Monday, October 25, 2010

Plzen World Cup: A cultural experience. October 24, 2010

Germany feels like home. I can understand the language. Things feel familiar, and it was home for a week. Staying with my 'sister' from my exchange program in high school for a week. Margaret was a brilliant host, but I was a lame guest. Ride my bike, get sick, and try to ride my bike some more. Lay around, watch movies, cook dinner. A nice week to practice my Deutsch and see her new home. Augsburg is nice.

Typical town hall

Torture for the Gluten Free. MY FAVORITE THING: LAUGEN!!!

Every town has a church. This is Augsburg's.

Turm with scenic outlook of Augsburg.

My training ground. 5 minutes from home, I had the whole forest. Over 1000K of trails.

Saturday morning we headed to the Czech Republic. I have been there before, but is amazing that in a 3 hour drive, everything changes. The architecture, the alphabet, the language, the food. It wasn't culture shock, because I knew what to expect, but countries in eastern Europe are always just a bit 'different'. It was an awesome weekend. For a full report on the race, click here. On Saturday before the pre-ride, Margaret and I checked out the town square. Quite nice. Quiet and a bit empty and closed, but very nice.

Lovely park on the way to 'downtown'. With a lovely smokestack too.

Every square has a church. Some have fountains... I think they are new.

Pilsner Urquell Brewery entrance.

And the grounds.

And then for the evening, although I couldn't enjoy the fine libations, we went to the Pilsner Urquell brewery for dinner. Yes, very touristy, but they did have fine Czech cuisine and beer.

Mmmmm. Pre-race food? Nope. Pre-pit food for Witty.

Who knew Pilsner Urquell made dark beer too. Wish this was mine...

Dinner crew: Clark Ritchie, Brian Witty, Margaret & Me.

And it was great fun. Our stay was short, but fun. The race was relatively long and a lot of fun. And the post race food and drink selections, well... very Czech.

Just found it amusing...

The cheese and sausage booth.

Fresh fried chips.

Typical sweets.

Lots of various licorice.

The grilled, hot cinnamon almond bread stuff. I broke down. Had to have some.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Back to racin' and rubbin' in Euroland: World Cup #1, Aigle, Switzerland

I love Europe. I really think I was born on the wrong continent. My mom should have stayed in Germany, but I guess then there would be no Dad and thus no Sue. So maybe not. But coming back is somehow like coming home. Especially when I can understand the language.
I arrived in Zurich jetlagged and headed to Basel to meet up with an old friend and crash at his place. Michael and his girlfriend were the uber super hosts. Feeding me, giving me a comfy bed and having great paths for riding just minutes away. A good start.
Saturday I headed to Aigle and met up with Katie and Mark up in Leysin. When driving there, outside of Aigle, I was thinking, 'are you kidding me'. Skinny roads with a 10 degree gradient up windy switchbacks with vineyards terraced on the cliff. Where was I going??? It was beautiful, so no complaints about the white knuckle drive. I off loaded stuff, got somewhat settled, then headed back down to pre-ride and pick up numbers. But 2 miles from the course, we were at a standstill. A two car accident, where Mark and Katie were the first car in line in the stall, we waited. And waited. But when the pitched the first aid tent in the middle of the road and were cutting the top off one of the cars, Mark inquired and even though there was little understanding of the French, it was decided that waiting was pointless. With map and GPS in hand, I turned around with them, followed them on the next adventure. A 40+ minute drive over a mountain pass while it was snowing to get down to the other side, accessing Aigle a different way. It was surreal. Very beautiful fall colors. Then white. A bit scary, but we had to get there. Katie and I took a spin by the river and then checked out the course while Mark played team manager. The course was wicked fun. Very challenging. It had been raining, so maybe it would continue.
No such luck. Sunday was dry. But that an easy race did not make. I was 27th call up, leaving me in the 4th row. Not optimal, but I was not going to panic. After my horrible luck at the start, however, I did panic, knowing I was somewhat screwed. I did my best. On this day, with all circumstances, best was 20th.
It was a great showing for the North American women racers, however, with Katie crushing it off the front and Katerine taking 3rd in a sprint. I need to get faster, but more importantly, I need to get more aggressive. Racing here will definitely make me faster. You can't let up. You can't let yourself get pushed around. All travel aside, it was a great day. Fun course, beautiful scenery. I will post pictures soon and there will be a complete race report on cxmagazine. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

O-HI-O! October 8-10, 2010

It seems that Ohio has a heat spell every other year during the UCI3 weekend. Leaving nice mild temperatures, it was back to racing in summer heat. Dry and dusty. Not your typical CX weather, but with cross, you never know what you are going to get. I like to support this race, because they were the first to get on the bandwagon of paying women equally. And they try to extend the equal payout further down the ladder every year. And I have a great host there, Jeni Roosen. She rocks!
After flying in at midnight on Thursday, which is actually only 9 p.m. my time, getting up was hard. Because 10 a.m. is 7 a.m. and who sleeps until 10?
Friday was at Devou Park in northern KY. I headed down to what was the muddiest race last year and found the dust bowl. An extremely twisty course with lots of little elevation changes. You were either going up or down. Loose corners, bumpy grass and NO mud in sight. I suffered with the rest of them and finished 2nd after sitting in the chase group of 3 for a few laps. I attacked with one to go and finished strong.

Day 2 is typically one of my favorite courses, but this year there were a lot of changes. I was disappointed we didn't have the long sand pits, the barriers were in a different spot, but a twisty course nonetheless. I found myself in the front for a lap and then with a shadow for the rest of the race. LVG sat on me, made a calculated move and then sprinted to the line, leaving me in 3rd. Another great day of racing.

Harbin Park is another great venue that typically is a bit longer and covers more real estate. It was similar to the prior year. So I was bound and determined to not let the same thing happen as in 2009. I thought I was playing it 'smart', but a few tactical errors on my part left the race to a sprint again. Unfortunately for me, when we started to go for the line, I shifted and somehow my chain jammed itself between my front chainrings on the bottom. I looked down in disbelief. Thought it would be easily fixed, but after enough time wasted without luck, I had to get off my bike and run the last 40-50 meters. I was already out of contention for a podium and had I dismounted earlier and just ran, maybe I could have hung on for 5th, but unfortunately, I ended up in 7th. Lessons learned for sure. A costly mistake. It took me a few minutes to get over it, but in the end, it is just a bike race. Things happen. Dumb luck. Now off to Europe...

I would like to publicly thank my amazing host, Jeni Roosen. Not only is she just an amazing person, but a gracious hostess. Thank you Jeni!

I should also thank my sponsors and also the ORGANIC MECHANICS, Todd and Russ. They ROCK!!!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Cross Crusade has begun: Alpenrose! October 3, 2010

Sometimes home is the best place to be. After a huge week of travel, recovering at home and then getting in some quality training and racing locally was exactly what I needed. Sure, UCI points are great, but I am so glad to have been a part of the awesomeness today at Alpenrose. Seeing the start at 2:00 and the amount of women lined up for all the races (except A's) was amazing. The future world champion may be in that sea of excited racers. Who knows?!? And it was a ton of fun. I really like racing at home. I am already looking forward to the USGP's in Portland.
I did what I do best, took the hole shot. But this time I stayed at the front, weaving in and out of the men that started before us. Thank you to everyone out there cheering like crazy. I always appreciate the extra motivation. Here's to CX in Oregon! I am glad I finally was convinced to join the club in 2005. Seems like just yesterday.