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Saturday, August 10, 2013

International Experiences

Well, I just made it through a very crazy week of racing, the craziest of my life; and I am alive! Even better then that, I came home with the bronze medal in the Team Time Trial, first overall in the team classification, 11th overall in individual classification, and friendships that will last a lifetime. This has been an amazing experience, and I am so thankful to all of the people that have helped make it happen!

Prologue
 
I am still spellbound when I think of the teams performance in the TTT. We only practiced the TTT once, and there was only three of us, because the 4th could not make it to the practice. The beginning of the TTT was rocky... everyone was confused and all over the place. We soon found a good pace and rhythm, and we were working very well together, but I still doubted that we would get a top 3 place because of the slow beginning. It was when we were warming down, on the way back to the hotel, that we found out that we placed third. 10 seconds from the 2nd place team and 18 seconds from the first place team. One of the goals was to get a top 3 place in the TTT, and it felt very rewarding to accomplish that goal considering our situation.



 
 
Stage 1
 
Stage one of Tour of Rimouski was just about THE most freakiest experience on a bike. Seriously, riders did not care if they ran into you (and crash, either you, or themselves out of the race) just to get on the wheel you were following. I experienced this in the first few miles, and immediately went to the front, and did everything in my power to stay there (and wasted a lot of energy while I was at it). It was total chaos! There were huge frantic attacks, where 60 female riders maxed out in 52-16, would be spread out across the road; yelling at each other, trying to get to that one, lucky, solo rider up front. They would be running off the road into ditches (literally), throwing out elbows, riding into each other... and then it would stop. The solo rider out front would be caught, and there would be a few seconds of calm before the next attack, where the chaos would begin all over again.
 
 Despite all of this chaos, I got to experience something special. It was after the QOM, the race split apart drastically. There was a group up front and a group behind, then there was my teammate, Melyssa, and I stuck right in the middle. For awhile we were both working so hard together to catch the front group, we were both worn out, but kept working the pedals. Even though we did not make it to the front group, it was an amazing feeling to suffer with someone, to try to reach the front group; and after the race was over, have someone who felt the same way, and shared the same experience. 

 
 
 
Stage 2

 
The hills in Rimouski are so hard. Nothing is consistent and the 2nd stage is one of the most challenging because of this. All of the hills are so steep, but no longer then a mile. There's a ton of them also. Just hill after hill; like rollers, but you can't get any speed into them because there is either flat road before, or a slight gradient. Its like the 3 Bears climb in Berkeley Hill RR, only the hills in Rimouski are steeper and there is about 20 more of them. It was raining this day, I was almost completely soaked before the race even began, but fortunately, it was not cold. To be honest, I enjoyed the rain, it felt refreshing. The only downside was the amount of grit I swallowed, do to the wet conditions, made my stomach feel weird. The beginning of this stage was as flat, as flat could be in Rimouski. The riders were not as crazy as the previous day, and the pace was a little slow. Then the hills began, and immediately two main groups formed, with a bunch of smaller groups behind. I was in the 2nd group, and my teammate made it into the first group (she finished 2nd), which moved her up to third overall. It was a race that I was happy to be finished with, but still (somewhat) enjoyed the challenge.


Stage 3 & 4
 
 
There is not too much to say about Stage 3 (the crit) and stage four (the Time Trial). The crit was like any other crit in the US. We tried to stay up right, place well enough to maintain our position in team GC, and save ourselves for the TT, which we managed. The time trial, well, was a time trial. It was super short, only 6k, very windy, and very hard. My teammate Emma rocked it taking 5th!


 
 
Stage 5
 
 
Just looking at Cathedral hill, makes you wet your pants. It is that monstrous, that atrocious, and definitely that intimidating. My first siting of Cathedral hill was on the way to one of the races, I saw this paved cliff in front of me, and thought, "Oh crap... well I'm glad I don't have to ride up that hill". Shortly after, one of my teammates told me that it was in fact, the treacherous Cathedral hill that we have to ride up five times. Like the 2nd stage, the race immediately split on Cathedral hill. I was in the second group. We would catch riders who fell off the pace of the first group. The third time up Cathedral hill, I dropped from the second group, and found myself riding with a small group made up mostly of US girls and a couple Canadians from Ontario. It was now just surviving until the finish, and we all helped each other out with sarcastic humor which lightened the mood. The goal was to do our best, to maintain our overall in the team GC. 
 
 
 
 
 
In the end, we won the team GC. Melyssa placed third in the GC, which was super awesome. It was such an honor to end this tough race knowing that our team was #1. The girls were absolutely amazing, and we all worked our butts off to earn this title. I am very lucky to have had this wonderful experience with a wonderful group of people, it could not have gone any better.
 
 
 
I deeply appreciate everyone who has helped me get to Rimouski. I am very fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life; who have continuously supported me and  given me great advice.
 Special thanks to the Red Peloton Cycling Club and the Red Peloton Ladies that I race with for their generous support; Thanks to the Chico Corsa racing guys, who are all great friends; thanks to my wonderful family, my Mom, Kaleb, and Mark, who are about the three best people I know; my awesome uncle who let Mark and I spend a couple nights at his house, and my two adorable cousins; and basically the whole cycling community! 

