May 27, 2012

I'll Tell You How Stage 3 Went...

(Team Optum-KBS getting ready #EXGT: Team Optum-KBS getting ready #EXGT)

After some quality recovery with my Compex Sport Elite Machine (check out @Lex_albrecht on Twitter for pictures) following Stage 2, the pistons were feeling pretty good.  Stage 3 of the Exergy Tour started with 3 km neutral out of Crouch, ID, and then Optum put out a few attacks, and covered a few more.  It was going well.  

We entered into the feed-zone at an unusually early point in the race (only 38.3 km in).  Most riders didn't even bother taking a bottle.  I had plenty of Clif Shot drink mix left in my bottles and the 10+km climb was about to begin anyways.  Nobody wants to haul around extra weight uphill for the fun of it.

A break with Optum's Janel Holcomb got away on the climb.  The field split up as we ascended, and all of the Optum riders were in the front group (execpt Janel, who was off of the front).  As we crested the top of the climb, the pace kicked up and the 5 km descent before the second climb began. 

Today, I remembered my Mavic shoes, my Thule backpack, my Lazer helmet and frame-less Lazer Magneto sunglasses, but I left my balls at home.

I got dropped on the darn curvy wet roads, and just as I clawed back to the lead group, I got dropped again as we entered into the day's final descent.  Not cool.

What is cool though is that as the lead group neared the finish line, Jade Wilcoxson launched some strong attacks against the field, keeping the pace high and the pack organized.  Carmen Small and Janel gave Leah Kirchmann a sweet lead out, and Leah just barely missed the victory, which German national champion Ina Teutenburg took home instead.  2nd place podium for Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies.  Way to deliver the goods LEAH!  And Jade is back in the top-10!

Way to go girls!

If anybody saw where those balls are at, shout me a holler.  
(P.S.: BIG ups to Canadian Ryder Hesjedal, who WON THE GIRO D'ITALIA!)

May 26, 2012

Stage Two Time Trial at the Exergy Tour

Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies takes exceptional care of us riders.  So much so that they even brought 2 extra staff members on board for the Exergy Tour.  This race is kind of a big deal, check out Jade Wilcoxson's blog post on the Exergy Tour ( for a description of WHY.  The extra help meant that the oodles of clothes I changed in and out of during yesterday's rainy road stage were clean for today's...rainy time trial (TTs for short).

The 16.7km (10.3mi) TT started in Kuna, ID.  I slathered Chamois Butt'r brand Embrocation all over my legs again, and even on the glutes.  I saw one girl's bike practically slip out from under her as she bolted down the start ramp.  I decided to keep it cool and not risk bashing myself up on the slick pavement.  Anyone who noticed my orange and black Champion System's speedsuit on Tour Tracker might have mistaken the turns in and out of the start and finish of my race, for a Monday afternoon coffee-shop-ride. I kept it all together though.
TTs aren't necessarily my specialty but I felt fast with my areodynamic set up.  Thanks HED wheels, and thanks Dino (from HED) for the virtual bike fit, and TT tips. 

Rachel (our DS) brought us all a hot spiced chocolate concoction after the race.  What a treat.  Especially for a team of soaked-to-the-bone cyclists. I told you we're super well taken care of, didn't I. 

My pistons are massaged, my spirits are high, but I'm a little tired.  No coffee in the I'm already looking forward to tomorrow.  The Queen Stage!

Never mind, I'm going to go scout out some decaf.

Results: Amber Neben, Evelyn Stevens and Clara Hughes made up today's podium

May 25, 2012

Exergy Tour Stage 1

I woke up early to get a coffee and breakfast.  I had been looking forward to it all night.  It was raining outside.  I pretended it wasn't, which worked, until I actually had to venture out into it to get to the race.

I started the race with several layers on, including a rain jacket.  I had Shammy Butt'r Hot Embro, or hot warming balm in other words, on my feet.  For anybody who uses warming balm, you know that the ''hot'' stuff is SERIOUS business.  I used the mild version on my legs (even on the glutes, on Adrian's advice, he is our wise mechanic) and slathered a layer of oil on top before putting my Champion Systems leg warmers on.  It's not ''Euro'' to race with leg warmers apparently, but that doesn't change anything for me, I'm North American.  I didn't regret wearing them.

