Gran Fondo Ellensburg

Editor’s Note: Team member Mary Brown recently completed the 2019 Gran Fondo Ellensburg. After surviving 90 miles of mostly unpaved gravel roads with over 7000′ of elevation gain, Mary shared a wonderful race report, re-posted here for all to enjoy.

I just got back from the Ride Vicious Gran Fondo – Ellensburg edition. It was Type…2.75 Fun. As always, Jake and Karen put on a bitchin’ event. Snack game was strong. Where to begin… the ride started at Mt. Stuart Elementary where the wind was blowing! I think NOAA had it at 16-18 with gusts of 26 when I checked this morning. The first…27 miles were headwind city. Just crushing headwind through rolling countryside. I ran into my Gran Fondo bud Sara and we found ourselves in a paceline with some other dudes. For some reason, I was taking monster pulls because I was feeling pretty strong…and wanted to shame the patriarchy. My generosity (and hubris) would later come back to haunt me around mile 60…

After headwind city, it was CLIMB city starting at around mile 29. It was a beast. It was the white whale to my Captain Ahab. Just when I thought I was at the top, sunscreen melting in my stinging eyes in the 88 degree heat, there was another switchback. My Moby Dick, National Forest Road 4510 slipping through my sweaty grasp. According to the Stravs, that hill was 10.7 miles, 2,989’ and I was climbing it for 1:41:33. Brutal. Also, what purgatory might feel like…if I believed in purgatory.

Many years later, I arrived at the top. Stunning views of the Stuart Range. Wildflowers galore. Improbable rollers. Why were there rollers up there? After some lovely ridge line riding, it was time to go down. It was time to go down the gravel descent of doom. Some call it “washboard city”. Some call it certain death. One guy legit broke his collarbone on that descent today. A terrifying hour to say the least…

After barely surviving the descent, I rolled into the fully stocked aid station at mile 56. Watermelon. Homemade cookies. Chips. Such bounty. Surely, nothing could go wrong after such a snack attack. Then it was time for another climb. A mere 3.7 miles and 1,137’ of gain. It was hotter and the cookies started to seem like a bad idea. many years later, I arrived at the top of this other hill. Then it was time for ANOTHER GRAVEL DESCENT OF DOOM. There were also dirt bikers roaming around Mad Max style. Apparently another rider ran into one and royally messed up his bike (but not person). I survived that descent – also barely. Then it was time for 25-30 miles of sweet sweet pavement to finish. There were rollers (of course) and we finished on the last 3 miles of the Iron Horse trail. There was a taco truck back at the start (bitchin’) and many cold drinks. After a vegetarian taco quesadilla mash-up, I felt 15% restored.

I’d argue this ride was about 20% harder than the Cascadia Super G if only because the climbs were SO long and the descents SO sketchy. The headwind also added a grade.

Will I do this ride next year? Totally. You should too. It’s super pretty and fun in a very painful and also scary sort of way. But first, another beer and a nap. My Garmin Fenix advised 4 days of recovery and Season 3 of True Detective.

File Photo: Stottlemeyer 2019

Editor’s Note: Mary is planning to finish off her 2019 gran fondo season with the penultimate GF Winthrop this fall. We know she will do well!

Return to the 24-Hour Round-and-Round MTB relay race

Five years ago (in 2014), Spokeswomen Racing fielded a 5-person all-female team for the 24-hour Round-and-Round mountain bike relay held annually in Spokane.  Link to 2014 blog post.

With the 2019 race being advertised as the final year for this classic race, Spokeswomen Racing rallied to field not one, but TWO teams!  It was decided to try to set up our two teams as even as possible to make the competition more fun.

2019 24-hr Spokane MTB Relay teams!

The race started at noon on Saturday with dry and fast conditions.  Mary Weir and Kamila volunteered for the LeMans-style scramble leg start duties to lead out their respective teams.

For the first several hours, our two teams stay fairly close, separated by at most a few minutes.   As each rider finished, her name and time was logged into a group team text so the other members could track and plan for the following transition.  The sun was out and the course was dry, and folks were still full of energy. However, conditions would soon change…


As daylight dimmed on Saturday night, lights were dutifully switched on. Darkness eventually fell.  And then the rain started around 11pm…. light at first, but eventually picking up to a steady rainfall by the wee hours of the morning.  Jess, Tara, Becca, and Joy rode through probably the worst of it, returning absolutely filthy and covered in mud after their legs between about 1 and 3am. Transition mistakes were made and some time was lost.  Rain combined with chilly overnight temps pummeled rider motivations, but the team members soldiered on, attempting to seek some sleep between their legs.

