Sunday, December 15, 2013

Specialized Video Shoot


In early November, Specialized contacted me to see if I was available for a video shoot with pro snowboarder and Specialized Women ambassador, Kimmy Fasani.  The idea behind the shoot was for Kimmy to mountain bike with me in 'my world'.  Then, later this winter, I would take a stab at her world and get on some snow.  Specialized, at first, thought it would be a good idea for me to get on a snowboard, but I discouraged them away from that notion unless they wanted some footage of the bunny slope and the magic carpet.  Since I grew up ski racing, skis would be the ideal choice.  I absolutely love snow and I jumped at the opportunity to be able to ski powder with Kimmy.  It’s one of the coolest marketing ideas that I’ve ever been a part of.

I was excited to go to Tahoe for the shoot and get back on a mountain bike.  I met the crew in the morning and we drove a rental van up some questionable roads to scout the shoot sites.  The snuck out for a quick sunset shuttle ride with the Specialized boys to get used to the Rumor that I was going to ride.   We returned to our rental house for the shoot and met up with Kimmy.  We had met in the spring at the rumor launch and we caught up about how her knee injury recovery was going and what was on tap for the season (Japan, Mammoth, and Whistler chasing powder.  I’m wildly jealous).  Then, Aaron made us have the catch up conversation again on camera which was awkward at best, but Kimmy is a pretty good actress.  I think we’ll both keep our day jobs though. 

 Shoot Outtakes 
 Scouting shooting locations

We filmed over the next two days with a stellar film crew armed with a drone filming helicopter and more camera equipment than I could believe.  The three-man crew would hike a long boom around through the woods with a 70 foot weight on the end.  It seemed like they were getting a better workout than we were.  The Brit, Robbie, would run alongside us with a camera and pop out of the woods and onto the trail at unexpected times. For this, he earned the name sasquatch.  I was completely impressed with his ability to run through dense forest with a heavy camera, keeping an eye on the frame and not exactly where he was running.  He also was equipped with skate shoes.  Apparently, the trick is having loose ankles and just running with it when he tripped or rolled an ankle.  For all those aspiring action filmers, stretch out your ankles.


The drone helicopter was the most interesting element of the shoot.  It was about fifteen feet long, and there was a special pilot to operate it.  Thank goodness this pilot was skilled because he had to fly it through some tight spaces.  Before we started shooting, they warned us that if the helicopter was ever within twenty feet of us, something was wrong and we should just ditch it and take cover.  It seemed like every single shot with the helicopter it was well within twenty feet of us.  I wasn't sure if something was going wrong and I should take cover, or I should keep riding.  My solution was to usually sprint maniacally away from the helicopter.  It was terrifying, but it sure does produce some amazing footage.  

All in all, we had an absolute blast and, from the little I saw, the footage is incredible.  I think the finished product is going to be sweet.  I can't wait to continue the fun this winter, get my snorkel out, and ski some legitimate powder.  Thanks so Specialized for making this happen. 


Monday, December 2, 2013

A Grateful Aloha


Jojo and I have made the annual pilgrimage to Kauai, and, as always, it's good to be back on the island decompressing from an amazing season.  This year, for the first time, my sister, Sabe, is joining us for ten days.  The first three days of this adventure did not disappoint and have been some of the highlights of my entire past three years on the island.  

The Petterson family did thanksgiving on the beach, and it was a great way to spend turkey day.  The family brought together an amazing meal, and, after indulging, we rolled ourselves into the ocean.  We played one of the most hilarious ocean games ever.  It was 'how far can you body surf up onto the beach?' Even this beach game can be a heated competition.  It involved pretty much chucking oneself into a wave and getting tossed as far as possible onto the beach.  It would leave the group of us looking like drowned rats washed ashore.  My stomach hurt from laughing so hard. We played the annual game of kickball and then we left to pick my sister up from the airport.  It was a perfect thanksgiving with the most amazing weather.  Before Sabe even arrived, there was a lot to be thankful for. 

