Is This A Dream Or Is It Reality?

While my preference is to write in synthesized overtones, I elected to write this entry in a sort of play-by-play so as preserve the fidelity of a truly incredible episodic memory that despite my best efforts may one day lapse to recall.

Sometime late Monday evening a heavy fog of fatigue lifted and restored my mental acuity. It felt as though I was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz awaking to proclaim, “But it wasn’t a dream. It was a place.”…And Kristy Scrymgeour and Evelyn Stevens and Loren Rowney…and Tiffany Cromwell were there.  In fact, the whole Specialized-lululemon team was present and I had been invited to join them for six days of team camp.  Earlier this winter, Kristy Scrygmeur owner of team Specialized-lululemon asked if I would be interested in attending a portion of her team training camp. It was quiet possibly the easiest and most exciting question I have ever answered. Yes! Yes! A million times over, yes!!!!! Followed by immense gratitude.

Team Specialized-lululemon From left: Loren Rowney, Evelyn Stevens, Lisa Brennauer, Tayler Wiles, Ally Stacher, Chantal Blaak, Carmen Small, Elise Delzenne, Tiffany Cromwell, Trixi Worrack, and Karol-Ann Canuel. New to the team this year are Blaak, from the Netherlands; French national champion Delzenne; Cromwell, from Adelaide, Australia; and Canuel, from Quebec (courtesy of Bicycling Magazine)

Team Specialized-lululemon from left: Loren Rowney, Evelyn Stevens, Lisa Brennauer, Tayler Wiles, Ally Stacher, Chantal Blaak, Carmen Small, Elise Delzenne, Tiffany Cromwell, Trixi Worrack, and Karol-Ann Canuel. New to the team this year are Blaak, from the Netherlands; French national champion Delzenne; Cromwell, from Adelaide, Australia; and Canuel, from Quebec (courtesy of Bicycling Magazine)

In an effort to make the most of a seasonably well-timed trip to California, I elected to arrive a few days early. This early arrival also provided a fantastic opportunity to spend time with my 2013 FCS|Zngine teammate, the superbly sweet Kaelly Farnham. Despite arriving in the middle of the night, Kaelly and her husband Matt were incredibly welcoming. In the morning, they treated me to home roasted coffee and the most delicious frittata. With a day off from work in observation of MLK, Kaelly and I rode our bikes for hours around Napa Valley fueled by espresso and pastries from The Flying Goat.

Tuesday morning I awoke early to work EST business hours, while my generous hosts prepared for their respective workday. At the close of business, I drove to San Jose, rendezvoused with Lars the super sognier, and was transported to Specialized headquarters in Morgan Hill.  Where I met several of my idols, the women of Specialized-lululemon in their fashionable new kits and joined them for a media ride.

Tiffany Cromwell and Evelyn Stevens modeling the 2014 Specialized-lululemon kit (photo courtesy of Tiffany Cromwell)

Tiffany Cromwell and Evelyn Stevens modeling the 2014 Specialized-lululemon kit (photo courtesy of Tiffany Cromwell)

***Vote Specialized-lululemon in the Podium Café poll for best women’s 2014 kits!***

Along the ride I had an opportunity to chat with Tayler Wiles about the state of women’s cycling, Kristy’s commendable interview in Bicycling magazine about ‘What Women Want’, and recent updates to her websiteKarol-Ann Canuel, the newest Canadian addition, and I commiserated over a relentless winter of endless indoor training. When the ride came to a close, we hoped off our bikes and immediately took to yoga matts for a Lululemon lead session. Beside me was the Australian superstar Loren Rowney who long ago had been inspired by her brothers to pick up cycling. Loren was also a competitive long distance runner prior to honing her talent on the bike.

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Chamois yoga from left: Evelyn Stevens, Amy Cutler, Karol-Ann Canuel (photo courtesy of Evan Borders)

After chamois yoga, we jumped in the van for a 2hr drive into the hills of San Luis Obipso. It was so cool learning about Ally Stacher’s entrepreneurial pursuit of launching a health bar business. After a monstrous ascent we arrived at the gorgeous home of Martha Van Inwegen, the creator of Action Wipes. Martha and her husband had invited the team over for a delectable homemade dinner. While noshing on appetizers, we hovered around an indoor observation hive, learning about Martha’s newest venture, Therabee Honey. For dessert we were treated to ice cream and berries with a lavender infused honey drizzle. I am still dreaming about that lavender honey.

Observation hive (photo courtesy of Martha Van Inwegen)

Observation hive (photo courtesy of Martha Van Inwegen)

With another hour drive we arrived at camp, a house the team had rented for a couple weeks in Los Osos. I stayed in a temporarily vacant room as several members of the team remained at Specialized headquarters to complete wind tunnel testing.

The WIN tunnel from left: Lisa Brennauer, Loren Rowner, and Tiffany Cromwell (photo courtesy of Velocio)

The WIN tunnel from left: Lisa Brennauer, Loren Rowney, and Tiffany Cromwell (photo courtesy of Velocio)

On Wednesday morning we descended upon the kitchen in a flurry, each preparing our respective breakfasts. While breakfast may have been a free for all, dinner contrasted as a well orchestrated event. Designated groups of three rotated each night, tasked with the challenge of cooking a meal for the team and staff. For the women of Specialized-lululemon, even cooking is a team effort.

