TORRENCE CRITERIUM: MCCULLOCH WINS WOMEN’S EVENT!

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Photo Credit: Angel Castillo

By Joy McCulloch (KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo)

The Torrence Criterium is tough! The wind whips around the 6-turn course and makes the final sprint one that torpedoes straight into the block-headwind. Another factor that makes this event so challenging is the smaller field size. With literally nowhere to hide, the racers are on the pedals for the duration of the race, making a breakaway inevitable in our field.

As we lined up, I was excited to see several strong solo competitors from Jet Cycling and Professional teams BMW Happy Tooth and Tibco, as well as a talented assortment of LaGrange, SBW and other local athletes. I knew the race would be aggressive from the start, so I chose to hang back ever so slightly and take notes on who was going to animate the race and try and make things exciting.

Within the first 15 minutes, the field had broken into two pieces, and I had placed myself in the front group of 6 that would ultimately take it to the line for a sprint finish. Having won on this course in 2013 and finishing 3rd in 2014, I had a list of mental notes on what to do. And more importantly, what NOT to do. As the break was nearing the finishing laps, riders began attacking. I knew that if a strong rider or two got a gap going into the long tailwind section on the backside, they could easily gain enough traction to stay away to the finish. I did not want that to happen, so I committed to either being on the wheel of the attack or pulling the move back and waiting for the next attack.

The breakaway was comprised of very strong riders and I knew that some of them were crafty enough to launch an attack in the last lap in an attempt to get away solo into the headwind finish.
Luckily for me, the attack went at the start finish and I was able to jump on Michelle from BMW/Happy Tooth through the quick left hander before she got too far. As the pace picked up, I wanted to be 3rd wheel and 2nd position would be even better. I knew I would need to be patient coming into the last two turns and that holding my spot was imperative to solidifying the win.

With 2 turns to go, we whipped through the wind from the tailwind section directly into the wind in the short section before the final turn. I hunkered down as much as I could, knowing we were about to turn right on the long finishing straight. As we made the turn, the wind came even stronger across my left shoulder and I knew that the path to victory was up the right gutter, slightly buffered from severity of the wind.
My coach and team director Paul Abrahams was on the final turn and I heard him yelling, so I just went for it! That was one LONG sprint! But he didn’t actually say “GO”. Things do get lost in translation, especially with howling wind. Initiating the move was better than waiting and being on the defensive, so it all worked out. Thankfully, I was able to get a gap on the breakaway with my initial jump and hold it to the finish line with a bike throw.

I am always thankful for a chance to race my bike, to practice tactics and have the opportunity to be mindful about how I race my bicycle. Thank you to the Peninsula Cycling Club for putting on the Torrence Criterium, and especially thank you for offering junior women’s races, a women’s 3/4 event as well as the women’s 1/2/3. And thank you for the solid prize purse as well!

 

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©Danny Munson

Thank you to our sponsors: KHS Bicycles, Maxxis Tires, JLVelo, Serfas, Shimano, Velo Saddles, Praxis Works, Xpedo Pedals, Kali Protectives, NDXSports, Bike Religion, Bicycle Blue Book, WD-40 BIKE, Chamois Butt’r, Cycling Illustrated, Rennie & Associates, Kramp Krushers, Ultra Cycle, and Q2.

Follow the team on social media –

Facebook: KHS-Maxxis-JLVelo

Twitter: @iPA_Sports

Race Report: Golden State Race Series- Crit (Women’s P123)

Words by Marissa Axell (Metromint Cycling p/b The Freewheel)

