Ossola Sport

Irena Ossola – Dedication and Determination

Eternal Summer, Training in Tucson

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For the past 3 weeks I’ve been in Tucson, AZ training and getting ready for the 2017 season.  My base miles are building and I feel stronger everyday.  It’s been a tough couple weeks but I also know it’s getting me ready to race hard.

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The weather has been pretty much perfect and I’ve been enjoying the short sleeve weather.  Mt. Lemmon is a great mountain for hill training.

I’ve also been using Redington pass for training, it’s a dirt road that goes up and over this 5 miles climb.  A tough ride, but my coach says it’s my weight training for strength.  As I ride up I sure feel that, and know there is no one doing this kind of training.IMG_1397IMG_1316

Last week I met with one of my personal sponsors to take pictures for their company and to use in marketing.  Integrated Health is an amazing company based out of Tucson.  They provide me with supplements that help me recover and keep training hard.  There is nothing else like it on the market and the quality is beyond anything in stores.

DSC_0323DSC_0223DSC_0127DSC_0294DSC_0100IMG_1386This Thursday I leave the winter paradise to spend 10 days in snowy and cold Canada.  I’ll spend my holiday there and have a little rest and trainer time.  Then beginning the new year I’ll head back to Tucson for the January/February portion of my training.  And it’s sure to be a challenge. 😉

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A month in Santa Fe

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It’s always a good feeling to come back to Santa Fe after a long time on the road.  And 6 months was definitely a long stretch.  I arrived back at the end of October and have spent the past month focusing on my diet, training, and cycling life.

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I brought back a new mountain bike from Europe and was so excited to hit some trails.  It was so much fun to do some cross training and getting back in shape.

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I also went hiking with my friend Hannah and caught up on friend time.

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SANTAFONDO!!  I organized a cycling event called Santafondo, which was a big group ride/ granfondo from Santa Fe Brewing Company.  With only 2 weeks to organize I was busy contacting cycling groups, making fliers, and going around to bike shops to spread the word.  One of my sponsors and a great brewery in town, Santa Fe Brewing Company, hosted the event.  We met in their main location and rode a 50 mile loop south of Santa Fe.  It was a huge hit and had over 50 people show up.  The weather was great too and just in time before winter arrived.  I loved doing a community event to get cyclists out and active riding together.IMG_0492IMG_0666IMG_0623

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Now that Thanksgiving has passed, and yesterday the first snow fell on Santa Fe, I think it’s time for me to head to warmer weather.  After the month in Santa Fe I’m ready to go to Tucson and start some solid winter road training.  I’ll be there until mid February, then I’ll come back to Santa Fe for a couple days before heading to Europe.  On to the next adventure 🙂

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Guiding in Southern Italy

Over the past 2 months I’ve been in central and southern Italy working for Butterfield & Robinson as a tour guide.  It’s my 3rd year working for the company and this year I guided 4 trips in Puglia.  If you don’t know where Puglia is, it’s the southern most “heal” of Italy.  Guiding is a good break from training and racing where I can make some money to support myself and do something different.  In the trips we did all kinds of activities with the travelers.  Since 2 were private trips it was especially different.  For the family we had gokarting, archery, a scavenger hunt, and a magician.  In the last trip I guided, that was also private, I had the extra budget and organized to have a private boat on the second day.  This was a huge highlight of the trip and loved the opportunity to do something unique.

After guiding finished I went back to Northern Italy for about 10 days and then at the end of October flew back to New Mexico.  I’m excited to be back and back to training.  Especially with a new mountain bike that I bought and can get on some trails in Santa Fe.  November will be time to get back in shape and into training for 2017.

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If you’re curious …. A day in the life of a guide:

The Trip: The B&R trips are 5 nights usually. So pickup on the first morning the travelers go by private bus/car to the bike storage where bikes await.  Nights 1&2 are usually at 1 hotel (for Puglia this year it was south near Otranto), then Night 3 is just 1 night in a more “city” hotel (for Puglia it was in Lecce), then nights 4&5 are in another hotel (for Puglia it was north of Lecce and Ostuni, just outside a town called Savelletri).