Our first day of adventuring, Sabe, jojo, and I went north to the end of the road and hiked to Hanakapaia Falls.  Jojo had hiked along the coast on the stunning Kaulaulau trail before but never hiked into the mountains to the falls.  This was, hands down, one of the coolest things I've ever done.  We hiked on a cliff as the ocean was raging below us.  There were twenty foot waves crushing the shoreline.  Then, we turned inland to the falls, a two hundred foot waterfall that mists into a clear pool below.  We swam underneath this waterfall.  I can check that off my life list.  My sister kept saying, 'I swear I've seen this in movies'.  She's probably right. 

Yesterday, we watched an angry ocean shoot up forty feet in the air (again, we've seen this type of thing in photos and never in real life), and today, the ocean was calm enough that we could swim in tidal pools.  We also watched a pod of whales for about thirty minutes very close to the shore and ate a hawaiian shaved ice the size of my head.  I'm not exaggerating at all.  It's been a perfect couple of days. 

I'm grateful to have all of these opportunities.  I'm one lucky ducky. 

 Hanakapaia Beach, where Cairns are born
 Jojo and Sabe watching the surf
 Sabe checking the tidal pool


Kauai even served us up a rainbow at Anahola Beach

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Amy Dombroski Memories

I've spent a bit of time reading Amy's own words in her blog.  My goodness, this woman was wise beyond her years, a damn good writer, and just simply had a great way of describing life as a professional cyclist.  I literally was either laughing out loud, saying 'yea, exactly' out loud, or doing both simultaneously.  I wish we could have a conversation right now because, as usual, I can relate to almost everything she said in her musings.  What an unbelievable way of telling it like it is.  When she described a course as so magical it's like she was riding a unicorn instead of a bike, that is creative.  Period. 




All of her blogs are must reads, but here are two that I enjoyed immensely. 
Amy D Brilliance
More Amy D pure briliance


 Amy's service happened yesterday.  It was an incredibly sad day.  My sister, Sabe, and I got a chance to speak about Amy after the service.  We more or less free formed it but the following gives an idea of what we said.

Over the course of the last month, there have been countless adjectives thrown out to describe our beloved Amy. She had a certain grit that would come out as soon as the gun would go off on a start line.  In whatever endeavor she chose, whether it’s aiming for the Olympics for ski racing or bike racing, she threw herself into it.  Once she had her mind set on something, she was all in and would go about it with unrivaled passion. But, she was so much more than just a fierce competitive athlete.  She balanced this primal toughness with an amazing ability to write.  She has written some of the most powerful poetry I’ve ever read, and she was hilarious. She had a rare wit that always left me laughing.  It wasn't just a light chuckle, but a belly laugh.  It was real.  It was genuine, just like Amy . But, we don’t want to remember her with just adjectives because a million words won’t do her justice.  We wanted to tell some of the stories and memories that we cherish with Amy.

The first funny memory that comes to mind is “the cat in the pond”.  Amy, Dan, Sabe, and I were all standing by the pond talking about how to jump a bike into it, and then the cat walks by.  Amy says to me, “check this out, we usually throw this cat in the pond.  Here Sabe give it a try”.  She said “Ok” and picked it up and heaved the animal into the water like a hammer throw.  Amy looked at Sabe and said, “seriously Sabe, we drop the cat into the pond.”  From then on out she would say to Sabe, “Arbas (Amy created nickname for my sister), you’re an animal abuser.  I’m never letting you go near my animals”

Another favorite memory is centered around a bike called the Balance. Dan started three mountain bike careers, Sabe’s , Amy’s, and myself with that same bike. This bike made every other mountain bike I've ever ridden feel like an absolute dream, But, its purple, chrome, and suspension stem was just enough to make me fall head over heels — literally and figuratively— in love with mountain biking.  And, obviously, it did the same for Sabe when she rode it after and also for Amy when she rode it years later.  Amy started riding the “Ba-lahn-say” as she affectionately (and hilariously) called this bike when it was way past its prime, and she actually raced the marathon national championships on it…and did well of course.  