 
 
You all are awesome!
 
Now here are some more photos:
 
A quick tour of Montreal with LouLou and Stephanie.


Bike ride in Maine with my cousins.

Some awesome cobbles in Montreal.


My accreditations.

Warming up for the TTT. It was a very hectic start to Tour of Rimouski, we were running late,
and when we got there, the Refs' had to check my TT bars to see if they were the right level. So I began my warm
up extra late, but it all ended great!

Bronze medal in the TTT.


Very rainy second stage.


My first ride in Montreal was only for about 10 min. It began to pour rain, but cleared up within an hour
and it was nice. Later that day Melyssa, Stephanie, and I worked on the TTT.
 
Somewhere over Nevada... on the way to Boston.



The team mom, Lynn, and I before the start of the TT.

Warming up for the TT.

Talking to fellow US girl!

Riding in Maine.

And a lake in Maine!

A pretty meadow in Maine. 

My cousin, Willow, rocking my sunglasses on her speedy fast bike!

Snow Falls in Maine!

 
 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rimouski

 
After a long flight to Boston, and a few days spent in Maine (visiting family); here I am, in Montreal, on the eve of the prologue of the Tour of Rimouski!

 It has been an eventful week, and a very special experience overall. This has been my first time on the east coast and I was able to visit my adorable cousins that I have not seen in years. I had a couple wonderful rides while I was in Maine. The roads were quiet, and every so often I would pass a lake or pond. The houses were just awesome, also!

Sunday afternoon, Mark and I left for Canada! The drive up here was gorgeous. In the evening I met two of my teammates, Stephanie and Melyssa (the third, Emma, lives far away, and I will get to meet her tomorrow). I also met their wonderful parents, all of whom, are so nice and humorous. They have definitely made Mark and I feel comfortable and welcome here in Montreal!

Yesterday, I met all of the guys on VCL-Andre Cycle who will race at Tour of Rimouski, along with the coaches of VCL. I went to a team skills clinic, where the teams going to Rimouski worked on the Team Time Trial and also worked on changing wheels if we get a flat in the race, and drafting back up to the peloton. All of the coaches were so nice as well.... everyone is so nice!

I am so thankful to all of the people who helped me get here. This has sure been an adventure... and its not over yet! There is more to come.. lots more!

Now here are the pictures, enjoy!

The bike is all packed up and ready!


Leaving Nevada

A pretty cool housing development flying into Chicago for our layover.

Leaving Chicago for Boston.

The view from my hotel room in Boston the next day... Rainy...

Visiting family in Maine.

Beautiful ride in Maine.

A pretty lake in Maine.

Another pretty lake in Maine.

And another one.......


A nice ride with my awesome cousins.

Oh, and another lake.




Leaving Chico!

 

A ride with the cousins and a cool barn.
 
And now in Montreal with the team!
 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Taking chances

My teacher from the homeschooling program I go to would just shake his head when seeing this title because it is so cliche; and although it sounds like a title of a cheesy romance movie, you just need to bear with me. This blog is not going to be cliche or romantic, but the title does sum up the message.

A couple of weeks ago, I raced the famous Berkeley Hills road race. I had ridden the course once before, but hardly remembered it, so the fam and I drove it the night before. While doing so, I was thinking, "Wow, this course is awesome... I think I can do really well tomorrow!". When we drove over the Three Bears, I thought, "Those are nothing! I will be able to spin right up them." Totally jazzed, I went to bed that night looking forward (maybe with a little to much eagerness) to race the next day.

After the crazy (but usual), get up, get dressed in five minutes, and rush to breakfast, then rush to the car, and speed along the highway, we made it alive to the start of the race.  I was even more jazzed when I saw the familiar kits of Vanderkitten and Now and Novartis. I always love the challenge of racing with the big girls! I signed up, warmed up, got a few tips from Beth Newell, then was off racing the Berkeley hills road race in the W1/2/3 category.


I look super happy at the start, but trust me, I did not look like this at the end.
I made sure I was on the right wheels, and in the right places, at the right times. I made it through the first few rollers and attacks, then before I knew it, we were at the base of the three bears climb. I was climbing... my heart rate was spiking, yet everyone was pulling ahead of me... I am pedaling backwards... the top is almost here.. almost... try to catch the next group.. ERR!!!

I watched the peleton pull away in the distance, while feeling helpless and cursing my legs, left in their dust...  I was not planning on finishing the race after that, but I was going to make myself do at least 3 laps. The rest of the race I was thinking, "ouch, ouch, ouch.....", with every pedal stroke "ouch, ouch, ouch". I was literally hobbling along. Half way into the second lap, I was caught by a Los Gatos rider. She was kind enough to let me sit on her wheel... the draft was like an oasis in a hot desert. At the end of the third lap, I was so ready to finish my race. Yet something was telling me to go on, not to stop... so on I went. In my 4 years of racing (130 races) I have only DNFed twice. So I think part of it was motivation to keep it at two for awhile longer, and the other part was just to get a good workout. A lap later, I was climbing up the Third Bear, hardly anyone was at the finish. I crossed the line, and felt a huge relief, I also felt zonked out of my mind. Yes, I still love this course, and I am definitely looking forward to next year.

