Category Archives: Race Report
Kimberley, our domestic elite spokeswoman and team organizer, recaps her challenges and victories at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
A little over one week ago I finished racing in the inaugural 3-day women’s race at the US Pro Cycling Challenge, an experience I am proud to have been a part of, regardless of my own results. Almost as soon as the race finished, I had to shift my focus to the cross-country move that is now in progress (which deserves it’s own follow-up post), and so I am now finally catching my breath and reflecting on the weekend I worked so hard to prepare for. For the first time in several months, as a passenger in a rather uncomfortable truck loaded up with everything we own, I have nothing but time.
The US Pro Cycling Challenge is a high profile race that began in Colorado five years ago, but that until this year, highlighted only men. Like the thousands of cycling fans that flooded our state to see pro tour teams race, I too trekked up Lookout to add my cheers to the sufferfest, and last year I loved having the opportunity to watch the Denver finish from the NovoNordisk tent. But unlike those other fans, for me it was bittersweet. I was thrilled to see Colorado host such a high profile race, and the community support was absolutely mind-blowing to me. The fact that I had to climb a lightpole to see over the buzzing crowd at Civic Center Park highlights this. I had no idea there were so many fans of this rather obscure sport I fell in love with. But while I was simultaneously energized by the community enthusiasm, I yearned for professional women to have their own race… our own race. As the race continued to grow each year, I was cautiously optimistic that the organizers would lend their ears to the growing voices that begged the question… “But why isn’t there a women’s race?” This wasn’t just about us bike racers wanting equality, but the community wanting to see strong women who inspire and encourage their daughters, sisters, mothers. So when almost one year ago the announcement was made that the 2015 US Pro Cycling Challenge would include a 3-day professional women’s stage race, I was thrilled.
Even then, just thinking about what this race would mean, my heart skipped a beat, and I knew without a doubt I wanted to be there. Not just watching and cheering, but racing. However, given the significance of the race, and the fact that it would be a team invite-only race, I knew that obtaining a spot would be a challenge. Pro teams would be building their strongest roster, and there would be many more riders hoping to race than teams to take them on. My heart sunk with the realization that even if I focused all my training efforts on this race, much was still outside of my control. Much like the rest of bike racing, much like the rest of life. It was right about then that I realized that rather than being discouraged or abandon this dream, I could do something about it. So early this spring I decided I wanted to develop an all-Colorado composite team to race at the inaugural women’s US Pro Cycling Challenge. If I was feeling this frustration at wanting so desperately to race but not being able to, I knew other women were too. A composite team like I was envisioning wouldn’t change the world, at least not in one race, but it would provide an incredible experience for five other hard working women.
I wrote what I hoped would be a convincing proposal, sent it off to Sean Petty, and then did my best to find the right balance of demonstrating my investment, but not being annoyingly pushy. A few months later I got the invitation I’d been anxiously waiting for, and soon everything was abuzz with excitement and planning. I was introduced to Robert Carroll, a local man who was also passionate about women’s racing, and we began collaborating to make this team the best we possibly could in a relatively short amount of time. Together we selected five other riders from three other teams, and had our first team meeting the end of June, less than two months from our first race. Between then and last Sunday, we brought on several great sponsors, including Pactimo, who crafted the amazing kits for the team, Empire Nissan, who provided professionally wrapped team cars, RAD (Real Athlete Diet) food for the weekend, rock tape, and DU’s Daniels School of Business. Alison Powers, a retired racer and former national champion in all three road disciplines, volunteered her time to serve as our team’s DS. To chronicle the extent of the time and energy poured into this project, and the people who made it happen, would make for a post longer than anyone would care to read. But suffice it to say, I am humbled at the support we received and the way people rallied together to pull this thing off so successfully.
My own race results weren’t quite what I had hoped, at least partially thanks to the over 1000 ill-timed wildfires blowing smoke into our state. The smoke-laden air proved a formidable opponent to my asthma-cursed lungs, but I did the absolute best I could given the conditions. During the Loveland to Fort Collins stage, I remember being blown away by the fact that we could barely see the mountain we were about to climb. In the four years that I’ve lived in Colorado, never once have I breathed air that bad. I didn’t achieve a top ten finish, or even a top 20… but to be quite honest, to me, the race was still a success. The team wasn’t primarily about my own results, but the culmination of months of effort for a purpose beyond myself.
