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Keep Cyclocross Weird – A Roadie’s POV

cyclocross

Naked Women’s Racing Cyclocross Team as Alice in Wonderland, Schoolyard CX.

I admit it. I’m completely jealous of Cyclocross.

Us uptight roadie types don’t hear much laughter at our races. The only heckling we get is from fellow racers if we don’t hold our line. The weirdness of cross speaks to the athlete in me that also wants to have fun. Too much time spent concentrating on power to weight ratios does that to a person.

cyclocross

Amanda Bye, NWR co-captain

I asked Amanda Bye, Cx co-captain for Naked Women’s Racing Cyclocross team, her opinion about a cross staple; heckling. I imagine good-natured heckling would be like throwing fuel on the burning metabolic fire, helping take it up a notch.

Here’s the gospel according to Amanda: “Heckling in good fun should never interfere in someone’s race (throwing beer, shots, donuts, crossing course tape, etc) and should not be demeaning or mean. It also helps to know your audience. Some people love being heckled (case in point -me), others get their feelings hurt. So, as in all of life – – know your audience”.

Ok, so there’s at least two of us that think the right kind of heckling has its place at CX races. What’s the right kind?

Cyclocross

Emily Zinn, NWR Cx co-captain as Jesse Mile High Urban Cx Chaos

Beginner sampling of mild, good-natured heckles as heard by Emily Zinn and Amanda Bye:

“C’mon it is early season but not THAT early season, get on your bike.”

“If you are going to walk your bike that much, get a leash for it.”

“Maybe in war nobody gets left behind, but this is cyclocross!”

“The only way you manage to hold off racers is by blowing snot rockets!”

“The only time you’ve ever been called fast was by your prom date!”

“Maybe you could swim through the mud and call it a triathlon. Then you could be dead last and still win.”

Have a good one to add? Let us know. But remember the rules: The art of heckling is to be funny without being mean.  And as cyclocross pro Adam Myerson said in an interview with Bicycling magazine, “One, don’t be a d**k. Two, “business at the front, party in the back”. Give the people racing the respect of racing”.

I’m all for respect. And for keeping cross weird.

 cyclocross, keep cross weird, heckling
Kate Williams is a roadie for Naked Women’s Racing. Feel free to let her know how much faster her Grandma can ride.

Women’s Cycling: 5 Things to Know Before Joining a Team

A Beginner’s Guide to Joining a Women’s Cycling Team

Beginners Guide Joining a Women's Cycling Team

Joining a Team for the First Time

When it comes to joining a women’s cycling team, some are easy than others. Many open applications in the fall for a window of time. Others offer rolling admission at any time throughout the year. If you have a team in mind, make sure you know the deadline to apply.

1. Try Before You Apply

Most teams offer special group rides during the open enrollment period. This is the perfect opportunity to meet those on the team as well as others looking to join. Many of your questions can be answered in the casual environment of a group road ride.  “If a social group ride turns into a hammerfest in the first mile, you’ve learned something important about the team already,” says CWCP co-founder Joan Orgeldinger. Fellow team members have a huge impact on the fun and success of your riding and racing season. Take the time to make sure you like the fit.

2. Find out Where the Action Is

If group riding is tops on your list for joining, then where the rides are held and how often is key. Can you access a team calendar and see when group rides are offered? If you can ride to the start, it makes it easy to join in. Close proximity to events plus frequent group rides equal greater team involvement. After all, joining a women’s cycling team is about the camaraderie and what can be learned from riding with others who share your passion.

3. Investigate the Must-Do’s

Teams have sponsors. This is usually a good thing. It might mean you receive a discount at the local bike shop associated with team. Or it can be a stressor if the requirement is not something in your comfort wheelhouse. Some teams require fundraising efforts or racing a required number of criteriums. Make sure you understand the commitment being asked of you before you join. CWCP; Naked Women’s Racing, asks team members for a volunteer commitment. Giving back to the community and promoting women’s cycling is a core value for CWCP. Do the core values of the team resonate with you and are the requirements do-able? The answer needs to be a resounding yes.