Golden State Race Series in Rancho Cordova, CA is a wonderful and well supported event thanks to the tireless efforts of the Rio Strada racing team. The course features 2.3 miles of flat, nearly flawless pavement, endless corners, and wind, lots of wind.
The Women 1-2-3 and the Master Women’s 1-2-3 categories raced together. The previous day saw Tina Hughes (ICE Sportswear p/b Pinnacle Racing)  and Amanda Seigle (Jakroo Racing Team) take first and second respectively, and I knew they were leading the omnium going into Sunday’s circuit race.
The day was warm, but cooler than the prior day, and the winds picked up steadily throughout the day. Nearly 30 women toed the start line, where we were given directions, and informed that the opening laps would be two back-to-back prime laps.
The whistle blew and we were off on our 60 minute circuit race. After the first prime, the pace picked up as a counter attack of Hanna Muegge (Mikes Bikes) and Mary Ellen Ash (Metromint Cycling p/b the Freewheel) contested the second prime. The two stayed off the front until Aliya Triafacante (amain.com) had enough and brought them back. I counter attacked and took a few others with me, but it was quickly shut down again.
One lap later, the pace lulled substantially, and I peered around me to see many tired faces so I decided I should attack right then, in the open cross/headwind section because I could feel the peloton was tired. So 20 minutes into the 60 minute race I attacked again and after a minute of a solid effort, I looked back to see a substantial gap. I promised myself that I would work hard for the next two minutes to see what would happen, and then make a decision. I quickly garnered 20 and then 30 seconds on the field. After doing the mental tally I put all my chips on the table, I was all in.
After cursing myself for setting up a 35 minute time trial, I settled into a rhythm on each section depending on the wind conditions. Over the next 35 minutes, the gap opened to 40sec, then back down to 17, then back up to 30 seconds. The final 3 laps I knew I could win, and this gave me the extra energy needed to stay off the front. I crossed the finish with both hands in the air and a goofy smile on my face, about 20 seconds ahead of the chasing peloton.
Thanks to my awesome Metromint Cycling p/b The Freewheel teammates of Mary Ellen Ash, Kerry Stivaletti, and Ann Stuart for helping Metromint to the win with their work in the peloton to keep me out front.   Congrats to Tina Hughes (ICE Sportswear p/b Pinnacle Racing), Amanda Siegle (Jackroo Racing) and Aliya Trifacante (amain.com) for going 1-2-3 in the Golden State Omnium. Thank you to NCNCA Women committee and Women’s Series for going all out and supporting the series of races with prizes and encouraging more and more women to race.
Marissa Axell lives in Oakland, CA.

Race Reports: Barrio Logan and Dana Point Grand Prix (Women’s P12)

Words by: Gretchen Stumhofer (SPY Giant RIDE p/b GQ6)

Last Thursday I took Step 1, the first of three licensing exams taken during medical school. It’s a right of passage in medicine and it covers an unimaginable amount of material. To say the least, the last few months have been epically challenging off of the bike (thank goodness I had my bike to keep me sane). So, on Friday after finishing my exam I went down to the Velodrome to hang out with friends, celebrate being done, and do some Friday night racing—because what better way to prepare for a weekend of more races?

Barrio Logan

Saturday morning was rough but thankfully the Women’s P1/2/3 race at the 19th Annual Barrio Logan Grand Prix wasn’t until the afternoon. I’d never done this race before and didn’t know much about it other than that it’s right next to one of the coolest places in all of San Diego, Chicano Park (check it out if you haven’t been). After a short warm-up, some course recon with teammates, and a quick team meeting, the race was underway. Following an early prime, a break with teammate Pam and two of the Monster Media ladies went off. When a couple of others went to chase down the break I followed. Shortly after, teammates Jenny and Angelica, bridged with another group. On the next lap another prime was called. Rounding the last corner near the front I decided to go for it. I took the prime and when I looked back saw that no one was particularly close. I decided to go. It was certainly a risk riding off the front and attempting to hold it for 25 minutes but I felt confident knowing that I had all of my teammates working for me. The next few laps were painful, but from my experience as a rower it’s the kind of lactate threshold workout I know and love. I was able to hold the solo break, lap the field on the final straightaway, and take the win in this awesome hometown race! Super big thanks to the Cat 3/4 men for donating some of their winnings and SPY for putting in a little extra cash and making efforts towards equal payouts and equality in cycling—these kind of gestures are what make me proud to be part of this cycling community.

 Dana Point

On Sunday morning instead of driving south, it was north to the Dana Point Grand Prix. This race is really well put on, supports a great cause, and is in one of the coolest beach communities in Southern California. But it also comes with all of the intimidation factors: it’s fast, it’s known for its crashes, and this year it was an NCC race with $12,000 in prizes. Some of the big teams with the big-time crit racers from all around the country and even a couple of international Olympians turned out. As my first NCC race, and with very little crit experience outside of collegiate races in small fields, my main goal was just to stay upright and off the cement. To me it seems like the best way to achieve this goal is to ride near the front at all times–sometimes easier said than done, but the backside of this course had some good spots to work your way back up though the washing machine. Staying near the front, I tried to follow anything that looked like a break. Nothing was sticking though, and it became pretty obvious that the race was going to come down to a field sprint. By 2 laps to go I was feeling pretty comfortable and sitting 3rd wheel. In the last lap things got a little more hectic. It did my best to maintain my position, and though I was able to stay within the front 10 I did lose a little more speed than I would have liked in the final corner. In the end I sprinted into 6th. More than stoked about this result and to be in the top 10 at a race like this! Pam came in right after in 9th and Jen not far behind in 18th.

