Thursday, July 23, 2009


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.


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...