Amy and I had a global friendship, our paths intersected on the traveling bike racing circuit.  But it’s the memories from our time in Vermont that I hold the closest.  I loved the three hour cold, rainy rides with Amy. She had a wit so dry it would actually negate those soggy days.  Amy really impressed me when she was in Vermont for a national mountain bike race this past August.  There were three big jumps built on the course, and they weren’t easy.  I couldn’t work up the courage to jump all of them.  Amy and I rode the course the day before the race.  The last time I rode actually mountain bikes with her was a couple of years ago, and she just needed more time on the trails to dial it in. The first jump was the only one I had totally dialed so I rode it showing her that it could be done.   After the jump, I stopped and turned around expecting to talk Amy through it, but I didn’t see even see her. I was so confused. Next thing I know, she is flying around the corner and through the air.  No talking needed.  Then, the next jump was even higher risk.  I had decided not to ride it at all.  I never even tried.  Amy and I watched a couple of riders go off of it.  She assessed and then turned to me and said “*Expletive* it, I’m doing it” and marched up the hill absolutely determined.  My jaw dropped.  Here was this girl three years ago that would come back from a pre-ride black and blue on trail not even half as challenging as this feature.  I couldn’t even watch because I was scared for her.  But she did it.  And she jumped all three A-Lines every single lap at the race the next day, and this really left an impression. Because of this, now I, and the rest of the pros that witnessed this, have to ride all the scary jumps in mountain bike races.  Thanks a lot Amy.  As usual, she set the bar high.


We can only be grateful that this truly unique human being impacted our lives.  We are so lucky to have had the opportunity to grow up with Amy.  Amy, we will forever cook bacon in your honor, ride all the A-Lines, and we will really, really miss you.  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Amy Dombroski Stickers

 What a strong looking machine.  

There's a pile of stickers on my table that I can't even bear to look at.  I keep covering them up. I don't even want to be near them.  I don't want to be reminded of what happened two weeks ago.  There are some moments that I can face reality.  It's only in these moments that I can slightly comprehend what has happened.  I literally hurt as if someone has ripped something out from inside of me and left a gaping hole.  The rest of the time I'm functioning in denial's sweet bliss, slightly perplexed that the name of my good friend, Amy, is on a sticker.  Why does this sticker say, Amy, we will always love and remember you?  This doesn't make any sense when she's supposed to send me a hilarious text any moment now.  It doesn't make any sense why she wasn't in the World Cup cyclocross results today when I looked for her name.  It feels like she could come riding around the bend in the road, with a huge smile beaming on her face, dragging me out for a cold, rainy ride.  None of this makes any sense.

I was in Malaysia racing the Langkawi International Mountain Bike Stage Race when I got the news.  The four days of racing before were fantastic.  I had returned to Langkawi as the defending champion, and I knew I had a big challenge ahead of me to defend the title.  Maja Wloszczowska, 2010 World Champion, Eva Lecher, the current ranked number one rider in the world, and a handful of other world cup top tenners were present to make it an exciting race.  On the first long stage, I felt awesome and escaped the group with Maja.  We worked together to gain a seven minute advantage on the other ladies.  Then, two kilometers from the finish, we missed a turn and ended up doing an extra hour of sight seeing.  The race official and other competitors decided to give us the same time as the winners.  The next day, I attacked very early in this long and grueling stage and went solo.  I spent the entire day off the front, thought I had the stage, and then five kilometers from the finish, Maja caught me.  I couldn't believe it.  We rode together to the finish line, and I sprinted for the win.  I wore the pink leaders jersey into the next stage by a mere five seconds.  This was the last long stage so it was the decisive one.  It was two laps of a long hike a bike climb, a steep, slick decent, and then rolling to the finish.  On the first lap, Maja, Eva, and I were together on the hiking section.  Then, both of those girls dropped me on the decent and disappeared.  I kept fighting, but I thought I blew it.  Then, I caught them halfway through the lap, and we approached the hiking climb together.  I knew I would have to get some space between us so they wouldn't drop me again on the decent so I attacked.  I attacked and ended up winning the stage by running with my bike uphill.  I won a bike race by running.  It's hilarious.  My teammate, Kohei Yamamoto, also won the stage and rode into the leader's jersey.  It all happened on the nine month anniversary in which our Specialized teammate, the late Burry Stander, was taken from us in a bike/car accident.  To have us both win and wear the leader's jersey on this particular day was something very special, especially since Burry's parents were present.  I was riding high.  It felt like the best present we could give him.  He was smiling down on us.

