Apr 30, 2012

Joe Martin Stage Race 2012 Wrap-Up: PINK, GREEN, WHITE, and perhaps best of all, ORANGE.

The fourth and final stage of the Joe Martin Stage Race is a criterium on a course that I love: a few downhill sections and a great kicker and some tight, but not too tight, corners.
Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefits Strategies successfully defended all 3 leader’s jerseys.  The jerseys switched hands a few times amongst our riders during the Joe Martin Stage Race
·          The pink leader’s jersey (or winner’s jersey, in other words) was passed from Carmen’s shoulders on to Jade Wilcoxson in the 4th and final stage.  Carmen had also started out with the green points jersey, but the way our strategy played out, Jade also ended up in green at the end of the stage race.
·          Emma Grant began the stage race with the white jersey (for the best rider under 23 years of age) which was passed on to our teammate Courteney Lowe on day 2.  After riding up in the break for the 4th and final stage, the jersey was passed back to Emma. 
·          We rode aggressive, sometimes we rode defensively (I can admit that I find that part significantly less fun then when we get to launch attacks like a wild storm of bombshells, but it’s part of the game).  Some of us went up the road and some of us stayed back to make sure the right people were chasing. 
I’m happy with the way the race turned out.  We all rode hard, we all rode strong, and we all did our jobs.  Our team director, Rachel Heal cooked up some excellent plans of attack, our mechanic Adrian Hedderman maintained our bikes in perfect condition and spruced up the leader’s bikes with matching bartape and barhoods, and our soigneur Jeremy Fliss helped us recover with primo massages after every race, and his notoriously excellent sandwiches.

Good job team, we got the pink jersey, the green jersey, the white jersey, and we’re all proud to have OPTUM ORANGE on our backs!

Apr 27, 2012

Stage 2: Joe Martin Stage Race 2012

Stage two of the 35th annual Joe Martin Stage Race was tough, because we wanted it to be tough.

After lots of attacks, counter attacks, getting away from the peloton and being dragged back by the other teams, (even Anna Barensfeld who was sick as a dog blasted off the front and made the pack hurt several times, what a champ!) Carmen Small, Courteney Lowe, and Jade Wilcoxson got away with one rider from team Rouse.  I was in the chase group with Emma Grant who was wearing the white jersey, as the leader of the Best Young Rider Classification.

The break stayed away and we let FCS-Rouse, the Colombian National Team and Tibco do the chasing.  Emma rode strong through the last section of the course, winning the bunch sprint with me on her wheel (5th and 6th place).  Up ahead, Carmen had won the race, Jade got 3rd, and Courteney came in 4th.  Annie and Anna who sacrificed everything for the team raced in afterwards.  Textbook teamwork. 

Optum Pro Cycling now has all three leader's jerseys.  Carmen is in the Pink Leader's Jersey and has the Green Sprinter's Jersey as well, and the White Best Young Rider's Jersey was passed over from Emma to Courteney (who won it in the 2011 edition as well!)

It wasn't an easy day, and that's what made it so fun. 

Apr 26, 2012

Joe Martin Stage Race Prologue 2012.

Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies is in first place for team classification after the stage one prologue at the Joe Martin Stage Race.  How did we do it?  Super aero and light gear from Orbea and HED, perfect warm-up on Kinetic Trainers, fuel from Clif, and good ol' piston power.

Carmen Small is our top rider in 4th place follwed closely by Jade Wilcoxson in 5th. Anna Barensfeld is in 7th, and I just missed top 10, coming in in 11th.  There are two road races, and a criterium to come.  This is going to be fun.

