Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Going to Disneyland!

By Raja Lahti
San Diego, Cali

I had a change of careers in April and pretty much everything else has had to sit on the back burner until I get settled.

In May I did Wildflower Olympic and had fun. Training this year has been hampered by one thing or another, illness, work, injury, you name it. The gods are holding me back! I didn't expect much out of Wildflower, and still came away bummed with my race. The good news, my swim was the best yet and I really was delighted with it. The bike & run, well, not so much. I ended up 9th out of about 200 or so that finished. The exciting part was the finish..

Then came Encinitas Sprint. I was 3rd with what I consider a crappy bike portion of the race. It wasn't bad, but I know I should be doing better. The run was ok.. and the swim.. well, I'm not so hot for surf entry so I survived.

This past weekend was probably one of the most fun races I've ever done. It was the Danskin Disneyland Triathlon. That's right, Kingdom of the Mouse, or in this case, California Adventure. The swim was in the lagoon in CA Adventure, the bike was a 2 loop course around the entire part and the run was a windy route through the park. With over 1300 competitors (all women), this was a big race.

Why did I enter? Well, when else can you take a dip in Disneyland without them giving you a life ban?!??

On check-in before the race I heard one woman say, "the water is disgusting! It's a lagoon! There were ducks right there pooping." Uhhh.. this is Disneyland where everything is sterile, that taste is actually chlorine and that brown water is dye so you don't see the tracks for the boat. If only she knew what nasty water really tastes like... As you walked in the water, it was warm, you know, kinda like bath water. No wetsuits needed so I wore a tri-swim suit for the first time. Couldn't wear my Bella kit as it's a 2 piece. Instead a put a Bella tattoo on my arm and wore my signature hair flair. The swim was a ton of fun, but a bit of a faux-Ironman. With about 16 waves (me in wave 9)starting every 3 minutes, it was A LOT of swimming over or around people in previous waves. Next time I think I'll actually race Elite instead of Age Group so I can get in the first wave and not have to crawl between quite so many ladies. But where else can you stroke, stroke, breathe, look at the ferris wheel, stroke, stroke, breath, look rollercoaster, stroke, stroke, breath, look Mickey...

The bike was fun, and my bike created quite a bit of attention (aka The Hornet) as there were a number of first-timers racing. I really enjoyed being able to answer questions, even got to give a fix-a-flat demo. Newby: "What are these?" Me: "These are tire levers, you really should know what they are and how to use them..."

Back to the race... so the bike was ok, still feeling a bit lacking in strength and it showed as I was unable to loose the cute chick in red on the cervelo with the disk. I should have been able to smoke her, but instead she latched on and let me take her for a ride. We leap frogged around for a bit between swim, T1, the bike & T2, but then she spanked me on the run. At least she was nice & cute!

By the time I got off the bike I was still coughing up the drink mix I managed to inhale. Note to self: don't inhale your drink!!! The run started and I had the glugs. You know that sloshy feeling from drinking then trying to run?! After the first mile I felt better and began to relax. Unfortunately the run was almost over by that point so I just ran my way past the popcorn and cotton candy, past the store where you can flatten a penny, past the churros, around the fountain, through the western-shoot-out store front and to the finish. With one great leap for Velo Bella, I was done!

I finished 2nd in my age group behind that nice cute chick on the Cervelo, and 6th overall. Not too bad.. but I know I can do better next year.....

We had a number of Bellas attend, I'll update this blog with a list, but CONGRATS to all, this was a fantastic race and HIGHLY recommended as a destination race.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More Bikes and Brews!

By Erika Krumpleman
Hayden, Idaho



The Northwest "Indie Series" took me to the quaint, beautiful, (although somewhat cheezy) Bavarian town of Leavenworth, Washington. I was a bit nervous about how my body would work after crashing in the previous Wednesday night race and turning my right side into one large hematoma. With almost 5,000 feet of climbing, my legs would need to be there!

After the 4 hour drive to the race course, I had a good warm-up and was ready to go when I hear that the start was delayed by 30 minutes because one of the sport racers had crashed and needed to be carried off the course on a stretcher. So—do I keep warming up, or stand around and talk? Hmm—stand around and talk wins. After 30 minutes and halfheartedly warming up a 2nd time, I hear the start has been delayed another 30 minutes because the racer is badly injured. After climbing 1600 feet each lap, the descent was fast and buff with an occasional hump (water bar) added in that sends many a rider on his or her head. By now I’m starting to think conservative descending might be in order. . Also—my mental focus is pretty much gone. We finally line up to start, I dash into the bushes for one last pee, and then we are off. I took off hard and led up the climb. One woman passed me at the top of the climb, but I quickly passed her on the downhill and did not see another woman from the open class for the rest of the race—pretty uneventful! I kept expecting Kristy Berg, a former pro downhiller to catch me on the descent, but surprisingly she never did.

Luckily my bruised and swollen right leg still worked! The best part about it was the pay out--$250.00!! This may sound pathetic, but I’ve never won that much before! In most races, the men’s payout is about 5 times the women’s, but in this race it was almost equal—yay for progress! It might actually pay for a few tanks of gas….

Thanks to Stan's for making an incredibly light and strong set of purple nippled wheels! Less weight on the bike equals faster climbing!

It was also great to see teammate Kari Studley out there. She rode very strong considering the lack of fuel!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bella and Fella

By Soni Andreini Poulsen
NorCali



Ok, time trial race reports aren't all that interesting. And I already messed up my first attempt and it got swallowed up in cyberspace. So I'll keep this short and sweet. Jeff and I rode this on our tandem, of course!

The short:

19.2 miles, flat

it wasn't too hot (80--which is like a cold spell for Davis in June)

it wasn't too windy

pre-riding the course last week really helped (we didn't miss any turns or crash like some people did)

i like having somebody steer for me--i never saw or felt a single bump in the road

but since i couldn't see anything but Jeff's butt (which is a nice sight, ordinarily), i missed the camelbak bite valve on the side of the road--if i'd seen that, i'da known that lilly was on the course ahead of me....



the sweet:

we won!!

and beat a few boys in the process....

Monday, June 09, 2008

Bikes and Brews

By Kari Studley
Bothell, Washington



Highlights of the race:

- Getting to ride my bike in the sun! it’s been POURING rain the last 10 days in Seattle. Yuck.

- Amazing views. I had to refrain from singing “The Hills Are Alive” from the Sound of Music as I enjoyed the panorama of mountains view.

- The sweet smell of Lupin and you ride through trails blanketed by the beautiful purple fragrant flower on either side.

- Sunshine! Sunshine! Sunshine!

- I won my first cowbell trophy! I’m a sucker for racing for t-shirts & cowbells, guess it’s a cross thing.

- Fun race atmosphere. Beer garden & bands and community turnout = fun!

- Perfect Kari-course (4 miles of Kari-grade climbing up, 4 mile single track downhill. Repeat 3 times.) I had a GREAT second lap!

- Erika Krumpelman WON her race in the open women category. Whoo hoo Erika!

The not-so-highlights:

- I won by default as the only other racer in my expert 19-34 age division had to leave emergently as her father crashed severely (rumored initially unconscious) and had to be carried out by stretcher by mountain rescue in his race prior to ours. I was very distracted the first lap thinking about her and her dad and hoping the very best for the whole family. (Please help me in sending good healing & well-being Bella vibes to them). So it was me in my <34 category against the 6 women expert 35+ category racers.

- Because the my race kept getting delayed by half hour increments (my race at noon became 12:30 to 1:00 and my race actually started at 1:15) for the rescue effort I kept having just enough time to not do anything productive for my race. I just want to clarify that his life/well-being is SOOO much more important than my silly race and I have no problem with being delayed (or canceled) for such reasons, but I’ve never had a situational delay like that or that long before my race. So I didn’t eat/fuel up enough to make up for that hour since I kept thinking I’d be racing in 20-30 minutes and didn’t want to suffer that consequence of indigestion.

