unpinning the cyclocross season…finally!

I’m in the midst of road and mountain bike racing, but also in the process of planning the next cyclocross season.  It’s been hectic but good to reflect on this past season:

About a year ago, I had the fortune of joining Don Walker Cycles Racing for the 2014-15 cyclocross season.  Based near Louisville, Kentucky, Don has been a custom bicycle frame builder for the past 24 years and also owns the North American Handmade Bike Show.

I have been thrilled for the opportunity to race on custom steel bikes; in college I majored in metalsmithing and have always appreciated the soul in anything handmade.  From traveling to training, racing and maintenance through all conditions, cyclocross is incredibly demanding on frames; steel is an extremely dependable choice.  Columbus provided us the very best tubing for the frames:

Being vertically challenged (5’1″) it has not always been easy to find a bicycle frame that fits and performs well; it was absolutely amazing for me to have the option to customize a frame with Don and draw upon his wealth of knowledge and experience.

Thanks to the support of Shimano, Thomson, and Continental, my beautiful frames were set up with the best components on the market (most of which are handmade or domestically manufactured): Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 groupsets and C35 carbon tubular wheels with Continental Cyclo X-King tires; Thomson Bike Products handlebars, seatposts and stems; Cane Creek headsets; Paul Components brake hangers.

I chose to outfit my singlespeed bike with a chainring and cog from Endless Bike Company, which manufactures products at home in Asheville, NC.

The bikes handle exceptionally well and the ride quality that high-end steel frames provide is unparalleled.  Di2’s shifting is flawless-even under load.  I was immediately impressed with the grip of the Cyclo X-King tires on loose, off-camber surfaces-they felt quite stable and never slipped.  Meanwhile, on grass and pavement they are fast and smooth.  The sidewall are quite resilient and there is no need for aquaseal!  I feel incredibly lucky and spoiled to have such nice equipment; it certainly provides confidence at the races!


A mere two weeks after our wedding, Dave and I headed to Las Vegas for Interbike and the infamous Cross Vegas race.  No, it doesn’t count as a honeymoon!  We were there solely for work at both the show and the race.  I met up with Don and had the opportunity to meet with some of our sponsors and friends in the industry.  The whole experience is always hectic and crazy, but it’s nice to see so many faces from the industry and racing communities in the same place.

Despite my best efforts, I was quite stressed and exhausted leading up to the race, which happens in the middle of the week, at night (around 11pm eastern time).  I felt some relief when I got to see Kim, one of my best friends from high school!

Swiftwick hooked me up with some awesome socks for good luck, I had a decent call-up but a tough race; while bridging up to a group I took a tight turn pretty hot and slammed my shoulder into a metal barricade.  Luckily no one else was involved and I managed to stay upright, but it hurt quite a bit and killed a bit of my momentum.  I recovered and reeled in the group again, only to slide out hard on the same side on the only paved section on the course: a downhill turn on a sidewalk that had been recently glazed.  I don’t think I’ve ever gotten road rash at a cyclocross race before, but it could have been worse.  Lots of riders went down there.

Everything in my body throbbed with pain on every slight bump, but I fought through it all and tried to stay positive.  I liked the course better than in previous years and the promoter did a fantastic job!  The race was very professionally run.  Usually the best part about Cross Vegas is the thousands of fans that line the course; the atmosphere and energy is really cool (when they are not spraying riders with beer).  Fortunately I did not get sprayed by beer and only got offered beer hand-ups.

photo: Lyne Lamoureux/Podium Insight

photo: Lyne Lamoureux/Podium Insight

On the last lap I realized my position was not going to change so I obliged in high-fives, stair hops and better hand-ups ($$$).  That lap was so much fun and while I was hoping for much better, having fun is ultimately what racing’s all about.


I returned to Asheville first thing in the morning, worked a couple of days and raced Monster Cross.  At 70 miles and around 11,000 feet of climbing, it is not exactly a cyclocross race, but is fastest on a cross bike.  However, I opted to race on my mountain bike, as I was still pretty sore from Cross Vegas.  It was not the fastest way, but probably the more fun way to do it.  Pisgah Productions events are always a challenge but a lot of fun!

mountain bikers stick together!  photo: Icon Media Asheville

mountain bikers stick together! photo: Icon Media Asheville


I had a week to recover and prepare for my next round of UCI races at the Trek CXC Cup in Wisconsin.  This event got me started with cyclocross and holds a special place in my heart.  I was able to visit friends, family, my coach, and that meant a lot.

above Asheville once again

above Asheville once again

The course was demanding, twisty, bumpy, yet fast.  It was really demanding but a lot of fun.  Despite not feeling well, I had an ok race on Saturday.  After a great start, I got through some pile ups and almost lost my front wheel.

