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Tandem Racing at the Tennesse Paracycling Open

We caught up with Roberta Smith, in Knoxville this weekend for the Tennessee Paracycling Open. She piloted a tandem for athlete Tina Ament in a time trial, criterium and road race,with goals of having fun and qualifying for the Paralympic talent pool. Read about her amazing experience. 

Q: Roberta, you piloted a tandem in the Tennessee Paracycling Open, USA Cycling sanctioned race including a time trial, criterium and road race. How did this come about?

A: A few months ago, Tina Ament contacted our team looking for a woman cyclist to pilot her tandem.  She was initially looking for someone for paracycling nationals in April, but I was unavailable and thought that might be a tough first race to do as a guide.  My husband Paul and I, race on our tandem, but I am always the stoker and never the pilot.  When I started talking to Tina on the phone, we discovered we had a lot in common.  I used to be a swim guide for my friend, Trish Downing, and I have wanted to get back to guiding athletes.  I thought helping Tina out with this race, geared to first time racers, might be just the thing.  

Q: We understand it was your first time, were you nervous?  

A: Totally!!!  I had practiced exactly twice with my friends Ella and Jeannie. It’s one thing to go around the Cherry Creek Reservoir….. it’s another to do a criterium.  I met Tina and her dog Higgins, for the first time this weekend.  We practiced on her TT bike in the parking lot. She has a beautiful Hawthorne tandem that rides like butter.  I was super nervous all morning.  I think the nerves were more about the responsibility involved in not disappointing your teammate.  We were in the first start position.  There was no hold for the tandem, so we had to start from standing position.  We wobbled a bit, but then were riding quickly.  I think I was most nervous about the criterium.  I love riding them, but had never done so on a tandem (even as a stoker).  All of our fellow competitors were cat 1 men.  I can not even imagine being in a Cat 1 Men’s race in Colorado! For our 44 mile road race, we experienced road debris from the previous night’s thunderstorm, and less than ideal weather. The race was essentially 5 loops of the same circuit.  We got lost getting to the start of the race, and when we pulled the bike out of the car the rear wheel was flat.  Our awesome race mechanic Brent quickly fixed our flat, and we rolled up to the start line.  We had a rough start, the guys took off and this is the last that we saw of them.  On our 3rd lap, we realized we had a slow leak in the rear tire.  We stopped and as luck would have it, Brent the mechanic was right behind us.  He got out and pumped up our tire.  By the time we finished the 3rd lap the tire had gone flat again.  We pulled off and Greg the race director and Brent switched the entire tube this time.  With a new tube and 2 laps to go, we used it to practice some skills like standing on the bike together (which is difficult to balance).  The rain held off and we had a great time.  

Q: Tell us about the course and your goals.

A: TT: Course:  The TT course was a 20K loop.  We rode on a highway for the beginning and end of the race.  The middle loop of the course (What we will do in the road race) was beautiful.  One section is part of the Department of Energy and NO CARS – Smooth roads.  There were rollers that kept us on our toes.  One would think you could get a boost from the downhill to the next uphill.  Now I am convinced there can be false downhills!

The strategy for the race was to try to get as close to the Paralympic national standard as we could. An award was being given for the man and women that got closest to their respective categories national standard.  For our race, the national standard for tandem athletes is 1.28 (1 minute 16 seconds for each K).  Our race was 20K so the goal standard is around 25 minutes.  This would mean averaging 29 miles per hour.  We finished at 103% of the standard.  Our time was 30:37.  To qualify for the Paralympic talent pool, we needed to be within 105% of the standard so we achieved this goal!

Crit Course:  Pretty non-technical crit- 4 turns.  One tight hairpin turn after the start/ finish line.  Right hand turn to a slight uphill, Left turn at the top of the uphill, downhill to a left hand turn.  Tandems raced 40 min. This was my first criterium as a pilot, and Tina had never raced a criterium. Our goal was one of survival, not crashing, and having fun.  We checked each of these boxes.  The male pilots are all cat 1 cyclists, so I knew we would probably be on our own.  We only got lapped once and did ride a few laps with the guys.  

Q: This seems like such a special skill set, how did you train for this and how did you become proficient?  

A: Ha! I wouldn’t say I am proficient.  As my friend Ella said, its 90% confidence.  My friends Ella and Jeannie race tandems with Paul and I. Ella, Jeannie and I practiced twice.  Once out at Wash Park and then did the TT course in Cherry Creek.  That is it.  They gave me the basic skills.  I also have raced a lot with Paul on our tandem so I see what he has to do as a pilot so I also just mimicked him.  I started swimming again, and that has helped my core strength.  It is a lot about core strength too.  