The Day:   Every morning I wake up about 6am to either get in a run/bike ride, or to get stuff ready for the day.  Then we get the bikes ready and a table with snacks for the travelers. The travelers leisurely wake up around 8 and have breakfast, they meet at the bikes around 9.  They head out on the route with one guide on the bike and one in the van as support.  The ride to the lunch spot usually involves a coffee shop stop or van stop along the way.  Since you can never have enough coffee or snacks.  Lunch isn’t just a light little snack or sandwich, but has the full meal complete with wine.  After lunch there is another section of riding to get to the destination of our previous or next hotel.  There is usually a long option for anyone that wants to go ride more.  Travelers usually arrive at the hotel about 4, or 5 if they did longer.  Then everyone meets about 6:45 for a drink and 7:30 for dinner (if we can manage to get the restaurant to cook that early for our Americans).  The dinner usually runs super long, even with a quick service, and finishes about 10.  Then the last to leave at about 11. Then travelers go to their rooms and we guides head back to our rooms or hotel (if we are out of the trip hotel). But for me, the day doesn’t stop there.  I usually work another 2 hrs on minor accounting to keep track of spending, and then work on video editing which I show the final night.  So my night ends between 12 and 2 every night.  I cram in a few hours of sleep and then rise and shine again for another day of running this fun and exciting trip.

The Guide:
We have a few days prior to the trip(s)  to prepare and see the routes, hotels, and restaurants for the trip.  Like a dry run, its called a pretrip.  Then on trip everything is already organized, confirmed and run through.   While on trip I feel like personal time is pretty non existent.  I am constantly working, running, or thinking of whats coming next to plan on the trip.  It’s partially the nature of the job, but also partially how I am as a perfectionist and giving more than 100%.  Our days are busy and a big puzzle of problem solving that keeps me on my toes.  It is like no other job in the world and feel like I’m almost an adult with so much responsibility but also like a kid when I find myself having fun with travelers.  As guides, we are cyclists, hikers, picnic makers, hosts, sommelier, historians, comedians, everything and in-between.  B&R guides are superheros that manage to be at two places at once and behind the scene fairies to create the impossible and make miracles happen.

 

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lanterns on the final night

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guide hosted picnic, I made this one 😉

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farms near Alberobello

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Dinner in a castle with private music

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stopping along the coast

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the gate of Acaia

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quick stop for an olive oil tasting

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Italia Training and Ardeche

Over the month of August I had been in Italy training up and down mountain passes, but nothing could quite prepare me for the feat that lie ahead at the Tour de L’Ardeche.  The race started September 1st and went until September 6th.  With 7 grueling stages that never gave a second of rest.  It was hard climbing everyday in high heat, intense competition, and long races.  The first day I went out hard since it was the only “sprinters” stage.  It was a circuit course with a small kicker of a climb each lap.  I felt good and with 20km to go I attacked and went solo.  I got 45 seconds on the pack, but in the last lap just before the only gpm/qom they caught me and it was a race for the finish only 4km later.  I was dissapointed to not hold for the win, but I was also proud of my strength and ability to be aggressive.  I won most aggressive rider for the stage and 200 euro that was on the 16th lap of the circuit.

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The second day I felt the fatigue and pain in my legs from the previous day.  I struggled, but also stuck it out.

The third stage contained the epic climb and finish at the top of Mont. Ventoux.  Since I am not a climber and had no real chance of doing well this day I stayed with the peleton until the bast of the climb and then went up at my own pace.  Which actually wasnt too bad as I continued to pass other riders along the way up.

The 4th stage was actually potentially harder then the 3rd stage with mont ventoux.  Because after the difficulty of that climb there wasnt much rest, so going into another day of almost the same elevation gain (2900m) was so difficult.  I struggled, but stayed tough to complete it.

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The 5th stage was a short time trial.  But without a TT bike I really couldnt compete with the girls with full equipment.

The 6th stage was my best chance at a good result and I went in positive to do well.  But unfortunately on the 2nd and last climb my legs felt heavy and blocked.  It was a day of incredible wind so the pack was split up very easily through the valley.  I dropped back and finished with the second group.

The 7th stage was more hills and hard from the start with 3 main climbs.

