November 18, 2011

Cinnamon bun explosion


I think I have a baking problem. Seriously, it’s way too fun and such productive procrastination:).

My latest creation is a cinnamon bun explosion! The buns were so bursting with deliciousness that they literally exploded out of the pan. Pretty crazy.

I’ve also been experimenting a lot with making my own granola. Cereal is just too expensive. It’s also  healthier to make your own. You then control how much sugar goes into it. It’s surprisingly easy to make your own granola. Just mix whatever you want... oats, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, coconut, dried nuts… then add some oil, vanilla, brown sugar or maple syrup... bake for 45 minutes (mix every once in awhile) at 300°F. Voila, granola! You can mix in any dried fruit at the end (don’t add before baking, it will burn, not that I know by experience…).
Yes, the most proper way to serve cinnamon buns is on a pig platter

My favourite creation so far has been gingerbread granola. Just add gingerbread spices (ginger, cloves, nutmeg), cut up fresh ginger and use molasses and brown sugar as the sweetener. Really good combo, especially during the colder months.

Now I’m just trying to figure how to get it to create big clumps like in the cereal boxes, any tips?

November 9, 2011

New Beginnings..

Hello world!

As some of you might have read, Colavita will not continue as a team next season. Very sad news:(. A full article explaining some of the more in depth reasons is available here.

Regardless of all the politics behind cycling teams, I just want to use this post to reflect upon my experiences and celebrate the success we achieved as a team this season! I could not have asked for a better introduction to professional racing. I'm so grateful for all the amazing sponsors that made the team possible this year!

By the end of the season, the team was ranked #1 in the US. We held the top 3 individuals in the NRC rankings, had 41 victories and over 100 podiums. Pretty impressive eh? It was the absolute best season the team had ever had.

One thing that constantly came up in our team meetings was how our excellent team dynamics kept leading to success. Everyone truly cared and believed in each other, and we were all 100% committed to any race plan. I think one of the coolest things was that we were not always working for the same people on the team, those podiums and wins were distributed across all members of the team. Everyone had a chance to demonstrate and use their strengths to their full potential.

I’m back at University and currently taking a social psych class. The other day, we had a guest speaker come to talk about her experiences as a group facilitator, and she also spoke of some of the current theories in group dynamics. A simple one that I think can apply to the team is the Tuckman theory. It basically indicates groups will go through certain stages before working optimally together. These stages are Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, Mourning/Adjourning.

Basically you start at the forming stage, everyone is getting to know each other, basic introductions, impressions.. It then moves onto storming when the group knows each other well enough to voice any frustrations. (We never really had much of this, thank goodness). Norming is when you’re starting to trust each other. Everyone starts to understand their roles and responsibilities in the group. Performing is "characterized by a state of interdependence and flexibility. Everyone knows each other well enough to be able to work together, and trusts each other enough to allow independent activity.  Roles and responsibilities change according to need in an almost seamless way.  Group identity, loyalty and morale are all high, and everyone is equally task-orientated and people-orientated.  This high degree of comfort means that all the energy of the group can be directed towards the task(s) in hand"(chimeraconsulting.com). I think this is just a perfect description of the team.

Mourning/Adjourning occurs when a group has reached the end of their time together, but don't want to stop working together. There is happiness in what was accomplished, but still a sense of loss. I think everyone on the team felt this way at the end of the season. Kinda cool when I can relate things learned in school to real life experiences!

Despite not being able to continue that same group dynamic with the team ending, I’m sure it’s possible to reach that level again. I do have plans set up for next season and will announce them in the next few weeks! Next season will be a time for new beginnings.



Leah :)

October 8, 2011

Time for a break


I am officially in the off-season for biking. My last race was the World Championships over in Copenhagen, Denmark. Worlds was a really awesome experience, I was so grateful to have a spot on the team! It was a slightly hilly and fast course, but not really selective enough to break up the race. I tried a few attacks but they wouldn’t stick. Clara definitely made the move of the day with a solo breakaway nearing the end! She gained close to a minute, but the dutch team brought her back close to the finish. An almost victory for Canada. I was 17th in the pack.  It was also very close in the women’s time trial with three riders finishing in the top seven (4th, 5th, and 7th)! Even though we didn’t win any medals, Canada definitely showed that we have a lot of future potential.

Copenhagen itself has to be the most bike friendly place in the world. There are bike lanes on every single street! Everyone was riding a bike. People riding in the rain with umbrellas, girls balanced on the handlebars, babies sitting behind tiny windshields, women in full heels and dresses, old people riding for groceries. It’s so great to see bikes being used to their full potential!

I’m back at Quest going to school again in Squamish. It’s a bit of an adjustment getting used to attending class again, but it is going well. I’ve been taking full advantage of the off-season to expand my training options. Mountain biking, yoga and running have been fun, but have left me very sore!

I’ve also been spending tons of time in the kitchen experimenting with new recipes. The Squamish farmers market has been a great source of inspiration.

There won’t be any race write-ups for a while, but I will try to post more off-season updates!

