This blog documents the racing, training, & riding experiences of the participants of PWP

Pedaling with a Purpose

My name is Kristen Meshberg and I am a former category 1 bike racer. I competed nationally in both road and track. I am a USA Cycling Coach, and help individuals develop plans to achieve their goals. To survive the Chicago winter, I developed an indoor workout program called "Pedaling with a Purpose."

I now have various locations across the United States. To find out more about Pedaling with a Purpose or Coaching, email Kristen at: kmesh.pwp@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Elite Omnium Nationals, Rock Hill, SC

Track Nationals are always in Los Angeles the first weekend in October.  This year, USA Cycling decided to do a separate event for the Omnium.  What is the Omnium?  It's an olympic event that Sarah Hammer from the US just won a silver medal at in London! The Omnium is like the overall event in gymnastics.  It consists of 6 individual events, and the winner of each event gets 1 point, second gets 2 and so forth.  The winner of the omnium is the person with the lowest amount of points at the end of the 6 events.  It's not based on cumulative time so there is no benefit to winning by a lot, only winning.  The events that make up the omnium are as follows and in this order:

The flying lap
Points Race
Elimination race
3K pursuit (4k for men)
Scratch race
500 meter time trial (1k for men)

Each event has it's own specific gearing, equipment, strategy and rules.  Since each of these events are also individual events, USA Cycling decided this year to separate the omnium and hold nationals for it separately, making it a little easier on both the competitors and the organizers.  

The event was hosted at the brand new Giordana Velodrome in Rock Hill, SC.  It's a 250 meter outdoor concrete track opened in March of 2012.  It's about a 30 minute drive from Charlotte, NC and the swanky professionally staffed velodrome fits in well with the completely sports mad town.  The Carolinas are serious about their sports venues!

Going to this race was one of those things that just fell into place. Somehow Thursday at 5am my two children, local Chicago racers Liam Donoghue and Tom Briney (who before this weekend had been a complete stranger) 3 bikes, 2 sets of rollers and 2 disk wheels ended up in my toyota matrix for a 13 hour drive.  

At best I have a very healthy respect for the track.  At worst, I'm absolutely terrified of it.  The only serious crashes I've had in bike racing have been on the track.  Most recently I crashed on the velodrome in Blaine, MN in June.  It was an unpleasant experience and it took me out for four weeks.   I approached this competition with much trepidation.
the tunnel leading into the track
We arrived in town late Thursday night and got to the track in time to get about 30 minutes in before racing.  Riding around in warm up, I heard the unmistakable gunshot sound of my tire popping!  I've never experienced this in twelve years of racing track.  Sheer terror.  I kept my cool and was able to exit without going down, but it scared me.  I started sobbing uncontrollably.  Liam and Tom to their credit were kind, and gently gave me some space, understandably distancing themselves from the freak show.  A super nice guy competing in the master's race loaned me his wheel for rest of the competition.  Next thing I knew it was time to do my flying lap, and again I was seriously freaked out and crying when I got off the track. 

photo credit: Erika Fulk
Flying lap: aero helmet, shoe covers, drop bars, no gloves, long sleeve skin suit & BIG gear

I did not finished last, and was pleased with that. During the afternoon it poured rain, but the track dried quickly and it only delayed the evening's start by about an hour.  The points race went well for me!  It was a 60 lap race where you sprint for points every 10 laps.  I got in an early break with Erin Glover of Portland (who incidentally was the woman I had run over in the crash in Minnesota totaling her bike and wheels)  and we scooped up two sets of points.  Erin rode me off her wheel which was a bummer.  Had I been able to work with her I think we would have had a shot at lapping the field which gives you an automatic 20 extra points.  In hindsight I think my gear choice was wrong.  I got some more points in the final sprint and ended up in 5th place, which I was quite pleased with.  I came off the track smiling and not in tears!  In the elimination, the last rider of every lap is pulled.  I messed up the start of the race, got pulled first so was placed last.  A bummer, but I didn't dwell on it.  
Off the front in the points race!