All in all it was another great weekend for the SPY women’s team, a team I feel incredibly lucky to be part of. Being pretty new to racing, I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much from my teammates, each of whom with their own distinct strengths and who collectively have shared an invaluable wealth of knowledge and experience with me this year. Did I mention that every single member of our team has been on a podium this season too? Yup, my team is awesome!

Gretchen Stumhofer lives in San Diego, CA.

Eleven Things To Know About Being A Cyclist’s Wife:

Eleven Things To Know About Being A Cyclist’s Wife: By Christina Barton

 

I have been a cyclist’s wife (and girlfriend) for nearly six years now. I have come a long way since the days when I didn’t think cycling was a team sport and these are the things I have learned to be the best cyclist’s wife I can be:

 

  • When you arrive at a road race be ready to be in the feed zone for 4 hours in the blazing hot sun to hand off 2 bottles that will most likely be dropped.

 

  • Never take Dave Santos seriously when he says to motor pace a teammate back to the group during the race. This is not only illegal, but I would probably hit a few riders in an attempt to do this.

 

  • Keep reminding your husband that shaved legs and spandex are sexy.

 

  • If you are in the pit during a criterium, it is important to stop looking at Pinterest on your phone to hand a rider on your team a wheel when he gets a flat. They do not like it when they have to wait for you to pin the article on how to make cookies in a microwave.

 

  • Be willing to give up your car to the team director at any moment because when he is in race mode that man can be scary as hell! Disclaimer: Paul Abrahams is actually the nicest guy in the world.

 

  • Try not to be jealous of the podium girls when they are kissing your husband after he wins.

 

  • Listen to your husband talk about everything that happened in the race and pretend to understand all of the lingo — He was riding 27s? No way! (Is that a thing?)

 

  • If a rider crashes during a race and is bleeding from his head, do not stand in the way crying and saying to yourself you did this with your mind because he is on a different team.

 

  • Keep other wives posted on what’s going on during the race if they are unable to make it, unless their husband is not doing well.

 

  • Pretend it’s not the millionth time someone at the race asks you, “Oh, so you ride bikes too?” To answer this question-No, I do not also ride. I believe my husband rides enough for the both of us!

 

  • Be understanding when he cannot text you 3 seconds after the race is over to tell you the results.

 

  • And the most important thing you can do as a cyclist’s wife is to be supportive. I am so proud of my husband and I think what he does it not only cool, but takes so much discipline and I really respect that.
Photo Credit: Michael Ratcliff, Action Media LLC

Christina’s Husband Chris Barton: Photo Credit: Michael Ratcliff, Action Media LLC

Race Report: Wente Vineyards Classic Road Race (Women’s P123)

IMG_6838-X3Words by: Leah Thomas (Metromint Cycling p/b The Freewheel)

Wente Road Race has always been a Norcal classic.  It seems to offer a little bit of everything: a steep climb, rollers, fast descents, narrow roads, and wind.  I had never raced Wente before, but always held it as an iconic race in my mind.  Our race was to be 62 miles, which meant four complete laps but five times up the steep finishing climb, Carroll Road.

Race day featured beautiful weather with only a moderate amount of wind.  Due to the Joe Martin Stage Race and the Sequoia Classic (a new crit in the area offering equal prize money for men and women), Wente’s eleven-woman P/1/2 field was smaller than normal.  The teams were fairly evenly divided: three from Metromint Cycling p/b The Freewheel, two from Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffees, two from Zoca p/b Halo Spots, two from Folsom Bike/Trek, and a handful of individual riders.

The race started out at a fairly fast clip, as my teammate Stephanie Hines pulled hard up the first climb on Carroll Road.  I had been sitting on her wheel, but I eased up as we turned onto Flynn.  As Stephanie pulled away, Diane Moug of Folsom Bikes bridged to join her.  Just when the pack was reeling them back in, my teammate Joanna Dahl attacked, and despite efforts from Folsom and Zoca to close the gap, Joanna stayed away and managed to open her lead to 85 seconds going into the third lap.

