Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Sea Otter Classic 2015

 Getting the hole shot at the beginning of the short track. Photo: Etienne


Specialized hosted another Lemonade Social on Saturday after the cross country with the Specialized Women Photo: Etienne
This year's Sea Otter Classic was the most success one yet.  This year marked our fifth anniversary of running the Little Bellas national camp at the Sea Otter Classic.  It just seems like it keeps getting better and better over the years.   My Sea Otter Classic began on Wednesday when Specialized Women launched a new bike, the Rumor 650b.  The Specialized women, Kate Courtney, Hannah Barnes, and myself joined a great group of female journalists to ride and check out the new bike.  I was thoroughly impressed with how well all of these women rode.  It was supposed to be an easy ride, but it was hard to hold back with all of these ladies pushing it.  It was a blast.  Kate and I also got our new matching national champion kits, and we got to wear them together.  This is probably the best kit I've ever owned.  I was so excited about wearing it for the first time that I only went on an hour spin, but I probably wore the kit for a total of three hours.  There's something about literally wearing an accomplished goal.  I'm really proud to be wearing the stars and stripes on my back.



Friday was the first day of our Little Bellas Sea Otter camp.  The little ladies lined up to watch the women's short track race.  This was twenty minutes of short two minute laps around a flat track with a mixture of pavement and dirt.  The nature of the course made it a really exciting and tactical race, and the Little Bellas cheered for me every lap.  There was a group of about ten ladies riding together with some attacks going off in the twenty minutes, but nothing really stuck.  I was towards the back of the group trying to recover and follow wheels.  Then, in the last three laps, I made sure I was in a better position at least in the top three of the race so I was able to respond to attacks.  I timed it right and followed an explosive last lap attack by swede Jenny Risveds.  I followed her wheel and so did Australian Bec Henderson.  I was able to hang on, and I got to stand on my first podium of the season in third.  I am thrilled to get this result in front of the Little Bellas and at such a big event as the Sea Otter Classic.



After the short track, it was time for my favorite event of the season, the Little Bellas lemonade social with the pros.  Every single year, I am completely humbled by how many pro ladies show up to answer questions from the girls and sign autographs.  Every pro rider's time is in high demand at Sea Otter Classic with each minute taken with marketing initiatives, events, or racing.  The fact that each lady carves out an hour for the Little Bellas is really moving.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by such great women and role models on the mountain bike circuit.  We answered questions about everything from our favorite food to who inspired us to start riding.  We learned that avocado was a popular favorite food.  One of our little bellas gasped in excitement when one of her favorite foods was also Chloe Woodruff's favorite.  Kaylee Blevin's brother inspired her to ride.  Kate Courtney started riding with her dad on the back of a tandem with a pancake reward at the end.  The Little Bellas got to see what a world champion jersey looks like when Catharine Pendrel showed up.



Last year, Maghalie Rochette challenged me to a rap battle at the lemonade social, and we ended up battling at the World Championships.  This year at the lemonade social, Maghalie came prepared with some amazing rhymes to officially challenge me again to another rap battle.  I was extremely impressed, and the Little Bellas loved it so much that they kept asking for more.  So, Kate and I rhymed a verse from our World Champs battle, and then Kate, my secret weapon, dropped some fresh verses right off the top of her head on the spot.  It was amazing, and, with all of the fifteen pro women and their personalities, the Little Bellas were completely entertained for an hour.  This is not an easy task with eight year olds.  I didn't think it could keep getting any better, but it does.

 The Little Bellas Lemonade Social
 Kate shows off her wounds from a tumble in the short track
 The Specialized Women Lemonade Social
 Hannah Barnes signs a jersey
 Sea Otter STXC
 Kate making it happen after I got the hole shot in the short track
Teamwork makes the dream work in the STXC.  Kate and I work together. 
I raced the XC the next day, and this race is much longer than the normal XC races that we do.  We raced two eighteen mile laps on the dusty, exposed course.  It was windy so hiding and recovering in a pack was key for the day.  My legs weren't feeling up to snuff on the first lap, and I thought it was going to be a really long day.  I got dropped from the lead pack of nine riders on two separate occasions on the first lap and then clawed my way back up to the lead group.  I was with the lead group for half of the second lap until a crash separated the pack and I was caught on the wrong side.  I started to come around  at that point in the race, and I bridged up to the chase group.  The three of us started working together to catch the lead group until I popped off the chase group in the last fifteen minutes of the race.  I rolled across the line in eighth place in a two and a half hour race.  This was a solid effort considering how I was feeling that first lap.