Then, from one high to one very low, I awoke the following morning to the news that Amy had been killed while motor pacing in Belgium, where she resided for the winter chasing her european cyclocross dreams. I started shaking uncontrollably.  My first thought was, I don't want to do this anymore.  Burry's accident hit home, but this accident hit my core.  I grew up with Amy in Vermont.  I dated her brother Dan in high school, and he got me hooked on mountain biking.  My sister and I grew up ski racing with Amy at Smuggler's Notch Ski Club.  She ran with Sabe on the high school cross country team.  Then, Dan got her started riding, actually on the same bike that I started on.  This article tells that story and also does a great job of capturing Amy.  Once she started bike racing, we were on the same trajectory and grew even closer.
Amy and I give her dad a high five after a Vermont cross race.  

We hung out in different parts of the world, our paths intersecting in this traveling bike racing circus.  Two years ago, I was at the first world cup of the season and my first race with team Specialized in England.  I arrived on my birthday, jetlagged and very alone.  Amy was the only one who set out on a mission to find me in this foreign country (easier said than done) on my birthday and take me out for indian food.  I rode with her in Colorado, California, Germany, England, and, most importantly, Vermont.  I'm sure I'm missing about thirty more locations where we met.  Amy would return to her dad's house every fall for a short stint in the New England cross scene before jet setting off to Belgium to plug away at her goals.  I always loved this time.  It would be filled with breakfast over at her dad's house or bbqs at my parents house.  Even though I would be in the middle of my off season, she would drag me out in awful weather for three hour rides.  I would always wonder why I was riding in this voluntarily when a training schedule didn't even order me to.  It was to spend time with Amy.  She had a wit so dry it would actually negate those soggy days.  I was always bugging her to come back home to Vermont so we could train together.  So we could really give it a go on the mountain bike.  I always thought it would be so much fun to have her around permanently.

Amy enjoying the fruits of her cross victory with a belgium beer that's the same size she is

We shared music.  I made her go to college to try it, but that only lasted a year.  I encouraged her to get a coach, and she did.  She improved.  Recently, she was trying to make inroads at Specialized to be my teammate.  I was preparing to lay on the full court press to get her in there.  It would have been amazing to have her as a teammate.  She's still making me laugh when I read through our text banter.

Recently when she was talking to my girlfriend, Jojo, about her upcoming cyclocross race at Gloucester:
jojo: Are you going to Gloucester to race?
AD: No, I'm going to sell maple syrup at the finish line.

She was hilarious.  She had a rare wit that always left me laughing.  It wasn't just a light chuckle, but a belly laugh.  It was real.  It was genuine, just like Amy.  A million words won't even begin to do her justice, to peel back her many layers.  She was truly happy and that is really saying something because she wasn't dealt the best hand.  Her mother died suddenly when Amy was a teenager and then she had a good ski racing friend pass away when she was at Burke Mountain Academy.  Amy was amazingly resilient in these trying times.  She would take her time to brood and mourn and then throw her energy into something else.  She would create some amazing poetry or train hard.  She was the only one to keep it together to read a poem she composed at her mom's funeral.  She had grown into a beaming, smiling, amazing human being.  She had really settled into herself and figured things out.

The only thing I can do is what Amy would do.  Face tragedy, hang tough, pour myself into something, and create something amazing.  And, one thing is for certain, I'm going to train hard, exactly like she always did, and win.  That's what she would want.