This race’s success was in the costumed fans lining moonstone pass, pumping their fists in their air and cheering themselves hoarse as I suffered my way to the top. It was in the two sisters who shyly came up to me as I was warming up on the trainer before my time trial, hoping I would sign the back of their t-shirts… and in the mother who asked if I’d be willing to take a picture with her small son, who’d recently been told by a friend at school that “girls don’t do sports.” I was there, along with Olympians and world champions, to prove him wrong.
In three days of racing, I experienced the perfect platform to enhance the dialogue about how great women’s cycling is and can be when we’re given an opportunity to shine. I had the opportunity to talk with the Denver Post, was unexpectedly featured on 9news as we pinned our number before the road race, and happily talked with Boulder-based Mary Topping of ProVeloPassion about our endeavor. The fact that news sources picked up this story is because I believe it’s one worth telling, regardless of our individual results. This collaborative effort to make a place for more women in professional bike races was a success, and I think it could be a great model to be repeated at other major races such as Tour of California, Tour of Utah, etc. I was talking with a friend and mechanic who was working with Mavic for the week, who confided that he was so glad that the women’s race was filled with true racing… not a “group ride with a sprint finish,” an unfortunate stereotype that many people believe characterizes women’s racing. Although originally I was disappointed that four years had to go by before adding a women’s race, I am glad the US Pro Challenge waited until they could do it right, which they absolutely did. The women’s race was a huge success on all accounts, as the photo below illustrates. As I carefully unpinned my numbers and reflected on the previous three days, I was filled with gratitude at the whole experience, and the familiar hunger for more. I folded those paper squares, and placed them in my “numbers from favorite races” box… a favorite race indeed. And with that, my 2015 bike racing season is a wrap!
Michelle learns an important lesson – always check the race results because you might actually be on the podium!
Every race and ride can teach you something like a new way to corner effectively or how to maneuver a tight switchback. My lesson during the latest Rendezvous race in Winter Park was more like a simple “mom told you so” lesson “ALWAYS CHECK YOUR RACE RESULTS BEFORE YOU LEAVE…YOU MAY HAVE FINALLY REACHED THE ELUSIVE PODIUM!”
I have always enjoyed the Winter Park race series races and the Rendezvous race had been enhanced to provide an exciting race, it didn’t disappoint! This race was super fun providing almost 17 miles of single track racing experience. I just moved up to Expert in the mountain biking circuit and have been getting royally schooled by incredible women racers, especially in the amazingly fast 40-49 year old Expert racing group. I have told myself “ I just want to podium once in expert and I will be completely satisfied”! I have laughed the entire year at my perpetual 4th placement at almost every race I enter so I guess I have to keep racing.
I learned from the last Yeti Beti race that going out in front is great if you can withstand the pace (which I didn’t do so great at) so I approached this race by figuring I would stay with the pack but sit back and let others pull out in front. It worked! I was able to keep with the pack and slowly pull my way up to the front and by the end of the first long climb up to Corona Pass road on the Serenity trail. After crossing Corona Pass road we landed on the most beautiful single track I have ridden in Winter Park. I know you are not supposed to smile or giggle when racing but I honestly couldn’t help myself, I was truly enjoying the trail.
After I realized I had company behind me I quit the nostalgic feeling and picked up the pace until we hit broken ankle trail. Super fun, tight single track with closely placed trees and a quick decent to the bottom. At this point in the race you start looking for the ever elusive Moose that are always spotted in the wetland section of the race but none where found or reported at this point, only deep mud bogs with slippery roots awaited. Prepare to get muddy!
I was in second place in my age group but… long story short my smile faded ( just a little) at the 10 mile mark. My legs started burning, my feet started aching, and slowly the group started engulfing me and I quickly fell to 4th place (perpetual 4th…..).
Well there went any chance at a podium spot. I love the single track trails in Winter Park and I rode the race with a smile on my face truly enjoying my bike and keeping my pace. Never thinking racers can always have mechanicals or “things happen”, which I should know after suffering multiple mechanicals during the half Growler in the spring.
I descended the last single track to the finish line and went immediately to the river to wash my bike and soak my feet. Not even considering I was anything but 4th I didn’t want to waste any more time waiting around for results, wanting to join my kidos back at camp for an afternoon ride. There was not a thought in my head I had made the podium.
