Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nationals: The world according to Mark

Here is the race report according to Mark. I think his version is much more coherent than mine... I was too busy taking out spectators, course tape, my bike and myself all weekend. No, it did not go as planned. Yes, I am extremely lucky to have such a supportive husband.

Cross Nats review from the coach/husband point of view...

WARNING...THIS IS LONG!!!

This was a rough weekend...for many reasons. I knew we had Kym's fitness where it needed to be to reach her goals. Those were the podium in her Master's race and Top 20 in the Elite race. She has been racing strong all fall, and continually getting stronger. When we arrived in Bend, the temps were in the negatives in the morning, with mid-afternoon temps only getting to just above freezing. This was creating a problem. That was the snow was just melting enough to refreeze into ice by the following morning. This was not only going to be a handling course, but probably one of luck as you just couldn't tell where the ice was or where it was melted. The first day saw so many crashes it was crazy. One guy got a compound fracture of his tib/fib and I know some of those pics made the Internet. Because of that, the race promoters changed the course to try and take out some of the more dangerous areas.

By Friday, the course had melted a LITTLE bit by the women's race, but it was still a course that, in most spots, only had one true line on it. This became problematic because the fields this year were huge. That in itself wasn't SO bad, except USAC decided to run multiple age groups at the same time. In the 40+ fields, which there was 4 or 5 of them, they separated the fields out by 5-10 second starts. In the 30+, there were just two fields, and they separated them out by 30 seconds. In both cases, you had people integrating with other age group fields almost immediately in a race that was determining the National Champions. This was/is totally unacceptable as you now have people you aren't racing against possibly determining the outcome of your race. Not a big deal in your typical weekend races, but this was the National Championships. In Kym's race, for instance, the crash she had that put her chain and rear derailleur into the spokes was caused because she was forced to take a bad line to pass a slower rider walking up a hill that Kym had been riding. That rider was from the younger age group and Kym hit a patch of ice trying to make that pass. If that choice had been made because that girl was someone she was actually racing against, then that is fair game...it would have still sucked, but that happens. However, to have to pass someone walking up a hill in the only rideable line there is, and then crashing because you are forced into an ice patch is unacceptable when that rider wasn't even in your own race. This was common for the entire day. I have already had conversations with USAC officials while we were there and I believe they are going to try and add an additional day next year to fix this problem. Kudos to them for trying to address it going forward. I heard from one official they had literally hundreds of complaints on Thursday and Friday due to the mixed fields. This was made worse by the fact the course was just too short, time-wise. The master's women were turning 7 minute laps, with some of them faster than that. People were getting lapped within the third lap of the race. Chaos does not come close to the chaos that was out there.

By yesterday morning, the course had started to thaw out. That was both good and bad. It was good because on a lot of the course, the ice was gone, replaced by mud and water. The bad was you couldn't tell by looking at a section you were coming into which it was. The temps at 11:00 when the Elite women went off were around 34 degrees.

The women lined up over a 100 racers in their field...Kym was called up 23rd, I think. Third row regardless. Good call up. At the start she drilled it and came out of the first corner sitting 27th. That was a perfect position since anyone after about the top 30 was off their bike running the first big corner because they were so stacked up. I was doing pit duty again, so I only had a limited view of the course. Since it was a double pit, Kym would come past me twice each lap. By the time she came past the pit the next time on the lap, she had moved up to 25th and was in a group of about 14 girls and looking great. As she went out to the other side of the course I could only wait and hope. She was still holding strong the new few laps, moving up in the group. Then she came through and was back around 30th. I looked at her and the bike and she seemed ok, so I was perplexed and worried as to why she had slid back. Come to find out, she had slid out on an icy, off-camber patch that was claiming lots of riders at the front and the back of the field. She had lost about 10 places, but had fought her way back when she went past me.

With 2 laps to go, she suddenly didn't come through where she should have been....25,26,27,30,32,32,33..40, oh crap, where is she? She came through in 49th and I screamed at her if she was ok. She said no that she was hurt. Gulp...husband's worse nightmare to hear that in the pits. Especially knowing how high a pain threshold Kym has. She will race in extreme pain, regardless of how it may actually be hurting her physically, because she doesn't give up....EVER. This is one of the things I truly LOVE about my wife, but it scares me to death sometimes. She will put her well-being aside in order to finish or win a race.

Anyway, so she goes past, I can't see blood, but I can tell she is pedaling a bit erratic. When I get to the finish line, she about collapses in my arms and can't stand up. A definite tear moment...ouch...I don't do those so well. She had crashed, really hard, in that same, stupid off-camber section. Hard enough that she didn't move for a minute or so and spectators were trying to help her off the course. She had hit her hip and knee hard. Hard enough that she would have been justified in going to first aid and calling it a day. In fact, that was recommended to her. Again, she is hard headed and doesn't give up. She got back on her bike and dug deep for the last two laps, in spite of the fact her knee had now swollen to twice it's normal size. She told me it was the National Championships and she wasn't about to quit. She finished 41st.

So...not quite the weekend we had hoped or planned for, but her knee and hip have stabilized and it appears to be a soft tissue injury. She will recover. And she wasn't the only one who crashed hard this past weekend...there were lots of them. It's something that is out of a coach or non-racer's control when that person is out racing. You can't plan for it, and you just have to pick yourself up and try to keep going. That's all you can hope for. The same thing happened to Jeremy Powers in the Elite Men's race. He was off the front, looking incredible and it was his race to lose. He did just that...in the very exact spot Kym crashed. He hit the deck and was down for a bit. That took him all the way back to the high-30's or low-40's. He was able to fight back to the podium, I believe, but it happens. Sometimes, in order to be a champion, you have to be aggressive and take risks. That's what makes one a champion. You'll never be great sitting back and hoping for the best....you have to make your own luck in a race. When it works out, you're the hero....when it doesn't...well...it sucks, but at least you tried and gave it your best. That's all a coach can ever expect/want...and its the standard I get from my wife day in and day out...

And that's the look back on the weekend....I am happy we came out here and it was a great experience, minus the crashing part. We'll be back here next year for sure!! It is an experience you just can't describe well enough unless you experience it.

Kym and I both did presentations for USA Cycling and we got to see friends while out here. It was a super trip, but I'm ready to be back in TN.

Nationals: part 1, Masters

After an uneventful but long trip to Bend, OR it was time for racing. Was I ready? Was the course going to cooperate? So many questions...

Bend had gotten a ton of snow the week before the race and the temperatures had been below zero until the day before we arrived. It was going to be interesting. Things were a bit snow covered. Thursday I pre-rode the course with about 1,000 other riders (not a lot was accomplished) and my assessment was that it was going to be slick. There was ICE and snow everywhere. I guess we'll see how race day goes.

I rode well after a not so stellar start and was riding in 5th when things got ugly. Things did not magically dry up by Friday. The course was snow/ice covered and although it was "almost" thawing during my race, there were some really slick areas. No one raced without a few slide outs. I was passing a girl from the field that started in front of mine and took a line that I had not ridden before. It was ice. the bike slid and I recovered fairly well... no big deal, run up the hill and keep going. WRONG. My derailleur had gotten smacked into my rear wheel and jammed into the spokes. It was NOT coming out. I was as far from the pit as I could be. So I ran. And ran. And then jogged. And then walked quickly. They announced me as I ran past the finish "And there's some bad luck, there goes Kimberly Flynn, who was riding in the front of the field earlier in the race, headed to the pit with a mechanical". Thanks.... I got to the pit, got my pit bike, and rolled around one more lap to the finish.

I have not finished a lap down in ANY race this year, not even when we start behind the men. Today I did. At Nationals. OUCH. Granted I ran a half of a lap and had really bad luck, but it still stings. I rode really well and I did not quit (I don't quit races EVER) but it was not what I came here for. Sunday is the Elite race and I am fired up. I have a score to settle with Bend. I will not be crashing and messing up my bike. I have a 28th place call up out of over 100 women. They had better be ready...

Thanks again to everyone who has helped me get here this season, especially Mark. He was a PHENOMENAL pit crew today. He got my bike back running again in 1/2 lap so I got to finish on my own steed.

As a side note: the promoter had TONS of complaints about how racers need their own race at Nationals. I was not the only woman whose race was determined by someone that was not in their category. Yes, I took the line that I crashed on, but I was forced to do so by someone that I was not racing against. I REALLY hope that problem is fixed by next year.

Thanksgiving to Nationals

Whew. Talk about a whirlwind push to the end of cross season. After Mercer was the UCI NC Grand Prix and then two weekends in GA for the series finals.