Q: Tell us about Tina, how you two came to partner together?

A: Tina is an accomplished endurance athlete.  She has competed in several triathlons and Ironman races.  She is a lawyer and practices as a criminal prosecutor in Washington, DC.  She was looking for a new captain so she can compete in cycling specific events.  She contacted Naked Women’s Racing through our website, I volunteered.  

Q: If someone wanted to volunteer in the same way, where would they start?

A: There is a huge need for blind cyclists to find pilots.  Especially women.  In some of the national qualifying events for women, you cannot have a M/W combo.  I think any one that is confident could do it.  As I understand it, qualifying for the talent pool gives you invitations to training camps.  Mike Durner with CTS is a coach for the paracyling team and would be a great resource.  Jen Sharp also has piloted women and would be a good resource.   In addition you can visit the following websites to be connected with an athlete.  

http://eyecyclecolorado.org/become-a-captain-or-stoker/

http://bicyclingblind.org

Q: Anything else you care to share with us?

A: This was a fantastic experience.  The race was so well organized.  The local USA Cycling officials donated their time to score the race and they were just so amazing and supportive.  The race director, Greg Miller is passionate about getting more paracycling events organized.  This race was a great setting for beginners and it was amazing to see what we could accomplish on the tandem!

 

Roberta and Tina win the Crit!

 

Confidence, Knee pads and the journey that is the CO HS MTB League

Racer Sarah Lease reflects on her personal journey discovering the joy of mountain biking while a racer with the CO high school mountain bike league.
Joining the CO MTB league seemed like common sense after riding for three years. Among the countless bruises, scratches on my bike, and one in a life time views, I realized that mountain biking was the only thing that could take my breath away – literally. I joined the Colorado Mountain Biking League after coaxing from my friends who were already racing. It should be noted that I am not competitive unless it involves eating the most popcorn in the span of one Netflix episode. I ride my bike simply because I can.
Riding bicycles never leaves me worse off, and I feel that mountain biking teaches me how to fill my life with good memories and nice people. I loved riding with Highlanders Composite because I met some of my favorite people who shared the same fiery passion for cycling as I did. The coaches understood that all riders learn differently and were flexible in their training approaches. When some of the team wanted to do hot laps and others wanted a more technique based ride, our coach combined the two! Practices were never stressful, unlike that of normal school sports like volleyball and track. Besides knowing my ability level, I was able to push my limits in my endurance and skills.
On a particularly technical spot, I always went around the feature, but after watching my coach and team members squeeze through it in Palmer Park, I had enough confidence to try it myself. It’s crazy to think about walking some sections that I ride with ease now. The only way that happens is by riding and riding with a supportive group of amazing people.
All the teams in the CO MTB League hope the best for each rider regardless of the results at the end of the race. After just one season racing JV, I learned that the best way to do well in a race is to have a good time! In one season I gained so much confidence that it helped me to race in college. So many people measure gains in power output, heart rate, and calories burned, but I say gaining friends and seeing the world from places inaccessible by cars, planes, and trains proves much more useful in life.
Mountain biking is a sport of doing or not doing, there is no trying. When I am riding a hard section of trail I do not tell myself “okay Sarah you better try your hardest on this”. No, I say “get your butt back and do this”. Knee pads also help this mindset.
To view the Colorado HS Cycling League teams click here.
 Interested in finding out more about the league? Come to a FREE event on May 7 hosted by CWCP: Naked Women’s Racing. Drt Grls is the place for girls to meet others in the league, chat with other racers and go on a group ride! Learn more here.

Time to Start Your Road Season!

The Denver area’s premiere time trial series, Karen Hornbostel Memorial Time Trial Series starts in just a little over a month!

This seven-week series is a wonderful way to start the season and see how your fitness is progressing from week to week.

Since 1991, the KHMTT has taken place Wednesday evenings in Cherry Creek State Park during April and May. The weather is a bit unpredictable (this is Colorado!), but that is what makes the KHMTT unique and challenging!

A couple of the things that make the KHMTT unique is that you can choose your own start time, selecting from the open start times available when you register.  In addition, this race offers you the ability to race twice each night, each in a different category for only an additional $40 for the entire series. That’s less than six bucks per race! There are multiple categories to choose from, even a retro division category if you want to race on your road bike (no aero equipment allowed in that category!).

The course begins at the edge of the Cherry Creek Reservoir, winds through the wetlands southeast of the reservoir, and crosses back and forth the small creeks that supply the water for the reservoir.