4. Sample the Kit

Some swear that looking fast on the bike makes them ride faster. Maybe so, but more important is the material between you and the saddle. Insufficiently padded bike shorts mean uncomfortable and shortened rides. Is the team kit of good quality and one you will proudly (and comfortably) wear? Most teams want you to buy and wear their team “kit” (jersey and shorts or bibs) during training and racing. You’ll probably need more than one. Ask about the expense and see if you can try on a sample or similar model at a local shop. It’s all about the bike AND the kit.

5. Are There “Experts” who will Help You?

The sport of cycling can be intimidating. Shoes with cleats, tubeless tires, chains that need lube …. and that is just a sampling of cycling equipment. What about skills such as learning to ride in a paceline, descending safely, and working with other team mates during a race? If you want to take your skills to the next level, join a team that mentors and supports your growth. Look for clinics, team camps and workshops offered by the team. Practice makes perfect and learning from experts on your team or professionals hired to coach, will help make you a faster and safer-on-the-road cyclist.

For more information about joining CWCP, Naked Women’s Racing, click here.

Kate Williams racer with Naked Women's Racing

Kate Williams is a masters racer with Naked Women’s Racing who enjoys suffering on hill climbs and helping more women love all things bike.

Is your saddle to blame for an injury?

Lori Antolec Racer for Naked Women's Race Team

The culprit to the nagging hamstring and knee injury of Lori Antolec was an unexpected discovery. Can a bike fit be the answer to injury? Sometimes, yes!

I ended my 2016 mountain bike season on a high note.  I competed in the Steamboat Stinger as part of a duo-team with my rockstar teammate Amanda who decked us out in bee costumes!

Lori with Amanda Bye and Emily Zinn in Bee costumes at the Steamboat Stinger

Lori with Amanda Bye and Emily Zinn in Bee costumes at the Steamboat Stinger

A few weeks later I finished my first ever 50mile race, the Dakota Five-0.

Between those two races, I signed up for the Breck Epic 3-day.  It has been on my bucket list for many years and I was happy with the base I had built up, so sign up I did!  The plan was to ride my fat bike  during the winter to ensure I would be set for the BreckEpic.

Unfortunately, my body had a different plan – my hamstring and knee fell apart in January.  I took days off.  I rode different bikes but the debilitating pain would not go away.  I started PT and increased the cadence of my massage and chiropractic appointments.  I continued PT for 6-8 weeks with minimal improvement.  I scheduled an appointment with a traditional doctor to confirm I had not caused significant damage that required more attention than the PT I was receiving.  He sent me home with similar exercises to my PT regimen.

I was lost on how to solve this issue until discussing it with a coworker who suggested a thorough bio-mechanic bike fit.  I had been riding this bike for three seasons but, at this point, was willing to try anything.  I was amazed at the amount of information I learned during the fit but the most important piece of information was…I was riding on the wrong saddle size!  I was riding on a stock 143 and should be on a wider 155 to properly support my sit bones.  On the narrower saddle, I was only supported by soft tissue which causes rocking and numerous other compensations.  I drove straight to the bike shop to buy a new saddle.

Lori Antolec at the Dakota Five-0

Lori Antolec at the Dakota Five-0

Wow, what a difference!  The proper saddle size provided a more solid foundation and the improvement of power transfer was noticeable with the first pedal stroke.  I could not wait to get out and ride.  I was able to increase my riding duration and miles for the first time in 5 months.   Although I saw immediate improvement, my knee and hamstring are taking longer to return to 100%.  I was not able to participate in the BreckEpic 3-day as planned, but I’m on the path to recovery which will allow me to participate in the future!

Saddle size – do not underestimate it!  You don’t need to schedule a bike fit to confirm what size is right for you (although I highly recommend it).  Most shops have an ‘ass-o-meter’ that will guide you on the correct size.  And don’t forget saddles wear out and periodically need to be replaced just like other parts on the bike.  I was lucky until this year that I never gave much thought to saddles as I didn’t have any issues with the saddle that came with my bikes.  I hope sharing this info prevents at least one person from learning the hard way, like I did.

For more info about our race team, click here.

To inquire about a bike fit, contact Turin Bicycles.

