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, October 29, 2013

Pedaling With a Purpose 2013-2014 Details

PWP is a winter training program designed to help all levels of cyclists get through the Chicago winter.  

This year will be our 10th year!  In those ten years we've had World level competitors, beginning cyclists, and everyone in between all getting through the winter together.  

This year we will continue with our 3 locations, Chicago, Hinsdale, and Oak Park.  All locations have bike storage available, and a PWP session pass can be used at any of the locations.

New to PWP? Have questions? Feel free to email me at kmeshberg@comcast.net.

Looking forward to seeing you in December!!!

Let's Roast Cycles
1116 N. Milwaukee Avenue
Wednesdays 7:30-9:00pm
Saturdays 8:00-10:30am

Hartley's Cycle Shop
24 W Hinsdale Avenue
Thursdays 7:30-9:00pm
Sundays 8-10:30 am

Oak Park:
Greenline Wheels
105 S. Marion Street
Tuesdays 10:00-11:00 am

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Regis' Journey from smoker to World Level Triathlete

This is one of my favorite PWP stories!  Regis, you are awesome!  You better believe everyone from PWP is going to be rooting for you at Worlds!!!

I sucked.  I barely owned a proper bike.  The closest I got to cycling was that I had a Belgian passport and I lived in Logan Square with the other hip kids with bikes.  Oh, and I smoked like a russian submarine officer.  Friends got me to join PWP...

After year one, it motivated me to take on triathlons.  Fuck it, why not.  Pentathlons were a stretch, and I hate horse-riding, but I thought swimming and running were within reach.  I used to run a lot, and I've never drowned.  Why not.  

I had fun, I was hooked and got myself a proper bike (and the looks every triathlete gets when mingling with road cyclists).  It's amazing the little things you a cyclist (at any level): cadence, position, and a really sour arse.  

After year two, I still smoked, I had now done a few triathlons, but I sucked a whole lot less.  My cycling was my strong suit despite years of track and field.  Go figure.  That year, I qualified for nationals. Wow, what?  This is good, and it's clearly thanks to some winter motivation with the PWP clan.  I thought it's pretty cool that a little peer pressure from a few good friends can bring you a lot more than just bike skills and a sour behind.  I had a new hobby and a newfound pride (still the looks form the road guys though).

Then I quit smoking (about time), reduced my intake to a single Boston Cream, and got a little competitive.  I punched through the 2012-2013 session, ran more, swam more, and scored the 4th best bike time at Chicago, transitioned faster than some of the pro's and didn't let one single mother-effer pass me at Nationals on the bike (hail to Kristen).  And holy-mother-of-Jesus, I earned a spot at ITU World's after what was an awesome day of racing.  PWP, it's been a long journey.  Now let's make that Belgian passport proud on Team USA in Edmonton!!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

TD Bank Boston Mayor's Cup Sept 21, 2013

The race course

I've wanted to do this race since it started 5 years ago.  It's got equal prize money for the men and women which is huge!  I'd never been to Boston, the course is smack dab in the middle of downtown, and it just sounded fun.   It's expensive for me to get there but the main thing  that always held me back was that it's so late in the season and to tell the truth I'm usually burnt out and ready to be done.  This year I was feeling pretty fresh and even though I haven't felt completely on top of my game all year, I decided to pull the trigger and go. Dana Kotler, a XXX rider from Chicago had just moved to Boston for her Sports Medicine Fellowship at Harvard,  offered a place to crash for the weekend.  I'd had a pretty poor showing at Gateway Cup over Labor Day weekend and didn't want to end my season with that.

The trip could not have been easier.  It was beautiful sunny weather, and everything went really well.  Dana was super awesome and even though originally I thought she would have to work, she ended up being able to hang out the whole time and even race in the 3/4 race on Saturday.

On the bridge going back to Cambridge

The race was the final race of the year in our National Criterium Calendar (NCC), and all the usual suspects were there.  Our current NCC Champion Erica Allar, Laura Van Gilder, the Schneider sisters, Amy Cutler, to name a few.  They all had at least one teammate there to help, and the Colovita Team had a full squad of riders.  When the race started I felt great!  It was such a relief.  They were calling tons of primes and I went early for a three place prime.  I led it out from the backside to get third to Erica and LVG.  In my head I went "cha-ching there's my airline bike fee". Of course I had a lot more costs to cover so I considered going for another one but I knew I really only had one more big effort left so I saved it for the end.  In the end I moved up as best I could but it wasn't early enough.  I stayed with the front group and was passing people until the line, but my effort was a bit late and I only managed 17th place.  It was still a nice chunk of money and while I wouldn't say I was "happy" with 17th, I felt it was respectable.  The podium, predictably, was Erica, LVG and Sam.

After the race we got some dinner and walked around Harvard Square.  The next day we went for brunch and met up with Dana's friend Erich, mechanic at the Hub bike shop, who had just returned from Interbike the day before.  He ended up giving us a full biking tour of the city, which was cool for Dana too since she'd only been living there since July.

I had a great time and was really glad I went.  Another season in the books!  Looking forward to some beautiful fall rides, and of course PWP!!!!

Dana & Erich
Following Erich down Boylston St. where the Boston Marathon Finishes

Lucinda helped me both pack and reassemble my bike.  She's getting to be a pretty good mechanic!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ABR 4 Person Team Time Trial

Daphne, Lauren, me and Stacy on the top step

I love the ABR 4 person Team Time Trial.  I have a great memory of racing this race as a cat 4, on a team with a couple cat 1's.  To this day, it might be the hardest I've ever ridden!

The event is so great because you take turns pulling with a maximum of 4, but minimum of 3 riders, and covering the distance between point A and point B as fast as you can.  You have to finish with 3 riders, so if you start with 3, you must finish with 3, but if you start with 4, one rider can drop out if they are unable to keep up.  The first year I did it we only had 3, so everyone's time counted.  I rode so much harder because I didn't want to let down my teammates than if it had been just me by myself.

