Sunday, June 14, 2015

Colorful Little Bellas session and the Vermont Grand Fondo

 Little Bellas Color Day
 Vermont is beautiful
The "Roaring Riders' roaring away
The summer is in full swing, and there has been a lot of great things happening recently.  The Vermont Little Bellas Sunday Sessions have begun in earnest, and I was actually here for color day. It's a miracle.  Color day is always one of my most favorite sessions of the season.  Imagine the color runs and then switch the running shoes for mountain bikes and Little Bellas.  The girls get doused in color powder while playing games and going through activities to learn about body position.  This year, Sabe sourced the color powder from a different location, and it smelled absolutely divine.  I believe the quote of the session was, "This color powder smells like a lady".   I never know what the Little Bellas are going to say, and it's the best.  There's at least three really good laughs per session.

This Sunday at Little Bellas, we went for a mountain bike ride, named our groups, and then decorated our group flags to fit our group name.  My group, the seven to eight year olds, were discussing names and vikings was thrown out there.  This is how the conversation went.

Little Bella: "what's a viking?"

Mentor: "A viking is a Norse dragon slayer"

Little Bella: Silently ponders and then in all seriousness says, "Oh, I've seen one of those before"

I love the Little Bellas.  It's never a dull moment and we're not afraid to get muddy and colorful.  It's been raining in Vermont for the past week so the trails have been a bit soggy.  Today, I stopped our group at the first big mud puddle, and we rode through it one by one cheering.  I wanted to see who could get the biggest splash.  Then, we proceeded to go through a unplanned mud pit, and the girls' shoes were getting eaten alive. I could see that some of the girls were getting a bit upset about their kicks  so I set the stage for the muddiest shoe award and the muddiest legs award.  Some wanted to see if they had muddier legs than I did.  They definitely won that competition.  It seems to have worked. Later on, I gave my group the option between two different trails. They asked which one was muddier.  I told them and they unanimously yelled that they wanted to go on the muddier trail.  I was so proud.  I'm so happy that these girls live in a world where they want to get muddy.  Not only is it okay, but they are excited about it.  Just from that moment alone, I would call the today's Little Bellas session a raging success.

Personally, I got the green light to go to the Marathon World Championships in Sella Ronda, Italy at the end of the month.  I couldn't be happier.  Sabe led our family on a bike trip in the dolomites, and we rode around Sella Ronda.  It's one of the most gorgeous places I've ever witnessed, and I'm thrilled to go back.  I've been training hard for this event and the XC World Cup the weekend after in Switzerland.  This weekend, the Vermont Grand Fondo lined up as perfect preparation.  This event is a ride that climbs up four of Vermont's toughest hill climbs (or gaps as we call them here) in the span of 104 miles. It was ten thousand feet of climbing, and this ride has been on my 'to do' list for awhile. I've climbed each of these gaps individually but never in succession.  It was incredible and one of the hardest rides I've ever done.  Lincoln Gap has the steepest paved mile in the United States averaging twenty two percent.  We climbed App Gap, Lincoln Gap, Brandon Gap, and Middlebury Gap.  I think this ride should be one anyone's list that's up for the ultimate challenge.  Plus, the feed zones come complete with nutella and peanut butter sandwiches.  This combined with Clif Blocks and drafting off two friends were the main reasons I made it through.  I'm confident that this was definitely adequate preparation for the monster effort that lies ahead.

I leave for Europe in about a week.  Please send me the strong endurance climbing vibes for World Champs.

Thanks for the support!


 Decorating our Flag
 Even if it's not color day, we still get colorful

 Little Bellas mentors. Color Day. 
 Sabe did a half ironman triathlon in NH and WON!  So Cool!

Beautiful Collateral damage from Color Day

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

2015 World Cup opening campaign

 The Yellow Fields of Czech Republic
 Czech Republic Rock Garden Photo: Michal Cervany
 Leading Women's Team Overall after Czech World Cup Photo: Michal Cervany
 Hohenzollern Castle, Germany
Albstadt, Germany Photo: Michal Cervany