- Hence my perfectly timed out food & warm up prep lasted me to what would have been a perfectly timed race finish according to the original plan. Or the end of lap two (of 3) for the revised plan. I had just solidified first out of all the expert women when just after the feedzone my hamstrings cramped really really badly to an almost paralyzing point (also a new experience while racing). And then just as I was able to get back into a normal cadence I completely food bonked (with 3 miles left of the climb and 7 miles total for the race). It’s really not pretty when I food bonk and I’ve never been that hungry before on the bike, much less, racing.

- So I tried to at least enjoy the scenery and not think about eating the plants and watch the lead 35+ expert woman pass me and take first overall for the expert women field (a matter of personal pride since I beat her by 8 minutes the last time we raced. But, kudos to her, as this was her hometown course and she definitely ate time into me on the downhill part).

24 hours later I still am hungry (I don’t think I ate enough the day before either, so I’ve learned my lesson). But very glad I at least got to go spend a day riding my bike in the sun, lupin flowers and spectacular views. We’re back to rain and clouds in Seattle. And a big plug for my Zeal Mistro sunglasses: not only are they the PERFECT tint for sunny & shady trails (a balance I’ve never been able to find before with previous sunglasses), they fit perfectly around my helmet, AND (most importantly!) I didn’t get a sun-headache that a Seattle-ite like me is often prone to when I go suddenly from no sun to tons of sun in a day.

Photo stolen from the collection of Sabine Dukes, because it looked pretty.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Fire and Ice

By Kimber Gabryszak
Park City, Utah


So there's no way I can come up with as colorful a writeup as that, Allie! But warning - mine will be wordy, sorry! It was just an amazing weekend and I'm full of things I want to share!

**************************************

Yep, Angel Fire DH was BRUTAL, and the women's field was whittled from 21 to 18 by the time we qualified. The first third of the course consisted of seemingly endless boulders, and adding in the rain on day one and the ice/snow/craziness on day two, seemed nearly impossible. But by race day most of us were cleaning them, and let's just say I feel that my riding has improved exponentially as a result of throwing myself down the course over and over. And it was actually fun! Once the snow melted, that is. A super good time, and can't wait until this time next year.

**************************************

I found myself really wishing for a camera on Saturday, in the early morning snow and ice. Addie had fallen in the slippery icyness of the upper rock garden, and was standing in the snow picking up her bike when I rolled up behind her. Wearing a bright red jersey and standing alone, she stood out brilliantly against the snow, and the collage of rocks, trees, and snow was just incredibly surreal...

************

The other surreal moment was cleaning the imfamous road-gap / step-down that ended my season so early last year. Run I, I rode past it and thought "no way! That is WAY smaller than I remember it!" Run II, I rode past and thought "I'm hitting that this weekend" and felt cold in the pit of my belly. Day II, Addie and Allie pep talked me (thanks!), then I watched Addie hit it, watched Allie hit it, and then held my breath and went for it...and hit my brakes in a panic just before takeoff but somehow landed it. Funny, but that almost crashing made day III's attempt even scarier...

Day III, I spent 20 minutes chatting (stalling) with the EMT stationed at the road step down, a hilarious older gentleman who told me "Kimber, you've got a choice to make here." Which I thought would be choose a) be safe or b) take a risk, like most EMTs might say. Nope, not Vladimir! "Kimber," he said, "you can choose, to hit this today, or you can choose, to die old and in bed."

WOW! He went on with such philosophies as "injuries keep you young - they keep you appreciating your life, keep your immune system working and healthy." Really? The EMT is TELLing me to hit this thing?

I hiked back to my bike. Stood it up. Straddled it. Watched a dozen more riders clean the drop with ease. Closed my eyes and envisioned the turn of the approach, envisioned the 2 or 3 pedal strokes to get my speed up, envisioned removing my fingers from the brake levers entirely. Opened my eyes and saw Vladimir looking at me. Fiddled some more with my bike. Watched more riders. Finally, when I saw the fabulous Melissa Buhl ride by so effortlessly, I knew it was time to quit stalling.

Deep breath, foot on pedal, other foot on pedal, coast into the turn, bank, pedal pedal pedal, pull fingers back, sudden weightlessness, then the amazingly soft rumble of the dirt back under the tires, so smooth! YES! The demon is dead.

**************************************

Like Allie said, Sunday was when things started getting crazy. The weekend of riding on such rough ground started to take a toll on our bikes, and little malfunctions started to emerge. Well, some malfunctions and some, um, breakage due to impacts with rocks. A hole poked in one frame, a deep gouge in another, scratched fork stanchions, bashed derailleur that lost some screws, chainguide shiftage and failure, etc.

(Plus, my bike hadn't been ridden before this weekend. I had the wrong size bottom bracket, and had to wait for a replacement before I could finish assembling the bike. The BB got here 4 days before the race, so I had no choice, but I'm sure some of the malfunctions were just the bugs working themselves out.)

In practice before qualifying, my chain had come loose from the chainguide, and it seemed that the guide itself was misaligned and derailling the chain off itself. I spent an hour after practice at the Chili Pepper shop jamming cassette spacers into the chainguide wheel (not made for each other, so that was interesting) to correct the problem. It wasn't enough, and just after the top rock garden the chain came off and hung around my pedal, and without tools it was in a position that I couldn't stop and fix. I took the go-round on the road gap since I feared not being able to pedal into it, but finished the qualifier in one piece. No worries - the actual race is a day away.

**************************************

On a side note, it was rather funny when Allie and I went to the Chili Pepper. There we were, wearing our Bella jerseys, with rhinestones decking out my bike and both with glitter/makeup on, asking for tools instead of for help. Yippee! I think they liked it. ;)

**************************************

Monday morning, I tightened the chainguide, then realized that my derailleur was missing the high limit screw, allowing the chain to jump off at that end of the system. I didn't have time to fix it since practice was only an hour long, so I went up for a run and kept the chain in a lower gear, which seemed to work. And then had 2 flat tires on the descent. Are you kidding me???

2 hours and $75 later (parts, not labor, tee hee), and with a modified limit screw repairing my derailleur, onto the lift we go; it's finally time to race. One more trip down this course.

I finally have a successful S-turn, clean the first few rock gardens and feel elated, pass the rider ahead of me (who had a bad crash slow her down, sigh), then promptly feel my pedals lurch to a stop. No!!! The limit screw is out, and the chain has slipped off the cassette and is wedged in place. But the wheels keep rolling...

One pedal up and one down, I keep coasting and pumping. Clearing a steep rock feature, a couple guys watching cheer, then trail off as I say "Thank you!" to them and promptly STOP and pull over to mess with my bike. I know the next section is nearly impossible to clear without pedalling, though the 20+ seconds it takes to put the chain back into a somewhat functional position feels like an eternity. Is it worth it?

Yes. It's worth it. I pedal through the remaining sections, and crowning moment is when I pedal into the drop without hesitating and clean it! Hurrah! I cross the finish line, and somehow still have a time a bit faster than my qualifying time, so I'm ok. My goal was to have a sub-9 minute time (sub-8 would have been better, but...), and with just the time wasted unjamming my chain I would have met the goal.

Still, I think that Angel Fire just really likes me, so it keeps giving me reasons to go back. This year it was to overcome the road drop, next year it's to have a malfunctionless run. Silly Angel Fire, I don't need a reason to come back!

**************************************

Lessons learned:

* pack a disposable camera for those must-have photos
* do whatever I can to make sure that the first weekend on the bike isn't a race!
* speed is your friend - both in the rock gardens and the road gap, it was easier and safer to go faster
* um, TMI...3 separate incidents of, ah, 3 of us, um, well, mmhm, you see, er, injuring sensitive areas makes us wonder if we can get sponsored by someone who makes female cups...but the lesson learned is just to bring those no matter what!
* EMTs named Vladimir are wise

**************************************

And the final comment is that 5 girls in a condo / at a race together = good times, good racing, good support, good conversation, good conglomeration of repair/healing knowledge, good karma, good vibes, good food, good encouragement, just overall good stuff! This weekend was one of the best biking weekends I've ever had, thanks ladies! You rock!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chasing Down the Beast

By Erika Donald
Berkeley, California

Kern County Womens' Stage Race

"Insanity has company, they are called teammates and they all show up to race Kern.