Backyard view from team camp site

Backyard view from team camp

As we sped towards the nearest hill, Ian Stanford trailed with a support vehicle, ready to provide us additional Osmo and Powerbar treats. He even coordinated a bike swap with Evie and she tested out a new TT machine. Half way through the first echelon effort I was toast, which came as no surprise. We are talking about the world’s fastest women after all. In the 2013 Worlds Team Time Trial Championship, team Specialized-lululemon smashed the competition with a ~1min lead! It is an honor to so much as cycle in the draft of these incredibly talented women.

2013 World TTT Champions Team Specialized Lululemon (photo courtesy of http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/french-road-championships-2013/elite-women-road-race/photos/270317)

2013 World TTT Champions Team Specialized Lululemon (photo courtesy of http://www.cyclingnews.com/races/french-road-championships-2013/elite-women-road-race/photos/270317)

After exploring Los Osos for ~4hrs  with Ina-Yoko Teutenberg, we arrived home to a yummy lunch prepared by Lars. He had skillfully gathered dinner supplies, cooked lunch, and prepared for an afternoon block of massages all whilst we were putting time in the saddle. Immediately following lunch we gathered for yoga and were eventually joined by a second guest rider, Portland’s very own Anna Grace Christiansen.

As several teammates were due back from testing, Anna and I packed for a stay at the Baywood Inn. Shortly after settling in, our neighbors Dr. Stacey Sims and Lisa Hunt of Osmo Nutrition provided a lift to the staff house for dinner. Afterward, we listened to one of the most informative lectures on nutrition. Stacey explained how she had meticulously designed a women’s specific  product line to satisfy our unique physiological needs. She also introduced us to the practice of using Rapid Response urine tests to evaluate hydration, stress, and overall health. A pretty cool tool I would like to adopt.

Osmo "Women are not small men" (photo courtesy of Tyler Benedict)

Osmo “Women are not small men” (photo courtesy of Tyler Benedict)

Thursday morning, I elected to catch up on some sleep and enjoy a delightful bayside breakfast at Back Bay Café. We then set out for another ~4hr day of training. This time Ina took us to a steep climb, in which I required the aid of director sportif Ronny Lauke and his support vehicle to summit. The climb was at least 2x longer and quite a bit steeper than anything in my present riding terrain, and the descent unlike any I had ever encountered. There is so much to learn, and thanks to Ally Stacher and Tiffany Cromwell I have some direction as to where I should focus on areas for improvement.

Santa Rita Creek Rd

Santa Rita Creek Rd

Lunch was often followed by a bit of down time. Through our chatter, I came to learn of Lisa Hunt and Loren Rowney’s past involvement with my present team, FCS|Zngine! Lisa has played various roles throughout her years of involvement within the sport. She has served as a Cyclist, Director Sportif, Coach, and Marketing Manager. Lisa’s time spent directing FCS|Zngine just so happened to coincide with Loren’s guest ride for the team. During that time, Loren achieved some remarkable results on the US circuit.

Later that afternoon, I headed to the staff house to assist with dinner preparations. Cooking enough food for 13 cyclists and an ever-expanding staff proved to be quite difficult. Over dinner I learned of Elise Delzenne‘s exceptional background. Following years of success as a former junior French Champion, Elise took four years off the bike to complete a degree in mechanical engineering. Only recently had she returned to the bike while working as a full time engineer. Despite a full workload, Elise managed to claim the 2013 French road race title!

French RR Championship podium from left: Amelie Rivat, Elise Delzenne and Aude Biannic (photo courtesy of AFP Photo)

French RR Championship podium from left: Amelie Rivat, Elise Delzenne and Aude Biannic (photo courtesy of AFP Photo)

Friday began with another bay side breakfast and a little Lululemon yoga. Our ride consisted of ~4hrs with hill repeats. Every ride was an exercise in pushing myself just a bit further beyond my comfort zone. During a more relaxed leg of the ride, I learned of Tiffany Cromwell’s history in cycling and passion for fashion, including her very own line of women’s cycling apparel.

Following each ride, the Specialized-lululemon staff meticulously washed every bike and ensured they were in impeccable order. As per what became the norm, we dined on a post ride lunch by Lars. While most evenings consisted of a home cooked meal and early retirement, this was Friday night! Despite being the eve of a team recovery day, we still retired early yet let the locals do the cooking.

Ally and Kristy carry a 1ton box of burritos

Ally and Kristy carry a 1-ton box of burritos

While the team had scheduled a beach photo shoot, Anna and I explored the gravel path of Santa Rita Rd. Along the ~5hr ride we stopped at Merry Hill Coffee for a unique caffeinated beverage called the Wisconsin Latte – prepared with honey and cinnamon. After weeks of riding indoors it felt phenomenal to finally sprint. Leaving everything out on the asphalt had not felt that good in months. With our journey completed just in time for dinner, we joined the team for homemade pizzas courtesy of the Lululemon crew. Over dinner I learned about the science behind preparing for high stake time trials, thoroughly enjoying the analytical approach to cycling.