So picture this…..sitting at the campsite with your family and friends that afternoon, one decides to check the race results and looks up and smiles and says “wow Michelle, did you know you made the podium today and placed third”. Seriously…how did I miss that? I guess I have to keep on racing since I can only prove I made third on paper but with no picture or beer mug. Lesson learned, never leave a race without checking your results. You never know where you may end up….and it may be the podium.
Lanier, resident strong woman and selfless teammate, jumped in to Deer Trail State Road Race with low expectations, but you never know how a race will turn out!
I decided to race Deer Trail the day after the City Park crit primarily because my coach urged me to get some high intensity miles done. The race is east of Denver, an L-shape on narrow empty roads with cone U-turns at each end. I haven’t raced it in a couple of years, and remember liking the rolling course as a Cat 4. But racing as a Cat 2 is a whole different ball game.
I had such low expectations that I left my saddle bag on (intentionally this time) so that I wouldn’t get stranded if I got a flat. Surprisingly for the State Championship Road Race, it was a small group – only 9 of us started. We joked at the start that we should give everyone else a hard time. Looking around, all of them seemed serious about getting the state championship vest. I decided this would be an excellent time trial effort for me after they dropped me at mile 10.
The race began. After a slow start, the attacks began. They would drop me on the hills, then I would catch up on the flats/downhills. At first I thought, why work to catch up? But I could hear my coach in my head, and decided it would be good training. This happened probably 4-5 times. One rider was dropped, then another got a flat. Two others were dropped. So it was 5 of us left. At this point, I was wondering what the hell I was still doing in that group – ha!
At mile 50, a crash in the oncoming SM4 field sent bikes and riders sliding into our side of the road, and another rider and I went down. She was in front of me, and I had slowed but not enough. Her handlebar was bent and our bikes were tangled up together, but mine was fine so I got going again. Another racer caught up with me, and we started chasing the first 3. They saw us at the turnaround, and they were gone. It came down to a sprint at the end, and I took 4th. Just goes to show, you truly never know how a race will turn out. So get out there and race, my friends!
Ashleigh ventured east to the Pisgah National Forest for the Pisgah Enduro Mountain Bike Race. Here her thoughts on the trail conditions and the epic-ness of this race!
I am fairly new to the Enduro racing world, but have done a couple of races in Colorado. While traveling in the South, my husband and I ended up in North Carolina the weekend of the Pisgah Enduro. I thought this would be a fun way to check out the biking scene in the Southeast. I had never biked in the south or east before this trip and did not know what to expect. My few expectations were that the trails might be rooty, slippery, and technical. Coming from Colorado, I expected the climbing to be no problem. Boy was I in for a surprise!
The Pisgah Enduro puts the endurance back into Enduro racing. The few enduro races I have done in Colorado were on ski areas with lift access that cut out the first 1,200 feet of climbing. On the other hand, the Pisgah Enduro is located in Pisgah National Forest, with no lift access, just surprisingly steep mountains. The pedal to the top of the first stage had us climbing over 1500 feet in a little over 2 miles on paved and dirt roads. That woke my legs right up! We continued to ride 30 miles (including the timed downhill portions) and climb 4,300 feet the first day. Between the climbing, the heat, and the humidity I was about as tired as I remember being in a long time! I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through day 2, with the daunting climb up Heart Break Ridge!
After an early dinner, a late dinner, a lot of Naked coconut juice, some time wearing my POD Sox compression stalkings, and a good night sleep, my legs felt better than I expected. I woke up ready for day 2. Initially, I was worried my quads were not going to get me up the 4,000 feet of climbing to the top of Heart Break Ridge for stage 1. Turns out, I should have been more worried about getting blisters on my heels because we did a lot of hike a biking! After riding about a third of the way up, it became obvious by the hoards of walking racers that the best way to save my legs for the rest of the day was to push my bike up the steep single track. So I joined the line and pushed my bike too…for a long time, but it was tolerable because I was not alone. Everyone was pushing their bike, having a good time yelling “Enduro!” and “Strava!” as we slowly pushed our bikes up through the temperate rainforest canopy. By the time we reached the top of heartbreak ridge it was 2 hours and 2,800 feet later.