My efforts put me in a hole for Sunday and I gave racing a shot but couldn’t fake it through sickness or finish the race.  While disappointed, it was good experience, I had a lot of positives to draw upon, and a bit of time at home to recover and prepare for the next racing block.


I followed up the Trek CXC Cup with back-to-back-to-back-to-back races in Unicoi, TN, one of my favorite venues just over the mountain.  In preparation for the Single Speed National and World Championships I entered the single speed races immediately after the women’s 1/2/3 events both days.

I had a lot of fun, pulled out four podiums over the weekend and appreciated getting in the efforts so close to home.  I stayed home longer than I anticipated when I slid out on a wet bridge and tore up my arm pretty badly.  It was really challenging to do any cross-specific bike lifts so I switched my “B” bike to road mode and stuck to the roads, trainer and trails.  I also volunteered at a local Asheville Cyclocross race and planned for SSCXWC in Louisville:


I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the Single Speed CX World Championships, except that it would include a lot of debauchery, to say the least.  It was really awesome to have the event in Louisville, Kentucky, the home base for my team and all-around great city.  I love racing single speed and knew this was an event that I couldn’t miss!  We were greeted by the Colonels and started off the weekend with qualifying Feats of Strength, which involved a single speed tour around the city and various challenges throughout to determine seeding for the main event.

photo: SSCXWC14KY

photo: SSCXWC14KY

Traditionally SSCXWC requires costumes, the prizes are golden bikinis/speedos/tattoos and is pretty much the opposite of UCI-sanctioned racing.  I chose to go as the legendary Samford, the Pisgah Gnome, who has sadly been missing for a couple of years.

the Singlespeed CX Worlds start line is no laughing matter!  photo: Scooter's Shots Cycling Photos

the Singlespeed CX Worlds start line is no laughing matter!
photo: Scooter’s Shots Cycling Photos

The race began with a wedding on the flyover and a LeMans start on a giant slip and slide, featured a wall climb and drinking short cuts, a ball pit, a fire barrier, and a dance party bus among the usual sand pits and flyovers.  I got the hole shot to the bikes, but poor positioning of my bike held me back.  It was a little out of control with everyone cutting the course that it didn’t exactly feel like a race..rather a parade or a party on wheels.  Whatever it was proved to be a good time and an experience I won’t forget!

I entered the OVCX Storm Eva Bandman race on course the following day and held my own against a lot of girls who did not “compete” in SSCXWC.  The permanent course at Eva Bandman is one of my favorite venues and it would be helpful to race on it prior to the Derby City Cup.  I had a great time hanging out with my teammates!


After returning to Asheville from Louisville I barely had to unpack,  work, pack up and hit the road for Cincinnati.  The Cincy3 Cross Festival is always a highlight on the calendar with three days of tough UCI racing and 2014 marked the first Pan-American Cyclocross Championship, held on Day 3.  I was excited and nervous to see where I was at; as soon as it started raining on Friday I felt more at ease as I love racing in the mud!

I took an early practice lap and felt dialed…until I put my foot down at the barrier and felt a huge shot of pain go up my quad; it just locked up.  It hurt a lot to walk and I was pretty upset and worried that I wouldn’t be able to race.  Dave took care of my bikes and I had enough time to keep warm, dry and massage my leg with some embro.  The pain started to subside a bit and I spun lightly on the trainer to warm up.  It seemed to help and I lined up at the start.

Once I was riding, I felt ok; it was only dismounting at the barriers or bike exchanges that I had issue and had to walk gingerly.  I rode the railroad ties a bit slower than others ran them, but it felt a lot better for me.  Otherwise I put it all out there, stayed focused, and actually had a pretty good race, all things considered!  My equipment was flawless; the only way I could which bike I was on was by the color of the handlebar tape.  It was really reassuring; I only had to worry about myself!

Day 2 featured a night race and a tough, fast course.  It was cold and damp, but not muddy, and the ground was power-sucking.  I did alright, but not as well as I would have liked.  My leg didn’t bother me too much, but I was guarding it and that doesn’t make for the best effort possible.