BASIC BIKE FIT
Cleat fore/aft and rotational adjustments.
Correct saddle height ,fore/aft adjustments.
Stem length/angle adjustments.
Handlebar rotation and position.
Suggest solutions to improve your fit and overall cycling experience.
COST: $100

 

Cycling after Babies – Getting Back on the Bike

Cycling after pregnancy, racing the Beti Bike Bash

Nicole Braddock, cyclist for Naked Womens Racing, womens cycling team for racers and enthusists.

New Mom and cyclist Nicole Braddock on managing expectations and getting back on the bike after twins. 

As an athlete, especially as a competitive women’s cycling racer, you go into pregnancy with so many preconceived ideas of maintaining fitness, eating healthy, and getting back to your sport as soon as possible. Flash back to a year ago sitting in the doctor’s office with my husband, ultrasound images up on the screen, and my OB says, “there were twins in here at one point.” Okay. What does that mean? She zoomed in on one area, heartbeat going along at 170 beats per minute. She went back to the other area to investigate, and after several seconds, there’s heartbeat number two.  Yup, twins.

We hopped on our cruiser bikes that evening to meet friends and passed on the very surprising news that we’d be expecting twins the following May. We rode our bikes home. Little did I know, I wouldn’t sit on a bike again for 12 more weeks.I would have ridden a lot longer had I known 🙂

Despite every desire to have a fit and healthy pregnancy, mine was fraught with nausea, vomiting, and complications. I had read so many womens cycling blogs about womens racing bikes throughout pregnancy, or at least riding all the way through, maintaining strength, and then being able to get right back at it as soon as the doctor allowed. These women were my inspiration for my pregnancy and I wanted to be such inspiration for others. But early on in pregnancy I was put on activity restriction and those hopes went out the window. Not to mention, all I could stomach eating for several months was some variety of potatoes, usually mashed or fried. When I was finally allowed to get back on a bike, I borrowed my husband’s Primal jersey, and headed over to Inspired Training Center one weekend. I rode two days in a row, and it felt glorious. My knees were already bumping my belly, and my cardiovascular fitness had plummeted, but boy did it feel good.

Inspired Training Center training session

Inspired Training Center training session

It didn’t last. I got sick, then got sick again, and in just a few weeks would find myself on bedrest for the remainder of the pregnancy. The farther along I got, I could barely walk or put on pants, let alone do any other strenuous activity.

At midnight on March 19th, my water broke and the babies arrived at 33 weeks and 2 days. We spent 6 weeks in the NICU learning to breathe, eat. and grow. Needless to say, riding bikes was not a priority. The day before the babies came home, Stuart and I hopped on bikes and rode to the park knowing we would be so busy starting the next day.

Since Hank and Juniper have been home, we have tried really hard to ride bikes every now and then, but it doesn’t happen often. After getting a text from a friend saying she was going to race the Beti Bike Bash and I should join, I decided, what the heck? What is there to lose getting back out there? I had done one 25-mile ride two weeks prior (the longest it has probably ever taken me to ride 25 miles), and felt good enough then that I knew I would at least survive.

The cool thing about the Beti Bike Bash is that they have a “New Mom” category. To qualify, you must have had your baby no longer than 18 months ago. I was 11 weeks out to the day from my c-section. The ride up that stupidly steep fire road to the registration was enough to get my hamstrings burning and second guess my decision to race, but I persisted. At the start line, the category was bigger than I expected. Fourteen new moms would be racing. They all looked great, and I felt blah, barely fitting into my one-size-up kit that I bought for my post-partum size.

I had a great start, sitting about 4th wheel back on the initial climb, but it didn’t last. I soon was passed by all my competitors but two. It didn’t matter. I was on a mountain bike (which I hadn’t ridden since the previous July), I was outside on a beautiful day, and I was doing it. My goals that morning were to finish, to not stop and walk the climbs, and to be finish sub-50 minutes. I accomplished all three. My time was 4 minutes slower than when I did the same course 3 years ago in my first mountain bike race ever, but it didn’t matter. I can tell my kids years down the road that I raced a mountain bike less than three months after bringing them into this world.

New Mom Nicole racing the Beti Bike Bash mountain bike race

Nicole races in the New Mom Category at the Beti Bike Bash.

The other new moms were painfully fast that day. I look forward to next year when I will race the category again, hopefully proving to be a much faster “new” mom. Time will tell as feeding, changing, cuddling and playing all comes first now before riding bikes. And one day, should Hank and Juniper be so inclined, we will all be out there on the trails loving every minute.