Lilly is so right.

i love my insane teammates. our 35+ group just keeps getting better and better. we will be back again next year. did i just write that? the other teams will see us and know they have their work cut out for themselves. if they were smart they would copy our style. they'd start getting sillier and insaner and funner and winninger -- like us.

we slayed the kern beast...no, i don't like that metaphor. bellas don't kill animals. what do bellas do? we tame the beast. we make the beast purr and roll over and then we put pretty shiny flair around its furry neck and say, can i get you a beer?

but it takes a team to soften up the beast and we each played our part.

we all let the beast roar and howl at the TT -- whatever beast. do your bad beasty thing. we'll see you in a bit.

lilly faced down the beast at Walker Basin. she attacked and attacked. chased after time bonuses which would help her and take away from the other teams. the pack was closing in after lilly and i moved over to andrea to suggest she might get ready for a counter attack.

"Andrea," I began..."
"Yup," she said. and off she went.

oh we are so good.

and there was linda with the water bottle to cool riders down. getting up to the front on the hill sprint to help me get back on. shutting it down when we realized we weren't all there. and then in the last lap linda, sabine, and Andrea moved up the side as we approached the 1K mark. the field strung out and we had it.

the hill climb was key. last year we didn't know the course so we rode at the other teams' pace. but this year we knew we had to go from the gun if we were going to make the time we were down from the TT.

and so sue and I went. we looked back and the beast was chasing. we rotated taking pulls. and soon the beast was nowhere in sight. silly beast you have to be fast to catch us.

and you're so gonna look cute in flair.

on to Woody. we had a 34 second gap between first and 2nd. and a 1.43 (?) gap to third. our main objective was to hold the 34 seconds and secondarily to move Sue into second. the course this year suited us very well. since it started on the rollers followed by the steep downhill and then more flattish rollers. we kept watch on the Protech TT'ers and any moves by the Kalyra gals who had nothing to lose by going out and trying to get away on the descent and rollers -- which they tried! But no luck. And having the teammies there calmed me immensely because i always fear that section as i'm no tt'er and if the other teams worked together they might just possibly get away taking Janet with them and our 34 second lead.

Purrrr...pretty, pretty beast, pretty baby.

Linda and Andrea patrolled the descent and then on the rollers Sabine and linda set pace in the wind going up the hills. Linda worked so hard. resting and recovering. And sabine gave 110 % coming back for more and more...and more. Sue and I sat in. We knew our part was coming. I kept seeing Maryanne and Janet whispering and it made me edgy. But then I would see Sue with her game face on and I felt better and I just had to remember how we'd drilled it on the hill climb. And i couldn't help but notice that Janet was in a big, big gear and i wondered if she would be fresh for that steep finish.

and then linda and Andrea hit the rollers. Sue and I had discussed that we might go at this point and I really should have been ready for it, but when it happened it threw me into shock. I thought perhaps Linda and Andrea were going to be given a little freedom to fly, but Janet was going with everything. EVERYTHING. I waited for the initial acceleration to ease. but it kept going. Linda was like the energizer bunny. I wanted to shout "I'm getting dropped!" but of course I knew tactically this was like shoving raw meat under the beast.

so I did the only thing I could. "LINDA!" i shouted in that special loving married couple voice.

but then Andrea was going strong and Sue was jamming and Janet was covering EVERYTHING. aw jeeze.

And then we looked behind and Maryanne and the professor...i mean Sonia were coming up. Sue attacked. Janet covered. I attacked, Janet covered. So finally it was the five of us hitting the final hill. I marked Janet until the end though I was never certain if she was going to jump me create a gap and get the bonus finish points -- and possibly the overall GC.

But it was not to be. we had the beast feeding out of our hands. it rolled on its back. Lilly removed its beast's mask and we slung bella flair around its neck.

we will be back.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tennessee Bellas Get Dirty!



The mountain bike chicks of Velo Bella-KONA Tennessee are several events into the season and gaining major momentum!

The season-opening Chickasaw Trace Classic was March 30. The already muddy course received several inches of rain right before the race, turning the entire course into a mud-covered 9-mile loop about the consistency of peanut butter. The sloppy mess didn’t deter our Bellas from starting the course and bringing home results, with many finishing the race despite spills, cuts, and (for one) stitches.

Chickasaw Trace Classic Results:
Amber Favorite: 3rd Beginner
Angela Brown: 10th Sport
Jennifer Morehead: 6th Expert

Next on the TBRA calendar was a weekend of racing in Kentucky. The White Lightning TT and XC races landed on April 19 and 20. Keeping in consistency with what seems to be a theme of this years’ races, it flooded rain the night before Saturday’s time trial. The Bellas used their mud expertise gained at Chickasaw to steer their way to wins!



White Lightning TT and XC Results:
Jennifer Morehead: 2nd TT Expert Women, 3rd XC Pro/Expert Women
(pic of Jen above, crossing the street on the race course. Photo courtesy Kim Lilley)
Angela Brown: 1st TT Sport Women 30-39, 1st XC Sport Women 30-39
(pic of Angela on the TT course in the Vanderkitten jersey, Photo courtesy Dustin Greer)

We’re looking for sponsors for our co-sponsored race with the Jackson Spokes on June 8 at Mousetail Landing in Linden, TN. If you’d like to be a sponsor, contact Angela at angela@companyzero.com. More details coming soon to mousetailchallenge.com!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Track Cats

By Jamie France
Clemson, South Carolina

Ladies with team logos featuring cats took 3 of the top 5 places on Saturday, 10 May at the Dick Lane Velodrome! Is it a coincidence? I think not! I think it's because cats rule the track! Meow!

1. Leigh Valletti -- Vanderkitten

2. Olga weeks -- Velo Bella

3. Lesli Meadows

4. Robin Pace

5. Jamie France -- Velo Bella

There were five races and a field of 13 women. First we had Scratch Heats to qualify for a Handicap race later in the evening with the men. Olga was one of the four who qualified. That was followed by a 15-lap Snowball in which Olga got 3rd. Next was a 30-lap points race which didn't go so well... in lap 5, a wreck took out 3 women. Luckily Olga and I were in front of the crash, so didn't get tangled up in it. (It was a pretty bad wreck -- an ambulance had to come for one woman who had a broken collarbone.) Instead of restarting the 30-lap, they had us do an Unknown Distance. Olga took 2nd and Jamie took 3rd in that. Last open women's race was the Miss-n-Out; Olga again took 2nd and Jamie took 4th. In the Handicap, Olga picked up another 2nd.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Track Karma

By Sabine
Corraleeetoes, California



I feel like its been forever since I blogged.

I mean really blogged. Not just dumping a picture and splashing a few words up to accompany it.

Its like my brain can only do either pictures or words, but not both.

But today I feel like blogging because I actually raced last night. I mean really raced. Where I tried and everything. And I haven't done that in a while.

Us women folk got our own race last night (well a couple of guys and an awesome junior did join us too). I like when we get our own race. Not that I don't like racing with the men and all, but damn if they don't chase any little attack.

And I like to attack.

When I first started racing again this season (after zilcho training and nothing but easy rides for the past 5 months), I had about 3 minutes of fitness. One attack would spend me for the night.

Last night I was able to launch about 7-8 attacks and didn't get spent until about the 7th one. Yay!

Erika and Linda were there again and I love racing with them. In the first race, Erika and I traded attacks. Erika ended up in the one that stuck. So with three up the road, there were only points for one in our chase group. Since I was not pulling, I decided not to sprint for them. Instead, I wanted to try and bridge up without pulling the pack.