Having a teammate off the front is wonderful: I sat in and let the other girls work around me.  However, despite Joanna being off the front, at the base of Caroll on the third lap, I attacked.

Uncertain if the girls were going to try to put together a string of attacks, and feeling less than fresh after hard week of training, I didn’t want to give them the opportunity to drop me by attacking on their own terms.  Furthermore, if I wasn’t in a break to aid Joanna as it caught her, I was unsure if she would be able to accelerate strongly enough to latch on after spending so much time alone in the wind. Diane, along with Zoca’s Bethany Allen, stayed with me up the hill.  As soon as our break was formed, I sat up, forcing Diane and Bethany to decide if they wanted to work to get up to Joanna or let the pack come back together.  They decided to work.

We caught Joanna with a lap and a half to go, and we added her to our break as we passed by.  The break worked well together for the last lap and a half or so, with few attack attempts.  Any excitement was to wait for the final climb.  Joanna put in an attack on Altamont Pass leading up to the final Caroll climb, and was brought back.  I counter-attacked as Joanna was caught, and was also brought back.  I sat up once again, which gave Joanna a moment to catch back up to us and counter once more.  Though Joanna was caught as we turned onto Carol, her efforts would ultimately be the ones that allowed me to win the race.

The final climb was a strong hard effort, and as I turned up the power as it flattened out, I began to pull away.  My legs burned over the final 200 meters, and although I had a gap, I could see Bethany behind me sprinting and closing quickly.  The finish line couldn’t come soon enough, and I was able to just eek out Bethany to the line.

All in all, the day was successful, and it felt fantastic to work so well with Joanna to put Metromint atop the podium in such an iconic race.

Leah Thomas lives in Sunnyvale, CA. 

Kirchmann (Optum) Wins Stage Two of Joe Martin Stage Race

Cycling Illustrated

Kirchmann Wins Stage Two of Joe Martin Stage Race
April 25th | Fayetteville, AR
Reigning Canadian road race, time trial, and criterium champion Leah Kirchmann won stage two of the Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, Arkansas yesterday, out-kicking a select group of riders in a tough uphill finish after 94 kilometers of racing. Her win, and its subsequent time bonus, moved the Canadian star into fourth overall on general classification and into the sprint classification lead. She was motivated for the possibilities her biggest win of 2015 on American soil could mean for the weekend of racing in Arkansas.

“I felt really confident in our strength as a team coming into Joe Martin after our victory at team time trial nationals,” she said. “It was definitely a physical and mental boost to race and win the team time trial before heading to Arkansas – I’m feeling strong and today was a great course for us, and the team helped put me in great position on the final climb to the finish. I can’t wait to see what we can do in the overall classification this week!”

Performance Director Patrick McCarty comments on the team’s strategy and tactics that helped make the win possible:

“I knew we could take the win today with Leah, but the strategy was in how to also move her, or one of our other riders, up in the overall standings. The course was hilly at first, with one fairly significant climb halfway through. It was a course you had to pay attention on, and one which could certainly put a lot of pressure on the race. I did not think it was a good day, though, for us to put a big effort into anything other than the finish – the finish was technical and difficult with some steep pitches, and energy needed to be saved for it. It became clear that our best strategy was to be patient, stay out of trouble and put everything into a good finish for Leah. The stage win, time bonus and possible time gaps were our motivation. Leah now sits 4th overall and spitting distance of the podium. The ladies all rode well today. More consistent, solid performances in the rest of this race will lift us further up in the standings.”

The Joe Martin Stage race continues today, with another, more challenging road race, and concludes on Sunday with a classic downtown criterium.

Race Report: San Dimas Stage Race (Women’s P123)

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Words by: Starla Teddergreen (Fearless Femme p/b Haute Wheels)

Déjà vu la course.

Perhaps it is a simply a matter of forgetfulness, or a mechanism of self preservation, yet I stand at the starting line of San Dimas Stage Race unable to recall my experiences from years’ past. Glimmers of special memories reserve a spot in my mind while the rest fades away. Memories of chasing Ina Tutenberg into the fog, or trying to hold on up the cobbled neighborhood ascent. Each memory recalls a distinct kind of suffering and before I know it that memory door slams shut. If I could fully remember the suffering of each race, I might not start the next.