The full results:

1 Amanda Miller (TIBCO - To The Top) 0:09:59.47
2 Kathryn Donovan (FCS-Rouse  p/b Mr Restore) 0:00:01.12
3 Maria Luisa (Colombian National Team) 0:00:02.41
4 Carmen Small (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:00:03.49
5 Jade Wilcoxson (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:00:08.35
6 Anna Sanders (FCS-Rouse  p/b Mr Restore) 0:00:16.88
7 Anna Barensfeld (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:00:20.54
8 Rachel Warner (FCS-Rouse  p/b Mr Restore) 0:00:21.95
9 Lauren Hall (TIBCO - To The Top) 0:00:22.74
10 Lauren Stephens (FCS-Rouse  p/b Mr Restore) 0:00:28.52
11 Lex Albrecht (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:00:36.01
12 Jennifer Wheeler (TIBCO - To The Top) 0:00:39.67
13 Emma Grant (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:00:44.02
14 Katherine Williams (Team Belladium) 0:00:48.45
15 Amity Elliot (Team Kenda p/b Geargrinder) 0:00:59.14
16 Cara Gillis (Team Kenda p/b Geargrinder) 0:00:59.82
17 Courteney Lowe (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:01:01.87
18 Joy McCulloch (Helen's Racing) 0:01:14.53
19 Scotti Wilborne (Leborne) 0:01:16.21
20 Jennifer Purcell (TIBCO - To The Top) 0:01:17.97
21 Annie Ewart (Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) 0:01:19.04
22 Jerika Hutchinson (Fremont Bank Cycling Team) 0:01:21.28
23 Meredith Miller (TIBCO - To The Top) 0:01:26.30
24 Jessica Prinner (Hotter'N Hell Hundred) 0:01:34.46
25 Samantha Schneider (TIBCO - To The Top) 0:01:37.31
26 Amy McGuire (FCS-Rouse  p/b Mr Restore) 0:01:44.16
27 Kendall Ryan (TIBCO - To The Top) 0:01:48.45
28 Kim Jennings (Bicycles Outback p/b Jubilee Mitsubishi) 0:01:50.75
29 Lauren De Crescenzo (Team Kenda p/b Geargrinder) 0:01:55.43
30 Jennifer Perricone (Team Kenda p/b Geargrinder) 0:02:06.41
31 Mary Maroon (FCS-Rouse  p/b Mr Restore) 0:02:13.64
32 Jennifer Mix (787 Racing) 0:02:27.24
33 Krystal McNutt (Team Kenda p/b Geargrinder) 0:02:32.63
34 Lindsey Durst (Team Kenda p/b Geargrinder) 0:02:40.32
35 Jacqueline Denny (Team Kenda p/b Geargrinder) 0:02:48.41
36 Michelle Montoya (Bicycles Outback p/b Jubilee Mitsubishi) 0:04:32.15

Apr 23, 2012

Behind the Scenes at Orbea in Little Rock, AR

On April 23, 2012, Team Optum Pro Cycling Presented by Kelly Benefits Strategies visited Spokes Bike Shop in Little Rock, AR.  Spokes is the local Orbea dealer, and they have a wicked selection of bikes, clothes, and...a sweet coffee bar.

We took a spin and crossed the largest pedestrian bridge in all of America.  It was gorgeous.  Jade got a flat.  Rachel was the wise one who brought along a spare tube.  Thanks Rachel.

Afterwards, we were treated to some genuine Southern BBQ for lunch.  Then, we toured the Orbea American Headquarters.  Orbea is a Spanish company, that used to make pistols before bikes.  I found that out when I inquired why there was a pistol sitting in a plexiglass box on top of a filing cabinet.  Great decor, but I was curious about the motive. 
A Genuine Orbea Pistol
Orbea is a family friendly facility, apparently. Minus the gun.  I found this out when I asked why there was a mini drum kit and stroller in the warranty area.
Orbea USA's kid secton...a mini drum kit and a stroller!
We saw where the components are stored (like a real fancy bulk food section in a dream grocery store), and we got to try out the machine that spits out packing paper.  Check out the video:

I got to play around in the section of the building where they do all of their bicycle photography too.  I wonder if they'll use this shot for their next catalogue?  Maybe not...but I appreciate them letting me have my fun.
Playing with the suspended mountain bike in the photoshoot section

Since I worked in bike shops for many years, I found it pretty interesting to see how they packaged up the mounted frames before sending them out.  First, a layer of cardboard is laid down on the packing table, the frame is placed on it, holes are punched through with an allen key, the frame is attached with zip ties threaded through the holes, placed into a box, then the wheels, and then...the whole deal is stuffed with packing paper from the fancy machine I showed in the video.

The frame packing table at Orbea
The tire mounting section at Orbea.  One guy's job is to mount tires all day.  I never found out what his title was...
One of the components sections in the shop where bikes are put together before being shipped out.

Orbea dealt out some pretty sweet swag to us Optum Pro Cycling girls, including baseball caps, various t-shirts, and some awesome Killa Kompression socks, with red reinforced toes.  Thanks Orbea, that was FUN.

Orbea's Background Story!

2012 Foothills Road Race in Alabama

The morning after Sunny King Criterium I raced the Foothills Road Race near Anniston, Alabama.

I loaded my pockets with Clif gel shots with varying caffeine contents. I stuck with the caffeine free vanilla variety in the end though.  I'd had enough java thanks to the generosity of the Edwards, Optum's host family in Anniston.  
The Edward's home, with Emma standing at the front
Courteney, our Kiwi rider, cranked it away from the peloton around 10km into the slightly sub-100km race.  Anna followed and the teamworked it over the rest of the course.  Sometimes it looked like the girls in our pack were going to bring the break back.  Especially at the beginning when the gap seemed to hold steady at a weak 15 seconds.  Jade, Emma, and I waited patiently to counter attack if ever the break would be snuffed out.  Anna and Courteney were strong and tenacious though.  The time increased to 30", then 45", then 1'30", then...who knows.  They were out of sight and we didn't get any other information on their lead from the race comissaire on the motorcycle.

We only had two girls up the road, the race was far from over, and we needed the entire podium painted in Optum Orange.  With around 10 km to go, Jade attacked on a long uphill, The peloton thathad held on up until this point dragged her back. Then , BAM, I hammered my Look pedals, counter attacking.  Nobody followed, they were blown from covering Jade's attack.  I stayed  away, solo time trialing to the finish to complete the podium for the day.  Mission accomplished.  Good teamwork!
Foothills Road Race Podium.  Courteny, Anna, and Lex
We loaded into the team van and the Optum Acura TSX Sportwagon, heading straight for Little Rock, AK where we will stay over the next few days.  Thanks to Rachel, Adrian, and Jeremy ( our DS, mechanic, and soigneur, respectively) for stopping at my favorite restaurant in the world, Chipotle, for supper on the road in Memphis, TN.
Emma and Courteney and the Optum Van
Next race: Joe Martin Stage Race

Sunny King Criterium 2012

Optum's set-up before the Sunny King Criterium
 Optum Pro Cycling raced the NCC Sunny King Criterium in downtown Anniston Alabama, with live coverage from every corner of the course as well as the start-finish line.  Every time I bust it around a corner on my HED wheels, I feel like I've got confidence and control on my side thanks to the way my Champion Tires grip the road surface.  They're the best tires I've ridden in my life, and they make crits like Sunny King that much more fun to race.

After several attacks and counter attacks there was one break that ultimately stayed away.  Jade, Emma and Annie (half of the team) rode the break while Courteney, Anna and I did what we could to manage the peloton.  We scored one prime in the pack and Annie brought one home from the break.

Although the break came dangerously close to being reeled in, the girls in the peloton just couldn't seem to get the job done, which is what we wanted.

Philip Darden 2012
Jade just barely missed the victory but landed on the second step of the podium thanks to some excellent Optum teamwork.  Next race: Foothills Road Race

Apr 19, 2012

Come Meet Us in Little Rock, AR!

Come and say hello in Little Rock, AR!

On Monday, April 23, 2012 at 11am, the Optum Pro Cycling Presented by Kelly Benefits Strategies girls will be doing a meet and greet at Spokes Bike Shop.  Drop in and say hi!  Our team director Rachel, and our multi-talented mechanic Adrian will be with us as well.  Word on the street is that Spokes has great coffee too. 

Here is Spokes' address: 1001 Kavanaugh Blvd. Little Rock, AR 72205

See you there!

Apr 18, 2012

Don't Dance When You Zipline!

Our team director Rachel Heal noticed a great bargain on a group purchasing site for ziplining.  We hopped in the Optum team van and went to the 2 year old Beanstalk Journey site, an hour from Asheville, NC.

