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Trying Cyclocross

Michelle Hancock is an athlete willing to try every discipline of cycling to really explore the different physical and mental challenges this sport offers.  Read about her experience last season trying out cyclocross.  

When I joined the Naked Women’s club team in 2013, I was introduced to the sport of cyclocross.  It reminded me a little of running cross country.  Cyclocross looked really fun, and  I knew I wanted to give it a shot.  So, I bought a bike and watched a bunch of YouTube videos.  In 2014, I did three races of the Back to Basics cyclocross Wednesday night series.  When the series ended, I left my new bike in the garage, riding it occasionally here and there.  

In 2016, I decided to dust off my bike and really give cyclocross a try.  Even though I really wanted to do it, this sport was out of my comfort zone.  I was afraid of falling and afraid of getting hurt.   At the Back to Basic Series, they had a beginner women’s race at the very end of the night which really helped to ease my anxiety.  I also came early every Wednesday to do the skills sessions led by Inspired Training Center.  I ended up doing about 11 cyclocross races that fall as well as the 6 races in the Back to Basics series.

Almost every weekend, I rode a different cyclocross course.  I met so many women and had a blast.  Cyclocross made me feel like kid.  I had to let go of my fear of crashing, accept that I might be last every week, and just have fun.

My favorite races of the season were Harlow Platts, Interlocken, and Valmont.  Harlow Platts was ridden on grass, and I started to feel like I was getting the hang of it.  Interlocken was the Halloween race.  My Naked teammates and I dressed in the theme of Wizard of Oz.  I rode the course as a flying monkey which was ridiculously fun.   Valmont was also fun because it was a long course with sand traps and stairs.

From cyclocross, I can tell that I have improved my bike handling skills.  That’s one of the best things about cycling, there is always room for growth and improvement.  Now I can truly say, “I Love Cyclocross!”  I’m looking forward to another season.

Want to Improve Your Road Racing Technical Skill? MTB!

Cat 3 Road Racer, Alli Nold shares some advice on improving road racing skills!
Road racing is exhilarating, fast paced, smooth and super fun.  Sometimes a good road race can take a turn for the worse if there is a crash in the group.  Mountain bike training can help a road racer avoid those crashes more easily.
I raced the Oz Road Race in the SW3 category.There is a section of this race on gravel road that is always a little scary. This year there was a crash on the dirt section.  Even though it occurred right in front of me, my mountain biking skills helped me to avoid a potentially race ending crash.  I was able to safely maneuver my bike to the median avoiding downed riders.  I then hopped back on the bike and worked extra hard to catch back up with the pack.  I ended up finishing this race in a well-earned 2nd place.
So, next time you want to brush up on those road racing skills, consider hopping on the mountain bike.  The technical requirements to maneuver around rocks and obstacles on the trail may come in handy in a road race someday!
Here’s a short list of terrific mountain bike camps, clinics and events in Colorado:

Mountain Bike Hut Trip: If You Go

If you have ever considered a mountain bike hut trip then this is a must read. Emily Zinn shares with us some great suggestions on preparing for this type of adventure.

Just got back from riding hut to hut from Telluride to Moab in the San Juan Hut System and have reached the only obvious conclusion: every bicycle enthusiast in the west should do this trip in their lifetime. Here are my nuggets of wisdom if any part of you thinks you would consider doing it.

If you go:
The peeps: Pick your group well. If you want some significant time for FAFF during the day (the acronym for Fucking Around for Fucking Forever), pick other FAFFers. If you want to beeline, invite type-As. And make sure they are people that you can communicate well with while you’re all hungry and out of water in 110-degree heat and are fixing a broken spoke after sitting on a cactus. Okay, fair, nobody can communicate with anyone in those conditions, but certainly there are people who come closer to that mark than others.

The dates: We went the last week in June, which we thought was the perfect balance of the snow being melted, not dreadfully hot, not needing to bring too much cold-weather gear and not encountering rain.