I had planned to race with my track teammate Stacy Mosora, and former PWP participant Daphne Karagianis.  Spidermonkey teammate Sarah was to be our 4th person, but she was sidelined with an injury.  At the track the Thursday before my Spidermonkey teammate (and PWP participant) Lauren Wissman offered to fill in.  She's had a fantastic year and had just gotten her cat 3 upgrade that day.

I'm hoping Lauren will write a few more details about her season, but wow has she come a long way from that person who showed up at PWP last winter with down tube shifters and no clipless pedals.  Daphne and Stacy and I were full of advice on what to do when/if you get dropped.....but holy cow Lauren took awesome hard pulls until the very end.  I had known about her cat 3 road upgrade, and I'd seen her race the men's 3/4 madison race at the track, but she forgot to mention that she'd raced and WON a 'cross race the day before!  Super talented, it's going to be cool to see how far she goes!

We had a great time and ended up winning the thing.  We all took strong even pulls and paced ourselves really well.  I really do love this event!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Gateway Cup, St. Louis, MO Labor Day Weekend

View from the St. Louis Arch

I love Gateway Cup! It's a series of 4 crits in St. Louis over labor day weekend which marks the end or very close to the end of our road racing season. It's not NCC, but there's good prize money and usually attracts a decent field. It's always great racing and tons of fun. I've been doing these races since 2001, and back then it was my first experience placing in a women's 1/2/3 field. I heard the announcer say today that the series has been going on for 22 years!

My teammate Sarah was out for the series, so I had planned to come down with my husband Jason and the kids, but didn't want to pull them out of school on Friday since they just started. So as per usual I was scrambling in the days before trying to get it worked out. After a last minute plea on Facebook, I ended up getting a ride down from XXX racer Erik Didriksen and his family. (thank you!!!)

Jason and kids planed to drive down on Saturday, and would go to the City Museum on Sunday, and after the race on Monday we planned on hitting the arch on the way out of town.

Thursday night was the Elaine Nekritz State Championship Scratch race at Northbrook Velodrome. This is the biggest race for women all year and if you win you get your name on a cool trophy, and it's a lot of fun. Normally I wouldn't race the track the night before heading to a four crit series, but I couldn't skip this one, and I'm glad I didn't!

Elaine Nekritz Scratch Race Podium

Friday: Tour de Lafayette

I arrived at my friend/host Marsha's house around 1 and got to rest up a bit before riding over to the race. It was an easy ride over and it helped loosen up my legs which were pretty tight from the night before. I was slightly nervous about how I would feel. The Friday race goes all day but our race started at 8:15 pm, so in the dark, with the pro men following at 9:15. They bring in big lights to illuminate portions of the course, but other parts are only lit by streetlights and quite dark. The shadows are pretty scary, and add quite an exciting dimension to the race. When the race started, I felt great! Get--a-Grip Cycles, had hooked me up with some Zipp race wheels, and they were awesome! They handled really well and added a degree of confidence. I was riding quite comfortably, but there seemed to be quite a lot of sketchiness in the field. Almost immediately there was a crash which I was caught behind. In the pit, I saw some blood on the other riders. I was fine, and wanted to keep it that way! After jumping back in, it was more of the same. The dark and the shadows made it very difficult to sense where other riders were and where they were going. At one to go I was in great position. I hit the back stretch in about 4th wheel, and then a rider ahead of me had a shifting issue. She kept it together and did not go down or take anyone out but it scared me just enough to pause and get swarmed when I should have just accelerated around it. That was the defining moment. I rode hard on the finishing stretch and finished 18th. Payout went to 25 so I was ok with that, though definitely a bit disappointed. I hadn't slept much this week so I was looking forward to getting some good rest and feeling better Saturday!

Saturday: Tour de Frances Park

Two years ago at this race on the final lap I crashed and lost a tooth. It was already a fake tooth to begin with so it wasn't quite as bad as it sounds. Today was HOT. So hot. It was hot last month during the Prairie State Series and I felt great! So I was actually looking forward to it. Although waking up today with what I could no longer deny was a migraine did not bode well for a good race. I'd had a headache since Friday but had been trying ignore it. I do get migraines and on a scale of 1 to 10 this was about a 2, but it was definitely a migraine. Going into the race, my legs felt great but my head was pretty bad, and the heat did not help things. The race was a long rectangle around a park. There was a slight uphill on the start finish side and a long slight downhill on the backside. The race was fairly animated with several attacks, and I did not really do any chasing or attacking. I just tried to maintain good position and get through it. When a two rider break got away, I sat in while the field let them dangle for a while and caught them at about 3 to go. A perfectly timed counter by the Primal team stuck and got a solo rider away. On the back stretch at 2 to go another rider attacked and seemed to get a gap. I'd planned to go early, so at 1 to go on the top of the hill I went to the front and led it out. I figured I'd be ok with being in the wind on the downhill. When we turned the second to last corner we had caught one of the riders and I was staying with the surges, and in good position. But after the final corner I quickly realized I'd used up too much energy and had nothing left for the sprint. Riders went whizzing by me and I finished in 20th place. I crossed the line and then collapsed in someone's front yard. The nice family who's yard it was poured ice water on me and I believe they may have saved my life!! I wasn't particularly happy with this race but I did the best I could and any race that I finish with all my teeth is a good race.

Sunday: Giro della Montagne

Day 3 of Gateway Cup, day 3 of migraine. It wasn't the worst migraine I'd ever had, but it was there. And I still wasn't sleeping more than a couple hours/night. Woke up this morning to the dull ache, and knew that it wasn't going to go away. I tried everything I could but really the only thing that helps is riding it out until it's done. I've raced with a low level migraine before, and know that it can be done, but it's not fun. The heat really made it worse. I thought I'd be ok today since it was just a tad cooler than yesterday. The Giro della Montagne or "the Hill" as the race is referred to, is called that because it is in the Italian neighborhood called the Hill. Very fun race, all the houses surrounding the course have parties and there is quite a crowd. There is a slight actual hill in the course, but it's not really much to make an impact. The course is another long rectangle with short sides, and the finish is on the slight downhill side. I've done well here in the past and love the fun rowdy crowd. The race started and I felt ok.... until I didn't. I wasn't actually dropped, but at about 7 laps to go, I just didn't want to be there any more so I pulled out. I think it was the right decision as I felt noticeably better ever since and I still had one more day to try for a result!