Although the memories are sparse, this year was very clearly unlike any other in many ways. The field consisted of an incredible 110 women suffering through unusually high temperatures. I arrived with a team of four amazing women who had driven a tightly packed car 23hrs across country directly from team camp. We came prepared for a hard race, yet breathed calmly as there was no stress, no pressure, and no expectation. We were there to watch, learn, and have fun. Mentally this changes every thing.

San Dimas Stage Race opens with a winding uphill TT. The secret to doing well at this stage is conserving just enough energy to navigate the endless switchbacks with smooth, steady, and measured suffering. I was not the fastest on the course that day but was satisfied given my TT experience. I was focused on learning to pace myself. Photos from the event revealed a cool, calm and collected Starla. Winning.

Day 2 consisted of a newly revised Road Race course, including Heckler Hill. It was fast, exciting, relatively safe, and spectator friendly. Perhaps the first year in which I did not witness a crash. In short, the road race was awesome to be a part of: Watching Visit Dallas Cycling Team take control of the pace as they defended teammate and race leader, Amber Neben. Observing the finesse of Optum as they dominated hot lap points, defending teammate Briana Walle in the green jersey. At the start of the Road Race, Walle was a mere 30 seconds down from Neben. It was a beautiful dance of control and suffering.

I said I was here to learn, and that is what I did. Floating near the front of the peloton I was able to observe the race and team strategies. I was gaining confidence in my fitness, hanging with the lead group up every climb with minimal struggle. Then it struck; I had become so immersed in the learning experience that I had underestimated my fluid intake. At two laps to go and no longer any opportunities to receive a feed, I was out of water; covered in salt, and watching the field ride away. What had I done to my self? I was joined by several other riders and we worked together pushing each other to make time cut. One poignant memory from this moment was the final ascent up heckler hill to the tune of “Yesterday” by the Beatles. Really? Yesterday?

Finally, the stage I had been patiently waiting for. San Dimas Stage Race concludes with a Criterium. At the start, the Visit Dallas Cycling Team was still in the lead with Optum close in contention for the overall win. The race was fast, controlled, and splintering at the back.

I was reminded that road racers do not race Criterium and vice versa. So I made sure to stay near the front at all times. With two laps to go, Amber Gaffney of 2016 attacked and had an 8 sec lead. Entering the bell lap, a crash ensued. With some evasive maneuvering, I chased back on to the group. With all teammates accounted for, we got in formation ready to delivery a podium finish. Only to be neutralized with two corners left in the race.

We resumed now with 3 laps to go. Amber Gaffney re-established her lead, but now with a whole peloton of rested cyclists on the chase. I fought hard to regain position. With one lap to go, Gaffney was caught and our team was together again only to be pinched in the corner while evading another riders’ crash provoking maneuver. I chased back on to catch the GC leader’s wheel in the final corner. Still separated from my teammates by a field of breaking riders. Teammates Christy and Mandy made it through taking 3rd and 6th respectively, while I closed it down for 13th. It was not the finish I know I am capable of but I was stoked to see my girls up there and representing on the podium. Impressed by Visit Dallas for keeping the yellow jersey by a mere .07 seconds. A hard fought win.

For a training race I think we accomplished a great deal, learned lessons in hydration, TT pacing, and racing Criteriums with Road specialists. I also had a lot of fun getting to know new teammates and enjoying the CA sun! Next up is Redlands where we will be ready and focused to apply what we have learned.

Starla Teddergreen lives in Portland, ORE. 

Race Report: San Dimas Stage Race (Women’s P123)

Bonelli-119.jpgWords by: Amber Neben

Whoa that was fun. Of course, winning is always fun, and winning as a team where everyone contributes to make it happen is even better. I had a big ride in the TT on Friday to get it started, and then my Visit Dallas Cycling Team won the race by their efforts and hard work in the road race and crit! It’s a great way for me to kick off the season, and it is a special ‘big’ win for the team.

Here’s how it happened:

The race kicked off with the 4.25mile uphill time trial on the front side of Glendora Mountain, GMR to the locals. It was hotter and windier than I ever remember it being, but then I could just be getting old and forgetful. The race is pretty straight forward. It’s an all-out 17ish minute effort: Get out hard, find your riding and breathing rhythm, dial in mentally, and then hang on. I’d been training really hard up to the Sunday before, so I wasn’t sure how I would go. At the end of the day, I popped off a ride worthy of winning and was encouraged with my power numbers and how I felt.