The (wo)man with the plan: Over-plan. Try your bags out on a long ride, with weight. Know the wheel sizes, axle types, suspension types and number of speeds of all bikes in your group. Plan a drive-around. Try to convince a carload of your friends to do a Moab trip and pick up your cars in Telluride on the way. Have a bag with clean stuff in it stashed in your car for when you get there.   Don’t schedule yourself at work the day after you get off.

The amenities: Each hut is almost identical. They have one small room with eight bunks along two walls, a wood stove, a propane stove with two burners, a large cooler for perishables and a small cooler for beer and soda, a porch and a Park bike maintenance stand. They have foam Paco Pads, mid-weight bed rolls, filtered water jugs and propane canisters.

At each hut expect:
A floor pump
A first aid kit
Good beer of many varieties
Fresh and canned fruit
Fresh and canned veggies
Fresh eggs
Fresh bacon
Canned fish and meats (you can satisfy that once-per-decade SPAM meal, certainly. In related news, happy 80th to the SPAM company!)
Canned soups
Energy bars
Sports drink
Dried fruits and nuts
Nut butters
Oats, granola, grits, etc.
Milk: dehydrated and canned and in individual coffee packets
Coffee: ground and instant
Coconut oil, which made a great heavy-duty lotion for cracking hands and feet

What I packed:
Daily riding gear:
1 jersey
2 bibs, alternating days of washing and wearing
Baggies that doubled as camp shorts
1 pair riding socks
1 pair bike shoes
1 sports bra
Long-finger summer gloves
3-liter bladder
Water bottle
Garmin with all maps pre-downloaded
Chamois cream (Euro-style!)

Personal gear:
Buff: served as a dust filter for when cars passed on dirt roads, wash cloth, wet neck cooler, warmer, pillow case, towel
Thin fleece hat
Waterproof cold weather gloves
Wool long underwear for pjs
Wool tank top for lounging and pjs
Melanzana hoodie
Pen (I used maps from previous days as note paper)
Diva Cup
iPhone: camera, music (make sure it’s actually downloaded and not just on SoundCloud or Spotify), audiobooks (downloaded with OverDrive), PDF info from the hut company (downloaded), alarm for day 6 when we woke up early to beat the heat
ID and credit card
1 pair underwear, washed daily
Head lamp
Nail clipper w file
Chapstick with SPF

Rain gear:
Gore-Tex leg warmers
Packable rain jacket that also served as an outer warm layer if needed

Luxury items:
Crocs camp shoes
Comfy socks
Inflatable Sea to Summit pillow
Practical joke fodder, including sparkly streamers, action figures, clip-on aero bars

Group gear:
InReach beacon
3 copies of maps and daily ride directions provided by hut company
Charger chords for devices
Solar panel for camping recharging (Goal Zero)
Goal Zero battery packs, charger
Water filter for pumping trailside on long days

Mechanical gear:
Correct derailleur hanger for each bike on the trip
1 spare tire for each wheel size
Shock pump
Disc brake pads
1 Kevlar universal spoke replacement
2 spare valve cores
3 spare tubes, 2×29, 1×27.5
Five packs of patch kits
Hand pump
Spare master links for 10- and 11- speed
Master link tool (mine was part of a tire lever pair)
Co2 cartridges
Zip ties
Duct tape
Electrical tape

Gorilla Tape
Chain lube, enough to lube a couple times a day when dusty
Multi tool w chain breaker and #8
B links specific to your derailleurs

First aid:
CBD capsules
CBD ointment
Suture kit
Lidocaine ointment
Sleeping pills
Wilderness First Aid travel guide
Vet tape
High-pressure irrigation syringe
Tegaderm with Benzonine for sticking
Emergency blankets
Kenesio tape
Latex gloves
CPR barrier mask
Cranberry capsules, although they had  Craisins in the huts, so eat those regularly instead to keep your urinary tract clean
Manuka honey for wound care, wound pain and emergency calories

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.

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

Questions: Email:

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, 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



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:

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.