Mtb ride up to Elfin Lakes on a beautiful day

September 14, 2011

Hot off the press!

I am excited to announce that I'll be back racing with Colavita again next year! It is an amazing team, filled with awesome people, and supported by incredible sponsors!


Edison, NJ (September 13, 2011) -- Janel Holcomb, the top-ranked women's cyclist in the US, has signed with Team Colavita for a second season. Leah Kirchmann, #2 in the women's individual NRC standings, will also be returning for 2012. Directeur Sportif Rachel Heal made the announcement.

"We are thrilled that NRC winner Janel Holcomb will be racing in Colavita colors in 2012" said Heal. "This year, Janel proved she has the speed, strength, and smarts to win stage races throughout the US. We look forward to continued success next year."

This season, Holcomb, of San Diego, CA, won three of the major US stage races, including New Mexico's Joe Martin Stage Race, the Tour de Toona, and the BMC Cascade Cycling Classic. Holcomb, who started racing competitively after graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Chemical Engineering, also captured four individual stage wins and numerous podium finishes.

Kirchmann, the reigning Canadian National Criterium Champion, sprinted to four individual victories and clinched the overall win at the Tour of Elk Grove. DS Heal said she is very excited that Kirchmann will be returning to the team for a second season noting, "This young Canadian has amazing versatility." She continued, "Leah has proven that she can win stages from both breakaways and bunch sprints."

Team Colavita raced to a near-perfect season in 2011, with more than 40 victories in one-day and stage races. For the second consecutive year, Team Colavita finished #1 in USA Cycling's ranking of women's cycling teams. Additional signings for the 2012 season will be announced in the next few weeks.

September 13, 2011

Adventures in Holland


Just because Holland Ladies tour is flat does not make it easy. I just finished racing for six days through wind and rain, over dikes and through farm fields, and even up a few hills with the fastest riders in the world!
team presentation: Karol-Anne, Me, Rhae, Julie, Heather and Denise

I knew we were in for a hard week from day one. It started with a 50 km/h “neutral” start, immediately turning onto a dike with a wicked crosswind. A team from Holland then team time trialed at the front and broke the race apart in about 30 seconds, with 5 of their 6 riders in a breakaway. The whole Canadian team was a bit in trouble at this point as we had started near the back of the pack. It was a long day, but we all finished to continue on.

We battled the elements and fought for position in the pack through out the next few stages. The slippery conditions took their toll on the pack and caused many crashes. I was lucky to be one of the few to avoid this fate.
Enjoying an excellent dinner between stages


The last stage was the most interesting course. It started near Maastricht in southern Holland, where there are actually hills. Certain parts of the course are used for the Amstel Gold spring classic. The hills were short, but extremely painful to climb after racing non-stop. Erinne Willock (Tibco) from Canada had an impressive ride this stage and was in a breakaway for 90+km and won the “berg” hill prize.

Marianne Vos (Nederland Bloeit) was the big winner of the week, winning several stages, and taking the overall. It doesn’t matter if it's racing over mountains in the Giro, or sprinting through the fields of Holland, she is simply the fastest and most impressive female cyclist right now!

(Check out this link to learn more about some of the fastest women in the sport, aka the watties! )

I learned a lot and I was proud to be one of the 67 riders to finish all of the stages of the 155 starters.
One of the most important lessons learned was to always double check directions when leaving a race... you just might end up in Germany instead of Belgium!

Time to recover!




August 20, 2011

Tour of Elk Grove: Sprinters VS time trialists

The Tour of Elk Grove was two weeks ago in the Chicago area. This was the first time in a few years that a women’s 3-day stage race was back on the racing schedule. Always great to see more women’s events!

The event consisted of a 7 km time trial, and then two 50-minute criteriums. The times were all very close after the first time trial. Janel was sitting 2nd, just 6 seconds back from Anne Samplonius (NOW). I was next best placed in 7th, 18 seconds back. With time bonuses up for grabs in the 2 crits, the sprinters were ready to battle the time trialists.

The team decided going into the first crit that it would make the most sense to try and get me the 10 second bonus at the finish. If I could win both days, it would lead to the overall win. There were intermediate time bonuses (3 sprints, points on each sprint, people with the most points at the end get 3, 2, and 1 seconds respectively. Confused yet? Me too.) In any case, Lauren and Theresa did a great job going for those sprints, we couldn’t afford to let the high ranked GC riders any time. Going into the sprint, the team did a great job of making the race fast getting me into perfect position. Theresa was perfect as last lead out and powered by everyone like they were standing still. It was so fun to get a lead out from one of the best sprinters in the world! I got the win and 10 seconds, and Theresa was 3rd.
Janel rode a great race and maintained her 2nd overall, and I moved into 3rd, now just 8 seconds back.
Some happy people in the background!