Several km after the start a huge crowd of school children cheered all of the riders on.  There were tons of fans on the hill of the main climb in today's stage.  Others were scattered throughout the course with their cowbells in hand.  We might not acknowledge them when we race by, but we hear the cheers, and we know they're there, and we LOVE the support.

Briefly, how it played out:
There were a few breaks in the race, and Optum was present in all of them.  Leah went in the first break, which stayed away from the main field for quite some time.  Then Jade, Carmen and Janel caught up to her group.  This was good for Optum.  Near the end of the race, with just over 10km to go, the main field was all back together in one pack.  Carmen, Jade and Janel worked the front for a bit.  There were several attacks that had to be covered, so I went with them, but none stayed away.  When there was a slight lull in the peloton's pace, I took a flyer, and was reeled back by Specialized-Lulu Lemon after a couple of kilometers, and Jade counter-attacked right away.  She too got brought back, and Carmen, Joëlle and Leah worked hard up at the front to make the sprint finish. 

There was a huge crash with under 1km to go.  No Optum Orange spilled on the road.  Good.  Thanks to some excellent teamwork, Leah still managed to get a 4th place finish.   Jade also scored enough points in the QOM sprints (Queen of the Mountain) to stand in second place for the competition.

Theresa Cliff-Ryan won the stage.

You can watch the Exergy Tour live, and check out all of the race stats on Tour Tracker here:

A screenshot of my flyer at the Exergy Tour on Tour Tracker, courtesy of Michael Foley
Unfortuantely in the crash, World Champion Georgia Bronzini went down.  We hope she is okay.  Especially after Kristen Armstrong who broke her collarbone yesterday at Exergy, and cycling superstar Marianne Vos breaking her shoulder in Europe as well.  Enough bad luck, it's got to be over now, right?  Right.

Exergy Prologue

 Foolproof.  No thinking, just pedaling.  With a clear schedule taped to the Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies team van, we didn't have to question our schedule, warm-up plan, or remember when our start times were for the Exergy Tour prologue.  I like that.

 The prologue was short, and our warm-up on the Kinetic Road Machine trainers was imperative.  As we pedaled, some fans stopped by to take pictures or get their rider cards autographed.  We had a selection out for them on the hood of the Acura TSX sportwagon.  

There was a plethora of fans out to cheer on the international group of racers as they raced around the 3.1km prologue course.  I'm a big fan of cheering, and I love it when the crowds come out for us.

To get a good placing in this event, top notch equipment is essential.  Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefits strategies rode Orbea time trial bikes and HED disc wheels, and either HED deep-dish front wheels or HED tri-spokes.  The other thing that was obligatory was taking risks on the tight turns.  One was a tight over-ninety -degrees turn out of a speedy little descent, and another was a 180 U-turn shortly after.  A couple of riders who were gutsy enough to take them at big speeds and short lines went down.  Everyone from Optum is alright. 

Unfortunately, the hometown star (Boise ID) and Olympic champion Kristen Armstrong crashed and broke her collarbone.  We're not on the same team, but it is never, ever cool when any rider goes down for any reason, and I wish her a full and speedy recovery. 

Optum has 4 riders in the top 20 (of a 100+ rider field) after the prologue. 

Stage one is a 123.5km road race that starts and finishes in Nampa ID.  Follow us live on Tour Tracker.

May 23, 2012

Exergy Tour Team Presentation

The 5 day, 4 stage (+1 prologue) Exergy Tour begins tomorrow, and the event was officially kicked off this evening in Boise (''boy-see'' and not ''boy-zee''), Idaho.

Since our arrival from Gatineau a couple of days ago, the organizers have taken very well care of us.  This evening was no different.  There was a pretty extravagent buffet outdoors for the presentation, and even an Exergy ice sculpture for the occasion.  It was a shame that I had already eaten, because there was smoked salmon on the menu.  I like smoked fish.

Flags of almost every country for the riders and the fans were handed out, I took one with a maple leaf on it, of course.  Riders from all around the world are here: Canada, US, Taiwan, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Switzerland, Ireland, Colombia, Italy...the list goes on.  In the streets, on TV, and even in the airport, there is media promoting the race that will be covered live for the next several days.  Even the governer of Idaho came out this evening to welcome the women to America's biggest women's stage race.
The Olympians (past and present) in the race were invited up on stage.  It's a good indication of the calibre of athletes that are going to be fighting for victory this year.  The audience got a hoot out of a few of the presentations, especially when the overseas teams were up on stage.
The organizers stressed that this women's race shall be as prestigious as the top men's tours in America, and so far they're living up to their endeavours.  I can't wait to get out on the roads in Idaho's capital with my teammates from Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies.  We're eager to race.

