One would be hard-pressed to identify an individual better qualified for In the Arena's programs than Lea. One could safely say she has the Midas Touch: everything she touches turns to gold whether it's her undefeated high school cross-country season, her collegiate skiing and road cycling titles, her sparkling mountain biking career, or importantly, her Little Bellas program. This last, a social entrepreneurial venture co-launched by Lea and her sister Sabra, will be the focus of Lea's youth development work. As such, she and Sabra will continue to develop the valuable and meaningful mountain bike mentoring program for young girls in Northern New England and nationwide. For more information on the Little Bellas, please visit the organization's website: www.littlebellas.com
|Years Racing||10/8 Pro|
|Favorite Race||Mount Snow, VT|
|Nickname||LLC (there's a story behind it)|
|2-time World Championship team member, Mountain Biking|
|5-time National Champion, Mountain Biking|
|Eastern NCCA Road Champion, Cycling|
|Eastern Slalom Collegiate Champion, Skiing|
|Team Captain, Skiing|
|2-time VT State Champion, Cross-Country|
|Middlebury College, 2005|
Two Weeks of AmazingMay 7, 2013
From Skis to JumpsMarch 12, 2013
It seems like every blog post I write I’m extremely excited about something, but the last two weeks have been more exciting than usual. I capped off my Vermont winter training block by skipping the first ProXCT in Texas to do a 50km Nordic ski race called the Rangeley Loppet. The snow conditions were fantastic for my last week on skis. My goal for this loppet was to start aggressively and keep contact with my VTXC teammate Robyn Anderson. The race was two twenty-five kilometer laps of a fun rolling and twisty course. I made it out of the mass start alive thank goodness (imagine a mass start mountain bike race with poles flying everywhere). I could see Robyn up a couple of groups ahead and I started to chip away at the real estate.
Sabe put some special Swix sauce on my Atomic skis and they were absolutely flying. I was passing master men twice my weight on the downhills. Having fast skis makes racing so much more fun. Sabe was all over the course and fed me as well as provided me with her Nordic ski racing knowledge and sister juju. She is a great Nordic ski racer. Finally, towards the half way point, I bridged up to Robyn and tried to draft and recover whenever possible. As we were nearing the finish, this became an incredible tactical battle. I attacked with five km to go and Robyn stuck on. Robyn attacked with two kilometers to go and I stayed on. I realized I don’t know how to sprint on skis so I was going to have to come into the stadium first if I had any chance of getting the win. I did this, but it turns out I still don’t know how to sprint so Robyn nabbed me for the win. It was AWESOME.
After the loppet, I flew out to Colorado for the USA Cycling board of directors meeting for two days and then the USA mountain biking skills clinic over the weekend. Shaums March was our instructor and our group consisted of Georgia Gould (Olympic Bronze medalist) and I along with four other developing mountain bike talents. These juniors and U-23 riders have the chops to make it big. This camp was life changing. This is absolutely no exaggeration. World Cups these days are peppered with drops and jumps. I never learned these skills and, thus, was a bit scared of these sections. There are alternative lines around these features, but a rider loses a lot of time taking them. Shaums is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had, and the entire group now feels comfortable with these world cup challenges. I rode my S-Works Epic with fast track tires the entire camp. It was perfect for all of these drops, hitting the jumps, and the final ride in the snow. I probably dropped the tire pressure down to 20 psi for the slippery conditions, and, with my new skills, was able to two wheel slide comfortably everywhere. We took some sick air, rolled some gnarly drops, ate some great food from Skratch Labs, and had a blast doing it all. This skills camp is literally the best thing I could do right now. Thanks to Shaums, the future looks bright for USA Women’s mountain biking. My riding has been revolutionized. A big thanks goes out to G-Form for providing the impact protection for this camp which was a necessity. I’m ready to throw a seat dropper on my bikes, get on some flat pedals, get a P Bike on the pump track, and start burning in some of these new skills. Mountain biking is fun.
I’m on a plane out to Santa Cruz for the next two months. My first race is next weekend at the Bonelli ProXCT. Send me the good juju please.
On my way home from KauaiFebruary 25, 2013
On my way home from Kauai, I had the pleasure of stopping by the Specialized HQ in Morgan Hill, California for a NICA (National High School Mountain Bike League) Awards Banquet. I was honored to be the guest speaker for this event and completely enjoyed every moment of it. There was a ride in the morning near Monterey, CA which over fifty people attended. Then, a healthy two hundred showed up at the awards banquet in the evening enjoying a delicious meal and awards presentation. NICA has high school mountain bike leagues in several states (CA, CO, WA, UT) and people are nominated by the peers for awards. Awards were hotly contested and the stories behind the winners were inspiring to say the least. NICA is having a great impact on teenagers and the high school community at large. I am a big supporter of their work. Plus, it's not only getting kids hooked on cycling for life, but it's becoming a great development pipeline for american mountain bike racers. The results are starting to show. Kate Courtney, a product of the California league, won a junior world cup this year at Windham, NY. With Little Bellas and NICA's work, the future looks bright.
My Vermont winter training block has been going really well. I'm getting in some solid skiing and strength training and having a blast doing it. There have been some fun events peppered into this training block. I went down to iSport to check in with Bill Knowles and he added some fun, new strength in my plan. I am pumped. It includes jumping and resistance cords so I had to give the basement gym a facelift so I wouldn't slip. I can't believe I didn't get rubber flooring earlier.
Two weekends ago, my mom, my sister, and myself headed up to Bretton Woods, NH for the New England Nordic Ski Association Women's Day. Just like last year, my mom took a ski clinic, my sister gave a Swix wax clinic, and I was to give a speech at lunch time about the Olympics. I wasn't too worried about the speech (and hadn't prepared anything) until the drive down to women's day where I found out there was going to be two hundred women at the event. It was then that I started to become a little concerned. Nevertheless, I gave it 'off the cuff', and I was so happy with how it turned out. I told behind the scenes stories from the games; little tidbits that I couldn't have known without actually being an Olympian. It was well received and the crowd actually laughed! (enter huge sigh of relief) It's good to know that I can actually give a speech because, up until this point, I've only done the question and answer format.