The final stage was intense. The only way I could win the overall would be to win the race, getting the 10 second bonus, and if Anne did not pick up any time bonuses in the race. The team once again rode a fantastic race, and it all came down to a bunch sprint again. The last lap was slightly terrifying. The other teams were definitely doing their best to keep me out of the sprint. Somehow I made it through and Theresa once again delivered a world-class lead out. I won the sprint, and the Yellow jersey! I’ll admit, it was close though, Anne, normally a pure timetrialist channeled her inner sprinter and placed 4th on the stage, very close to taking the time bonus for third.
Janel finished third overall on GC to add to the overall awesomeness of the race! She maintained her lead in the NRC standings and this race moved me into second overall.


Other exciting news: The team has a current obsession with nail polish, largely fuelled by our soigneur, Ronnie’s passion for buying the nail polish. Somehow via twitter, this passion for nail polish sparked an impromptu auctioning of Chad Andrew’s nails, the announcer of the previous week’s Presbyterian criterium in Charlotte (won by Theresa!). Over $2000 was raised for 24 Hours of Booty and the brain tumour foundation. Just goes to show the power of social media… and nail polish!
Getting SOAKED in champagne!

July 26, 2011

Bend, how I love you


I had a blast racing this past week at the Cascade Cycling Classic in Bend, Oregon. It was good from the moment we stepped off the plane. The cool mountain air was such a relief after the hot and stuffy Pennsylvania weather. It finally felt like I could take a full breath of cool air.

I went a week earlier with Lauren and Janel to cut down on travel time and costs. It was nice to ride and admire the scenery without a maxed out heart rate while going cross-eyed... that would come later in the week! We also had the opportunity to walk around town a bit and check out some of the much-loved Bend restaurants. Janel was very excited at the Mexican restaurant that they sold a dish that used a specific kind of fungus that grows on corn.. hmm the concept of eating corn fungus did not sound particularly appetizing, but my opinion changed upon trying it!

Every morning started with a massive bowl of peanut butter/banana oatmeal and a little Tour de France for inspiration for the day, though I’ll admit I usually fell back asleep and missed a lot of the live finishes..
Jon Devich- Prologue.. my road rash is healing well!

The first day of racing included a short prologue in the Old mill district of town. The time gaps were not too important since the race was so short and there were many stages to follow. Canadians ruled the podium in this stage with Tara Whitten in first, Clara Hughes in second and me taking the White best young rider jersey.
Jon Devich- Lava fields at the top of Mackenzie Pass

Big Springs Snow Park – Three Creeks Snow Park. The first 74-mile road stage was hard. There was a 20-mile climb up Mackenzie pass followed by a 10 km finishing climb, talk about brutal! The lava landscape at the top of Mackenzie pass takes your mind off the pain for at least a second. Riding got a little bit easier when I finally realized my back tire was going flat during the race..haha smart move. A simple mistake of forgetting to drink and eat enough didn’t help nearing the end of the race, so simple yet sooo important. Andrea Dvorak from my team demonstrated how strong of a climber she is by placing second on the stage!
 Bridging up to the break

Next stage was the 16-mile time trial, a simple out and back course, climbing on the way out and descending on the way back. Even though there are hardly any turns on the course, it is still hard at times to keep your bike going in a straight line with all the bumps and holes in the road! There was talk after the race of rallying racers to pool some money to repave the road.. haha. Janel rocked it and placed 5th.
Jon Devich- Gorgeous lake beside the course

Stage three wasn’t quite as brutal of a course as the first day, but still finished on a 10 km climb up Mt. Bachelor. Janel was our highest ranked rider at 5th going into the stage, so we did not really have anything to lose. With this in mind, everyone on the team traded off both initiating and following the continuous steam of attacks. Finally after the millionth attack something finally stayed away. I managed to bridge across to the break, and it eventually grew to 11, including 3 colavitas! We stayed away going into the final climb where a fast pace caused the group de deteriorate. Rushlee rode amazing and attacked at the end to win the stage for the team!
photo Jon Devich- Break with the chase not far behind..

Stage four was finally a flat, 50 minute crit in downtown Bend. The crowds were absolutely amazing, I think the whole town came out to watch. A break escaped later in the race including teammates Lauren and Kristin. Kristin drove the break enough to keep it away and Lauren used her sprinting skills to power to overtake the other riders at the line for the win!
My most favourite photo from the whole race!

Stage five included four laps of a challenging 16 mile course starting right at Summit high school in Bend. It was a rolling course with a steep 2 km climb. The climb tricks you into thinking its over halfway by flattening out, but then it just kicks up again. Before the race we basically decided as a team that we were going to try and win the race, or completely blow ourselves up trying. Janel was in 8th going into the stage, just over a minute back. We attacked a lot in the first two laps. Those efforts combined with the heat really had me thinking I would be dropped. Thankfully the pace got a little more manageable when a break finally got away which included Janel. The break shrunk to 4 riders, and then just Anne Samplonius and Janel were left at the end.