Santa Rita Rd. Gravel Adventure

Santa Rita Rd. Gravel Adventure

At last the end was upon us. Sunday morning we checked out of the Baywood Inn, grabbed a quick sweet potato waffle breakfast from Good Tides, and met the team. Our convoy then proceeded to Art’s Cyclery, host of the Women’s Cycling Association (WCA) JoinTheRide Tour event. We were greeted by 100+ cyclists eager to ride with the women of Specialized-Lululemon! Among the WCA members were Robin Farina, Jono Coulter, and Liza Rachetto. Along the 50mile route I met a young cyclist named Moriah Swan of Strive Cycling, a team comprised of three sisters and brother. Moriah and her siblings’ share an impressive talent and dedication to the sport that is bound to take them far.

WCA JoinTheRide Tour (photo courtesy of Sheldon K. Smith, Ed.D. www.sheldonsphotos.com)

WCA JoinTheRide Tour (photo courtesy of Sheldon K. Smith, Ed.D. http://www.sheldonsphotos.com)

Finally, thanks to the kind heart of two-time world champion Lorraine Jarvis, I safely returned to San Francisco. We past hours on the road exchanging experiences on the bike. The unique paths women take to competitive cycling is so inspiring. In that car alone we had Sophy Lee, the WCA web manager and freelance web developer who excelled as a collegiate cyclist with Harvard University. Aliya Traficante a young North Cal rider with a tremendous amount of experience and big aspirations.  And of course the aforementioned Lorraine Jarvis, world champion and financial industry leader.

Gavilán BFF (photo courtesy of Gavriel Epstein)

Gavilán BFF (photo courtesy of Gavriel Epstein)

The ladies dropped me off at the arrival terminal where I disassembled my bike at baggage claim and proceeded to walk upstairs to check-in where no one was the wiser. Just one of many avoided bike fees thanks to the Gavilan BFF. With a redeye to NJ, I touched down in time to arrive at my desk ready for the work day. This trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my lifetime.  While I can not express enough gratitude to Krsity and everyone else who helped make this possible, I would like thank the super talented women of Specialized-lululemon for sharing their team camp with me. I wish them all the best of luck in the upcoming season, starting with the Ladies Tour of Qatar!

Reflect and Continue Forth

The success of 2013 was both remarkable and unexpected. Even the makings of that season began in a rather unusual way. On July 28th 2012, a freak mechanical hurled my body to the asphalt faster than one could blink. Days later I was released from hospital and proceeded to sit very still for weeks, watching nearly every televised hour of the Summer Olympics. Nursing a broken shoulder blade, three broken ribs, a contused lung, and plenty of road rash, inspirational displays of human excellence was just what I needed.

On the mend

On the mend

Along the tiresome road of recovery, a colleague asked if I would organize an event for a non-profit organization called CycleKids. The more I came to know about the CycleKids mission the more I wanted to get involved. This particular event was also slated to celebrate their newest athletic ambassador and local Olympian, Evelyn Stevens. I was excited and intimidated by the prospect of organizing an event that would both honor Evelyn’s commitment and spark an interest in local NYC CycleKids initiatives. On November 18th 2012, I finally reunited with the bike in an effort to spread the word about CycleKids. I rode along 9W posting event flyers in every bike shop and coffee stop along the heavily cycled route.

What Its Like To Be A CycleKid (video)

Through the effort of inspiring others, I too became inspired. Revitalized with resolve to reach a potential only attainable through training, it was time to get a coach. After much consideration, I was certain that the most qualified person for that job was Matthew Koschara. When we first met, it was my intention to interview Matt as a coaching candidate. However the table quickly turned as it became apparent that I was not in fact the interviewer but the interviewee. Due to the level of dedication Matt provides each of his clients, he is wise not to spread himself too thin by taking on too many athletes, and as a result is quite selective about who he works with. Understanding the time and resources Matt invests motivates me to give 100% everyday. We entered 2013 after working together for a month and with two simple goals in mind, enter NRC/NCC races in the Mid-Atlantic region and don’t get dropped. Neither of us could have imagined what would unfold.

Though we got a glimpse when I began consistently placing well in men’s spring training races. By the time the season officially kicked off, I was raring to go. With a few wins out of the gate, I began setting my sights further. Hungry for a challenge, Glenn and I drove to Missouri for the MO Pro Series. Each race was contended by national level competition, and yet I placed within the top 10 in each. This became a trend and others started taking notice. When it came to my hometown race, the Tour of Somerville, I had the distinct honor of guest riding with team Colavita to 2nd place.

Guest riding for team Colavita at the Tour of Somerville (photo credit: Marco Quezada)

Guest riding for team Colavita at the Tour of Somerville (photo credit: Marco Quezada)

By June, Lauren Stephens’ tremendous success earned her a pro ride with team TIBCO. This turn of events resulted in an incredible opportunity for myself with team FCS|Zngine. Thanks to the dedication of an incredible boyfriend, we drove once more to the Midwest for the Tour of America’s Dairylands. Unfortunately I had the poor luck of contracting pneumonia. As a result, my first guest ride experience with team FCS|Zngine was a flop but they didn’t give up on me. After ailment took its course, I resumed focus taking a number of podiums and a win throughout the series.