Nicoles twins Juniper and Hank Braddock

Juniper and Hank

 

 

 

If you would like information about joining our club to ride with Nicole and a few other “new moms” visit our club page.

Toughing it out in Tulsa

If you are looking to become a better crit racer then Cat 3 racer Allie Morgan recommends racing Tulsa Tough next year.  She recaps her experience below.

In early June I travelled down to Tulsa, Oklahoma for three days of criterium racing at Tulsa Tough. I have never been very comfortable in crits, so I figured three days of back to back races would be the perfect opportunity to hone my skills and build some confidence.

The first race took place in the Brady Arts District in downtown Tulsa. The course was lined with restaurants and bars and by the time I was heading toward the start line there were already hundreds of people standing on the periphery of the course. With the larger crowd also came a larger number of women in my race. There were nearly 40 women that started, a little over two times larger than any field I had raced against previously. I quickly learned that being in a large group required more careful planning and left little room for error. I started out a little cautiously and ended up at the back for the first few laps. Although it would have been comfortable to hang out towards the back, I wanted to try my hand at some race tactics so I made my way up to the front. I spent the next 20 minutes covering attacks and trying counter attacks of my own. Although none of them stuck, it was a lot of fun to make moves and I learned a lot from just trying.

Alli Morgan racing the CSU Oval Crit

Almost half way through the race, the woman in front of me skidded on a sharp left turn at the bottom of the hill. I was on the pavement before I recognized what was happening. Most of the group was able to work their way around us and only 5 were taken out in the crash. Three of us trotted our bikes to the pit and got back in the race on the next lap. It took almost three laps to catch the group and another two laps to make it up to the front again. I was not quite as bold after the crash, but I continued to cover moves made by other riders and worked to ensure that I had a good position coming into the final two laps. That was a race that took courage from the start to finish. Although my place at the end was not what I had hoped, I learned an incredible amount about bike racing, group dynamics and tactics that day.

The second race took place at Cry Baby Hill, a famous two block steep hill outside of downtown Tulsa. The hill was famous for its rigor and for the massive parties that were thrown there during the races each year. Because the hill added a significant degree of difficulty to each lap, my race was only 30 minutes long. Coming from a background of hill climbs, I felt as though the hill was my best chance for success so I decided to hammer the hill hard each lap. In the first two laps we dropped almost half of the group. The remainder of the race was a battle for position near the front and the opportunity to control the pace for the hill. The race flew by and before I knew it the bell was being rung for the last lap. I sprinted to the top of the hill, cognizant that being in good position for the final descent and corner was imperative. The finishing stretch was about 200 meters long coming off from a sharp right turn at the bottom of a steep hill. I was lined up with eight other women coming out of the corner and sprinted for a fifth place finish. Although it was not a traditional criterium because of the hill, I learned valuable pack skills during the race and had the chance to practice tactics for the last lap.

I would highly recommend the Tulsa Tough races for anyone interested in becoming a better crit racer. Even if you do not have much experience or confidence in crits, these races are great places to build skills and challenge yourself, especially if you approach them as places to practice tactics. The support from the city for the races is also incredible; the races are all well attended by spectators and the city does a great job taking care of the cyclists throughout the weekend.

Alli Morgan wins the 2017 CO State SW3 Road Championship at Salida

Never too old or too slow

Cyclocross Racer Lisa Matlock Strong on being a pro mountain biker, elite state champ and an athlete who will never retire. 

When do I become too slow or too old?  Never.

I do have an ego but when it comes to bike racing but it comes and goes.  When I was in tip top shape I really cared a lot, But as I’ve “aged” and become more weathered in this cycling community, I care less and less.  Sure my heart still breaks a little when I think “She went faster than me!”  but then I remember all of my life’s successes: a family, 2 beautiful girls, a successful business, being healthy.  I’m here to tell you there’s more to it than winning!

Lisa volunteering with with the Tri Velo Series Junior Mtb Camp. Daughter Lucy, a racer like Mom.