I tried to get away a few times, but Ileana and a woman visiting from Ttown kept me on a short leash. Then I noticed that Erika's break caught up to the pack (who were behind us). And I remember the quirky rules of points racing. Of all the things I have done at the track lately, remembering this in the midst of the frenzy of a race is one of the things I'm most proud of!

Now, our chase group was the lead pack and full points were on the line. So I went for them, but goddamn that Ileana has some top end acceleration and I got nipped. But I also noticed how tired she was after the effort.

Then somehow Erika's group became the lead group again, except they were now four since a lapped rider joined them. That meant no points for us. (Is your mind whirring yet?) But my chase mates did not know that, so they sprinted and I rode their wheels. Then I did a most evil thing and attacked after they sprinted.

I tried like crazy to catch up to Erika's group, but it just did not happen. I did stay away for the remainder of the race, but it didn't earn me any points so I have no idea why I tried except that it felt kinda good.

Between races, Erika said "let's do some team tactics this time"

Uh...I thought that was what we were doing. But she said she wanted to do something different. What she really wanted was to not be in the lead break. And I got to find out why in the second race. That shit is hard.

On the second lap of the next race, I took a little pull up front. I was just pulling along all innocent like, when I looked behind me and saw I had a gap. I was confused, but decided to just take it and I took off.

After a lap, I looked back and I had an even bigger gap. Well cool, and well, crap. Cool because thats racing and crap because thats hard. Larry and Holloway's mom were telling me to keep going for it because bell lap was coming up. And, I had never ever won any bell lap in a points race yet. So I went for it and got my first 5 points. Yay for me.

Then Larry told me to keep going. So I did. Which was pretty much a silly thing as that put my laps alone out there at about 13 if you count the race prior.

Fortunately, Ali and Beth bridged up to me at some point. And I remember seeing Erika and Ileana there but I have no idea what happened to them. Maybe they were a mirage.

Unfortunately Ali and Beth had carpool bonding going on. The next few laps were spent getting worked over by the both of them. It was too much fun. Beth was doing tactical shit. I was so tired, but I had to laugh. And I was sort of flattered to because if you have to do tactical shit to me, then that means I am part of the race.

Kind of like how I liked it when the guys at hockey would check me.

So, Beth held me up while Ali attacked for a sprint lap. And then the two of us sprinted for the 2nd place points. I was totally wiped out before the sprint, but in all the times we have raced together, I have never been in a position to actually sprint against Beth, so I just had to go for it.

I think she was just teasing me though, because she did the most evil thing you can do in a points race, and attacked me after that sprint. Karma, on the track, is very quick.

Her and Ali rode off and lapped the field. Which of course made me leader on the road. I, thought that maybe the last sprint would be a brownie prime and I figured it was worth the 15 points to win some brownies. So I rode it in and scooped up my second ever points race lap win. But alas, no brownies!

Crap, I'm late for Wednesday night track....gotta run...

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Mostly Downhill: Wine Country Century

By Allie Burch
Novato, Cali

Awake at 5am on a Saturday. Ugh. This in itself is why I’m not a roadie. Today was the Wine Country Century and for some odd reason I was awake. To make myself feel better about being vertical and dressed at this ungodly hour, I start in on the chocolate, and I munched right on through the jeers of my “friends”: “you have a problem, it’s not even 6am and you’re eating chocolate!”

Mike, Abby, Jeni, Kyle and myself, truckin’ on up to Santa Rosa to prance around in skin-tight spandex at 7am on a 40 degree morning. Really, what the hell? But there we were. All of us, well, nearly all of us. Jeni and Kyle were still trying to find a parking spot when Abby, Mike and I rolled out. I hung out and waited for the Brooks-a-pokes as Abby and Mike pressed onward. We ended up being about eight minutes behind them, and at a pretty relaxed pace, the three of us figured we could easily work together to catch up. Thus begins our adventure.

All of us in a paceline are rotating nicely. There are two other fellas who are determined to “win” or “thin out the crowd” (yes, in a 2500 person tour), Kyle “throw the f’ing hammer down” Brookes, Jeni “Kyle, why have you stolen my road bike and expect me to keep up with you on a CX bike” Brookes and Allie “I can’t find my way out of a paper bag with a map” Burch. We are flying. As mile 13 of our “warmup” goes by, we still haven’t seen Abby or Mike, but since we’re still passing groups like they’re standing still we press on thinking that they’re just up the way…that is until we no longer see any more groups.

We climb. The five of us continue climbing alone and after about ten minutes of climbing alone the collective genius of the group determines that we have indeed gone off course. (ok, so I was probably taking a pull at that time) Kyle pulls out his gps, and we find a shortcut that takes us back to the group. We climb again and see Mike and Abby waiting at the first stop wondering just where in the hell we were.

We all continued on riding together. We rolled on through canyons, valleys and vineyards. The views were amazing and although there were a couple of steep short climbs, the majority of the course was downhill!

We were nearly to a rest stop when Pete rode up in his “Giant Strawberry Parfait” kit (I was really hungry by this time so this is what I saw) and we started yakking about the Velo Bella characters. We talked about some of the blogs, sung “My Milkshake brings all the boys in the yard…” and just had a good ol’ time for a bit. He mentioned how he saw the write-up of the Velo Bella downhillers on Michael’s website. “Yeah!” I said, “This is the 2nd year of an actual DH squad!” He eyeballed me kinda sideways like “pardon me for bringing this to your attention, “Ms. Downhiller”, but you’re fully clad in spandex. Do you notice something wrong with this picture?”

We continued chatting about Velo Bella and mutual friends and acquaintances. I was really only trying to make conversation when I said, “yeah, from what I understand Sabine and Michael are hitting the track quite a bit. I hear he’s quite good.” To which he replied and chuckled, “Michael? Hrmp! He’s soft!” Now, I’m no geologist, but I’d say them thar’s fightin’ words. Hey, I just report the news, I don’t make it up!

The course rolled on through the undulating terrain of the Russian River wine country. I would recommend this route for anyone for riding or just for wine tasting. The vineyards and wineries aren’t as commercialized and “grand” as it’s Napa Valley counterparts, but Mike and I have found that the quaintness of the wineries and quality of the wine exceeds that of the quantity some of the more touristy places of the valley pump out.

We rode as far north as Lake Sonoma, where we had lunch and then turned south to begin our ride back to the start/finish. The eastern side of 101 through Geyeserville is a bit more exposed, but still beautiful, even after logging 85 miles.

At mile 86, though I started having the “weird fantasy” phenomenon. I could think of nothing else than getting the hell out of my chamois and slipping into my Kamala skirt. It’s a dress, it’s a skirt, it’s smarter than your average bear…and you don’t have to wear a bra! Anyway, it was kinda weird, but it kept me going.

We ended up finishing and were thankful for the BBQ spread they had set up for the riders. And yes, I did get to wear my skirt/dress.

If anyone were thinking about doing their first century in Northern California, I would highly recommend this event. It’s well organized, friendly, attentive and mostly downhill.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Belonging

By Shannon Edson
Fort Collins, Colorado

MSC Race #1, Fruita, Colorado

After the TT the day before, I was a little bummed out. I hadn't finished as well as I would have liked, and my descending was tentative. But, Sunday was a new day, and I had to focus on the task at hand - the XC. I had a good warm-up, and my legs felt surprisingly good. It made such a difference having teammates around. I rode around with Jen for a bit, and then it was time to head to the line. The pro field was pretty big for an MSC race, and all the fast girls were out to play.

I had pre-ridden the course the weekend before, and this helped my confidence. It was a great course! It snaked around the Western Rim Trail on the border between Colorado and Utah. The views were breathtaking, and the singletrack was very fast.

