Echo!

The Echo Valley Ralley is the second race in the newly minted 6-race Fat Tire Revolution [mountain bike] Series that is taking over central Washington. Echo Valley, just north of Lake Chelan, is characterized by buff, swoopy trails and sunshine: perfect ingredients for an awesome mountain bike race! The ten-mile lap climbs (and descends) 340meters and is made primarily of single track. Beginners ride one lap, Sport level riders ride twice and the crazy Experts go three times.

Last weekend, Sarah, Kelly and I all rode the Sport course. For Sarah, she wanted to move up a step on the podium from her 3rd place at the Beezley Burn just 2 weeks prior. For Kelly, it would be her first mountain bike race ever! Her focus would be to have fun. For me, it was about recovering from a Dead Last finish in the Expert Category at the ‘Burn. That sandy, rocky, bucking bronco course totally schooled me and neither the heat nor my legs were much help either. So this week, I rode Sport– deciding that it would be better for my training as well as my morale, to ride faster rather than farther.

Boy, was I glad I only had to ride two laps. As we lathered up in sunscreen, it might’ve only been 68 degrees outside, but MAN! my body thought it was 88. I decided that I’d drink Nuun out of my Camelbak and use the bottle on my bike exclusively for pouring on my head.

The start gun went off and up the hot dusty climb we went. I instantly began to melt and my heart rate was furious. I announced my race goal to myself: RIDE YOUR OWN RACE. Then I dumped water on my head.

Fortunately, a light breeze began to pick up– and I was amazed at how my power spiked up whenever I got a whiff of it! (I don’t have a power meter, just going by feel here!). By the time I finished the first lap, I had adjusted to the temperature and began to ride stronger. I decided that I was probably in second place, but I hadn’t seen the first place  girl in the green jersey since the start. So I continued to ride my own race.. do, doo-doo.. jus’ ridin’ ma’ mountain bike.. la, laa-laa.. HEY!!! I crested the climb and spied a green jersey just around the bend. THERE’S FIRST PLACE!! I had no idea she was RIGHT THERE!!

My race senses lit up. There was nothing but descent left in the course and we were about to enter the “whoop-de-doo” section of man-made mountain bike ‘moguls.’ I hit those whoop-de-doo’s HARD, coming up after each just barely atop my bike. My body was in conflict, as I pedaled furiously but tried to keep a flow. I had to go FAST, but I had to stay SMOOTH. Pedal pedal, WHOOP DE DOO!, pedal pedal, WHOOP DE DOO! The green jersey moved in and out of sight. Pedalpedalpedal-WHOOPDEDOOOO!!!

We turned onto the last stretch of gravel before the fast, grassy cyclocross-style finish. The volunteer sitting at the corner cheered me on, “YEEAAAHHH!!” I was a ninja about to pounce- she had no idea I was coming. I closed the gap quickly on the gravel, just before the singletrack. I had barely enough space to dive in front of her, but I decided against it as my road racer instincts said to stick to her wheel and bet on the sprint finish.

On her wheel, the race immediately turned from an endurance event to a sprint-style cross country eliminator. We rode FAST over the ski hill grass, jockeying for position into every corner. It came down to the final U-turn, I took the inside line just behind her and jumped out of her draft. I wasn’t really sure how sprinting on a mountain bike was going to work, but I was willing to find out.. sprintSprintSPRINT/bikethrow! Just as I was about to regret not diving into the singletrack first, I nipped her at the line!!!

The green jersey girl gave me her congratulations and we shook hands.

The best congratulations, however- came from the guy I passed on the climb. He was a bit surprised that I continued to ride away from him on the climb and even more surprised that he couldn’t close the gap on the descent either. This is the second time a dude has found me after a mountain bike race to compliment my downhill skills. This makes me wonder that either I descend better than I think (I take myself to be pretty average), or these guys have really got to increase their expectations for women. Whichever the case, it feels good to ride well!

Cheers,

RJ

Da’ Beezely Burn!

GRRRR!!

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GRRRRRR!!

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That’s right, even though it was Sarah, Tara and Jac’s FIRST mountain bike race ever– they were FIERCE on the start line!

Alright, we do play nice.

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The course was quite different than what we’re used to here on the west side. Near Seattle, trails are made of terrifically tacky mineral/organic soil, dashed with roots and rocks here and there and often buffed and fast. In Ephrata, the soil was dry, sandy and loose, punctuated with LOTS of rocks, and just would not stop turning and twisting. Oy! What a ride.

