Free Hugs in the Badger State

Race report from Sun Prairie Day 2 which was two weeks ago. Third time lucky on punching it out on the iPhone…

First muddy CX race of the season! The tacky conditions from Day1 had transformed into a soup bowl overnight and guaranteed a different race on Day 2, despite the course being largely the same.

The start of our race was aggressive as we thundered down the wet pavement vying for the hole shot. I wasn’t really in contention since I started from the 2nd row, but did hit the hole shot line in 4th or 5th. Upon entering the grass we all squirted different directions as we tamed our speed and gained an appreciation of how our tires were going to handle the wet conditions.

From there I quickly slipped and slid my way back to the familiar 20th position, which is when then the real fun began. I mean, when you’re sucking and well out of podium contention you might as well race for fan appreciation!

The Stanley Run Up, where I earned marshmallows and GWs the day before, was completely unrideable today. It was all I could do to huff my mud laden bike and body up the hill, but that didn’t stop the fans from hollering, “Hey plaid, what’s your problem!? You rode it yesterday!”. I laughed, but was thinking, “Hey Wisco fans, what’s your problem!? How come you’re so stingy with your greenbacks on Sunday?” By my 4th and final lap I only had 1 soggy bill down my skin suit and was ready to wait for the 21st place rider to see if we could stage a mud wrestling match and charge admission. Then, from behind my mud caked glasses, I saw a fan dangling his arms over the course tape and yelling, “free hug hand up!!” Hope he didn’t think beggars could be choosers because I stopped and dished out the muddiest bear hug I have ever been part of. Thanks man, I needed that. Hope your jacket was machine washable.

Huge thanks to Glen and Kari who were all stars in the pits for us. Fresh bikes each lap were such a luxury!

And that was that, the end of our 2 week cross crusade. Big thanks to our home stays and all the great people we met along the way!

A picture from Day 1 (Podium Insight). Yes, I get that excited about marshmallows:

20111010-193209.jpg

Mud from Day2 (velonews):

20111010-193501.jpg

Advertisements

Cha Ching!!

Today was USGP Planet Bike Cup, Day 1…and I am gonna cut to the chase straight away—I really cashed in. Just this week, Exergy Development Group stepped up to offer equal prize money for the women as men, such a great step forward. The prize purse for Saturday (C1 event) is now $7,716 for the top 15 and $1,833 on Sunday (C2 event) for the top 15.

http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/09/news/exergy-brings-equal-prize-money-as-new-usgp-sponsor_192909

I finished in 20th position today, well out of the Exergy prize money…but I nabbed $3 in cash hand-ups from the lunatic fans on the Stanley Run Up (which was also dubbed the hillside strangler). After Lap1 I was out of the top 15, so my main goal became riding the run-ups. I couldn’t hop the ties, but was able to remount and ride it every lap…much to the delight of the fans who were not only offering cash hand ups but also marshmallows, cheese puffs and beer. I declined the beer (so not as to break UCI regs) but grabbed a marshmallow and threw it down the hatch. Four corners later I pulled the gooey plug from my mouth and pitched it in the trees, leaving marshmallow residue on my bare hands and shifters.

Apparently I also need some practice on cash hand-ups…I rode smack into a race stake grabbing my first greenback, then endo’d off my bike and gave up a couple positions. So worth it, I wouldn’t have made any more $ in 18th place!

Pepper had another solid race and was riding strong in the small lead group through the first few laps. I could hear the announcers getting excited “and who is this Harlton Pepper from Edmonton Canada up in this lead group turning heads”…”ladies and gentlemen, this Harlton from Edmonton is a rider to watch”….”holy moly where did this Harlton Pepper from Juventus cycling club come from”. It was entertaining for me to listen to as I was cramming marshmallows down my gullet and bills up my shorts, a couple minutes back. Unfortunately one of the greasy downhill 120′ corners got the better of Pepper’s bald clincher grifo on a few laps and she slipped back to 10th, only 1:14 down on Nash.

The course was great and it was so awesome to be back in the USGP atmosphere! 45 minutes before our start time it looked like we were in for a dry race. Then Mother Nature delivered a light dusting of unicorn tears which lasted about 60 minutes and made the course just greasy enough that it upped the technical and fun factor.

Tomorrow we race on the same course with a few modifications, looking forward to it! Pray for more unicorn tears!

Oh, and like an 8-year old who just received their allowance, I went straight to the gas station post-race and spent $3 on a coconut water:)

PS! I am now blogging from my phone!