As I stood on the line, I envisioned the course and myself riding with perfect control. The race official went over the race reminders, and before I knew it, I was racing again. I had a good start; I am determined to make this a strength. After about five minutes, I had spiked my HR, and I just needed to settle in. I rode steady and about fifteen minutes in, we came to big drop.

When I pre-rode the course, it didn't look like the race would go this way, so I hadn't practiced it. I saw a girl ahead of me bomb down it, so I leaned back and rolled through. I made it to the Western Rim Trail and surprised myself with the my technical skills. I definitely had more control than the day before.

When I hit the turn, I saw a girl who had consistently finished ahead of me last season as an expert. I dug in and caught her. This boosted my confidence, and I set my sights up the sandy road. On the last push before the finish, I could see two more women. I gave all that I had and caught one before the finish. I ended up thirteen seconds away from the one further up the road.

I was pleased. At camp, Alex said, "A good goal to have as a first year pro is just to feel like you belong in the field." I felt that way today, and I hope to only build from here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Never Too Much Otter!

By Kimber Gabryszak
Park City, Utah


So I've spent the last few weeks alternating between excitement for the Sea Otter downhill and apprehension...as many of you know, I had a rough season last year. Beating myself up about earlier poor finishes, then took out my shoulder in a crash at Angel Fire. Later in the summer, I eased back onto the bike, but was scared, wimpy, riding my brakes, too tentative.

Now, after a lot of PT and a winter of recovery, would I still be scared?

First day on the practice course, I took a slow run to get a feel for it. Second run, let it ride a little faster, and it felt awesome. Third run, let it go all out.....and almost rattled myself off a section of brake bumps since I was on my medium bike. OOPS!

For the 4th run, I borrowed Connie's bigger downhill bike, and let it rip! It was so beautiful! Flowly and smooth, I felt in the zone and in the groove, relaxed and absorbing the course. Yay! I could have ridden all day, but by then practice was over. My face got a workout from smiling too.

No practice on Saturday, which was a good thing, since Connie and I had decided to race in the beginner/sport singlespeed XC race Friday, and I don't know about her but my legs were HATING me! We hung out at the tent, visited with the other Bellas, made new friends, walked around Sea Otter, and had a grand time. THANKS to everyone for the friendliness and hospitality, especially Sabine!

Sunday morning, practice. My (Connie's) bike was all decked out in glittery pipe cleaners and rhinestones and ribbons, and we were just loving the course. In fact, I had to force myself to stop practicing to keep from being too tired for the uphill pedally sections. Yes, uphill on a downhill course, but I couldn't complain since it's one of the most fun courses I've been on otherwise!


Finally, time for the race. I'm sitting in the gate, feeling stunned that it's already Sea Otter, it's already the bike season, it's already time to race, it's going to be all over in 3 minutes, then...

Beep, beep, beep, BEEP! I pedal into the first corner, and Success #1: no braking through the corner, yay! Into the doubles section, and while I don't clear them, I have Success #2: smoothly suck up the bumps and get the right crossover into the bermy switchbacks. Success #3: no braking through the switchbacks! Success #4: no hesitation on the teensy-weensy rock I've been hesitating on!

Then I hit Failure #1: the first pedally climb. My legs are SO TIRED! I try to stand in the pedals but just crawl up the hill. 2-3 seconds lost there, so sad! Failure #2: I hesitate at the top of the steep rutted sand section, but once I'm in it I let it go fast. Still lost some time. Failure #3: same as #1, almost no pedalling up the second hill. Sigh, more time lost.

Then, Success #4: no brakes through the bottom of the course, with the exception of into a sharper corner or two, but nowhere near the amount I usually do, so I'm overcoming my fear, yay!

My finish was a 3:02, which put me into 29th place, and which was 9 seconds off the girls I'd like to finish with. Since my only real issue was lack of pedalling, and I did well on the rest of the course, overall I'm pretty stoked! She's back!

AND, overall the successes outweigh the failures, and the failures are just lessons to learn from. I know, I know, the SS XC probably wasn't the smartest idea for leg soreness, but it's Sea Otter and supposed to be a good time, and the XC race was one of the most fun and crazy things I've ever done!

And that's all she wrote!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Gravity Bella!


Allie Burch, Sea Otter Pro Downhillin'

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Grand Belladom!

By Shannon Gibson, Pro Bella
Out Playin' in the Dirt Somewheres

Shannon, Laura, and Sabine show lotsa smilin’ teeth

Since becoming a Bella, I rank Sea Otter as one of the most fun race trips all year. NorCal is grand Belladom, and resident within are many leaders of the queensland.

Founder Sabine with our new purplicious nippled Stan’s wheels

I feel privileged to follow in the footsteps of women like Sabine and Laura who wanted their own feminine cycling kit to rock while going fast riding a bike and, oh yes, having fun! Apparently, I’m told, the spousal/significant other men who belong to or have belonged to the queens have their own team- VOS, as well.

Pro Team Manager Alex

Well, Brava to Giant’s Kelli Emmett for riding off the front all day. Gutsy move considering the length of the race and the wind. But I did a season of marathons a couple years back, and Kelli always could just motor along really fast for really long!!

Now for my excuses... not yet on form with a post cross late start to base, 3 too many jobs, I couldn’t hang with the surge over the back side. Got stuck behind lotsa traffic and had to be patient until traffic thinned out. Good news is I didn’t run outta gas and I can feel the form coming. Every race weekend gets better.

Even the number plates sparkle

And kudos to Leah, who is coming into her own with two wins this weekend. She’s definitely a youngun on the way up to the top!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Otter Pop

By Janet Lafleur
Mountain View, Cali


Since last year I finished the Beginner Cross-country race in the bottom half, I registered for the same race category again. My only goal was that nebulous "do better this year" which meant finishing in the top half.

My race strategy was simple: (1) find a good wheel at the start so I could get onto the dirt in good position (2) pass as many of the slower ones from the earlier groups on the first fire road to avoid the "conga line" on the singetrack (3) be more assertive in passing people on the singletrack. That was about it. I really didn't think too far ahead.

It seems to happen every race. At some point before the race starts I wonder why I ever registered and quietly hope something will cancel it. Starting that morning and continuing through the whole drive down and into the registration process I was a little disgusted with myself. Just why am I doing this? Finally, after meeting up with Cindy Shambaugh and Michelle Perez I started to feel better about racing. Thank God for Velo Bella teammates!

After we got our bikes and gear in order, we rode to get our friend Harper so we could warm up together. Sea Otter was Harper's first race ever. When we pulled in to her campsite fully kitted out in Velo Bella style Harper's husband Matt blurted: "Wow, you guys look intimidating". I guess we were light on the flair for this race. Harper was looking great for her first race--calm, collected and ready to go.

During the warm-up on the track we ran into more friends: Bella Elizabeth Rein, Lesley (Code 3) and Holly (LGBRC). Then we lined up for the start. Even though Holly told me she wasn't really feeling strong after racing Madera and wouldn't be going out hard I pulled up next to her on the front row just in case. Didn't want to miss out on the opportunity for a good wheel.

Then the buzzer and as expected a couple of women shot off, giving me some good choices for wheels--really important since there was a stiff headwind. I sat in behind one woman and kept an eye on another pair just off to the right. They were a bit ahead but on a less optimal line so I held tight. After the hairpin turn the second group got closer so I whispered to the woman in front of me: "Grab her wheel" which she did.

So the first handful or so of the field pacelined along until it broke apart at the bottom of the corkscrew. That final little pitch is where I passed my lead-out woman and where Holly and a Team Hamana racer passed me getting off the track.
Strategy item #1 complete.

Once off the track, we were funneled through a hole in the fence. Holly slides out and the Team Hamana woman pops off her bike too. I'm just far enough back that I have a chance to get around, but there was no room. We all scramble to get back on the bikes and head down the fireroad toward the infamous Misleading Signs Area #1.