ToAD Fond du Lac Road Race podium with Laura Van Gilder and Samantha Schneider

ToAD Fond du Lac Road Race podium with Laura Van Gilder and Samantha Schneider

With continued support of incredibly generous sponsors on EPS CSS Riptide Cycling, I was afforded the opportunity to contend the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix in CA and the Andersen & Banducci Twilight Crit in ID. While the spontaneity of all these opportunities was extremely exciting, it also made Matt’s job very challenging. We had deviated significantly from the original regional race plan. Matt did his best to keep me fit and rapidly respond to the ever-changing demands. We were agile yet cognizant of areas for future improvement, where greater foresight could be of advantage.

Andersen & Banducci Twilight Crit sprint finish

Andersen & Banducci Twilight Crit sprint finish

With my first cycling contract signed and delivered, I entered the Pro Crit National Championships on July 27th as an official member of team FCS|Zngine. Now with the support of teammates, I was able to achieve an unthinkable 4th in the field sprint for 6th overall! We then went on to the Tour of Elk Grove in IL and Gateway Cup in MO. Along the way; I touched down at home base and became the NJ State Criterium Champion! Team FCS|Zngine reunited in Las Vegas for the USA CRITS Finals, then zipped over to Boston in celebration of teammate, Amy McGuire’s retirement at the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup. That Sunday I capped the season off with a 15th and final win at the CT Cycling Festival.

CT Cycling Festival post race interview (video)

Leading a lap of the CT Cycling Festival (Photo Credit: Steven Yau)

Leading a lap of the CT Cycling Festival (Photo Credit: Steven Yau)

After a daunting 65 road races, criteriums, and time trials the season finally ended with a sigh of relief and delighted satisfaction. I was able to conquer so many new challenges, while balancing the responsibilities of a full-time Project Manager. There are so many people to thank for each success. Those who went out on a limb and believed in my ability to deliver if only given a chance. The tireless dedication of my coach, Matthew Koschara. Those who have trusted in the sound judgment of Teresa DiSessa and her incredible women’s cycling program. The winningest female professional cyclist, Laura Van Gilder, who despite managing a demanding year round schedule of national competition still makes time to take a vested interest in developing riders. I want to thank team FCS|Zngine and all the Texas based club members that make it possible for top women cyclists to pursue their dreams. A big shout out to every local NY/NJ/PA cyclist that inspires me to work hard everyday. And a hug to Julie Idlet for continuing to share the CycleKids experience with me. Here’s looking at 2014.

Chris Thater Memorial

Chris Thater Pro Women (courtesy of Robert Mecea)

Chris Thater Pro Women (courtesy of Robert Mecea)

I had high hopes entering Chris Thater, having come off three consecutive wins. However that confidence quickly dissolved between the moments before and throughout the race. I had shredded a tubular tire during the previous week’s crash. In response, team FCS|Zngine expeditiously shipped me a new rear iRT 50T wheel all the way from Texas just in time for Chris Thater. Pretty awesome support here!

Glenn and I promptly installed a new cassette, tuned the CAAD 10, and all seemed well. However, during a warm-up sprint the the rear derailleur began shifting sans human intervention. So I stopped by neutral support, received another quick tune-up, tested it out, and all seemed well again. However, all was not indeed well. Throughout the race I experienced several shifting foul-ups, got chopped in a few corners, and quickly found my mind reeling back to last week’s crash and beyond. At one point the bike locked up entirely, ceasing all pedaling as an attack went up the road. Unfortunately I just had to deal, as poor shifting is not a valid reason to grab a free lap.

WATCH the Chris Thater Pro Women Livestream recording HERE!

Without the bike-handling skills of Marianne Vos (min 3:10), it would be difficult to keep the bike upright should my shifting pose an issue during the downhill finish. So when it came to a sprint, I simply could not muster laying out heart, soul, and every last ounce of wattage into a machine I had lost faith in. So I kept it conservative and in the saddle, instead of over the handle bars where gravity may have won the battle. Had that happened, the only thing I would be laying out is my own body on the asphalt. The result was a lack luster sprint for 7th place. I neither advanced nor was passed yet watched as hopes for a top five finish went up the road. While 7th is by all means a respectable placement, I have already proven it to be doable and now it is time to apply pressure and aim higher.

I am remorseful, as opportunities to further prove myself dwindle while the season comes to a close. Determination courses through my veins, seeking week over week improvements, with satisfaction for nothing less than perfection. Yet I feel I am coming up short, primarily for reasons related to positioning and aggression, though unfamiliarity with the courses and general acclimation to the competition may also play a part. I have yet to gain the historical knowledge of typical NCC/NRC outcomes (i.e. breakaway or field sprint) on specific courses or exactly where successful sprints generally launch.

Chris Thater Pro Women (courtesy of Robert Mecea)

Chris Thater Pro Women (courtesy of Robert Mecea)

While I have yet to crack the top 5 NCC/NRC code, I am confident that will come in 2014. Next season I will have experience on my side, familiarity with both courses and competitors. It will also follow my first fall of dedicated training, which will further focus on strengthening weaknesses and perfecting strengths. There is a lot of work ahead and even more room for improvement. In the short-term, the CAAD 10 and I will work on re-establishing trust as a fundamental pillar of our relationship. We will triple check all crash related wear to remediate any lingering issues. There will be pampering and a much brighter demeanor as we set sail for Gateway Cup in St. Louis, Missouri!