 

I completed the race, but the last 2 days I was in survival mode as my body was feeling the repercussions of dehydration, fatigue, lack of recovery/massage, and overall tiredness.  The first day I dug deep and payed for it the rest of the race.  I was sick the first night, which i think was bad food, and after that felt constantly neaucious.  This made it hard to eat well feel good going into each race.  I also learned the huge importance of massage in cycling and this race.  I did not have anything to help with recovery until the second to last stage.  The build up of lactic acid and fatigue in my legs was difficult to overcome each day, especially when each stage started racing hard from km 1.

I am extremly grateful for this opportunity that I had though and the strength I gained from this race.  I will carry it on into next year and will make me tougher for any other races that lie ahead.

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Euro Racing

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The past couple weeks have been an incredible experience. For cycling I have made a huge step in just a short time. Racing in Europe is a whole other level of racing and I took the challenge ready to succeed.

The team began this Euro trip in Toulouse, France, where we spent a week of training camp in southern France to get our legs ready to race.  Here are a couple pictures from riding, visiting Toulouse, and going to the start of Stage 17 of the Tour de France.

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Then we traveled 10hrs north to the region of Bretagne, in the north-west corner of France.  It was a long drive but I liked seeing the french country-side.

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On July 17th began the tour of Bretagne. A 5 day stage race with a short prologo TT, 135km RR, 11km TT, 120km RR, and 110km RR. I was initially surprised by how close the cyclists ride here and despite bumping and touching at high speeds there are rarely crashes. I had fun with the technical roads and speed that these women race.

I had some great results and took big risks as well. The first day for instance with 40km to go I attacked and went in a solo break. I was caught in the last 5km and finished 7th for the day.

Results:

 

Tour de Bretagne

Prologo 2km TT part uphill: 55th (20sec back)

135km Road Race: 7th

11km TT: 25th (no tt bike or would have been top 10)

120km Road Race: 21st

110km Road Race: 15th

GC overall finish: 21st

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Belgium:

GP Zottegem-Strijpen : 2nd place – break away with a Rabobank woman and Lotto for the finish. Hard race but very fun. Including some difficult cobble sections

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In a second race the next day we worked on the offensive by attacking a lot. We got my teammate solo with 30km to go and so I played defense after that and went to close attacks by other teams. She stayed away and so the team got the win.

 

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Racing in France and Belgium were an amazing opportunity and a great step for my professional career. I was always in the front of the groups and strong enough to attack and close breaks that were dangerous.

 

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Now I am in Italy at my family’s house for some good rest, recovery, and training in the next couple weeks. I will hopefully be doing some more racing and racing in france at the end of August in the Trophe D’Or and the Tour d’Ardeche.

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Santa Fe, then to racing

Back to Santa Fe

After Gila ended I drove up to Santa Fe and spent 2 weeks resting, training, packing and getting myself ready for the next adventure on the road.  It was a bit stressful because I was packing to be away for about 5-6 months.

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Aside from training and packing I made time for something very important to me.  I visited my old elementary school and talked to the 6th graders about being a pro cyclist.  Ted Freedman, my PE teacher from the school, was my biggest motivator to begin running and still follows my journey.

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It was great to be back on home desert roads in New Mexico

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I was also in Santa Fe at the perfect time for this years Bike & Brew Festival.  Its only the second year but it was a great event and so many people.  I spent time at my sponsors tent, Santa Fe Brewing Company and met some new bike lovers too.

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Once I left the plan becomes a bit complicated with travel and racing all over … the world.

So here’s a rundown update on results and travel so far:

North Carolina

-USA Pro Nationals, 28 May – 35th

For Winston-Salem, Since they were UCI races I had to be a part of a team, so I guest rode for Fearless Femme.  It was great to put on the kit and race for such a great team.

-Winston-Salem Crit, 29 May- 7th

-Winston-Salem UCI Road Race, 30 May- 20th

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Canada

-Gatineau GP RR, 1 June- 9th

-Gatineau GP TT, 2 June- 17th

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Now I am in Ontario Canada to train for just over a week with my coach before heading to Wisconsin for Tour of America’s Dairyland.  A 10 Day crit series.