But, I still can't bring myself to face those stickers yet.  I'm not even close to putting them on my bike.  I don't want to ride with an Amy sticker on my bike.  I just want to ride with Amy.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Around the World in Thirty Days

 Norway World Cup Podium, photo: Michal Cervany
Soigneur, Christine, celebrating my fourth place, the result of a lot of hard work from the entire Specialized team, photo: Michal Cervany

I'm just fresh off an amazing month of traveling, and my best world cup result to date.  The trip started in mid August when I traveled to the World Championships in South Africa.  Jojo was born in South Africa and some of her family still lives there.  This makes this is a very special trip, and, just like last year, we had the opportunity again to stay with her cousin in Durban.  We visited with her family, saw some lions, and prepared for the biggest race of the season.  I was feeling physically good going into South Africa.  I had a small hiccup in the beginning of the week when I unclipped at the top of one of the most technical sections of the course and rode it with one footed.  Then, I tanked it into the fencing at the bottom.  Luckily, I only grazed my face on the fencepost and my hip took most of the impact.  This rocked me for a bit mentally, but, by the end of the week with countless hours of visualization (mostly between 4-6 am), I was riding everything cleanly.  Specialized also made a specially painted frame with the american red, white, and blue colors for the race.  What a beautiful bike.  I believe I did the bike and my national colors proud with a solid 9th place at the World Champs.  I got a great start, and I was within the top 10 from the beginning of the race.  Some girls crashed in front of me which caused me to gap off the lead group, and I didn't quite have the zing to close the gaps.  It was an extremely hard and fast race, and, although I'm not wearing the World Champion rainbow stripes, I did my absolute best.  That's literally all I could do on the day so I'm happy.
 Conquering the steps where I crashed earlier in the week, photo: Michal Cervany
 Finishing the World Champs in South Africa, photo: Michal Cervany
 One of the many built rock gardens in South Africa, photo: Michal Cervany
 My beautiful Fate with the Custom USA paint scheme, photo: Michal Cervany
Christine performs acupuncture before the start, photo: Michal Cervany

We had a weekend off in between South Africa and the World Cup finals in Norway so I opted to stay in the same time zone and hang out in Europe for ten days.  I met my parents in Geneva, and we immediately drove two hours to ride the Alp d'Huez.  This is a classic climb that is always featured in the Tour de France, and it's also one that has been on my climb to-do list.  I was so excited we had the opportunity to tick it off.  It's an absolutely gorgeous climb through Tour de France history painted on the road.  The one noticeable thing missing were the names of female riders on the road.  There is no female Tour de France or even any road bike race that comes close to its prestige.  In this day and age, this is completely ridiculous and it nagged at me the entire climb.  Luckily, female cyclists have banded together to push for a women's Tour.  There's almost 100,000 people in support of this movement.  Please help us push for equality in the sport by signing here.  Hopefully, the next time I get the opportunity to climb any french classics, I will see Evelyn Steven's name written all over the road.

From the Alp d' Huez, we headed to the coast of France to swim in the surprisingly blue Mediterranean and ride around the Maritime Alps.  Cliff jumping into the Mediterranean has also been on my wish list for a long time, and it was just as fun as I pictured it.  The road riding around the maritime alps was absolutely amazing and the biggest surprise of the trip.  I knew the French and Swiss Alps were going to be gorgeous, but the Maritime Alps are a vast network of narrow roads etched into mountains and winding through small villages.  One day, I met my parents in the small village of Aiglun to hike down to famous swimming holes I was salivating over on the internet.  After about an hour of trying to find the trail, we found it and it was a death defying hike.  Literally, one slip on this exposed, rocky trail, and it was a long fall.  The swimming holes were incredible, but I'm not sure I would risk it again.  

After a couple days soaking up the sunshine on the coast, we drove north to the Interlaken which is nestled in the Swiss Alps.  This place is magical.  I love mountains and, here, we were constantly treated views of three of the most presitigious peaks in the world, the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau. We stayed in Gimmelwald which is only accessible by tram, hiking, or biking.  Even better, there are countless double track dirt roads where you can ride through these mountains, and they are really well marked.  I rode for four hours here with my jaw dropped the entire time.  It's one of my most favorite rides to date.  I could just stay there and ride forever.  Wow.