New Jersey State Criterium Championships

NJ State Crit Championship Women's 1/2/3 podium

NJ State Crit Championship Women’s 1/2/3 podium

This time last year I was laid up on a couch, sleeping vertically, and determined to regain lung capacity. A season marked by 11 wins had abruptly come to an end when a mechanical left me with a broken shoulder blade, 3 broken ribs, a contused lung, and a ton of road rash. While breathing through a spirometer I sat watching nearly every televised hour of the 2012 Summer Olympics. Frustration associated with being injured at such a pivotal moment ignited a fire within me.

That fire burned brightly last Sunday, August 18th at the New Jersey State Criterium Championships. Having missed the opportunity to compete in 2012 due to injury, I was hell-bent on proving myself worthy of the white jersey. The field was small, yet like the previous week’s South Jersey Criterium a single team composed 33% of the field. The race was very aggressive, with attacks from the gun. Though that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. This was the state championships after all, no one just shows up for a workout. Which also meant that the other 67% of solo riders composing the field equally shared a will to chase.

We worked together, fending off each consecutive attack. The course included a long finishing straight approximately 700+ meters in length. As we entered the final lap, I strategically placed myself at the back of the field, patiently followed the Peanut Butter & Co. lead out train, then launched for a long sprint ~250 – 300 meters in length. The resulting outcome was very similar to the Mengoni Grand Prix, however this time I managed to create several bike lengths of separation between 2nd place and myself.

After the awards ceremony and an hours’ rest, I jumped back on course to try my hand at the Men’s 1/2/3 championships. To my surprise, I was able to hang with and move throughout the field with ease. Sweeping turns combined with a 72 person field made for a comfortable slipstream, yet did not provide enough attrition to safely navigate through the final lap. Little did I know what was about to unfold.

NJ State Crit Championships Men's 1/2/3 (Courtesy of Pro Pedals Bike Shop)

NJ State Crit Championships Men’s 1/2/3 (Courtesy of Pro Pedals Bike Shop)

As we sailed through turn two, I cheered on Glenn and team passing by in perfect lead out formation. This reassured me that I would in not interrupt the boyfriend’s shot at glory. While we already established that it is okay to Chick, it is better to be wise and mindful of a significant other’s delicate needs. I then looked after my own positioning, grabbing spots on the backstretch, avoiding a crash in turn 3, and then against my better judgment took an outside line through turn four. The turn was very wide, sweeping, and should have been free of crashes caused by trajectory miscalculations. In previous laps I had relished the feeling of hitting the apex and effortlessly moving up within the peloton. With ~700 meters left to go, I thought it might be my last opportunity to advance within the top 20 before all hell broke lose.

However miscalculations were made and so the line I chose was compromised. Guys started throwing themselves on the ground as I desperately searched for an escape route. When it became evident there was no avoiding the impending doom, I hit the eject button throwing my bike to the ground while leaping towards a patch of grass. With luck I narrowly avoided hitting the curb and safely landed on a more forgiving surface. Post crash, I returned to the wreckage. My bike no longer possessed a will to roll, yet I was determined to finish. So I removed my shoes, shouldered the bike, and ran in the ~600 meters to the line. While 60th place is one of my worst results in a men’s field, I am proud to say I finished.

It’s Called ‘Getting Chicked’

CHICKED (CHik-T) - verb
1. The act of getting passed by a female athlete.

Getting Chicked can be both traumatic and emasculating. By definition, it is a competitive incident where a woman beats a man. Observing the emotional impact of being Chicked is something I have done ever since I was a wee one. From grade school soccer, to high school co-ed track & field, and now cycling. It is interesting just how far males are willing to push themselves in the name of not getting Chicked. I fondly remember a particular occasion when my co-ed high school track team faced-off an all boy’s school. Getting Chicked was clearly new territory for these boys. Let’s just say I’ve never witnessed so many boys struggle to keep their lunch down following the 200m dash, a distance that does not typically yield stomach churning side effects.

Earlier this season I prepared for the anticipated demands of national level races by contending several spring training series. Throughout the month of March I often competed in up to four men’s races per weekend. I would first race with the 45+ Men and then immediately line up for the Men’s 1/2/3 race on both Saturday and Sunday. During my spring Chick campaign (pun intended) , I accomplished eight top 20’s, five top 10 ten’s, won a couple field sprints, and even joined a men’s podium. In fact, there were only three races where I placed outside of top 20.

Residual heckling hit a fever pitch on the Jersey Peloton Facebook forum. It was a regular Billie Jean King Battle of the Sexes every weekend. Matt Warner, promoter of the South Jersey Spring series further encouraged involvement of the local women by changing his ‘Men’s 45+’ race to a ‘Men’s 45+/Women’s Open’ and offered a dedicated prize to any woman that won. Because the prize for a woman to win was so much larger than if a man won, guys in the field joked around about working with the ladies and splitting the money afterward. Ultimately I narrowly missed the opportunity, placing third in a field sprint on the final race of the series.

Rockleigh Criterium 8/15/13 (courtesy of John Ford)

Rockleigh Criterium 8/15/13 (courtesy of John Ford)

Despite early season accomplishments, all was surely forgotten by the last Rockleigh Criterium of the season Thursday, August 15th where I contended the Men’s 1/2/3 race, placing 4th in the field sprint for 12th overall. The results of which erupted it yet again another internet firestorm. Men heckled one another over which of their buddies got Chicked worse than the other. It even escalated to the analysis of gopro video documentation (minutes 18:30 – 20:00). To aid the men in coping with this traumatic episode I shared with them Andrew Coggan’s Power Profile Spreadsheet v4.0 found on Training Peaks, which presents w/kg data of men and women at every level of cycling ability in a side-by-side comparison. Hopefully insight to such data can help ease the pain of being Chicked. It is ok to Chick and be Chicked, we are all equally human in the end.