RJ quizzically signed up for the Expert category which required 3 laps. (She doesn’t like to feel left out and wanted to experience ALL of the fun that was available.) Even though she DFL’d, she still came through each lap with a smile on- determined to tackle the bucking bronco once again!

The rest of the ladies opted for the Sport category’s 2 laps (good decision! RJ wants to do this next time!).

Tara rode smart and kept it within her comfort zone for her inaugural ride. She took a spill on a loose section, but discovered that you really can bounce back up after a mountain bike crash!

Meanwhile, Sarah and Jac devoured their divisions. They each went home with nifty wooden medals. Congrats!

Next up for the mountain girls: Echo Valley Ralley!

April-May Results

The great results keep coming in! Here’s our latest results roundup. Stay tuned for some race reports, a sponsor highlight, and some great news from Jessica Cutler.
Tour of Walla Walla, Women 1-2, Waitsburg RR: Courtenay McFadden, 6th
Tour of Walla Walla, Women 3, Criterium: Andrea Casebolt, 9th
Tour of Walla Walla, Women 3, Kellogg Hollow Road Race: Tara O’Brien, 10th
Olympic View Road Race State Championship, Women 4: Kristen Sblendario, 1st
Beezely Burn Mountain Bike Race, Pro/Open Women: Courtenay McFadden, 1st
Beezely Burn Mountain Bike Race, Cat 1 Women: Rebecca Jensen, 2nd
Beezely Burn Mountain Bike Race, Cat 2 35+ Women: Sarah Charlesworth, 3rd
Green Valley Time Trial, Women 1-2: Jessica Cutler, 1st
Green Valley Time Trial, Women 3: Carly Tu, 2nd
Green Valley Time Trial, Women 4: Alexie Montaland, 1st

Sea Otter 2012

Jessica Cutler, Eryn Maris, and Alicia Boland represented Peterson Racing p/b Spokeswomen last weekend at the Sea Otter Classic Stage Race in Monterey, California.

Here is Jess Cutler’s race report! To see the rest of her blog, click here.

I’m going to try real hard to not turn this into a complete novel.  Anyone reading this can feel free to skip to the bottom to get to the good part.

Niels and I took off on the long drive to Monterey for the Sea Otter Classic Pro Stage Race on Tuesday afternoon.  We made it to Monterey on very little sleep at around 3:00 pm on Wednesday and checked in before rolling out to check out the road course/TT course which are run on the same circuit.

The crit was the first stage and is run as basically a double out and back on the lower part of the Laguna Seca Raceway.  It’s really narrow through a couple spots.  Of course I managed to line up at the very back but Alicia was nice enough to let me move up to the second-ish row.  I had of course also just put new cleats on which is always a great idea the day before a crit. Luckily once the gun went off I was able to clip in right away.

The first three laps were fast but not too fast.  I was moving up really well until this happened.

I was pretty much right on the wheel of thefirst girl who went down and luckily I was able to see that it was happening and basically just unclip and ride up onto her wheel.  Another girl fell onto my wheels but I was able to get my bike untangled pretty quickly, do a super rad cyclocross mount back onto it and make it to the pits to take my free lap.

The rest of the race was pretty good.  It didn’t feel too fast and I was able to pretty easily sit in and take the same time as the pack, finishing somewhere around 20th on the stage.  I kind of regret  not going for the sprint only because the first 7 girls finished 7 seconds up on the rest of the pack, it would have been nice to have those seconds.

Next was the road race.  5 laps on a roughly 8 mile circuit with two punchy climbs, bad pavement, and a lot of rollers.  The finish is off-circuit up a 3 or so mile climb that getssteeper as it goes.  It was really really hot on Friday, probably close to 90 on the road.   I don’t always do well in the heat so I was just really careful to keep drinking

I mostly sat in for the first few laps although I did get in one short-lived but well-represented break with race lead Alison Powers.  The attacks started coming on the last lap and Olivia Dillon from the NOW team got off the front for most of the last lap.  Coming through the steep feed zone climb on the last lap, a break got away.  I heard a girl yell “go!” as we came over the top of the climb so of course I assumed she was talking to me.  I attacked HARD over the end of the climb and got a gap on the field.  I was a little too late to catch the break but I did manage to catch Alisha Welsh from Primal after about two minutes and the two of us worked together until part way up the climb when I got a small gap over the first steep kicker.  We came back together just as I caught Pascale Schneider and Emily Collins who had both been in the break.  I attacked again at less then 1k to go and was able to come in 4th on the day about 1:00 down from Powers who took the stage.

Going into the Stage 3 Time Trial I was sitting 4th GC.  I may or may not have been so nervous beforehand that I started crying at Niels for the horrible crime of smiling at me.