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Then I’ll come back to Canada for some more training

6 July – To France and Belgium- Tour of Brittany and a couple races in Belgium with my team

Then I’ll stay in Europe to keep racing until mid September

After that I plan to spend some time working and/or resting away from racing.

 

 

Gila Monster

This past week I raced in my second ever Tour of the Gila.  It was 5 days of hills, sun, wind, and low oxygen.

Stage 1: Mogollon Road Race

I went into this day with the objective of sprint points.  There were 2 intermediate sprints in the race before the steep uphill climb to the finish.  I felt good and went for the first, but after avoiding a crash about 100m to go I was 4th, so no points.  Not too long after there were attacks and I made the break that stuck.  10 of us stayed away for 60km until 5km to the climb.  Since the intermediate sprint came while we were away I went for that and snagged 3rd for 1 point.  When we hit the base I turned on tempo mode in my legs and rode up smooth.  It was a great start to the race and had a lot of fun overall.

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Stage 2: Inner Loop Road Race

I set myself up to go for the first of 2 sprints, but 12km in when the sprinters attacked for the line my legs didn’t have the same idea.  I crossed with the group but that was also when the first hill began.  The effort from the first 10km and fatigue hit me hard and I struggled on this climb.  I focused however on the technical downhill and used that to catch the group in front of me.  We rode pace lining through the valley that presented a challenging wind the whole way.  I was a bit mad to not stick with the front pack, but considering the girls in this pack, they were all the main sprinters and non climbers, so I felt a little better about my position.  Getting to the last climb and over towards the finish we continued to work together. It was a VERY hard day and even though it was a group of about 20 there was no hiding or relaxing the whole race.

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Stage 3: Tyrone Time Trial

Since I was not sitting in a top GC spot, this was a race that I put in a good effort, but also didn’t dig into deep fatigue.  Even though it was a TT, this course didn’t lack in hills.  Here’s a shot from the turnaround.

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Stage 4: Downtown Criterium

My favorite stage of the race.  I wanted to be top 10 and knew I could even be top 5.  I stayed relaxed throughout the race and in good position.  There was a crash on the hill about 5 laps in which I had to get around and catch back on, but it wasn’t any big worry. Just left a little apprehension in the midst of riding so close to others. With 9 laps to go I focused more and set myself to stay in the top 20.  3 laps to go was hard and fast with everyone moving and working for position.  At 1 to go I was set up perfect, 7th or so wheel and holding strong.  But when the turn came going into the hill a couple girls came up on the corner and “pinched” me off my wheel. Meaning they got in a position and so close that I had to ease off or risk a crash.  Up the hill I worked as hard as I could knowing it was the crucial moment.  Into the downhill in about 20th, then passed some girls before the final turn.  In the finishing stretch I gave it my all and crossed in 16th.  I know I could have done better, but after this hard week I held strong.  This is a picture from the race, my dad came to watch and cheer me on.

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Stage 5: Gila Monster Road Race

Last day, I was so ready to be done, but as a Pro and loving to race I sucked it up and got out to fight hard.  This course was basically the same as the 2nd day course but backwards, and finishing on top of the climb (the gila monster).  The first set of hills were tough and my legs felt like bricks, but I stayed calm and hung onto the pack.  Into the valley it was a huge fight as the wind split up the group and made it hard just to stay in.  Through the rollers and slight uphill the wind did ease however and I was able to settle in the pack for some “rest”.  The race went by so fast that by the time I looked at my garmin we had already done 50km, in just over an hour.  The pack got to the bottom of the climb, the Gila Monster, which is basically 16km up, and the group shattered. I stayed relaxed and started at a good pace.  By about 3km in I had passed quite a few people and found myself with a couple other riders going at the same speed.  I stayed with them and then just as the hill turned into rollers and some downhill 3 of them dropped back and our group became 5.  We rode steady all the way to the finish and I was really happy with my performance and how I felt on this last grueling day.

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Tour of the Gila was an amazing experience.  I did not finish very high in the GC, but I also entered this race not expecting to do well.  The objective was more for fitness, experience and to keep racing.  Each day I had ups and downs, but I am happy with how I pushed myself each day and came out with solid results.