Monday: Benton Park Classic

The Benton Park Classic is one of my all time favorite courses. It's a very long course with one long straight uphill side. There's a bunch of short stretches with awesome twisty corners leading to a nice downhill section which brings you to the final two corners. When taken extremely fast you have a ton of momentum for the finish line which is midway on the uphill stretch.

I'm not really a fan of the uphill but I LOVE fast corners!!! I can get a lot of speed---even when I was in second position in the field I would find myself having to brake if I didn't want to go around.

Last year I ended up on the podium just by leading it out through the corners. Given how crappy I'd felt all weekend I wasn't sure how things were going to go, but I actually slept well the night before and woke up headache free! I still had the related neck ache feeling but it was definitely over and I knew I'd be 100% in a day or two. I went into the race committed to doing my best.

The race started and I felt fine. I loved leading through the corners and hated anytime I was not in front and couldn't fly through them. About mid race they called a $200 prime. I decided my chances were better at getting that than making it through to the podium so I went for it. I got to the front before the corner sections and took them just as fast as I could. After the first one I saw that I had a gap, and that it was growing with each corner. I pedaled hard on the downhill and flew through the final two corners. I heard later that I had a decent gap but I wanted to be sure so I still sprinted as hard as I could for the line. A bit too hard in retrospect as I had nothing left when the field went by. I had known that was a possibility but since I wasn't in contention for the overall and $200 would pay for a large chunk of my expenses for the weekend I think it was the right move for the day.

Not the greatest weekend of racing that I've ever had but even with a migraine I had a fantastic time in St. Louis.  I've raced in St. Louis lots of times, but this was the first time I came down without a car, and rode to the races. What an easy, lovely city to get around in!

I guess I'll just have to come back to the Gateway Cup!!
Riding to the races

Friday, August 9, 2013

PWP's Cathy Frampton; ABR State Road Race Champion

Sunday, Aug 4th, I drove south towards Kankakee and proceeded to get lost along following a beautiful river looking for the ABR Two Rivers race course. My luck for the day turned when Project 5's Marilyn Powell pulled alongside me and re-directed me to course.

I heard last year there was only 1 woman at the race, but this year, there was an ok turn-out. Some 4 or so for the 40/50's and another 4 for the open. We would be racing together, however, the open was doing 3 laps of an 18 mi course while the 40/50's were doing 2. I had signed up for the 40/50 race not realizing the difference. My attempts to convince the 40/50 to do 3 laps were unsuccessful, so I changed to the open. 

Within a couple miles from the start, we quickly formed a pace line with everyone taking turns pulling through. The pace wasn't fast, but the atmosphere was friendly and supportive for the newer racers.

Liz So was in the open race. Her cyclocross fast twitch muscles were twitching. She was not satisfied with the pace. She tried desperately to get one of us in the open race to jump with her early in a break. I wasn’t ready to go anywhere yet, still trying to warmup. Noone else seemed inclined to take up her offer so early in the race. 

Well, not even ½ lap into the 3 lap race, Liz jumped - attacking on her own and getting a gap. Our group continued the paceline, keeping Liz within reach. As we went on, the 40/50’s racers were less inclined to pull through, so the three of us in the open race, myself, teammate Katie Isermann, and XXX’s Sue Wellinghoff, traded turns. Nearing the end of lap 2, the 40/50’s asked that we keep out of the way of their finish. Ok. They lunged ahead. It was fun to watch their lead-outs and sprint efforts. Congratulations to Imelda March on her 40+ win with Shannon Pookie-Keaton and Ginger Stephens right on her wheel and to Marilyn Powell for the 50+ win.

Continuing into the final lap of the open race, we weren’t sure if Liz was tiring or not. She was doing a significant amount of work staying just off the front. We got our answer when she reintegrated with the group with ½ lap to go – she was still strong. Looking at the 4 of us, I decided it was not in my best interest to wait for a sprint finish. My teammate, Katie, on the other hand would do well in that situation. So, I started attacking. Each time, Liz was attached to me like glue. I did get a slight gap after one attack, but with a cry from Liz that I might have unfairly crossed the centerline to gain the advantage, I sat up. As the four of us lulled into a pace that made it difficult to keep our bikes upright, I attacked again – but this time I held it out there for a good bit, got a gap, and put my head down to time trial to the finish.

Along the way, I kept looking over my shoulder for the ever-charging Liz So to be on my heels. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. Katie did win the field sprint finishing 2nd and taking home the Cat 3 IL State Championship jersey.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

PWPers Annette Isom and Ann Corvino checking in from Colorado

Greetings!  Just wanted you to know that Ann & I and our team finished the Copper Triangle Road Ride in Copper Mountain, Colorado last Saturday, August 3rd.  The ride was 78 mi and 3 peaks......lots of long up and long down.  Reminded me of one of the Tour de France mountain stages.....could have been my imagination when I was losing it going up and up!  I enclosed a picture.....Ann & Paula from Hinsdale, Margie from Oak Park and me (Glen Ellyn).  
Looking forward to PWP this year!  
Annette Isom

 They said it was 8000 feet!  Chilly!  Awesome Job ladies! 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Master's Track Nationals July 30-Aug 4 Indianapolis, IN

After competing at Elite Nationals last year, I decided I wanted to take track seriously and really train for it and learn how to do it right.  Yes there's cross-over between road and track and doing the weekly racing at your local velodrome is awesome crit training, but competing nationally is completely different.   Everything  from the "scene" to the training to the specific technicalities of each event, including the equipment needed was so foreign to a roadie like me.  This year I've been working with a track specific coach and have been putting in some serious effort.  I picked master's nationals as my one focus for the year because it was in Indianapolis, IN, and would not require a plane ticket.