The second day was also much more technically challenging, with larger rocky drops, a lot of slippery roots, some very narrow trail sections with close trees, and alarmingly steep drop offs. When all was said and done, the second day came to a close with lots of smiles, 28 miles on our bikes, and over 6,000 feet of climbing. The 2 day total for the race was 56 miles on our bikes and an impressive 11,000 feet of climbing!
The Pisgah Enduro was an incredible weekend with some amazing scenery, great people and great biking. This race is a true test of all around biking ability, needing to be a cardio killer and a downhill badass to compete. It is a true Enduro race.
Nicole is crushing her first year on the dirt. Read more about this podium performance at the Winter Park Epic Single Track Super Loop.
On Saturday June 27th, I raced my third ever mountain bike race. I have been racing now for two seasons, mostly on the road. I wanted to branch out this year to experience more disciplines and see how I would enjoy them and adapt. Saturday’s race was the Winter Park Epic Single Track Super Loop — marketed as a cross country race, I would be doing about 13 miles in the novice category. I was excited to race this as a prep for the following weekend’s Firecracker 50, as I wanted and needed to see how I would feel on my mountain bike at altitude. My start time was 10:55, giving me plenty of time to drive up that morning, get registered, and warm up.
Kim snags the top step in the CSU Oval Criterium! Read more on how riding a little less may have helped her ride to victory!
This Sunday I drove up to Fort Collins to race the CSU Oval Criterium. Although I had the opportunity to race twice in Arizona for the early season VOS and TBC races, this would be my first Colorado Race. As I was driving up, I made the decision that I wanted to start it off well, with exciting and aggressive racing, risk taking, trusting my training, and mental fortitude. I told Marcus, “I think I can win this race!” This goal was immediately threatened by a bit of unexpected traffic due to multiple accidents, adding a solid 30 minutes to what is typically an hour drive. I had even planned what I thought would plenty of margin for the drive. I began to feel a bit frazzled, compulsively glancing at the clock, as one by one, the minutes remaining before my race start elapsed. I took a breath… this entire year has been a lesson in controlling the controllables, and breathing deep and finding calm in the many variables that are outside my grasp. For anyone who thinks bike racing has no relevance to “real life”, you are mistaken. Bike racing has taught me invaluable lessons about planning well but taking the inevitable surprises in stride, in a way that has served me well far beyond the race course.
We arrived at the CSU campus 45 minutes before my start time, and Marcus dropped me off as close as he could get to race registration before finding a parking spot. Thankfully I’ve now developed quite a streamlined routine, so although 45 minutes from car to start line is far from ideal, it’s not impossible. Registration completed, bibs/jersey/shoes/helmet/sunglasses on and beet juice drinken (why Marcus, equally fluent in the pre-race checklist, pumped my tires and put chain lube on), and I still had 15 minutes to spin around before the start. I returned to my previously set goal, before the traffic and rushed preparation and premature adrenaline rush. Despite all those, I wanted to win this race, and there was no reason why I shouldn’t. One of my biggest challenges in racing has been learning to take risks and push beyond my comfort zone. Trusting that the training I’ve done is enough, and my legs can handle the load. So I decided that today, there would be no giving up. I would allow my body to get to a new level. Far too many people are held back by the fear of what they may not do that they never find out what they can do. I resolved that I would rather fail because I’d exceeded my limit then finish having not even attempted to reach it.
From the first lap I raced aggressively, driving pace, attacking, chasing, counter-attacking. I was in a glorious place of mental clarity, purpose and determination. I timed my moves well, and trusted my training. As the race went on, the field was slowly whittled down, with several riders losing contact with the group, and several more just hanging on the tail end. With five laps to go I was still feeling strong, and began to put myself in position for the finish. I marked two of the other riders, who I judged as among the strongest, and patiently waited, as the familiar cat and mouse interactions unfolded. With one lap to go, one rider went, attacking hard off the front, but my marked riders didn’t jump, and neither did I. We kept the pace steady, and I made sure to stay near the front. In too many races, I’ve been forced to let off the throttle in my finish as I tried to move around riders who’d run out of gas before the line, and I wanted to finish this race knowing that I had given it all. We were closing the gap between the lone rider ahead, and caught her with less than 500 meters before the finish. I began my sprint earlier than I typically do, before the final bend of the oval that the course is named for, and didn’t look back.
