Jul 31, 2011

Open de Suède Vargarda 2011 Road Race

CJ Farquharson/WomensCycling.net
Sunday July 31, 2011 was the big day: the Open de Suède Vargarda, the penultimate race in the 2011 UCI World Cup Women's Series.  It was the only World Cup race on Juvéderm Specialized Mazda's calendar for the 2011 season.

We knew the race wouldn't be easy.  The field was strong.  Most of the best riders in the world were in the pack trying to score more UCI and World Cup points, and to show their team colours.  The race consisted of 12 laps of an 11 km course for a total of just over 130 km.  There was plenty of road furniture on the course, and enough bends and corners to deem it somewhat technical.  There were a fair amount of crashes, and even more close calls.  A few guys with yellow flags and whistles to signal the upcoming hazards could have prevented some of the accidents, but everyone is still alive.

I only managed to stay with the main field for just a bit more than half of the race before getting permanently shelled off with a small group of girls in the same boat as me.  The race was won in just under 3 hours and 20 minutes (3:20:00) for an average speed slightly over 40km.  I finished just a bit over 9 minutes down from the winner, 28 year old Annemiek Van Vleuten (Team: Nederland Bloeit).

Despite being very, very sick during the race, my teammate Denise Ramsden stuck with the main field until just before the end, and she still managed to finish only two minutes down from the winning pack.  A very impressive and admirable feat for a girl who found herself in a situation where most would have automatically pulled the plug on the race without thinking twice. 

The rain started to come down pretty hard only minutes after we had come across the finish line, perfect timing.  It was a great opportunity to race a World Cup race, and I hope we'll have more on the calendar for next year.   We have one more day in Sweden, and we'll be playing "tourists" tomorrow before we go back to our Euro home-base in Belgium on Tuesday. 

Jul 30, 2011

Open De Suède Vargarda: UCI World Cup Team Time Trial

Juvéderm-Specialized Mazda rode the Open De Suède Vargarda UCI World Cup Team Time Trial (TTT) last night, July 29, 2011.  HTC Highroad took home the victory with 1:44 on the second place team, AA Drinks.  Garmin finalized the podium with a third place finish, only seconds ahead of the Australian National Team. 

Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda started and finished with 5 riders, all on Specialized Transition time trial bikes. We came in 16th out of 21 teams.  For a first team time trial, we did a pretty good job.  TTTs are neat team experiences.  Developing a strategy of how to approach the race course, how to best organize the order of the girls out on the course, deciding how to handle the technical parts of the course, as well as the less technical parts of the course, and how to communicate with eachother during the race are amongst the critical aspects of having a successful TTT.  It takes a while to perfect all of these elements to race as efficiently as possible.  For a first shot, I think we did pretty well, and we brought home some more UCI points for Canada.

We'll be out riding hard in the penultimate road race of the UCI Women's World Cup Series on Sunday!

Jul 28, 2011

Smokeless Cigarettes, Anyone?

Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda will be racing two UCI World Cup races in Sweden this weekend.  The first race is a team time trial, on Friday, and the second is a road race on Sunday.  We flew out of Belgium this morning and landed in the home of IKEA this afternoon.

It was my first time flying with a particular discount airline.  I was actually pleasantly surprised, it wasn't as bad as some people and some YouTube videos had made it out to be.  One thing that I found to be quite different from my other flying experiences however, was that the flight attendants were constantly coming over the loud speakers trying to sell things.  First hot drinks.  Then food.  Then perfume and toys.  Then lotto tickets.  Then smokeless cigarettes...the best part.  Let me explain:

The guy comes across the PA system with a sales pitch for these "smokeless cigarettes".  He was trying really hard.  You can tell he's new to this whole sales deal though.  He pushed the fact that you could smoke these cigarettes in areas that were normally "closed" to smokers, like cinemas, restaurants...and then he paused.  I could tell he was trying really hard to come up with another place where you're not allowed to smoke.  Finally he added: "and, helicopters".   I burst out laughing.  He looked at me a little sheepishly but I think he appreciated that I was at least was listening to his spiel...