They ended up building up a 2-minute lead, Janel was second on the stage, but the time gap put her in the yellow jersey! Rushlee led the chase group in for 5th place and kept her lead in the White jersey, and Andrea collected enough points throughout the week to keep the snazzy polka dot jersey. I finished in 17th overall. The new time gap also put Colavita/Forno d’Asolo into first on the overall team standings! Seriously amazing, such a perfect example of what dedicated teamwork can accomplish.
Jon Devich- Colavita wins 3/4 jerseys!

We had to drive back to Portland to catch flights the next day, but the week just was not complete without some sort of celebration. The famous “Voodoo doughnuts” in Portland was a perfect destination! Only Janel, Kelly and I ended up going out, but it was worth it! Maple and Bacon is actually a delicious combination. Seriously try it. 

July 16, 2011

2011 Tour de Toona

Fireworks announced my arrival into Pennsylvania on July 4th..

The Colavita riders and staff would meet up in Altoona, PA for the famous Tour de Toona, making a return to the NRC racing calendar after a several year absence..

Stage 1 Time trial:

Five km + 18 corners + full aero get up= fast times! Janel 5th, me 8th, Lauren 14th, Rushlee 16th.. I wish all time trial courses were this interesting. 

Stage 2. Road race, 73 miles, Mountain top finish.

Racing was hot, hot, hot. Luckily a downpour of rain came along to cool things off. The race was aggressive going through the rolling terrain. So aggressive in fact that it was pretty hard to find a lull in the pace to grab bottles from the car. I remember Lauren handing a bottle off to me at the same time she accelerated to follow an attack.. superstar team-mate. The whole Colavita team set a hard tempo leading into the final 5 mile climb of the day up Blue Knob mountain. I lost contact with the front when attacks started going, but Janel and Rushlee climbed with the leaders until just before the finish. Canadian champ Veronique Fortin once again proved that she is a super climber and won the stage. Janel was top Colavita finisher in 11th.

Stage 3: Road race, 144 km (actually 155 km…)

The day’s stage included 3 significant climbs. We would climb up the other side of Blue Knob than in the previous stage, this side featuring a 2 km gravel section.. Our goal for the day was to move Janel up in GC. Unfortunately we were down two teammates as Kristin and Kelly went home sick. An early break went in the race with Lauren representing Colavita. Their gap grew to around 4 minutes, then suddenly it started jumping up.. 5, 6, 7, 8 minutes? But weren’t we going the same speed or faster? It all made sense when suddenly the motos were signaling for us to turn around.. wrong way! They decided to neutralize the break and the chase, and then restart both groups at the old time gap when we got back on course. 

Off we went again. But wait, we were directed the wrong way again! Once again we were neutralized and had to restart the race. A very strange race indeed. 

Luckily this was the last time we were neutralized and the racing continued in earnest. I couldn’t stick with the top climbers going up blue knob and rode the rest of the race with a smaller group and tried to make it back to the leaders. But this was the uninteresting part of the race, I only found out the exciting parts after reaching the finish. Lauren had taken the win and Janel finished third! Turns out Lauren and Anne Samplonius (Now) had made it over the climb with a gap and stayed away the whole race! Janel had also escaped the pack with Veronique Fortin on the second climb and outsprinted her to the line. A wicked day for Colavita/Forno d’Asolo on the hardest stage!

Stage 4: Criterium

Finally a flat-ish stage! The 8-cornered crit had a slight hill and then a very twisty section leading into the finish.  Janel was sitting in second, 1:15 back on GC after the previous days stage. Goal #1 was to move up in GC, goal #2 was the stage win. The whole team rode impressively from the start, controlling the whole race. Gaps started to open in the field as the pace increased and groups of riders were being dropped, including the yellow jersey. The team rode the front and drove the pace, steadily increasing the gap by 10 seconds a lap. I had an unfortunate incident with the pavement around this time …nothing too serious though, just a nice patch of road rash to deal with and one destroyed pair of shorts:(. I was back in the action by the next lap. The gap grew to the point where we lapped the yellow jersey, Janel just had to finish the race to win the overall! I was third wheel coming out of the final corner, finishing second in a close sprint with Laura Van Gilder (Now and Novartis).   

Thanks to the hard work of the riders and support staff, the Tour de Toona was an amazing race for  Colavita. Janel won the overall GC, we won team GC by over 7 minutes and had 3 podium finishes with all 4 riders in the top 15 in GC!

Final GC:
1st Janel
8th Rushlee
13th Lauren
15th Leah

Next up is the Cascade Classic in Bend, Oregon. Love the riding in Bend!

July 8, 2011

Nationals

The Canadian National Championships took place two weeks ago in Burlington, Ontario (yes I’m very behind). Many of the athletes competing flew straight from Minneapolis after Nature Valley to Toronto.

First up was a 21 km time trial in the cute little town of Belfountaine. The course ended up being a lot hillier than I remembered while pre-riding.. funny how that is! After a minor panic before the start when my shifting mysteriously stopped working, the race went off with no other problems. I rode at max effort into the wind and up the rolling climbs. I finished in 16th overall (2nd U23). Clara Hughes put in an impressive effort and won the Canadian title.