Yet Another Bike Photo Page

Yet Another Bike Photo Page

Day 3 was the highest caliber and most difficult course yet.  It was very technical and truly worthy of a Continental Championship…I loved it!  My body didn’t agree so much but it was a great experience and inspiring to see such a high level of deep competition in the women’s field.


Dave and I stayed on the road between Cincy3 and the Derby City Cup back in Louisville; since these races were at such a high level and in my team’s home turf, I really wanted to do well.  We were working on the road, but it was nice to have some downtime for once.  It was a luxury to be able to visit Don’s workshop and preview the course the day before:

The course was the best rendition that I had seen yet and I was pretty eager to race!  Day 1 was at night and I had a great start; I was feeling better than I had most of the season and the course suited me very well…

Derby City Cup #1; photo: Joseph Grimes

Derby City Cup #1; photo: Joseph Grimes

That is, until I pulled onto the onto the paved start/finish straight, shifted into the big ring and…nothing happened!  Somehow I managed to unplug my Di2 wire (it’s actually not easy to do), and lost my ability to shift.  It defaulted into the easiest gear, which is good if you’re on a group ride, but I was in a race, totally spun out and far away from the pit.  I turned the pedals over like a crazy person, trying to figure out what had happened and not to panic as I got passed by one rider after another.

photo: Yet Another Bike Photo Page

photo: Yet Another Bike Photo Page

I swapped bikes, explained the issue, thinking my battery had failed, and with bizarre luck, promptly did the same thing to my pit bike.  Knowing that my “A” bike was out of commission I stayed on the “B” bike, practicing my cadence, until I finally got pulled.  It had been hard to diagnose in the dark, but we solved the issue fairly easily and I had another chance the next afternoon.

My second race went much better as I moved on from the previous night’s disappointments.  My coach had me on the right track; I just had to stay smooth!  There was an exciting stair step/jump feature that was unlike anything I had raced on in cross before and I had a lot of fun getting a bit of air over it!


After the block of UCI racing in the Ohio Valley, I stayed home to catch up, work, and train for the remainder of the season.  My good friend Jane and I hit up Turkey Cross, the Tennessee State Championship race, which was good fun.

I was pretty fatigued at this point in the season and succumbed to a pretty bad sinus infection that would not go away.  It seemed about right after an unusual string of difficulties and tough season.  I was pretty sick during the NCGP and had to sit that out and lose a bunch of training time.  I didn’t think the wedding was too stressful but I realized after the fact that it and other life events really take an enormous amount of energy.  So does bicycle racing and something had to give.  It definitely caught up and caught me off guard.  However I had a chance to visit family in Chicago over the holidays for the first time in a couple of years and that was really nice!


Not much of the season remained and I really wanted to represent my team well in one last push.  I had recovered well enough, but wasn’t where I hoped to be.  With the Kingsport Cyclocross Cup so close to home I had to try to gain some precious UCI points for staging at Nationals.  I felt flat and had a pretty mediocre race, but gained some points and reminded my legs what racing required.

photo: Ali Whittier

photo: Ali Whittier


I left shortly after Kingsport to Austin, TX for Single Speed and the Masters 30-34 National Championships.  I qualified for the Elite race, but didn’t want to take so many days off work and felt I had a better chance of gaining exposure in the master’s category, where I would have a better call-up (this year you could only choose one or the other).

The single speed race was incredibly hard-the course was awesome, but brutal for one gear, and the headwind was very strong along the start/finish straight.  I grabbed the hole shot and maintained a decent position that I later lost.  I chose a proper gear but my legs had trouble turning it over.  Everything in my body felt like lead!

We started the master’s race in the rain early on Friday; the ground was rock hard underneath and the layer of mud across the top was like ice.  I took the holeshot again, only to wipe out in front of everyone halfway through the lap.  A few riders got away but I recovered fairly quickly.  I battled hard and had a good race, but it wasn’t enough to see the front again.  I finished in fourth, pleased with the podium but hungry for more.

I’m so incredibly grateful and honored to have had the support of my team, sponsors, friends and family!  Without them, the season wouldn’t have been possible.  It was certainly trying at times but the experiences were unforgettable and I learned so much.  I encountered a lot of speed bumps and wish things had gone more smoothly, but that is cyclocross…and life.  There are so many factors and only so much is controllable…a lot depends on how you react to the situation.  Sometimes much more can be gained when things are not perfect.