The kids went to my parents for the week.  Their week involved hanging out on my brother's farm, showing Jersey dairy cows at the 4-H fair with their cousins, feeding calves,  playing with kittens and catching minnows and crawfish in the creek.

Jason had to work so he took the megabus down on Thursday night which happened to be the best stroke of luck.  My new Zipp wheels showed up on Wednesday (I left on Tuesday) and Jason was able to glue them up and bring them down on the megabus.  Thank you so much to SRAM/Zipp for making this happen!!  They are super awesome, and definitely the nicest wheels I've ever ridden.

These wheels are worth more than my car  

My #1 goal was to come home with a national championship jersey and I was going to try for it in 6 events.   While I did not reach this goal, I did a lot better than I would have last year at this time, and came home with 4 second places, 1 third, and 1 fourth.  The 333 meter concrete track in Indy is awesome!  I felt really comfortable there and would love to come back for more racing there.

Tuesday:  Points Race
I am most experienced in mass start events as that's the kind of thing I've been racing at Northbrook for 14 years.  They are also the only kind of races where I've had any serious cycling injuries.  The points race was the first race of the week for me and I'd be lying if I didn't admit I was pretty nervous.  There was no time to get on the track before my event so the first time I put wheels down on the track was at the start of the race.  I took the first sprint and managed to get points in every one.  I did a good job at keeping track of the math and knew the race hinged on the final sprint between me and a rider from Georgia.  She and another rider started to lead it out and when I tried to get in position I got freaked out by another rider and completely backed off.  It really wasn't anything sketchy and had I been aggressive it would have (maybe) been fine.  I was mad at myself for lacking confidence but I finished the race upright and able to compete the rest of the week. And I got a second place at a Masters's nationals.
       Points race podium

Wednesday: Scratch Race
The scratch race is my favorite race which made it all the more sad when I screwed it up.  Because of the points race the day before me and the other rider who got most of the points were watching each other and we let a rider from Texas go.   Turned out  she was an awesome time trialist and we never saw her again. We finally chased but it was too late.  I ended up third and was very bummed with this result.  

Thursday:  Day off  
Jason took the bus down after work and got to hang out with me for the rest of the weekend!  We had a really good time and it was cool for me to have full support.

Friday:  Individual Pursuit
Time trialing does not come naturally to me and I have worked very hard on this event.  Before today, every other time in my life where I've done a standing start I've completely botched it.  Today I nailed it!  And I was faster than we had anticipated.  I was thrilled!!  I definitely gave my best effort.   The Texas rider that got away in the scratch race was faster, but I took second.  

All  ready to TT

Saturday:  Time Trial (500 meters)
This is a sprint event, and to be good at sprint events you really need to specialize.  I am an endurance rider, but decided to jump in and do it since I was there.  I loved it!  It was fitting that Dee Dee Scadron who is a former master's world champion in this event and now a USA Cycling official was my official at the start line.  I gave this my best effort, nailed the start again (!) but know exactly what I need to work on if I want to be a sprinter.  It was super fun going that fast, but only good enough for fourth place.  

Sunday:  Team Pursuit and Team Sprint
Ever since watching Sarah Hammer, Dotsie Bausch, and Jennie Reed do the team pursuit at Elite Nationals in Los Angeles, I've wanted to do this event. They went on to earn a Silver medal in the 2012 olympics.   My teammate Stacy and I had planned on doing it with another Chicago rider (and PWP'er) Dena Eaton, but Dena ended up having to unexpectedly move across the country for work literally weeks before  the event.  Luckily Stacy's teammate on the road, Jane Vanni-Noone who lives in Indianapolis was able to do it with us.  Our practice for the event consisted of 30 minutes during open track time the morning of our event.  Given our lack of knowledge about each other, we did really great.  We ended up second.

Dena and I had also planned to do the team sprint as well, so Jane graciously offered to fill in again.  Neither of us being sprinters, we actually nailed it, did the best we could and finished second!  We were happy with this result.  

In conclusion, it was super cool to see in person all the other Chicago/Midwest riders that I've known for years but never actually seen competing at their specialized events.  There were bitter disappointments and thrilling victories.  Lovely to meet Jane and all the awesome people in Indianapolis.  I felt a world of difference in my preparedness and gave it my best effort.  Luckily I love training and working hard........ !

I'll end with one of the best victories of the weekend:  The men's 35+ team sprint with Robbie Higgins riding with my Garner Teammates Jason Garner and Jeff Whiteman:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Prairie State Series July 12-21

The Meshberg Family hanging out with our good friend Sarah Demerly, who came in from Michigan to race the series

SO so so excited to have a race series IN MY HOMETOWN.   Yes we have cool individual races in Chicago, and sometimes even two days in a row, but this is the first time I've had a whole series so close to home!

The series consisted of 7 races total, 6 crits and 1 road race.  The first 3 days were not NCC, and the last 4 were.  What does that mean?  NCC is our National Criterium Calendar  so they would be heavily attended and highly contested.  The first 3 days would be mostly local riders with maybe a couple of out of towners.  Hopefully this will change in the future when word gets out about how awesome this series is and we can have big fields for the whole thing.  But for this year we weren't expecting the huge fields until the NCC races.

I've been targeting this series  ever since I found out about it and I wanted to win the overall.  Given the weird year I've been having I really did not know what to expect going into it.  My focus was to do the best I could and treat each day individually.  Sarah had committed to coming to as many of the races as she could, so finally we'd get some racing together.

