Iowa Part I: Chris Lillig Memorial Cup

A good blahg post is the result of having good content to blahg about, the time to write it, and the energy to write it. The problem we have here is that the content always comes after a bike race, which means I am tired and don’t want to write. I then resolve to write something when I get home, but upon arriving home I don’t have time because mundane things like dishes and laundry get in the way. Before we know it, it’s Friday, and what happened last weekend doesn’t matter because we’re getting ready for the new weekend’s adventure. Luckily, Kip is piloting the sprinter back to the land of beer and cheese which gives me time to slave over the blank page (I really just wanted to say blank page because it makes me sound like a writer).

Jenn in the road race Photo courtesy of Justin Torner

Jenn in the road race
Photo courtesy of Justin Torner

Another successful Old Cap Crit weekend is in the books. Jenn and the women’s team came away with some hardware, and the guys had a good showing, too. I wish I could say more of what happened in the men’s races, but my race consisted primarily of me hanging on for dear life at the back. That didn’t work so well in the RR as I got spit out of each little echelon until I found myself by myself with 3 miles to go, but I was able to stay on the back of the crit. That’s always a good feeling. Alex had a good RR and TT (3rd & 2nd), as did William (7th & 17th),  but the crit didn’t work out so much in their favor. Kip did a lot of work to try and get Alex up the road, but at the end of the day things stayed together for a bunch kick and the guys got swamped. Bummer.

Madi (left) and Jenn (right) working the break in the road race Photo courtesy of Natalie Rekemeyer

Madi (left) and Jenn (right) working the break in the road race
Photo courtesy of Natalie Rekemeyer

The ladies started off the weekend by asserting themselves as the strongest team in the RR. Madi and Jenn pushed the pace a bit on the second lap in a cross-headwind and got a gap with 4 other women. Nicole policed the the field to make sure no one else found their way up to the front. Fast forward to the sprint where some pre-race strategy came to life with Madi leading Jenn into the uphill sprint. Madi kept the group guttered with just enough room for Jenn to sprint by for the win. Madi hung on for second as the other girls were unable to come around her while sprinting into the wind. It was a bit of a messy finale because the cat 3 men’s field passed the women all of 500 meters before their own sprint finish, but Madi and Jenn were able to weave their way through the dudes like pros. Nicole then took the sprint from the field for seventh.

The ISCorp-Intelligentsia ladies in the field at the road race Photo courtesy of Justin Torner

The ISCorp-Intelligentsia ladies in the field at the road race
Photo courtesy of Justin Torner

The TT went as a TT goes – people rode hard for 13 miles and then wondered why they raced bikes afterwards because it makes them feel so awful. Jenn took third behind some strong time trialists, while Madi was only six seconds back for 4th. Nicole was again lucky number 7.

Nicole policing the chasers in the crit Photo courtesy of Natalie Rekemeyer

Nicole policing the chasers in the crit
Photo courtesy of Natalie Rekemeyer

The gem of the weekend was up next – the Old Capitol Criterium. The race starts by plummeting down a fast right hander into the Iowa River Valley. Next up, you have a quarter mile straightaway followed by another right up a one-block kicker out of the river valley and a few more turns. Repeat this 1.25 km loop 25 times and you have yourself an elite women’s bike race. While this weekend has been kind to Jenn in the past (she took the win in the 2011 Omnium and took 2nd in 2012), the fast, downhill corner one has never been kind to Jenn. Ever. Strong RR performances had been what fueled her success in the omnium, with a little luck in the crit. This year, though, was a different story. With wide open brakes and some guidance from the men, Jenn owned the corner that had been giving her fits the past couple of years, and that set her and Madi up well for the rest of the race.

Old Cap Crit Sprint Finish Photo courtesy of Justin Torner

Old Cap Crit Sprint Finish
Photo courtesy of Justin Torner

The crit started with Madi and Jenn taking turns attacking up the sharp climb. The goal was to isolate local favorite Kim, who was deemed the biggest threat to Jenn and Madi’s 1-2 omnium placings. While neither girl was able to get away, the efforts did whittle the group down to 6 girls again. Nicole stayed with the field to make sure the race remained a six person affair. The race was then essentially 20 laps of Jenn and Madi taking turns attacking the break. Kim was forced to chase each time, and each time it took a bit longer for her to pull the rest of the group up to the attackers. With 3 to go, Kim put in an attack up the hill in an effort to prevent a sprint which the women closed before the start of the next lap. The women looked good going into the last lap, but they underestimated Abby from Bianchi Grand Performance out of Minneosta. Some good positioning allowed her to take the win, with Madi coming up just short in the sprint. A brief moment of hesitation by Jenn going into the last corner cost her a shot at the win, but she still held on for third and by doing so secured the omnium for the Chris Lillig Memorial Cup. It also allowed her to be the proud owner of the first ever Flyover Omnium Series Leader Jersey! Madi was bumped to third in the omnium based on a crit placing tie-breaker, and Nicole came in seventh. It was a great away to start off what felt like the first weekend of spring here in the Midwest.