I was content to end my season there, but I did preview the 2016 course the following weekend at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville!  I have a long way to go but I’ve improved so much over the past couple of years.  I can’t wait for what’s ahead!

A New Beginning

So much has happened since my last blog post sooo very long ago, but I am in a place where I want to write again; I’m determined to catch up and remain updated going forward!  Here goes…

I left off at the beginning of 2013; I was struggling with my job and under a ton of stress; life was not great.  My health had improved, but I was nowhere close to where I’d hoped to be at that time.  Following my illness I dealt with a lot of inflammation and immense pain, low energy, poor sleep, heavy stress…  Every day.  The entire ordeal was very expensive and we were struggling to rebound from that financially.  I had worked so hard over years to get where I was wanting to be in my cycling career and I had lost it all.

However, I had a strong team/support and wanted nothing more than to represent them well.  I jumped into a few criteriums in the spring, refusing to admit that I wasn’t mentally or physically ready.

kinda tough to fake it in this field...photo: Chris Moore

kinda tough to fake it in this field…photo: Chris Moore

Instead of feeling excited, confident, and powerful, I felt panicked and weak; pretty much the exact opposite of how one would hope or expect to feel while racing bicycles at the elite/professional level.  After much deliberation, I made the tough choice to listen to my body and back off from racing.

I continued to ride; though I stuck to the mountain bike at my leisure.  When riding with groups, I struggled and suffered up the long mountain climbs, but somehow I could flip the switch and crush the descents.  A few weeks later, I traveled to Dirtfest, Dirt Rag Magazine’s mountain bike festival and had a blast.  That weekend alone changed everything for me.

Since the only thing I could do well was descend, I ordered a proper trail bike and baggies; eager to try enduro racing (a format where only the downhill portions of the race are timed).  That spring USAC threatened to punish pros from entering”forbidden races” that were not sanctioned.  This absolutely dismayed me and killed my motivation for returning to cross country racing, as it severely limited my race options and I was not a paid professional cyclist, nor did I have disposable income to fund myself to travel across the country where the majority of UCI races were.

Actually, we were barely scraping by.  Racing any format or discipline was by no means the most practical move at the time, but after being out for so long I needed to try or risk quitting the sport altogether.  Dave was behind me and we did what we could to make it work.

As it turned out that year, USAC postponed their enforcement of the rule but it left a bad taste for a lot of racers.  No enduros were sanctioned by any governing body, and this added to the allure of pursuing them.  I started at the Mayhem Enduro in Ohio, and won!  I won many times over what I had ever made in a cross country race and I was able to fund a lot of my season.

After that I caught the bug and we raced in Virginia, North Carolina, Utah, Colorado-everything from regional, grassroots racing to the international Enduro World Series level.

Beyond racing I was able to meet a ton of amazing riders and new friends.  Enduro racing is very laid-back and supportive; you are casually climbing or riding to the next stage and there is a lot of time to talk and hang out with others between timed stages.  Dave and I were able to explore new trails through our travels with our homestays and I attended a women’s-only downhill camp at Snowshoe-was one of the most memorable experiences ever!

As it happened it turned out enduro racing was just the thing I needed-there was no pressure and I focused on pushing my limits and comfort level while staying safe.  It’s so cool to see progression in mountain biking; that summer I rode a lot of features I wouldn’t have attempted previously.  In turn I got stronger and made another step in my recovery.

Moving into the fall I raced cyclocross for Asheville Cyclocross and had a bit of fun on my singlespeed; I also traveled to some UCI races in the midwest and southeast.  It wasn’t close to where I had left off but it was a step forward from 2012.

I finished up at USA Cyclo-cross Nationals in Boulder and had three pretty disappointing results but the experience was fulfilling; I finally started to see some light at the end of the tunnel.  I had been through a couple of incredibly difficult years on and off the bike and I was over the uncertainty and struggle.  I’m so glad that I stuck with it when I was so close to giving up!  Little did I know what was in store….