There was no movie, but the in-flight entertainment wasn't so bad afterall. ;)

Jul 27, 2011

Thüringen-Rundfahrt der Frauen

Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda ist stolz, an der Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen 2011 teilgenommen zu haben.  Die gesamte Veranstaltung war sehr gut organisiert und wir Fahrerinnen haben uns gut aufgehoben gefühlt. Das Rennen selbst war eine Herausforderung, mit sehr attraktiven und anspruchsvollen Etappen, die zu fahren grossen Spass gemacht hat. Es ist ein Vergnügen, und immer eine besondere Motivation, vor so vielen Fans und Zuschauern im Start- und Zielbereich wie auch an der gesamten Strecke zu fahren.  
Seit ich ein kleines Mädchen bin, hatte ich den Wunsch Deutschland, die Heimat meines Vaters, zu besuchen. Das machte die Thüringen Rundfahrt zu einem besonderen Erlebnis für mich. Ich nehme viele angenehme Eindrücke mit und freue mich darauf an die Thüringen-Rundfahrt der Frauen 2012 zurückzukommen.
Vielen Dank an alle Fans, Freiwilligen, die Polizei, die Rennleitung und die Organisatoren für die fantastische Veranstaltung. Danke auch an mein Team Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda und unsere Sponsoren.
Ihr könnt mich auf Facebook weiter begleiten. http://www.facebook.com/?ref=hp#!/pages/Lex-Albrecht/137026036359510

Jul 25, 2011

Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen 2011

Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda was extremely happy to participate in the 2011 edition of the UCI Thüringen Rundfahrt der Frauen.  The 7 day, 6 stage (plus, a team time trial prologue) took place in the region of Thüringen.  The riders were housed at the 4 Star Altenburger hotel in Altenburg.  The race courses were very hilly, and the calibre of the peloton was high.  Many of the best female road cyclists in the world were on the start list.

I had never been to Germany before, and was very impressed by the quality of the roads, the beauty of the scenery, the enthusiasm of the race fans and spectators, and the hospitality and friendliness of the people who live in the area.  My father and his family are from Germany, so it was extra special for me to race the Thüringen Rundfahrt because I have wanted to visit Germany ever since I was a little girl.

I am getting used to racing in Europe again after having been away for a year.  I let myself get dropped off of the back a few too many times in the descents, which I normally enjoy riding.  I crashed on the second stage of the race, but luckily only mangled my elbow a bit.  It just became an issue on the final stage when we had to power over a relatively long cobbled section 4 times, and when I pre-rode it, the vibrations made my arm feel like it was being bashed by a baseball bat.  Our mechanic Erik helped me tape the arm up like a champ before the start, and it wasn't an issue. 

 There were a few very rainy days, and we ended up having to wash our own clothes in our hotel sink.  Our team didn't have a big team bus with a washer and dryer.  But that's just fine, it's all part of the adventure, right?
Denise Ramsden finished in 6th place on the second road stage after being a part of the winning break for the whole day.  She finished second place in the U23 competition as well.  Good job Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda! 

We're all back in Belgium now.  We'll leave in two days for our next stop: Two World Cup races in Sweden.

Jul 15, 2011

Derrière la voiture à Régis

Mes vélos Specialized sont finalement arrivés à l'aéroport de Brussels ce matin.  Je suis allée les récuperer avec notre directeur sportif (pour le projet Européen de Juvéderm Specialized Mazda) Régis, qui vient de Normandie. 
Nous sommes sorties avec nos vélos de chrono pour pratiquer les aspects techniques du chrono par équipe.  Nous ferons un prologue par équipe (4km) la semaine prochaine dans le Tour de Thruingen en Allemange.  La semaine suivante, nous aurons un autre chrono par équipe (41km) en Suède. 
Je suis retournée sur la route avec Régis pour pédaler un peu plus, derrière sa voiture.  Il m'a dit que j'allais baver.  Notre assistant DS, Jean, me l'a confirmé.  J'ai pas bavé mais je pensais que j'allais vomir à un moment donné à cause de l'exhauste de la voiture haha!  Je me suis bien amusé.  Il me jouait de la musique et il disait des niaseries par son micro et le haut parleur sur son toit. Cependant, un policier a voulu gacher notre fun.  Nous nous sommes fait arretés, parce que, apparement que c'est dangereux de rouler derrière une voiture en vélo, puis de toute façon quand on est moins que 15 personnes, il faut rouler sur le trottoir rouge (pour les vélos) en Belgique.  Pft.  EN PLUS j'avais pas de sonnette, alors j'aurais du payé 50 Euros de plus.  J'ai montré au policier que j'avais une voix très forte mais il m'a dit que ça passait pas.  Mais le gars était quand même assez "gentil" et il nous a laissé aller. 

Plus de derrière voiture demain ;)

Bright Side of A Bike Box Being Shipped Around Europe, Without Me!

There's a bright side to everything.  Here are the bright-side-points to having my baggage lost:

1.  I don't have to decide what to wear when I get up, the choice is already made: black dress, again.
2.  I wanted a short rest period before going off to race in Germany.  I don't have any bikes or any gear, so, I'm resting
3.  I've got plenty of time to watch the Tour, and organize the team Nutella taste test (US, Sweden, Switzerland, and Belgium).  Look at this chart on Wikipedia.  The various compositions are apparently why Nutella tastes different around the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nutella

I still want my Specialized bikes back!