2013 Old Cap Crit Podium: 1st Abby Ruess, 2nd Madi Pape, 3rd Jenn Campbell Photo courtesy of Natalie Rekemeyer

2013 Old Cap Crit Podium: 1st Abby Ruess, 2nd Madi Pape, 3rd Jenn Campbell
Photo courtesy of Natalie Rekemeyer

Jenn taking home the Chris Lillig Memorial Cup as Omnium winner! Photo courtesy of Natalie Rekemeyer

Jenn taking home the Chris Lillig Memorial Cup as Omnium winner!
Photo courtesy of Natalie Rekemeyer

Jenn in the first ever Flyover Series Leader's jersey! Photo courtesy of Natalie Rekemeyer

Jenn in the first ever Flyover Series Leader’s jersey!
Photo courtesy of Natalie Rekemeyer

Not that any of the previous writing was literary gold, but this coming stuff is probably way less interesting. If you haven’t already spaced out, you now have my permission to do so. The break rotated well on Saturday but not so much on Sunday in the crit. There was a lot of looking around and waiting. We aren’t quite sure what everyone was waiting for? Perhaps everyone was just trying to save energy ahead of another one of Jenn and Madi’s 1-2 punches. It was sunny and about 70 on both days, and Jenn ran 25c tires with 90psi, which seemed to have worked out well.

written by Tim, edited by Jenn (I wish I had time to add in funny comments, but if I had time to do that, I would be writing posts myself. Special thanks to Madi and Nicole for helping me secure both the win in the road race and the omnium!)

Priorities: SleepWorkEat, Train, “Clean”

It’s that time of year again: race season. This means that my priorities are:

1. Sleeping. Tied with working, since working pays the bills. I guess eating fits in here, too, although fortunately eating takes up much less time than sleeping and working.

2. Training.

3. Cleaning. By cleaning, I mean washing my dirty kits so that I can race in non-smelly team colors the following weekend. And making the apartment liveable*, by very low standards.

This means that, as I’m sure you have noticed, blahgging has been sidelined a bit. I am working on getting some more race reports put together along with some fun, non-cycling posts.  As for a quick update, in the past few weeks, I’ve hopped in some Wisconsin Cup Women’s Open & Men’s 3 races, raced the Chris Lillig Memorial Cup (defended my win in the road race and took home 1st in the omnium, woot!), survived Tour of the Gila, and raced MO PRO.

Look forward to a guest post from Tim in the next day or so.

*”Liveable” is not the generally accepted spelling of this word, but I think it makes more sense than “livable,” which just looks confusing.

Hillsboro Roubaix: Getting all the stupid out

After writing up my race report with all the minute details that are probably only valuable to myself and a handful of other people, I figured I should start this entry off with a quick summary to apologize for the length of this post. After the summary, you can scroll down to all the important parts in bold, and that should be all you really need to read.  Unless, of course, my writing is so entertaining and insightful that you want to read all 2148 words about my race this weekend.

So long story short, my season opener was Hillsboro Roubaix down in Hillsboro, IL this past weekend.  I spent most of the race doing stupid things, being in stupid places, and doing more stupid things, and hopefully I got it all out of my system for 2013.  I miraculously managed to finish 5th regardless of all the stupid things I did, and my teammate Hayley pulled off the win on her birthday!  The race was very well-organized, the course was fun, and it was a great way to get some longer race miles done early in the season.

If you’d like to read more about all the stupid things I did throughout the race (and hopefully learn from them without making the same mistakes), read on! If not, you should at least scroll through to check out all of our pretty pictures.

Candid shot

Candid shot

Four ladies drove down to represent ISCorp p/b Intelligentsia Cycling Team at the 58 mile Women’s Pro/1/2/3 road race on Saturday, March 23. We took off on our 5 hour journey after work on Friday, and arrived to our hotel around 11 after a few food and pee breaks. On our first stop, we randomly ran into Andrea and her family who were heading down to St. Louis for a fun family weekend – what are the odds of that happening?!? We had a few hiccups the rest of the way like forgetting to turn the headlights on (not mentioning any names, ahem, Kiwi) and struggling to find any music to listen to (we had a few 10+ minute blocks of scanning on the radio) but other than that, had a pretty uneventful trip south.