North Carolina was tough. The course was flat and non-technical, not my favorite, but it's cross so it's always fun. And anything can happen. Saturday's race was challenging for me. I was still tired from the whirlwind drive to Mercer and it showed. I struggled to find my mojo and finished 8th. Not a bad UCI finish, but not what I was hoping for. It was way too much of a road race for me. Sunday it was cold and rainy and I was looking for redemption. I got it. The mud turned the course into something worth racing and I raced well. I was even in 3rd for two laps. An unplanned dismount took me back to 5th. Still a very respectable finish. The weekend was a success. As a side note, Mark was AWESOME Sunday, taking the win from a 7th row start. Killer!!

Also, a HUGE thanks to Scott Wagner, friend and team sponsor, for the cabin and fun times. Scott, it was so good to see you!!!

Thanksgiving weekend we went to GA and raced the "make-up" race for the series. It was a blast and we even got Amanda out on a cross bike. She rocked it. She won the Cat 4 women's race on her FIRST RIDE ever on a real cyclocross bike. You go girl!!!! I won the Elite women's field. A good time was had by all.

And then it was December...

Star and I did a girl's trip to Conyers, GA for the GA series final. She raced a really exciting race, coming from behind with tow laps to go to take the win. In my race I took the lead at the start and never looked back. Two more wins for Vantaggio. The win gave me enough points to take 3rd in the series, even after missing 3 of the races. Star was 5th having missed 4 races.

Now we are done in the Southeast and it is time to head WEST. Yikes. Let's see if all that hard work paid off.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Muddy Day 1: Mercer, NJ



This photo was early in the race... the bike still mostly looks like a bike.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Video Clip: Ohio day 1

Here is a link to the first day of racing in Ohio. It is worth the watch. I am "lucky 13".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7786OOS_yOs

Savannah

Warm. Sunny. Dry. So much unlike everything we've done this season. I was really looking forward to Savannah. It was the Georgia State Championships so we were looking forward to some good racing. Star and I were headed south and there were two days of racing, Saturday night and Sunday to look forward to.

We arrived in Savannah to 70 degrees and sunny. The race was at a dirt track speedway and it was dusty and flat. Saturday's course was short and open, with a really cool fly-over. They had to keep it close enough to the infield to keep it "under the lights" for the later races. What a neat event. Some of the corners were DARK; I had pre-ridden in the day light so I almost killed myself on the first lap numerous times.


Star started off the weekend for us with a WIN. She rode confidently and never looked back. She was all smiles as she crossed the finish line. Not wanting to be out done in my race I also took the lead from the start and won the race. What a fun evening.


Sunday was the GA State race so the fields were bigger and faster on Sunday. Star's race was first again and she did a repeat of the night before with a convincing win. That's two for two on the weekend. Our self proclaimed "endurance queen" is rocking the cross scene!!! Great job girl.


I also won my race. Vantaggio tore it up; the only thing that really sucked was that we are not GA residents so although we both won the GA State Championships, neither of us got the winner's jersey. That's okay, we have our own state race in January.

USGP: Louisville, New Jersey and back again...


... and the theme of my season; MUD!!!

Okay, here is the update on the last month of racing. I have been all over the Eastern US and it has been incredible. I have proven to myself that I am a competitive UCI racer in the Elite Field and I LOVE this sport!!!!!!


Our friend Andy sums up the day without words.


After the two weekends in GA and an incredible weekend in Ohio it was time for more USGP racing. The weekend after Ohio I had an unexpected weekend off. It was nice to stay home and get the bike cleaned up a bit. And sleep in my own bed for a few more days. And then the whirlwind began.

Kym climbing the "green monster" in Louisville. The steps got bigger each lap.

USGP #2 was in Louisville, KY. I was really excited to see where I stacked up now that I had some racing in my legs. We again headed to a race weekend in the rain; I am getting tired of destroying my bike every weekend. Oh well, this should be fun. We were staying with one of the kids that came to our camp this summer and his family and they were awesome. I have never eaten so well on a race weekend. Thanks again!!!!

It was another muddy weekend but I did well. I got 12th and 11th. Both great finishes. I was also called up 10th all weekend. That was really cool. It is really great being competitive in big races with the front part of the field.


Grrr....

After Louisville was a weekend of sunshine and warmth in Savannah for the GA state championships. I'll do a separate post on that. Star and I both went and it was AWESOME.

And then I put on my "bad idea jeans"....


So, the USGP #3 in Mercer, New Jersey was the weekend after Savannah. I decided that I could drive to NJ and back, and race, in just over 3 days. Yep. It somehow sounded like a good idea. Not sure how that happened. So...off I went. Going to NJ meant giving up any hope at winning the GA series (I would now miss too many races for an overall win) but my goal is Nationals and NJ was better preparation for that.


I left home Thursday evening and drove to Johnson City to stay with my friend Kim (who came with me). We got up Friday morning and drove. And drove. And sat in traffic in DC. And sat in traffic in Baltimore. And sat in traffic in Philly. You get the idea. It was a LONG day. I had strained my hamstring in Savannah and it was killing me by the time we got there. And it was RAINING. Bad idea jeans....


Saturday morning came REALLY early (Margaret and Kim raced at 8:45am) and I was tired. The rain had slowed to a drizzle. The first races of the day were muddy but the course was rideable. And then the rain stopped. The thing about mud is that sometimes it is worse when it starts to dry out. It turns to peanut butter. And it gets sticky. Really sticky. By the time my race started it was BAD. Bikes were caked with mud. Girls were taking a pit bike every half lap. I do not have a pit bike. I watched riders that I was riding way stronger than get a clean bike and ride away from me and my 50 pound steed. It was incredibly frustrating. I finished 20th with a bike that no longer shifted, had brakes or even rolled. But I finished. And I was still ahead of a lot of girls.


Sunday was better. The course dried out for us and I had found a pit bike to borrow "just in case". Unfortunately I got caught behind a crash at the start and was then LAST. I ran over a poor girl who went down. I spent the entire race chasing. I rode well, it just wasn't enough. I finish a disappointing 18th. Oh well, it was still a fun day of racing. And my wheels rolled so it's all good.


And then we got in the car and drove. And drove. We took a different way home; it was a bit longer but we avoided DC. We got to Kim's at about 2am and I was up again at 6am to drive to Chattanooga in time to be at work at 11am. I will not do that again.


So that is the brief update of where I've been. It's been a great season and I am really excited for Nationals. Only 3 weeks!!!!!

Friday, November 13, 2009

GA Cross #2

Okay, obviously I am slacking again.... Cross season has kept me so busy that I barely have time to see myself going out the door again each weekend. I haven't unpacked my bag or the car since the end of September. My blog posts are a bit late. I will try to get caught up this week. And I'll post some pictures too.

The second GA Cross weekend combined two of my favorite things: a winery and cross. We raced on the property of a winery in Dahlonega, GA. The course was OK; not great but still fun. And it was surrounded by a beautiful setting and WINE. It had a killer run-up to the finish (it was rideable for one lap and then it was easier/faster to run...) and a LOT of climbing.

Saturday night was a one lap time trial, winner take all. I knew that the riding the run-up was going to be the key so I forced myself to save some for the end and nailed it. I won. Good start to the weekend!!!

Sunday we lined up a big competitive women's field. I wanted the hole shot so I nailed it from the gun. It worked, I took the lead and never looked back. I celebrated with some wine tasting and we stopped at an orchard on the way home for pie.... what a perfect weekend.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ohio UCI weekend


The Elite Women's Field in the rain before the start of day 1.

Last year was my first real cross season. I've raced cross for a few years but last year I really started to see what I could do. In 2008 the Ohio UCI weekend was my first experience racing with the "big girls" and although I held my own, I was not competitive with the front of the race. That was a great first step and one that I was very proud of. This year, I wanted to step it up. I am ready to be a factor in these races. I want to be competing for the money and UCI points. After a year of training and trial and error, we were about to find out if I was ready. With that being said, we packed up and headed north for Ohio.
Is that a race course or a Slip-n-Slide??
Rain. It started raining on Monday and didn't stop. Ohio was wet. They got 2 inches the night before the race. Friday was going to be a mess. My poor bike....

I spent a LOT of time doing this during Friday's race.

Friday morning I made one of the smartest decisions I've made in a long time. I rode the course before the first race so I could see it before it got too muddy. The race was on a golf course. It was soggy and everything was off camber. After about two laps of the first race, it was going to be a muddy mess. Everyone was soaking wet, covered in mud and the course was completely torn up after the first 10 minutes of racing. Wow. Only 4 more races before I get to race.