The rest of our weekend at Bretton Woods was absolutely awesome. This was some of the most gorgeous nordic skiing I've ever gone. Bretton Woods has an abundant trail network at the base of Mount Washington. I either got a view of the mountain or a view of the iconic Mount Washington Hotel the entire four hour skate ski. It was stunning. My sister also won a gift certificate in the 2012 Bretton Woods marathon for a dinner at the Mount Washington Hotel restaurant. This was, hands down, the most fancy and delicious meal I've ever had. The gingerbread pudding dessert was one of the many highlights. The waiter even came between courses with a scraper to clear the table of crumbs. Wow.
The ski block continues. I signed up for the Gattineau World Loppet (51k) this Sunday, and, today, I just came off one of the best skis of the winter at Craftsbury Nordic Center today. It was a blue bird day, all eighty five kilometers were open, and the skiing was beautiful. The conditions and fun, rolling terrain made a four hour ski a little bit easier. Now, let's just think snow so the conditions can stay this good.
The Tropical FinaleNovember 5, 2012
Wow! My season was officially over at the World Championships, but the excitement has continued well past that first weekend in September. In fact, it's been full gas since then packed with racing, a wedding, the Chequamegon Little Bellas camp, Interbike, a USA Cycling board meeting and a trip across the world to Malaysia and Thailand. There were many highlights, but the most different and adventurous experience came from the Langkawi Mountain Bike Stage Race on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia. I started the trip in the beginning of October by spending a day in New York City for a Specialized photo shoot. This was my first time stepping foot in NYC and walking around. It was a cool way to start off a great trip. I unpacked my bike, they snapped a couple of photos of me and the race machine, and packed it up again for the Malaysia Stage Race in the matter of six hours. Then, I was off on an eleven hour flight to Dubai. I had an eight hour layover in Dubai and found a gym where I spun for an hour and took a shower. Now, that is the way to fly across the world. I felt like a new human.
After thirty five hours of traveling, I finally landed on Langkawi and got settled into my own little hut in the jungle. I spent two days riding with my Specialized teammates and getting the legs flushed out from the travel. I set up my Fate with a Ground Control in Front and a Fast Track in the rear, and it was a perfect set up for the grueling, muddy conditions the entire week. The stage race began with a short five minute time trail around the city square on the coast. It was gorgeous. The women's field was top heavy with a handful of consistent world cup podium contenders. I knew it was going to be a battle all week, and I was right. I clocked the third fastest time on day one, and the top five girls were all within thirty seconds of each other. Things didn't change much on the next day, and subsequently the longest distance stage 'around the island'. There was a group of seven girls seemingly glued together and battling for position for two thirds of the race. We got a taste of the island's challenges on this day. There was thick mud, thin mud, and all different kinds of mud in between. There was a mud puddle that was as deep as my belly button and swallowed Eva Lechner whole. She rode into the puddle, stopped, went over the handlebars and dove into this mud lake. She stood up with brown stream running down her. I was laughing out loud. Later on, Taylor attempted to ride through the same puddle, stopped, and tipped over. She was still clipped in and was having a hard time unclipping while underwater. For a second, she thought she was going to drown in a five foot deep puddle in Malaysia.
After the puddle incident and on the main climb of the day, the pack whittled down to four. Team Colnago started attacking and counter attacking us, but I was able to keep it together. With one km to go, I attacked on the last small hill and stayed away to the finish. I was so excited to get a stage win and put on the pink leader's jersey.
The third day was a long point to point stage that covered the length of the island. About two kilometers into the stage, I was already tired of jockeying for position with seven girls again and wanted to try and put some distance on the pack. I felt great and attacked on the first rise and hit it hard. I was alone and saw the strong master men leaders come by me. I hung onto their wheel through the pavement and open road section which was key in solidifying my attack. Then, I hit the main climb of the day. It was a steep muddy climb where we could only hike our bikes. It was a solid thirty minutes of pushing my bike up a mud slope (my downhill ski racing hiking skills came in handy) and then another hour along a ridge in the jungle mixing hiking and riding. I was alone in the jungle and suddenly heard the loudest boom I've ever heard. I honestly thought it was a bomb. My mind raced, is Malaysia a peaceful country? What country is angry at this island? Should I wait for another racer? I decided to speed up in hopes of catching another person and I also decided that I needed to brush up on the country's current affairs. Thirty minutes of slightly panicked racing later, I heard the same booming sound and realized it was thunder. This mistake definitely lit a fire under my hike-a-biking.
I was relieved to finish the longest 40 km of my life and get another stage win. I finished this mud war with a leach on my neck and narrowly missing running over a snake. I put five minutes on second place and up to thirty minutes on my closest rivals. This was a critical day for me in capturing the overall title. The next three stages, I raced conservatively. To maintain my lead, at the very least, I had to finish with second place and keep my fingers crossed that my bike and body kept running smoothly. Luckily, this is exactly what happened. There was more mud, hiking, heat, and fun. The cross country course went right by an amazing waterfall and the final stage was a short track on the beach. The Langkawi Stage Race had an amazing press entourage that I can only compare to the Olympics. There were school kids cheering us on in each stage. The whole island was so excited about this race and warmly welcomed us. It was a crazy and amazing experience, and I won which is always really fun.
The entire elite men and women's field capped off the Malaysia experience with a tour around the island. We jet skied to some small islands off the coast, rode boats through a mangrove forest, walked through a bat cave, saw Langkawi's signature eagle, and visited a fish farm. Then, I set off to meet my friend from Middlebury College, Lindsey Linton, who happened to be in Thailand the same time I wanted to visit post race. My Thailand story is best told with photos, but it included riding elephants, visiting temples, thai cooking class, and a foot massage. All in all, words can not describe how incredible this year has been. I am definitely very tired from all this excitement and so relieved to be back home in Vermont. I am jetlagged beyond imagination (there was exactly a twelve hour time change to Malaysia). It's time for some serious rest and recovery.