We're going pretty fast and I must have seen Holly looking confused about which way cause she said I yelled out "Go left". On the hill and the rollers that followed Holly and Team Hamana gained ground on me, but I still managed to keep them in sight. This is where we passed a lot of racers from earlier categories. Strategy item #2 complete.

Before long we're on the Trail 50 downhill singletrack. It's not nearly as bad a conga line as last year, but Holly and Team Hamana were slowed down enough for me to catch them. Then it's uphill on Trail 50 where they pull away from me again but once again not too far. Of course there's a bit of a conga line here too and I catch them near the top. But overall I did much better getting around people. Strategy item #3 complete.

On the fire road leading to the beach there were plenty of opportunities to pass. Unfortunately, I couldn't pass the cute 12 year old before the beach. She got to the top of it and stopped dead in her tracks at what she saw. I almost got around both her and the woman who got stopped behind her, but couldn't. So I ran around her down the first ten feet or so and mounted my bike. Having tried and failed four times before, I really didn't have a goal of getting down the beach without stopping. But somehow I cleaned it, passing Holly on the way down. Unexpected achievement #1!

Then it's the grunt up Trail 82. Not far from the bottom I recognize Lesley's voice (probably letting someone know she's passing). As she passes, she asks me "Did you go off course?" I said: "No, you're just fast". I didn't know what she was talking about.

It's so steep on Trail 82 that people are popping off everywhere. So it's dodge where you can, hop off quick and run around where you have to all the way to the top. Nice downhill, left on pavement, right on fireroad to the feed zone. Eat a Clif shot, drink a bit too. Then start grinding up Skyline toward Misleading Signs Area #2.

As I approached the turnoff for Trail 44 it was like deja vu from our pre-ride last week where we lost the faster climbers in our group. I see the turnoff to the left and I see riders climbing Skyline past it. I know that's a mistake and I'm wondering what happened. Then I get close enough to read the signs. A red one with a left arrow that says "XC race" with "20 miles" handwritten on it and a yellow straight arrow that says "10 mile off-road tour". I'm perplexed. I know the course--I did it last year and even pre-rode it using maps and directions from the web site this year. But the signs implied that 20 miles was left and 10 miles was straight.

I knew that going straight shortens the course by a mile or so and that the race officials would never be able to reconcile the mistakes. So I knew the results for many racers would be wrong. But I decided to not let that bother me and turned left. Even if the placings are screwed up, at least then I can compare my time vs. last year. At the bottom of 44 there was a big "Beginner women and clydesdales turn right" sign so I knew that I was on the true course.

Then its up up up the mind-numbing fireroad into the wind. Almost as soon as the climb begins, we are joined by the teeming masses of men completing their long loop. Normally this would be annoying, but in the wind it was a bit of a blessing. More people to block the wind. I chugged along, just focusing on keeping the pedals turning. A woman in a red & white kit passes me toward the end of the climb but I pass her on the somewhat technical descent in a relatively tight space. Strategy item #3 again.

A final steep turn to get back on the race track has everyone dismount, run up and remount. A total cyclocross moment. Then it's a biggest gear descent on the pavement to the finish.

At the finish I see Lesley there and Harper too. Then in comes Cindy, who started 2 min back and almost caught me and then Holly and Michelle. Then we go to the results and find people with 39 minute times already posted. Huh? Obviously some big mistakes cause we know the winners finished last year in about 1:20. The 40-44 group only shows the first couple of finishers including some 39 min times. None of us are listed.

So we head for the protest booth, wait with many others to talk to the guy. It takes them a while, but they finally figure out that the 39 minute people were off course. Duh. But there was no way to figure out who cut the course at Misleading Signs #2.

By now it's getting really cold. Cindy and Lesley leave for warmer places while Michelle, Holly and I wait. Eventually they award some of the categories. Lesley is declared winner of 45+! But they tell us they won't award the 40-44 until morning so we leave.

The next morning I head for the results area where I get the big surprise. I placed 2nd, Holly 3rd and Michelle 4th in a field of 16. Sweet! I got on the phone and relayed the good news. Michelle comes down and we finally get our award around noon.

So I went home pleased. Not only did I follow my strategy to race smarter, I improved my time by 5 minutes in worse conditions (much windier) than last year. I also cleaned the beach for the first time. The 2nd place medal was an unexpected bonus. It's pretty too, much prettier than the Sea Otter hydration pack I got in the schwag bad.

If you've read this far, thank you for taking the time. I'm a talker.

See you out there on the trails. Or even the race course next year where I'll be racing Sport.

Monday, April 07, 2008

In the News...


Bellas at play in Santa Cruz — Read all about it!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Treasure Hunt

By Monica Tory
Kalamazoo, Michigan


Ever heard of an alleycat? It's a cross between a scavenger hunt on bikes and an adventure race, and it's just a whole lot of fun!

As part of a team, I "raced" the recent Hopcat-sponsored Alleycat, and can't recommend it highly enough! Sure, we didn't place so well (40th of 45), but then again I know we had more fun than everyone else out there! When you don't know the town, you can't expect to win an event like this ... especially when you're the only team whose courier bags are loaded with chocolate eggs to hand out along the way......Mmmm. Dove chocolate eggs. Hershey's dark chocolate eggs. Chocolate dipped chocolate eggs...

Whoops! A little off topic....what was I saying? Oh yeah...when you don't know your way around town and are carrying pounds of chocolate, you don't need to worry about winning & can just enjoy the experience! And what an experience it was.

Zooming around town with 70 or so other cyclists, working out clues to find out where to go next and what interesting "tasks" would come up next....all in between the "getting out of church hour" and the start of St. Patrick's day celebrations! Good thing I had the trusty handlebar mounted beer cozy that I picked up from Bicycle Discovery in San Diego - it came in very handy! Ever had to chug a beer while eating Peeps ? It was surprisingly yummy. How about sprinting through convenience stores, gas stations, etc., speed-shopping for canned cat food? Surely there must have been a grocery store SOMEWHERE out there. Really ... why do the gas stations carry dog food only? There were many interesting tasks, a few locations that you had to be at within a certain time-window, and some really creatively cryptic clues to get you everywhere else. It all added up to one great ride, and a lot of interesting stories told to new friends at the post-ride celebrations held at Hopcat and Founder's afterwards. Can't wait to organize an Alleycat of our own in the coming months!

CLICK for results.

p.s. I don't know what Sheila Moon had in mind when she designed the shoulder pocket on her hoodies, but it is the perfect place for a camera!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Will Race For Ice Cream

By Tracie Nelson
SLO, Cali

Today was the Hanford Criterium.

Here's a race that's doing everything right: sweet course, awesome prizelist, cornball announcer, great sponsorship, and even bleachers at the S/F for the mobs of adoring fans to sit on and cheer. But the race is still pretty small, not well-known, and psssst.... don't tell them I said so, but maybe because it's in HANFORD.

(Hanford: A town of old trucks, farmers, pedestrians who walk wherever they feel like, and run-down shanty-shacks. Jesus is Lord of Hanford.)

So to honor this underrated crit, I pulled out all the stops: I busted out the skinsuit; donned the new helmet and sunglasses (which make me look like J-Lo, except with a smaller booty and less tan); I even slathered on the tingly leg cream (I didn't put it on my feet this time - I learned that lesson the hard way at Pine Flat). Then we all went out and raced like mad(wo)men and had a jolly good time.


We had a random passer-by snap this shot with Linda's cherished iPhone. I like how it makes me look 8 feet tall. Either that or everyone else is a midget (a possibility, as Erika insists she stopped growing at age 7).

After the race, we knocked up the local ice cream joint - which isn't just any lame old Coldstone or Baskin Robbins (which will do in a pinch), but a real-live old fashioned we-make-our-ice-cream-HERE-and-serve-out-scoops-the-size-of-yo-mama kind of place.

I got a chocolate milkshake that was roughly the size of Texas. It was good.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Wind and Milkshakes

By Marian Jamison
Reno, Nevada


See how stoked I am to ride in 30 mph winds?