We lined up in a drizzle with a feeling of impending doom washing over us. It was very apparent that this was going to be one HARD race. Even Katie and Sue were talking about how bad it was. They said "go" and it was crazy. The first wreck of the day was Katie Compton being taken out by Sue. They got moving again and there was a pile up right in front of me. I managed to get around it and after about 2/3 of a lap found myself in third!!! Holy CRAP. I could see the front of the race. At a UCI race. This is pretty awesome. Okay, so I went out a little too hard and didn't hold third but I did hold on to 7th and rode a killer race. Top 10. That is definitely where I wanted to be. The poor golf course will never be the same. Of course they might find shoes, bikes or even a stray racer once things dry out a bit...
Thank goodness for a sunny Saturday!!!
Saturday I woke up to sunny skies. After the horrendous mud from the day before it was much needed. I felt like I had gotten run over by a truck. Wow, Friday's race took it's toll on me. I was bruised and sore. And now it was time to get ready to do it all over again. My motivation was a little lacking but cross is always fun; I knew once I got out there I would be ready to go. This course was the hardest of the weekend for me. I'm not sure if it was the tired legs or the course but I really struggled. The course was a little slick but mostly tacky and fast. I pushed myself really hard and although I never felt great, I still finished 9th. It is pretty cool to not feel like you are riding at your best and still take top 10 at a UCI event. I also had some extra motivation, Scott Wagner, a good friend and team sponsor, stopped by with Tyson (his dog) to cheer for me. Thanks Scott!!!

Riding the sand; I loved this part!!!

Sunday was my favorite course of the weekend. It has long climbs and a "fun" sand pit. I like sand when it is rideable. We had the biggest field of the weekend (yikes, fresh legs to race against on day 3!!!) and I had a killer start. I was on Sue's wheel and it was a good one to be on. I never fell out of the top 10 and rode strong to finish 9th. It was a good end to a really great weekend. Oh, and it was my 6th wedding anniversary. I love that Mark understands me enough to "get" that it is okay to celebrate with racing.

I am finally getting there. After YEARS of hard work and struggling, I am starting to be really competitive in the big races. It is a great feeling. Thanks to everyone who has believed in me over the years; the sponsors, my friends and especially my family. And most of all to my husband.
And a big CONGRATS to Mark for winning all three of his races!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

GA Cross #1

After attending two of the Georgia Cross events last season I decided that was the regional series I was going to chase this year. They have great courses, good size fields for the women, and guaranteed payout that is very respectable. The series is 8 races plus a make-up race and I will be able to attend 7 of them so I figured I have a shot at the series podium. My time this fall is now officially booked. 4 UCI cross weekends, 7 Georgia Cross weekends, and Cross Nationals. I am "booked solid" until Christmas. FUN. The marathon started the first weekend of October.

Star, Mark and I got up at the crack of dawn Sunday morning to head to Macon. We arrived with plenty of time to get registered, warm-up and pre-ride. They had made full use of the beach at the park with not one but TWO sections of sand. I hate sand. I mostly just hate running in sand and then having my shoes full of it. Oh well, suck it up Kym, this is cross.

We had a good size women's field and I was a bit nervous. I didn't know all the girls there and I wasn't sure what to expect after a long week of travel and racing the week before. Star's race was the race before mine so I got to cheer for her as I warmed up on the trainer. She did GREAT!!! Star fought hard at the front of the field for the entire race... her and two other girls were in a heated battle. It was very exciting to watch. She eventually finished third. Great job Star.

Wow, there are women here racing!!! In TN, most of our women's fields were small so it was refreshing to line up in a good size, competitive field. I lined up and decided that I wanted the hole shot. Okay, let's hope for the best. I took it and never looked back. The Category 3 men started 1 minute ahead of us and I rode through most of their field as well. It was a great race. I won by a huge margin and finally feel as if my "cross legs" are coming back.

Thanks to the Georgia Cross series... you guys do an amazing job. I can't wait for the next one.

Next is the 3 day Ohio UCI weekend. Yikes. Talk about big fields and strong women. Looks like I'm racing with the "big girls" again next weekend.

Cross season starts with BANG!!!

So after a short break cross season has begun. And it started off with a BIG one. This year my season started with the opening round of the US Gran Prix in my home state of WI. Nothing like trial by fire:

"Okay so you haven't raced cross since last year, so let's pick the BIGGEST series in the US and start there.... good plan Kym." Bad Idea Jeans??? Maybe.

It was going to be really fun seeing the family and getting back on the most FAVORITE of all my bikes (Thanks Specialized.... LOVE the S-Works Tricross!!!!), but I was pretty sure that it was going to hurt really badly.

Yep. I was right about that!!!!

Mark and I made the drive to my parent's house (which was 40 miles from the race... convenient) and we were as ready as we were going to be. After a pre-ride where we JUST missed the rain, we got a good night's sleep and were ready to go.

Saturday morning was dryish (it rained some the night before but other than some threatening clouds, it was okay) and we hit the road early to get a good spot. We were the THIRD car there. Thanks Mark. I decided that I was going to race the Master's Women's race in the morning to get my legs under me and then do the Elite race in the afternoon. I wasn't really sure if that was a good idea, but if not I could always opt to NOT race the early race on Sunday if it was too much.

My Master's race rocked. I took the hole shot and never looked back. I won. Cross season is off to a good start. Somehow, I think my day is about to get harder. Yep.

The Elite race was FAST. Not that I was surprised, but holy crap!!! All the big girls were there and we had a field of 34 of the best women in the country (and world). I struggled almost immediately, I was feeling the earlier race. I pushed myself hard and crossed the finish line in 14th place!!! Go me. That was a great ride for the first race of the year. I was also COMPLETELY exhausted.

So after day 1 I decided a few things:

1. Two races in one day is not a good idea.
2. I am stronger than last year and I need to ride like it.
3. This sport is still AWESOME.
4. This sport is still REALLY hard.
5. My bike ROCKS!!!

Sunday I slept in a bit and arrived in time to cheer for Mark's start. He had a better ride and finished 6th. He then decided to try the "two races in one day thing". It went as well as mine did but it was fun. His first race was the important one so it was just bonus training time.

I had a killer start. I found a great wheel and stuck to it. I gave it everything I had and I stayed strong the whole race. I took 12th!!!! I was as high up as 10th at one point and I think that I can ride there once I get my legs under me. Whew. What a great weekend.

A HUGE thanks also to my family. I could not have made it this far without all of you. I had the best cheering section out there and my own personal photographer. I'll get pictures up when I get the disc from Dad. I felt like a rock star all weekend!!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

River Gorge Omnium

Chattanooga was full of racing the end of August. The weekend immediately following Booker T was a road race weekend here in town. This wasn't just any race, it was the mother of all climbing races, River Gorge. The short course (which everyone except the P1/2 and Cat 3 men race) was 48 miles with 4 good size climbs and a mountain top finish. I finished 2nd last year and was really hoping to win this one. After seeing the registration list, I had my work cut out for me. There were a number of really good climbers here to try out their legs on our mountains, including some of my teammates. Paula, Gina, Catherine and I all lined up and we were off.....

Women's road racing is annoying. One of the the big reasons that I don't do more of it is that everyone tends to wait for someone else to do something. When someone (read: me) finally does do something they chase it down and do nothing again. The mountain biker in me really hates that. I minimize that by picking races that have a lot of hills so we at least have to do some work. River Gorge proved to be the same old thing. The hills were hard but other than that it was SLOW. Everyone was saving themselves for the climb up Raccoon Mountain. There was a group of about 15 of us together at the base of the climb (3 miles to the finish, all steep uphill). We rolled into it slow and then the attacks started. I had a plan and I was going to stick with it. I knew exactly what kind of wattage I could hold up the mountain and I was going to look at my Power Tap and do my thing. That meant letting the early attacks go in hopes that I would reel them back in. The hard part about doing that was watching Ann, arguably one of the best climbers in the Southeast, go up the hill without me. Patience, Kym. I slowly started bringing her back. I was in second and had dropped everyone else. I had Ann in sight. I caught her right as the road flattened out for a minute. I held the power high instead of recovering on the flat area. It worked, I dropped her. Okay, about 1.5 miles left. Stay focused and stay strong. I refused to let myself look back. The race is ahead of me. As a came to the 1k to go sign I glanced over my shoulder. No one around!!! Kym, you have this; just keep pedaling. As I rounded the corner to the finish there were crowds SCREAMING and cheering for me. Wow. I was really going to win. I did it. I won a climbing race against climbers. This has been an amazing season. This one-time-sprinter has finally transformed herself into a climber!!!

My teammates also all did great. Paula rolled in for 4th, Gina was 5th and Catherine was 6th. Great job ladies.

