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. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Little Bellas Beti Bike Bash Camp




Our Beti Bike Bash camp is off and running at a very fast pace.  With thirty Little Bellas coming out for the weekend, this is ranking as one of the most successful national camps yet.  Yesterday, the bellas got the chance to ride with our fantastic group of traveling mentors who flew out from Vermont just to spread the Little Bellas impact to Colorado.  Sarah Schreib, a former pro road racer and older group mentor, Mary Stewart, VTXC nordic ski racer, and Mary Tracy, our Little Bellas mentor stronghold, all made the journey.  These Vermont mentors are joined by Olympic biathlete, Haley Stewart, who has been instrumental in finding the perfect candidates for our Little Bellas camp scholarships provided by Anthem. Stans-No Tubes racer, Kaila Hart, was on hand to ride with the girls and give a flat tire changing clinic.  BMC junior racer, Ksenia Lepikhina, was also there to give some guidance to these aspiring Little Bellas. Little Bellas director, Sabra Davison, is leading the entire effort, and Julia, part of the Beti Bike Bash inner workings, is there to give crucial local knowledge and stoke to the girls.
Look at the determination and joy on the face of Miss. Cheetah helmet on the left. I love it. 

Today is Day 2 of the camp and what an exciting day it is.  The Little Bellas will get the opportunity to become friends with local pros; London Olympic Bronze Medalist, Georgia Gould, former U.S national Champion Heather Irmiger, world cup racer Judy Freeman, and other elite women at the lemonade social.  There are over seventy girls signed up for the Little Bellas under-14 race.  I’m going to repeat this just so it sinks in, there are seventy younger girls toeing the mountain bike start line today. This number is completely blowing me away, and it is most definitely setting a new benchmark for women’s mountain biking.  It proves that this movement is not only alive but thriving.   We have obviously hit a female mountain biking hot spot in Colorado and are completely enjoying stoking the fire.  A big thank you to Beti Bike Bash for creating this much needed opportunity and having the vision to put on an all female mountain bike race.  A huge thank you to our sponsors for making one of our Little Bellas dreams come true, to get more women on the start line.  This image of seventy girls at a race is something we’ve been striving for for years.  Thank you Specialized and G-Form for making this a reality.  Thank you Anthem for providing unique and necessary opportunities for girls to fall in love with mountain biking and healthy lifestyles.  Thank you to Primal for making stellar jerseys and creating a way for the Little Bellas to feel like they are part of a team.  A  big shout out to Clif Bar for keeping the girls fueled with the oh so addicting Clif Kids ropes and bars and to Skratch Labs for hydrating the Little Bellas so they can go shred single track at their best.  Thank you to Whole Foods who donated delicious and healthy lunches for the entire Little Bellas contingent both days of the camp.
Thank you to Matt Young for providing us with stellar images of day 1.