Wild Wisconsin!

Who knew that Madison was such a rad local? Heck, who knew that Wisconsin had anything other than cows, cheese, Greenbay Packers, and a USGP race? That was the extent of my knowledge and thus the perfect reason to bunk down for a week.

We are privaleged to be staying with local racers Kari and Glen at their quaint acreage 10 miles south of Madison in Fitchburg. Kari scooped us and our 4 bikes from the Dane County airport on Monday evening after our full day of travel from Seattle via Denver.

First impressions of Madison and area: A healthy population of cyclists out and about, quiet black top country roads, dense foliage, lakes, corn fields, well kept farms and acreages, lots of silos, not-many-cows for the dairy state, and generally a good vibe. Madison is a city of ~200,00 and home to the University of Wisconsin and it’s 45,000 students. We were well chuffed for the week that lie ahead.

On Tuesday morning we enjoyed warm sunshine as we built and cleaned our bikes outside. By early afternoon we were ready to explore. There is a great network of paved pathways around Madison so we were able to ride the Capitol City trail all the way into town. We skirted cornfields, lakes, swamps, grasslands, rural subdivisions, flocks of fat Canadian geese, and black walnut trees (and rode over the squishy green fruits that house the nut….which of course piqued our interest as we’d never seen walnut trees before). Our first stop in Madison was Machinery Row bike shop where we met another local racer Alyssa who not only hooked us up with A+ service, but pointed us towards the Weary Traveler where we scoffed a spot of lunch and really enjoyed the eclectic atmosphere. With dusk imminent we set for home…dusk beat us there, but we made it.

Wednesday morning we took a different route into town and went back to Machinery Row to have our derailleur hangers straightened and kit me out with a new pair of mtb shoes. We rolled over to Mother Fools for coffee before pointing our bikes towards Badger Prairie park (home of the 2012 USA CX nationals). Naturally we deviated from the plan and rolled through campus, found singletrack between the pathway and a cemetery, and ended up on a ridge by a Fitchburg water tower. From there we could see at least three water towers in the distance and started tossing around ideas to ride cross country from water tower to water tower, reckoning it would be a good chapter in our Wisconsin book. We dumped down off the ridge onto a game trail and were riding through grass and hedge up to our elbows and seeing how far we could pedal before getting bogged down. We crossed a few sections of brush and then found a railway trail which took us in the direction of home.

20110923-102648.jpg

Thursday we were up early and ripped out to Cam-Rock Park near Cambridge to ride with Glen, Kari and Alyssa. It was a small park with a fun little network of trails. We stopped for coffee at the Daily Grind in Cambridge and drove over to Sun Prairie to help with course set up. We were lucky enough to get an early course preview in exchange for a few hours work in tossing up banners.

20110923-102438.jpg

Friday morning we spent a few more hours on the bikes and then made our way over to Sun Prairie for the official pre-ride in the afternoon. The course was packed with riders and all the team trailers and tents were set up, it was buzzing!

The course is great with good variety. Lots of corners, more than a few 180s, off camber sections, roots, gravel, pavement, loose sections, fast sections, a couple hairy corners at the bottom of descents, and one set of barriers at the top of a small rise…and of course, the legendary ‘hillside strangler’. The hill itself is innocent enough; fairly long but the incline is quite mild. The tricky part is the 90′ corner and three rail ties at the bottom…strategically positioned such that only a select few from any of the fields will be riding them tomorrow. Me…I plan (dread) running it if I’m in traffic, but the goal will be to run the ties and re-mount to ride the hill..

We go off at 2:45 both tomorrow and Sunday, stay tuned for a full race report! Then it’s home on Monday for 10 days to hopefully kick my sickness, acquire a costume and glow sticks for the Dark Knight, eat some pie for Keith Bayly’s birthday, then set sail for Fort Collins on Tuesday (October 11) for the next USGP.


End of an Era

20110922-094041.jpg

RIP Old Reds
August 2009 – September 2011
Rescued from a reject bin in the bowels of a Winnipeg Bike shop, these fine Italian Lorica slippers spent 25 months in the line of duty. They truly were equal to every task: mountain biking, road riding, cyclocross’ing, cycle touring, bush wacking, hiking, snow riding, coffee shopp’ng, and just pure stylin. Replaced, but never forgotten:

20110922-095715.jpg

20110922-095806.jpg

20110922-095835.jpg

20110922-095929.jpg


StarCrossed and RaphaFocus in Seattle!