I left Switzerland completely rejuvenated, relaxed, and excited to go check out Norway, the land of nordic skiing, for the first time.  The trip with my parents must have done the trick because I have never felt so good in a race.  My legs felt amazing, and it showed.  The gun went off in Norway, and I had the best start I've ever had.  I was second wheel going into the first single track section, and, for one of the first times, I was on the positive end of the split.  Mistakes were happening behind me, and other girls were having to get off and run through sections.  I, however, just rode right through it with current world champion, Julie Bresset, and Eva Lechner.  It was awesome.  Irina Kalentieva, former two time world champion, latched onto our group, and the four of us raced together for three laps.  On the fourth lap, I made a mistake and had to run through the same rocky climb that bottled up the entire women's field at the start, and the lead group got twenty seconds on me.  I was momentarily devastated because my legs felt so good, but then I rallied and kept my head in the game.  I spent the rest of the race about the same distance off the lead group.  With one lap to go, Julie Bresset flatted and I madly sprinted by her in the tech zone trying to secure third place.  She didn't waste much time in that tech zone, and I probably held her at a gap of ten seconds until half way up the climb.  Then, she flew past me.  I held on for a strong fourth place and only fifty seconds off a world cup win.  The most exciting thing is that I was up there and feeling absolutely fantastic.  I finally did what I knew I had in me, and I was in the mix in the world cup.  This is a perfect way to cap off a already great season.  It's so incredibly motivating to know that I can ride with the best.  I'm so excited that I already can't wait to race in 2014.

Luckily, I had a chance to capture this world cup exhiliration by racing my first and only cyclocross race of the season at CrossVegas at Interbike in Las Vegas this past Wednesday.  I notched a second place to the ever strong Katerina Nash.  She was simply just stronger on the day, and it's not that bad getting beat by a world cup winner.  I'm home for a couple of days and I continue to ride the wave of excitement and my peak into the Langkawi Stage Race in Malaysia once again.  I'm looking forward to it!

Thanks for reading and the support through this wild ride!

Lea

 This is where we need to see the names of female cyclists, Alp d'Huez
My mom and I are psyched to be at the Mediterranean

 A Maritime Alps hidden gem
 Riding in the Maritime Alps
 Are these swimming holes worth the risk?  One time, yes. 
 Swiss Beauty
 Trummelbach Falls, twelve waterfalls inside the mountains fed by three glaciers.  One of the most amazing things I've ever witnessed
 Leave me here in the Swiss Alps please
Nations represented in Gimmelwald, Switzerland

Sunday, July 28, 2013

National Champion!

 It takes a village, Jojo pins on my number before the race
 My teammate Todd Wells and I standing on the top step of the podium for the Short Track race
 Riding through the unbelievable LoneWolf Heckle Pit during the race.  This was one of the best cheering section I have EVER experienced

 My new bike, the 2014 Specialized World Cup Epic

I am over the moon to report that I grabbed the National Champion title last weekend.  The National Championships were back on the east coast in Pennsylvania after being held at altitude in Sun Valley, Idaho for the past two years.  I was so excited to be racing familiar terrain on the right coast and at sea level.  I've been really aiming at this title for the past two years, and there have been some close races between Georgia Gould and I.  Two years ago, I was twenty seconds away from the win, and, last year, Georgia rode an impressively strong race to convincingly defend her title.  The race was looking to be a heated battle once again, and I was really hoping to have a great ride.

Jojo and I drove from Vermont to Pennsylvania on the Wednesday before the race and I previewed the course on Thursday and Friday.  I was so excited with what I found, classic east coast technical single track.  The entire course was one big rock garden, and I loved every section of it.  There was one long gradual climb, a couple of punchy steep climbs, and a very challenging descent.  The entire course required focus and bike handling.  Specialized rolled out their new 2014 World Cup Epic and sent them to the team just in time for the race.  The timing couldn't have been more perfect because the national championship course was built for this bike.  I didn't think it could get any better than the 2013 Epic, but the engineers at Specialized have done it once again.  With wider chain stays and a redesigned frame, the new Epic is significantly stiffer and climbs like my Fate.  The chainstays are shorter and there are thru axles on the front and rear wheels so it descends like magic.  It's responsive and stiff.  This is the best bike I have ever ridden and it showed on race day.