Now, I'm catching my breath back in Santa Cruz, and beginning a great training block in earnest until the first world cups towards the end of may in Europe.  Let the training begin!



Onwards and upwards!

Lea

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bienvenido a Colombia!

 Pan American Championships Photo: Shimano
 Colombia is beautiful


Some of the leading ladies for team USA (L to R: Kate Courtney, me, Chloe Woodruff, Erin Huck, Mary McConnellog)

This past weekend, I ventured to South America for the first time.  I traveled to Bogota, Colombia for the Pan American Championships.  The continental championships is a race with some of the biggest UCI points to be earned, and, because the 2016 Olympics are close, points are at a premium.   The top three riders' from each nation UCI ranking (world ranking) are combined to rank the nation.  The top eight countries in this ranking are allowed to send two females to the Olympics.  If a nation is outside of the top eight, they can only send one rider to Rio.  As of recent, U.S.A was ranked ninth so we sent a full squad down to Colombia because it's paramount that we get two spots for the games.  Also, the other Olympic story thread coming into play for Pan-Ams is that whatever central or south american team placed first in this event got a guaranteed spot for the Olympics.  So, this race was the most important race of the season for countries like Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil.  While the americans spent the spring campaign at sea level racing our first big national races, many of these countries were at altitude preparing for this race at eight thousand feet.  To confirm, there is not a lot of air at eight thousand feet especially for a sea level dweller like myself.  But, since the national championships and the world championships will be at altitude, this was a great opportunity to test out how I reacted to the altitude.



To sum it up, It went pretty well.  I would call it two very solid races, and I keep making progress.  The event started with the team relay on Friday.  The team relay is when each country races an elite male (Stephan Ettinger), and elite female (myself), a U-23 male (Keegan Swenson), and a junior male (Chris Blevins).  Each person races one lap of the course and then hands off to the next.  We had a fantastic team, and we were all very pumped up.  This same event happens at the World Champs (last year, we narrowly missed the podium in 4th place in Norway) so we were all psyched to test things out this year in prep for worlds.  We had a great start with Stephan coming through in first with a slight lead, but the Colombians were absolutely on fire racing in their home country.  Chris came through in second with about a minute and a half deficit.  I didn't lose any time on my leg, but it was too much of a margin to close on the last leg.  So, we came in second and got a really shiny medal and a bag of Colombian pastries. Baked goods make the best prizes. These pastries were like frosted pretzels.  Interesting and pretty dry.



It's more rare than one would think that I actually get to experience a place outside of the venue, the hotel, and the ride to the venue.  But, luckily, there were two opportunities to really see Colombia on this trip, and I love taking advantage of these opportunities.  After the relay,  my teammate, Kate, Kate's mom, Maggie, and myself ventured into the city to take a cooking class from Dona Elsa.  The drive into the city was amazing with some of the best street art I have ever seen.  It was really beautiful.  The cooking class took place in Dona's kitchen which was the size of most american's kitchen tables.  It was straight in the middle of her house with her little grandchildren running around, and Dona only spoke spanish.  I can understand spanish, but thank goodness Kate was fresh off of a year of spanish at Stanford.  Between the two of us, we were all set.  I actually had the most fun communicating with Dona's grandson.  We figured out how to replace the batteries in his stuff animal.  The best was, in mid spanish sentence, he stopped and said, "I have a black and white ace" in perfect english.  I can't make this stuff up.  It was random.  This type of english will get this boy far.



Sunday was the keystone event of the weekend, the cross county, and the country came out in throngs to support their country.  There is quite a cycling scene in Colombia.  The race was six laps around a very challenging course.  The first half of the lap was straight up some of the steepest climbs I've ever seen.  The second half of the lap was technical single track that required a lot of handling.  The first two laps, I went out with the lead pack, and I really hit the first half of the lap hard.  I realized, at this altitude, I wasn't recovering enough for later technical part of the lap.  I went into these sections crossed eyed, and I was making mistakes and losing a lot of time.  So, I had to change my approach mid-race.  From that point on, no matter what happened around me, I climbed within myself on the first half of the lap, and then I would be recovered for the technical sections.  This allowed me to save a lot of time, and I would usually catch some of the girls that flew by me.  The entire race, I was battling with a Colombian woman, and thus, the entire country.  The cheers were so loud, and it was awesome.  I ended up squeaking by her on the final climb of the final lap.  I ended up in sixth, and the U.S ladies had a great showing with Erin Huck scoring the silver and Chloe Woodruff nabbing the bronze.  And, the U.S.A moved up to sixth in the Olympic rankings.  It was a solid effort all around indeed.