The TT has two fairly technical and bumpy descents and in all honesty I’d been descending like a total mouse on the same circuit the day before.

I honestly can’t recount much from the TT except that I had a really good start and I totally buried myself and managed to catch my 1 minute girl (the top 10 GC riders had 1 minute rather than 30 second staggers).  I just about fell off my bike after I was done.

Then I really did fall off my bike when Niels told me that I’d finished 3rd in the stage behind national champions Powers and Samplonius!  Even Cycling News thought it was pretty cool!  Even cooler I had moved myself into third on GC going into the final stage.  So like … no pressure.  Either way, it was time to celebrate!

The final stage is a 2 hour or 17 lap (it was unclear which it would be) circuit race on the Laguna Seca Racetrack.  There’s one ~2:20 climb every lap that gets steeper

at the top and then dives straight into the “corkscrew” descent.

Despite saying that I wasn’t nervous about this race I was in fact a total headcase (surprise). I cried about 10 minutes before the start because my freshly glued wheel (gluing a tubular three days before a race also always a good idea) was hopping a little. I snapped at both Niels and my teammate and was generally a total jerk.  Also, I’m embarrassed to say that I’m a totally timid descender and was terrified of the corkscrew.

One cool thing though was that I got a callup to the front line and got to take a glamor shot (“make sure you get my good side”).

Once we got started, the first time down the corkscrew I braked through all the straightaways like a real pro and got yelled at (deservedly) more than once to get off my brakes.  I was nearly gapped at the bottom of the descent every time and had to work hard to stay with the slowly shrinking pack.  I had to fight a real mental battle to not give up on my GC hopes and just drift off the back.  Finally, after 16 previous fails, I totally nailed the descent on the last lap, unfortunately the winning break of two had gotten away 5 laps earlier.

I stuck with the pack and avoided a crash on the last lap finishing 16th in the stage but close to a minute down from the break of two which contained an Exergy rider who had been sitting only a minute down from me on GC.  Thankfully she still finished 9 seconds down on me in the final GC so I closed the deal!  

I finished 3rd on GC!  Since my new podium pose had gone over so well the first time I thought I would do it the same this time around.

Right after the podium Niels, Alicia and I started the 15 hour drive back to Seattle.  To practice not being so scared of descending, I didn’t use the brakes in the car the whole way back down any of the descents.  It’s cool, I’m a totally pro descender now.

I am so pleased with how this race went.  This was my first time racing a stage race at this level and it was again awesome to see all my hard work pay off with an unexpectedly good result.  I went down there with the hopes of getting noticed by some pro teams and possibly finishing top 10 in one stage.  My “reach” goal was to finish top 10 on GC and I never imagined I would finish top 3.

I definitely felt really sheepish and shy about approaching any of the pro racers or team directors after the race but I swallowed my fear and introduced myself around and got lots of nice compliments.

One other thing is that I could never have done this without the support of my amazing husband, Niels, my teammates, and our fantastic host family in Salinas.  Niels dealt with me panicking before every race (although I only cried before two stages, a new personal best for me).  Alicia and Lindsay helped talk me through being scared of the descents and the corners in the crit.  Niels cooked nearly every meal for me and waited on all three of us hand and foot since this race is kind of a logistical nightmare.  Our host family (Alicia’s fiance’s aunt and uncle) were awesome and gave us beautiful private rooms and a ton of garage and kitchen space.

My upcoming schedule is still kind of TBD but I’ve got a few big ones coming up in the next few months.  Thank you again for everyone who has helped me to take the first big step towards my goals.

Bringing it in Bellingham

Last weekend brought sunny skies and more strong results from Peterson Racing p/b Spokeswomen.  Bellingham’s Fanatik Bicycle Team hosted a trio of races in Whatcom and Skagit County: two time trials on Saturday and a tough road race on Sunday.  We showed up in force, earning four wins and a second place!  Many thanks to Stewart Bowmer, the race director in Bellingham, who did an awesome job organizing and promoting the races. Anyone who hasn’t yet ridden the beautiful roads in Whatcom and Skagit County is missing out!

Recap of our results:
Skagit Flats TT: Jessica Cutler 1st in the Cat 1-2s; Carly Tu 2nd in the Cat 3s
Northshore Hill Climb TT: Jessica Cutler, 1st in the 1-2s; Carly Tu 1st in the Cat 3s.
(Read about Jessica’s experience in the TTs here!)
Northshore Road Race: Courtenay McFadden 1st in the Cat 1-2-3s; Kristen Sblendorio 1st in the Cat 4s.