It was pouring rain on our scheduled ziplining day, but we're not woosies.  We geared up in some of our Champion Systems rain gear, my teammate Courteney lent me some closed-toe shoes, I put my teammate, Emma's mom (who lives in England!) down as my emergeny contact on my waiver, and we were off.

I thought it would be funny to do a little butt-wiggle on the third zipline into our adventure (which was significantly slower paced than what we're used to racing our Orbea bicycles, mostly because of the clipping and unclipping from the ropes and wires on the course).  Butt-wiggling is not aerodynamic though and I inadvertantly slowed myself down so much that I got caught in the middle of the line and had to be rescued.  For the remainder of the ziplining adventures I took every piece of advice into account that our friend Dino from HED Wheels gave us on aerodynamics.  I ended up flying into every landing with ease.  Dino is a wise, wise man.

What a fun off-the-bike team activity.  Here is a video:

Tomorrow's menu: A ride on and around the Blueridge Parkway (it's like a mega-huge Parc de la Mauricie!) followed by some motorpacing and "grilling out" with the girls.  I've got to think about what kind of meat I want to bring and who I could get to help me cook it...I'm used to eating my meat out of a can.  Gotta love smoked herring.

Apr 16, 2012

I arrived in Asheville, NC the day after racing in Charlotte NC.  Still feeling sick, feeling a bit beat up, but eager to ride.  Until we were 1.5 hours into a 4 hour ride.  I thought I would lay down in a ditch beside my Orbea Orca, and take a nap. 

I didn't know how to get home on my own though.  So, my teammates let me suck their wheels, or "sit on" as some prefer to put it.  I did just that, and with some extra help from a syrupy caffinated drink, I managed to pedal the whole way through, and I enjoyed myself.

I got a lot of sweat in my eyes, hacked up a lot of phlegm, got blood all over my hands and face from an impromptu nosebleed that I chose to ignore, but I really, really, appreciated the rolling hills and the green landscape.  Asheville is beautiful!

Apr 15, 2012

Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium

Two days after my 25th birthday I got hit with the flu.  It's been going around like wildfire in my part of the country.  I upped my nap quota to 3 or 4 a day, kept my legs spinning only easy, and hoped and wished to get over it as fast as possible. I only have a tenacious chest cold left to kick now, and I'm convinced it's on it's way out.  Flying from Québec, QC to Charlotte, NC I was understandably iritable.  So when a security agent asked me  how old I was, I wasn't going to tell him for nothing.  I asked why he wanted to know.  Completely serious he responded that because if I was under 12 years old, I didn't have to take my shoes off and put them on the belt.

I raced the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, NC with 5 teammates.  There are huge cash prizes, great primes, a big, energetic crowd of supporters, and a pretty fun race course with 8 "on-the-tight-side" corners.

I was hacking up phlegm over myself for the race, determined to participate.  And it was definitely good for the morale.  Jade busted off the front solo, she scored some intermediate sprint primes too, Anna chased down an early break with everything she had, Annie and Emma stayed up near the front on guard, Courtney put in some crazy hard efforts.  Jade finished 4th overall.

I like this crit a lot and I want to come back next year in full health.

After the race we watched the United Heathcare men's team control the men's 80km criterium, which was an impressive show.  The Optum Pro Cycling boys were not here because they're racing the Battenkill UCI race.

We're off to Asheville NC, where we'll ride the Blue Ridge Parkway (my favorite road south of the Parc de la Mauricie) for a week or so, before heading to the Sunnyking crit in Alabama.

Apr 9, 2012

What's Next?

After coming home from the San Dimas Stage Race and Redlands Bicycle Classic in California, I spent some time in Québec City, Montréal, Mauricie region, and a quick visit to Toronto.

Racking up some mileage outdoors, I made the most of practically the entire extent of my Champion Systems wardrobe, it is CHILLY here in Québec!  I spent some quality time inside on my Kinetic trainer as well though.  I celebrated my 25th birthday with a ride that lasted the entire day, and finished it all off with a trip to a sugar shack.  Only going about once every 4 years is a good rule to stick to... 