Thanks for the support!
National Championships and Olympic PreparationJuly 30, 2012
It continues to get more exciting. I just returned from the National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho and I’m thrilled that I brought a stars and bars jersey home with me. The weekend kicked off with the marquee event, the cross country, on Saturday. We climbed up straight up the mountain on a fire road for ten minutes and descended down loose rocky switchbacks to be spit out on the flats and rock garden below. I started the race off right and nabbed the hole shot. My plan was to race aggressively, lead from the beginning and see where it took me. My plan worked out for the start loop, but, once we hit the first lap climb, it turned out Heather Irmiger had the same plan. She shot off the front and had thirty seconds on the entire field half way up the climb. Meanwhile, my legs weren’t quite in line with plan A and I wasn’t feeling the best on the first ascent. I was honestly starting to get worried as I fell back to fourth and I put plan B was into effect, ‘wait patiently for my legs to come around’. Thank goodness they did. As we started to climb the second lap, and each lap after that, my legs felt better and better. I clawed my way up to third and then second. I maintained the gap to the leader, Georgia Gould, sometimes closing, something losing time, of about one minute and ten seconds. I finished in second place, and I was content.
Day two of national championships brought the Super D in the morning and the short track in the afternoon. I signed up to do the Super D to defend my title from last year, but I was a bit reluctant wanting to stay safe for the big race in August. Regardless, I tried to hit the five minute climb as hard as I could (my legs again felt like they were fighting me) and let it loose on the fifteen minute descent. I felt great on the descent and had a respectable ride. It turns out so did Kelli Emmett and Lizzie English who were absolutely gunning it. Kelli beat me by the exact same margin, twenty seconds, that I beat her last year. Hats off to Kelli. She was absolutely motoring it on the descent. I ended up in third a bit disappointed, but happy that I made it down safely.
The short track was my last hope for a national champion jersey. I was hoping that all of my previous efforts would open up my legs for this last event, and they did. My legs felt fantastic. I was immediately on Georgia Gould’s wheel from the start and we distanced ourselves from the pack. I called upon the ‘maple syrup tactic’, stick to Georgia’s wheel until the right moment arrives in the later half of the race. On the last lap, I tried to make that ‘moment’ happen on three instances. First, I tried to pass through the start/finish area and drifted in the gravel. Second, I tried to pass on the flyover bridge, but that didn’t work either. My last chance, because of limited passing room to the finish, was the small, narrow climb. Georgia drifted right and I jumped on the opportunity. I sprinted around her and tried to keep the pace high especially in the potential passing zones. Georgia couldn’t come around me and I won my first elite endurance title. I’m excited that I’ll get to wear a Specialized national champ kit in at least one or two races next year.
Now, I’m at home winding up for the Olympics. I’m resting and resetting, doing a short strength block, and hanging on with all my might to Andy’s scooter while motorpacing. I’m also finding time for the essential Vermont elements to help my Olympic mojo; creemees and swimming holes. I’m still in search for the perfect Vermont maple creemee and I’ve definitely found some good contenders. Also, our Little Bellas Sunday sessions are taking a break for the month of July, but Sabe has been running very successful and lively week long camps at Catamount Outdoor Family Center. I’ve been visiting these camps, signing some autographs (I’ve been asked to sign bikes, lunch boxes, and my favorite, a big piece of bark), holding court in question and answer sessions, and riding with these little shredders. It’s been a blast. I have two favorite questions so far. “What state is the Olympics in?” and “Is this a dream come true?” My answer was “yes, this is my dream come true.” In that moment, it hit me. I am going to the Olympics.
I’m truly amazed by all of the support close friends, family, Specialized, Vermont, the cycling community, and USA are sending my way. I can’t say thank you enough. It’s a really something special to be able to represent in the big one, the Olympics. I’m soaking it up and am thrilled to head over to London.
Keep sending the good vibes. It’s working!
It just keeps getting better and betterJuly 13, 2012
It just keeps getting better and better. I had another dream come true this past weekend at the World Cup in Windham, New York. I stepped onto my first world cup podium. This is a goal I've been going after for years and it feels great for it to finally come true. I've been close in a handful of other world cups and it was looking like Windham was shaking out to be the same. I started a bit slower than I wanted to and resolved to pick off girls one by one on the long climb. I rounded the first of five laps in ninth position and then moved up to sixth position on the next lap. I felt fantastic. I stayed in sixth position for the rest of the race trying to close on one of my favorite fellow racers, Marie Helen Premont. Beginning the last lap, I felt like I was totally capable of closing the gap and I was going for it. Then, I was knocked off track by a mis-shift and my chain dropped. I had to stop briefly and run up a short single track section. This erased any time that I had put towards getting onto the podium and I crested the last lap climb solidly in sixth. But, this world cup, more so than any other race I've ever seen, is proof of the fact that the race isn't over until you cross the finish line. Anything can happen. More than halfway down the last decent with about five minutes to go, a spectator yelled, "She has a flat. You can catch her".
I went absolutely ballistic and caught fourth place struggling down the descent with a front flat. I was so incredibly amped that I crashed with about two hundred meters to go in the race. I've never gotten up so quickly from a crash and I sprinted in to clench my first world cup podium.
Luckily, Ashley Chase from WCAX was there to record the entire weekend on camera for the local news. She did a fantastic job of capturing the excitement. Please see the two part series below!
I feel like my fitness is exactly where it should be and I'm even more excited for the Olympics (if that's even possible). I'm off to National Championships in Sun Valley, Idaho. Send some good energy my way.
A Dream Come TrueJune 22, 2012
I am going to the Olympics! I am beyond thrilled and it has been an amazing weekend. Luckily, Katie Holden, was there to capture it all. Above is a video that she created of the entire experience. Please excuse some of the choice excited words that were thrown out there in the moment.