That night, I drove home to do team laundry and sleep in my own bed. It seemed like an excellent idea until I managed to kick and catch the rim of my car tire with my pinky toe. I kicked/caught it hard enough to rip that baby sideways. Mama mia. No joke. I looked down, and it was pointed perpendicular to the rest of my toes. I looked away as fast as I could and hollered at my husband to come over fast. I said, “Jason, I need you to straighten my toe right now. Just straighten it NOW.” He did not flinch. My poor husband has endured a lot with me, and I love him dearly. Thankfully, he’s also a handyman and simply knelt down and pushed that little guy straight back in place. YOWSERS. There was some more cracking, but at least it was pointed forward, and I had a chance to get my cycling shoe on. (X-Rays showed I ripped it off and didn’t dislocate it. Better for the long run and riding while it heals.)

There were lots of ice and prayer overnight and a step of faith in the morning when I tried to get my shoe on. Actually, that may have been the hardest part of the day. After what seemed like 20 minutes, lots of deep breaths, and some careful nudging, I got it on. I felt a little nauseous for a couple hours, but then the race adrenaline kicked in, and I was good to go.

More importantly, my Visit Dallas Cycling p/b Noise team of Olivia Dillon, Anna Sanders, Anna Grace Christiansen, Flavia Oliveira, Beth Ann Orton, Mia “Mango” Manganello, and Kat Hunter ALL had my back. They were on a mission to win the race, and I knew I could trust they would take care of me. Sure enough… they were on their “A” games. All of them.

In the road race, Anna Grace and Beth set a mean tempo the first half of the race to keep things under control. Then every lap after, they were always on the front stringing things out into the downhill. Meanwhile, Olivia was around to do what was needed, when it was needed. She is an awesome road captain with me, and she does such a good job of orchestrating the team plan. Anna and Flavia were key on the climb every lap. They were able to go with any attacks and keep us in a great position. Mia was either rolling tempo or setting up for a big finish. While Kat, who has very limited race experience, made huge progress and contributed in the beginning and at the end to give Beth and Anna Grace a breather at just the right time. At the end of the day, they did their jobs, and I snuck in for two, third-place one-second time bonuses, salvaging what turned out to be a critical 2 seconds. Although Optum had successfully taken 10 seconds in sprint bonuses, we still had the yellow jersey… barely.

I had a 16.7 sec lead, but the criterium on Sunday offered up 16 seconds in time bonuses. It was going to be dangerously tight. When God made me a cyclist, he gifted me with a big engine and slow twitch legs. I do have one single fast twitch fiber available for that survival moment to escape the dog or car, but it’s not that helpful in a bunch sprint, so my team becomes critically important for success. With that in mind, we went on the offensive to try to take the legs out of the Optum team leadout.

Everyone on my team raced their hearts out. I was so impressed and thankful. Everyone played a huge role. There were attacks, counters, and pressure put on the others all day. Although they didn’t get themselves in a position to win, they successfully did what needed to be done. With a couple laps to go, Amber Gaffney (TWENTY16 Pro Cycling) got off solo and was able to secure a big gap. She was on her way to a victory and taking the 10second time bonus, but unfortunately a crash on the finish straight before our final lap caused the race to be neutralized at the top of the hill.

After a short break, we ended up rolling back to the start/finish – restarting for an additional 3 laps. Unfortunately that meant that Gaffney’s effort, which had put her in a position to win, was cancelled out. Instead, we ended up going to the line in a bunch sprint and Optum’s amazing sprint train did exactly what needed to be done, and Brianna Walle got a big stage win. Lucky for us, though, that 0.7 seconds held up, and we won!!!

It was a great 3 days of racing. The team gained some confidence and realized what their true capabilities are. We’ll continue to make strides as we go! Pressing on to the next event now…The Redlands Classic.

Thanks for reading… follow me on twitter at @amberneben or my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/amber.neben.9.

Amber Neben lives in Irvine, CA.

She’s Back!! Race Report: Tour de Murrieta (Women’s P123)

Murrieta-Criterium-71

Words by: Trina Jacobson

TAKING A STEP BACK

I can’t believe September 2013 was my last post here on Cycling Illustrated. I certainly started my break from writing with a bang (yay!), but that was also the last time I was on the podium (sigh).