Power Profile Chart

Power Profile Chart

The latest version of this spreadsheet can be found in Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan’s book Training and Racing with a Power Meter, 2nd Ed. If there is one book you read about how to reap the maximum benefit of training with power, let this be it. Once you are through with that, riffle through Andrew’s blog for additional insight.

South Jersey Criterium

A couple days prior to the South Jersey Citerium, race sponsor, Matt Warner reached out to confirm that I would be in attendance. At that time, no one was registered for the women’s race and I had intentions of joining Glenn for the Men’s 1/2/3. However, it is difficult to advocate for dedicated women’s fields if no women register. This is a tough balance to strike, as I want to support promoters who offer women’s races by showing up but do not want to discourage other women from competing or ruin valuable upgrade opportunities. So I became the sole registrant for the women’s race and planned on registering day-of for the men’s race, depending upon how I felt after the first.

Ultimately, registration for the women’s race peaked at a total of 7. Team CAWES brought a squad of 4 or 57% of the field. Based upon the dominant presence of a team, I anticipated a challenging race of strategy. The wise Laura Van Gilder once shared with me that the difficulty of a race does not necessarily scale upward with the size of a field. In fact, races with small fields can be some of the hardest. That was most certainly the case on this particular day.

After chasing down several attacks by CAWES, I quickly realized that the hits would keep on coming unless I decided to take action. After a quick estimation of the energy expenditure involved with responding to continuous attacks versus a ~25 minute solo breakaway, I decided that a breakaway would be my best course of action. While the calculations encouraged a solo breakaway, I was nervous about the execution as I had never tried it before. After an internal debate, it was clear that a low stakes race was the perfect opportunity to try something new.

On the following chase effort, I noted a sizable gap on the field, gathered my wits and went for the counter. The course is essentially a track with four corners and a hill. After establishing a half lap gap, I took advantage of the visibility by keeping an eye on the field. To monitor pace, I selected a landmark and noted where the field was in relation to that point, throttling my effort to maintain a consistent gap. This was a particularly challenging effort without insight to power data, duration, speed, or heart rate.

The will to stop and drop back the field weighed heavily upon me until finally laps cards emerged with 6 to go. At that point an internal voice of encouragement pushed me onward, reaching a 1-minute lead in the final laps. It was a thrill to try something different and succeed. By the time I crossed the finish line I was completely exhausted and thankful to find Glenn waiting for me with a chair, water, and recovery food. Couldn’t ask for a better soigneur/boyfriend.

Mengoni Grand Prix

Mengoni Women's Podium

Mengoni Women’s Podium

The Mengoni Grand Prix is a NYC based race known for its longevity. Past champions include the incredibly talented athletes featured below. It is with great honor that I declare, I have earned a place on this list.

Mengoni Past Champions

Mengoni Past Champions

This year’s introduction of an equal prize pool for men and women caught the attention many fierce competitors, including past champions such as Laura Van Gilder, Kristin Lotito, and Camie Kornely. As my third race in Central Park this season, I felt comfortable with the course and familiar with the strengths/weaknesses of my competition. Unlike previous park races, Mengoni did not feature primes. Without mid-race goals to juggle, I was intently focused on maintaining a controlled finish. The finishing stretch was a straight approximately 400 meters in length, ideal for a long sprint. On early laps, I honed in on mile markers I would later use as cues for the finish.

When an organized lead-out train by team Stan’s NoTubes p/b enduranceWERX emerged to my left around the final 400 meter mark, I quickly hitched a ride, then launched a sprint when I felt we had arrived at a distance I could endure. The lead out established an initial gap on the field, while I delivered the final blow giving it my all on the last meters to hold off the winning-est woman in America, Laura Van Gilder.

Mengoni Women's Championship

Mengoni Women’s Championship (photo courtesy of the CRCA)

Following the race, Glenn and I joined the women of team Radical Media for the Annie Londonerry ride hosted by We Bike NYC. The purpose of this ride was to celebrate women on bikes by honoring Annie “Londonderry” Cohen Kopchovsky, the very first woman to cycle around the world. Our route took advantage of NYC’s Summer Streets initiative, which opens Park Ave. from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park for people to play, walk, bike, and enjoy the city streets free from the presence of vehicular traffic. At the end of the ride, Bicycle Habitat hosted a picnic and gave away prizes!

Due to the 3:30am start on the day, Glenn and I were able to accomplish all this before 11am. We topped off the day with one of the most relaxing afternoons we have had in a long time. It was a rare opportunity to catch up with family, take a swim, and make smores. I also got the chance jump on a trampoline for the first time in several years, and to my surprise was able to do all the same tricks mind you without the same level of finesse. Flips, aerials, handsprings and more, I’ve still got it!