After viva’ing Las Vegas for 72 hours we scooted up to Seattle to hang out in Gina and Barry’s house and race StarCrossed and Rapha Cross.  I had never been to Seattle (but heard it was a fun city), I had never met Gina and Barry (but they seemed nice over emails and had generously offered to take us in for the weekend), and had never raced StarCrossed nor Rapha Cross (but cross races are always fun)….

Thursday was low key…built the bikes, went for coffee, ate a tasty dinner with Gina and Barry (they were really nice, btw), and watched an awesome bike movie from the 90s called “Tread”.  Top quote from the movie: “When something cool is done, it can’t be undone”.

We had great plans for Friday:  Ride into Seattle (25 mile round trip), do an Underground Tour, have lunch and coffee on the waterfront and check out  bike boutiques.  On Friday morning my head cold was having a temper tantrum and I craved more sleep (pshhhh ‘Sleepless in Seattle’) so I went back to bed at 11 while Pepper rolled down to the waterfront.  I woke up in a daze at 5pm and scrambled to get ready.  Before I was thinking clearly I hopped on my bike and aimed for Seattle, figuring I would probably intercept Pepper somewhere along the way. Turns out Pepper thought I was down for the count and was already making her way back to the house as I was biking and bus’ing into Seattle.  So I did my own tour on the waterfront and rolled home under the cover of darkness.  It’s possible that I also ended up on the I-90 and had to jump a fence to get onto the bike path.  Gina and Barry live up on Cougar Mountain and I was feeling particularly soft when I reached the bottom, so I scoured the shopping plaza looking for a taxi to porter my ass up the 3 mile hill.  No taxis in the suburbs at 9pm on Friday so I chugged up and earned my beer.

Saturday was StarCrosed!  We raced at 430pm and arrived at the venue around 3pm with lots of time to sign on, change, spin a lap, drop our B Bikes off with our surrogate team for the weekend (Group Health), spin another half lap, miss our front row call ups, and screech into the back of the starting grid with 1 minute to spare.  Oops, so pro:)  The race went well…we both spent the first half of the lap working our way up to the lead groups but weren’t quite there when the initial selection happened.  Pepper finished an impressive 6th and I was 15th.  It was a fun course with two lengthy beach sections, the first of which was rideable and the second was a runner.  The ground was hard, bumpy and dry which made for a rough ride, and there weren’t any hills (to coast down), so it was a course heavy on power and not terribly demanding from a technical standpoint.

Sunday was Rapha Focus on the same course, but there had been considerable rain overnight so it rode quite differently.  My main focus (haha) of this race was not to miss call-ups, so I was nervously loitering around the start grid for 30 minutes before our race..needless to say we secured our front row positions.  As we were in the grid watching the mens race finish, a rider wiped out hard on the pavement corner in front of us leading into the finishing stretch…a bit of an ominous way to start the race.  Shortly thereafter, the gun went off for us and we both had good positioning entering the grass, guess that’s what happens when you don’t squander your front row position:)  I made the initial selection into the lead 5 for the first half a lap but it was short lived and I quickly drifted back and finished up in 11th…but not before I laid it down on the aforementioned corner on the last lap.  I took most of it on my right elbow and now the swelling in that elbow jiggles whenever I ride over bumps, so cool! (and it can’t be undone:)).  Pepper was a model of consistency and found herself in familiar company from the day prior and finished  up in 7th.  Mical rocked onto the podium in 2nd place between Nash and Mani, the Czech and French National Champs respectively…not bad company!

Huge thanks to Gina and Barry who not only opened their house up to us, loaned us their vehicles, and kept us entertained over the four days, but also hooked us up with Group Health.  Big thanks to Group Health who took care of us in the pits and cheered hard for us throughout the weekend.

Sunday night we packed the bikes for the 2nd last time of the trip and got ready to head to Madison, Wisconsin!  Which is where we are now…getting ready for the first USGP weekend!


Cross Vegas!

Halfway through the first CX racing trip of the season! 

We left Calgary last Monday and our first stop was Vegas for Cross Vegas, the biggest cross race in America!!  The race is known for being hot and dry, and this year the women’s field included many of the strongest riders from North America and also Katerina Nash (Czech National champ who regularly races in the USA), Caroline Mani (French National champ) and Joyce Vanderbeken (former Belgian National Champ). 