After some quick lunch and a nap (I love racing at home....) it was time to head back for the time trial. I HATE time trials. I had borrowed a tt bike, (Thanks Carol!!) and was hoping for the best. As good of a bike handler as I am off road, I SUCK on a tt bike. Even worse when I can't stop because of a bad brake pad/wheel combo. Oh well, time to try and minimize my losses. I got 2nd by .24 seconds. Yep, less than a second. Wow. To the reigning state tt champion too. And it was all in bike handling. I lost tons of time on the corners. I guess maybe I should practice this skill once in a while. Catherine took 4th. Great job girlie.

After sleeping in my own bed it was time on Sunday to race the crit. Catherine and I had a nice commute/warm-up to the race and then it was time for one of the most boring crits I have done in a long time. Nothing happened. The plan was for me to lead out Catherine (she as tied for 3rd in the Omnium). I won a couple of mid race preems and made people work. It was fun, AND our plan worked. I led Catherine out for a beautiful 3rd place finish.

All in all it was a great weekend. My season is complete. I am focused more than ever on cross and it ended at home on a high note.

Thanks for reading...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Booker T

Okay , I am slowly playing the "catch up" game with my reports. Today brings me to Booker T mountain bike race in Chattanooga on August 23rd. Booker T State Park is about 15 minutes from my house and I NEVER ride there. Not that it isn't a fun trail, it is, it's just short. If I am going to load up and drive somewhere to ride I typically want to ride a trail that is longer that 5.5 miles. At race pace it is about a 30 minute lap. That is a lot of riding in circles...


Catherine, Star, Shannon and I headed to Booker T on Sunday morning to unseasonably cool temperatures and perfect course conditions. My personal goal was to see if I could turn a time that would outright win the 40+ Expert Men's fields. That is Mark's field and I can usually get most of those guys but there are a few that I just can't quite catch. I knew the trail and I was feeling good. If there was any day it was going to happen, this was going to be it. This was also Catherine's last race as a Sport rider and Star's first as an Expert. My girls are all growing up!!!

Local races are always fun. There is a small amount of added pressure to do well but it is ALWAYS fun to race in front of the hometown crowd. We had "peeps" in almost every category and Chattanooga was poised to do really well.


Our race started pretty tame, it was a pavement start and no one was fired up to go too fast. I stepped up the pace and took the hole shot. I was the only pro woman, all the other girls were experts, so my goal was to see where I could finish in the men's field. The men all started in front of me so it was pretty much 2 hours of "go catch the boys". FUN!!! Secretly that is one of my favorite games. My other goal was to finish in under 2 hours. If I could do that i would take a SIGNIFICANT amount of time off of last year's time. The course was faster this year but that was still a lofty goal. I raced hard and paced myself well. I ended up coming in at 1:58!!! I did it. I took 12 MINUTES off my time. WOW. Most fields were about 2 minutes faster than last year. I know that I have gotten faster this year but that was a really great feeling. In the end, I was only beat by 5 expert men.

Star took 4th and Shannon was 5th in the pro/expert field. Great ride ladies. Catherine won, of course. Her career as a Sport rider is officially OVER. Welcome to the big girl races....

The best part about Booker T was that it was the final race in the TBRA (TN Bike Racing Association) series. We did a few other races in TN that were part of the series and although we were not chasing the series, Catherine, Helen and I all ended up on the podium. We each took second in our respective categories. What a great season this has been!!!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

SERC Banquet

After the final race in Fontana we had some celebrating to do. Vantaggio put a rider on the podium in each of the three women's categories. The series finished as follows:

Pro/Expert: Kym 1st
Sport: Catherine 3rd (despite missing a bonus round to podium at Nationals)
Beginner: Helen 3rd

Other notes: Emily was 4th in the Pro/Expert category and was recognized as the top female expert rider of the series. We also finished 5 of the top 10 women in the pro/expert field.

Great season ladies!!!!

Catherine finshes GA series with a BANG.

So Catherine did it again. I know, none of us are surprised but she won the final race in GA series, and in doing so won the series handily.

Great job Catherine, we are SO proud of you!!!!

GA Series final standings:

Catherine: 1st Sport
Kym: 3rd Pro/expert

I didn't do the finals, I was racing elsewhere, so I was ineligible for the series podium (more on my travels to race with the "Big Girls" later...) It is still cool to be in the overall standings!!

August has a been a LONG busy month so far!!

Whew. I have been on a whirlwind tour of the east coast this month. I've hardly had time to sleep, let alone keep everyone updated on the travels and racing. I am going to try to get caught up on my postings this week. Last week was spent getting caught up on bills and work. Sorry, the blog post falls somewhere behind that.

So, where did I leave off???

SERC banquet.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Another SERC series in the books.


And a WIN at the finals!!! Kym is all smiles.

Yesterday was the SERC finals in Fontana, NC. It is always a great weekend punctuated by a slight bit of sadness than we aren't going to see some of our race friends again until spring. The weekend is usually a bit of a party and a ton of racing. There is a Downhill race Saturday afternoon and a night Short Track (complete with costumes). We had girls racing in all the weekend's events and we were well represented. What a great time!!!
Fontana had gotten about 3 inches of rain last week leading up to the race so it was going to be a little damp. Fontana is always slightly slick, but if the rain held off, it probably would be alright. Personally, I race well in the mud so I was secretly hoping for some mud. The forecast was iffy, I might just get my wish....


Catherine battled the mud and the competition for second place.

Our pre-ride was good. The trails were slick but not too muddy. Bike handling was going to be important but it wasn't sloppy. I had put the mud tires on for the weekend so if the rain didn't roll in I was going to be a little bit slow on Sunday. Come ON rain!!!!
Shannon started off the weekend for us by entering the Downhill race. She raced well, and did it with a smile, finishing 2nd. Great job Shannon!!! She then suited up in her angel wings (yes, actual wings that are part of a Halloween costume) and got ready for the Short Track that evening. She was definitely the cutest one out there and got a ton of cheers, even if her legs were really tired after the Downhill and pre-ride earlier in the day. She faded from 2nd to 4th but was smiling the entire race.

Saturday night my rain dance worked. It started to fall about 10pm and rained ALL night long. It finally stopped about 10am, just in time to warm-up. They shortened all the races by one lap and Dave Berger, the promoter asked me if I thought that 14.5 miles was too short for a pro women's race. I asked how bad the trail was; his response: "As bad as I've ever seen it". In that case, two laps will be plenty. The mud tires were a great choice and all of my bike handling skills were necessary. It was like riding in peanut butter.
The race started and in the first minute we were off the bikes running/pushing/slogging up the first climb. Anina ran at a fast pace and gapped Shelly and I. I tried to stay focused: "just be smooth and pedal once you get back on the bike". We re-mounted at the top of the first hill and I quickly caught Anina with Shelly right on my wheel. I passed her on a slight uphill and attacked at 6 mph. It was actually pretty comical to think about in retrospect. Three girls racing as hard as they could in slow motion in the sloppy mud. The rest of the field was nowhere to be found. We had dropped them on the first walking section. As it was so many times this year, the finals was going to come down to a battle between Anina the climber, Shelly the bike handler and me the all around-er. I took my chances at the front and slowly built a gap over the two of them. I didn't know if I was going to be able to hold it, but I figured it was now or never. I was feeling really good, the bike was floating through the mud with ease and I was pedaling over and through sections that I was watching everyone else struggle with. I was having a great ride on a seriously miserable day!!! I've never won Fontana so today was a day that I REALLY wanted to win. Not to mention that I wanted to show one last time why I was the one winning the series. I did it. I won with over a 5 minute gap on second place. Anina and Shelly had a tough battle for second and ended up very close, with Anina taking it. Great job ladies, it's been a really fun season and the competition has been intense.

Emily and Shannon also raced in the pro/expert field and they both had great days. Emily had an amazing ride to end an amazing season for her. She has been racing in a combined pro/expert field as a 16 year old all season and she's held her own. She finished the season as the top ranked expert in our category, besting a number of pros and taking 4th overall for the year. Sunday she capped of her dominance by finishing 5th, she was the first expert and was only 2 seconds behind 4th place. Shannon raced a great race even as tired as she was from all her racing the day before. She rolled in right behind Emily for 6th.
Catherine also rocked it in the mud for 2nd place in her race. She ended up 3rd overall this season due to her absence at one of the bonus point rounds. She was traveling to Nationals at the time where she stood on the podium so it was an acceptable trade off....

It has been a great series, one of the most competitive I can remember and we put a rider on the series podium for each women's catergory. Look for a complete report on the Series Banquet coming soon.

Thanks for reading...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nationals

Emily, Shannon and Catherine went to MTB Nationals in Granby, CO. It was a week mixed with emotion and saw each of them step on the podium once. They even came away with one stars and stripes jersey.

The week started with Emily's cross country race. She was lining up against the best junior women in the country and she was doing it at 9,000 ft. She raced a great race, trying to pace herself as best she could and finished a respectable 12th. I know she was a little bit bummed but she was the highest placed "sea level" rider.