The Olympic team was set to be announced on Friday, June 15th and I was waiting in high anticipation of this moment for a long time. I thought maybe I would get a phone call or an email, but I definitely knew that they were going to post the press release on the USA Cycling website. So, my parents were up at midnight browsing the website, and that's how the day began. I don't think I have ever pushed refresh on a website so many times. I don't think my family and friends have ever pushed refresh so many times. It was just refresh...wait ten minutes...refresh....refresh...refresh...and then, oh wait, refresh. We thought they would post it at various times, but there was really no rhyme or reason to it. It only took until 11 AM for my sister, Sabe, to have enough with the waiting and all of the nervous tension. She set out to get some answers and called USA Cycling directly herself. She befriended the receptionist, she called the director of communications, she called the director of communications' cell phone, and then finally went back to her friend at USA Cycling. She found out they were putting the final touches on the press release, but it turns out there were a lot of finishing touches.
I finally couldn't take it anymore and extracted myself from the house to push refresh on my cell phone in a different location. I followed JoJo and Katie to Sugarbush to wait around while they practiced some downhill runs before their race this Sunday. Sabe rode her bike over to meet us. Jojo and Katie made me wait the twenty minutes for them to take a downhill run to check so I would at least be around someone when I found out the news. Those were some of the longest twenty minute segments of my entire life. The entire afternoon passed with no word and we drove over Applacian Gap to head to a Little Bellas mentor gathering for burger night at a local farm.
The drive over App Gap has spotty service so we couldn't check. Then, Zeke, a Middlebury Ski Team friend who we haven't talked to in six years sent Sabe a text saying, 'Congraaats!'. I was driving, and Sabe and JoJo started frantically loading pages on their phones. Then, Jojo gasped, smiled, and said 'pull the car over'. In that moment, I knew I had made it. I was wearing a bikini (because we were possibly going to a swimming hole) and I pulled over on the side of the road. This is where the Olympic celebration started. I never pictured myself celebrating my Olympic berth on the side of the road in a bikini (slightly awkward). I was so happy to be surrounded by my favorite people and even more thrilled that I got to celebrate with my good friends from the Little Bellas, my coach, Andy Bishop, and his family, and, finally my family throughout the evening. The whole evening is captured above.
This is really a life long dream come true. It takes a village to get an athlete to the opportunity I found myself in now. There's truly a vast and deep support network behind every athlete and mine is no exception. There are so many people that helped make this dream come true, and I'm so grateful that I could celebrate this victory with some of the big players on Friday night. This victory is also their victory. Thank you to my mom and dad, Sabe, and jojo for providing the biggest support and for being my loudest cheerleaders. Thank you to my coach, Andy Bishop, for constructing the path to this dream. Thank you to Bill Knowles and iSport for making me stronger post hip surgery than I have ever been. Thank you to everyone at Specialized for taking a chance and picking me up when I hadn't even raced for a season, fully supporting me, and making damn fast bikes. Thank you to In The Arena for helping me realize two dreams: getting more girls on bikes and going to the Olympics. There are so many more. Thank you.
Sabe said it perfectly during the celebration. In this overwhelming moment, I said "I don't even know what to do!"
Sabe replied, "Keep on the gas"
Exactly. We are halfway there.
The Waiting GameJune 6, 2012
The chase for an Olympic berth is on, well, it's actually complete. This Olympic qualification journey started with the first world cup in South Africa, then moved to the second world cup in Belgium, and back over to Europe for the last two qualification opportunities in Czech Republic and France. It's been a very exciting spring racing campaign. I’ve ridden with monkeys in South Africa, eaten Belgium waffles in Houffalize, toured the Czech countryside, and ridden through a hailstorm in France. That’s just scratching the surface of the last four world cups. It’s been fun.
Here's a very quick round up of how the racing has turned out. The United States has two spots to fill for the games and, as predicted, it's been a close competition for those coveted spots. At the beginning of this year, the US created an Olympic long team of nine women. From those nine, two US women will go to the games. In South Africa, I felt amazing and had a great race. I raced myself from the back of the pack (due to a chaotic start) up to 14th place. I was the first American. It was definitely a solid start to the season and I was completely thrilled with the result. It affirmed that I was prepared for the early racing and ready to go. For the second world cup in Belgium, I was flat. I had a great start, but I just didn't have the extra zip needed to close gaps and move up. Instead, I had a solid race and placed 19th as the second American. This result wasn't what I hoped for, but I was still happy nonetheless. I left Belgium ranked 18th and the first American in the world cup rankings.
The month of May brought the third world cup in Nova Mesto Na Morave, Czech Republic. I was so excited for this race and feeling fantastic after a great training block at home. I came into this last trip with great fitness. The Czech Republic course is one of the most fun tracks on the circuit. It winds through the open pine forest, over roots and rocks, and up punchy technical climbs. Last year, this was my break out world cup where I finished a career best seventh place. I was pumped. But, everything doesn't always go as planned. About one hundred feet into the pavement start, a racer weaved in front of me and I was forced to the left to avoid crashing with her. I was pinched in the tight pack of seventy girls and I locked handlebars with the girl next to me and went down hard on the asphalt. I was on the bottom of the pile. I jumped up and had a lot of road rash on my right side and a charlie horse on my left leg. I stopped in the tech zone to change a rear flat tire and then started my race at the absolute back. I was so far back that they were letting spectators cross the start loop by the time I got there. I couldn't even see anyone in the race. I forged on and resolved to just do my best under the circumstances and pass as many girls as possible. I clawed my way up to 37th place which I was really proud of giving that I was still bleeding and dazed. I was the fourth American on the day and I was still the second ranked american in the standings after that race. I'm definitely bummed about the bit of bad luck but at least I was still moving and healthy. I only had bruises and a lot of road rash to show for it. I was grateful I could race the following weekend in La Bresse, France. Without the valleys, the peaks wouldn't seem as high.