In this moment of temporary pain, as I kept my eyes just beyond the finish line, I took my first win of not only this season, but of the last two. My entire being felt a rush of something I can only describe as gratitude, pride, resolution, and acceptance all rolled into one soul-warming experience. It was almost as if in this win, some of the broken pieces were coming back together. This year has been the most challenging one I’ve had in quite a while. A broken neck, sub-par race results, personal and professional challenges and changes, and set-back after set-back left me wondering if everything I was doing was in vain. Despite my best attempts, some of these circumstances and additional time commitments impacted my training, and my volume was slightly lower than it has been in previous years. I questioned whether I would have built enough base or be in form by race season, but I knew I could only do my best, which I had. After the race I jokingly said to my husband, “I guess not riding as much this year served me well!” He gently smiled, and replied, “I think adversity serves you well.” Although the circumstances of this year are far from what I have chosen, I have done my best to take them in stride and become a stronger person. I have been learning that measuring effort solely by outcome will sooner or later leave you feeling uncertain and discouraged. Hard work, integrity, and endurance in the face of trial is never in vain. It may take longer to see why or how, but it will come. This past Sunday I got a small taste of that delicious fruit that comes from never giving up.
Melissa recaps one of the perks of being Naked Women’s Racing team and club member – clinics taught by the pros! Thank you Jen Sharp and Alison Powers for helping us ride safer and smarter in the races to come!
One of the many benefits of being part of such a great women’s cycling team is having the opportunity to participate in skills clinics. We were fortunate to learn from the best of the best athletes and coaches, Alison Powers and Jennifer Sharp. The two coaches met up with 20 women from the Naked team and shared their expertise with us on riding and racing in a pack out on the road.
There were several ladies there that have been on the team for a few years, but there were also many new faces that participated. It was a great opportunity for us to meet our new teammates and share in this experience together.
There were many skills that Alison and Jen taught us. The most valuable piece of information I took away from the clinic was “protecting your box.” This is the area from your headtube to drop bars to the edge of your front wheel. If you can keep this area clear from other riders, you can be more confident that you won’t go down in a crash. This was valuable to me because I went down in a crit last season and it has been a challenge for me to become comfortable positioning myself in the middle of a fast-paced pack of racers.
We also practiced various types of pacelines through Cherry Creek State Park. I know that something everyone was able to improve was “making your bubble smaller.” We practiced this by riding much closer to one another in the pacelines.
Today was about learning new skills and getting outside of our comfort zones. Most of us agreed that we gained a lot from this clinic and are eager to put it into practice!
Why race two or three events in one day when you can race a Pentathlon! Roberta is our veteran at off the wall sports – like a biathlon state champ and trail runner extraordinaire! Read more about her Pentathlon experience!
I have always been wanting to try the Steamboat Pentathlon. Although it seems like in past years I have always had an excuse- no mountain bike- not in Steamboat race weekend, etc. Well this year I had no excuses. I bought a mountain bike in the Fall and I had all the gear necessary and no trips planned. The stars were aligning so I am sure it was after a few glasses of wine that registering for the event actually sounded like a good idea.
So what is involved in the Pentathlon you ask, well the first of the events entailed running 500 meters up Howelson Hill in Steamboat and then alpine/telemark ski down. This involved placing my telemark gear at the top of the hill prior to the race. I got to walk down the steep hill I was going to eventually run up. Yikes.
The next four events were snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, mountain biking, and running.
In theory I had all of the sports down and had been “training” all winter. When I was getting my gear together the day before the race, I realized I had 5 different pieces of footwear that I was going to have to get quickly in and out of, two sets of skis and bike gear. Sheesh. I thought triathlons were gear intensive.
I laid out all of my gear in the transition area and looking at everyone else’s spot we were all remarking that it just looked like a gear swap. Several of the ladies I was racing against had never done the race before so we were all wondering what compelled us.
First Event- Alpine Ski
The run up Howelson was humbling. I wore an old pair of running shoes and my yax trax. When the gun went off I started running up the mountain and then I felt like I was in heart rate overload. Straight uphill- probably a 45 degree angle and many of us happy runners were forced to a grueling march to our gear that awaited us at the top of the hill. Once there, I strapped on my tele boots and headed downhill. So with this race, helmets were necessary, so to help reduce the gear load, I skiied in my bike helmet. Yes, I was one of those people that I make fun of on the skil hill.