In 2014 I joined the Pisgah Tavern/Oskar Blues women’s mountain bike team and I was thrilled!  In February, on my 30th birthday, I raced Southern Cross with everyone.  SO painful but fun!  I picked my way through the bottlenecks at the start and despite feeling unprepared I just cleared my head and rode as hard as I could for roughly 50ish miles and 6400′ of climbing.  I thought I was in second but the mystery lady ahead that I was chasing turned out to be a dude with long hair.  I finished 11 minutes ahead of the second place woman-that was a wonderful birthday gift!  I gained some much-needed and renewed confidence and motivation for the year.

photo: Donna Combs Garcia

Shortly thereafter, Dave and I got engaged at Tsali, on the first trail we rode when we visited NC.  Within that week I quit my job and started a new one…

The next month was busy with the team at some regional races and group rides.  At the Southern Classic Series race at Angler’s Ridge in VA we encountered some bizarre 70 degree weather with snow–I loved sliding around in the mud but it destroyed my drivetrain and I suffered some mechanicals.

Warrior Creek couldn’t have been more different and it was a blast to race the hard, dry, fast roller coaster course with Madonna in the Female Duo category.  We held on to second place and the whole team did really well.

A few weeks later I returned to the Whiskey Off-Road, my last race before I got sick in 2012.  The weather was pretty extreme:

I viewed this race as my return to the Pro XC circuit.  I didn’t do very well but I was very happy to be there again.  I was grateful for the opportunity to travel and ride on vastly different and beautiful trails.

Dave had been out west for work since the engagement and I traveled back with him after the race.  We got to explore some trails in Sedona, Oklahoma, and the Grand Canyon, where we had a harrowing experience on the primary overlook.  I think I experienced every possible emotion during that trip.

From there I stayed in the area and participated in our team’s weekly women’s mountain bike rides from The Hub into Pisgah, and did the Karl’s Kaleidoscope 50 mi. race, Pisgah Enduro, Summer Short Track, and Aiyana XC races:

where we GOT MARRIED!  Suffice to say tht it really was the best day/weekend of my life.  The full gallery is here

There was no time for a honeymoon as cyclocross season with Don Walker Cycles was quickly approaching!

That’s quite enough of an update for now; now that cyclocross has wrapped up and the new year is in full swing, please stay tuned for more!  Thanks for reading–

resurrected: part 2

I only took a month off from cycling during my illness but it felt like an eternity.  I had been volunteering weekly with Trips for Kids but had a hard time keeping up with the kids…that was a huge bummer!

preparing for a mountain bike lesson!

I accepted that my summer race goals were dashed but the worst thing was not being able to ride for fun.  Short, easy rides felt like the hardest challenge and many times I had to turn around and go home only a few minutes into the ride.  I would start to make some progress only to set myself back; there were no warning signs when I surpassed my limit.  Nevertheless I listened to my body and did my best to respect what it was telling me…

The summer flew by and before I knew it cyclocross season arrived.  I returned to Bob’s Red Mill Cyclocross for my fourth season.  The team and its partners were like family and offered tremendous support.  For the first time ever, the Cyclocross World Championships were to be held outside of Europe-in Louisville, KY, the team’s home base!

The beginning of the season held a ton of anticipation, pride and excitement for us:

I wanted nothing more than to represent well; I gave racing my best try but felt like a shell of myself.  I tried so hard to stay positive and patient; progress would come but it happened so slowly and at miniscule increments.  It was tough to keep it all in perspective.

With Worlds coming to the US, everyone was faster than ever–eager to make the highly selective national team.  Many European riders came over to race and prepare as well.  I had earned a lot of UCI points in 2011 and had decent starting positions.

Tired of sitting out I gave a few USGP races a try:

The Smartwool Cup in Fort Collins; photo: Blair Fraley

The Derby City Cup in Louisville; photo: Blair Fraley

I could stay on pace for two laps and then completely ran out of gas but I was so grateful to have the chance to try.  Even though I only started with them it was awesome to be part of such strong and large women’s fields!

Halfway through the season I made the tough decision to take another break from racing.  I was satisfied by finally seeing some improvement in my health but I needed a lot more time to fully recover.  I transitioned to a support role and helped Dave in the pits:

Despite my personal disappointments the season ended on a high note when two of our riders made the junior Worlds team and we got to see them race on home soil in February.  I had never been to a World Championship before and the experience was like none other!

our friends from WI and NC!  photo: Bryan Frazier

our friends from WI and NC! photo: Bryan Frazier

my new friends Billy and Bobo from Belgium!

my new friends Billy and Bobo from Belgium!

The World Championships were incredibly inspiring and boosted my motivation when I was very close to giving up.

