Apr 30, 2011

Stage 4 Tour of the Gila: Criterium

Downtown Silver City, NM was booming all day today.  Stage four of the Tour of the Gila, the criterium, was popular and exciting for the spectators.  I love the atmosphere that crits create in the city, and I love the cheering and the support from the fans.  The Silver City crowd was exceptional! 

Juvéderm Specialized Mazda rode aggressively.  We attacked throughout the race, and won three prime sprints.  (Those are intermediate sprints througout the race that are announced one lap beforehand.  The pack has one lap to organize themselves, and the first one over the finish line the next time wins).  I was really proud to have won one myself.

Fellow Canadian Clara Hughes won the stage today.  It's a lot of fun to see her doing so well in her comeback race.  Heather Logan, another excellent Canadian cyclist has the Green Jersey. And of course, Denise Ramsden of Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda still has the Best Young Rider's Jersey (the White Jersey) by a nice amount of time!  Talk about representing the True North Strong and Free!

One stage left to go...it's going to be fun.

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Stage 3 Tour of the Gila

Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda riding to the time trial course of the 2011 Tour of the Gila

Stage three was the 25km time trial.  It was a very windy and hilly course.  I decided to ride the race with little time-trial (TT) specific equipement.  I thought I would be more comfortable on my bike and get blown around less in the crosswinds.  (They picked up to 60mph by the end of the day!)  I saw the difference that the deep-dish wheels and full TT bikes made on the downhills however, where the girls blew by me.  I didn't have as much trouble keeping up on the uphill.

This was the first time trial I did with my Quarq powermeter.  I can really appreciate the extent to which following my power output during a TT can help me pace myself.  I'm looking forward to practicing working with this tool a bit more.  I really love my Quarq.
Photo: © Mitch Clinton

Congratulations to Denise Ramsden (in the picture above) who rode the fastest time in the U26 (Younger-than-26-years-old) category.  She now has the white jersey (best young, or U26 rider)!  I started several riders behind her and could see her passing girls in the distance.  It was impressive!  Clara Hughes won this stage by a whopping two minutes.  She now has the overall leader's jersey.  Good riding girls!

Stage 2 of the Tour of the Gila

Stage two saw Heather Logan-Sprenger win solo, after a break that lasted a significant part of the race.  Super impressive.

I went off of the course into the shallow, rocky ditch on a twisty downhill section in the Gila National Forest.  I didn't go down though, and hopped right back in the race.  I wasn't feeling top-shape for the first whole two thirds of the stage but I feel like my form is coming back.  Thanks a lot to Anne for bringing me back into a decent spot in the pack when I was dangling, and MoJo for brining me my first Coke of the race.  I needed a bit of life knocked into me and it did the trick.

Other than that I stayed hydrated with my Eload, and I fueled myself with 3 bars during the race.  Even if you don't feel hungry, it's important to eat on the bike!

Apr 27, 2011

Stage 1: Tour of the Gila.

I thought the road felt a lot rougher than it looked. It wasn't.  At about 20km in I had a flat. I let myself float back in the peloton and raised my left hand so our team car would come up to me with a front Roval wheel ready to swap back onto my Specialized Amira.  (Left hand means: front wheel.  Right hand: rear wheel.)  I got paced back onto the pack by the team car.  No problem.

A while down the road, I thought that it was mighty weird that I had to pee so bad.  That never happens to me in a race.  (Did the Eload recipe suddenly change?) Then some of the Peanut Butter & Co. and Colavita girls called for a pee-break.  It wasn't so weird after all...I wasn't the only one.  (My Eload was fine.)  It was my first experience peeing on the side of the road in a race. The altitude really has an impact on the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.  (It was my hypothesis and I confirmed it online.)  I could have gone for a second pit-stop before the end but didn't want to risk not getting back into the pack.

With 10km to go we headed up the final climb to the finish line.  It was a doozie.  It was twisty with a couple of steep sections (19% incline).  I had a blast climbing.  I didn't manage to stay at the front though. I stuck around the SRAM car for a good part of the uphill.  Those guys are so friendly.

After the race, we had to ride back down that 10km hill to the team cars that couldn't follow us up all of the way.  That part was pretty pleasant for the eyes.  The Pro1-2 men were still racing their way up...

I'm looking forward to uploading the data from my Quarq later on tonight.  My massage is done...now it's time for a nap.  Stage two tomorrow.


Apr 26, 2011

Silver City New Mexico is Windy

Today is Tuesday.  By departure time for our ride (9:15), the wind was already howling.  They were calling for 75 mph winds.  I don't know if it got up that high...but it was Kite Flying Championships weather for sure.  We're here for a bike race though. 

We pre-rode the time trial course.  I had to encourage myself that I could stay on my bike and not get blown off the course.  The same way I encourage myself not to crash out of the cross-country ski tracks in the Parc de la Mauricie on the speediest of days.  My positive self-talk worked. 