So! After leaving Reno at 6am, chaining up my poor little truck, and driving through the snow to meet up with my dad in Grass Valley, I managed to arrive at Land Park in Sacramento with plenty of time to warm up and register and talk to the ladies.

There were, um, four Bellas in the 1,2,3s. Katie, Soni, Ryan and myself. We were all pretty active and rode well and put in attacks. I attacked at one point and opened up a few feet of real estate between myself and the pack, but immediately cracked (ouch) and was caught. We chatted prior to the race about setting up Ryan for the finish. As we were going into the last lap I found myself next to Soni totally blocked out from attacking or doing anything worthwhile. I managed to reposition myself into the top ten-ish as we approached the last turn, but realized upon looking around that there was no one around me to lead out. And . . . I let myself get bullied in the last turn and lost about 10 places, then lost a few more in the sprint. But I was happy to see Ryan sprinting ahead of me.

It was fun, though, and I was proud to see all the Bellas riding so strong and aggressively. Plus, it was gorgeous down there. It's hard to be unhappy on a day like that.

I thought I had a really good idea of where the Zamora road race was, having raced the course two years ago as a collegiate race, but I was wrong, and failed to print out directions. As it turned out though, I didn't want to warm up in the damn wind anyway, so getting there on time would have been just silly. I feel that it was better driving around on farming roads telling my dad, "Oh, it's out this way, I'm sure. See, this is right where the climb is . . . oh, wait . . . hmm . . . maybe we should have turned right back there . . ." But, we found it. Whew!

There were four of us again - myself, Katie, Soni, and Sarah. Did I mention it was windy? Oh, I didn't? Well, it was windy!!!

I was feeling pretty good, but picked the wrong wheel heading up the KOM climb, which is more of a hill than a mountain. So . . . a little gap opened up between the girl in front of me and the pack, and then I was flailing around in the wind with an ever growing gap between myself and where I wanted to be. There was a small group behind me, so I slowed up a little bit so they could catch on, and then started hammering. It ended up being just me and one other girl, who I told, "We can catch them!" even though I didn't think that was very likely. But, lo and behold, we did. And on the head-wind stretch no less! But when we came to the KOM hill again, I was off the back. Again. Hmm.

This time there was clearly no catching back on. I TT'd it for about half a lap, then caught up to two girls who'd also gotten dropped, then we broke apart on the KOM hill again. Damn. Almost a whole lap in the wind by myself before I was caught by a group of 4 who were hammering to stay away from a larger group behind them. So, we hammered to the finish and I ended up 2nd in the sprint, which was more of a long fast wind-out before the line. Sarah was with the lead group, and I think Katie and Soni were with the larger group behind me.

It was a hard day! And anyone racing out there is tough tough tough. I'm super proud of my teammates.

On a side note, at Snelling, which was my last race, I think the biggest problem (other than my legs, my lungs, my back, and the supposed "cold" that I claim to have had) was just getting bummed out by riding in the wind and not being able to stick with the lead group. Today I was determined to stay positive and happy and not get crabby, and it worked! I was even happy when I was TTing into the head wind trying to keep my speed above 12 mph. Haha. Really though, it made all the difference.

And then I drank a milk shake. Mmmm . . . milk shake . . .

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Startline... Anyone? Anyone?

By Allie Burch
Novato, California

We are here. The race start is *way* over there -->

This was valuable information given to the three of us after an hour of hiking straight up the wrong single-track (with downhill bikes) on the wrong peak of a completely unmarked downhill course on the practice day before the race. Although the descent to the real start was pretty sweet, our little adventure had kinda done me in.

This was my first foray to the Keyesville Classic event.

The adventure started at 4:45 am on Friday with a 5 and a half hour drive to Keyesville. As the flat farmscape of I-5 droned on, it gave way to the flat farmscape of 46 then 99 into Bakersfield. A quick turn East on 174 was a welcomed change as it dropped out of the valley then climbed and twisted it’s way through the mountain pass along the Kern River up to Lake Isabella where the canyon opened up to an outdoor lover’s playground!

Once I arrived, I geared up and started pushing up the Snake pit course with Jackie and Dain. Fast, chundery sections to rocky singletrack, switchback to a rocky funnel…ok, these look fun, but where the hell does this thing start?!

We kept going and followed a singletrack straight up the most logical looking peak for a downhill course. Half an hour of hiking through soft sand later, we decided that there is no way this can be a start since there is no place to stage riders. Besides, we were the only one’s up there! We rode down and found the real start, which sent the rider down a fire road with a few rollers and a long flat section. Fine if you’re on a small travel bike, but on a 37 lb downhill sled?? Kill me now.

One of my goals for this race was to really look over lines and get somewhat creative. There was a group of rocks that looked like they could be ridden over as long as the rider threaded through the two boulders on either side. Jackie and I stopped to session this section and see just how possible this line was. I backed up and started my approach to the rock line, but slammed on my brakes before committing to riding it. By this time there were three other guys looking at the line as well. I dragged my bike up as was about to abandon the idea just as I heard Jackie say, “actually, I’d kinda like to see how that line is done.” I think she was talking to the guys, but what the hell. I backed up again and rared up to go…I’da made it too… but I got object fixation on the big flat rock wall right in front of me and smacked into it all “George of the Jungle” style. Of course after this the guys cleared it without a problem. I, on the other hand found an alternate line that I liked better anyway.

Saturday was the downhill race, a combined best time on the two courses. The first course, Dutch Flat, was best ridden on a hard tail. There were three rises that made a rider slugging a rolling couch want to puke, but all of a sudden the course got really fast. There were three of us in the pro class, two on downhill rigs, and one on a hard tail. Needless to say, Tiffany, who was on the hard tail enjoyed a few seconds advantage over us on the downhill bikes after the first run.

Time was more than made up, however on the second run where, even though the course had uphills and flats, the technical sections were easily floated over on 8” of suspension.

When the dust had settled and the results were in, Jackie and I had the fastest combined female times…exactly. We were in a dead tie for first. She was exactly one second faster than I on one of the courses, I was exactly one second faster on the other.

The final results had placed Jackie in first and me in second, the tie-breaker being the fastest down the second course. We clambored up on the podium and proclaimed our victory right as the snow started flying!! An isolated snowstorm came blowing through to cap off the awards.

Once the course was marked, and the race promoters set up and organized a bit, the event went really well and was a very fun event. I even met fellow Velo Bella roadie (and now MTB extraordinaire) Tracy Nelson at the downhill! (I can’t wait to read her writeup on this event!)

The Badass Club

By Tracie Nelson
San Luis Obispo, Cali

I've been working on a short list of things that will automatically classify a person as a "badass":

1. Person has blood stains on their bike
2. Person has raced in the snow
3. Person has done a DH race on a hardtail

Hello, Badass Club! Okay, so what if I did do #3 really, REALLY horribly, and maybe the course really wasn't THAT challenging as far as downhills go, but the fact that I competed in something that involved hurling yourself down a rocky ledge and am not currently sporting a BODY CAST - well, I'm pretty proud.

Keysville was bitchin'.

Here's a quick summary:

1. Short track is the bomb. My teeth were bleeding and I had snot coming out of my eyes but it was all worth it when I started lapping old fat guys.

2. I've never been so cold in my life! My sleeping bag became my new best friend and we snuggled the day away. I devised a plan to cut arm and leg holes in Cuddly the Sleeping Bag and wear him in my XC race. I also considered carrying him up to the top of the DH course to keep me warm while I waited for my start. (As an added bonus I could strap Cuddly to my back for the way down as body armor.)

3. Pint glasses are better prizes than t-shirts.

4. I'm so sore I can hardly walk.

5. Next time I camp out at a race I will solicit a camping swan-yer (how the heck do you spell that word?) to cook hot meals, provide body massages, and service my bike. Applications are currently being accepted. Vollunteer basis only, must provide own tent and transportation.