The La Bresse world cup was an absolute pressure cooker. I was probably under the most pressure I have been in my entire athletic career. In an ideal world, I would have gotten a great result at the Czech Republic world cup and it would have taken the qualifying pressure off of La Bresse. Alas, being taken out at the start was not exactly part of the qualification plan. The goal was to have a smooth, solid race in La Bresse and that was a fairly tall order considering the course. The course had a lot of climbing which suits me and the descents were steep, slippery and rocky. It was one of the most technical courses to date, and, luckily, the exact conditions I grew up riding in. We climbed up the side of a valley and the descent was a succession of steep chutes and knee high drops one after another. It was demanding. To put it in perspective, in both races, the race leader crashed on the last lap descent about two kilometers from the finish line. I have never seen the men's leader, Julien Absalon, crash. It was technical.
I had a great start sitting well in the top fifteen. I was so glad to make it past the pavement and onto the dirt unscathed. I sat in the top fifteen for the majority of the race floating back a bit as the laps ticked away. It was a bit conservative but that's exactly what I needed to do. Finish and finish well. I had one crash where I went headfirst into a crowd of spectators. The French picked up my bike and me from the awkward position and got me going again. I ended up in sixteenth and I finished with a relieved smile on my face.
Now, it's a waiting game to find out if I made the Olympic team. They name the team on June 15th. I'm trying not to think about it too much. I did the best I could under the circumstances and hopefully it will be enough. As for now, I am absolutely decompressing in Vermont with some time at home. Jojo threw me an amazing surprise birthday party in La Bresse, France complete with all of my friends on the circuit and a decadent french chocolate birthday cake. It was amazing. Then, I came home and my sister, Sabe, threw me another surprise birthday party with my Vermont friends. There was croquet, a delicious taco dinner, and a homemade German chocolate cake (my favorite...my sister has baking skills). The kickoff to my twenty ninth year has been one of the best yet. Let the decompression, training, and Vermont adventures continue. Next, it's onto the hometown world cups (Mount Saint Anne, Quebec and Windham, NY) and then onto U.S Nationals in Sun Valley, Idaho. It's going to be a great month.
Project Off season: Hot to Cold to WarmMarch 7, 2012
The 2012 mountain bike season opener is this weekend in Austin, Texas so I figure it’s the perfect time to share what happened in my off season. This winter was filled with a lot of fun. I went from the tropical climate in Kauai to winter in Vermont and then to perfect riding weather in Santa Cruz.
I spent a good portion of my time on Kauai on the Petterson family farm, and a highlight of the stay was the annual foraging dinner. This year marked the second annual foraging dinner where forty people took on the local food challenge. Each guest had to make a dish and could only use ingredients from the islands, even better if the ingredients were found in the backyard. Since we were the hosts, we had to abide to the strict rules laid down. When we actually started getting into recipes, we realized how much we relied on shipped ingredients. But, being on an island of bounty, we got creative to make some amazing dishes. Jojo and I were tasked to coconuts and this became the basis for the majority of the family's recipes. Through friends with coconut trees and 'new age foraging' at the green waste dump, we got a whopping total of ninety coconuts in the back of the truck. We took about three-quarters of those coconuts through tedious processing. Jojo hacked the top off with a blade and poured out the coconut water. Then, she would cut the coconut in half and hand it over for the meat to be scraped out of the shell. Everyone had her own technique but it all boiled down to sticking a butter knife in the meat and popping it out. With three of us working, it would take about two hours to get a one-gallon Ziploc of coconut meat. I had blisters.
The coconut meat would go into a blender, mix with hot water, and then blended to a slurry. I would take that mixture and put it into a nut milk bag and squeeze with all my might. The result is pure, fresh Kauai coconut milk. It's delicious and better than what comes in a can at the grocery store. After the milking process, this coconut meat, devoid of most of the coconut flavor, was dehydrated. After it was dry, I blended it again to make coconut flour. Repeat the entire process several times over the course of two weeks.
The result of our coconut work went into the majority of the dishes in some form or another. I made two key lime pies using the coconut flour and flakes for the crust and the coconut milk for the filling. The Petterson family also made coconut-encrusted tilapia with tilapia straight from the ponds on the farm. There was Thai coconut soup with prawns caught from the ponds. Coconut Taro leaf also joined the menu as well as cassava chips and guacamole. This was all made from ingredients harvested straight from the property. Jojo created five gallons of delicious coconut water, passion fruit juice, and rum cocktail (the rum was made right down the road). We also recycled wine bottles and made glasses. All in all, it was quite the lesson in self-sufficiency and completely rewarding to taste all of the hard work.
After the foraging dinner on Kauai, Jojo and I had a friend, Sarah, one of the greatest Little Bellas mentors, come to visit us. The week was jam-packed and we checked off most of the activities in the 'Adventures' section of the Kauai guidebook. The guidebook does not kid around when they place things under that section. On the first day, we undertook one of the biggest adventures of my life. We embarked on the secret tunnel hike where we followed a faint (big emphasis on faint) hiking trail for a couple of miles to the secret tunnels. This hiking trail doubled as a pig path and there was about six inches of mud the entire way. It was a slow couple of miles to say the least. These secret tunnels were built in the 1920s to ferry water from Kauai’s wetter north shore through the mountains to the West Coast to feed the sugarcane industry. They are impressive. The first one is about a mile long and we had headlamps and a dime size light at the end of the tunnel to guide us. The water was about ankle deep and mostly clear. The second tunnel was just a black abyss and we had to wade through silt about shin deep. The third tunnel was extra secret and very hard to find. After a half an hour jungle bush whack, we finally discovered the most tenuous tunnel of the three. This one was also a mile long and was filled thigh high with water and silt. We had to practically run through this tunnel because we were racing daylight. The adventure was well worth is as we were rewarded with an amazing waterfall at the end of the journey.
One night, we went to the end of the road and camped out at Polihale State Park. It was the first time I’ve ever slept on a beach and the first time I’ve been camping in years. The day was one of the more perfect days I’ve ever seen on the island and the waves were great for surfing. We also decided that we hadn’t had enough of the tunnels so we found some more to tube through. This is definitely my preferred method of travel through these things. It brought us to an incredible swimming hole complete with a rope swing. It was something straight out of Swiss Family Robinson.
For the holidays and the month of January, I traded in my surfboard for skis and went home to Vermont. I was thrilled to spend January skiing, get into a training rhythm, and see my friends and family. This winter training block included a handful of citizen Thursday night biathlon races. I get so excited for these Thursday night competitions that one would think it was the World Championships. It’s energizing to compete in something completely outside my comfort zone and under the lights. I’m really not good at shooting a gun and even more challenged when my heart rate is pegged. I capped off the winter foray with a 10k Skate race at the Trapp Family Lodge.
I’ve been in Santa Cruz for the month of February getting my legs used to spinning in circles. I spend long days in the saddle weaving together a string of endless thirty-minute climbs through the big redwood forests. The mountain biking is equally spectacular. The soil is perfectly loamy and the trails are plentiful. Throw in the glassy waves, the bountiful farmers market, and the wooden roller coaster down the street, and Santa Cruz instantly becomes the best training spot ever. With an off season like I’ve had, I feel enormously lucky to be doing what I do. Now, it’s off to the races.
Disneyland!November 1, 2011
The right way to have an off-season
It’s a fitting ending to a storybook season. I just spent the last week in southern California park hopping from Disneyland, California Adventure Park, and Sea World on Joanna Petterson’s family vacation adventure and officially starting the off season.
All tolled, it was fun, but my Disneyland trip didn’t exactly follow the ideal story line that the 2011 bike season did. We spent an epic twelve hour day at the park braving the lines to take advantage of all Mickey had to offer. We waited in line for an hour for the Haunted House ride and it broke. So we were stuck in the strobe light hall for a good amount of time and I managed to make it out without a seizure. It was completely worth it because we scored four ‘fast pass’ tickets where we got to cut the line on any ride anytime. So, we took the party to the Tower of Terror which was as awesome as I remember when my sister and I went on it thirteen times in a row when we were kids.
We went to cap off the day with another Tower of Terror which also broke right before we boarded. Note, this event made ALL of the rides during the second day at the park extra scary and exciting. I honestly thought that at every pause the ride was breaking. For the next two days, part of the family, including me, got what I like to call Disneylanded. We got food poisoning from some Disney food that shall go unnamed because I can’t really stomach even writing it.
Nevertheless, I was just thankful food poisoning happened in the off season and not during the race season. The final part of the race season followed a much different path than my Disney adventure. As the season progressed, I literally improved my results every single World Cup. It was a wild and exciting ride. At my first world cup in Dalby Forest, I started in seventy-sixth position on the last row. By the time Windham World Cup rolled around halfway through the season, I had worked my way up into a top 30 start position and a top fifteen result.
At the next world up in the Czech Republic, I had my break through race. I had a great start and used the same tactic I had all year; pass as many people as possible. This time it landed me in a career best seventh place and close to the podium. It’s such an amazing feeling to do something that I always believed I could do and have been working towards for years. I was so excited to have two more opportunities left in the season with such good fitness.
Next up was World Cup finals at Val di Sole, Italy. I love Italy and it seemed fitting to go back to the Dolomites where I kicked off my cycling training last October on a family vacation. The week was all about fine tuning with amazing Italian food, and it turns out panna cotta might just be my good luck charm. Fueled by cooked cream, I kept my World Cup result streak alive by improving on the Czech Republic result by getting sixth. I was so painfully close to the podium, seconds away, and nonetheless still elated by my ride.
I spent one amazing rest week before World Championships in Morzine, France at FlowMTB. The week was filled with incredible food (think fresh bread and warm croissants delivered to the doorstep every morning) and even more amazing riding. I rode in the shadow of Mount Blanc. Bolstered by one of the best cycling experiences of my life, I headed to the world championships in Champery, Switzerland. The course was a perfect, East Coast technical track and I was excited to give it a go.
Overall, this race didn’t go as well as my previous two world cups, but it was still a solid performance. I had a less than ideal start but, if I have learned anything this year, it’s not the end of the world….champs. I picked off as many riders as possible and scored 10th place. I was relieved because top 10 is so much better to say than top 11 at world champs. I’m still riding the wave of excitement from my best season yet, and it’s leaving me with energy and motivation for 2012. Now, I’m on Kauai for about two months. I’m looking forward to dispatching some of my Hawaiian adventures.
I was relieved to return homeJune 14, 2011
I was relieved to return home and spend time with Sabe who was back for a brief stint from her bike guiding job with Trek Travel. A new local women's mountain bike racing group, Mountain Moxie, collaborated with Little Bellas to put on a advanced mountain bike clinic. Retired professional cross country racer, Audrey Augustin, World Cup gravity racer, Joanna Petterson, and myself taught the clinic. Audrey Augustin was my first mountain biking coach of my career so my experience had really come full circle to be leading a clinic with her. It was a blast. We worked on climbing (and then descending) the infamous wall at Catamount. We talked about pacing, race nutrition, and mental race preparation.