Driving Awareness

It is better to be known than unknown. Of course that depends upon what you happen to be known for, however that is yet another topic for discussion. Recently I have delved into the awareness of FCS|Zngine. Social media is just one of the many platforms for driving awareness. With thanks to the friendly people at Facebook, we are able to gain even greater insight through statistics. This data is particularly valuable in our ability to provide sponsors quantifiable information regarding the value a team can deliver. A broader network creates greater product visibility and with that comes brand recognition and the potential for increased sales. This is an area I would like to continue learning more about.

In the interest of driving Facebook awareness, I wanted to establish a baseline to see where FCS|Zngine currently measures up to the other Women’s Domestic Elite Teams (DETs). So I took a snapshot of total likes for every DET page I could find on Facebook at 1:32pm August 8th, and created a visual representative of the data. To my surprise, 4 of the 21 teams do not have a dedicated Facebook page (at least not one I could easily find). It was also difficult to weigh the data evenly, as not all teams create a separate page for their women. Some teams share a page with their sister or brother team, while others may tie into a club. Associations aside, I have recorded the data in its raw format.

Women's DET Facebook Awareness

Women’s DET Facebook Awareness

Currently, FCS|Zngine is ranked 9th in total likes. However with a 10% increase this week alone, we are on the fast track to surpassing 8th and quickly catching up to 7th. You can help us achieve this goal by following FCS|Zngine on Facebook.

‘We Will Not Rest’

The week following Nationals was particularly challenging. Due to recent organizational changes and unusually high turnover, the project team I have been working with has dwindled down from 5 resources to 2. While additional responsibility regarding the development and adoption of a tool that changes how an organization operates may be beneficial to your career, it is not a great way to start a three-day stage race.

By the time I boarded the flight to Chicago Thursday evening, I had only managed to clock in 16hrs of sleep and one day of training for the week. Despite the lack of rest, Tuesday’s 6min hill repeats resulted in an 8% peak power improvement. Needless to say, the CAAD10 is treating me well. At least this gave me hope for the weekend ahead. I left for the airport directly from work, arrived late in the evening, then awoke early to work remotely for 6hrs before heading to the first stage.

A sweet couple offered to harbor teammates, Rachel, Amy and I for the weekend. When we arrived, an enormous sign displaying the words, ‘Welcome FCS’ was taped to the garage door. It is the generosity of people located near major races that make professional cycling a more sustainable practice. Without the support of others, it is often times difficult to do what we love as athletes in a sport of minimal compensation. Our Chicago hosts really went above and beyond, from providing us with delicious home cooked meals to great conversation.

Welcome FCS

Tour of Elk Grove is a very unique weekend on the National Road Race Calendar (NRC). Over the course of three days we became very familiar with a 4-mile stretch of road featured in every stage. The first stage was a 7.7K (4.78 mile) Prologue, followed by an 83.4K (51.8mile) 14 lap “Criterium”, and a 71K (44.1 mile) 7 lap Circuit. In all actuality, both of the later two stages were Circuits of varying lengths. The interchangeable use of Circuit and Criterium from registration to race bible suggested that the stages suffered from an identity crisis. Interestingly enough, my first NRC event didn’t actually have a Road Race.

Prologue – Friday, Aug. 2nd

Initially Tour of Elk Grove was not on my calendar, and without it I may have merrily gone an entire season without Time Trialing. Unfortunately my luck had run up, and so I begrudgingly completed the Prologue for 11th place…from last. The goal was simply not to come in last; mission accomplished. It has been at least 5 months since the last time I have practiced an effort over 6 minutes and over a year since my last Time Trial (TT). Without specific training, I lacked both insight to proper Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE) pacing and the trained muscles to execute. I also lacked several aerodynamic advantages of my competitors, many of which were decked out with TT bikes, disc wheels, booties, and aero helmets. The knife I brought to this gun fight was none other than my trusty FCS issued CAAD10 with iRT 50m wheels for the al ‘natural Eddy Merckx take on TTing. For lack of aero bars, I compromised by mimicking the TT position resting my forearms atop the handlebars. What this so called “race of truth” revealed is that I am a far better strategist and energy conservationist.

While the aforementioned deficiencies of TT specific equipment tally up to a significant disadvantage, I prefer it as a matter of simplicity. Does anyone truly enjoy purchasing and then lugging around a second bike and helmet? Another bike that is not only more expensive than your first, it is also utilized a fraction of the time. Does any of this really make sense? Why not just call a truce and put an end to all the fuss? Demand for time trial bikes is plentiful in the triathlete and I’m-too-fragile-for-mass-start-races demographics. While this day may never come, a sprinter can dream.

“Criterium” – Saturday, Aug, 3rd

There is a fine line between wanting to perform well and maintaining the physical well being to actually do so. On day two, one of our riders experienced the ill fate of crossing that line. In a freak accident, Amy was thrown over her bars and onto the pavement. I am still in awe of her extraordinary bike handling skills, as she emerged from the wreckage without a scratch to both bike and body. The only outward hint to her fall was a helmet imprint that might have given Harry Potter a run for his money. Yet all was not entirely well. The abrupt fall left Amy concussed and therefore unable to contend the rest of the race.

Apart from battle wounds of our own, Erin Silliman of Fearless Femmes was also seriously injured. Due to the nature of this race, many of those impacted by the crash yet still able to compete were unable to catch up to the peloton. While sold as a Criterium, officials abided by Circuit rules and did not allow free laps. Which made it even more difficult for those who were unable to catch the peloton, as they were forced to complete the entire distance of the race alone or in small groups. Anyone who did not complete Saturday’s stage would not be allowed to start Sunday. My other teammate, Rachel, who had stayed with Amy in her time of need found herself in the unfortunate situation of completing the race alone.

