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.


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.



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


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.


In Like a Lion…

Jess Sequim 2

Jessica Cutler wins the Pro-1-2 race at Sequim on a solo breakaway

March here in the Northwest was filled with exciting weather: rain, sleet, wind, snow, hail, thunderstorms, and more rain.  Likewise, our riders  delivered some exciting early season racing: solo breakaways, attacks, wins, upgrades, and teamwork.  (Appropriately, most of our races took place in inclement weather!)  While we are ready for some mellower temperatures and sunshine, our team shows no signs of slowing down as spring gets underway.

Here are some recent top results.  Many of our team’s victories are made possible by hardworking teammates who tire out the pack, chase down attacks, and provide support for their teammates. Still other teammates are just racing for the first time and successfully finishing with the pack–a big achievement in itself!

Top Results in March

  • Mason Lake 1: Jessica Culnane 3rd in the Cat 4s
  • Sequim 1: Jessica Culnane 1st in the Cat 4s
  • IceBreaker TT: Carly Tu 1st in the Cat 3s; Alexie Montaland 3rd in the Cat 4s
  • Sequim 2: Jessica Cutler 1st in the Cat 1-2-3s; Jessica Culnane 3rd in the Cat 4s
  • Farestart TT: Carly Tu 1st in the Cat 3s; Jessica Cutler 1st in the Cat 1-2s; Alexie Montaland 2nd in the Cat 4s
  • Independence Valley Road Race: Jessica Cutler 1st in the 1-2s; Courtenay McFadden 4th in the Cat 1-2s; Jessica Culnane 3rd in the Cat 3s; Eryn Maris 4th in the Cat 3s; Lori Surges 2nd in the Cat 4s.

Rider of the Month: Jessica Culnane

Jessica Culnane has started off the season with some really strong racing! She placed 3rd at Mason Lake 1, WON Sequim 1, and placed 3rd at Sequim 2, earning her upgrade from category 4 to 3. Way to go, JAC!

Nickname: JAC

Hometown: Snohomish, WA
Years racing:
Past cycling achievements: Third place at my first and only two crits last year as a Cat 4. 3rd at Mason 1 and Sequim 2, 1st at Sequim 1. Riding the Cascade Loop (Washington-Stevens Pass).
Why you decided to try bike racing
: Races help break the barrier of what you think you can do, and I love this. Most of my life I have raced to some extent, but it was running, triathlon, or multisport–so I thought I’d try bike racing next! I also wanted more discipline in my cycling efforts, not just riding when it’s nice out in search of the best scone.
What has surprised you so far about being on a race team:
I’ve always felt pretty competitive and dedicated to athletic pursuits. But now I realize, I’m just slightly above average and this team is where it’s at! They are intelligently committed to the sport and pushing themselves to new abilities. They inspire me to ride harder and stronger, but laugh when things go wrong.
What keeps you riding:
It is where I find my bliss. Whether it is pulling the team into a head wind, with sideways rain/hail, with numb hands or zipping around Mercer on one of those perfect ‘this is why I live in Seattle days’, life narrows in on that moment. New perspective is gained on what really matters and the insignificant is gone by the time I get home. And of course it is just fun to go fast!
What type(s) of racing you hope to try this year:
The only bike races I’ve done thus far are a few off the couch crits, so I’m excited be a little prepared for some races and race for a longer distance. Stage races seem like my cup of tea.

Empowering Women on and off the Bike

As an all-women’s team, the core of our mission goes beyond riding bikes really fast—though we do plenty of that!  We value empowering women, both on and off the bike.  Partnering with Jubilee Women’s Center gives us the chance to make a real impact on the lives of women who are transitioning from homelessness to self-sufficiency.


About Jubilee: Founded in 1983, Jubilee Women’s Center has provided safe, affordable and supportive community housing in Seattle and a program that helps single women transition out of homelessness and into independent living.  Jubilee houses 27 women at a time, usually for 6-12 months each.

One of our founding members, Lindsay Felker, originally suggested that our team partner with Jubilee. “I have special ties to Jubilee, as my mom, who I lost to cancer a few years ago, was an active volunteer there and helped renovate the house.”  Lindsay has since encouraged our team to get involved and led the way with a few projects.  Recently, Lindsay, Sarah, Elise, Heather, Lisa, and Christine helped out at Jubilee’s annual Mardi Gras silent auction benefit—a lavish event that would have been impossible without the army of volunteers who stepped up to help out (see picture above).  Our duties included helping with setup, assisting in the kitchen, circulating appetizers, and cleaning up.  The benefit was a great success!

Getting to know the women of Jubilee brings joy and fulfillment to both sides.  Our teammate Kelly taught a series of computer classes at Jubilee, helping the women gain basic skills on Microsoft Word, like typing a resume or cover letter.  Something that many of us take for granted—typing up a document—is a new and empowering skill for many women who are moving toward self-sufficiency.  Kelly said, “It was awesome! I highly recommend getting involved with them.  The women at the center were all really friendly… I found the experience of working with the women there to be really rewarding. Do it!!”

Community dinners are another way we have connected with Jubilee.  Recently, our teammates Lori, Mirna, Sheila, and Lori’s daughter Bayley combined forces to prepare baked chicken, mashed potatoes and broccoli for Jubilee’s 35 residents.  Lori commented, “The women were so grateful and we received many thanks.  Most of the women came at various times to eat, as they had to juggle work, school and other activities.  I will plan on organizing a dinner every other month at this point.  The team is welcome to contact Angie to schedule more community dinners.”

As anyone who volunteers knows well, the people we serve aren’t the only ones who benefit. Giving to Jubilee brings us a sense of connectedness and fulfillment—now that’s empowering!

Pictures from the event: