Category Archives: Road
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!
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.
Bodies of water and bridges are no match for this fearless Naked lady. Read how Heidi squashes those fears on two wheels.
So I have a huge fear of water. I mean, HUGE. Some call it irrational, I say it’s erring on the side of safety after a very scary incident when I was 6 or 7 years old. I won’t go in water over five feet deep, boats are not something I see as enjoyable, I will not put my face in water (my swim technique is fantastic, let me tell you), I won’t go in open bodies of water (everything besides a bathtub and pool are out, in other words), and later as an adult I hate driving over bridges over water. Aside from making sure I’ll never be a triathlete, I’ve gotten by quite alright in life without the deep watery stuff.
What does all this really have to do with anything, except making all y’all think I might be crazy? Well, in December 2011 an ex-boyfriend and I road tripped through Seattle. No one warned me that I-90 crossed Lake Washington via a “floating bridge.” Yes, a bridge over a mile long that sits on the surface of the water. I mean, the water is right there. I’m pretty sure I cried the entire way across, and my ex mentioned that people ride bicycles across the bridge. “Are they freakin’ crazy?! Who the heck would do that?” I exclaimed – I wasn’t a cyclist yet and that just seemed so absurd on so many levels.
Fast forward to March 2015. I’m a full blown cycling nut, that boyfriend is long gone, and wouldn’t you know, work was sending me to Seattle for eight days. Since I couldn’t possibly be without a bike for that period of time, I rounded up a rental road bike and set about planning out some rides. Of course, one of the better rides I could access from my downtown starting point would be going across the I-90 floating bridge to Mercer Island. Gulp. “Fine, I’ll ride across that damn bridge!” I exclaimed to myself.
Luckily the day I chose was sunny and not very windy. I made my way through Chinatown rush hour traffic successfully (an adventure in its own right) and found myself on the I-90 bike path. Soon the bridge was in sight, and half of me wanted to turn around. After stopping to catch my breath, I hesitantly pointed my front tire down the bridge and pushed off. As I descended down to the water level I felt tears welling up in my eyes, but I calmed my breathing and had such an intense focus on the ground 10 feet in front of the bike that I wouldn’t even move my eyes to check my Garmin. I’d take a couple of pedal strokes, and coast, couple of pedal strokes, and coast. The nearly calm cross wind felt like a hurricane. Then suddenly I realized I was ok, and it was just time to pedal pedal pedal all the way across. Before I knew it I was on Mercer Island and on solid ground. Woohoo, I made it!
The return trip was a bit more frightening to me as I would have to be on the closest side to the water. When a bike path is only nine feet wide to begin with, I just wasn’t comfortable. So I decided I was British and rode on the left side, only barely moving over when other cyclists approached. It probably didn’t help that the bike shop I rented the bike from scared me with the thoughts of hooking the handlebars in the simple metal rail that separates the bikes from the water. Once again intense concentration got me across to solid ground on the Seattle side. Two for two! I will admit to a happy dance at the observation point above the bridge and gushed to a random guy with a bike about how I rode over that silly scary floating bridge!
Bicycles have a funny way of pushing us to do stuff we never would’ve considered otherwise… I’ve only been riding shy of three years, and yet I’ve done so many things I never would’ve even thought of doing otherwise. Most people don’t think twice about going over bridges over water, but I’m still in awe I willed myself across one on a bicycle when usually I panic in a car. Might seem simple or silly to most, but I love the fact that a simple two wheel contraption powered by merely my legs has taken me to so many places and on so many adventures, and has helped me conquer some fears along the way!
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!
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!
Melissa shares her 2014 road season recap in photos. And mighty fine ones at that!
Earlier in this year my husband purchased a new camera and has been photographing our team throughout the season. He is quite talented in capturing what cycling truly is through still images. This is a recap of the 2014 road season through photographs.
Don’t unpack that suitcase full of excuses! Lanier will help you get out on that winter group ride!
Group rides are a great part of any off season program. You get to know your teammates, work off holiday calories and retain the group riding skills essential for races and centuries. However, it can be hard to fit group rides in.
I am queen of excuses. I also talk to myself from time to time (don’t judge). Here are some of my favorite excuses, and effective arguments I use with myself to get out of the house.
E: I don’t have time.
A: When you put it on your calendar you had plenty of time, Lanier. Besides, you’re leading it. Shut up and get on the bike.
E: It’s too cold.
A: As your husband likes to remind you, you spend a small fortune on super-special cold weather cycling gear. Now put it all on, and get on the bike.
E: I am tired / grumpy / hungover.
A: You will feel much better after riding with teammates. They always cheer you up. Down a double-shot of espresso and a Naked coconut water, and get on the bike.
E: These climbers are going to leave me in the dust.
A: Since when did you ever climb on a solo ride? Besides, you swore off hill climbs and haven’t seen these particular teammates all season. You can chat with them on the flats before the climbing starts. They are good company, even if they are disgustingly tiny with legs like pistons powering away on the hill. But hey, maybe they’ll be hungover!
See you on a group ride soon!
Melissa exceeded her goals by a long shot with this season’s road racing. Read more!
Going into the 2014 road season, I had several goals that I wanted to achieve. One of the largest goals I had was to be in the top 3 of the Rocky Mountain Road Cup for SW4. To achieve this I knew that I needed to enter as many races as possible and place as high as possible in those races to have enough points to be at or near the top. I didn’t have as good of a start to the season as I had hoped for, but because I was consistent in racing every weekend the points started accumulating. This year I was fortunate to make it on the podium a few times and the points from those races helped my overall score.