I love this race!  I've done this course many times when it was part of Superweek, and I love it.   My oldest friend lives and works very near to the course, so she always comes and watches, and we get to hang out afterwards, so a good time is always associated with this race.  Being the first race in the series and not NCC, we had a very small field.  Sarah was sidelined with the stomach flu so I went solo.  Our field consisted of a bunch of individual riders going against the Schneider sisters, local riders who ride for Tibco, one on the pro team, and one on the devo team.  After an early break of three which included 15 year old Skylar Schneider (who ended up winning) lapped the field, Vanderkitten attacked and no one chased.  Then I attacked and no one chased.  I finished off the front in 5th place.  Given the circumstances, I was ok with that.
Going against Sam Schneider for a Prime 
Crystal Lake
Same small field, though today I had my teammate Sarah.  The race started just fine but soon I started to struggle.  Turns out I had broken a spoke and my wheel had gone out of true and was smashing against my brake.  I never heard a popping noise so I had no idea what was happening.  I finally went to the pit because I just couldn't ride any more, I didn't think I would get a free lap, but I didn't know what else to do.  When they saw the shape of my wheel I was given the ok to be put back in the field.  Unfortunately while all this was going on a break had gotten away.  I tried to talk my way into being put back into the break, but since it had been established while I was out of commission, it was back to the field for me.  The first lap back in they called a prime.  I went for it, got it, and then was done.  I'm not sure how much energy I expended riding around for the first half of the race on a broken wheel, and I don't think going all out for a prime was the smartest move.  I was majorly bummed.  Sarah rode well in the field and finished strong.

Sharon RR
The drive to Sharon, which is just across the WI border very near Lake Geneva, was beautiful.  The course was flat and we were supposed to do 4 laps but was shortened to 3, for a total of about 33 miles.  It was very hot, and I felt pretty good.  Mostly local gals, we had a couple strong new to the series riders, including our National Criterium Champion Theresa Cliff-Ryan.  Sarah said later she was affected by the heat, but she rode well and I couldn't tell.  The race had a couple of attacks, but nothing stuck, and we entered the final 3k altogether.  I found myself in good position at 3k to go, and was planning on going for it, at the clearly marked 1k to go sign.   But then the follow moto ref pulled up next to me.  He had done this several times during the race and had actually mingled with the field during several corners and at one point caused a separation that had to be chased down.  I asked him to please give me some space, and he said no, and I let myself get distracted.  He made me very nervous and I had no idea what he was going to do so I slowed down.  He finally backed off at 500 meters.  Then when I finally sprinted I heard terrible crunching noises coming from my bike!  I finished 5th and Sarah was 6th. I was not happy with this result.  I did make an official complaint regarding the ref and as far as my bike, I had no idea what was going on.

Beverly (Chicago)
Very excited to race this course which has always been a part of the now defunct Superweek series in the past, but only for the men.  Thanks Prairie State for having women there for the first time ever.  This was the first of the NCC races, so there would be a bigger field with lots of strong teams there.  On the way to the race, my car thermometer said 100 degrees.  The hottest race of the year.   Warming up, whenever I put any pressure on the pedals, I heard the terrible noises coming from my bike.  So I went to Sram NRS and asked Jose to take a look.  Sure enough my wheel was trashed.  So he lent me a Sram wheel and I was good to go.  The course is in the beautiful south side Beverly neighborhood and we got to ride by gorgeous homes and beautiful streets.  Sarah's husband Eric grew up very near the course and family friends had a party on the course.  They cheered for us every lap. My friend (and PWP participant) Cathy was also racing and had a huge family contingent out cheering for her and I swear they cheered just as loudly for me too.  There were also tons of other friends and PWP participants scattered throughout the course.  It was really fun.  When we got into the race, I could tell that the heat was having an effect on people, but I felt great!  I was able to move around easily and go wherever I wanted. On the third lap I heard a crash, looked back and was so bummed to see it was Sarah.  She got back in the race but ended up dropping out due to the heat.   There were lots of primes in this race, including one donated by PWP's Jen Welch, who grew up on the course and is a big supporter of the race.  Thanks Jen!!  The course was super cool with a slight up hill and then two semi sharp, fast downhill corners into the finish.  I knew the winner needed to be first into the downhill.  At one to go I was in perfect position, about 4th wheel.   Kelly Fisher-Goodwin from Fearless Femme had gone for a late prime, gotten a gap and held it.  The field was content to race for second.  On the back stretch I attacked and got a gap.  I'm sure part of it was not having the strength, but I think mostly it was lack of guts but I chickened out and slowed so I got passed right before the first sharp downhill corner.  I'm not sure how many riders got in front of me before I was able to get in line, but I was still in good position when in the final corner the two riders ahead of me crashed!  I had to dramatically slow, but stayed upright and was able to finish in 14th place.  I was very happy with this result! Teresa Cliff-Ryan won the field sprint so the Fearless Femme team went 1-2.

Another 100 degree day, I was nervous about bringing the kids, but this was the only option for the day.  My good friend and PWP participant Mary Roe had offered to watch them for me during the race.  This is not the first time Mary has hung out with the kids while I raced.  They have a lot of fun with her and there is usually ice cream involved.  Racing would simply not be possible without help like this.  So a great big thank you to Mary!  Sarah wasn't able to get to this race, so once again I was solo.  I wasn't going to be able to get new wheels before the end of the series so Sram let me use theirs for the rest of the series, which made the difference between racing or not racing so another big thank you to Sram.    I felt great the whole race where once again I could tell the heat was really getting to people.  It came down to a field sprint and I was a little hesitant to fight for position, (as I write this I'm sensing a theme here...) but I sprinted for 14th and felt good about it.  Laura Van Gilder won today.
My two kids hanging out with our good friends the Kittle's who live in Elmhurst and came out to watch the racing

Lake Bluff
After two positive races in a row with no mechanicals or weird issues, I was looking forward to Lake Bluff.  Sarah would be there, and I had raced this course last year and finished well.  I knew that it was a tough course.  It's a great break away course because it's very narrow with tight corners with the only  wide part being the very long start/finish stretch which was slightly uphill.  Every time through that long section felt like the finishing sprint to me, and I never felt like I was in good position.  Also a factor, after the last couple 100 degree races today it was a chilly 86. All those people who had been affected by the heat were feeling much better so I think that was a factor for me.  Not sure when it happened but I sadly found myself off the back.  Sarah was there too and we started taking hard pulls and after a couple of laps we actually caught back on. Sarah was able to stay connected but I was almost immediately dropped, and stayed dropped this time.  My only solace was that I wasn't the first to go and I finished 23rd on the day though it really didn't make me feel much better and I earned no points.  Erica Allar took the win out of a break of 6.