The KHMTT series is a fundraiser for BRAC and the Cancer Fitness Institute in memory of Karen Hornbostel, a four-time master’s national road champion.

When:        April 5, 12, 19, 26 May 3, 10, 17

May 24      (Weather makeup date)

Where:       Cherry Creek State Park, 4201 S. Parker Road Aurora, CO 80014

Time:          First racer starts at 4:30 PM Final racer at approximately 7:20 PM.

For more information or to register, go to http://khmtt.com

Questions: Email: khmtt@cobrascycling.org

5 Ways to Fail as a New Female Racer

As a coach and racer, Katie Whidden has been in the race and on the sidelines over the years. Here’s her short list of sure fire ways to fail your next race or group ride.

 Failure 1: Not knowing how to ride in a group
No worse crime in racing than crossing wheels and taking yourself and rest of your team down. Not confident in riding close? Take the time to find a clinic, our team has clinics for both new and advanced riders.
Failure 2: Blowing off the front in a group ride
You’ll get called out and passed without mercy and left for dead. So unless you like riding alone, work together. It’s called a GROUP ride for a reason.
Failure 3: Being ‘that girl’
We’re women, we don’t forget – ask our husbands and boyfriends. Don’t feed into the negative energy and be the bully.  When you’re the loud girl in the peloton trying to tell everyone what to do, you’re going to annoy a few people. We didn’t show up to listen to you boss us around, we came to race. 
Failure 4: Racing Timid
If you aren’t as confident as you would like to be right now then fake it until you make it.  Good racers will size you up prior to the race and notice how scared you are.  Hold your line, don’t let jjust anyone in.  You’re not being a bitch, you just need to hold your ground. Race big….pretend you’re like a 6’2 giant (AKA me)! Get out front, test your limits. Hell – blow up once, you’ll never know how far you can go until you go too far a few times.
Failure 5: Not coming prepared
Don’t show up for a 30 mile mountain bike ride without any food. We might all be guilty of making this mistake at least once, but if you do it again then shame on you for not learning the first time. I’m packing for me, not two. Food, tubes, levers, and water, pack what you need to be self sufficient.
Katie Whidden is a former D1 athlete, USA Cycling & USA Triathlon certified coach, and strength and conditioning specialist. She focuses on competing in time trials, but races all disciplines. She currently coaches athletes to help them reach their goals. Have a question or topic for Katie? Click here.

Pedaling for the Denver Food Rescue

Cat 2 Racer Melanie Wong Henson is all about decreasing food waste and Increasing health equity … on bikes!

Did you know that a major focus of Colorado Women’s Cycling Project: Naked Women’s Racing Team is volunteerism? Yeah, yeah, we win a lot of podiums, we’re a very large presence in the bike community, and you can literally see our snazziness coming from a mile away. However, every member is required to volunteer for a cycling-related nonprofit for at least 8 hours each season. Many of our members go far beyond that minimum requirement, committing themselves throughout the year to making a difference.

Volunteer Jeff Gillow and I show off the warehouse we filled with food, ready to be distributed in the neighborhood.

Upon moving to the Front Range, I searched for an organization to support and quickly found the Denver Food Rescue. They rode right past me in Capitol Hill – a cadre of bicyclists hauling lumpy-looking trailers with determination.
“What are you doing?” I yelled.
“We’re the Denver Food Rescue!” someone cheerily shouted back.

A few weeks later, I was on my ‘cross bike, huffing and puffing through downtown with my own Denver Food Rescue haul behind me. Here’s how it works:
Volunteers ride to different grocery stores around Denver every day of the week with bike trailers and pick up unwanted produce and other fresh food – often organic, high quality fruits and veggies that would otherwise go to waste. The food is collected and redistributed through DFR’s no cost grocery program that is partnered with existing organizations such as boy & girls’ clubs, schools and community centers. This model of bicycles and how the food is distributed is really what makes DFR special. Each program is managed by folks that actually live in the community.

We almost exclusively do this work on bikes to minimize our environmental impact, promote healthy lifestyles, and, well, because bikes and food are both among my favorite things. My shift crew and I started our 2017 off with a bang last Sunday morning by hauling 1,400 pounds of fresh food to a neighborhood in need. Food matters, and Whole Foods or Sprouts isn’t an options for many in our community. I love it when bikes help us do amazing things.

Find out more at www.denverfoodrescue.org, and keep an eye out for other Naked ladies making a difference!

To see the all of the cycling related organizations for which CWCP actively volunteers, click here.