Today, we had our second Little Bellas Vermont summer session. In three short words, it was awesome. I always enjoy 'getting the band back together' and seeing the mentors, and I really enjoy seeing what the girls are going to bring on the particular day. The weather gods were smiling on us today (thank you to whomever is listening up there), and the pouring rain stopped for our two hour session. There was only one obvious thing we could do with the recent precipitation, we had to have a 'mud off'. Whatever group got the muddiest would win. My group of youngsters, ages seven to nine, were completely game on for the challenge. We stopped at a mud puddle and they picked up handfuls of mud and started rubbing it all over themselves, on their pj pants, jackets, faces, and legs. Our mentors were quick to point out that people pay a lot of money for this spa treatment. Our group of mud monsters took home the big W.
world cups, mud, and a jaunt through LondonJune 13, 2011
There's a lot of exciting racing going on lately. I just returned from a successful trip to
Europe to race my first World Cups of the season. Since I didn’t race last
year, I had to pay my dues and claw my way through the field to gain more UCI
and World Cup points. I have absolutely
no problem with this. I am thrilled to
be racing World Cup events again, and I just view these races as part of the
long ‘comeback’ process. I had to do a major attack from the back. It isn't the easiest task starting on the
last row (number 79 to be exact) with the mass start and the track narrowing
down into single lane two minutes after the start. But, with some patience and my excitement to
be back on the World Cup circuit, I was ready to take on the challenge. Of
course my race was filled with some crazy snafus. I narrowly missed two crashes at the start,
had to literally wait in line for the singletrack while two girls untangled
their bikes in the air (I'm not quite sure how they got to this point), and got
knocked off my bike before a large fifteen foot drop. There's never a dull moment out there,
especially when you are racing from the back.
I gave my best efforts passing as many girls as I could wherever
possible and I'm pleased with the results.
In Dalby Forest, England, I moved up from number 79 to finish 30th. In Offenburg, Germany, I moved up from start
position number 72 to capture 28th.
These numbers should have me starting more at the front (within striking
distance) for the North American World Cups right in my back yard.
After the World Cup in England, I had the opportunity to
ride the Olympic mountain bike course.
They did a good job creating a course with what they had. The course designers added technical elements
to this open meadow by trucking in large boulders and there's more than enough
drops to keep everyone on their toes. It
also is an aerobically challenging course with lots of punchy climbs with very
little recovery. I want to RACE that
course next year. After an exciting
Olympic pre-ride, it was off to the Heathrow airport to fly to Germany. Maybe I pushed the 'scenic route' option
because the GPS unit brought me straight through downtown London to get to the
airport. I was driving on the other side
of the road, shifting with my left hand, and narrowly missing double long
buses. It was terrifying and truly an
adventure. It pretty much went a lot
like this. 'Oh my goodness, I almost
just got hit by a bus, wow, look, there's the Buckingham Palace'. It was the most adrenaline filled sightseeing
trip I have ever done.
Two days after my return from Europe, I flew off to Santa
Ynez, California for the third race in the Triple Crown series. Barring the
muddiest short track I’ve ever done at the Sea Otter Classic five years ago
(remember the one where Gunn Rita supermanned into a mud puddle wearing her
white World Champion kit?), California racing is usually sunny and
enjoyable. This cross-country race
turned into truly the most epic race I have ever done. It started drizzling
halfway through the race and turned the singletrack into a clay mud bath. The hay and rock filled mud would muck up the
bike so much that the wheels wouldn’t turn.
If I hadn’t been gunning for the Triple Crown Title I would have stopped
to build an adobe house or make a clay pot to take home for my mom. I really put
my new Specialized women’s 29er to the test, and the mud clearance is good. I
was riding for much longer than my mud compatriots before the inevitable bike
dunk in a livestock-drinking trough.
Now, I’m enjoying some much needed rest and recovery at home
in Vermont before building up into the meat of the season, Nationals and the North
American World Cups. I’m hitting up the swimming holes and eating a lot of soft
serve ice cream. Vermont summer is in full force and I'm soaking up as much of
it as possible.
Sea Otter ClassicMay 5, 2011
The Sea Otter Classic always proves to be one of the most exciting and busiest race weekends of the year. It is North America’s biggest cycling festival packed with mountain bike races, road races, fun rides, clinics, and fifty thousand plus spectators. It’s always a blast to see and talk with all of my sponsors and friends in the bike world. For me, this year’s Sea Otter Classic was particularly exciting and busy.
The weekend kicked off with the Bicycle Leadership Conference. I was truly honored to speak about the Little Bellas, a nonprofit ‘mentoring on mountain bikes’ program that my sister, Sabra, and I co-founded five years ago. I had the opportunity to speak to two hundred of the industry’s leaders about the importance of getting kids riding bikes, and, in particular, how to get more girls on bikes. The motive of our youth panel, led by Giant Bicycle’s Elysa Walk, was to wake up the industry and inspire them to be proactive in encouraging more kids to ride bikes, and in turn, invest in the future of their companies. Leading up to the event, Sabra and I boiled down our Little Bellas experience, and the many lessons learned, into potent messages to the industry. We hope the industry walked away with some different perspectives about the future of kids riding bikes. This conference is a dynamic and inspiring exchange about all things bicycles and business, and I am so grateful that I was able to be a part of it.
After speaking so much about the Little Bellas at the conference, it was great to take that momentum into the next day and get to work on our three day Little Bellas Sea Otter Camp. With the help and support from Specialized and the amazingly successful fundraising effort from First Gear, the camp was a huge success this year. Because of the all of the generous donations, the hard work from tireless fundraisers, and local Monterey school presentations that spread the word about our program, fifteen girls were able to participate in our camp on scholarships. We had a total of thirty Little Bellas over the course of the weekend honing in their skills, having lunch with the pros, grabbing as much schwag as they could in our venue scavenger hunt, and, hopefully, catching the mountain bike bug for life.
My sister, Sabe, who is also the Little Bellas co-founder and co-director, directed the camp and we brought three other tried and true mentors from our bustling Vermont program to help run the camp. With Sabe at the helm of Little Bellas, I could focus on racing. First up was the short track. In the week or so leading up to Sea Otter, I had to take some time off the bike because of a tweak in my calf. I was a little apprehensive because I felt completely shut down from the week off, but like every time I toe the start line; I was just going to go as hard as I could. I was especially pumped to give the slew of screaming Little Bellas a good show. Georgia and I had a great lead on a group of chasers for about a third of the race. Then, I took a little spill on a one hundred and eighty degree corner, of course, right in front of the Little Bellas, and this crash took me from riding alone in front of the chase group to riding alone behind the chase group. My sister is as enthusiastic as I am so I was surprised she didn’t jump over the barriers, pick my bike up for me, and ride away when I crashed. I held onto my spot for sixth and my fall hopefully taught the Little Bellas the important lesson that EVERYONE crashes, even the pros. It is important to get up and get back on the bike.