We woke up to quite the hectic breakfast rush at our hotel, but managed to grab some food and barely drinkable coffee before hitting the road. I was disappointed to walk outside to an overcast day after being promised sun by the oh-so-reliable weather forecasters, but the temperature was fortunately still supposed to reach a balmy 50 degrees. By the time we were pulling up to the race course, the sun was starting to peak through the clouds.  It was only around 37 F, but it felt way warmer than that after the recent cold temps in WI.

Team photo with Lauren, me, Hayley, and Holly left to right

Team photo with Lauren, me, Hayley, and Holly left to right

It ended up being around 40 degrees for the start of our race at 11:45. We had a pretty big field with around 32 starters, which was encouraging to see this early in the season. The race started with the usual neutral roll out, and the first few miles were pretty uneventful.  I found myself at the back of the group pretty early on, and about 5 miles in, decided to move up.  I’m uber paranoid about center rule violations, so I moved up in the gutter (sometimes in the gravel) throughout the race.  Lauren was sitting mid-pack with Holly and Hayley doing some work towards the front.  As I moved up, it seemed like a good time to attack, so I blew by my teammates into what I thought was going to be a solid move until my right foot came unclipped and came flying out of my pedal.

Lesson #1: Check your cleats. I knew I was on the verge of needing to change them, but hadn’t had any problems and didn’t want to take any risks right before a fairly long road race.  That was probably a mistake.  The fact that I came unclipped so early on in the race delivered a pretty solid blow to my confidence. After I was reeled back in, I made my way around the field to let my teammates know what was going on.

Yep, definitely missing part of the front of my right cleat (shown on the left).

Yep, definitely missing part of the front of my right cleat (shown on the left).

Since I was pretty sure I was going to be worthless in a sprint given my cleat situation, I figured I’d recover at the back, then sit on the front and give Hayley and Holly some time off so they could save themselves for the finish. I rolled up to the front, and since they were there, I decided it would actually be a good time to try another attack.

Lesson #2: Know the course. My attack turned out to be just a few hundred feet before a 90 degree right turn in the road that was pretty rough and had some gravel.  Since I was unfamiliar with the course, I didn’t know it was coming up, and ended up slowing down to take the turn cautiously.  I figured I’d rather get caught then go down 10 miles into a 58 mile race, which was a good call, but I could have prevented it altogether by either looking up the road a bit and waiting until after the turn or waiting until a more familiar part of the course.

The one benefit to having attacked was that I was able to hop in the front of the group and maintain a good position to do some work for a bit. Of course, after I decided I had done enough work, no one wanted to come around and pull for a bit. I am not a fan of having to take it down to an intolerably slow pace in order to get someone else to take over, but that was what I resorted to on several occasions throughout the race.

As we were getting closer to town for our cobbled circuit, I figured I should move up again.  I made my move in the gutter and ended up in the gravel, which made it really easy to get up to the front.  Once I got there, I was waiting for a good time to hop back on the road (there was a fairly big bump, and I really didn’t want to go down) when Hayley yells [insert Kiwi accent] “Get back on the road, you hobo!” As I write this, I realize that may not be funny to most people, but for some reason it was hilarious to me at the time. I’m actually still laughing about it as I type it up.

So I made it back on the road without a problem.  The first time through the circuit wasn’t too exciting. Some splits opened up a bit, but almost everyone was able to catch back on after we went through the start-finish. The second lap was where things started to get interesting. A few miles into the lap, there was some sort of miscommunication and our lead vehicle slowed down to a stop. The entire field had to slam on the brakes, and someone touched wheels and went down at the back.

A few minutes later, we were neutralized because the Pro/1/2 Men’s field was about to pass us. This neutralization was more of a “stop completely and pull off to the side of the road” as opposed to a traditional “slow down and stay out of the way.” While somewhat frustrating, I was grateful to be given the opportunity to hike my leg warmers up, which had fallen about halfway down to my knees by this point.

There was another crash just after we restarted the race, and women were starting to get a little jumpy.  We were jumpy to begin with, being the first race of the year for many of us, and the quick stops and crashes didn’t do anything to calm any of us down. At this point, I found myself hanging out at the back of the pack.  I know it doesn’t make any sense, and I know from experience that it is usually safer and easier to ride towards the front, but when I get sketched out, I still make the mid to back of the pack my home. This leads us to lesson #3.