 

photo credits: Steve Natali, Denver Food Rescue

3089 Miles Across America

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Race Across America – RAAM Documentary Plus RAAM BAM Thank you Mam Co-Sponsored by Colorado Women’s Cycling Project, to be shown Jan. 31, 7:00pm and Feb. 1, 7:00pm at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder. 

The Race Across America is widely recognized as the toughest race in the world.  RAAM is a 3,000-mile coast-to-coast bicycle race that starts in Oceanside, CA and finishes in Annapolis, MD.  RAAM has become an iconic American event.  First run in 1982 the race has continued uninterrupted.  The 2016 race was its 35th year making it one of the longest-running events in cycling sport.  Racers and crew come from around the world to compete in RAAM.

According to Wolfgang Fasching, who has successfully climbed Mt. Everest and won RAAM three times, “Mt. Everest is more dangerous, but RAAM is much more difficult!”

RAAM’s newest documentary film will be shown on Tuesday, January 31st at 7:00 PM and on Wednesday February 1st at 7:00 PM at The Dairy Center for the Arts located at 2590 Walnut Street, Boulder, CO 80302.  Also, RAAM Bam Thank You Mam will be shown. In addition, Fred and Rick Boethling, owners of RAAM, will be in attendance to introduce the films and answer questions about RAAM after the show.

Tickets are $15.00.

Tickets can be purchased online at: https://tickets.thedairy.org/Online/RaceAcrossAmerica

Tickets can also be purchased at the door the night of the show. It will be a fun and informative evening!

 

Injuries Happen.

Gayle Connell, Cat 3 CX and road racer, is the ultimate Optimistic Injured Athlete. You too can move beyond being injury-depressed. Read on.

“Injuries suck. There is no way around it. Any activity in life comes with
an inherent risk; when you are an active person, you sign on for that risk.
So, when you do get injured, because eventually you will, remember the
essence of why you train and race. Rather than bemoaning the injury and the
missed training or forgone races, focus instead on the more important
aspects of regaining health to re-engage in what is hopefully your passion
for sport. Optimism stems from understanding the inevitability of injuries,
not letting an injury (or a sport) define us, and filling the injury time
with other productive endeavors.” Joanna Zeiger”

When I sat down to write this article I searched a few words for ideas
(injuries, racer, etc.) I found a term that stuck with me…the Optimistic
Injured Athlete!

I think that sums me up pretty well right about now. After a major knee
injury nearly 20 years ago I have had intermittent problems relating to that
injury. As much as I try to damage-control future injury (ok, maybe I don’t
really do that so well…#crosscrashes), I know that I will always have
underlying problems and am vulnerable to injury. Unfortunately this year
was not a good year for my knee. I had surgery #4 in June after sustaining
major tears to the very little meniscus I have left in my knee. Although
annoyed because I had been training and racing well, I tried to embrace the
notion of being the optimistic injured athlete to facilitate my mental and
physical healing. I was back in the gym and on the bike pretty quickly and
hoped that I would be able to get myself into shape for cross season.

…And then the inevitable happened. I felt that annoying pain I knew all
too well. In August, yes – only 8 weeks after surgery, I felt more damage
in my knee. This time I did all I could to ignore it for a while. I
trained, I raced, I hid the pain. The idea of going back to the doctor
crushed me. The idea of another surgery so soon crushed me. The cross
season was still in full effect, I was waiting for snow to break out my
snowboard and use my season passes and I have some really cute heels to wear
to holiday parties!

As I await the results of the MRI I just had, I’ll keep my attitude and
perspective positive. I’ll accept the challenge ahead and use this time to
focus on my incredible family and friends. I’ll look at the bigger picture,
not just this injury. I will be the Optimistic Injured Athlete.

gayle-camping

Racing is Strength and Strategy – If Only I could Remember That

Lori reflects on strategy being an important component to cyclo-cross racing, although she has found it tough to incorporate when redlined…until now!

Last week, I had one of the best races of my cross career.  I was both mentally and physically engaged from the time the whistle blew to the time I crossed the finish line.  So often I find myself post-race in a ‘hindsight is 20/20’ scenario when I realize all the things I could have tried but didn’t think of during the race.  Not this race; two of us maintained a solid cat-and-mouse for the entire race duration and, to my amazement, my mind showed up!  All of those ideas were there when I needed them – every one of my inefficiencies registered and I adjusted accordingly.