Last weekend, was Folsom Criterium and Memorial Day Criterium. Both days I raced a W3 race and a W1/2/3 race. Both W1/2/3 races were so much fun, filled with so many attacks throughout the race. At Folsom, 2 riders got off the front in the last few laps. They were within sight. Before the first turn I thought, "Hmm. Maybe I can catch them". So I attacked going into the turn and immediately got a gap, which surprised me. I was so close to them, maybe within 4 bike lengths, just killing myself, before they picked the pace up and my legs said, "enough's enough!". Memorial day went down the same way, lots of attacks. I found myself bridging gaps, all in all, just having  a great time!

So the moral of the story is: to improve, you need to do the work. It does not come from sitting in the back and sprinting at the finish. Improvement comes from being in a little over your head, like at Berkeley Hills, but not dropping (and of course keeping a positive attitude). It comes from killing yourself and bridging attacks, or attacking. Improvement comes from taking chances. For me cycling is not about being on the podium every single race, it is a much larger picture. It is the hope of eventually being on a larger team, racing NRC races, and racing in Europe. All of this requires taking chances.


Now onto some news! This year I will not be at Nationals because I am going to race a huge Jr. stage race in Rimouski, Canada. Both are in July, so it would be to much traveling for me and also too expensive for me to do both. Here is the link to the site:

http://www.tourdelareleve.ca/home.php

This is a huge trip, and I will be needing all the help I can get! Anything would be much appreciated! This is the site that you could donate to:

http://www.gofundme.com/32uj3g

Thank you all for your support! Next up: Jr state TT championships!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Racing the 'Hell of the North': True Grit

Here in Norcal we have some pretty epic spring classics. My season began with the Bicycle Plus Winter Crit, which I used to get in the groove of racing again. Bicycle Plus Winter Crit was followed up in the next weekend by one of my favorite races, Coppertown Circuit race, of which I placed 4th in the W3's, and later on in the day, I raced the W1/2/3 (I totally blew up in that race, but it was a wonderful training day).
Bicycle Plus Winter Crit
 
A week later, I hit up another favorite of mine, the well known Snelling RR! The W3's was slow in the beginning, but boy, the power was really put out in the second half of the race! I was pretty happy with my tenth place, considering the amount of effort I spent bridging breaks, attacking, and counter attacking.
Snelling!
 
The two more recent crits I have raced is the first year Red Kite criterium, and good old Land Park criterium. With both, I raced in the W1/2/3, both were very fast, and both had large turnouts! The day after Land Park was Bariani road race, new course, yet the same old brutal wind! This race I had a very fun time since I raced with the W1/2/3... Although it was a race for third only ten minutes into the race, and although the average speed was low, there were still some very strong attacks, a few of which I had the honor to bridge up to. So I was able to do some work in the W1/2/3, where as last year I was holding on, so this is a big improvement.
Land Park Crit

After giving as brief of a description of my first few races as I could manage, I shall now transition to the main topic of this blog, which is about the most epic and grueling race I have completed yet, the 'Hell of the North', the ominous Copperopolis road race! Like most blogs, this one just popped in my head as I was riding along.
Copperopolis, Photo Credits: Alex Chiu

 It was after I swallowed a couple pieces of asphalt (which there was an excessive amount around) and I picked a piece out from in between my teeth, the name 'True Grit' came to mind. It came to mind not only because it is one of my favorite westerns, and not only because I was covered in grit, but also because of the determination shown by Mattie Ross. And for a little I could relate. Although I was not out to seek vengeance against a man who killed my father, I was feeling the determination.  Why? Well because I was dropped, and it was the second time I was dropped.
 
 I just could not find my climbing legs. The first time I dropped, I was able to chase back on to the leaders pretty quickly (same with everybody else who was dropped, the lead group was not making a point of keeping the pace up after the climb) but after the second time around they realized that they did not really want people to chase back on. So they were riding real hard, and the group that formed of which I was in was chasing real hard (most of us chased the first time after the climb, too). And so it was, that was the rest of the race, we caught a lady who dropped from the leaders, and another caught up to us. Our race basically was just split in half of those who could climb very well, and those who couldn't.
 

But, boy, did I kill myself out there. 3 laps on that course is not easy (each lap is 21 miles with about 1,500 feet of climbing, not to mention the roads are almost equivalent to cobbles)! One great thing about bike racing, is even when you are dropped or in a bad situation, if you continue to keep on keeping on and maintain a positive mind set, all you will do is become stronger because of it (and in some races, such as Copperopolis, you'll get legs covered in asphalt)!
My legs covered in grit, and my road rash from
last weeks cornering practice tumble
 
I now am going to focus on my climbing (I have to go searching for those legs, because I do not know where they went), along with time trialing. After this weekend of racing, and my whole past week of training, I am now really looking forward to the Chico stage race, which is coming up right around the corner. Last year was a blast, this year should be, too! People, you need to come up and check this race out!
 
 Hope to see you out there!