2014 was an ebb year, personally. Personal life takes a lot of energy to keep balanced and when faced with life transitions, the energy goes there. It has to. With a finite amount of energy to expend, more energy there means less energy to cycling; and it began to wear on me big time. Yet I still tried to race with my team to stay connected with my cycling family. I felt like a mushy passenger on my bike most of the year but I was able to contribute to a few successes.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t categorize the season as “fun”.

Sometime in the fall, as I began to feel whole again, I started working in earnest on making my life the way I want it to be. That small change in how I looked at life started attracting good energy in the people and opportunities around me. Most specifically, an opportunity to work at SPY Optic in Carlsbad, CA. Once landing the job, it was a no-brainer to commit to the team SPY sponsors: SPY-Giant-RIDE pb GQ6.

I eased myself back into riding more than twice a week mostly by having an explorer’s attitude about the area the office is located in, making new riding friends, and trying new group rides.  

 THE TOUR DE MURRIETA

At the risk of this entire race reporting sounding like one gigantic #humblebrag, here’s how the Tour de Murrieta Grand Prix played out for the team and my thought process throughout.

The team meets before and after each race. This meeting was quick: it was a different scenario than our last team race at the San Diego Omnium, where we had the numbers and it was our race to lose. Our plan was to be patient today. Be active, but patient for the right opportunity to go with a break…or lead Trina out for the field sprint.

….wait, what? Trina? Me?

I knew I had been riding enough and had gotten enough intensity to hang in, but sprint at the end of the one of the more technical and fast crits in SoCal with that looooong straight finish?

It was hot and I didn’t warm up much. I felt a hunger pang and wished I’d had that snack on my drive. My helmet felt tight. I was suddenly concerned with whether my hands would be too hot in my full fingered gloves.

Breathe, Trina, breathe.

I was active early in the race alongside team-mates Pam, Jenny, Angelica, and Jen. I thought to myself, “I am NOT fit enough for this, get your butt back into the field.” At which time a prime strung the field out and I felt in jeopardy of disconnecting from the field. It slowed just a tad for me to get back in and I happened to be in position to follow the next attack. So, I went again.

I don’t much remember the middle part of the race. Jenny was on a solo effort for several laps, then Pam. Pam went for a prime which rolled into a group of 3 or 4 getting a small gap on the field. I prayed for it to stick so that, selfishly, I’d not have the pressure to perform in a field sprint.

At 7 laps to go I was on the front again. “I must be the stupidest sprinter ever….get back, get BACK!” At 5 laps to go I actually told my teammate, “You gotta do it. You sprint.” At 2 laps to go, I was somehow behind Pam. I let her know I was there with my super-secret password. I could immediately tell she went from positioning herself to positioning whatever teammate was behind her. She’s rad like that.

Last lap, corner 3: That’s a sharp curb.

Last lap, corner 5 (second to last corner): I lost a position (or two), but knew it’d be ok as it’s a long way to the finish after the last corner. BE PATIENT (while railing a corner).

Last lap, last corner: I found Pam at the same time I saw the gap opening up behind Amber Gaffney of Twenty16. BE PATIENT.

I’m Pam started to go around a few women and I knew I’d better go or I’d get swarmed. YAY! I’m gonna get second! Wait…SECOND?! WTF, Trina! Click, click… I’m closing the gap…this gear is too hard…this one is too easy…there’s the line, there’s the line, there’s…the…LINE!

Murrieta-Criterium-69

“SHE’S BACK”

No longer feeling like a mere passenger on my bike, we rolled around the course, stopping to pick up a piece of asphalt that was in the middle of the road. Pam gave it to me as a souvenir and I’m pretty sure it will sit alongside the crystal trophy TdM awarded.

I took a moment to lay down in the shade and found myself shedding a few tears. After a huge physical effort, I can be a little emotional. I hadn’t yet seen his photos, but I was sure Danny Munson got The Shot. I thought about photos he’s taken of me over the past few years. I know exactly what mental and physical space I was in for each of them and today’s shot was full circle to the one that introduced us….a win and smiles. I told him, “This last year was hard. Really hard.” Then, we chatted about family.

I am hesitant to say that I’m back (mostly because I never really left and I’m sure I’d be happy never winning another race again), but my pack mates and friends greeted me with, “She’s BAAAACK!” My teammates made me laugh about looking like a dude in a trucker hat right before podium.

I celebrated with a brisket sandwich and a coke.