Next up was the 104 km road race, 8 laps for the women, each lap climbing the dreaded “Rattle snake climb”. A1 km climb up the Niagara Escarpment, at times reaching inclines of 21%. It was obvious that this would be the strongest indicator of who had the best form. The women’s race began at 6 pm, which was a little bizarre. It was peak season for a local strawberry farm and they didn’t want the road closed during their business hours, which was understandable.
suffering on the climb
Small breaks went early in the race, but were brought back. The most significant move was by Moriah Macgregor (Juvederm) early in the race, and was only brought back at the bottom of the last climb, very impressive! Breaks in the chase group would happen every time up that climb, and fewer and fewer riders would make it back with every lap. I fought hard to stay in contact with the front group and made the final group of twenty riders on the last lap. I gave it my all the last time up and finished a respectable 8th place overall (2nd U23). I’m very proud of the result; it was awesome to hang in there on such a challenging finish! The race was won by super climber, Veronique Fortin (PK-Express).

Also worth mentioning is that the best part of this race was the descent! Apparently we hit speeds of +90 km/h, it sure felt like we were going fast!
criterium podium

Next day was the criterium in downtown Georgetown. I was the defending champ going in this year so I was looking forward to the race. The format was a little different than last year with it being a points race instead of a regular criterium. In a points race you sprint every 5 laps. The points go 4 deep (5, 3, 2, 1), and double points for the final sprint. The course was technical, with a twisty descent, leading into a steep climb, and then a narrow finishing straight. After some minor confusion about the format, the race began. I managed to win the first two points sprints to gain a lead right off the start. It was after this that Tibco started launching Tara Whitten off the front to force the group the chase. However, Heather (my Colavita team-mate) was able to help me cover attempted breakaways and keep the speed high into the sprint laps. Nearing the end, two riders broke away from the group. At this point in the race, I led Joelle Numainville (Tibco) by 6 points. The points for the finish were 10, 6, 4, 2.. I would have to beat her in the final sprint to keep the lead. Heather and I realized that it was good to have the girls stay off the front and take the higher points, as they posed no threat to the overall. I took the bunch sprint for third on the final lap and managed to defend my title for the second year!

I’m currently competing with Colavita in Altoona, PA at the Tour of Toona. A very cool race with equal prize money and distances with the men and women. Stay tuned for an update.

June 27, 2011

Nature Valley Grand Prix- what a week!

 The 2011 Nature Valley Grand Prix was last week down in Minneapolis, MN. I was very excited going into it.. a stage race with three crits, that’s my kind of race! Our roster for the week included Italians, Giorgia Bronzini (current world champion!) and Barbara, and Cath, Rushlee, Janel, Heather, Theresa from the North American squad.


It was such a crazy week of racing, full of ups and downs for the Colavita/Forno D’asolo team. A lot happened, here is a somewhat chronological list of a few events from the week:

Good: Rushlee earned the best young riders jersey in the stage 1 time trial!

Not too bad: It was a very rainy, slightly miserable time trial.

Good: Bronzini won Stage 2 criterium from a bunch sprint!

Bad: Cath crashed during the same rainy stage and fractured her pelvis:(

Good: Bronzini took the bunch sprint to win the Stage 3 road race, and Theresa finished 3rd!
close sprint! Bronzini 1st, Theresa 3rd
Bad: A sketchy gravel road included in this stage took out Janel and destroyed her elbow:(

Good: She still started the stage 4 crit the next day. Bike racers are seriously some of the toughest people I know!

Bad: The crit involved a crash with 39 riders on the last lap.. I was involved with that, but came out relatively unscathed. The stage was neutralized.
crashing sucks

Good: I was in a break of seven riders for the majority of the stage 5, 81-mile road race, staying away to the end. I won the breakaway sprint and accumulated enough sprint and climbing points, and time through out the race to take the Queen of the Mountain, Sprint and Young riders jersey, and move into third in GC... cool, never done that before!

Not too bad: The final stage at Stillwater featured a very steep, 21% climb that did not treat me too well after the previous day's effort. Despite strong efforts by my team-mates, I missed making the front group and dropped to 10th overall in GC and lost the young riders jersey (still happy with my finish though!).
Bronzini conquering the hill on the way to a stage win
Good: Bronzini did make the select front group of 12 riders, and won the stage! I also had enough points to hold onto the QOM and Sprint jerseys!

Final podium with all the jerseys (I'm on the far left)
Overall, it was quite the eventful week of racing for the Colavita team. We finished with 4 out of 5 stage wins and two jerseys, pretty good! There was a seriously impressive display of team-work through out the whole week of racing. I wish a very speedy recovery to my injured teammates!

I’ll write a blog soon about nationals:)

June 14, 2011

June Racing

Apologies for my recent lack of updates.. Since racing Pan Ams about a month ago, I've raced The Tour de Grove in St.Louis, the GP cycliste de Gatineau and even went home for a few weeks! Most recently I raced the Airforce classic in Arlington, VA (which I discovered is actually just across the river from Washington, DC- my knowledge of US geography is vastly improving this year!).