Race day was hot and humid, but I was feeling positive about the conditions because I'd been training in the humidity for a month leading up to the race.  I had the control casing Fast Tracks on the front and rear of my bike and I was running a 1x11 setup with a 32 gear.  Chloe led off the gun, and, as the race neared the top of the climb on the first lap, I took over the lead.  It was extremely advantageous to be leading through the single track so I could pick my own lines and go my own speed.  I was leading Georgia and a big group down the main descent, and all of the sudden I didn't hear anyone on my wheel.  Unfortunately, Georgia crashed and suffered a front flat tire which took her out of the race.  I finished the first lap with about a thirty second gap on the chase group, and I put in a big effort on the second lap to try to extend that lead.  I focused on being smooth over the rocks and accelerating, and I extended my lead the remaining four laps.  I was very cautious especially the last lap because I didn't want anything to get in the way of nabbing the national champ jersey.  I crossed the line overjoyed!  It was so great to have my dad and jojo cheering me on during the entire race, and the Specialized staff's support was phenomenal as usual.  It takes a village to garner a stars and stripes jersey and this race was no exception.  From the team mechanics dialing in the new bike, Jojo handing me a cold bottle every lap, and my dad giving me time splits, everyone made this happen.

I am so proud and excited to be wearing a new stars and stripes kit at the next race, the Catamount Classic.  This race happens to be the finals of the national series and also happens to be in my backyard. I get to debut the jersey in front of the Little Bellas and my home town.  Life is good.

Thanks for the support!

Lea


Sunday, June 30, 2013

Olympic Day and Windham ProXCT


This weekend was quite the exciting one.  It kicked off with a trip to one of my favorite venues in Windham, NY which was host to World Cup rounds the past couple of years.  This year it was a stop on our national ProXCT tour, and next year Windham scored the World Cup again. Yes! We raced on the same course which is absolutely east coast. It's rooty and very rocky.  The course is built more in the style of cross country courses in the past with one long climb and descent except that Windham is punctuated with technical single track sections.  It's broken up so it doesn't seem like one big long slog up the ski area, and this course has fantastic flow.  It's definitely challenging.

I lined up with a competitive field, and I was highly anticipating testing the legs after a small training block and build up to the important racing block coming up.  I nabbed the hole shot and put in some big efforts on the first couple of laps to establish a gap.  Each lap was getting more and more fun because I was dialing in the lines on the downhill.  The legs felt great and my whole family was there to cheer me on.  My aunt, cousin, and ninety-two year old grandmother even made it to show the support.  It's great to have a race in your backyard, and it's even better to win races!  It's never easy to win and it always feels good to cross that line.  I actually got to do a real two handed victory salute this time as well.
It was Olympic Day at Little Bellas!

Jojo and I rallied back to Vermont after the race so we could be here for our Little Bellas Sunday session.  Olympic Day at Little Bellas capped off a great weekend.  For our first Sunday session in three weeks, it didn't rain or thunderstorm so we could actually hold the Little Bellas (thank you thank you thank you). We rode the single track at Catamount that wasn't under water, we had a mud competition, and we talked Olympics.  I handed out the special Olympic trading cards that the USOC sent out and the girls immediately started trading them.  I absolutely love that they all wanted the female Olympians and the mentors traded out all of their female cards.  The Little Bellas also received Olympic Day temporary tattoos, and my favorite response was, "We are too young to get tattoos."  The day's most important conversation was one about the meaning of sportsmanship.  Some of our Little Bellas have a good grasp on the meaning of this pivotal concept in the Olympic Movement.  I stated that it was important to cheer each other on when we were out on the trails challenging ourselves. One little bellas said sportsmanship was acting with integrity.  I was impressed.  One bella said that it didn't matter if you win or lose if you enjoy playing the game.   This is a great reminder going into this next intense racing and training block.

Enjoy riding your bike.  This is the most important thing.

Have fun out there!
Lea


 I got the chance to visit our Little Bellas Catamount Camp right after I returned from Europe.  My sister handing out awards at the end of the session. 
 Look at this future Little Bellas.  Part of a whole Little Bella family. 
 Photos with the girls from camp.  Thanks for my new favorite shirt Amory! 