After every team member had completed 3 legs, morning began to dawn. The rain thankfully also stopped. With the light came a much appreciated rise in temperature and the course quickly started to dry out. But motivation was at its lowest. Much groans were heard as our team members pulled on damp kit and wet shoes for their 4th legs.  But everyone successfully completed their 4th leg.


Both teams needed one person to ride a 5th a final lap.  Fortunately, Mary W. and Becca rose to the challenge.

Amazingly, after 24 hours and multiple lead changes, our two teams finished less than 20 minutes apart after completing 21 laps of a ~13 mile loop. It was only during the last few legs on Sunday morning that team Wake and Bike pulled slightly ahead of Cyclonettes.   Out of a total of 10 women’s teams, our two teams placed 4th and 5th place.

Overall, team members responded enthusiastically to the 24-hour race format, and several are already scheming/planning our future 24-hour relay race entries!


Thank you to Lucas Arnold Photography for some of the photos shown here.


Ready for 2019

We are excited for 2019! New kits have been distributed, a team photo was taken, and cycling goals for the new year were shared.

When Spokeswomen Racing was founded in 2011, our members’ primary discipline was generally road racing. In the years since 2011, mountain biking and cyclocross have blossomed in popularity both in our region and on our team. As we enter 2019, our team is now most definitely a healthy mix of dirt, cyclocross, gravel, and road.

Despite these changes, our mission remains unchanged: to promote women’s competitive cycling while giving back to our community.

Here’s to a fabulous 2019.

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2019 team photo

Rider Spotlight: Linda Nalis

2016 Magnuson Park CX

When you first meet Linda, you will be impressed by her statuesque height and infectiously positive attitude. Subsequently, Linda’s avid love of good coffee will quickly become apparent. But watch a little more closely, and you will notice Linda’s skill at flipping her water bottle while cycling at speed — a seemingly small, but very challenging skill that belies a hint of her colorful and multi-talented background not as a cyclist… but as a professional basketball player who escaped a war torn country.

For this Rider Spotlight, we sat down with Linda Nalis to learn a bit more about her. Linda was born and raised in Bosnia and subsequently emigrated to the United States. The following responses were lightly edited for clarity.

Q: When and how did you take up cycling?  Did you ride much as a kid growing up in Bosnia?

I started riding when I was 5-6 years old. I rode a bike a lot as a kid growing up.

It was how we transported ourselves everywhere in town – to the gym, lake, stadium, and to goof around. I rode with my boyfriend while holding hands in third grade.  Also, I was on a bike police patrol, and we practiced going around the cones, jumping curbs, and of course stopping at the stop light. I even got into some big trouble when I rode with my friends to another town about 12 miles away and far away from home, and that was a BIG no. Riding on narrow streets with heavy two-way traffic was not very safe.  There were no official bike mechanics in town so an older friend would fix bikes for all of us on the block. One time we welded a steering wheel in the place of handlebars and had a blast riding through town. It was a hit.

Linda1Q: Tell me about your background as an Olympic-caliber basketball player.

I played basketball professionally since my junior year in high school and throughout the college, practicing twice a day and attending classes in between. I was born in and grew up in Bosnia and played for, at the time, the well-known ‘Bosna’ team in Sarajevo.  After the war in Bosnia broke out in 1992, I moved to Croatia and continued to play with a team called ‘Split’ in the city of Split. We won two National Championships in a row, and I had a pretty good time playing and living in Split. That’s where I met my husband, Zlatko.

When Bosnia was fighting for independence in 1992, their women’s basketball team was able to compete at the Olympic games as a separate nation. I was selected to be part of that team. The war in Bosnia was in full swing at the time so to practice all the players had to get out of the war zone. Luckily, I was out of Sarajevo before the war turned into a madhouse, but most of my friends were still in the city. With the help of the Bosnian army and the Olympic committee, we (the players) and the coaches were able to get out of Sarajevo, and we were stationed in Italy.


Italy was quite a treat after previously living in the dark, with no electricity, no heat, very little food, and in constant danger of being shot.  Now we had warm croissants in the morning, played basketball all day, swam in a pool, ate lots of pasta, fish, and delicious pizzas, and drank coca-cola, a luxury drink back in the war zone. But it was a slow transition back to a sane world. We all would duck or jerk when someone would close the door too loudly, and we would hit the ground at the sound of a loud bang or celebratory fireworks. Throughout, we would laugh at ourselves and try to move on.