I was excited to return to Pepper Palace for 2013:

photo: Paul Christopher

photo: Paul Christopher

Three months turned to eight months turned to twelve and while I finally began to feel normal in my everyday life I still struggled a lot on the bike.  I had lost so much strength, fitness, confidence, patience…however I was slowly getting better and there were occasional glimpses of the rider I used to be.    The support from my boyfriend, coach, friends, family, and teams kept me going!


So…I was terribly wrong in my last post when I wrote that the next update would come quickly.  I thought for sure that my illness would be brief but that wasn’t exactly the case.  More than a year later, I am finally healthy and ready to write again.  Let me take you back…way back….

The quick and dirty summary of my year begins with the Blythewood Omnium a week following my last race report of the 2012 Mellow Johnny’s Classic.  I won the time trial, criterium (my first ever) and circuit race:


I felt confident going into the SERC opener at Tsali and took the hole shot:

never looking back…

It was my first Pro win and first time leading a race start to finish.  I was stung by a bee on the pre-ride; the swelling rapidly spread to my knee:

There was no time for bee stings and luckily I recovered in time for the Presbyterian Invitational, the most prestigious criterium in the country, and my second crit ever.  It was the first time I signed in for a race on a huge board and I enjoyed how important that felt.

I was told to position myself at least halfway in the field from the start.  I did so but never expected all of the riders behind me to drop off within the first few laps!  Suddenly I was in the worst place to be: yo-yoing at the back.  I made it through most of the race but blew myself up and got pulled before the finish.  I was terribly disappointed but had a decent race the next morning.

A week later I had a chance to redeem myself at another national criterium: Sunny King.  I was working for my teammate and was in the mix the entire time:

Five laps to go I thought I was going to die, but I remembered my disappointment from Presby and that allowed me to dig deeper.  I definitely did not want to let my teammate down…she won the field sprint and I finished a few places behind her.

I was very, very sick the rest of the evening and might have scarred some families during the men’s race…let’s just say, bad idea:

Even so I raced a hilly road race the next morning and rode surprisingly well; I found myself in a paceline with some legendary riders.  I was nervous about making a mistake but everything was fine; before long it felt as though I had always been there.  I knew most of my matches were burned before I started the race but I gave everything I had for my teammate until I had to stop.

A few days later it was off to Arizona for the Whiskey Off-Road.  I was absolutely thrilled to see my first Saguaro cactus:

This event was one of the best I have been to!  The festival atmosphere was full of excitement; it kicked off with a fat tire criterium downtown.

 The tires I had planned to race the crit on were no match for a short desert spin but luckily I found some MTB slicks in a dumpster.  No joke:

I was excited to put my newfound crit skills to use but the course was more selective than tactics or drafting.  It was painful!

image: Cyclingnews

image: Cyclingnews

I swapped my tires back to my xc race setup and enjoyed the views, suffered my way through the infamous 13 mi. climb and cramped on Cramp Hill in the 50 mile race.  I didn’t have a great result but I loved the course and the challenge.

Through this early season my focus was always on the World Cups and Nationals.  I had planned to race Mont Sainte Anne and Windham once again for mountain bike and Namur and Heusden-Zolder for cyclocross.  All of the hard work was paying off and I was racing better than ever…

Three days after I returned home from Arizona I got a fever that didn’t go away for a few weeks.  I woke up every night soaking wet and shivering, couldn’t eat, ride, do much of anything.

I didn’t have insurance and had a ton of tests done that turned up nothing.  They thought it was encephalitis, mono, dengue fever…countless other diseases.  A month of this and it got to the point where I couldn’t walk without support and I knew something was terribly wrong.  I was treated for Lyme Disease though it was never diagnosed.  The treatment helped, but it was miserable to take.  I was really grateful that Dave took care of me.

I watched all of the World Cups live online and substituted race weekends for weddings, tubing, hikes, swimming holes, things that I wouldn’t have had time to do if I was racing.  Those moments were a silver lining but I was still in a tremendous amount of pain.  Still I never doubted that I’d be back by the fall for cyclocross…

Catching Up…

When my last post was published in the beginning of May I was about to race the Whiskey Off-Road in Prescott, Arizona.  My season was off to a great start and I had a queue of race reports to write up.  Three days after I returned to North Carolina, I was hit with the worst illness I’ve ever experienced for several weeks (more on this later).  Now a month has passed and I am finally starting the road to recovery, ready to write again…

For much of May I was too sick to blog and when it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to ride, much less race anytime soon I was too discouraged to write my reports.  Currently the rest of the summer season is on hold and my big plans for the  Mont-Sainte-Anne/Windham World Cups and MTB Nationals are canceled.