The 25th annual Tour of the Gila (pronounced "Hee-la" for those of you who don't know) begins tomorrow.  At 8:25. AM.  It'll be 5 stages of pure pleasure in and around Silver City, New Mexico.  I've missed being away for racing with the team.  With the crazy winds, the racing is going to be quite a bit different than what I'm used to, but it's going to be fun.  Bike racing always is.

I'm going to go get a last massage before I hit the sack for the last time before the race.  Sleep tight, boys and girls.

Apr 25, 2011

Sardines vs. Herring.

I didn't have any canned smoked herring left in my pantry when I left home.  It was Easter Sunday.  Nothing was open.  I couldn't remediate the problem, you know?  I did have a few cans of sardines though.  I threw them in my Hincapie backpack. 

This morning at 6am in Fort Lauderdale Hollywood airport, it smells like greasy bacon everywhere.  Any decent looking sandwich costs at least $8.  I pulled out my trusty canned fish.

Smoked herring tops the sardines I just ate any day.  But...sardines over getting ripped off for an $8 lousy sandwich is well, well worth it.

From Rain and Hail to Hot and Humid

Yesterday, Véro Labonté got another podium for Juvéderm Specialized Mazda at the Grand Prix Ste. Martine, the race that kicks off the season in Québec.  She attacked and successfully broke away in the middle of the race.  She was joined by a few other riders and they managed to stay away from the peloton.  As the end neared, she attacked again and won solo.  Way to go champ!

It wasn't the most gorgeous of days.  There was rain, hail, and a lot of wind.  There were a heck of a lot of DNFs across all of the categories.  I had one in the master B race in the morning.  At least I was successful in surviving the registration line-up...

This evening we flew out of Montréal, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida (the heat and humidity really hit us when we got off of the plane).  It's a "special" airport.  I much prefer the monorail of Dallas Fort Worth.  Here...there are baggage carousels, fake flowers, and funny smelling hallways.  But it's pretty quiet.  I guess it should be at 1am anyways.

Our connecting flight to Arizona is at 7am tomorrow morning.  Véro and I opted out of a hotel and are camping in the airport.  We've got a decent set-up going on.  I'll be sleeping on my bike box.  In fact...I'm headed there right now.  Goodnight!

Apr 14, 2011

Battenkill Won With French Toast and Eload

Val DJ-ed for us off of her MP3 player as we were cruising to the Tour of the Battenkill start line in the Juvederm-Specialized-Mazda team Mazda 5 car.  I mentioned that I thought we were going to have a pretty successful day. 

Myself, Véro Labonté, Mary Zider, Sara Byers, and Val Crête warmed up on our bikes before the race and made sure to ride the last section of the course.  It was kind of key.  It gave us a good idea of where we had to place ourselves in the pack (if the race would finish with a group sprint) to have the best shot at crossing the finish line first.    The finish line was right after two 90 degree corners that were pretty close together.  It's hard to move up in the corners...so I knew positioning would be crucial at the end.

The 65 mile course was pretty cool, it was fun riding in the sand and the gravel.  It brought back faint memories of tearing over the cobbles in Belgium.  (Dirt and gravel are a heck of a lot easier to get over though, I have to admit.)  I was contemplating putting an 11-28 cassette on my bike the night before, but was more than happy that I chose an 11-25.  Between the legs and the Amira, I thought we could handle it, and we did There were lots of hills but nothing long enough or too steep to justify the gaps of an 11-28. 

Mary's man Lance had our bottles of Eload for us at the feedzone.  Good thing.  It wasn't exceptionally hot out there, but I think we would have had cramping issues without our beloved sport drink.  I couldn't imagine doing a race without it.  I had packed away a few Eload Energy Gels in the jersey pockets as well for extra fuel.

Véro, Mary, and I stayed at the head of the pack for the whole race.  At the end there were still about 19 of the initial 63 girls with us.  All we had to was sprint that puppy like we meant it.  Great finish girls.  1st 5th and 15th! 

(While we were racing out here in New York State, Denise Ramsden stood on the second place step of the podium out West at Berry's Roubaix, and Moriah Jo MacGregor got her first race of the season under the belt!  Nice job girls!)

Apr 10, 2011

Battenkill: Fuelé par du pain doré!

Je suis arrivée à la maison qu'on s'est loué pour notre prochaine course, Battenkill (http://www.tourofthebattenkill.com/) hier en fin d'après midi.  La course commence ce matin.  Moi, Véro Labonté, Mary Zider, Sara Byers et Val Crête representerons Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda aujourd'hui sur la route.

Je mange mon pain doré.  C'est du bon fuel de course ça.  Un oeuf, du pain, du lait.  Rien d'autre.  C'est facile, ça fait un bon déjeuner chaud, puis c'est assez similaire à un sandwich (mon repas préféré) pour que je le trouve délicieux.


Apr 6, 2011

Redlands Stage 4 Road Race

People had been talking to me about the Sunset loop for a while now.