I'm currently squeezing in some training in Santa Cruz, and the racing starts up again the next two weekends in Bonelli and at the Sea Otter Classic (where one of our most popular and longest running Little Bellas camps takes place!).



Thanks for following!

Lea

 The warm up road in Colombia.  Pack of dogs not pictured. 
 Some of the amazing Bogota street art
 These boots were made for walking...


 Visiting the market with Dona Elsa










 Kate, Dona, and Maggie cooking up a storm Colombian style
 Dona showing Kate how to make a local juice.  Colombia has amazing juice
 Kate and Maggie hanging in Bogota
 This was on the street outside of Dona's house and I'm not sure the story behind it
 Bogota, Colombia
 My absolute favorite piece of street art I've ever seen
 More cycling street art
 Bean trellises right by the course
 Georgia and I had some international ping pong matches with the Brazilians
 Maggie at a local Colombian restaurant and dance hall.  It was awesome. 
Back in Santa Cruz training.  Life is good. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Different Approach

 One of the many view of Gibraltor
 Gibraltor, Santa Barbara
 Racing Fontana Photo: Johnny Mueller


And, just like that, the 2015 race season has begun.  Last weekend, the season kicked off in Bonelli Park in San Dimas, CA.   Scott Tedro and Sho-Air Cycling put on this spring race series, the U.S Cup, and it's elevated the level of mountain biking in North America.  These first races are either C1 or HC UCI status which, in layman's terms, have the highest level of points and importance right below a world cup.  In other words, these races are high priority and the pro women are going fast.  I, however, as far as I know,  have been approaching this season a bit different than my competition.  I am placing my highest priority on the world cup series which starts in two months. I am placing a lower priority on these early season races and using them as great training.  And great training was exactly what Bonelli proved to be.



It was ninety degrees during our race at Bonelli, and it was also a lap longer than normal.  Our races usually clock in at about one hour and thirty minutes.  This race ended up being two hours long on a very punchy, punishing course.  It was hot.  I led out the start lap, and then, a lot of ladies passed me.  I definitely had a more conservative approach to the race because I was nervous about the eighty degree temperature change.  I was also a little unsure about my on bike fitness.  I suffered and did the best I could under the difficult circumstances.  I ended up eleventh.  This is definitely not my best finish in the least, and it was mentally challenging to have an off day. I was hoping for a top five finish.  It seemed like a lot of factors were stacked against me.  I was definitely bummed, but, then I talked to my coach, and this was apparently the plan.  We are training through all of these races.  But, Andy didn't really want to make that very clear before the race to put limits on me.  As he says sometimes, 'you could either win this race or maybe it's not going to go that well'.  Bonelli was definitely the latter of the two.



I traveled to Santa Barbara for the week in between Bonelli and Fontana with my Specialized teammate, Howard Grotts.  I spent three days exploring the endless cycling scene there, and it was fantastic.  I crossed the famous Gibraltor Climb and Camino de Cielo off my to-ride list, and it's definitely all it's cracked up to be.  This ride had amazing views, and Camino de Cielo literally traverses the ridge of the mountains.  I could look left and see the ocean and look right to see the mountains.  And, I would ride through the clouds.  It was an incredible experience, and I could definitely explore Santa Barbara for a long time.  I didn't even get into the mountain bike trails.



We traveled back to L.A on Thursday evening to prepare for the second U.S Cup in Fontana.  Thankfully, it was a cooler race day, and I have started to put the pieces together a bit more on the bike.  I had a solid start within the top 10, but, unfortunately, lost the lead group on the first lap.  But then, I bridged up to the lead group on the second lap.  I was thrilled to see them. Then, I lost the lead group on that same lap and then bridged back up again.  It was a day of being a yo-yo, but I am so pumped to be in the mix more, if even briefly.  I flew home the night of the cross country race to get back to Santa Cruz for a couple of days before flying to the Pan-American Championships in Bogota, Columbia.  Because I skipped the short track today, I was able to get an awesome four hour road ride on some new roads in Santa Cruz.  It was such a great day of training, and I felt good on my bike.  It's great to get some good sensations going again.