The next day we did the pursuit in the morning session.  This is a time trial where there are two riders on the track at the same time, starting at opposite sides of the track.  It's a standing start, and you are held by an electronic device that automatically lets go of your bike after a countdown.  When I was about to start the timer malfunctioned and the holder let go of my bike 5 seconds prematurely.  A little unnerving but no tears were shed and I was unfazed.  They could not get the timer working again so all of the women did our pursuits individually; not super cool but at least it was the same for all of us. My start was terrible, I actually turned sideways and went up track before I went forward.  I did not finish last, so it was about as good as I could have hoped for.

Next was the scratch race.  A 40 lap race where the winner is whoever crosses the line first at the end.  My favorite race!  With only two events to go the standings were established.  The riders in first and second were watching each other as well as the third and fourth placed riders.  Early in the race the third placed rider took off.  First and second let her go, and the rider who was in fourth was most motivated to chase.  I was motivated too so I worked with her for a bit, but with the two strongest riders sitting in, I knew it was foolish to exert myself any more so I backed off.  We slowed as a group and the solo rider extended her lead.  At about 12 laps to go, I looked over my shoulder and noticed that I had a small gap.  I started ramping it up and they let me go!  The first placed rider lapped the field and at 2 laps to go I saw the back of the field!  This meant I had a shot at catching the field and sprinting for the win, but alas, I never quite latched on.  I finished in second place and was thrilled!  

Our final event of the night was the 500 meter time trial.  After my second place finish in the Scratch race I needed to finish ahead of the riders in 5th and 6th place and I would get 5th place overall!  Instead my 500 meter went horribly.  My standing start was ok, but in the first corner I found myself sort of out of control and actually popped a wheelie !?!  Not exactly efficient.  I finished dead last (by a lot) and ended up in 7th place overall.  The amazing Cari Higgins won the event making this her 12th national championship.
Women's podium L-R Mandy Marquart, Beth Newell, Cari Higgins, Kim Geist, Erin Glover

Men's PodiumL-R Daniel Holt, Al Urbanski, Zach Kovalcik, Stefan Rothe, Liam Donoghue

Liam rode in style and won the points race by lapping the field twice and winning the pursuit and setting a new track record in the process.  He ended up fourth!

What a fun learning experience this was!  I made some big gains in the fear/confidence department and honestly had a bit of fun.  The South Carolina track is first class, and everyone there is amazing.  Being part of the George Garner Cyclery Team and riding my new Tiemeyer bike  has been very inspiring for me!  Shout out to my cousin Melanie for housing us and my parents who helped with the kids yet again.  Liam, Tom, kids and I got along famously and on the whole it was a successful trip.  Can't wait to go back next year.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cherry-Roubaix, Traverse City, MI

Kind of on a last minute whim, teammate Sarah and I decided to head up to northern Michigan to race a crit and a road race called Cherry-Roubaix.  Usually I avoid races with Roubaix in their name, but the thought of getting out of town and riding in some beautiful country was very appealing.  It was a six hour drive but the crit was at 5pm Sat night and the road race was at 9:30am on Sunday.  Very doable!