The last two weekends marked the beginning of the 2015 mountain bike season.  The world cup got a later start than usual on one of my favorite courses and venues on the circuit, Nove Mesto na Morave, Czech Republic.  Since I had a slower U.S spring race campaign than most of my competitors, I was naturally a little bit nervous going into the first world cup.  But, spoiler alert, every single person is nervous going into that first race.  The North Americans have been racing separate from the Europeans so not everyone has raced each other.  No one knows how she is going to measure up.  I spent a month training in Vermont and motor pacing with my coach, Andy Bishop.  I worked really hard and gained confidence from Andy’s feedback during our motorpace workouts.  I could also rest my nerves a bit in the workouts themselves, which were some of the hardest I’ve ever done in my ten year long career.  This is saying a lot.  Going into Nove Mesto, I knew I could go really hard.  My goal was to really push myself and be mentally and physically strong.  I’m completely overjoyed to say that I accomplished both of those goals, and all of the hard work in the spring training build paid off.  I raced to 7th place in Nove Mesto and also the best start to a world cup season I’ve ever had. 
            It was such an awesome race.  I didn’t get the best start, but it was one of those starts where everything miraculously works out afterwards so I wasn’t completely out of contention.  I took the right line when girls piled up on the left line.  I rode a climb when other girls were walking.  With a little luck and a lot of hard efforts, I was able to catch groups of girls and bridge up briefly to the group battling for a podium spot.  It was incredibly exciting race, and I’m definitely relieved to have top 10 fitness.  My Danish Specialized teammate, Annika Langvad, also raced to fifth place, and our results combined put us in the lead of the women’s team competition.  This means that we got to go up on the podium and spray champagne.  This also means that we got the yellow leader number plates for the world cup the next weekend in Albstadt, Germany.  The most exciting part is that Nove Mesto result put me on the front starting row for the first time in my world cup career.  Since we start all together in a mass start and it usually bottlenecks into singletrack quickly, start position is crucial. 
            This past weekend’s race in Albstadt, Germany couldn’t have been more different from the Czech world cup.  The Nove Mesto course has perfect loamy soil that my tires just bite into.  The Albstadt course has clay soil and it’s so slick that it’s icy.  The world cup course in Germany is also packed with steep, relentless climbing.  While Nove Mesto is challenging in its own way, Albstadt is really just a pure sufferfest.  Nevertheless, with the previous weekend’s success, I was very excited to race.  I lined up on the front row, and my family watching the live Redbull feed online got to see me wave to the camera.  What happened immediately after the start probably also made their heart rates go a little too high for five o’clock in the morning.  I got into my pedal and then three pedal strokes in, my other foot unclipped from the pedal.  I couldn’t believe it.  My first front row start potentially wasted by a mistake.  I immediately clipped back in and noticed that the whole left side of the start straight where I was was open.  So, I sprinted and got the hole shot that I wanted.  I lead out the start loop, and it was such a great feeling to be leading a world cup.  That was the highlight of the race.  It all literally went uphill from there, and I was a bit off.  I hung tough mentally and was riding consistently in the top fifteen.  Finally, with the help of some caffeine, I came around for the last two laps and finally was racing aggressively.  I passed four girls on the last two laps for a ninth place finish.  I was completely relieved when that race was over.  I am still ranked eight overall in the world cup standings which means I get another front row start for the next world cup in Switzerland.  Until then, I am headed home for another hard training block in Vermont.  I so excited to see what this new venue in Lenzerheide, Switzerland and the next month brings. 

Happy training!  Thanks for all of the support and well wishes over in Europe. It makes a huge difference.


 We found a 'spirit cat' at the Czech accommodations
 Check riding through a field of flowers off the life list.  This was incredible. 

 The Czech fans are the best. Photo: Michal Cervany
 "Kate Courtney, Kate Courtney, Let down your hair"
 It's so great when you can explore Europe a bit.  Kate and I rode to one of the most amazing castles I've ever seen

 With a mandatory Frites and cake feed mid castle ride
 Whoa.  The view is incredible. 

 Backroads of Germany.  This is a lovely area. 
 Happiness Watts.  Mandatory Gelato stop with part of the team: L to R, Benno our team manager, Annika Langvad, Kandice Buys (soigneur), Kate, and myself
 Teammate Jaroslav's fan club at the Czech World Cup.  They made him into a princess cutout 

 German Countryside
 Our Team is killing it this year.  Start numbers for World Cup #2, noone places out of the top 10 in Czech
 Last Lap feed.  Photo: Michal Cervany
 Kate gave me this necklace for my birthday
 Watching Kate on the big screen during her U-23 race.  The fans come out in full force in Germany.  It's incredible
 Kate having a killer season so far and not afraid to show her excitement on the podium.  I love this. 
 Photo: Michal Cervany
Michal Cervany