The final stage begins with a neutral start in downtown Redlands up until the firestation.  A neutral start means we have to ride behind a car, and a referee on a motorcycle.  They get to dictate the pace.  At the firestation, the riders are let loose.  Ironically the pace some of those girls dictate is a heck of a lot harder than that big red convertable.  I love it.  (Check out the picture on cyclingnews: http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/redlands-bicycle-classic-ne/stage-3/photos/166641 )

There's a long twisty climbing section through some nice neighborhoods.  Then there's the feedzone.  An uphill false flat.  Then it goes downhill, there are some turns...we get back to the firestation...and UP UP UP again.  We did 11 loops before racing back to the downtown finish.

Thank goodness for that feedzone.  We had 7 opportunities to grab bottles from our staff.  They were filled with eload Heat Endurance Formula, and they stuck a pack of gel onto the side of most of the bottles.  At the beginning of the race I felt like I was bordering on cramping.  I thought I'd be stuck riding like a warrior for the rest of the race with my legs seizing like they had minds of their own.  The balance of electrolytes in the eload products saved me, thank goodness. No cramping. Just pedaling.

My teammate Denise Ramsden rode that race like a superstar.  She was in all of the breaks.  Some got reeled back in.  I made sure to be in the final break, and I fought to stay there.  I knew that if I let up for even one pedal stroke, I would be toast.  Off the back.  I pushed hard and kept up with the break's attacks up the final uphill sections.  That's the thing with riding: pushing harder than you think you can for just a few seconds can save you a heck of a lot of trouble in the long run.  That's because once you're dropped from the group, good luck riding yourself back onto it again with nobody to work with and draft off of.  You'll be all on your own afterwards, dealing with the wind resistance by yourself.

We (the 9 riders in the breakaway) got downtown with just under a minute gap from the other riders.  I stayed out in front for the final couple of downhill kilometers.  Denise got a 3rd place finish.  AWESOME.  She took home the Best Young Rider's Jersey for the Prestige Series (there are 3 more races to come in the series).  Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda earned 4th place for the best team competition.  We tied with the times of the top 3 teams.  Good job girls...what a way to race!

Redlands Recap:
9th in Beaumont
5th in the crit
3rd in Sunset
4th team
Leader in U23 Prestige Series

Apr 5, 2011

Redlands Stage 3 Criterium

I had my Headsweats alpine reversible beanie on.  A DeFeet baselayer. My DeFeet gloves and one of my new Hincapie team jackets.  I rolled up on my Specialized Amira to the team's meeting spot before heading down to the Redlands criterium on Saturday afternoon.

They must have thought I was nuts.

My crash on Friday wasn't super serious.  I didn't hit my head. I didn't break anything.  I have scabs across my "buns" and a huge bruise on my right hip.  M-C (our soigneur) treated me soon enough afterwards that I didn't even have whiplash symptoms in my neck.  But my back was still seized.  My body was a bit shaky.  I needed to be warm.  So I decked myself out.  It looked cool.  Maybe it was not appropriate for the high-20 degree weather amongst the palm trees in Redlands.  It made me feel good though.

 (Check out our new Hincapie kits...the Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda red, blue and white stands out nicely in the pack! I'm 394)

I sat in the pack for the crit and planned to survive the day to be in the best shape possible for the final road race on Sunday.  The girls did a great job.  Joanie got 5th in the sprint finish despite a crash into the barriers during the race, and Denise Ramsden scored a nice prime sprint.  I had a huge smile on my face when I heard her name over the loudspeakers!  Go team!

Apr 2, 2011

Redlands Stage 1 and 2

The weather suddenly got pretty hot.  I soaked my jersey twice before the prologue time trial.  The energy I saved from not having to cool my body by its own means was worth carrying the extra weight ;).  It all evaporated before the first right hand turn to head uphill anyways.  The course was just over 3 miles of climbing at various gradients. 
I got a penalty of 1 second for flying off the start ramp a little to early.  I thought the guy was holding me tighter than that...
The second stage was great.  Juvéderm-Specialized kits were always riding up at the front of the pack.  We were in on the climb points and the sprint points, riding strong, and working really well as a team.  We had to be pretty careful to keep hydrated as well.
There were a couple of weird incidents, like half of the peloton turing the wrong way on the course.  And how about this one : at the second last climb before the long flat to the finish, I was chasing to hang on with the small break that formed.  There was a short downhill before the final climb and I knew that it was my chance to get back onto the group.  I flashed back in my mind to my DVDs I watch in the winter on the trainer.  I imagined Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin talking about a guy who needs to take risks on the descents in the Alps and the Pyrenées if they want to be remain in contention for the end.  So, I took the risk.  I went too fast, got scared and braked a little and skidded out.  I didn't hit my head.  I got a guy to help me up and I jumped back in with some girls who fell off the back .  I came over the line late, but I'll be fine for tomorrow's crit!  Great job today girls, and I'll keep my tires down next time ;)