Jul 13, 2011

Two Bikes in One Box: Mission Accomplished

I flew out of Montréal on Tuesday night, after work. The plane touched down Wednesday morning in Brussels, Belgium. Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda will be based out of the Canadian National team's house  in Tielt-Winge for our Europe project.  I stayed here for several weeks last year and know the area a bit.  I still remember where the cheapest places to buy groceries are.  I'm set.

Tuesday's challenge before leaving Canada was to see if I could fit two bikes (my Specialized S-Works Amira road bike, and my Specialized Transition time trial bike) and all of my clothes and gear into ONE bike box.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

Unfortunately, my box got shipped to Bordeaux, France because of a typo that the check-in agent made.  Am I mad? No.  She didn't charge me any ridiculous fees for traveling with a bike.  But I have no clothes, and no gear.  I didn't even take my own advice of carrying my shoes and helmet on board with me.  What a wiener brain.

Note: How do you fit two bikes in one box?  I used a black, rigid, Serfas brand box.  It comes with 3 layers of foam, but I only used two, one on the inside of each cover of the box.  I intertwined the bikes (rear triangle inside the fork of the other bike) and had to carry my wheels separately in a wheel bag.  I only traveled with one set of wheels.  I packed my clothes in grocery bags (one bag for shorts, one bag for t-shirts, one bag for bike kits, etc.) to keep them together and to keep them from touching the drivetrain.  I stuffed the bags in the spaces between the bikes so nothing would move around.  Plus it saved me from checking another suitcase.  Mission accomplished.

Tour de Toona: Stage 4

Stage 4 of the Tour de Toona was a 30 lap long-course criterium held in downtown Altoona, PA.  Part of the course was the same as Stage 1.  There were nine corners, some a bit sketchier than others, and that's part of what makes the race fun. 

The yellow jersey leader got dropped from the pack, and the GC was consequently taken over by Janel Holcomb.  Denise Ramsden of Juvéderm Specialized Mazda scored a few sprint points on an intermediate sprint.

During this entire race (all four stages) I felt a bit rough out on the roads mostly because I was riding through the end of a summertime cold, and was coming back after a few 'easy days', that perhaps could have been a bit more plentiful.  I really had a lot of fun though.

Right after the crit, I busted it back home to Québec, Canada, slept for 3 hours and went to work...Next up: Europe.

Jul 10, 2011

Tour de Toona: Stage 3.

This past weekend marks the 6th anniversary of me hauling my life across the Ontario-Québec border, and finding a way to survive and then thrive in the Belle Province.  Not an easy task at all for a little anglophone girl all by her lonesome, but well worth the battle.

However, of all of the new words and expressions I've learned over the past few years, I "wasn't much chop" best suits how I did on stage 3 of the Tour de Toona.  Of course, it's not French, but it's the best way to describe me in the third stage.  We most definitely won't go into details though. 

Big-ups to my teammate Joanie Caron who stayed away for a good part of the race in a breakaway.  Props to all of the girls in the peloton who I found handled the hastle of being turned around and stopped for a significant amount of time TWICE during the race, after the marshalls directed us off course.  My teammate Denise Ramsden got directed off course for a third time just before the finish, meaning her group lost a good part of the gap they had gained on the girls just behind them.  It was a bizarre race, but still quite a bit of fun, mostly because of the great scenery...rolling, twisty roads, in and out of villages and forests.

After the finish, we were sitting under the team tent.  I asked our DS, Marc, how far away from home we were.  Apparently it would take us the same amount of time to get home as it took us to get to the start of the race that morning.  Hmm.  What a coincidence.  A teammate piped up and told me "come on Lex, don't you recognize where we are?".  The finish was at the same place as the start...  Tough day.

Jul 7, 2011

Tour de Toona: Stage 2

Stage two: 117km in the green, rolling hills around Altoona, PA.

The race started out in hot and muggy weather, and by mid race it started to rain.  The rain made the descents a little scary, but the peloton rode well and there weren't any major mishaps.  My eyes stung from the road grime like they did when I was a toddler and my mom washed my hair a little too carelessly for my taste, letting soap get in them.

I was blowing chunky snot rockets through the whole race.  There are probably about 3lbs of my mucus spread over the roads surrounding Altoona.  My monster cold I got last week is being rather tenacious, and I haven't been able to kick it yet.

The race ended up an 8km twisty climb up to Blue Knob Resort.  I rode it at my pace and managed a 7th place finish, just behind Tara Whitten (Tibco) and in front of Sue Palmer (PK Express).  Véro Fortin (PK Express) won the stage, and took over the Yellow Leader's Jersey from Whitten.  Denise Ramsden (Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda) wasn't too far behind me, and Véro Labonté (Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda) finished up the top three riders for our team. 