Left as the sole representative of FCS in the peloton, I focused my efforts on finding the perfect position for a sprint finish. After practicing positioning during sprint bonus point laps, I knew exactly where I wanted to be. As we rounded the last corner of the final lap I knew I was sitting pretty but still had 750 meters to go. Performing well was a matter of sprinting finesse and patience. When the time came I gave it my all, narrowly edging out Allison Powers for 6th place.

Tour of Elk Grove “Criterium” sprint finish (photo credit: Jeanette Vidmar)

Circuit – Sunday, Aug, 4th

With a woman down, Rachel and I entered the final stage as a duo. Each of the top three GC contenders were separated by mere seconds. We expected an aggressive race, and was it ever. After bridging to a couple early moves and constantly being on prowl, a group of six went up the road when I was too gassed to join. While the breakaway consisted of a favorable mix of teams, it was evident that Optum would have preferred another representative. The breakaway had established a 1min gap before Optum decided they wanted a different outcome and worked tirelessly to achieve it. With only 3k to go, the field caught the break. At which point things started getting a little too dicey for my liking. Rachel and I worked together to bring me forward, yet all the near misses ahead had an impenetrable ripple effect on the peloton. The final 750 meters were like navigating a minefield. I was too far back with nowhere to sprint, ultimately forced to sit up and accept 17th.

Upon the return trip, some nice lads disassembled and packed my bike. Within a short flight, I was back home by 12am and in the office by 8am. Of course none of this would be possible without the support of team FCS|Zngine and Directeur Sportif, Larry Foss of The Fix Studio . Be sure to follow the team on Facebook and Twitter.

FCS Cycling Team Facebook Page

FCS Cycling Team Twitter Page

It’s All New To Me

Pro Criterium National Championships (Photo credit © Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us)

Pro Criterium National Championships (Photo credit © Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us)

Summary

This past weekend’s Professional Criterium National Championships highlighted a slew of firsts. To begin, it was my first time competing in a national championship. My first race contended with teammates as an official member of FCS|Zngine.  The first race on a sweet new CAAD 10 and pair of iRT wheels, that FCS graciously shipped to me just in time for Nationals. As part of the new set up, it was my first time racing with a SRAM group set and standard crank in over a year. I was also pleased to have a positive experience flying with the Gavilán BFF for the very first time. With the introduction of so much change, I anticipated starting at the base of a learning curve that might peak several races in the future. Despite just embarking on this learning experience, the base was solid enough to achieve 6th place; a result much better than I could have hoped for.

We entered the race as a team of four, consisting of Rachel Byus, Amy McGuire, Anna Sanders and myself. With the encouragement of teammates, I felt more confident and capable of overcoming challenges that have plagued my performances throughout the season. I also surprised myself with a pull on the final lap that shortly preceded placing 4th in the field sprint. Had you asked me if it were possible to pull and perform well in a field sprint moments later, I would have been inclined to say no. While expending a match at that moment was critical to positioning for the sprint, I can only imagine the possible outcome had I conserved more energy for the finale. Possibilities I am eager to apply at next year’s Pro Crit Nationals.

The Details

The Nationals’ course was characterized by wide smooth roads organized in a figure-eight. Changes in elevation included mild descents between turns 3 and 4 as well as between turns 6 and 7. A slight punchy hill began at turn 4 and crested by turn 5. While a mild incline that began at turn 7 extended all the way to the finish line. The finishing straight was just over 200 meters, yet felt much longer given the slight rise. Course features invited an aggressive race riddled by attacks, yet the elements conspired to damper this outcome. The result was a slick course with even more slippery painted surfaces. It was a recipe for a breakaway, as the field could not navigate through the wet with great speed. Few would have anticipated that an early break would stick in a criterium at least one half hour longer than any other on the national calendar. The 1.5hr duration had me questioning if I should have contended more road races this season to build a greater endurance base. Yet who could complain about putting out the extra effort for a race with prize pool equality.

Beyond The Bike

One of the more fascinating aspects of racing across the nation is the cultural experience. Unbeknownst to me, High Point, NC is often referred to as the “Furniture Capital of the World.” I would estimate that 80% of the businesses observed on our warm-up were furniture stores. High Point’s claim to fame culminates with this road-side oddity…

World's Largest Chest of Drawers

World’s Largest Chest of Drawers

The World’s Largest Chest of Drawers accented by a pair of dangling socks to symbolize the area’s strong textile and furniture industry. As a point of irony, the chest’s interior once served as the Bureau of Information.

If you happen to stop for a bite to eat wile in High Point, make it the Penny Path Café & Crepe Shop. The menu offers both sweet and savory crepe combinations. I could not help myself but to try one of each. We chatted with the incredibly friendly shop owner, Miro Burzov. Miro told us all about his German heritage and experience as a new business owner. The shop is small yet ornate, featuring a literal path of pennies, café themed art along the bar, faux paint accents, tin ceiling panels, and unique wood tables. The morning of our first visit we were treated to live music and great conversation with fellow cyclist patrons. I am sure there is more to explore in and around High Point when one is in town for more than 33hrs.