As disappointing and frustrating this has been, I have had lots of time to think and renew my outlook on and love of racing.  It demands so much more than simply training and showing up at the starting line; with Dave’s support I’ve really worked hard to shape my life (our lives, really) around the sport, both making sacrifices so that I have a chance to rise to the next level.  It’s been a huge struggle and I am so lucky and thankful to have the additional support of our family, friends, my coach, Gordy Paulson and Speed Cycling, massage therapist Tavis Cummings, Pepper Palace/Spin-Tech Training team sponsors Jay Hirst and O’Neill Ryan.

Hopefully the entire road/mountain bike season is not compromised but there will be more to look forward to once I am healthy again.  In the meantime, I still have lots of stories from the early season to share.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned…I promise the next post will come quickly!



ProXCT#1 Mellow Johnny’s Classic

March 2 came (and went) very quickly; before I knew it I was headed to Texas to see if I could remember how to race my mountain bike.  I wasn’t quite ready mentally or physically to jump into racing at that level so soon after cyclocross (most racers had been preparing since November and only one other lady had completed a full cross season), but Mellow Johnny’s puts on a great event and I had been to the previous two editions.  I knew I couldn’t miss it!  Plus it was only halfway across the country and not all the way like most of the ProXCT races…

This was my first time at a season-opener (during an Olympic year, nonetheless) and I anticipated a very fast race with guns blazing.  I had reasonable expectations and looked forward to gaining some good experience.  Thanks to my team’s support I was able to fly into Austin and avoid what had started to become an annual 20-hour drive each way.  It made a world of difference; I arrived early on Thursday and had some time to relax,visit with some friends in town and build my bike.  Later I met up with my new teammate, Mariske, the South African U23 champion and we traveled west to Johnson City…

It was really nice to travel with a teammate–I tried to learn Afrikaans and Mariske (who moved to the US in January) noted that Texas looked a lot like home.  There were even zebras at the exotic animal farm in town!

We pre-rode the course on Friday and it was great to see everyone on the circuit…I am finally starting to feel “at home” with my mountain bike family and less of an outsider at the ProXCTs.  Here is a video from Team Jamis/the promoter’s website that provides a good idea of what the 5k course looked like:

I was more excited than nervous though at the start I admit that I felt a bit like I forgot my books on the first day of school.  My call-up was decent and I lined up first on the second row, right behind the World Champion.  I’m not sure when that will happen again but it was pretty cool to look up and see rainbow stripes straight ahead!

The course was very technical and tight with little opportunity to eat or pass.  A good start was critical and I had a decent one-sitting in the top ten with Mariske:

photo: MTB Mike.com

photo: MTB Mike.com

I held my position for a while but didn’t quite have the kick for the steep climbs and lost a few positions.  I kept the riders ahead of me in sight and tried to stay patient and smooth.  The new course was really fun and my skills were pretty solid at the high pace; I started to feel more confident as I made a pass.

photo: MTBMike.com

This was one of my first real efforts on the new BMC and it was just awesome!  Really stiff, responsive and nearly 5 pounds lighter than my full suspension bike.  I just made the switch to a 2×10 gear set-up as well and it was a very easy transition.  My stock bars look wide on the small frame, but they’ve offered so much more control and help with positioning on climbs.

photo: C.Denise Shaw

The weather was perfect; a little on the cool side, actually…SO much better than the triple digits of previous years!  I never doubted that I would continue to move up until I lost both of my contacts midway through the race.  It was very dusty and windy and when I blinked, they just popped out.  My vision isn’t too terrible but enough that on such a technical trail my depth perception was thrown off quite a bit.

From then on, it was just damage control to get through the race and not crash.  Fortunately I knew my lines; I just had to be more cautious and that cost me a lot of time.  To do well at a race this level chances have to be taken and there is no room for caution.  Mariske had a very respectable race and I was really proud of her.  I still finished on the lead lap but not exactly where I hoped or knew I could be.

It’s really tough to race year-round and impossible to be on top form the entire time as well.  Aside from the inability to see clearly I felt more positive than negative about the experience and considered it really good and valuable training.  We had some more time to catch up with friends in Austin and then it was back to North Carolina in a heartbeat!