My competitor was strong on the straightaway sections and there were plenty of them.  She was a mountain goat and made the steep climbs look like a breeze.  This race was significantly different for me as I chased: my mind was present and attentively watching where she was not pedaling or braking earlier than I was and I made it a point to capitalize on those areas.20161029_155651

Let’s be honest, my efforts were not all graceful. I had a few moments of my typical brute force style. I tried to pass on a steep hill because our climbing cadences were different, but my wheel slipped causing me to dismount and run.  Panicking, I compounded the issue by not looking through a corner, causing my bike and I to hit the deck.  After untangling myself, my strategic mind scolded me while I pushed harder with my new found knowledge.  This was foreign territory for me since I’m usually out of sorts after falling but instead my mind was dialing in the next move.

To me, it is not the finishing position (although everyone does enjoy a podium) but more about the quality of the race and racing.  I know she and I agree that we got our money’s worth that day!  After a few minutes of recovery, we high-fived and congratulated each other on our efforts.

To new race friendships…both my competitor and my new found racing self!  I hope both show up again soon.

A Bucket List Ride in Poland

Natalia Ptas discovers that time flies and that revisiting your childhood cycling memories is possible.

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This July I celebrated 20 years of living in Colorado. Where did the time go? I can’t believe that I have lived in Colorado more than half of my life! This makes me a native, right? Well, maybe not. I still consider Poland my home and I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than going home and riding my bike on the roads where I learned how to ride a bike.

Cycling has always been a big part of my life. As a kid bike was my main transportation. I rode my bike all over town visiting friends, grocery shopping, and I rode because it simply brought me a lot of joy. Southern Poland is beautiful and home to the Tatra Mountains which form a natalia-6natural border between Slovakia and Poland. Compared to the Rockies, the Tatras are small, only 50 miles long and 12 miles wide, but just as beautiful with majestic peaks reaching over 8,000 feet. Ever since I moved to Colorado the Ride Around the Tatras has been on my bucket list. Many of my friends do the ride every year and my dad has done it every single year since the ride was born 21 years ago. This year I finally made it happen. I packed my bike, hopped on the plane and 20-some hours later, I arrived in my hometown Nowy Targ.

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The ride is 125 miles long with over 8,500 feet of elevation gain and takes you around the entire Tatra Mountain range. You go through many mountain towns, cross the Poland/Slovakia border twice, encounter horses which are still used for transportation in this part of the world, watch out for dogs chasing you and trying to bite your ankle, roll through a beautiful countryside, and always have the Tatras as your backdrop. The ride was definitely one I will never forget. If you have never considered Poland as a cycling destination, maybe you should. I do hope to return soon.

 

 

To give and to receive – the surprising gifts from eleven year olds!

A job change allowed Lori Antolec to commit to a volunteer opportunity, but little did she know that it would prove to give back so much more.
Last Thurs I attended the team cyclocross practice at Valmont bike park. I had not been to Valmont since June 30th…the last day of Boulder’s Little Bellas camp. The day I said ‘see you next year’ to my new friends who happened to be a group of 10-12 year old girls. Zooming around the trails at practice, I reminisced of the day Sophie rode over ‘that’ feature for the first time or Marina dropped into Corkscrew without hesitation. I smiled the entire cross practice – even while doing repeats on the 5280 stairs!

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Snack time turned musical with mentor Tiffany and co-founder Sabra

A job changed allowed me to commit to being a mentor for the Little Bellas program. New to the program, I would be paired with a seasoned mentor (Tiffany) and we would spend eight Thursday evenings working with our group learning and sharpening mountain bike skills. The first evening went by in a flash with registration, decorating name plates, introductions, riding and assessing if the riders were in the correct group. I was thankful for the name plates as it was tough to remember everyone’s name that evening. Our group gelled quickly. There was time to catch up with each other especially at the start of the evening as everyone arrived or while riding to the next skills area. Our group talked about what they did that day or were going to do the upcoming weekend. The friendships and trust blossomed within the group while the encouragement grew on the trails. For me, it never mattered how tough my workday was, the minute the girls arrived and started giggling and asking what they were going to learn – the stress just slipped away. Their positive energy was infectious! Color day was one of the most memorable. The girls would practice various skills and would be splashed with color. The best was at the end of the day, the girls were given the left over color to splash the mentors which sent 40 girls and mentors frantically running and laughing in all directions.

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Color day with mentor Shelby and Lori

The 8 weeks flew by and so have the weeks since the last 2016 Boulder Little Bellas session. In addition to biking many miles, I cheered, laughed so hard I cried, sang, dabbed and soaked up all the great energy I could from my new friends. The volunteer opportunity was more satisfying than I imagined it would be and I hope I made as much of an impact on the girls as they did on me. I thought I was the one that was supposed to be giving but instead I definitely received. See you in 8 months Little Bellas!

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Lori Antolec