Tour de Grove was very cold and rainy. Colavita did still manage to pick up some podium spots that weekend. Kelly placed third the first day, and the second day Edita placed first with me in third. The finish was chaotic when a girl took the corner too hot and sparks flew off her bike as it hit the ground!

GP de Gatineau was really fun, you get to wind around on-ramps and off-ramps and there is a round-about 300 m from the finish. I was in a break for a good part of the race which was fun. We didn't stay away though. Denise Ramsden (Juvederm) countered and got a decent gap on the field. I tried to bridge across, but it just wasn't going to happen. It all came back together for a crazy bunch sprint. Thankfully the girl who crashed at the roundabout this year only crashed herself and not half the field like last year... I ended up fourth in the sprint, which I was happy with! Also Colavita took 1st and 3rd which was sweet! ( I was racing with Team Canada).

That brings you pretty up to date. Just this past weekend was the Airforce Cycling Classic where I managed to pick up my first NRC win ever! It was a bit of a Tibco/Colavita showdown since both teams had full 8 rider squads. The race consisted of two crits, and an overall omnium title. Heat was definitely a factor for the day with the sun beating down. Despite many attacks and small breakaway attempts the first day, the race came down to a bunch sprint. I finished second to Joelle (Tibco), while Lauren from Colavita joined me on the podium for third.

We were both sitting in good spots for the omnium going into the next event, the Crystal Cup. Thankfully the predicted thunderstorm held off and we had good conditions to race the technical course. The race was once again really aggressive with attacks going left, right and center. The final break was brought back going into the last lap. Cath drove the pace around the last corner and up the last straightaway with me sitting on her wheel. This was a perfect set up for the finish and I was able to jump from her wheel and hold it to the finish to take the win, this also gave me the overall omnium win for the weekend! I had so much fun this past weekend, it helps to have some amazing teammates to race and hang out with!

Next up is the Nature Valley Grand Prix in Minneapolis, MN, starting tomorrow with a tt and crit! Hopefully the weather man decides his forecast for rain is wrong..

PS: If you have Facebook and are reading this, you should really go "like" the Team Colavita page on Facebook to get updates on all the racing!

May 10, 2011

Pan Am Championships: Victory for Canada!


The Pan Am Championship road race was this past Sunday. It was a 96 km road race consisting of 6 laps of a tough circuit containing two short, but steep climbs. The combination of heat and altitude (7000 ft!) made the race pretty challenging.

We knew going into the race that the American team would be the team to beat as they had three of the best cyclists in the world. We also had some of the best cyclists, but also strength in numbers with a full team of six riders.

Our original plan for the race changed quickly when Clara broke away with a rider from El Salvador while descending the second climb of the day on the first lap. Wow can she corner fast! We weren’t really sure if the breakaway would succeed being so early in the race. With Clara off the front, the US team was forced to chase to try and bring her back. The rest of us Canadians did our best to thwart their efforts, and the gap grew steadily. Some of the other teams were quite active in the race and set a blistering pace up the climbs and threw down some strong attacks. It’s been awhile since my legs have burned that bad! Going into the final lap it was evident that the break would not be caught. They had increased the gap to over 5 minutes! This meant our group would have a sprint for third. We tried to set up a lead out for Joelle. It didn’t quite succeed and Theresa took the sprint for third, with Joelle in 4th

Overall it was an awesome day for Canada with 5 riders in the top 10. Clara took gold after attacking her breakaway partner on the last lap. Joelle finished 4th, Denise in 6th, Heather in 8th and I finished 10th. Karol-anne finished with the pack in 25th after throwing down an impressive last minute attack to increase the speed going into the finish. This race qualified Canada another spot for the World Championships which is pretty cool.

I’m now in Little Rock, Arkansas. Yesterday was quite the travel day! Up at 3 am, Medellin- Miami- Chicago- Little Rock, arrived at 10pm. I really need to learn to sleep on planes.

Next up, Tour de Grove in St. Louis for some crit racing. 

I'll upload a few photos when I get a better internet connection!

May 6, 2011

Colombia- Pan Am Champs

I finally made my way to Medellin, Colombia after three very long days of travel. Brussels – Chicago, overnight, Chicago-Miami- missed connection= overnight- Miami- Medellin- Arrival! I was shocked and impressed that my luggage actually arrived as well.

I had a very funny experience leaving the airport. There was not enough room in the car for my bike in the CCA car, so we had to get a taxi. Up rolls the smallest taxi I’ve ever seen. I thought there was no way my bike would possibly fit, but the driver and a few airport staff were determined to make it work. In goes my bike sideways, no the doors won’t close. Maybe horizontally with the front seat down? Um where will I sit? Finally we get it in the trunk, but it won’t close. That’s no problem for this driver though.. next thing I know he is unlacing his shoes and using the laces to tie it down! Haha only in Colombia!