We spent Monday building bikes and getting the gluing process started on my tubulars…I hadn’t had a chance to glue them before I left, but I figured with the dry heat in Vegas I would be ok.  We found an awesome Raw Food Cafe close to our hotel and chowed down before hitting the pillows for a comatose 11hour sleep.  Tuesday morning we finished gluing tubulars and then headed out for a road ride on the knobby tires with 30psi.  Our destination was Red Rock Canyon which turned out to be a scenic 3ish hour ride.  At one of the look-out points on the side of the road we posed for a photo with a sweet Philippine man who was so excited to see us on bikes because he has a bike back home in the Philippines..haha.

 

Tuesday night was another comatose 11 hour sleep…I was slowly getting caught up from the 11 hour shifts I’d been pulling in the office since getting home from Europe.  Wednesday morning we woke to rain.  WTF, it doesn’t rain in Vegas!?  The dry heat was replaced with muggy heat, and the race venue (which happened to be a retention area) was soggy.  The course was re-routed to higher ground and we were in for a damp Cross Vegas.  We had a relaxing day, finished cabling my bike and rolled down to the course.

The race itself was amazing, such an incredible atmosphere with the Expo area and all the spectators.  The course wasn’t overly technical, but there was a set of uphill barriers and a couple sets of uphill stairs which kept things interesting.   Pepper and I had second row call ups which put us in good position for the hard and fast start.  About halfway through the first lap there was the first split of 6 riders off the front which both Pepper and Mical were in while I dangled a few positions back.  I eventually settled into 20ish and had a decent ride, lacking snap in the legs but getting more comfortable on the bike and tubulars with each lap.  Pepper had an amazing ride and finished up in 8th!  Mical had an early mechanical and clawed back into an impressive 15th place.

After the race we watched the mens race where Schooler had an awesome ride to finish 15th!  Go Alberta Cross!

We rode back to the hotel around 11pm and set to packing our bikes for the early flight to Seattle on Thursday morning.  I was starving so I trotted over to the Burger King which was in the same parking lot as our hotel.  Unfortunately the restaurant was closed but the Drive-Thru was open!  Unfortunately they ignore you in the Drive-Thru if you’re not driving…so I struck a cash deal with the man driving a burnt out Buick to get me a couple boxes of fries with his whoppers.  I got the fries, but he kept the change. Price of doing business I guess!
And now we’re in Seattle for StarCrossed ( last night) and Rapha Cross (today)!


Banff to Burlington to Belgium…

Oh hey it’s me…turns out blogs don’t update themselves, so I have taken matters into my own hands:

June was…a long time ago, and also rainy and full of racing.  After Mount Hood I raced two mountain bike races.  I loved being back on the dirt, but those 26″ wheels were cramping my 700c style for 2011, so I sold my mtb.  Next up was Banff Bike Fest where 6 of us united in Provincial colors to score some podiums and tell triathlon jokes all weekend (two of the team members were Iron Man athletes who threatened to use bento boxes and Camelbaks for the crit).  After BBF I nursed a head cold for three days and hopped on a plane for Toronto to race the Road and Criterium Nationals.  Huge thanks to Rich and Shelly (AMEC hook up from our Burlington office) who hosted Pepper and I for the week.

Team Alberta Banff Bike Fest '11. Photo: Kevin Gibson

Then came July,  which started off with 10 days of training in Calgary followed by a flight to Belgium to race for three weeks with a National Development Project.  We spent the first couple days at the team base in Tielt-Winge then drove to France for back-to-back stage races (four days each):   Tour de Bretagne Feminin and Tour du Limousin en feminin.  From France we went back to Belgium for a few days and raced the post-Tour Herentals Crit.  Our final weekend of racing was in Germany where we did another post-tour crit and a UCI 1.1 Road Race.  All in all an amazing experience to be racing in Europe and having nothing on my agenda except riding hard, making it to the next meal or massage, and having fun.  They race hard and fast and feisty over there, and I loved it.  I came home with all my skin and teeth in tact, and feeling fresh for CX Season!

Team at house in Tielt-Winge, Belgium

 

Team Presentation at Tour de Bretagne Feminin, Stage 1

 

Limousin, Stage 1

 
 

Recon of Limousin TT course

 
 

Post-Tour Herentals Crit. Cobbles!

 
 

Provisions at EuroStar Grocery store in Tielt-Winge

 
 More on CX season in a post soon!