Luckily no collisions happened and we were all safe.. now on to transition…
Second event snoweshoe (2.5 miles)
The snowshoe event was probaby my weakest link. Yes I have been runnig but not on snowshoes. That is a totally different story. Especially when you borrow them from your friend the week before and try on the day before the race! All was fine in the snowshoe with the exception of a few trips going uphill. Many of the ladies I was racing against were walking the uphills so when it was particullary steep I followed suit. The run/ walk pace went on and I would pass someone, they would pass me back. The best racer outfit award went to the racer wearing a lumberjack shirt, Carharts, and running in snowshoes that I am pretty certain were hanging on the wall in the cabin he was renting just the night before. I felt great that he was not beating me.
Third Event – (5.6 miles skate ski)
This is the event I felt the strongest in. I have been racing biathlon all season and I was racing strong this year. I knew I could take the girls that were ahead of me. Sure enough, I had better technique and a better glide to pass every gal, except one that was ahead of me. I was basking in my glory when all the sudden, when going downhill, I hit a snowmobile track and went tumbling (cue Wide Wide World of Sports montage). I hit the snow hard and seriously thought I was going to tumble down the side of Howelson. I picked myself up, and moved ahead. It was on the second lap of the nordic ski that I thought I was hitting myself in my calf with my poles. Then I realized I was cramping up. It dawned on me that I hadn’t really been eating or drinking during my transitions times. Oops. I tried to squeeze a gel into my mouth but it was hard logistically when your hands are attached to your poles. Without water, I was tempted to eat some snow but knew I would loose my lead. My thoughts went immediately to the bike. The bike portion seemed like a luxury awaiting were I could freely eat and drink and hopefully take care of this nagging calf cramp.
Fourth event- (12 mile MTN bike on River Road)
So I can’t say I have really ridden my MTN bike on the road. Oh wait, the Friday before the race, I commuted to work on my MTN bike. Appropriate training- check! River Road is the classsic “flat” road in Steamboat. I have ridden it several times and even Time Trialed it in the Steamboat Stage race. Trying to TT on a MTN bike is a different story. Some racers put aero bars on their MTN bikes but I just went with my set up. I was able to stay ahead of all of the women I passed in the Nordic portion except for the last 2 miles when I was passed by a very serious woman racer. I gave her a ring with my bell, cheered her on, and proceeded to pass her in the transition area.
Final Event (running 3.2 miles)
By the time I got to the run, I was hoping that my legs would not give out on me in cramps. I think I drank enough on the bike that all signs of cramping went away. I forgot that when you transition from the bike to run, your legs feel like rubber. When I came into transition, my husband Paul let me know that I was in second place overall. I couldn’t believe it! My goal on the run was to just hold everyone off the best that I could. Feeling a bit like Gumby I plodded away. Days before the race I couldn’t imagine finishing in less than 3 hours. With the clunky transitions, the same muscle groups being used, MTN biking on dry roads, how do people do it? I was running in disbelief that I was on the final event. At the turn around the race officials validated my current second place. I just had to keep up my plodding pace and I would do it.
I got to the finish line in 2 hours and 39 minutes. I was so excited. I was second female overall and got 1st in my age group. Now granted there were only 10 of us registered to do the full Pentathlon event but I was so excited. Racing in Steamboat on a beautiful day, who could complain. It was fun to challenge myself, get my mind ready for the road cycling season, and race with some really fun ladies. I can now cross this event off the event bucket list. Will I do it again? Maybe. The town of Steamboat directs this event and it was so well organized that that reason alone may bring me back.
Now I sit back, relax and drink from my race beer kozy that states “Keep Calm and Pentathl-on”
Naked Women’s Racing has a mission to grow the sport of women’s cycling from the ground up – through support of new racers in our various programs – and now at the top of the ranks too as we embark on our domestic elite status for 2015. Are you a Cat 1/2 female cyclist who is concerned with growing the sport too? Perhaps you can guest ride with us! Read more from our NRC/NCC veteran, Kim Johnson.
Although I am only 26 years old and wouldn’t consider myself even close to being a veteran in the sport, I’ve raced at the elite level for long enough to see a trend emerge. Every fall, social media is abuzz with the latest news about who is joining what team, which team is folding, new sponsors stepping up to support a women’s team, etc, and then usually late in the fall official rosters are posted. There seems to be a flaw in the system, and one that hinders the growth of high-level women’s racing (but a flaw, I will also note, that does not have an easy solution). The addition of new teams is excellent, but over the past few years, they have tended to replace teams that folded. So instead of a new sponsor bringing up a fresh group of talent to join the mix, riders seem to shuffle, in a musical-chairs type interchange based on what vacancies are available. As a rider who has worked incredibly hard over the past few years to make the jump to the next level, those spots seem to be painfully few.