From the airport it wasn’t too far of a drive to where we were staying. Apparently the whole team had just moved from the official race hotel to one that was a lot quieter and way closer to the course. I was warned early on of the evil aggressive duck that attacks innocent guests. I named him Harold.
I soon discovered that the other ducks are just as crazy and do not hesitate to chase you and to nip at your heels. They mysteriously seemed to leave the owners alone, hmm.. 

It was nice to get to ride my bike outside again after all of the travel. I rode with Karol-Ann up the road right outside our accommodations. There were very beautiful views of the city and Andes. I did notice the altitude while riding. We are actually quite high up, Medellin is around 4900 feet.

The men’s and women’s time trial was today. Clara won the women's tt which is so awesome! The other riders had great results as well with both Denise and Rob finishing 5th!
Here are the full results:

I'm really excited to race the road race on Sunday. Hopefully we will get a chance to check out the course tomorrow. 
Leah

May 4, 2011

Weekend of Luxembourg

I have to begin this post by saying Luxembourg is beautiful! Luxembourg city is this mystical mountainous city with beautiful rivers running through it, and old castles and bridges scattered everywhere. It’s just so gorgeous! It was a nice to race in a different country, and against a few different teams. I have never seen more perfect roads, the lack of road ‘furniture’ did not go unnoticed!

First up was a team time trial on Friday night. This was really just a show of a race. No real results, no pressure. Despite it not counting for anything, we were still prepared to put in a solid 5 km effort. Luckily it was still light outside for our start at 8:40pm, some of the later teams were not as lucky. We did however get to start just as the rain began. The race was 3 laps, crossing two bridges on the course. It was going really well up until about the 3rd corner when the combination of rain and wheels touching led to a crash with one girl hitting pavement. It was really unfortunate. This also gapped off another one of our teammates from the group, so we were down to 3. The finish time counted on the third person, so we kept going, hoping our teammates were okay (they were). It was tough with just three of us, but we all put in a solid effort, all while taking the corners with extra caution. We actually won 28 euros for our effort for 19th place! Haha that money went towards waffles..

Saturday was the Grand Prix Elsy Jacobs, a UCI 1.1 race. It started with a big 50ish km loop of rolling hills through the Luxembourg countryside and forests, finishing with a  circuit which included two climbs for a total of 114km. I was sitting a bit far back in the first loop, but wasn’t too concerned as most of the action last year happened in the finishing circuits up the climbs and in the wind. Made it through the first circuit ok, climbing well, group still together. Second lap was where everything fell apart. A tough pace was set up the first steeper climb. This shattered the group and I didn’t realize how big the gaps were getting until the descent. I tried to bridge across but just didn’t have it! A group of 20 riders stayed away to the finish. I finished 4th in our group of 60 for 24th/143 starters. Excitement of the day was my pedal breaking and foot flying out accelerating to the finish, thankfully no crashes came of that. Leah G. rolled in with the same 60 person group as me.

Sunday was the  another UCI 1.1. We did the same loop as yesterday, but with a different finishing circuit with one smallish climb for the feed zone and a monster of a 1 km climb before a downhill finish. First big loop was fun. The pace wasn’t too tough, and I stuck near the front to stay out of trouble. It was nice to lead up a few climbs and not worry about random braking or getting pushed around. My main goal was to enter the circuits at the front of the group going into the steep climb. I actually did and ended up about 10th wheel descending to the start/finish. Perfect! Unfortunately this is where things started to go downhill. Literally. I don’t even know how to explain what was wrong with my bike at that moment. I think it’s just a dropped chain, but when it’s back on something is very wrong with my bike. It feels like my breaks are on, but they’re not. I shift some gears, spin the pedals but no power is transferred to the bike. WHAT IS GOING ON? Sort of freaked out trying to figure this out as I quickly went from 10th to 150th wheel trying not to crash everyone as we take a corner and hit a hill. Luckily Karlee rolled up at that instant and handed me her bike! Wow, so awesome of her to do that! Unfortunately we both quickly figure out that Ritchey and Keo pedals are not in fact compatible. Darn it. Would have been so perfect! (Realized looking at my wheel after the race that my entire cassette had somehow come loose from the wheel, not sure how that happened.) We got my bike a new wheel then motor paced the car to the climb. Unfortunately too much time had been wasted to this point and the group was moving very fast as the finish approached. I time trialed two laps passing cyclists that had been dropped, but still get pulled with 3 laps to go. Oh well, what can you do, that’s bike racing for you! Sunday was still a fun day of racing, we had an awesome display of teamwork, Canada got on the radio with two attacks from Karlee and another impressive one from Leah G. on the final climb, we saw Frank Schleck who was very nice, and Luxembourg is absolutely beautiful.

This race actually marked the end of my 2011 April European racing campaign. Overall it was a fantastic experience. I finished 14/15 races! Last year I was lucky to get my name in the results. We had a great team of girls and we all kept up a good morale despite all of the set backs and any bad luck that came our way. Crazy to think this is only the start of the season and there is still months of racing to come!