Catherine was next and she rode an AMAZING race. Apparently altitude doesn't bother her (or she's really ready to race expert...). She rode away from the field and with a mile to go had the race won. Then catastrophe struck, she broke her chain!!! Catherine ran the last mile to finish a disappointing second place. Still a great result but a heart break at the same time.

Shannon's cross country race was a struggle from the start. She woke up with a miserable cold and abandoned the race half way through in hopes a salvaging something for the Super D on Sunday.

Super D was the last event of the weekend and the last chance for a jersey. Catherine was already on her way home but Shannon and Emily were hoping for that spot on the podium. Emily ROCKED. She demonstrated why she was the reigning Super D champion and won!!! Shannon took 4th in her race so both ladies ended their weekend with a podium appearance.


Congrats to all three of you; wish I'd have been there!!!

As a side note, I really hate it when they have something like Nationals somewhere where a certain group of riders have such a huge advantage. Altitude is debilitating for most sea level riders and takes us completely out of the race. In the Elite fields, riders that normally fight for the win were nowhere to be found but the high altitude racers were winning. It simply isn't fair. As bummed as I am that I missed out on the trip, I suck at altitude (years of trial and error have demonstrated this...) and I would have been frustrated at the wasted money. There are enough places to hold an event as important as Nationals that we shouldn't have it at 9,000 ft.


Okay, that is my rant. I'm done now.


Thanks for reading.

Amanda wins two in a row!!!

The last two weekends Amanda has focused on the TBRA (TN Bicycle Racing Association) mountain bike series in hopes of a series win. We have had an overlap with some of the SERC races but there are enough weekends left in the series that she might be able to squeek out the overall series win.

She is off to a great start. She won two weeks ago at Big South Fork and then repeated the winning streak this past weekend one on of my favorite trails, Lock 4. Both races she rode away at the start and never looked back.

Congrats Amanda!!!!

SERC #9 Anniston

We are nearing the end of the series and it has been a great ride. The battle for the front of my field has been very close. Every point had been hard earned and needed. The other fields have been just as close. It is great to see such good competition but I am mentally and physically exhausted.

Oh man, I have to go around again!!!???
Anniston was the last weekend before the finals. It was our last chance to make up some points in the series; the finals cannot be dropped from your overall score so after this weekend, we would know exactly where everyone stood. Yikes. No pressure...


Helen races in style.
Catherine was already on her way to Nationals and Amanda is looking for a spot on the podium of the TN series so they were missing from our ranks. Shannon, Helen, Emily and I were there and ready to race.
The pre-ride was a bit rough, Helen had a run in with a tree in the first 5 minutes and injured her other hip (the first one is still recovering from Raccoon). At least she was now balanced in the pain department. I was fighting a cold/sinus infection and felt like crap... great. It is a really fun trail but it's demanding, not the right place to not be on your "A game". Shannon was all smiles and made us all remember why we loved our bikes. Thanks girl, I was dragging after the pre-ride.
Sunday morning was cool and overcast, a pleasant surprise for July. I actually had to put on arm warmers while we watched Helen's race. Her hip was killing her but she raced like a pro. She limited her losses and got in a good training ride to finish a respectable fourth. It was a great ride and left her solidly in third for the series. Congrats Helen, you have done us proud as our developmental rider this season.


Kym and Shannon on the podium.
The sun decided to come out for our race and it suddenly got HOT. I was feeling worse than the day before and told Mark I was worried about being able to finish. He gave me the pep talk and told me to just go ride my bike and have fun. They said "go" and I was not really ready for it. Anina went like a rocket and Shelly quickly passed her and was gone. I managed to rally the troops and go around Anina before the single track. I was hurting but somehow making myself go. I soon passed Shelly; she had a flat. Not really how I want to beat her, but I have been climbing better than her and we had a long climb near the end of the lap where I was hoping to get her anyway. I was in the lead. I tried my hardest to use my handling skills to my advantage, knowing that Anina climbs really well and the hill was coming. I figured if I could hold her off on the hill the first time through I could win. I buried myself until I thought I was going to puke as I climbed but I did it. I went on to win by 9 minutes!!!! Holy crap. I flew around that trail, even sick. Shannon came in fourth and Emily was 6th.
The best thing was that I am now leading the series by a decent margin; 9 points. Assuming that nothing catastrophic happens (never say never), I should be able to come out on top. I didn't think I was going to do it two months ago but slowly my form has come around and I have won three in a row and I have moved into the lead. Emily has probably had the most impressive season in the Pro/Expert field this year. She, as a 16 year old Expert, is battling for 3rd place overall. Emily, we are so proud of you!!!!
Whew. One more and then it is time to play until cross season. Of course "play" is done on race courses with numbers on, but it is still fun...
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Some fun photos from the last few weeks.


Shannon and "Junior" the kitten we rescued at camp.


Yes Shannon, we know you have your old shorts on but NO we can't see your crack...



Camp staff on the last day.


2009 Mid-South USA Cycling Development camp. Kym and Shannon are camp staff and Emily and Helen are campers.


Dauset was 97 degrees. After the race we all went swimming in the "team issue" pink sports bra to cool off.


Mark was horrified. At Dauset, due to the heat and small squad, Amanda and I set up a beach umbrella instead of the team tent. We were very popular.


Okay, I try my best to take photos and sometimes they even eventually end up on my computer. Here are a few shots of what we've been up to for the last month. I apologize for my lack of photographic talent...

Fireworks on the trail (or the SERC Make-up race...)


Catherine is the winner again!!!


I love the 4th of July. I love fireworks, the concert in the park and picnics and pool parties. I also love winning races and the SERC series has been mine for the last three years. This year the competition has been TOUGH and my lead is very close. I love the competition but I want to win it. With that being said, I convinced Mark that instead of being festive we would go and race the make-up SERC race. The point of this race is to replace a lower score from earlier in the series. I had a couple of finishes that I wanted to replace so we were off to Eatonton, GA. Catherine was my only teammate this weekend and she was nice enough to invite us to stay at their house about an hour from the course.
It was hot and the trail was tight and twisty new cut singletrack. It was going to be a hard race but I liked the trail a lot. That always helps...

All smiles on the top step of the Pro podium!!

My main competition was going to be Anina. She was also looking for points toward the series so it was imperative that I beat her. No pressure but I was nervous. I knew I could out handle her on the tight trails but there was also a lot of climbing (1300 ft per lap) and she is a pure climber. I hoped I had my "A" game on.
At the start I got the hole shot and took that opportunity to really nail it. I attacked hard and caught Mark 12 minutes in. That was a good sign. I rode hard and tried to get the most out of my bike handling abilities. It worked, I WON!!!

Catherine also had a great race and came home with the win in her race.

It was a good day for Vantaggio and a great day for my quest towards number 4 for the SERC series...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Racing at HOME.


Helen is all smiles in spite of her tumble.

I very rarely crash on my mountain bike. I have been doing this a long time and have figured out that falling off hurts and should be avoided. With that being said, when I do happen to crash, I do it BIG. I guess I make up for all the small "near misses" that I have.

3 of 4 on the Pro women's podium!!!
After camp I was really tired. Actually, that doesn't even begin to describe how one feels after a week of trying to keep 36 kids safe on the bikes and focused. I slept for as much as I could for the day and a half before the race but the underlying fatigue was still there. Oh well, it was my home trail so I KNOW it, I was just going to have to use my home field knowledge and hope it made up for the lack of sleep. Emily and Helen were in the same boat. we decided that it was "no expectations, just have fun" and that was the goal.
Amanda, Paula and Catherine finished off the squad for the weekend. I was hoping that if my body failed me I had a number of strong teammates that would be out front racing.

