Saturday, May 18, 2013

Albstadt World Cup Opener

Misty Riding in the Black Forest
The first mountain bike of the 2013 season has arrived, and I've been in Europe since Monday preparing for the race.  I flew to the new USA Cycling headquarters in Sittard, Holland on Monday and got a chance to experience the new facilities for two days.  I was incredibly impressed with how bike friendly Holland is.  There are signed bike routes with corresponding maps everywhere.  I mean everywhere.  I couldn't ride half a kilometer without stumbling upon another intersection where four new bike routes began.  It's incredible. It's also incredibly flat there so thank goodness there are maps at most of these intersections so I could find my way around.  The find on the first day of riding were these little guys hanging out in a yard.


The second day I drove thirty minutes over the border to the more hilly region in Belgium.  I was delighted to find the legendary Amstel Gold road race course marked out perfectly.  It's a very relaxing experience to be able to follow signs at every turn instead of trying to remember where you are.  Navigation is highly desired skill across the pond.  Of course, afterward a three hour exploration, I had to have some Belgium staples, frites and waffles.  I wasn't able to get a hot waffle (seriously, there are few things more delicious than a true, fresh belgium waffle), but I got some impostors from the grocery store.
Belgian Frites in all their glory
On Wednesday, I drove with USA Cycling from Holland to Albstadt, Germany, I've been resting up and dialing in the course ever since.  The course, in true european fashion, has some steep climbs and descents, and they did a great job with the design.  It's challenging, slippery, and technical.  There's one 'A Line' drop in the course and I'm thrilled that I've been able to ride from the beginning.  The USA Cycling skills clinic that I took in early March with Shaums March is paying off ten fold.  It's revolutionary that I'm able to have skills to focus on when approaching these technical sections.  Today the sun even came out to dry the course up but who knows what tomorrow holds.  I'm really excited to race tomorrow and see where my legs can take me.  It's also the first time I've gotten to race a world cup on my birthday!  It's my 30th birthday, and I know exactly what I want for a present.

You can watch the race live (or if you don't want to get up at 5:30 am EST, watch the replay) at redbull.tv

Wish me luck, send me the flow and snappy legs.

After this is onto the second stop on the world cup tour, Nova Mesto Na Morave, Czech Republic.  Then, it's home to kick off Little Bellas season in Vermont.



 A castle in Valkenburg, Belgium
 More misty riding in Germany

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Little Bellas Sea Otter Camp

We have just wrapped up our best Little Bellas national camp yet.  The Little Bellas program keeps picking up momentum in pockets all over the country and the Sea Otter Classic is one of the most vibrant.  It's always kicks off our national camp tour in fine form and sets a high standard for the rest of the camps.  Sea Otter camp was completely full and we had forty girls riding bikes over the weekend.  This year, we were joined by a great crew of Vermont mentors; nordic ski racer, Mary Stewart, mountain bike racer, Kim O'Connell, and cyclocross stronghold, Joanne Grogen.  The camp couldn't have been this successful without the hard work from these Vermont mentors, but also from the amazing contributions from our California volunteers, Andrea Turner and Brianne Spiersch.  Of course, the standing ovation goes to the program director, founder, and my sister, Sabra Davison who ran the show at Sea Otter and somehow manages to keep all the logistics, details, and girls' names in her head.  It's honestly very impressive.

The camp started on Friday morning with the Little Bellas got to know each other through the unique game of 'waa'.  Then, they learned balance on their bikes through many games of dab, rode some technical, rocky single track on the hillside, became technical bike experts with the Specialized tech talk, and took the venue by storm in the scavenger hunt.  No Clif Bar was left unturned in the hunt, and some of the Little Bellas were even able to spot the Sea Otter mascot.  On Friday, the girls lined the short track course to cheer on the ladies, and, later on in the day, they were able to meet these same pros at the lemonade social.  At this year's lemonade social, we had the biggest collection of elite talent topping out at fifteen pro women attending.  There has never been this many world champions, national champions, and Olympic medalist in one spot besides a start line, and they were all gathered for the Little Bellas.  We had Olympic bronze medalist, Georgia Gould, downhill World Champion, Tracy Moseley, four time Olympic, Katerina Nash, Marathon World Champion, Annika Langvad, and two time four cross World Champion, Anneke Beerten just to highlight a few. Each pro woman answered Little Bellas questions ranging from, 'what's your favorite color?' to 'where in the world do you want to ride your bike?' (The best answer to that question was from Teal who picked Florida out of all the exotic places to ride a bike).  The world's best signed each of the girls jerseys, and the Little Bellas' parents gasped when they saw the collection of names their girls got to hang out with.  It never ceases to amaze what a classy group of women these are.  Each and every female pro has a chaotic schedule running from race to appearance, but they all managed to carve out an hour to inspire the next generation.  It was truly incredible.

The girls also got to go up on the announcer stage to cheer on the pro ladies for the cross country start the next day.  This was the best welcome I've ever received rolling up to the start line.  Is it possible it could have been louder than the Olympics?  It's impactful the amount of noise twenty girls can make.  It inspired me to grab the hole shot once the gun went off.  We already have little bellas signing up for next year so I think we did a good job getting them hooked on mountain bikes.  Everyone is still buzzing from the experience.

Photos are worth a million words, and these great images by Nic Coury are worth two million.  Please check them out here on the Little Bellas website.

The camp is absolutely not possible without the support from Specialized, G-Form, and Primal.  G-Form keep the girls protected from a couple of tough learning crashes.  Primal created this year's jerseys from a design from one of our own Little Bellas in our design the jersey contest. Clif Bar provided the snacks.  Skratch Labs keep us hydrated under the hot sun. Eyedentity Graphics made us, as always, a fantastic banner.  Cat's Tongue Towels gave the girls towels to clean their bikes with at the end of the day.

THANK YOU!  Let's keep inspiring the next generation of shredders.  This is what the good stuff in life is about.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Two weeks of amazing



 Specialized Women's new full suspension 29er, the Rumor

I'm back home in Vermont, but I'm still buzzing from two weeks of amazing things happening back in California.  These two jam packed weeks started with the Specialized Women's Rumor launch.  Specialized launched their brand, spankin' new womens 29er full suspension in Santa Cruz.  The Rumor is a beauty.  The media and I toured Specialized HQ in Morgan Hill, CA and went behind the scenes into the making of this new creation.  I got to meet Specialized Women's new ambassador, Kimmy Fasani, pro snowboarder and first women to do a double backflip on a snowboard.  She's the real deal, and she's working to push women's snowboarding to new levels and get it out in the mainstream media.  It was fascinating to chat with her and compare Little Bellas to her initiatives.   We then tested the Rumor on a ride on the trails in Wilder Canyon.  At first peak, this bike is a great introductory bike for the first timer but also completely fun to shred on as an experienced rider.  It's completely stable and wants to go downhill fast.  The next day we really put the Rumor to the test with a big ride in Demo forest.  We also took the launch up to the next level by checking some Santa Cruz favorites off the list.  We went on the roller coaster on the board walk and capped of a great evening with Penny Ice cream.  The homemade marshmallow topping never disappoints.


The ladies of the launch getting excited to ride the roller coaster

Two days later after the Rumor launch, Specialized Racing team camp kicked off in Morgan Hill.  Every Specialized factory athlete from Olympic Gold Medalist XC Jaroslav Kulhavy to Red Bull Rampage Darren Berrencloth to downhill legend Aaron Gwin came together for this camp.  Even Ina Teutenburg and Ally Stacher were holding down the fort for the road team, Specialized-Lululemon.  It was awesome getting to know everyone, and I believe it was the first time that's everyone has been together in one place.  It was an absolutely packed couple of days learning about new products, giving feedback on current products, and photo shoots. Specialized even hosted an official team introduction in their theater and broadcasted it live online.  The gravity boys donned some spandex for the daily lunch ride and hung tough with the front pack for awhile.  I was impressed.  Team camp was such a great opportunity and it just reiterated the fact the company is invested in racing, winning, and making the best products in the world to accomplish those goals.  I am, once again, so excited to be racing for Specialized.
 Specialized rolling out the red carpet for team camp, lockers and towels with our names

After team camp, we hit the road for what proved to be an even busier Sea Otter Classic.  We had our first Little Bellas national camp of the season over the weekend, and it was our best yet.  We had to cap our number of little bellas at forty girls for the weekend.  That is a lot of girls on bikes.  We hosted our best lemonade social with the pros ever.  We had fifteen elite women show up to answer questions from the Little Bellas and sign autographs.  I've never seen that many world champions, Olympic medalists, and world cup winners in one place other than a start line.  This is no exaggeration whatsoever.  It was incredible.  The pro women are a classy bunch and are dedicated to seeing their sport grow.  Sea Otter is one of the most chaotic events, and each woman carved out a sliver of time for the Little Bellas.  It literally never ceases to make me overjoyed.   I also attended both days of the SRAM ladies lounge hosted by my teammate Rebecca Rusch.  This is a great space for female cyclists of all types to ask questions and learn about cycling.  It's like a lemonade social for the older bellas (and with wine instead of lemonade).
Specialized made the biggest cow bell in existence for Sea Otter

I also raced in the short track and cross country at Sea Otter.  Racing wise, I didn't have my best weekend at all.  The racing was punctuated with some bad luck and mistimed efforts.  In the short track, I got caught behind a bottle neck at the start even though I was fifth wheel, which forced me to run up the first climb.  Running is never a good thing in a twenty minute race.  I spent the entire race playing catch up, but I did catch up to eight place.  The cross country was along the same lines.  I was in poor position off the front group but chasing back on with a great chase group.  Then, I crashed into some bushes, and I was the most dusty I have ever been.  I looked like a hoover vacuum sprayed me. I lost the chasers, and I tried to catch back on to no avail and ended up ninth in a stacked field.

Onwards and upwards to the first world cups in Europe.  I leave on Thursday for a warm up race next weekend in Apeldoorn, Holland.  Here we go 2013 season!  Yes!

Lea