St. Charles
I was determined to end this series on a positive note.  The race was also our state championship race which meant that the title and a championship jersey would be awarded to the first rider from Illinois across the line.  It's always a fun thing to win, so I was going for it.  The course was 4 corners of wide open road.  The race seemed very slow, for which I was grateful.  There were a couple of attacks including a good one by Sarah.  I was in front and could block, and she held it for almost two laps.  When they caught her, it was on a prime lap, and she saw that I was near so after being solo for two laps she led me out for it!  Unfortunately Pepper Palace was on my wheel and it turned out to be a better lead out for her.  While I didn't get the prime,  it did establish a break of four. Unfortunately we did not have Pepper Palace's sprinter with us, so we weren't cohesive.  It got exciting for a moment when the race leaders bridged up, and we had our original four along with Theresa Cliff-Ryan, Erica Allar, and Laura Van Gilder.  But it didn't stick, and soon we were reabsorbed.  In the final lap I was in great position and got around the final corner with the leaders.  I was able to avoid some mayhem and I didn't stick around to find out, but I believe a rider may have gone down.  Due to the mayhem I didn't have a good wheel to the line but I sprinted and finished 10th!  Sarah finished right behind me in 12th, and I was the second Illinois rider to cross the line.  My former teammate Jessi Prinner finished ahead of me.  Jessi's still an Illinois resident and a great sprinter in her own right, but she's now a professional who rides in support of Erica Allar, the current NCC leader.  Erica won the race which meant Jessi had done her job for the day.  For the series I ended up 6th overall.  Not exactly the result I was hoping for though  I was very happy to end the series on a positive note, and that the series got great feedback and looks like it will be back next year bigger and better.
Illinois State Criterium Champion Podium l-r Me  and Jessi Prinner

Monday, July 15, 2013

Homewood Downtown Classic, July 7, 2013

This was a fun local race very near to my house.  Coming from racing National level events, it can be fun to jump in a local race and feel strong!  It can also be frustrating because nobody wants to work with you, so it usually ends up being a slow negative race with a big sprint at the end, unless you can go solo.  I got to race with my cat 4 teammates, and Chicago PWP participants,  Kelly Clarke and Lauren Wissman.  They had raced earlier in the day and jumped in the open race as well.  I was super impressed with their riding and it's really cool we have some up and comers on our team.

When the race started, it was immediately apparent that my cleat was loose.   I tried to ignore it because there was nothing I could do about it and luckily it stayed connected and wasn't anything other than an annoyance.

At one point, Lauren got off the front with Stacy Mosora, a great time trialist and my teammate on the track-- I was really hoping that their move would stick! It was chased down and I tried a few attacks, but nothing stuck.

I was able to snag most of the primes, but came up a couple inches short in the final sprint.  Bummer!  I did get to have some fun harassing the poor podium boy.  Everyone knows I just want equality in men's and women's cycling!

Up next:  Prairie State Series!!!

Tour of America's Dairyland (TOAD) June 20-30

TOAD was a 11 days this year, mostly crits with a few road races snuck in, and the first 4 days were on the National Criterium Calendar.  Sarah had been up at Nature Valley, so she wouldn't be racing.  Because I wanted to focus on the upcoming Prairie State Cycling Series, I only did 6 of the races.  The first 4 because they were NCC, and then the last two because they were on the weekend.

For the first part, the kids and I went up and stayed with our family in Gurnee, and the kids got to hang out with their cousins while I drove up to Wisconsin every day to race.  There were huge fields and big teams every day and the racing was fast!!  I felt decent, but every day there would be a big surge at 5 to go, and I would either be gapped, or so gassed from closing gaps of other riders getting gapped that I was not able to get near the sprint, but  I avoided all crashes and finished all the races.                          
                                                                                 at the line with Australian champion Kimberly Wells

not always on the back!! :)

After that we went home for the week and went back for the final two races, Downer Ave and East Tosa, both in Milwaukee.  Downer Ave is a really fun race, and there was a $1000 mid race prime for the women.  At this point most of the huge teams had left due to the races not being NCC.  Sam Schneider and Laura Van Gilder were very close in the overall.   This can be a good situation for someone who is not high in the standings to go off the front, so my plan was to attack after the prime and try to get a break going.  I knew Alison Tetrick of Exergy, was thinking the same thing.  She's a very strong time trialist and had shown up for the last couple races of the series, and won the day before.   She went a couple times during the race, and I was on it!  I really wasn't able to help much, so she shut it down each time.  When $1000 prime happened late in the race, she went for it, got it, and kept going!  On the next lap I attacked, got off the front, and chased for about 2 laps before I burned out at about 5 to go.  I was bummed, but felt good that I had gone in with a plan and tried to execute it.  

That night we stayed with my cousin Patti and her husband.  So fun!  We had a lovely time and the next day went to the beach.  Something I'd never really done in Milwaukee before.  The beaches there are absolutely lovely.  It was a bit cool for swimming, so we didn't bring the kids' suits, but that didn't seem to matter to them.  

The next and final day was in Wauwatosa.  This was a square course with a slight downhill and the uphill was on the s/f stretch.  The race felt fast, and I never could get into a groove.  Late in the race I was able to move up and go for a prime, didn't get it, and it burned enough matches to finish the last two laps otb, once again, with no $.   Not exactly how I wanted to end my TOAD experience.  But it was great to see old friends, and make new ones, and get to stay and hang out with great family! 