Catherine is getting used to that top step.
The race was a pavement start for about 2 minutes with a fast turn into the woods onto some technical rocks almost immediately. I knew I wanted to be in front going into those rocks so the plan was to get the hole shot. It worked. I nailed my start and was in the lead, hammering in my big chain ring and the WHAM!!!! I was on the ground, bike nowhere to be found. Paula slammed on her brakes and I yelled for her to keep going. It took me 3-4 minutes to collect myself, my bike, determine that the helmet was a total loss and decide to try and chase back to the leaders. At that point all the single speed racers had passed me and I had a LONG way to go to get back to where my race was. Great. From what I can tell, my tired brain, along with the dusty loose trails, allowed me to drift a little too far to the outside and I hit a tree. I was going to be sore as soon as the adrenaline wore off so I'd better start pedaling.
I was pretty shaken up and wasn't sure if I had it in me to finish but figured I'd pedal for a lap and see how it went. I hate quitting races so me and the dented helmet were off. It felt like it took forever to work my way through the singlespeed racers (who were all very nice, thanks guys!!). I eventually started seeing the back of my field again. For the first time I started believing that I had a chance of getting back to the front. I was pretty sure that Anina and Paula were long gone but I might be able to squeak into third if I could push myself. I passed Emily (who was really tired after camp) and then Amanda. Amanda looked great and was flying!!! After the first lap I had ridden myself into third place. I was also starting to feel the crash. I guess the adrenaline was wearing off. OUCH. About half way through the second lap I saw Paula ahead. Damn. I was really hoping she was winning. As I passed her she told me I was close to Anina. I ended up finishing in second three minutes down. Not bad for a girl who sat by the side of the trail for at least that much time. Paula was third and Amanda was 4th. AWESOME ride girls!! Emily finished in spite of her exhaustion. Great job sticking it out. Catherine won her race (no surprise there). Congrats. We are waiting for you in the Pro/Expert field next year...

Helen had a great race. She rode smart and strong (in spite of her exhaustion) and was poised for the win when she fell OFF the rock bridge 2 miles from the finish. OUCH. She lost the lead but collected herself and limped in for second. She was rashed from head to toe and her hip is very bruised but she rode a great race. CONGRATS!!!

I love racing at home. It is nice to sleep in my own bed and have friends out there cheering. Maybe next year we will be able to race without being so tired. I really want to win this race one of these years. This is two years in a row with second place...

Thanks for reading.

CAMP

Every year in June Mark runs a USA Cycling Development camp on Monteagle Mountain. It is a really fun, completely exhausting week for us. Mark is the camp director and myself, along with a number of other awesome coaches, are the coaching staff. This year our camp ran from June 21st to 26th and it was the best one yet. Shannon and I represented the Vantaggio coaching staff and Helen and Emily both attended camp to help with their development in cycling.

We had too many fun times to recount accentuated by total exhaustion. The highlights included a "kitten save" (Shannon now has a new addition to her family...) and ice cream at St Andrews Sewanee (the high school up there). We had 36 kids and 7 staff member. Staff was SERIOUSLY outnumbered. Fortunately, we had great kids so although we were tired, we didn't ever have the urge to kill any of them. (Or at least the urge passed quickly; they are teenagers after all...) Emily did almost get strangled on day two when she informed Mark that camp was so much fun that it should be two weeks long.

Helen and Emily both did AWESOME and learned a ton. They were two of five girls and held their own even if they were outnumbered by the boys. Being one of only a few girls they were very popular....

We made it through the week without any real crashes; there were a couple of "unplanned dismounts" but no blood and no bruises so that doesn't count as a crash.

Mark, Helen, Emily and I had a day and a half after camp was over to get ready for the SERC race on our home trails at Raccoon Mountain. Things might be ugly for that one!!!

Wish us luck...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

SERC #7 Dauset

Development Camp started the same day at the #7 stop on the SERC series so Emily and Helen were unable to attend the race. Being that I am only camp staff, I could arrive a little late so Amanda and I decided to make the drive to a VERY HOT Jackson, GA for the race. We had a great weekend!!!

The pre-ride was hot but uneventful. With temperature hovering around 100 degrees and the humidity in the 90% range it was miserable. I drank two bottles in the hour I was on the trail and it was not enough. The excitement of the day was my friend Rachel tipping over and hitting her knee on a rock. She cut it about a half inch long and to the bone. Apparently Jackson, GA is not the place to go for emergency stitches. The exact quote from the doctor was "I don't really know how to do this..." Mental note: don't go there again!!! (And don't they typically learn how to do stitches in medical school??!!)

Sunday was going to be another showdown between Shelly and I. She took off fast and I wasn't going to let her go. After about 15 minutes we got to the "hill" and I did my thing. I was off the front again, just like at Clemson. Trying to not think about it, I kept pushing. I did it. I won!!! Finally.

Amanda took 4th and Catherine won the sport race. I am still trying to cool off but it was a great weekend.

Thanks for reading...

Monday, June 15, 2009

...and the "Bad Idea Jeans" finally PAY OFF!!!!!

I was supposed to be in VT this weekend. Unfortunately, due to some bad timed scheduling, my USA Cycling Camp got cancelled. The kids are still in school up there. Oops. No wonder registration was so low. Next week is still the road camp we are running here in TN and we have 35 kids so I will get my camp fix, but I am bummed about VT.

Due to the oversight in school schedules, I suddenly had a free weekend with NO PLANS!!! Unthinkable. What to do??? Mark decided to go home to Michigan and visit his family and I figured I'd stay here, get in some good training and pick up some extra hours at work.

Saturday was a GREAT ride with some friends. 4 hours, 2 mountain climbs and the legs felt great. So great that I was a little bummed that I wasn't racing. Oh well, I do love long training rides when it is warm and sunny. It was a good hard workout and I was a happy woman.

Oh, as a side note did I mention that the TN State Criterium Championship was this weekend 30 minutes from my house??? I wasn't going to go. I needed the long miles. It was not in the plan; and then...

Okay, so Sunday morning at 11:30am I decided to go and race it. I had exactly 2 hours to: get dressed, pack the car, eat, find wheels for the pit, drive up there, register and warm up. I did not really have any expectations except that it would be fun to see people instead of riding alone. I made it there with a whole 25 minutes to spare for my warm up. It was a classic case of the "bad idea jeans".

We lined up 17 women in the Cat. 1-3 race and every one of them was looking for that state champion title. Nothing was getting away, that became apparent almost immediately. Surprisingly, my legs felt alright, even after the long day on Saturday. There were three of us on the front doing most of the work, trying to wear everyone else out on the hill. I know, I shouldn't do that much work, but I hate not racing hard. I guess it is the mountain biker in me. I'd rather use way more energy than I need to and get a good workout than win without feeling like I worked hard. And besides, I was here to finish my weekend of good workouts; I had no delusions of winning.

With 5 laps to go the field was still together and I decided I was feeling good. I suddenly WANTED that win. Forget the "get a good workout" thing, I wanted that state title. I was going to go for it. I knew what I had to do and I was going to do it from the front. With one lap to go the attacks started and I covered everything. In the second to last turn Mary came around me and as I jumped on her wheel she clipped her pedal in the turn.

YIKES!!!!!!

Whew. I swerved, missed her and was set up perfect for the sprint. I WON!!! By 2 bike lengths. I am thrilled. I am the TN State Crit Champion. It was so much fun and it was great to do it with the home crowd there. Chattanooga had an awesome weekend as a whole with us taking jerseys in 4 races.

Not bad for a mountain biker...

Catherine Wins Again!!!

Catherine rocked it again this weekend in Georgia. She raced the Georgia State Series race in Athens, GA and won by a convincing margin; over 15 minutes!!! The race was on her "home" trails and it showed...

Congrats. We are so proud of you!!!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

SERC #6 Clemson, SC

Summer is finally here. This weekend was two in a row that were hot and humid. I am not complaining; as long as it's not cold and wet, I am happy.

Clemson, SC was the sixth stop in the SERC series. We had a good team showing with six riders. Star, Helen and I drove down from Chattanooga, Emily and Amanda came from Knoxville and Catherine had the short drive from Athens, GA. The trail in Clemson is really fast fun single track accentuated by steep climbs that don't feel bad during the pre-ride but HURT on race day. The weekend was made more interesting by the time trial Saturday afternoon. There were bonus points up for grabs so the TT was a must for those of us in the hunt for the overall series. It was a fairly long TT, over half of the 11 mile race loop including the steepest long climb. GREAT.

We arrived Saturday in time to set up the team tent, have a picnic lunch and relax before our pre-ride. The pre-ride was less than ideal. Catherine and I rode the fast sections at a fairly fast pace in preparation for the afternoon's time trial while Star, Helen and Mark took it easy to save the legs for the overall. The excitement started when Star broke her chain and no one had a tool to fix it. Her pre-ride turned into a pre-walk. Helen, meanwhile, was finding out that she was NOT over the illness that she has been fighting for the past week. It took everything she had to finish the pre-ride loop. After some assessing we determined that it was not smart for her to race the TT or the cross country race. She was demoted to bottle girl for the weekend. Mark rescued Star with a chain tool and we were finally done with the pre-ride. Whew.