Lesson #3: Stay towards the front of the pack. Shortly after the stops and crashes, there was a split in the field. I was far enough back that I didn’t even realize that a split had happened until it was too late to easily jump across.  I then had to spend several miles chasing back on with a few other women, when we really shouldn’t have missed the split to begin with.

Lesson #4: Stay out of the wind.  It was one of those days where since the gutter was my place to move up, I wanted to hug it so that I could move whenever I needed to. Sadly, the wind didn’t change direction based on where I wanted to be, and I inevitably ended up in the wind way too much.  It’s one of those things that you don’t realize has affected you until you’re trying to chase back on, and man, was I feeling the wind after missing that split.

We eventually caught back on, at which point I continued to do stupid things like stay at the back of the pack, which led to me being gapped on a counterattack. Fortunately I was able to chase back on more easily, and after being burned twice from being at the back, decided it would be a good time to move up a few spots. I hung out mid-pack for most of the rest of the race and mentally prepared myself for a potentially disappointing finish.

Lesson #5: Never count yourself out. We hit the last hill strong, I passed a few ladies, and before I knew it, I was in a split with around 6 other women. It was definitely an advantage to be at the front for the sections up uphills, downhills, turns, and cobbles at the end. There was some touching of wheels on the last section of cobbles, but everyone managed to stay upright. Hayley did a great job of staying at the front of our lead group the whole time, led out the sprint and delivered the win (on her birthday, no less). I didn’t want to take anyone out by sprinting full speed and coming unclipped, so I stayed in the saddle and was still able to sneak in at 5th place. i was pretty pumped to manage a top-5 finish after being pretty certain that I’d be lucky to finish with the field.

Lauren and Holly rolled in right after the lead group, and did a great job of helping out throughout the race. Hayley earned a much-deserved win after spending about half the race on the front, and it was overall a great showing for ISCorp presented by Intelligentsia Women’s Cycling at their first race in the states for 2013.

Podium shot

Podium shot – check out that awesome pole in my face.

Clothing notes
Start temp: 40 F
Finish temp: 50 F
Wind: 8-13mph

I almost always err on the side of overdressing when it’s chilly out- I’d much rather be sweating than cold. I opted for Under Armor cold gear with a Hincapie long sleeve jersey up top with bibs and leg warmers on the bottom. I wore a light head band, a pair of old Pearl Izumi Cyclone gloves, and neoprene booties on the extremities. I was definitely a little too warm. I probably could have done without the leg warmers entirely, especially because they kept sliding down, and could have been comfortable with a lighter base layer, short sleeve jersey, and wool arm warmers up top.

Equipment notes
Wheels: Bontrager Aeolus D3 5.0 clinchers
Tires: Bontrager R3 700×25
Air pressure: 100psi
Crank: Standard 53-39t
Cassette: 12-25t

The race promoter recommended using a standard crank with a 25 on the back along with 25c tires. I rocked my brand new Aeolus D3 5.0 clinchers with 700x25c R3 tires with 100 psi, and didn’t have any problems. This is after having double flatted at the 2012 edition, so I was pleased. I think only 1 woman in our field of around 32 flatted throughout the race. Unfortunately, I was that woman last year, so I feel her pain.

Course notes
The course was, as described, a 29-mile loop with some rollers, a few good twists and turns, and a section of bricks leading into the final left-hander that opened it up for the finish. This year featured a short gravel section about 13 miles into the loop, but it was in good shape and didn’t affect the race. Overall, it was a very well-organized race on a fun course, and it was a great way to kick off the 2013 season!

March training camp

ISCorp-Intelligentsia Women’s Elite Cycling Team had their first training camp up in the Northern Kettles of WI this past weekend. All of our teammates weren’t able to make it but we had a solid group with CarrieAnn, Andrea, Hayley, Lauren, Nicole, and me.  We missed the rest of our teammates, but it was great to meet Lauren (our new Irish rider) and catch up with Hayley (our Kiwi spy), who both arrived in the states just a few days earlier.

WCJ Pilgrim Wire provided us with lodging for the weekend in a beautiful cabin. We arrived in the dark, and after driving down several roads that made you feel like you were in a horror film, you approached an elegant gate that opened into a cozy snow-covered area with a handful of houses lining a pond. It was snowing when we arrived (because we really need more snow this time of the year) and continued to snow throughout the night.  While the snow wasn’t welcome, it did add to the feelings of retreat and relaxation. In retrospect, we maybe should have thought about driving south rather than north for March riding, but in our defense, we could ride in shorts this time last year.