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Awesome mural in Silver City done for the 30th anniversary of the Tour of the Gila

 

Now I am back in Santa Fe and ready for some big time REST! Going through over a month of travel, racing, and packing I am stronger but also tired.  Redlands, Joe Martin, and Gila have given me another gear and I am excited to keep racing…. soon.

I will be here for 2 weeks, and then travel to Winston-Salem, NC for USA Pro Nationals and the Winston-Salem Classic UCI race.

 

 

Joe Martin Stage Race

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This past week I raced Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  It was 4 days and this year UCI, so the level of competition was much higher.  With teams like United Healthcare, Tibco, DNA, and Colavita there was a fight for each stage.  I wasn’t with my SAS Mazda team, but guest road for a smaller team out of Tucson, AZ.

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Stage 1: Time Trial

3 Miles uphill.  I gave a good effort but did not place very well in this.  Hills are not my specialty and a TT that is just that does not favor my strengths.

Stage 2: 95km/65mile Road Race

From the start it was hard and fast, with lots of attacks and attempts to break away.  There was one larger climb, but nothing major to break up the front of the field.  I stayed comfortable in the pack and it wasn’t until the last 10km that attacks were being shot off and everyone was pushing for position.  I went into the last technical section in a great position.  I made the final turn and into the finishing stretch feeling great.  The sprint was a slight uphill and I stayed strong to the line.  24th for the day. Wanted top 10, but my legs are building sprint power so cant quite compete with sprinters like Coryn Rivera.

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Stage 3: 95km/65miles Road Race

Another day of attacks from the start. I felt comfortable though and stayed with the pack.  The course did 2 loops of a circuit with a few steeper but short hills.  The first lap was pretty calm, but then the second lap consisted of catching one breakaway and then another getting away.  So this made the pace pick up a lot. At the top of the loop there was a clean break between the more climber specific riders and the tt and sprinters.  The groups ended up joining though before long.  Once we hit the final 20km the pace picked up and went hard.  Into 10km to go attacks were going and making things really exciting.  At 2km to go Lauren Stephens attacked and Linda Villumsen (world champion in time trial) got on her wheel, I was in good positioning and went with it.  We broke away for a brief moment but then as I pulled through we were caught.  Going into a right curve there was a crash in front of me and at that point I was in about 20th place and just wanted to be safe.  So I got around it and got to the finish line without a problem and with the pack.

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Stage 4: 50min Criterium

This was a really hard day.  The course has a technical section at the top through town and then flies downhill before making it around to Church hill where the finish is at the top.  It was hard every time up.  I was working and struggling just a couple laps in, but still staying in.  About 10 minutes in my stomach started really hurting and cramping.  I was pretty certain I would drop back and off the group, but I stayed calm and didn’t panic.  I managed to drink and get the pain to go away.  But the race didn’t get any easier, teams kept attacking and pushing the pace so the downhill was always strung out and fast as hell.  Into the last couple laps there was one rider that got away and I had to dig extra deep to stay near the front of the pack.  Then the last lap was all out and I was pushing so hard.  Into the final climb I worked as hard as I could but was content finishing with the pack.  31st .

GC 35th. out of 65 finishers. 104 started.

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Now I’m at a friend’s farm for a couple days before I head back to Tucson.  It’s nice to relax and recover a bit after the race.  Next up will be Tour of the Gila in Silver City, NM starting next Wednesday.

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Update Post California to Montreal

After the San Dimas Stage Race, we packed up and made a quick transfer to Redlands, CA.  The race started on Wednesday so there wasn’t much time for relax and recovery, but that was ok because I was excited to keep racing.

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Highlands Circuit: The first day was really hot and a delay at the start made sitting on our bikes in the sun a bit more of a strain.  But once the race started the tough circuit settled in quickly and made me remember the difficulty of this race.  I felt good until the last couple laps when I started feeling overheated and my mind wasn’t as clear.  I finished just at the back of the front pack as it came single file to the finish line.

Oak Glenn Road Race: The morning was cool and cloudy but luckily no rain.  I stayed comfortable in the pack and near the front so didn’t get caught up or even notice any of the couple crashes that happened.  After 3 long loops the course turned left and up a 10km climb to the finish.  I was with the front group, but about 4km in started to struggle with the hard pace.  It was at that point that the pack split up anyway and riders went up at their own pace.  I didn’t have any wonderful result or high expectation with this hilly stage, but was satisfied with a solid finish.