May 21, 2012

Grand Prix Cyclist Gatineau

Optum Pro Cycling Presented by Kelly Benefits Strategies raced the 3rd annual UCI 1.1 event, Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau, in Gatineau Québec.  Some of the best cyclists in the world were on the start line.
Canadian Cycling

The weather was perfect, there was a slight breeze, blue sky, and it was just hot enough to need a few more bottles than usual.  This year's edition was longer than the previous years, just over 130km.  There was a great spectator turn out, hearing the crowd's enthusiastic cheers, and their blue cowbells clanging was extra motivation. 

Canadian Tara Whitten was out ahead of the pack for a good part of the race and when she was brought back, the attacks began.  No break ended up staying away.  With about 2km to go, there was a crash on an off ramp coming out of the Gatineau Park (which is kind of like the little cousin of my FAVORITE place to ride in Québec: Le Parc National de la Mauricie) and onto Boulevard les Allumetières.  This split the pack up a little bit, but fortunately Optum riders, Joëlle Numainville and Carmen Small were ahead, and not affected in the slightest.  In the hairpin turn with about 400m to the finish, nobody went down this year, luckily.  (In the first two editions of the GP Cycliste Gatineau there were NASTY crashes there). 

Joëlle and Carmen continued working together and ended up in 4th and 5th overall.

We're flying off to Boise, ID right after the race for the Exergy Tour where we'll continue to race our Orbeas hard.

May 20, 2012

Nothing Like Flags to Get Pumped Up!

The Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau is back for it's thrid consecutive year.  I arrived in Ottawa, Ontario from my home in Québec, Québec yesterday while two Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies teammates (Canadian U23 road and time trial champion, Denise Ramsden and American Carmen Small) raced the 20 km time trial of the Gatineau Grand Prix Cycliste in the Gatineau heat. 

The road race will take place on holiday Monday, beginning at 9:30am.  Here is the Optum roster this time around:  (ALL of our Canadian riders are here!)
Lex Albrecht
Denise Ramsden
Leah Kirchmann
Joëlle Numainville
Annie Ewart
Carmen Small

It was great to see the display of the Canadian flags coming out of our nation captial's airport.  It was another boost to my patriotic excitement that's stemming from the pride of having a prestegious UCI event right here in ''my own backyard''.  Backyard...that's relative, but I'm happy to be racing in Québec, in Canada.
Come out and cheer on Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies tomorrow!

May 17, 2012

Pas besoin de consulter (''tcheck-é') la metéo

Pour ceux qui ne savent pas encore, le Parc national de la Mauricie (ou, ''Le Parc'') à Shawnigan est mon endroit préféré pour rouler au Québec. Ca faisait des semaines que je revais d'y aller, malgré le fait que j'étais quand-même très bien, au chaud, dans le sud des États-Unis. 

La semaine passé, je suis partie de chez nous à Québec avec mon Orbea dans la valise de ma voiture. Il pleuvait un peu à Québec, mais la possibilité qu'il pleuve aussi dans le Parc ne m'a même pas frôlé l'esprit. Quand je suis arrivée à mon point de départ, à 20 km de l'entrée du Parc, il ne pleuvait pas. Mais aussitôt que j'avais donné une centaine de coups de pédale, le ciel s'est mis à ''brailler comme une collégienne''. J'étais mouillée pendant ma ride de 5h, et mes orteils sont demeurées d'une drôle de couleur (gris-bleu-mauve) pendant quelques heures après. Néanmoins, mon coeur était tout chaud et j'avais toujours un gros sourire sur mon visage. 

Aujourd'hui, je me suis levée et le soleil, brillait comme si quelqu'un lui avait donné 5 ou 6 espressos de la meilleure qualité. Je me suis dit que j'allais faire une superbe sortie. Avec mon ensemble Champion Systems d'été sur le dos, j'ai mis mon vélo Orbea dehors. Il y avait du soleil mais il faisait tout de même froid, et j'ai dû rentrer de nouveau pour mettre un truc un peu plus chaud, mais pas trop ! Après tout, il faisait soleil et ça allait inévitablement se réchauffer beaucoup sous peu. 