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Carly Tu on her way to a win in the Northshore TT. Photo by Kevin Tu.

Here’s a race report from our own Courtenay McFadden, a Cat 2 on the road who lives in Bellingham and knows the Northshore Course well. As a Cat 1 cyclcross racer and Expert mountain bike racer, her main passions in racing are mountain and cross, but she has been tearing it up on the road as well!  She won the Cat 1-2-3 Northshore race on Sunday, beating out a strong field of 25 that included some of the state’s top-ranked riders and a pro racer.

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Courtenay

Courtenay’s report:

I won a bike race!  I might…might be figuring out this road racing business, or perhaps it was just dumb home race advantage luck.  This last Sunday was the Northshore Road Race. This race is located in Bellingham, and is best described as a very masculine race.  Why is it so masculine?  Because when the race was created, two college-aged guys wanted to create the hardest race course in the Northwest Collegiate Cycling Conference.  Poof, the Northshore Road Race was born.  It’s been around for as long as I can remember.  Originally, it was a collegiate race put on by WWU Cycling (and still is) but is now also a USAC race put on by the Shuksan Velo Club (AKA Fantik Race Team…they wear orange).  The course is an 8 mile loop, and you go in circles and circles until you finish your race distance.  It’s a race of attrition: whoever can just keep going will do well.  It’s not a total climber’s race, but it’s NOT flat in any way.  The hills are steep and short and require a lot of power, but there isn’t too much time to recover either.  I don’t typically ride out there because I associate the course with pain.  If I ride the course I usually only do 1 lap (which is plenty).

So, to put it bluntly, I wasn’t looking forward to the race.  Actually, I didn’t even care about the race (maybe that’s where I went right)!  On Saturday, I went out for a mountain bike ride with Logan and Chris, and I worked harder than I wanted to.  The day of the race, I packed a bag and rode out to the course, which was a great warm up!  I won’t get into details on how the race went, because honestly, I got dizzy and I don’t remember what happened on each lap.  They all just blurred together.  I just remember riding my bike up some steep hills, breathing hard, then turning around and seeing that half the pack was gone.  I had my eye on a pro cyclist that my friend Emily called “red boots,” but when she kept attacking in weird areas, I decided to not waste my energy chasing her.  I let the other girls do it because I knew the course, and I knew she wasn’t going to get away at the places she tried (home town advantage)?

Then, all of the sudden, we had one lap to go.  On the last lap, I just kept telling myself, hey not bad! There were 7 of us, and in the worst case scenario I’d get 7th place. Not bad on a tough course with a group of 25 starters for a race I didn’t care about!  The last time up the “stair stepper climb,” I found myself in the front of the pack.  The finish was getting close.  I didn’t want to be in the front, so I slowed down…a lot.  Other riders pulled through and took us to the base of the steep finishing climb, where “red boots” went for the sprint…too early.  A couple girls chased her. I took advantage of the speed I already had from the small downhill before the steep uphill, chose my gears wisely (I knew how steep the hill was and I knew what gear to be in) and took off, sprinting up the hill after “red boots.”  She petered out hard about halfway up the hill.  I kept going all the way to the finish line (with cramping quads and all) and took the hometown win!

Rider of the Month: Andrea Casebolt

Rider of the Month

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Name: Andrea Casebolt, junior racer

Category/Discipline: Road 3, Cross 3

How you got into cycling: I got into cycling because of my dad. I watched him race a cross race in Portland about seven years ago and thought it looked really cool so I wanted to try it out.

How to balance life and cycling as a junior racer: Being a junior is great! A little hard with managing training with school, but I get by. Knowing that I started at such a young age and already have a good amount of experience is nice because I want to do cycling for forever. Racing as a junior at nationals is also pretty cool, you get to meet a lot of new people. It’s nice to have adults that are willing to support us with training and racing is great as well.

What’s your favorite thing about cyclocross, your main race discipline? My favorite thing about cyclocross is definitely the getting dirty aspect. Having to jump over obstacles is pretty sweet too. I like the challenge cross brings with all the different kinds of weather and terrain you have to race in. It’s not as strict as road, the environment is so laid back and chill. Not saying it’s not hard to race cross, because it definitely is.

 Favorite cycling memory? Hmmm… my favorite memory in cycling was in Kansas City, 2007, when I won the Cyclocross National Championships. Earlier that season my dad had broken his ankle in Steilacoom right after he had won and was about to move up a category… he told me that he was proud of my performance at the Seattle series so when I went to Kansas City and crossed the finish line first, the expression on my dads face. He told me he felt like he had won vicariously through out me. That was something I will never forget.

-Andrea