Next up was the cross-country and the majority of the race was on the windy race track or fire road which made for a particularly tactical mountain bike race. I polished my tactics in the Redlands Road Race a couple of weeks before so I was ready for any road trickery. The lead group of six women splintered on the end of the first lap and I became one of the solo stragglers behind the lead trio. Heather Irmiger caught up to me and we both declared that Trek and Specialized were going to be friends for the day and we worked together. Then, Kelli Emmett and Pua Sawicki joined the party and the four of us battled for the remainder of the race. As we approached the finish line, I made sure that I was first in the group climbing through the sandpit onto the track because I didn’t want to be stuck behind a mistake. But this move also put me in the precarious position of leading coming into the sprint. So, once we hit the pavement, I sat up ready to react to any attacks. Sure enough, Pua jumped and I glued myself to her wheel. We came around the bend with 200 meters to go and I jumped and sprinted like a mad woman to capture fourth place. All in all, I was excited to walk away from Sea Otter with solid races under my belt, and I hopped on a plane home to Vermont with a huge smile on my face. Next up are my first world cup races back in Dalby Forest, England and Offenburg, Germany. Send the fast vibes as I test myself against the best in the world.
For the past weekApril 12, 2011
For the past week, I had the opportunity to swap the knobby
tires to the skinny tires and take a dip in world of road racing. One would think road cycling and mountain
biking, cycling sisters, would be similar, but these two different niches could
not be more different. Mountain biking
thrives on pushing personal limits and some alone time in the woods. In a world cup, you are constantly battling
at least ten girls to the single track, but road racing you are constantly
surrounded by EVERYONE in the race. By
everyone, I mean that one hundred and twenty girls are traveling in a huge pack
within inches of each other riding at high speeds. For a mountain biker like myself, traveling
in packs can be a bit nerve wracking.
The major problem I have is that you are not in control of your own
destiny. A girl can crash and take out
the entire pack. In mountain biking, I
crash because it's my fault.
Nevertheless, Redlands, was an
awesome experience. The first day, the
time trial, was a climb and about ten minutes spent straight in pain cave. Day two was the sweltering circuit race where
I really cemented the bike tan but also found my climbing legs. I was thrilled to be climbing with the top
roadies which left me excited for the final day's hilly road race. I also
attacked the entire peloton with 2k to go in hopes of taking the solo win. All of the big teams with sprinters had other
plans, but it was fun anyway. I survived
the terrifying crit race (think 120 girls cornering in a pack!) to start the last
day's road race. On the last stage, the
big teams drilled it into the first climb, and they didn't stop until the pack
was whittled down to eleven girls. I
held onto Kristin Armstrong's wheel (note: olympic gold time trialist) which
was a great wheel to be on, and we latched onto the front pack. I immediately relaxed and actually started to
enjoy the race knowing that I only had to deal with ten girls versus 120. Team Highroad kept drilling it on the climb
and I kept hanging on to the break. With
two laps to go, the pack swelled to thirty girls and the chaos ensued. I was caught back in fray coming into the
last climb and couldn't quite hang onto the lead group. I was the last one to pop off the lead group
and saw my vision of a Redlands podium slowly disappear as I tried in vain to
claw back onto the pack. I can't be too disappointed
as Redlands is phenomenal training for the rest of the mountain bike season and
I completely went to my limits over the course of the race. A podium at the race wouldn't have just been
icing on the cake but a whole truckload of icing.
Now it's onto the biggest mountain
bike race in North America, the Sea Otter Classic. It's always a blast to have the entire bike
industry in one spot. This year proves
to be especially exciting because I'll be presenting at the Bicycle Leadership
Conference on Little Bellas. Also, the
Little Bellas Sea Otter Camp will have thirty campers this year. This is due, in part, to all of the efforts
of the gracious donations under the First Gear Sea Otter initiative to send
eighteen deserving girls to our Little Bellas camp. It's going to be a blast. Stop by the Little
Bellas tent and say hello!
This past weekendApril 5, 2011
This past weekend marked my official return to the bike racing circuit with the U.S Cup opener in Bonelli Park, CA. If I could sum up the entire weekend in two words it would be, thrilled and relieved.
Naturally, I had a lot of nerves coming into my first big test. In fact, it was almost a whole season's worth of pent up nerves and that jittery feeling came flushing in waves days before the race. Every first race of the season proves to be a wild card, but this race had triple question marks next to it. In the weeks leading up, I was feeling good and strong and I did everything I possibly could to prepare for this day. All I could do is the best I possibly could and relax. This is way easier said than done.
I did complete both of those goals in the first event, the cross country. I raced to the best of my ability and was able to relax into a rhythm during the race. Much to my relief, I rode to a solid second place behind perennial stronghold, Georgia Gould. Then, I rode completely out of my skin in the Super D and Short Track to take the wins. I literally rode the wave of excitement from the cross country (and good legs) to go ballistic in the Super D. I used the same 'I'm really excited about returning to racing so I'm going to go crazy' tactic to attack the pack on the last lap of the short track and win!
I've been thinking about this season and especially this opening race for a long time now. I could not be any more thrilled with how it went. Honestly, I can sleep better knowing that all of my hard work for the past year has thrown me into the competitive fray.
May 7, 2013
March 12, 2013
February 25, 2013
November 5, 2012
July 30, 2012
July 13, 2012
June 22, 2012
June 6, 2012
March 7, 2012
November 1, 2011
June 14, 2011
June 13, 2011
May 5, 2011
April 12, 2011
April 5, 2011