The 1992 Olympic Games were held in Spain, but when the departure time approached to head to the Games, I decided not to go. This is the greatest regret of mine. Why did I decide not to go? The war again. By this time, the war was raging; there were great battles and ethnic “cleansings” happening between Muslims and Croats.  I was a Croat from Bosnia, but now the new Bosnia was a Muslim country. How could I go to the Games and play for a Muslim nation when I had lived and played in Croatia? My family felt that I would be in danger or that they would be in danger too if I went to the Olympics with the Bosnia team. We had already had a bomb set up at our house in Bosnia. But that is another story.

Anyway, at the last minute, I pulled out of the Olympic Team and the chance to experience the Olympics.

37493648314_b29217db39_kQ: Tell me about your work as a Physical Education (P.E.) teacher.

Fast forward 20 years and I am a PE teacher at a Jewish elementary school. Being a PE teacher is super fun for me. I love teaching sports and being active with the kids. The work environment is very dynamic, and I find working with kids more fun than working with the adults. So far so good.

Q: Is cycling popular in your home country?

Not so much.

Q: What attracted you to join Spokeswomen Racing?

Smaller team and service opportunity with Jubilee.

Q: How do you fit cycling into your life?

Cycling is a significant part of my everyday life. I commute and run errands on my bike.

Q: How do you balance cycling with being a mom?

As a PE teacher, my days are not long like those of most people, and I have plenty of time. Having one child makes a difference. Now my daughter is almost 18.

Q: What are your preferred cycling disciplines and why?

I enjoy cyclocross the most.  I love the variety of skills needed but not the mud as much. I also like road cycling because I like to challenge myself and compete with others.  However, there is a whole lot of tactics that I am just beginning to understand. But I know I enjoy long, hard, and brutal workouts, which pretty much represents road cycling.

Q: What are your current cycling goals?

Heal my foot tendonitis:)

Get back in shape for the cyclocross season.

Q: Do you have any other interesting facts?

I love to play guitar as my downtime.  And make bike jewelry 🙂

Editor’s Note: Linda is known to carry a mug of coffee on long bike rides in lieu of water. Oh, and she appreciates beer hand-ups at the cyclocross races. Just please don’t hand her Gatorade or some other electrolyte drink, or she might throw it back at you in disappointment. Many thanks to Linda for sharing so much about herself.


Race Rituals & Habits

We caught up with a few of our team members to learn about their pre-race habits and rituals. Needless to say, they are quite varied!  Oddly enough… sweet potatoes seem to be a common theme…

Maura likes to rock out to post-grunge music.

Linda always eats a good breakfast, which is likely to include sweet potatoes.

Joy likes to start her race day by waking up early so she can stretch and foam roll while mentally preparing herself. Breakfast: oatmeal loaded with peanut or almond butter, chia seeds, and honey — but only half of it typically gets consumed due to pre-race loss-of-appetite.

Pre-riding the course (sometimes twice) is a must for Joy before races. She’ll munch some last electrolytes and energy shots before commencing her off-the-bike warm up routine, which typically consists of jumping jacks, squats, and lunges combined with some personal mental prep time.

Before Joy’s first ever bike race, she picked up a bracelet made of Green Aventurine stone beads. The name seemed to fit because it sounded like “adventuring” and she was about to embark on new adventures. Later, she learned that it’s the “stone of opportunity” and can bring good luck and increases favor, especially in competition.  Perfect! Joy wore the bracelet during every cyclocross race in her first season.

Like Joy, Tara has a lucky set of bling… earrings!  She also never leaves home without her lucky pair of socks. Make-up? A big no-no after crashing in a criterium during her first season of racing while wearing make-up.

Laura preps herself and her gear the night before, since she knows she is NOT a morning person. She will get dressed, eat her morning porridge, and crawl back into bed until she absolutely has to get up. Her favorite trainer warm-up tune is “Bossy” by Keli. After checking out the other riders’ serene meditative pre-race state, she heads to the start line, sheds some layers, slams a gel, and asks herself “why am I doing this?” until it’s BAM! GO time!

Lisa maintains a general pre-race routine which includes laying out her gear and foam rolling, but prefers to maintain a flexible approach to pre-race prep, because, in her own words, “nothing goes as planned anyway!”

Happy Riding and Racing from Spokeswomen Racing!

A wet February team ride at Tiger!