The afternoon was becoming really long and the time trial start was fast approaching. All I really wanted to do was relax and eat dinner but I needed the bonus points. I WANT to be on that final series podium. The first part of the course was downhill and twisty. Now I am a good bike handler, it is one of my big forte's while racing; I take pride in being able to handle a bike. As good as I am, Shelly is better (hands down one of the best bike handlers I know, male or female)and she was my big competition. I did not want her to catch sight of me in the time trial so I lined up after her. I knew I was a stronger climber than her, I wasn't worried about the second half of the course. I felt fairly certain that I would make up some time over her bike handling with my climbing ability, but I wanted the advantage of being out of sight. It worked!!! I raced what felt like a miserable, slow time trial (don't they all??) but I won!!! WHEW. I was actually 13th overall; take THAT boys... Catherine won the Sport women's category and posted the third fasted women's time of the day. Go girl!!! Emily soft pedaled to get her points and save her legs. It was a smart move.


Dinner was a picnic in our hotel room. Everyone brought something and we had taco/burrito/make-your-own-tex-mex dinner. It was WAAAAYYYY better than anything we could have gone out and eaten. After that it was bedtime; it was going to be an early morning.


As predicted, morning came way too soon and we were loaded and heading to the race before my body wanted to be awake. I really wish these things started later once in a while. While warming up I noticed some stiff competition had shown up; my friend Niki was here. Great. She's a phenomenal climber (not so good for me on a course that finishes with a mile long climb) AND she has fresh legs since she skipped the time trial. They said "go" and I stuck to Shelly's wheel like glue. I was NOT going to let her get away today. We rode away from Niki and off the front of the race. About half way through the first lap Shelly told me to go around her and before I knew it I was off the front alone!!! I rode that way for over a lap. Suddenly, at then end of lap two, my legs started to remind me of the time trial from the previous day. Just keep pedaling. About half way up the final climb Niki passed me. Damn. Keep pedaling. After a moment of really being bummed out over losing the lead, I rallied the troops and decided to start chasing. It took about 10 minutes and she was back in sight. Unfortunately, every time it went up my legs started screaming. Keep pedaling. We got to the last climb together and that was all I had. Niki rode away for a well deserved win and I was going to have to settle for second place. I rode a great race and was proud of what I did out there; even if in the end I lost by less than a minute in a 2:15 race. Amanda rode in for 4th place with Emily in 5th. Catherine took second in the Sport race. It was a good weekend for the team.

Thanks for reading...


Monday, June 1, 2009

BUMP


Amanda and Emily with the Armadillo.... don't ask.

This past weekend was the annual BUMP N Grind mountain bike race at Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham, AL. BUMP has been one of the biggest races in the Southeast for as long as I can remember and always offers tough fields, tougher trails and HUGE bragging rights if you finish well. This year it was going to be even bigger because it is now part of the US Cup Pro XC tour and therefore it was a UCI (international) race. YIKES!! That means that for the pro fields the competition was going to be extremely tough and the fields were going to be the who's who of mountain biking in North America.


The start of the pro women's race.
BUMP and I have a sorted history. It is my race; the one that is the "monkey" on my back. I have had one of the best races of my career there and I have also had some of the worst there. For whatever reason I am plagued by mechanicals and crashes when I race at Oak Mountain. Of the 10 times I have raced BUMP I have DNF'd 7 times. For the girl who NEVER quits races, this is a bit traumatic. If I can keep the rubber side down (and inflated) I tend to ride really well; these are my kind of trails. I was really hoping that this was going to be my year.


Kym waiting for the call-up.
Amanda, Emily, Catherine and I loaded up Saturday morning and headed to Birmingham to see how we stacked up. It was FINALLY supposed to be warm (actually HOT) and sunny. We were finally going to get a weekend without rain!! We rolled in and it was obvious immediately that it was going to be a tough weekend for me. WOW. Factory team trailers everywhere along with their riders, mechanics, etc. It was going to be a fun but really hard race.


Emily wins the Junior Expert Women's race.
We all went and rode our respective courses and decided to re-group after the pre-ride. BUMP has always been characterized by the long (17 mile) loop that we race two laps of. It is rocky, technical and tight; one of my favorites anywhere. This year, the pros had a different course. Because it was a UCI race, we had to have a shorter, UCI standard type course. It was a 6 mile loop that went up the last part of the trail everyone else finished on and then ended with a pavement section. It was a fast and fun course (good for me) with a bunch of high speed handling (also good for me) but still not the long loop that I love. The race was going to be fast. My pre-ride loop was only 35 minutes at a really easy pace. I compensated for the down time by hanging out at the beach while waiting for my team mates to finish their long pre-ride. Nothing like screaming kids to get you relaxed and in the mindset to race a bike....


Kym getting PAID at a UCI race!!!
One of the best things about BUMP weekend is getting to see our friend Phil (and his wonderful fiance Katherine) and eating his "to die for" cooking. Phil and Katherine did not disappoint. They were incredible hosts and we ate well both for dinner and an EARLY breakfast. They got up at 5am to make sure we all got fed before heading to the races. Thanks guys!!! You are awesome.

Coasting across the finish line with a smile.

Sunday was a LONG day but WOW is the best description of our experience. Emily and Amanda's races were at 8am so we were up early getting ready to race. It was sunny and cool but getting warmer by the second. Both ladies had great races with Emily winning her race by over 30 minutes. CONGRATS!! Amanda had a really tough field and took an impressive 5th. Catherine continued the trend with a win in the sport field. Great job ladies.


Kym focused in the feed zone.
By the time it was my turn to race it was HOT. Not miserable hot, but hot enough for those of us that have been living in a rain cloud for the past 6 weeks. I decided that I was going to have a spectacular day one way or another. The plan was to go out super hard and either blow up in a huge manner or have a really good race. It worked!!! I felt like I was going to puke but I rode myself to 10th place in a field of REALLY fast pro women. Some of the best riders in the world were here and I raced with them. It was one of the best races I have ever had. My ultimate goal was 15th if everything was perfect. I didn't believe Mark when I crossed the finish line and he told me I was top 10. I put it all together and did it on a day that counted!!! My bike was spot on... it was the perfect machine for the technical fast single track and the steep pavement climbs. Specialized, your Era is the bomb!!!


AWESOME day....
Thanks to Mark for sitting in the feed zone and to all the cheers from all my friends and team mates. It was really fun being the "local girl" in the big race. You guys all made me push HARD. What an incredible day. We rocked BUMP this year. Great job to the entire team. You guys make it so much fun to do what we do....

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Part two.

Okay, so with one more weekend before the big mountain bike races start up again, I decided to try the pavement out a second time. There was a big climbing road race in Oliver Springs (Knoxville area) Sunday morning. I guess it was time to go find out if I really could climb. I was also really excited because Amanda was coming out to race with me; it was going to be great to have a friendly face in the pack.

It was going to be a really busy day. I had a clinic I was teaching for the Krystal Chik's cycling team Sunday afternoon. It was a day of: get up early, race fast, drive fast, teach a clinic, and collapse in bed. I might have put on the bad idea jeans in hindsight.

We got to the race and there was a really strong women's field there with some really good climbers. I was going to find out fast if last weekend was a fluke or not. They were racing the Women's Field and the Masters 50/60 Field together so we also had the men to worry about. They were scoring us separately but the men still tend to chase us down, etc.

The field rolled out and it was a pretty uneventful ride to the base of the climb, 9 miles into the race. I worked my way to the front and waited. Jamie attacked (she always does on climbs) and Missy and I were the only two who responded. I made myself let her go a little and stayed within myself. I just needed to keep her in sight and hope that I could reel her back as the climb went on. I slowly passed Missy and then Jamie. With about a mile to go they were both on MY wheel as we went up the climb. No one else was in sight. About a half mile from the top I gapped them and I came over the top of the climb alone. I had just out climbed some of the best climbers in the Southeast!!! They quickly caught me on the descent; I knew I wasn't going to stay away solo and three of us might just be able to hold our gap. We worked together well for the next 15 miles and then we were at the second climb. Missy was off the pace immediately and it was just Jamie and I. I set my pace and near the top she fell off. It was once again just me over the top. Jamie quickly caught me on the descent and attacked. She is much more brave than I am on tight mountain descents and she gapped me by the bottom. I chased back on and it was the two of us. With 1k to go we started slowly ratcheting up the pace and I took the sprint. I won!!! Amanda raced well for a 6th place finish. Good job girl!!!

Two weekends of big climbing races and I won them both. I think I might be getting this climbing thing down. The funniest part of the whole thing is that Jamie and I are a couple of pro mountain bikers and we rode away from an entire field of men and women that focus on the road. I know they must really hate that. Next weekend it's back to the dirt. BUMP here we come.

Thanks for reading....

Monday, May 18, 2009

This is what happens when mountain bikers race the road...

This weekend was yet ANOTHER wet weekend. I am SO over the rain, and racing in the rain, that I can hardly stand it. We had a weekend off of mountain bike racing so it was time to stretch our legs out on the road and see if we remembered how to race the skinny tires. The Highland Rim Classic was only an hour away and it is always a great event with big fields, strong racers, and great money. Even after watching the weather forecast grow worse as we got closer to the weekend, I registered for the whole omnium; road race (with a mountain climb), time trial (2 miles up hill) and crit. I am not a natural climber so I have always struggled a bit with this event but it is fun neverless.