After the race, there was birthday cake waiting at the summit of the climb.  Now, I like eating my magic oatmeal, french toast, green apples, smoked herring, tuna sandwiches, and arugula salads.  They're my staple foods that I love and that I eat quite often.  But birthday cake is one of those foods that I really, really love, but I hardly ever eat it, even on my birthday.  What a treat that was.  What. A. Treat.
Good job girls.
A special thanks to Claudia and Gabby, our host housing family members, for helping us out in the feedzone, and getting the Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda girls our bottles of eload that fueled us through the race! They handled the feedzone like pros!

Check out the results, care of RoadCycling New Zealand : http://www.roadcycling.co.nz/Results/2011-tour-de-toona-womens-results.html

Jul 6, 2011

Tour de Toona: Stage 1

Juvéderm Specialized Mazda raced the 3 mile, and very technical first stage of the Tour de Toona this evening.  There were a few hills and 19 corners in the short race.  It was fun, tough for a few reasons, and definitely a course that I'd love to ride again, and again, and again.  It won't happen again until next year though.

Top 3 Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda results: Denise Ramsden, Véro Labonté, Joanie Caron:

1 Tara Whitten (Team TIBCO) 0:05:39.9
2 Jennifer Wheeler (Team TIBCO) 0:00:01.4
3 Anne Samplonius (NOW and Novartis for MS) 0:00:02.8
4 Jade Wilcoxson (Rouse Bicycles) 0:00:04.3
5 Janel Holcomb (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) 0:00:05.5
6 Alison Shanks (BikeNZ) 0:00:07.5
7 Robin Farina (NOW and Novartis for MS) 0:00:09.5
8 Leah Kirchmann (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) 0:00:10.4
9 Carmen Small (Team TIBCO) 0:00:11.0
10 Anna Barensfeld (Missing Leak Coaching Systems) 0:00:11.2
11 Jaime Nielson (BikeNZ) 0:00:12.4
12 Denise Ramsden (Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda) 0:00:13.8
13 Meredith Miller (Team TIBCO) 0:00:14.4
14 Lauren Hall (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) 0:00:15.2
15 Kaytee Boyd (BikeNZ)
16 Rushlee Buchanan (Colavita/Forno d’Asolo) 0:00:16.5
17 Susan Palmer-Komar (PK Express/HNZ Strategic.com) 0:00:16.9
18 Véronique Labonté (Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda) 0:00:17.7
19 Joanie Caron (Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda)

We're staying in host housing again...and I love it!  It feels like I'm in an adoptive family and I'm having a blast.    Post race massages were out on their primo gorgeous patio, beside the fountain and the fireplace, while the sun was setting.  Can you get more luxurious than that? No.

Jul 5, 2011

I AM SPECIALIZED. Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda is SPECIALIZED!

The team is now featured on Specialized's website:
Check out Juvéderm-Specialized-Mazda's page on Specialized's site at: http://iamspecialized.com/road/teams

Don't forget to LIKE our Facebook Fan Page as well: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/pages/Juvederm-Specialized-Mazda/180743948630794

Our official website is: http://www.teamjuvedermspecialized.com

And check my Facebook Page for all the latest updates! : http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/pages/Lex-Albrecht/137026036359510

Jul 4, 2011

Vacation Week From Strict Training

For the last week, I've been taking it easy.  A few long rides, a few short rides, a few days with no riding at all.  That used to be unheard of.  Now I'm wise.  Wiser, I mean.  I have to admit that having my Quarq powermeter spitting out power data for me really helped keep me in check.  I never went too hard, or too easy.

This is what the end of my "vacation week" looked like:

On Friday (Canada Day) I filled up the bottles with eload and rode around Ottawa, Ontario and Gatineau, Québec I enjoyed the Canada Day firework show from the Musée de la Civilisation in Gatineau, with the Parliament as a backdrop.  If there is one place to go to watch Canada Day fireworks, it's Ottawa.

Saturday I rode for a few hours in Trois-Rivières, Québec, followed by coffee at Café Morgane.  Then I swam 3km in the Piscine Expo.  It's my favorite pool in the world.  So far.

Sunday, I rode in and around Québec City.  It's my new part-time mission to add a few primo cycling routes in the Québec City area  into my repertoire.  I'm off to a decent start.

Now it's Monday, I finished another day of work, rode in Laval, Québec, and packed my bags for the Tour of Toona in Altoona, PA.  We're off in the Juvéderm Specialized Mazda, Mazda5 team cars tomorrow.  Here we go again: WAHOO!