My cycling career in Cyclocross goes all the way back to 1999 when I placed 2nd at Collegiate CYCLOCROSS Nationals.  I had no idea what a national championship would have meant at the time, and I was pleased to become an All-American.  Fast forward through several years of cow-bell ringing races called the Super Cups (who remembers those?), and through years of slogging along as a pro mountain bike racer, to 2008.  My career bounced back after having my first daughter.  I’m not sure if it was a blood boost or just pure motivation, but for a few years around that time I became a star in Colorado!  In 2008 & 2010 I was Runner-up State Champion and in 2009 I pulled off the BIG WIN as Elite State Champion!  What a couple of fun years.

Lisa Matlock Strong during her pro career

There are so many women racers out there who come on the scene, win a lot, and make a big fuss about retiring.  I’m not one of them.  I’m here to say that you don’t have to WIN to race.  I still show up and put on my game face even if I haven’t put in the hours or focus on training.  I love every bit of it and I’m here to stay.

So next time you question if you are fit enough and trained enough, just remember your love for the sport.  And remember me, I’ve gone from State Champion to pack fill, and with no plans of announcing a big retirement.  Just show up, smile, and give it what you got!

 

Learn more about Naked Women’s Racing. We never retire.

#Crossiscoming

Nicole Duke leading a CX camp for our racers this month.

For veteran roadie Melissa Westergard, #crossishere for the first time. It’s never too late for a new experience!

#crossiscoming

I seem to find this on almost every cycling related post on social media as road season is winding down and Fall is approaching. So why is there so much more hype about cross than any other discipline? I’m eager to find out!

My daughter tried out cross for the first time last year and I have to say, it did look like a lot of fun. I’ve identified myself as a roadie for the past 9 years and have barely ventured into the other disciplines. Mostly because I like to be in control – in control of my bike that is. I like knowing that my bike is going to move in the direction that I move and that I am “one with my bike”. From what I’ve learned the few times I’ve been on a mountain or cross bike, that principle does not hold true for CX or mountain. These disciplines require you to allow the bike to move independently from your own body. This is quite possibly the reason I didn’t enjoy CX or mountain the first time I tried it.

 

Last weekend I attended my first CX camp and learned many valuable skills that should help me venture out to try racing this upcoming season. Thankfully I have a stellar group of teammates that are always willing to chime in and help out this newbie. I’m really looking forward to this new adventure.Stay tuned – I’ll be sharing the experiences of my first few races soon!

 

 

Are You Ready?

Be Prepared while riding mtb

We all know there are dangers on the road and trail. Read how one team member discovered the importance of being prepared for the worst. 

I’ve been thinking about this for weeks.  I wasn’t sure if this was a “story” I wanted to tell.

It was my day off, and we had planned for a date night that evening. We had free movie tickets we’d been holding on to for quite some time. We just either couldn’t find the time or find a movie we really were interested in seeing. The day had felt rushed, sometimes days off are like that. I’d been trying to squeeze in all the things that I’d been putting off all week, plus training and making sure the dog still got some good outside time too.Be prepared for emergencies while riding Mtb

My training ride was going well.  I was out on the road bike and we had been pushing hard.  When it came time to turn around, I decided I wasn’t quite ready to go back.   I made the decision to continue on alone for one last climb. I’d just go hard to the top of that climb and then cruise home. That would still give me plenty of time to take the dog for a nice long walk before “date night”. The gearing on my bike was acting up, and I couldn’t seem to adjust the derailleur so I had all my gears.  I figured that was okay, I needed to get out of my comfort zone of high cadence anyway.  I just stayed in the tougher gear and worked a bit harder to go up that hill. I passed a few other riders grinding their way to the top and was relieved when I made it. Finally the downhill! A few miles where I could relax, cruise and work on my comfort on the bike descending fast.

I’d gone maybe two miles, when I came upon a man. He was standing on the side of the path and he was on his cell phone. As I got closer I could see another man lying at his feet. I could also begin to overhear the man on the phone and it was quite obvious that he was speaking with the 911 dispatcher.  I immediately pulled over and knelt down next to the man on the ground.  Speaking to him, he was unresponsive. I checked for a pulse and for breathing….both absent.  I began CPR. Within a few minutes another cyclist joined me. He took over breathing as I continued compressions. Finally a third cyclist arrived and he and I took turns with compressions. It was amazing how quickly I tired, my compressions getting weaker as time went on. I know it was probably only minutes before the police and ambulance arrived but it felt much longer.