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Greenspot TT:  Not such a great day.  The 7 mile course was fun, and without rain the right hand downhill turn was fun and not dangerous, but my legs just weren’t there.  I couldn’t get the power I needed on the uphill and turning the big gears just felt like going backwards.  I put in a good effort though and pushed.

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Downtown Crit:  Probably my favorite stage.  It was fast, technical and my best result.  After multiple crashes and near crashes on the course I stayed in good position and felt good throughout.  Going into the last couple laps I had great positioning and worked to keep it into the final.  In the last couple corners though I didn’t maintain top 10 and that was the deciding factor for placement.  So I could have done better, but 13th was a great result for this tough race.

IMG_6142Sunset Loop:  This was a day I could have a really great result.  I was ready and excited going into it.  Through the not so neutral start I positioned myself well and worked to stay near the front.  Once the technical part and hill started I dug to stay in.  I was with the front group for 2 laps, but then the fatigue of the suffering sunk in and I had trouble staying on.  In retrospect I was really stupid and made the big mistake of not eating or taking a gel during those first 20 miles.  So that fatigue was lack of sugar and my muscles were having enough of the strain.  I dropped back, but was still with a couple riders (that ended up making back to the front group).  Unfortunately at this point it is hard to come back from bonking and I worked to stay up.  Ive learned with this race though that anything can happen and to keep working, because not too long after it began to pour rain and the group I was with got split up very quickly.  At the top of the hill I noticed my tired was dragging and it tended up being a flat.  So I kept riding and knew I had to get to the feed zone or I would be stuck, out, and without a new wheel.  Once I made it however I was pretty far back and not much I could do to get back on.  So I kept riding with a few other riders that had gotten dropped way before me, and sure enough on the next lap we got pulled from the race.  Not the finish or result I wanted at this race, but I learned a lot and had a great experience with my team.

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Even though we had a small team at Redlands it was a fun group and our director worked really hard to help us have the best race we possibly could.  3 of the 5 of us made it to the last stage.  Lindsey was 3rd for Amatuer Rider’s Jersey.  And Audrey finished solid all around.

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After the race it was a very fast pack up and fly out to Montreal, Canada.  I am now here for the week and we have already had a team photo shoot, sponsor party/event where the team was presented, and then this morning a bike fit for my TT bike.  It has been a lot, but I am so excited to be a part of this and the team has been really great.  I fly out on Monday for Arkansas where I’ll compete next week in the Joe Martin Stage Race.

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Some pictures from Montreal

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the photo shoot and having fun with my teammates heels 🙂IMG_6192Getting my TT bike fitted and dialed in

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Racing in California

Let the racing begin!

San Dimas Stage Race Results:

Time Trial: Bad

Road Race: 9th

Criterium: 7th

team picPicture of my team this year

This weekend was the San Dimas Stage Race.  The first step to big national stage racing of the season.  First day was the Time Trial which is a 4.25 mile uphill TT.  I’ll just say that didn’t go so well.  But I focused on my strengths and what I could do in the Road Race and Criterium.

That worked out well for me.  Yesterday in the road race I finished 9th.  It was a tough circuit of 8 laps with a kicker hill of about 200m.  I stayed in and comfortable through the attacks and set up well for the finishing sprint.  My goal was top 10 for the race, so 9th was very solid.

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Today in the Criterium the race started fast, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  There was an early break about 15minutes in and I made an attack to bridge to it.  We stayed away about 2 laps and then the group caught us on an intermediate sprint lap (a lap within the race where the first to the line can gain an extra time bonus for the overall race).  The rest of the race remained controlled with a few attacks and a couple other breaks, but they didn’t last long and were soon pulled back.  I set up very well for the finish and went into the last turn in 5th position.  Coming out of the fast turn it was a matter of giving it my all and sprinting to the line.  I was passed by 2 girls but held the 7th spot over the line.  It was a fun and fast race.  Each day I am getting faster and stronger.

Next week, wednesday starts Redlands Bicycle Classic, a 5 day stage race in Redlands California.  I am excited for the tough race and know I can perform well.