 Here are the honorable mentions from our mud competition today
 Vermont has been flooding but I've been able to dodge the storms to get in some good training
I love Vermont dirt roads

Sunday, June 9, 2013

World Cup Openers

 The essential Specialized Staff, mechanic Dylan, Team Manager Benno, Soigneur Christine, and Soigneur Peiter.  We ride for Burry, our late teammate that was taken away from us too early. We are racing inspired for you Burry. 
The start at the Czech Republic World Cup.  Can you find me?

I have now completed the two World Cup openers of the 2013 season, and I am currently preparing for the third round in Val di Sole, Italy.  The first World Cup was in Albstadt, Germany, and there were a handful of really exciting things that happened during that race.  First, it was my thirtieth birthday, and I got to race myself into a new decade.  Team Specialized sang me a hearty happy birthday in the morning before the race, and a random german stranger came up and gave me the paper.  Maybe it was a way to remember my birthday? I'm not so sure.  Then, to my absolute surprise, I was standing on the start line with five minutes to go until the gun went off, and the announcer wished me a happy birthday.  This was so cool.

I would say I had a solid race, but it definitely wasn't my best world cup.  I was feeling good but not phenomenal, and the Albstadt course had absolutely no mercy.  There were steep climbs and even steeper descents with nowhere to hid and very little time for recovery.  I got a boost in the middle of the race when Marianne Vos, cycling's most decorated racer (two time Olympic Gold Medalist, multiple world champion on the road and cyclocross, just overall amazing rider who is now trying out mountain bike racing), caught up to me.  We rode together for most of the third lap where I was just observing and soaking it up like a sponge.  I passed Vos to lead down two of the descents and then she fired back when she dropped me up the next climb.  I would have love to hang on to that wheel for the remaining two laps, but my legs didn't quite have it on the day.  Vos went on to notch a respectable eleventh place, and I finished a solid 17th.  Thank goodness it only started to rain on the last lap of the women's race because it made the already technical course pretty sketchy.  The light precipitation made the stone armored trails like ice.  I was grateful to make it out unscathed and I had an inkling that world cup effort wake up would translate into peppy legs the following weekend.

I was right!  I was SO excited for the next world cup in Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic on what is possibly my favorite course.  Last year, the Czech world cup served as the third Olympic qualification race, and I crashed about 200 meters into the race on the pavement.  I was very lucky to get up from that crash with all limbs intact and just a couple of burn holes in the jersey and related scars.  Thank goodness!  Very lucky.  So, this year, I was a bit nervous about the start and I wanted to shake those demons.  The start went way better than expected.  I made it off the pavement section, and my legs felt great so I was able to move up on the start loop's steep climbs to ride in the top ten.  I could actually see the front of the race!  Do you know how exciting this is? To be within contact of a world cup win is completely enthralling.  This is, by far, my best world cup start of my career, and I am so thrilled about this because it's something I've been working on improving.  It makes racing for the world cup podium so much easier since I'm not playing a game of catch up the entire race.  I kept a steady pace and battled with two other riders for 5th, 6th, and 7th position.  On lap three, I was feeling phenomenal and briefly dropped my fellow racers in what was looking to solidify fifth position.  But, after that effort, I faded a bit in the last two remaining laps to end up eight.  My friend, Katerina Nash, used her Czech power and what seemed like the entire country cheering for her (seriously, the Czech fans are incredible.  The amount of noise was comparable to the Olympics) to pass me on the last lap.  I'm still so happy because this is my best early season world cup yet.  Things are starting to click and I'm pumped about the rest of the season.

Michal Cervany took some phenomenal photos from the weekend.
 Look at all the spectators in Albstadt.  Wow!
 A new perspective from photographer Michal.  Albstadt, Germany
 Navigating the technical descents in Albstadt, Germany
 Working the SRAM 1x11 up a climb, Albstadt, Germany
 Here's photographic evidence that I was, at one time, ahead of Marianne Vos

 Feedzone Action in Albstadt. 

 I got a new female teammate this season, Tereza Horikouva.  Welcome Tereza :)
 Teammate Todd Wells navigate the Albstadt crowd. 

Suffer face in the last two lap of Czech World Cup. Ooo.