My arm is now totally healed, but I'm trying to keep the sun off of it in hopes of not getting a scar. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Glencoe Grand Prix June 1, 2013

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Bike racing is hard.  This year has been tough for me as I feel like I'm in decent shape but just can't seem to get it together.  I haven't been able to find that momentum.  After my crash the previous week, my arm and side were still pretty raw going into Glencoe.   Glencoe is one of my favorite races, a huge race that is in my hometown, has promoters who have demonstrated support and interest in growing women's cycling, so sitting this one out was not an option.  

When I arrived at the race, the women 3/4 were starting so I got to watch some of it.  They did a couple laps when the course was neutralized due to a bad crash on the sharp downhill corner, and the rider needed an ambulance.  They restarted and a couple laps later they neutralized again for another bad crash.  After a long delay, they cancelled the race--the first time I've ever seen this happen.  

When it was time to start our race, there were still issues, so our start was delayed for almost an hour.  While we were waiting the sky looked more and more ominous and when we finally started racing, it started to rain, harder, then harder, and finally it was raining so hard, there was a small flash flood in the downhill corner and caused about a foot of standing water.  The rain was coming down so hard on my uncovered (duh) raw arm, and while I didn't think I felt scared, I found myself giving up and not hanging on and was welcomed into the Spidermonkey tent full of friends.  I got a finishing place of 34th out of about 60 riders. I was very disappointed.  After the race I was freezing, so I put on a coat, which promptly stuck to my raw arm and had to be peeled off.  I was not happy.   On the other hand, my teammate Sarah did really well and got in this picture which accurately depicts the conditions:

The two riders that went down in the 3/4 race were both friends of mine.  One was not seriously injured but the other friend, a PWP participant, was very seriously injured.  She is healing well though has a long road ahead of her.  

And to end on a positive note, here is my son Sidney cheering for some racers in an earlier race:
Pre photoshop

Post Photoshop.  Braveheart!

I guess my kids have gone to a few bike races in their lives. They've got that cheering thing down.  

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Memorial Day Iowa Races

I've done these races a bunch of times and it's pretty much a love/hate weekend for me.  The three races are:

Saturday-Snake Alley, Burlington, IA

Sunday-Melon City, Muscatine, IA

Monday-Quad Cities Criterium, Rock Island, IL

After much debate, Jason and the kids decided to join me and Sarah and her husband Eric for the weekend.  We got to stay with Eric's lovely sister and her husband and their two kids in Muscatine.  My kids had tons of fun playing and Sidney even received his first marriage proposal from Analise.  (He declined).  My only regret is that we didn't get a picture of all of them together, but here is a video  featuring Analise competing at the quad cities crit.  Jason and Eric brought their bikes and got some great training in.  It made for an awesome weekend and I'm so glad it turned out the way it did.

While we were warming up for Snake Alley Jason found a music store and bought the kids a ukelele.  Sidney actually made a couple bucks busking! 

Snake alley is a gritty technical race with a cobblestone climb and a fast twisty descent.  It doesn't cater to my strengths as a rider at all (the uphill is the hate part)  but I always like the idea of just digging deeper than I ever have and tapping into some kind of pain that only the endurance athlete can appreciate.  (the love part)  Plus the downhill is really fun.  For the first time ever I did not pre-reg, so I was freaked out by the woman at registration who gave me the number 61 and told me that we had that many riders in our field!  Turns out we had actually only had about 30.   It had poured rain the whole way there, but somehow magically cleared up about an hour before our start and our race was completely dry.  The start of the race is very important as it goes from a wide 4 lane road into the cobblestone switchback "snake" that the whole field has to jam itself into.  So if you get stuck behind someone slow, you are in trouble--if you lose momentum you fall over.  It's not really a race where teamwork comes into play, so Sarah and I were just going to wing it.  I wasn't ready when they started the race, and I was the last one from the line.  Not good.  Sarah took off never to be seen by me again.  Going up the first time, I felt a familiar twang in my right quad.   At the track the thursday before, the twang happened during the first race.  Not so bad when it was happening but when I got of the bike it hurt so bad I cried!  I worked through it but still.... scary.  I knew that this wasn't going to be the year that I have my elusive "snake alley breakthrough" ride, so instead of killing myself to get 17th place and possibly tear a quad, I sort of just rode along at a hard (you cannot go up that hill easy) but manageable pace.  I found a couple people to ride with who would drop me on the uphill but I would catch on the downhill and we finished the race together. I ended up in 24th place.  Not great, but in my book any finish of snake alley is worth celebrating.  Sarah finished very well--in the money!

Sarah and I going up the Snake:

Melon City.  Before this year I could honestly say I hated this race.  The only reason I ever do it is because I'm stuck out there in between Snake Alley and Quad Cities.  Even if I'm in great form, I've never felt good in this race.  It's a wide course through a park that has a sweeping descent into a speed bump where you catch air, and then a "looks easy but actually is very hard" uphill, ending in a hairpin turn which puts you into the start finish stretch.  Something clicked this year.  I felt pretty good the whole race and actually did some racing.  IS Corp had about 8 riders and controlled the race.  The road was wet and it rained on us a bit but I felt great over the speedbump -first time ever! I didn't like the thought of fighting through a field sprint in the wet pavement so at about 5 to go I took a flyer.  I was solo for about 2.5 laps, and just ran out of gas too soon.  As soon as IS Corp closed the gap, there was Sarah with a counter attack!  It was awesome.   I had left everything I had out there so that was the race for me.  I was bummed to not get a result, but very happy to have felt good and to have tried something, even if it was unsuccessful.  And I may have to adjust my "hate" status of this race. Who knew?  Sarah did not feel great on the speed bump, and said she felt how I usually felt on this course.
Jason and the kids were hanging out in the beautiful park while we were racing, even if they did get a bit wet.  