As chasing the ProXCT series is unrealistic from a logistical standpoint this year I am sort of feeling things out and building fitness, form, skills, experience…It is only my second season training with structure and though I have already seen tremendous progress from working with my coach, Gordy Paulson, I feel that I have no limits and am only getting started!  I am excited to see where racing can take me and have a lot more opportunity to excel with my team this year.

Thank you to Pepper Palace, Spin-Tech Training/Beer City Bicycles, Speed Cycling and Omnium Bodyworks for supporting me and making racing possible!

Greenville Spring Training Series

Almost exactly a month after CX Nationals I found myself in on the starting line again–a familiar place, but this time I would stay on pavement with skinny tires…unknown territory for me.  The first Greenville spring training race at the Donaldson Center Airport was my third road race ever and first with a team.  I was pretty excited to have a role/work for a common goal and hoped I wouldn’t make any rookie mistakes!

A lot of colds were going around and I was feeling under the weather.  I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from myself or others as forty of us casually rolled off the line.  It took some restraint not to blast out of the gate with a cyclocross start!  The course was pretty straightforward; relatively flat with some rolling hills and a lot of wind.  My job was to cover breaks, attack and lead out our sprinter with the goal of getting one of our girls upgrade points.  Our team had never ridden together before but we communicated well enough to maintain control of the race.

I was aggressive but smart and was able to cover any move with confidence.  Halfway through our captain on the day asked me how I felt.  I had been working hard with little rest and was tired, but I knew other riders could hear me, so I said I felt good.  She told me to go ahead and not look back so I did..somehow saying I felt good out loud made me believe it was true and I attacked hard up a hill on the backside of the 7 mile loop.  A minute or two later I started to feel the effort and thought for sure that I’d be caught right away.  I looked behind and couldn’t see anyone so I kept going and pretended it was a time trial.

I figured I had at least forty minutes/cyclocross’ worth of very hard effort in me and passed a rider from the men’s race ahead of us who only had one leg.  Suddenly nothing hurt anymore and my strength was renewed.  My gap extended to over a minute and lasted just over a full lap…much longer than I anticipated given that the course did not suit breakaways.  Besides my intention was always to help out my teammates in the field.

To my dismay it was one of my girls who had brought the field back to me and she had another rider on her wheel.  The three of us had a bit of a gap but it was not sustainable with one lap to go.  I directed our efforts towards our key rider and eventually my teammate stopped working for the wrong girl; the field came back together.  A few riders tried to get away but I did my best to bring them back.

Our lead-out did not exactly work as planned and I was not fresh enough to sprint for the win.  Luckily our key rider was rested and got a high enough placing in the bunch sprint that she earned her points.  The goal was met even if it didn’t happen as we expected!  There was more positive than negative to take away in our first try.

The Spring Training Series is sponsored by Hincapie Sportswear and though Big George doesn’t always show up, he was there with his BMC development team:

We couldn't deny his request for a photo op...!

A week later we had another chance at Fork Shoals.  This race had constant rolling hills and was very windy.  The wind seemed to pick up more as the race continued.  Before the race Dave had warned me to stay out of the wind but of course I found myself in it nearly the entire time.  I ended up chasing down attacks throughout the race and controlled the pace for much of it since no one wanted to work.  Besides I felt safer in front and the pace was so slow it was getting boring.  I still rode within myself and no one tried to attack me…

I was able to protect my teammates and we finished first, third and I was eighth in the sprint so I was really happy with that.  We worked well together and again, met our goal.  It was refreshing to try something totally different in a race scenario and satisfying to play a role in something larger.  I was surprised at how much I liked racing on the road and started to reconsider a few weekends on my race schedule…my Cat 2 upgrade and the team’s Domestic Elite status were approved, so it looks like I’ll be diving into a few pro road events this season!

I wouldn’t have ever considered much of a future on the road if it weren’t for Pepper Palace, Spin-Tech Training/Beer City Bicycles, Studio 7 Multisport and my teammates.  Up until now I’ve been riding an aluminum 9-speed road bike (my first “real” bike ever), and while it is a solid bike and has never disappointed, riding my BMC Road Racer is inspiring to say the least!

However my dreams of road racing remained just that as a few days later I found myself on a plane to Texas with my hardtail for the first national mountain bike race of the season…