Black Lives Matter

Spokeswomen Racing acknowledges the systemic inequality towards people of color, especially the Black community, and we support the peaceful protests for positive change.

We remain dedicated to our team’s mission to promote women’s bike racing and support the development of female cyclists competing in bike races while also encouraging our members to give back to the cycling community and other charitable causes. Spokeswomen Racing strives to create a safe and inclusive space for women/trans/femme (WTF) cyclists from all cultural backgrounds to pursue bike racing; a supportive team environment and product/financial assistance are some of the ways in which we support this goal.

We also acknowledge that bike riding and racing is a privileged sport: stable housing, income inequality, access to bikes, gear, safe streets, and time are all significant barriers to entry.  One way in which our team currently supports all women and women of color, including Black women, is by providing meal assistance to the Jubilee Women’s Center, a local nonprofit that provides housing and support to women experiencing homelessness. We will continue our volunteer support to Jubilee. We commit to expand our understanding of structural racism, and we will explore more ways to engage with and empower communities of color.

2020: New Year and New Faces

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We had a fantastic turn-out for our annual team meeting held in January. Of the 18 members who made our 2020 team photo, ten are new members who have joined our team within the last 12 months. With our new members comes a surge of excitement and interest in bike racing — even road racing! We are looking forward to fielding a more regular presence at the road races this spring, with the collegiate UW omnium at the top of our list of target road races.

Meanwhile, mountain bike season has already kicked off with 6 of our members racing at the first Budu XC race.  Come join us at a race and say hello!

 

Rider Spotlight: Kamila Gwiazda

Editor’s Note:  Kamila joined our team in fall 2017 while she was still recovering from wrist surgery and beginning to ride again. Even though she could not race yet, she still came out to support our team at the Woodland Park cyclocross race, eagerly cheering on members who still didn’t quite know who she was and were wondering who this stranger was! Needless to say, Kamila quickly found a home within our community within a short period of time, and is now one of our most active members, generously offering to take newbies all over her favorite trails in town (Tiger Mountain, of course!).

For this Rider Spotlight, Kamila kindly answered a few questions to help us get to know her better. The following responses were lightly edited for clarity.

Q: When and how did you take up cycling? 

I started riding in my early 20’s right before I graduated from college.  I wanted to try triathlons, since I have a background in swimming, and they looked like fun.  I trained on my old commuter bike and bought a new road bike a week before my first race.  After running a few marathons, I realized that Ironman Triathlons just weren’t that attractive anymore, but I had fallen in love with bike riding.  I did a bunch of touring (down the Pacific coast, across the mountain west, etc.) and after that all I wanted to do was ride my bike.

I attended the University of Washington (UW) for grad school where I discovered the UW Cycling team (Lisa was the women’s team captain!), and the rest was history.  Collegiate road racing was some of the best times I’ve ever had on two wheels.

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Q: Tell me about your experience riding and racing collegiately for the UW Huskies.

I joined the UW cycling team the week after I moved to Seattle for grad school.  The first person I met and connected with in the city was Lisa, who is the same person who introduced me to Spokeswomen Racing a few years later.  I loved getting to know the city from my bike, and connecting with other students that loved riding was a great way to make new friends.

Collegiate racing was boatloads of fun.  We had races all over the northwest for 8 weeks in the spring, and every collegiate race is run as an omnium: a road race, a crit, and a team time trial.  We would load up in vans or cars and drive down to whatever race was happening that weekend on a Friday afternoon, race Saturday and Sunday, then drive back in the evening.  The drive to the Montana races was the longest (8-9 hours), but getting to spend that much time with your favorite cycling teammates was like a sleepover party every weekend.

The races themselves were also really chill and friendly, but maintained a great competitive focus.  Some folks were Cat 1/2 racers, but they were always there to support and cheer for their beginner teammates.

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Transitioning from collegiate racing to teams like Spokeswomen Racing has been interesting.  It’s much like graduating from school:  entering the ‘real world,’ not living with your best friends and spending every weekend around a big group of people, and suddenly having a lot more independence.  It’s fitting, but also a little sad and nostalgic.  I will always have wonderful memories of my five years on the UW cycling team (as well as five years worth of kit), and it has forever shaped the way I relate to my bike and bike racing – for the better.

Q: You raced road in college, but now you primarily ride mountain?  Why the switch from road?

1377975_10151906006485376_1748582402_nI loved road racing while I was racing for the Huskies, but when I tried a couple USA Cycling races, I realized the scene just wasn’t for me.  This was also a few years ago, before mountain bike racing really took off in the Pacific northwest.  I had purchased a mountain bike a couple years after getting a road bike, but it was sitting in the garage and not getting much use while I was focusing on road.

After crashing a few times on the road, I realized that I felt much safer and much more at peace on the trail.  Training for mountain biking is a lot more fun too – getting to spend all day in the forest and learning new skills for descending has been something I’ve really, really enjoyed.  While I do most of my training on my trainer indoors (especially during the rainy winter season), I have found that spending time in the mountains is my joy right now.

Q: What is your day job? I hear you have a PhD in a medical science field. Tell me more.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_93cYup, I have my doctorate in molecular and cellular biology.  I moved to the US from Vancouver, Canada to go to graduate school at UW, and fell in love with both Seattle as well as America.  My graduate school work was in genetic engineering (primarily to treat specific autoimmune diseases), and I also worked on the basic biology of how DNA works in human cells.  I now work on treatments for pediatric cancer using genetic engineering tools to program cancer-fighting cells to be better at finding and killing tumors.  The cancer I’m particularly focused on is GBM (glioblastoma multiforme), which is a particularly nasty type of cancer that is almost uniformly fatal.  I love my work and feel incredibly privileged to be able to do it.

Q: How many languages do you speak?

I was born in Poland and grew up speaking Polish at home.  My family immigrated to Canada when I was 4, and I learned English watching Sesame Street.  When I moved to the States a decade ago, I learned to speak American and lost my Canadian accent (eh!).

Editor’s end note: Kamila also loves taking her beloved dog Bella on her mountain bike and hiking excursions. Many thanks to Kamila for sharing so much about herself.

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We are now a 501(c)(3)

We have exciting news! After many months of hard work, we have attained 501(c)(3) non-profit status. Our mission is to support and develop amateur competitive women bike racers of all skill levels while engaging our members in cycling-related community service and other charitable community causes. Thank you to everyone for all of the support and encouragement, and we are looking forward to increased growth and participation by women in bike racing in our community.

 

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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