Monday is Quad Cities, and I have loved this race ever since I won it as a cat 4.  It's pancake flat with 8 corners, and it's really suited to my strengths as a rider.  The race is 48 years old, and the Quad Cities Bicycle club does a great job running the race and the town makes a really big deal out of it.  If you win it, they treat you like royalty.  I was sick last year, and did not have a great race, so I was really looking forward to racing it healthy this year.  Also, due to the canceling of the Western Michigan Stage Race, they had added the Quad Cities Criterium as the midwest's qualifier for the Nature Valley Pro Chase.  This is a very cool program where they put together riders from qualifying events across the country and form a fully sponsored composite team for the Nature Valley Grand Prix Stage race in Minnesota.  This was a goal of Sarah's and all we needed to do was make sure she finished ahead of the other riders competing for this.  My number one goal of the race was to help make sure this happened for Sarah, and if I could win the race in the process, well, that would be cool too.

Turned out I felt great!  IS Corp again had about 8 strong riders and they did a great job of controlling things.  I went with most of their attacks, hoping to get one to stick, but they would shut it down if I was there.  A couple times they countered and I wasn't able to go, but nothing stuck until about 5 to go.  IS Corp went with another rider in tow, and they dangled off the front for a couple laps.  At 2 to go I decided it was looking like it was going to stick, so I made the move to bridge up.  I jumped hard, on the back stretch, got a gap, and was on my way to the 2 riders.  All was going well until I hit the corner and before I could even do my signature freakout yell, I hit the ground hard.  To me, nothing seemed amiss and I had no idea why I went down.  It made sense when Sarah told me later that she thought I hit the man hole cover.  The road was wet and that was it, I slid out.  I had some nasty road rash, but mostly I was just mad--I wanted that win!  Luckily I'd had enough of a gap that the field could react in time and nobody else went down.  What I did do was cause a disruption in the field so that the two riders were able to just maintain their gap and finish 1/2.  I was bitterly disappointed, but.... "that's bike racing".  My own disappointment was overshadowed by the fact that SARAH GOT THE PRO CHASE!!!!  It was a great experience when I did it a couple years back and I know she's going to have a fabulous time.  I'm really excited for her!!!  

Here's me nursing my road rash before taking that first painful shower.  Not the podium picture I was hoping for.  I do still love this race, and I will continue to call it my favorite.  I guess I'll just have to come back next year!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Northbrook Velodrome Opening Night

Ali Engin was there and took some cool pics.

Racing at Northbrook is SO FUN.   Opening night was last week.  You can race for a separate team for each cycling discipline, and on the Track I race for the George Garner Cyclery Team.  This year I have two female teammates to race with, Stacy Mosora and Elena Dorr.  We have a really great team of guys too which are fun to watch (and even race with sometimes).  That's one of the cool things about track; everyone on the team gets to hang out and see each other race, not just the people in the same category.  Elena, Stacy, and I had a blast, and our men's team did well too.  We had so many Chicago women out racing that we actually two fields of women; a cat 4 field and a 1/2/3.  Cuttin Crew, XXX, HalfAcre, and PACT all had teams represented.  I raced with the women and the 1/2 men, as well as a master's race that is always offered.  Did I mention that this is SO FUN?!?!?!

                    Getting serious before the men's race :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Fox River Omnium

Great racing close to home!  Saturday was a fun course in Elgin with a tight downhill/ uphill chicane that spit you out onto the finishing stretch.  It was a local race, but 4 Vanderkitten were there from out of town.  So it was all the usual locals, including our team of 2 Spidermonkeys against 4 Vanderkittens.  Sarah's instructions from her coach were to ride hard and get a workout, so she agreed to cover any attacks and bring it down to a field sprint for me.  There were a lot of attacks, mostly from Vanderkitten, but a few from some other locals including my old teammate (and current teammate on the track) Stacy Mosora.  Sarah covered them all.  I and a few others jumped in very sparingly.  The chicane was fun, but only if you were in front.  It became apparent that to win the race you had to be first into the downhill.  I felt pretty mediocre during the race but on the final lap I gave it my best and attacked hard, but it wasn't quite enough.  Two VK made it ahead of me and that's how we finished.  Happy we made the podium, but super bummed that I missed the podium picture!  We were the last race of the day and when I rolled in after a short cool down, they had already done it.  I was absolutely thrilled with our teamwork.  Teamwork only works if you have a strong teammate and I have a super strong one!!!!!  This race made me excited for races to come.....
Saturday's race:  Kittens and Monkeys

The next day was Fox River Grove, an awesome course with a huge hurtful hill right next to an actual ski jump.   The course was very long and the descent was awesome and fast and wound through neighborhoods.  Sarah and I lined up (she had placed third in the 30+ race earlier in the day--I would have liked to have made that race, but I wasn't able to allot the time that day) and I was able to hang for about 2 laps.  After the second time up the hill I blew up, and then just settled in to try to finish.  We only raced for 30 minutes which was pretty short, and after a while I started to pick people off from the shattered field.  I was getting great speed and having a lot of fun on the descent.  Midway through the race Sarah appeared and helped me pass a couple of riders.  We flew down that hill together but she was killing me on the uphill so I told her not to wait.  We finished 7th and 8th.  Fitness was gained!  After the race I rode out of there to meet Jason and the kids at a family BBQ celebrating cousin Vicki's graduation in Grayslake. It was an absolutely gorgeous ride through some beautiful country that I don't normally get to see.  

Fun courses.  Great Omnium.  So lucky we have this here in our neck of the woods, and totally worth traveling to!  Thanks to Team Psimet for putting on such a great event.

Sunday's hill.  This had to be a warm up lap.... 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fox RIver Grove Omnium--Erica Gaddy

I love getting these updates from clients:  

Erica is a coaching client as well as a PWP Participant.  She won the overall women's cat 4 Fox River Grove Omnium.  She and her team went in with a a plan and executed it!

Great job Erica!
From Erica:  Mission Accomplished!  Thanks for being an awesome coach :)


If you haven't checked out the June issue of Bicycling Magazine, go to the grocery store and pick up a copy.  Inside front cover!

It's true, I do love SRAM :)