Next race (in less than a week): Presbyterian Invitational Criterium in Charlotte, NC with some of my Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefits Strategies teammates.  Afterwards, we'll ride the Orbeas out on the Blue Ridge Parkway for seven days, then head to Alabama to race the Sunny King Criterium.

The Tour of the Gila in New Mexico (a windy stage race, at altitude) and then finally the Joe Martin Stage Race will finish off my next racing block. 

It's always nice to be home and sleep in my own bed and use my own coffee maker, but it gets old pretty fast.  One thing that's for sure is that I'm pumped to get back out into the race peloton...

Apr 5, 2012

Thanks for Taking Care of Me

Just over a month ago, I took a nasty spill that left me with a concussion.  Concussions are dangerous, they can have long term consequences especially when they're not treated properly.  Concussions are mysterious too, their signs and symptoms are sometimes hard to recognize, diagnose, and evaluate.

Taking time off of training is imperetive to recover from a head injury.  A precocious return to physical exertion can delay the recovery process substantially.  A small investment of a week or two "off" from regular training is a price well worth paying...otherwise recovery can drag on for months on end.

It is counterintuitive not to train when we're not feeling well.  A lot of the work-outs I do hurt, and are crazily uncomfortable.  Pushing through them until the end is part of the fun.  With a concussion, my  legs don't even hurt, my heart rate doesn't race, and I don't sweat buckets all over the place.  I want to go hard, but regardless, I can't, and I know I shouldn't try.

A lot of people helped me get through this bizarre and unfortunate period.  A teammate from last year, and a fellow cyclist who has had rock star mountain bike performances both shared their mistakes, experiences, and first hand expertise with me.  Their stories struck a chord, and prevented me from making the same wrong choices by trying to "come back" too quickly. The Conseil du sport de haut niveau de Québec looked after me by promptly setting up appointments with sport concussion specialists.  I had advice from coaches from the Québec provincial team and the Canadian national team.  Friends encouraged me and shared contact information with other individuals that could help.

I am extremely fortunate to have fully recovered, and I thank every single person who helped me get back on my Orbea bike a few weeks ago to train and race the way I like to.  A little lag in fitness was the only price I ended up paying...but I'm not so sure that it would have been that way without your help.  THANK YOU!

If you whack your head, take care of yourself, and ask for help!

Apr 3, 2012

Redlands Went Out With a Smash

Redlands went out with a smash.

The four stage race finished with a circuit race of 9 laps around the "Sunset Loop".  It has a reputation for being the toughest stage of the entire race.  Optum Pro Cycling raced it hard and raced it well.

On the first lap, Joëlle hiked the pace up, scoring the only precious time bonus to be won during the stage.  This caused the field to shatter, and only at the beginning of the race.  6 of the 8 Optum riders made the selection.  Thanks Joëlle, you made my legs burn.  But I stayed in for the fight.  I wanted to race this puppy.  Later, Leah who was part of this group as well, went off the front for a few laps with another girl.  Jade scooped up some extra Queen of the Mountain points securing her jersey, as Leah was brought back into the group. 

With a couple of laps to go, I skidded out on a downhill, regained control of my bike, then skidded out and crashed only meters further.  After just recovering from a concussion only a couple of weeks earlier, I felt lucky that I didn't whack my head.  It would have set my training back considerably, for a second time this season.  I was adamant about getting back on my bike but I couldn't move my arm.  Some paramedics and a firefighter named Kevin came to my rescue.  I was mangled, but alive and relatively well.  Just not in shape to ride.
All wrapped up to immobilize my bashed up shoulder.
I got a ride back in a cop car to the feedzone to join the Optum staff until the end of the race.  I asked to sit in the back, like a criminal.  It was fun. 
The girls finished the stage without me, and with 5 remaining Optum riders in the lead pack, Joëlle sprinted to a 2nd place stage finish, and got up on the 3rd step of the GC podium with the help of the Optum Pro Cycing presented by Kelly Benefits Strategies women's team.  Jade kept the Queen of the Mountain Jersey, and Joëlle the sprinter's jersey, as well as the Best Young Rider, and Sprinter in the Women's Prestigue Series.

Good job girls!