Shannon, Paula, Gina and Helen were also coming up for all of the weekend (Shannon) or to help for part of it (Helen, Gina and Paula) so I was going to have some help climbing and controlling the race. Sometimes the stars are just not aligned!!! It was the weekend of mini-disasters for my team and I ended up solo for the duration. Helen woke up late and her truck had a flat tire. Shannon got sick on her drive there (breakfast did not agree). Gina and Paula were getting ready to go when a mishap with the dog on his leash landed Gina in the hospital with a dislocated shoulder. She's going to be fine but is NOT a happy girl right now. After a series of phone calls it appeared that I was on my own.

We pulled in Saturday morning under the threat of rain but so far, so good. It was going to be a tough race. There were some really strong girls there, including my friend Leigh that rides for Vanderkitten and Mary, a local bad ass road racer. We rolled out of the starting area and as we turned onto the course we could see the wall of water up the road. Great. That is not what I was hoping for today. Mary and I set tempo on the front, mostly just to stay warm in the steady rain that was now pelting us. As we got to the climb I moved to the front and set my pace. The plan was to ride my pace and hope that it was hard enough that no one would attack. I was soon on the front leading up the hill. I looked at the Power Tap and pedaled where I knew I could sustain it. After about 10 minutes it occurred to me that I was alone. I had dropped the field. ON A CLIMB. Wow. 8 years of working on climbing and it is FINALLY paying off. Leigh was the next rider back and I waited on her; 35 miles is a long way to ride solo. I figured I had a better chance to stay away if there were two of us. We worked well together and rode in a steady downpour for the next 30 miles. Just as we were coming to the descent and the finish the skies cleared. Leigh observed that it kind of felt like we'd just gotten out of the pool. Yep; that sums it up!! Coming into the finish I was in a dilemma. Leigh is a BAD ASS sprinter. I am not. I knew that if I waited to 200 meters I was not going to beat her. I also knew that I was riding stronger on the up hills and the finish was a slight incline for the last 1000 meters. I went early and although it was UGLY, I won. I still can hardly believe it. I won one of the biggest climbing races in our area. Me, the self proclaimed non-climber. Hmmm. Was it a fluke or has all that hard work finally paid off???

The sun shined bright all afternoon and we had a nice relaxing lunch while waiting for the time trial that started at 4pm. It was a two mile climb up the descent that we raced down at the end of the road race. Mark had modeled out the exact power that I would need to hold to match last years winning time. He has this really cool program that does the modeling. It was going to be tough but doable if I could get my legs to suffer. I got in a good warm up and rolled to the start. As they said go the skies again opened up and I was racing in the rain for the second time today. It was tough to start out at the pace I knew I needed; the adrenaline told me to go harder but I knew that the Power Tap was not lying to me. About half way up the climb I caught Leigh (she was my 30 second rider) and then the next girl. A few minutes later I caught another rider. I was not looking at the time. Just distance and power. I was REALLY suffering. I crossed the finish line and had no idea what I had done for a time. It felt really slow. I DID IT!!! I won the time trial by over a minute and matched my goal time EXACTLY. Thanks Mark. So, day one was now over and I had won a climbing road race and an uphill time trial. AWESOME.

Sunday was not wet. It was COLD. It was in the 50's cloudy and windy. It's the middle of MAY; where did summer go?? The crit was frustrating for me. I hate negative racing and I hate racing at 15 miles per hour but that is what everyone wanted to do. I would attack and everyone would chase me. Then we'd all sit up. They raced the juniors on the course at the same time as us and it was a mess when we got to the last lap. In the last turn there was a junior and a group of us all looking for the same piece of pavement. I sat up. It wasn't worth losing skin over. I took 4th.

I ended up having a great weekend. I haven't done much road racing in the past few years and I think I miss it. It is time to do some more of it. It was a nice change of pace. Hopefully the climbing thing wasn't a fluke and I am getting better at it.

Thanks for reading...

Mud, Mud and more MUD!!!


This picture pretty much sums up the weekend. I am SO glad this isn't my bike!!!

Star, Lisa and Shannon braved the weather and the mud to race the Dirt Sweat and Gears 12 hour race in Fayetteville, TN last weekend. The course went from wet and muddy but rideable to "the worst conditions I have ever seen" over the course of the first lap. Wheels stopped rolling and the winning solo man (Jeremiah Bishop) won the race with a whopping 4 laps.


Star and Lisa raced on a two woman team and put forth a valiant effort, finishing ALMOST 2 laps in 12 hours. Apparently it is much more difficult than it sounds to carry one's bike 10 miles when it weighs approximately 75 pounds because of all the mud. (yes, people were weighing bikes and 75 pounds was the average weight after a lap). Their effort was good enough for 2nd place!!!

Shannon teamed up with a guy friend of hers and definitely gets the award for cutest looking in the mud. She even made Velo News. check out the link: http://www.cyclingnews.com/mtbphotos.php?id=/photos/2009/may09/dirtsweatgears09/dirtsweat138

Great job ladies!! Sorry I missed it (okay, not really....)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Podium Shots from SERC #5/ Kenda Cup East #1


Paula stands on the second step with a smile.


"...so this is what the view is like up here; I could get used to this!!" - Helen



Gina and Catherine take 3rd and 5th.



Kym sharing the 2nd step with Shelley. We tied for the TT.


Okay, the pictures are few and far between from the weekend. Apparently it was too wet for anyone's cameras to work very well. I am still waiting on Gina for a couple of good "after" photos of the mud...
I am still doing laundry.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

SERC #5/ US Cup East #1


Helen on the (very wet) podium. Congrats!!!

Sometimes Mother Nature is a cruel woman...

Last weekend was the 5th round of the SERC series at our (almost) local trails at the Ocoee Whitewater Center. The Tanasi trail system is one of my favorites and I was definitely looking forward to the race. It was going to be a HUGE weekend, as the race was also the first round in the national Kenda Cup East series. We had 8 of the 10 of us registered to race and it was going to be a great weekend.

And then the rains came....

We have been in a drought for about a year and a half. Now with the mountains here, I have gotten plenty of rain at my house but at the airport, where they measure our rainfall, it NEVER rains. Therefore, we are in a drought. (I actually think that we need to go to the airport and ride on rainy days and we'll stay dry but that is another discussion...) It started raining about a week ago and it hasn't stopped. Even at the airport. We went from an almost 4" deficit to a surplus of rain in less than a week. The trail was going to be a river.

Saturday was the Time Trial and we awoke to what can only be described as a monsoon. Mark, Helen and I were headed to Tanasi as the thunder and lightening roared around us. Oh well, everyone has to race the same thing.

My day got off to a crazy start with Mark stranded in Shannon's driveway behind the mover's truck that was wedged in her very steep driveway. After a FRANTIC tire change at work, (I needed mud tires...sorry for the psycho behavior guys; I hate feeling late) we were finally going to the race. On our way there I got two calls. The first was from Emily; she was running late and was going to get there right as the time trail was starting. I told her to get dressed in the car and I'd meet her at the start with her number plate. The second call was from Catherine; her car broke down in Atlanta and she wasn't going to make the TT. The day was beginning to feel like the apocalypse.

I decided to try and relax during the warm up on the trail to see what the conditions were like. The trail was GONE and in it's place was a muddy river. It seriously was flowing. Fast. I didn't have the best TT but still ended up tied for second place in the pro field. Emily won the Expert TT and Helen won the beginner. Whew. The stress was worth it.

Sunday the weather was not any better and my bike was looking sadly at the mud it was about to be forced to endure. I LOVE my bike and she ROCKS on these conditions (thanks Specialized!!!) but mud does a number on everything. Even with the weather the fields were big; I think that the race being the first Kenda Cup East series race brought some riders down to the Southeast that would not have been here otherwise. It was fun to see new faces. It ended up being a great day for the team. I rode alright, my first lap was slow but then I got into a groove and rode myself into 4th in a very competitive pro field. Paula rocked the pro race from the start, taking 2nd. Emily was 5th in the Expert field. Gina, Catherine, Star and Lisa raced Sport and they went 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th. Helen was the star of the weekend winning her race in a sprint finish and making it a double with her TT win on Saturday. AWESOME!!!

Awards were done in the pouring down rain and we took our soggy muddy selves to dinner and then home. I am still trying to dry things out.

As an aside, I love the new look with the white/light blue team kits but WHAT WAS I THINKING??!!! I had to wash stuff 4 times to get the mud out.