Christmas in March

Christmas in March

Nicole and I arrived a little later than the rest of the group, and we were welcomed with a tasty salad and homemade spinach chicken lasagna thanks to our weekend meal planner and fearless leader, CarrieAnn.  Katie W was also there on Friday and brought us presents which were sitting in nicely organized plastic bags. After dinner and some girl talk (unfortunately not the band – look them up if you don’t know them, you’re missing out), we were like a bunch of kids on Christmas excited to open our presents with new Hincapie kits and tech tees, Spy sunglasses, Bontrager helmets, water bottles, and more! We were all pretty beat after modeling our new kits, so we retired for the night early.

Looks like we should be nicely reflective this year.

Looks like we should be nicely reflective this year.

We woke up Saturday morning to freshly made coffee.  The two teachers in the group were already up and diligently grading papers, which made me feel a little guilty for leaving my work computer at work.  But I started reading the book Racing Weight by Matt Fitzgerald, which has been on my list for a while (thanks Hayley for passing it along!).  We spent some time relaxing in the morning, then went over all of the important team info and racing plans over blueberry buckwheat pancakes and berries.

Trainerizing

Trainerizing

The team was a bunch of coffee fiends (fortunately we have sponsor Intelligentsia Coffee to quell our coffee needs), so we had to take a trip into town to pick up more coffee and scout out the roads after the snow to see if we would be able to ride outside.  Unfortunately, the snow was still blowing and the side roads had quite a bit of slush and snow on the side, so we opted to head back, eat lunch, then hop on the trainers for as long as we could tolerate. We followed up our ride with a post-trainer session walk in the woods where we made two new friends who walked us back to the cabin.

Post-ride snow walk

Post-ride snow walk

Nicole and our new friend.  Charlie the golden retriever is missing from the photo.

Nicole and our new friend. Charlie the golden retriever is missing from the photo.

The rest of Saturday evening was pretty chill.  We made homemade pizzas for dinner (CarrieAnn’s crust was the winner) followed by a few round of Whoonu to get to know each other a bit. We all passed out pretty early – the hours on the trainer wiped us out.

Andrea and CarrieAnn with their pizza masterpiece.

CarrieAnn and Andrea with their pizza masterpiece.

Nicole working on the perfect circle.

Nicole working on the perfect circle.

Lauren cooking up some tasty toppings.

Lauren cooking up some tasty toppings.

After the painfully long trainer ride on Saturday, the goal on Sunday was to get in a good loop outside after watching the finish of Milan San Remo. We didn’t have any luck on hooking up my phone to the TV to watch the race, so we took off earlier than planned for our ride.  The way out of the snowy, icy driveway put our bike handling skills to good use, but the rest of the roads were clean and dry.  We survived in the below freezing temps for just over 2 hours, which was pretty impressive considering it was the coldest ride ever for about half the ladies there.

When we got back, we checked the results from MSR (what an epic race), cleaned up, had some last minute team bonding via cleaning and car packing, and parted ways.  We had a great weekend, and I’m looking forward to racing Hillsboro Roubaix Saturday with the team!

cleverblahgname

I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for some time now.  Clearly everything that I do and think is interesting should be shared with the world, and what better way to do that than with a blog?

So decision to start a blog: done.

Onto the next challenge: coming up with a name for said blog. I hate few things more than coming up with creative and novel names for things, mainly because I suck at it.  And, let’s be real here, naming a blog is a big freakin deal.  It’s not a rose. A blog by any other name…

So after a few months (yes, months) of not coming up with a blog name, I had the brilliant idea to name my blog “cleverblogname.” It solved all of my problems.  It made it so that I didn’t have to come up with a real blog name, and it’s somewhat facetious which made me happy.

My brilliant name was, of course, already taken.  I played around with a lot of other ridiculous names, toyed with names like “wittyblogblog” (for some reason, this gem wasn’t taken!) and “emangolbrevelc” (cleverblogname spelled backwards), but settled upon cleverblahgname instead.  Why not? Most blogs are lots of blah blah blah anyways, and it was available, so I jumped on it.

I must admit that I was quite pleased with myself.  Honestly, I crack myself up.  All the time. When no one else thinks I’m funny. But that’s tangential. After thinking that I was going to coin the term blahg and quickly become an internet sensation, I decided to Google “blahg.”  And our good friend Urban Dictionary had a definition (or 6) for me: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=blahg. Hopefully I won’t ever be so desperate for content (or something to do with my life in general) that I need to take up decorating vegetables.

Awesome. So maybe I should have looked that up before settling upon cleverblahgname.com. But name selection: done.

Onto the first post: done.