Mais, non.  Il faisait ''frette'' tout le long et il ventait comme ça ne se peut quasiment pas. Il ventait même plus fort qu'au ''Tour of the Gila'' (Nouveau Mexique) cette année. Mais je suis revenue très contente et tout de même satisfaite, après ma sortie. 

Je pourrais bien sûr éviter les surprises en consultant la metéo, mais parfois, je préfère m'assoir sur mon vélo et tout simplement vivre avec les conditions qu'on met ''dans mon assiette''.
Un bon dîner, tout chaud, bien mérité

May 15, 2012

World Bicycle Relief Raffle Starts NOW!

Tickets can be paid for in person, by Paypal (see button below) or by cheque or money order in the mail.

Tickets are only $20 each.  The grand prize is a Kurt Kinetic Road Machine, valued at $379. 

 Beginning June 4, 2012, a weekly draw will be made for bonus prizes.  All winning tickets are still  eligible for the grand prize draw on September 17, 2012.  The earlier you buy your tickets, the more  chances you will have to win!  PURCHASE TICKETS ONLINE USING PAYPAL and your ticket will be mailed to you via Canada Post.  Your tickets' serial numbers will be sent to you by e-mail when payment has been received. 


May 13, 2012

Première course au Québec de la saison! Critérium CUCC 2012

Je suis de retour au Québec dépuis une semaine, et après un peu de repos, et quelques entraîments de qualité, (et une super ride dans le Parc de la Mauricie!) j'ai fait ma première course au Québec cette année!

La journée de course CUCC organisée par l'Université McGill s'est commencée avec une course d'introduction pour débutants et débutantes avec un départ neutre de 10 minutes suivi par 20 minutes de course.  J'ai beaucoup aimé voir les gens qui vennaient essayer faire de la compétition de vélo pour la première fois, et je suis contente que les organisateurs de la course ont décidé d'offrir cet occasaion aux gens. 
Après avoir fait un ou deux tours sur le circuit de course pour bien connaître le parcours et pour évaluer les meilleurs places pour lancer des attaques, je me suis rechauffée sur mon Kinetic Rock and Roll avant le critérium CUCC à Montréal le 12 mai, 2012.

Grace à un peu de stratégie et de la tenacité, il y a eu du Orange Optum (Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies) sur la première marche du podium!  Mission accomplie.
Podium Senior F, Critérium CUCC 2012

Prochaine course: Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau, 21 mai.  Une course UCI, ou les meilleures du monde seront présentes.  À ne pas manquer!  Venez voir l'équipe Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies!

May 7, 2012

Optum Pro Cycling at the 2012 SRAM Tour of The Gila

The SRAM Tour of The Gila is a 5 day stage race around Silver City, New Mexico.

The dry desert air, the hot desert sun, a few twisty descents, long climbs, and the high altitude make the Tour of The Gila one of the tougher races on the NRC calendar, and of course one of the most fun.  This wasn't a time for me to leave my Banana Boat SPF 50 sunscreen at home, it was one of the first things I packed before leaving.
The hills, sand, shrubs, and cacti around New Mexico

Riding down from our host homes to several of the stage start-lines was scary at times; wild deer wandered out on the roads that we flew down.  The jackrabbits and lizards seemed a little wiser and stayed amongst the cacti and tough bushes.  We didn't hit any of them.  I wondered if like those silly cows, the deer are also tricked by the cattle guards that make for the majority of the ''desert road furniture''...  If they are, they might consider putting those metal contraptions in the ditches.  Roads are for bikes, not deer.

Stage one saw the field split up as it always does on the final climb.  Carmen Small and Janel Holcomb were the top Optum finishers, impressively (zero exageration) taking the second and third steps of the podium.   This set the stage for our strategies for the week.
Stage two was another road race, and day three was a 21 km out-and-back time trial.  Day four was a criterium, and the final day finished on the open road, once again.

Stage 4 criterium. -Casey Gibson
Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies brought home second place overall (Carmen Small) and the green jersey (Carmen Small) as well as second place in the team general classification.

We rode hard, fought hard, and were patient boiling our eggs and cooking our rice (it takes a long time at about a gazillion feet of altitude).

I'm being patient, I've got an 18h day of aiplanes and aiports before I get to home sweet home, Québec. I have my Compex muscle stimulator hooked up to make the best of it.  Next race: Gatineau Grand Prix UCI women's 1 day race in Gatineau, Qc.  Then it's the Exergy Tour in Boise, ID.