Towards the end of the season, Jenny Lucke and I were in the top 3 for the road cup. Once the points had been added for the last race of the season, the results showed that I placed 1st in the road cup for SW4. I was thrilled! My happiness grew when I realized that Jenny was on the podium with me. Team Naked had also placed 1st in SW4 for the road cup! This was a tough season of trial and error, but through it I learned that staying focused on your goal and being dedicated will get you the results you want.
Melissa W. has had a tough time finding her passion for the bike with school taking up so much of her free time. But she’s thankful for teammates that motivate her. Great lesson in friendship and finding your love for the bike again.
It happened. I allowed school to take such precedence in my life that my bike sat alone in the corner of my room, collecting dust. I knew that sacrifices would have to be made once I started school full-time, but I had no idea that it would be this drastic. My bike has always been a symbol of achievement for me, but it had come to a point where it was only a resemblance of the disappointment I had in myself. The disappointment that came from losing my passion for the bike and allowing myself to become bitter towards an object that once brought me so much joy. When I recognized how far I had let this go, I knew that I needed to do something. I needed to make sacrifices to rekindle my passion.
Unfortunately in my mind, the only sacrifices I could make would be to skip out on some of the studying that I knew I needed to do to be successful in my upcoming exams. I did it though. I made the sacrifice of giving up studying just long enough so that I could get out for a 30 minute ride. The first time I went out for a ride, it did nothing for me but cause more anxiety and guilt because I knew that I should have been home preparing for my exams. I kept making the sacrifices and trying to get out for small rides hoping that one day soon I would find the satisfaction again. And still nothing. It was never enough. The spark to rekindle my passion never came.
During this time of not being on my bike, my disappointment would grow anytime a friend or teammate would ask if I could join them on a ride. My response was typically “I wish”, “Maybe over winter break”, or “Maybe I’ll catch up with you next summer” always in a joking tone, but in my heart I felt like it would be true. I had allowed preparing for school to take control over my life, not allowing me to enjoy those things I once had.
During the last week in October, Katie Harrer texted me and asked if I could go out for a ride the next Sunday up Deer Creek Canyon. My initial response was going to be no, but I stopped myself and thought about what a ride with a good friend could do for me. I missed my friends. I responded with a YES! I wasn’t sure who would show up for the ride, but was just excited to know that at least one of my good friends would be out there. Earlier that morning before the ride I learned that a few more of my good friends would be out there with us.
We started the ride with catching up on each other’s lives and then the sufferfest of climbing High Grade kicked in. The group broke up a little on the climb, but we had all agreed that we would meet up together at the top. Typically I enjoy riding up High Grade, but I’m not going to lie, it was miserable. The only thing that kept me going was knowing that my friends were with me and that we were having to overcome this hill together. That was it! That was the spark I needed!
We reached the top and I was so overjoyed that tears came to my eyes. I know this may sound a little sappy, but this was the happiest I had been in a while. Working hard with my teammates is exactly what I needed to rekindle my passion for the bike. Thank you to all of you ladies who got me back out there!
Natalia climbed 10,023 feet in one fell swoop, tackling Maui’s Haleakala. Add this to your bucket list! Read more about her island adventures…
Hawaii was never on the list of places I wanted to visit. I like to travel off the beaten path and see places that most people wouldn’t dare visiting, but in 2012 it all changed. The ‘travel bug’ bit me and I had to pack my suitcase and go somewhere, anywhere. The problem was I could not find anyone to join me and I thought to myself why would no one want to go on a trip? But this didn’t stop me. I never traveled alone before so I wanted to go somewhere were a girl traveling solo would be safe. I also wanted to go somewhere where the roads are suitable for cycling. In 2006 my cousin moved to Maui so I thought I could go visit her. I’ve heard of the beautiful beaches, magnificent waterfalls, mountains, sea turtles, hot surfer dudes, but what had me convinced was the infamous ‘cycle to the sun’ bike race. Two weeks later I was on the plane.
When I arrived in Maui I was in a complete awe. While most people spend most of their Maui vacations sprawled on the beach perfecting their golden tan, I spent countless hours in the saddle sharpening my biker (not farmer!) tan lines. Since Maui is home to Haleakala, deemed the ‘world’s longest paved climb’ I had to check it out. The ride starts at sea level in a small beach town of Paia and ends at the top of a dormant volcano crater at 10,023 feet. If you are trying to do the math and are thinking is it over 10,000 feet of continuous climbing? You are correct. The 36-mile long silky smooth road takes you through several climate changes and the views are so breathtaking that you never notice the pain and lactic acid building up in every muscle of your body. The ride was everything and much more than I imagined. It was hard but also one of the rides I will never forget.
While I absolutely love discovering new place by bike, I am always amazed by how warm and welcoming cycling communities are anywhere I go. I don’t mind riding by myself but I rarely get to do that. Anywhere I ride I always meet people and we end up riding together. My new cyclist friends showed me the hidden gems around the island and made me feel like I was a local.
My time spent in Maui was an unforgettable experience. I rode my bike, I hiked the mountains, I saw waterfalls, rainbows, painted trees, pineapple fields, huge see turtles, and I even got to do some kiteboarding. I almost forgot, I did see some hot surfers too 😉
After that trip I was hooked on Maui! It has become my favorite vacation destination, but it wasn’t until this fall when I returned to the island.
My second trip to Maui was just as good as the first one and it was the perfect way to end the racing season and prolong my summer. I kept in touch with the cyclists I met during my first visit and I got to ride with them again and they showed me new roads around the island. By now I can say that I have explored most of the island by bike, but unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to tackle the infamous Haleakala climb again. I’ll just have to come back again soon!