I started the crit fast from the gun and lead out the first lap.  There was an Einstein team of 4 that was super tight.  They attacked, and I covered it.  As soon as we were caught, another one countered. Then a prime was called, I went for it and got it.  Another Einstien countered, and again I covered. It was the fourth attack when I couldn't respond.   I needed a minute to regroup, and no one in the field chased it down.  By the time I felt good enough to chase, the rider was off solo.  I tried to bridge but was covered, so I took long hard pulls.  When I would pull off the front, no one would come through.  Frustrating, but I soon resigned to race for second.  While all of this was happening, a spilt had occurred in the field, and unfortunately Sarah was on the wrong end of that split.  As we came into the final lap we could see the group of 15 dropped riders ahead of us.  We had about 15 in our group too.  We were speeding up anticipating our finish, and there was confusion in the group about to be lapped,  thinking that they were going to be finished a lap or two early.  Unfortunately the officials did not do that.  So as we hit the second to last corner, another rider in our group attacked through the lapped group.  I was ready and on it, but she went outside through the corner--dangerous!  I was planning on taking the inside line, so I stuck with that plan instead of staying on her wheel.  I got very nervous and slowed as all the riders swung to the inside to give the other rider room.  I got through the final corner unscathed but she had a gap on me and it was a short final stretch.  I made up ground but ran out of room and ended up in third by inches!  The officials apologized about letting that situation happen, and under the circumstances I felt like I had done the best I could and was thrilled to have not crashed.

The next day was a 70 mile road race over very hilly terrain.  It was pretty much small chain ring the whole race except for the descents.  I knew I wouldn't be feeling comfortable in the race, since I haven't been doing tons of mileage.  However I had a terrible race and I am blaming my bike.  Yes.  It's the bike's fault.  I've had shifting issues with this bike since day 1 and today every time I tried to use the top half of my cog set it would jump around and I would jerk forward almost falling off my bike.  SO FRUSTRATING!!  I'm pretty sure I would not have made the front group but I got dropped on the first major climb, and I definitely had more in me at that point.  It's not like me to blame anything but myself for a poor result but I had over 50 miles to stew on it.  I rode pretty slow.  I stopped to pee.  I got passed by the cat 3 women.  I got passed by the cat 4 women.  I rolled in after the corner marshals had all gone home. On the positive side I was still in the money and I was excited to hear that Sarah had a great race!  Up in the front there had been a split in the group.  She saw it go and tried to close it.  She fought by herself for a while and then sat up until the other riders caught her.  They rode together until the end and then she won her field sprint for 7th place!  Awesome!

We had a great time and it was fantastic to actually have a teammate to travel with.  I think we both rode great and did the best we could considering our circumstances.

Sarah even loved driving my awesome stick shift car!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Elk Grove Village NRC

I'll keep it short because it was a forgettable weekend with no heroics or results.
The Elk Grove Village race was a stage race on the National Race Calendar for women this year. (NRC = National stage races NCC= National criteriums)Being a stage race means you must complete each day within the time limit in order to continue to the next day.  There is a daily prize list as well as an overall.   The race consisted of  3 completely flat stages with lots of technical corners.  There was a time trial, a criterium, and a circuit race which was really like 3 crit courses stuck together.  I have "gotten through" stage races in the past, but to do well at a normal NRC stage race you really need to be on a pro team.  I am a regional crit rider, but given these flat technical courses,  a person like me could potentially do well.  To win overall, you have to be able to time trial and since I can't really do that either my goal for Elk Grove Village was to get through the time trial and to place well on the day in the crit and the circuit race. 

The big women's teams were all there Optum and Now Novartis who dominated, as well as Tibco, Primal Map My RIde, the Colombian National Team, Kenda & IS Corp.  I got through the time trial just fine but I wasn't feeling well. The criterium was the next day. I felt even worse and struggled to hang on from the gun.  I made the time cut but got pulled at 4 to go.  The next day I felt a little better but still not great.  I was able to ride around the circuit with the field just fine.  There were 3 separate crashes that took out multiple people, the worst one was a huge pile up on the last third of the last lap. I got around it but the remaining women on Optum and Now wanted to wait for their teammates who went down so they slowed things down.   I put in a big dig on the second to last stretch only to completely screw up the final corner.  I rolled in at 25th, just outside the money.  
It was a tough weekend for me, and not a lot of fun. 
Bike racing is hard.  

Best part of the weekend:  Eating some great Korean food and hanging out with my cousin Lynn who was there covering the race for Dobson Entertainment.
         There are lots of really great  restaurants in Elk Grove Village!