial along typical Galena hills that turned it into more of an interval workout.  I got to try out my new carbon Trek time trial bike lent to me by Prairie Path Cycles, and I won the race 50 seconds ahead of second place.
Everyone was somewhat dreading the afternoon road race after suffering on Friday’s course, or at least I was and was hoping that everyone else was, too.  The 67 mile race included more typical Galena hills, which by that time didn’t seem so terrifying.  It’s funny how the mind adapts to normalize a situation.  About halfway into the race I followed a strong attack by Jeannie and we quickly broke away from the field, working together and rapidly increasing our lead.  The last time check I received in the race was 4 minutes, and the motorcyclist seemed bored to report it.  Jeannie broke away on one of the last nasty hills, and my legs checked out for the day, so I just rode steadily to the finish for the final few miles.

Sunday featured a criterium that my body wanted to take no part in, and took a lot of willpower to get mildly enthusiastic for.  In order to secure my second place in omnium, I made sure to mark the third place rider, Kelli on PSIMET.  For having just destroyed themselves over the course of three races, everyone was riding very aggressively, and the race was fast.  At the end of the 50 minute race, there were two riders solo off the front (one chasing the other) so I set myself up for the sprint, being the beefy sprinter I am.  This meant slingshotting to the front just before the last off-camber turn and starting my sprint early from the corner.  It was the type of tight corner that one can’t take full throttle, so it’s best to be the first to slam on the brakes into it, and to accelerate out of it.  Thus, I was already up to speed by the time the second rider took three pedal strokes, and I sprinted for a safe third in the race.
                                                             The off-camber corner

One of the greatest parts about a hard-core stage race like this is that you feel obliged to indulge after it’s over, and not feel one bit guilty about it. I’m pretty sure I had pizza when I got home.  And ice cream.  And then slept 12 hours that night.   Now, though, I’m gearing up for the Road National Championships in Augusta, Georgia next week.  Just think of all the pizza and ice cream I get to eat if I win there.

                                                                   Omnium podium

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Fox River Omnium


A little over a week ago I arrived home to Illinois after finishing my first year of college in Texas at Midwestern State University.  I was excited to be able to race in the Fox River Omnium the following weekend because Saturday’s race was my hometown criterium in Elgin.  Just about every other person there asked me how my first year in college was, so I guess that’s a Commonly Asked Question I need to answer here.
College is awesome.  I strongly recommend it.
                It was also nice to see a lot of racers and ABD members I haven’t seen in a while.  I’m constantly reminded of how cool the cycling community is when I go to local races and have a ton of people to talk to or hang out with.  Sometimes I think I go to some races just to socialize.
                The Fox River Omnium was a combination of a Saturday criterium in Elgin followed by the infamous Fox River Grove criterium (more like a gauntlet) on Sunday.  A combination of sprint and finish points from both days would determine the omnium winner.  Since PSIMET was the race promoter, I was sure to see the entire PSIMET women’s team on course, with strong local women that included a mix of avid young racers and experienced veterans. 
                Saturday’s mostly flat criterium contained a tricky uphill left-then-righthand turn that I’ve heard someone call a “dipdedoop” that seemed to be claiming a lot of riders’ right pedals.  I’ve scraped enough pedals in my lifetime to know when my 172.5 crank will not clear its way through the pavement, so this was not a problem for me. 
                I managed to get away early in the 40 minute race with Jeannie from PSIMET on my wheel.  Since her team made up about ½ of the field she had the upper hand in not working, which sucked for me because it meant I had a long time trial ahead of me around many dipdedoops.  I think Jeannie finally felt sorry for me and started to work with about 5 laps to go.  I was blown when the final lap came and super dehydrated but there was no reason for me to just give up when I had the chance to at least try a sprint.  I came out of the dipdedoop behind Jeannie, and started my jump early and fast to try to get a gap on her, which worked, but the hard part was holding her off for the rest of the sprint.  I saw her out of the corner of my eye coming up fast on the line and we both threw our bikes in a fantastic looking photo finish.  I won by just a ridiculously small margin, and made it look really really cool.  I was excited to have won my hometown criterium, as it’s always special to win your homecoming game.


                Sunday’s criterium was vastly different because it had a monster hill in it, and I really can’t think of any way to describe it besides the fact that no one ever seems to be excited to race it.  Since the officials caught wind that there was a giant storm coming they shortened our race so that we only did about 6 or so laps.  Meanwhile, I was preparing myself for the monster by consuming way too much of a volatile drink mix that is mostly used by track sprinters to get amped up for match sprints and keirins.  Caffeine is probably the most mild ingredient in this mix.  I got to learn the hard way that more isn’t always better as my heart rate shot through the roof and my body temperature rose.  I’m pretty sure I just made the race substantially harder on myself.  Even though I broke away early on the hill with Jeannie, I struggled to recover on the downhill section and my heart rate refused to come down at all.   


Just a few laps in I was destroyed, and Jeannie managed to get away with two laps to go.  I barely even cared; I was so overloaded I was just trying to get my body back to a somewhat normal functioning level.  Even though I finished second in the race and second in the omnium, I was happy given the circumstances, not to mention I had a lot of fun revisiting with Midwesterners I’d grown up racing around.  Next up: Memorial Day weekend racing in Iowa!