I’ve spent many years recreating in the out of doors; many activities in many different places. This was the first time I’d had to put CPR class to use.

I’ve spent many days reliving and rerunning the scene in my mind. Until recently (when I heard the reason for his death) I kept questioning if I had done everything possible; was there something more, something else, could my compressions have been better, etc., etc.

I took two things away from this experience. First anything can happen at any time to any one of us. We should live our best life and be our best self every single day. Secondly I may have just been lucky so far to have spent so many years never running into someone who needed help in the out of doors.  I would encourage all of you who also love to be outside; spending time doing all the activities we do, to be ready.  Do you know first aid? Do you know CPR? If you answered no to either of these questions, maybe it’s time to change that. I was so glad that I knew what to do that day. I didn’t save a life that day, but it wasn’t because I wasn’t ready.

Our author has respectfully requested to remain anonymous. 

Click here to learn about CPR & First Classes in Colorado.

Track Taster at the Boulder Valley Velodrome

Never too afraid to try something new, Michelle Hancock, recaps the fun that was had at the Women’s Night at the Track.  If you missed this event this year make sure you check it out next year!

Women’s Night at the Boulder Valley Velodrome really was all it was chalked up to be and more…. Track Taster…Enjoy the Camaraderie…Experience the Thrill!  

I’ve had track cycling in the very, very, very back of my mind for a short time, but I really didn’t have a vision of what is was all about.  Luckily, I didn’t watch any You Tube videos because surely I would have chickened out.  I got an email about the Women’s Night at the Track, and I thought, “That looks like fun.  Why not?”

 

On a beautiful August Saturday afternoon, I arrived at the Boulder Valley Velodrome not knowing what to expect.  I got a pair of shoes that fit, a Specialized bike named “Berryman”, and I was ready to go.  As I made my way out to the track, ladies were already zipping around.  I hadn’t really thought about what the track would look like, and I was taken aback.  It was very short and extremely steep.  Riders seemed to be suspended in the air as they whizzed around the track.  I began to wonder if I would be able to ride this track.

Strangely, the bike had no handlebar tape, and I wasn’t used to the type of clipless pedals.  I had also never ridden a fixed-gear bike with no brakes.  On this type of bike, the pedals continuously move and you have to resist their movement to slow down or stop.  When I got onto the bike, it was almost like I had to quickly relearn how to ride.  Since the pedals only went forward and I didn’t quite know how to clip in, my mind got stuck.  After a little while, with the help and patience of Rachel Plessing, a rider on the Alps Cycles team, I was able to begin riding around the flat area next to the track.  Again, I felt like it was my first time on a bike, and I was petrified.

With some coaxing, I made my way to the black line on the track on the straights, but I was afraid to stay on it around the turns.  Slowly, I began to progress and ride the entire track near the black or red lines.  After a multitude of laps, I made it up to the blue line and later even further up.  I learned how speed works in relation to the staying high on the track.  Rachel coached me, encouraged me, and helped me stay clear of the other riders.  

As the night progressed, I felt more confident.  I rode and rode and rode.  I didn’t want to stop riding.  Rachel was a great mentor and good sport.  She rode with me all night and continued to help me work on moving around the track.  

All good things must come to an end, and I had stop riding.  The event was catered with delicious food, drinks, prize drawings, and bike talk.  I love new experiences and this one goes right to the top of my list.  I’m grateful to the women who put on this event for giving me the opportunity to fly.  I’m ready to learn more about the sport of track racing at the velodrome.

 

Tandem Racing at 14,115 ft – Pikes Peak, Colorado

 

CWCP team member Rachel Beisel piloted a tandem with athlete Tina Ament for the win at the 2017 Hill Climb National Championship climbing Pikes Peak In Cascade. Colorado. Here’s their take on 10% grade and the amazing community surrounding BVI athletes. 

Congrats, on your national champion title for hill climb-tandem. What was the hardest part?

Rachel: Standing in unison! This was my third tandem ride and also my second ride with stoker Tina Ament. We hadn’t had a lot of time to practice together nor do I have really any tandem experience. Luckily, teammate Roberta Smith hooked us up with a tandem bike and came down to be my practice stoker for my first tandem ride.