6. I kicked ass. Knobbies are my mojo.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bella Aggression: Dash for Cash

By Rachel Mickelson
California


I’m was so excited about participating in the first bike race of the year that I spent the better part of the morning on the potty…Uggggggg, nervousness attacks me in evil ways.

Fitness level is good, slept good, ate well the night before, instant oatmeal 3 hours prior to race start..had all my duckies in a row, or so I thought. My last bike race had been last summer and I only participated in about 4 of them…never really got my “mojo” back or whatever you want to call it. Today, I was ready to hit it hard!


BOY, according to my husband, I really made those girls hurt…. One problem, I KILLED myself at the beginning of the race. I broke all of the rules in Bicycle Racing 101! This race was a 30 minute race with a sprint lap after the first four laps. I WENT HARD for the first FIVE laps and Faded, faded…I could have won $10 for each lap that I won. I got second in like five of them. At the finish, I was WAY back. Click here to read HOW FAR back (…….16th, dang it!).

I WILL REDEEM MYSELF!

On a positive note, I got an excellent interval workout. My kids saw me out there racing like their Daddy. Treated myself to Starbuck’s after the race.

See more great photos of all the race action here.

Photos courtesy of Steve Weixel, Santa Barbara, California. Used with permission. Thanks Steve!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tip Top Sprint

By Jamie France
Clemson, South Carolina



Sunday, 9 March, was our old faithful course of 35 miles at Donaldson Center. The field of women was smaller than usual -- only 30 of us, all Categories raced together. The cold was excruciating. I heard on the weather that it was 28 degrees with wind chill. It felt every bit of the 28 degrees. Everyone dressed for the cold, but still -- we were miserable for the first two laps. It took us 14 miles to warm-up to where I could feel my fingertips. My brain was frozen for those two laps as well. Luckily, everyone was in the same boat -- cold muscles, cold face, runny noses.

I really started to feel good in lap 3. I was feeling like I really wanted to stretch my legs, but I stayed imbedded in the pack. I followed a few attacks, but the pack always got us reeled back in. The bigger teams were really controlling things, and I had no teammates. (I had started the race with a brand-new-Bella, Kim Turpin, who I knew was super-strong, but she broke a cable in lap 1 so she was out.)

Before I knew it, we were approaching the 200m-to-the-finish mark, and the sprint began. I finally got a chance to open up and go for it. It was crowded and I had to hold back until I found a gap, powered through, and passed a bunch of gals with only 10m to go. It felt great!

I ended up 11th out of all 30 women, my best finish ever -- but wait! Here's the best part: I was 1st among Cat 4 women, my prevoius best being 5th. And since they scored the Cat 4 women separately from the 1/2/3's, I've got that warm & fuzzy feeling of a job well done when I see the results posted with "1. Jamie France - VeloBella - Clemson, SC" at the very tippity top of the list!

Oh La La!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Fat Tire Fling

By Tracie Nelson
San Luis Obispo, Cali


I won!!!

But not in Merced.

Nope. No Merco for me this year. I've filled my central valley quota for a while, thank you very much. Instead, Ryan and I headed up to Fort Ordy-oh-Lordy to fill our poison oak and dust quotas at CCCX. Aaaalllll-right. (Who wants a body massage?)

So we packed up the knobbies and technu and chocolate chip cookies (the three essential ingredients to a pleasant mountain biking experience) and headed up north for a day in the dirt. The CCCX races remind me a little bit of collegiate racing because they're so low-key and the feild sizes are kinda dinky and everyone is friendly and chatty and really dorky. I like it.

I raced the Sport division again, since it was only my second race, and was suprised to see that this one girl who has been winning every race under the sun was also still racing Sport. She beat me last time and is definately fast enough to be holding her own in the Expert class, but Whatever. I'm new to this; what do I know?

So a quickie blow-by-blow (the not interesting part): Winner Girl sprinted off like a bat out of hell from the line and I sat on her wheel on the pavement. I looked behind me to see if everyone else was sitting on my wheel and they were nowhere to be found. (Game on.) I jumped around her to get on the dirt first; dropped her on the first lap; she caught me on the second lap and rode away; I caught her on the third lap and rode away from her to win the race. (Yay.)

Ryan won her race too. ROADIES UNITE!

Now for the interesting parts:

1. Since I beat a sandbagger, does that make me a sandbagger? One of her friends asked me if I planned to upgrade to expert "next year". As in, 11 months from now? As fun as it was to have a good hard race (that girl gave me a serious run for my money) and to have won (it's nice to win something other than a scrabble game from time to time), I don't really think it's fair of us to keep beating up on girls who are new to the bike. I'll race up next time.

2. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, get out of your chamois when you're done with your bike! Not that I was timing them, but there were some peeps (who shall remain anonymous) hanging around in their spandex for a good TWO AND A HALF HOURS after their races were over (sitting around in the feed zone in your bike shorts does NOT count as training time!!!) I'd hate to know what's growing in their shorts.

3. I saw a guy in baggies and shoe covers. I laughed out loud and then told him that I liked his fashion statement. Creativity deserves recognition.

4. I had fun. CCCX is not a FUPA.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Road Season: It's ON!

By Soni Andreini Poulsen
At a bike race somewhere in California


Somehow, I got my best start of the last 2 years and was in the front into the first turn. Happily, Tracie took the pole from me and I rode her wheel for the first lap. It was so great to have her right in front of me. I just followed her line and it gave me much confidence that I could corner on this course. Really, this is the first crit I've done where I wasn't nervous about every corner and losing ground on most of them.


Then Tracie started attacking and attacking and attacking. I countered once, but I was pretty dang pooped from the rest of the weekend and could only do so much. Laps 22 down to 10 seemed to last forever, and I kept thinking they were forgetting to turn the lap cards. I just wanted to try to stay in to do something at the end.


So then Tracie attacked and Ry and I kinda patrolled and controlled as best we could when we could. The last 10 laps (of this 34 lap, one hour race) went a little slower so I knew I could stay in at that point and so got myself in position with 3 to go. Then at 2 to go Tracie went again hard! I almost got dropped and seriously questioned my ability to do my last lap attack that Ryan and I had planned.

But I went anyway, just a bit before the start/finish line and just kept it down. After turn 3, I really felt my power dropping and thought I might pull off. I didn't think I was much help anymore, but Ryan yelled "keep going!" And so I did.



OUCH!

I was ready to die/quit again after turn 4, but then Jeff yelled at me to keep digging, and that kept me going for one more turn

OUCH!

I finally had to pull off after turn 5 because I barely made the turn. I couldn't see straight!

Ry had positioned herself perfectly. When I pulled off, there was one gal between us and she was then in the wind and had to go too early, with Ry on her wheel...

And that was all she wrote. Ry made it look easy!



I don't think the field knew what hit them. We missed all the primes, but we all got t-shirts. Most importantly, we all had a blast and put on a good show for the crowd!

Click for more super-fab photos. All photos courtesy of Steve Weixel, Santa Barbara, Cali. Used with permission. Mille Grazie!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cyclocross World Championships

By Amy Dombroski
Durango, Colorado


Ready to roll......in racing form - so serious.


It was slick and slippery.
Hard to go hard because the focus was on keeping up-right.


The fans were crazy on the steep run-up.



The race was amazing, and so was my post-race meal.



And then we watched the men's race with all the super-fans.



Jonathan Page on the stairs.


Tim Johnson after the stairs.



It was real and surreal.

Thanks to everyone for your incredible support!
This wouldn't have been possible without you!



Editor's note: Below is a brief video from the Worlds race. I believe I saw Amy on her Bellalicious Kona fly by. Ooh la la!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hoogerheide World Cup



Bella Sighting!


Editor's note: If you are not an afficionado of techno, you might want to be muting the sound. Or, crank it up and dance around your living room. We'll never tell!