I have hope that that can change. Despite my personal setback (a fractured C2 the day after Gila, which relegated the majority of my season to “brisk walking” in a neck brace), I saw stirrings in the world of professional cycling. More and more women rising up to call out inequality as they saw it and question the rationale of missed opportunities simply because of a second x chromosome. Momentum continued to build in women’s cycling; for the first since the 1980’s, women had a stage at the Tour de France, and by the end of the season, 3 major US Stage Races (the Tour of California, Tour of Utah, and US Pro Challenge) had committed to giving women several stages of their own in 2015.
Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to race at numerous professional level races throughout the US, and am incredibly thankful for Naked Women’s Racing’s support of my endeavors and the opportunities I have had to guest ride. At the same time, the logistical chaos and meticulous planning that it’s taken to get to these races have highlighted a challenge in women’s cycling that many of us know all too well: there are more talented, qualified riders than there are teams to support us. This year a new layer was added, when a large number of races were given UCI status, making them officially team-only events. In laymen’s terms, this means that in order to race at the Tour of the Gila, for example, a rider would need to be a registered member of a UCI or domestic elite team. Before this change, it was challenging to be a solo rider doing her best to stay in contention in a race dominated by team tactics and the UHC Blue Train, now it would be impossible to even show up at the start line.
I spent a few days in a state of inner turmoil, contemplating my upcoming season and my goals, and discussing this dilemma with my ever-supportive husband. On one hand, I could re-adjust my goals and expectations, plan a few regional stage races, but focus more on local races and maybe a few NCC criteriums here and there. That way, I would plan for what I knew I could do. On the other hand, I could target “dream big” races like the Redlands Bicycle Classic and the Tour of the Gila, and do everything in my power to secure a guest riding position, while accepting I may not be able to go. The idea that I could be training so incredibly hard for something that was completely out of my power to accomplish was heartbreaking, but the thought of letting go of a goal simply because of unknown was unacceptable.
A few nights later I lay in bed, far more alert than I ever want to be at midnight, and was struck by a thought. If you want to go, and it’s team only, make the team, and go! I pushed it out of my brain space of realistic options — never trust any seemingly brilliant solutions you come up with after midnight — but the next morning it was still there. The deep desire to race at my target events was what catalyzed my midnight problem solving session, but the realization that this could move beyond myself was what kept in there in the morning. Just as I’ve poured out blood, sweat, and tears just trying to get to races, so have many other talented, hardworking women. Cycling is as brutal a sport as it is glorious, and it can be easy to feel defeated or like luck is always against you. I can’t tell you the number of people who’ve seen my scars and asked casually if I should “probably just quit cycling?” But the reality is, far more cyclists ride waves of ups and downs than a fairytale-like rise to professional status. Evelyn Stevens is a lovely individual — but her tantalizing story is a rare one. I’m not here to whine — there’s plenty of that, and it does no good. Rather, I am trying to provide context to what Naked Women’s Racing is gearing up to do this year. One low-budget domestic elite team will not solve the problems that women’s cycling is facing, but it will provide a logistical way for 4-8 more women to show up at the start line than currently can.
I proposed this nascent idea to the leading ladies of Naked Women’s Racing, and they were on board! Over the next few weeks, we will be slogging through the paperwork that is required, and by the end of March we will appear on USA cycling’s list of Domestic Elite Teams. I am incredibly excited to see what will come of this step, and we are proud to be able to open up an opportunity for more qualified women to race at a National level. In addition to the category 1/2 riders already on the team, we are hoping to extend an guest-riding invitation to regional riders who would like to target NRC and NCC races. Please contact us if you would like to be considered, and stay tuned for updates!
Lori not only wrote her first blog post, she did her first fat bike race! And guess what? She crushes it. Read more:
In 2014, I wanted to enter the WinterBike at Copper race but my husband ended up in the ER that day (all is good). So it was on the agenda for 2015 especially since it was moved out 1 weekend which happened to be my birthday weekend – all activities revolved around me!