Tina: The last two miles were the definitely the hardest. We coasted because we couldn’t shift the bike into the middle ring at the last aid station. That caused the legs to lock up a bit and then had to pedal up nearly 10% grade for two miles until the finish. Being a flatlander, the lack of oxygen didn’t help either.

Tell us about your partner, Tina.

Tina is a federal prosecutor in DC, multi Ironman finisher, 24 hour bike race winner, national champion rower and now national champ hill climb cyclist, downhill skier, adventure junky jokester and soon to be RAAM racer. She also has a cute new black Lab guide dog named Higgins that has three cat brothers. She’s truly inspirational yet humble.

Any key learning moments from the day?

As with any race, make sure to eat and drink plenty. We took turns eating and drinking since I’m not very confident on a tandem yet and wanted to make sure we didn’t lose momentum.

Also shifting can be a bit difficult. We chose to stay in the smallest ring up front because the bike didn’t shift very easily due to the stress on the frame. We lost a bit of time on the downhill sections because of it, and we should have spun the legs during those sections so they wouldn’t lock up.

I also thought the switchbacks would be impossible on a tandem since I can barely do them on my single bike, but it wasn’t nearly as much of a problem as I thought it would be.

If someone wanted to be a guide how would they start?

I first became exposed to being a guide for athletes from my friend Caroline Gaynor. We both raced the Boulder Rapha ride a few years ago when a mutual friend mentioned Caroline did this, and I remember thinking I wanted to one day do that. She’s coincidentally led Tina in multiple Ironmans and is completely selfless when it comes to sport. She created a resource for blind athletes and guides here: https://carolinebikes.com/resources-for-athletes-and-guides/

In addition to her list Eye Cycle out of Eagle, Colorado and Bicycling Blind are other great resources.

Also if you’re curious about etiquette as a guide, I found this to be a good list of do’s and don’ts: http://bicyclingblind.org/captain_hub/etiquette

As a stoker, Tina reached out to our team to find a pilot. She was looking through race results for races that offered a BVI category and saw that the Naked team had a lot of riders so she reached out knowing that we would have several ladies at the race who could potentially pilot.

Anything else to add?

Roberta Smith and Tina Ament at the Tennessee Paracycling Open

The community is tight-knit and truly a great group of athletes. I asked Tina what she would like to see, and she said that there needs to be more grassroots efforts to have tandem or BVI opportunities to grow the sport. It’s intimidating to jump into a National Championship or a super competitive race and it be your only opportunity to learn how to ride, not only for a first time stoker but also a pilot. I completely agree. Especially as women, she struggles to find female pilots which she needs for competing at para-cycling events like the 2017 Para Cycling-Open. This is the race that Roberta went to with Tina earlier in the year.

Greg Miller is the race organizer of this race, and I actually have raced in some events he runs when I used to live in Tennessee nearly a decade ago. He is another fantastic human being who created the TN Para Cycling Open race because he saw a need to have more para cycling events. He’s a multi-time pilot and is so gracious with his time in getting new people into the sport. Greg is also a part of the Invictus Games, an international Paralympic-style multi-sport event, created by Prince Harry, in which wounded, injured or sick armed services personnel and their associated veterans take part in several sports. Greg introduced me to Jason Kimball at dinner the night before the hill climb, a world record holder and para-cycling track world champion. He also introduced me to Katie Kuiper, a multi-time Invictus Games medalist and accomplished cyclist who also raced Pikes Peak and took 2nd in the 30-39 category, when we all had beers celebrating after the race. I had never heard of all the different ways to get involved, and Greg was a plethora of knowledge with no shortage of friends.

Left to right Tina, Rachel, Greg Miller (pilot), Kevin Meyers (stoker)

I think if more cycling teams reached out to the community or a local organization, not just cycling but running and swimming clubs too, they would open the door for many more visually impaired persons to experience sport without the intimidation factor. Also, race organizers should consider hosting a BVI/Tandem category to encourage participants, even if not very many show up. It takes time to grow a brand and get people involved. Last year Pikes Peak only had one tandem cyclist and they doubled in size this year 🙂 The community may be small but it is mighty, and it is growing with the help of people like Roberta, Greg, Caroline, and Tina.