I have made the first step of the race season, and I think my unorthodox approach will pay off.  If last season was indicative, it might just be the ticket.



Thanks so much for the support!

Lea



 I made the perfect pancake before my big ride today
 In Santa Barbara, a friend had the exact replica of the 'Blue Goose'.  The Schwinn Tornado that was my mom's first bike and that my sister and I rode at Middlebury.  This is literally my favorite bike.  It, unfortunately, got stolen but it's good to know its kind is still out there
 Oakley is getting our Little Bellas mentors styled out with performance glasses.  Thank you so much for the support
 Racing in Fontana photo: Johnny Mueller
 Photo: Johnny Mueller
 Santa Barbara, CA
 The Clouds of Camino de Cielo
 Santa Barbara, CA
 My new murdered out Specialized Women Amira.  This bike is incredible
 Now I can take Jojo with me wherever I go.  Thank you Ogio.
 Getting my recovery on with Normatec. Next level. 
Racing through a field of flowers at Bonelli.  Photo: Joanna Petterson

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Snow to Sun


 Should we hit this drop? 
I could get used to this place 

It’s been one rollercoaster of a week!  I squeezed out the last bit of Vermont winter until I flew out to California to get on my bike at the last possible minute.  I capped off the phenomenal winter with an amazing backcountry ski with turns in a fresh field of powder.  I’m talking untouched, pristine snow.  And, to top it off, I skinned to the highest point I’ve ever been.  I was treated to a great view of Mount Mansfield.  Then, the day before I left, I drove over to New York with my parents to race in the Lake Placid Loppet, a twenty five kilometer half marathon ski race.  The conditions were prime, and it was warmer than ten degrees so it felt simply tropical compared to the deep freeze the east coast has been in.  I was absolutely inspired by my In the Arena teammate, Caitlin Gregg, and U.S Ski teamer Jessie Diggins World Nordic Championship podium performances.  (Congrats Caitlin!  So awesome).  I tried to channel these ladies and went out hard.  I dropped the small group of guys I was skiing with on the downhill  (thank you VTXC for waxing my skis rocket fast).  Then, I maintained my pace to pick off some people for the rest of the fifteen kilometers for the win.  I won a beautiful container of maple syrup made from the very maple trees that line the very ski trails we raced on.  I also won a Swix jacket.  Sabe said that I was surprisingly prize motivated.  When it comes to food and ski stuff, I become very prize motivated. 

I, then, jetted off to our normal spring training spot, Santa Cruz, CA.  It's still very crazy to undergo a stark weather transition.  I am in a winter wonderland one day and summer weather with the breeze blowing on my bare skin the next.  I hopped right on my mountain bike and hit the dirt for two days to get used to two wheels before the USA Cycling skills camp.  Then, I flew on Thursday to Bellingham, WA with a great group of Under-23 ladies to hone in our technical skills with coach Shaums March.  It was probably the best weekend of riding of my life.  This is saying a lot because I'm lucky enough to log in a lot of amazing rides.  But, on this past weekend, the weather was perfect, the trails were amazing, and we all stepped up our riding to the next level.  With more world cup courses incorporating big free ride features such as jumps and drops, I've needed to progress my riding.  It's a necessity to be comfortable in the air, and, for the last three days, we've spread our little wings and started to fly a bit.  There has been so many times that I've been mountain biking and taken the line around jumps or drops.  Every time I do that, I want to ride these features, and I get a bit bummed that I'm not.  This weekend was completely different.  We broke down a trail that was packed with jumps and drops and progressed.  By the last day of the camp, I was riding the majority of the features on this trail and trying jumps and drops bigger than I ever have.  It was just the most fun to be in the air on my bike.  It was so rewarding to actually ride the features.  Maybe Jojo and I can ride the same trails now.   I am so completely excited about the weekend, about mountain biking, and about the season.  The season kicks off next weekend at Bonelli Park in California.  There will be a live feed of the first two races of the season on the internet.  I race on Saturday, March 11 at 11 am PST.  Look at the U.S Cup website for the live feed.  Thanks so much for the support.  Life is great. 

 Caffeine is needed before hulking myself off of things so early
 My Specialized Teammate, Kate, and I
 Really digging the dry northwest riding
 Our crew for the weekend. Miracle coach, Shaums March, in the middle

 These ladies were so much fun to ride and progress with.  Kaylee Blevins, Kate Courtney, and Shayna Powless


We rode our bikes off of this