April 28, 2011

5th Prijs Stad Roeselare

The 5th Prijs Stad Roeselare was the race on Easter Sunday. We discovered that the Easter bunny paid us a visit the night before! Yum chocolate, saved it for post race:).  After a quick breakfast, all the riders and staff piled into the 3 car Canadian convoy. We were very close to having a 1-1 ratio of actual riders to staff, too funny.

The race was 135 km long, featuring 2 loops of 3 hills back to back about halfway through the race. The first two were steep asphalt and the third was the famous cobbled Kemmelberg climb, very steep at 22%!

The race started out with the usual craziness, avoiding people, poles, curbs, motorbikes… etc. The motorbikes were especially scary today. I guess they didn’t have too many available, so they would have to ride through the pack in order to close the roads up ahead. The thing is that girls work hard to have good position in the pack and will not easily give it up, even to a honking motorbike! I saw a girl crash with a motorbike last year and have been a bit freaked out about them since, I always move over!

The race picked up going into the climbs. The first climb was so annoying. I guess a few girls a bit overgeared and caused the slowest uphill crash ever. This resulted in nobody being able to pass and girls having to run up the hill with their bikes! I somehow did a track stand and managed to sneak through without having to resort to running. This pile up was not advantageous, as the leaders didn’t get stuck behind all that mess and gained some time there. I chased as hard as I could up the second climb, eventually making it back to the main group right before the Kemmelberg. I was just on the back going over the very top, and unfortunately took a few bad lines through the twisty descent and found myself a bit off the back at the bottom, oh no.
I chased with another rider, but the group kept getting further away.. oh no oh no! We still had another lap of the hills to go. With some of the best climbers in the world up to road, this put the chances of chasing back on not too likely. At least Joelle was climbing like a rockstar today and made the front group, good to have some Canadian representation up the road! We were caught by a small chase group going into the climbs. Here I found Leah G. who had also gotten held up by the earlier crash. From this point my race wasn’t too eventful. Our group rode a decent pace to get back to the finish.

They pulled our group off the course in the finishing laps so we wouldn't run into the other group. I was a bit confused when people started sprinting. Hmm.. sprinting for a DNF? Looking at results later I figured out that they actually still gave us placings with a time..haha that explained the sprinting.

Amber Neben rode really strong and attacked through the circuits and won solo with Joelle finishing in the group just behind. I rolled in 73rd/ 155 starters.

The biggest bummer of the day was the death of Julia’s bike. Someone very sadly fell over on to it during all the climbing madness. Somehow the force of this person falling  actually fully broke the rear part of her frame in two pieces, so crazy! She's had to ride the little 49 cm spare bike lately, very euro. It's a bit small considering she usually rides a 56 cm frame.

Next stop: Luxembourg for a team time trial and two more road races! After I'll be flying down to Colombia for the Pan Am championships. I hear that Pan Ams can be a super crazy experience. I’m  excited to meet and race with Clara Hughes, a fellow Winnipegger!

Here’s a link for an article on Karlee and I from the Winnipeg Free Press if anyone’s interested in some extra reading material:

Leah

April 23, 2011

Omloop van Borsele


Today was the Omloop van Borsele, a UCI 1.2 race. Five laps of 24.4 km made up the 122 km course. Joelle our current Canadian national champ has flown in to race the next couple of races, so we started with a full team. All of us were convinced that this race was in Belgium, but surprise, it was actually back to Holland we drove! The course was extremely flat with very narrow winding roads, typical Holland. 
Last year’s race was a bit crazy with Cervelo driving it from km 1 and a break staying away the whole race. This year it started at a bit saner pace. I was positioned so well in the group for about the first half hour. It’s actually fun going through corners when you don’t have to slam on the brakes! Unfortunately I lost this good spot when the group slowed down and started to swarm, darn it.

It was on the third lap that the pace quickly increased. The group started to splinter and I had to work hard with Joelle to close gaps. We got back to the group, but then another acceleration splintered the group again and a group of 21 riders got away. This group not including Joelle or I, the two Canadians left near the front of the race, darn it. 

The heat sure made racing tough today. It was 27 degrees out! I know not the hottest temperature ever recorded, but still a shock to the system after all the colder temperatures. I tried to think cold thoughts to feel better. Winnipeg winters… skiing in -50 degree weather… eating gelato… ok starting to feel a little colder… oh wait maybe that’s just the dehydration setting in. 
I was not impressed with the commissaire who would not let us take bottles on the last lap. The rule is that you are not allowed to feed in the first 50 km or last 20 km. We were definitely still within the limit and I think everyone was thirsty.

The race was won for the 4th year in a row by sprinter extraordinaire, Kirsten Wild (AA Drink). I was second in our group sprint and finished in 23rd/177 starters, Joelle finished in the same group as well.
Next up tomorrow is the Grand Prix Roeselare, a race in Belgium for real this time.


April 20, 2011

A chance to be a tourist...

As a competitive cyclist, you get to do a lot of traveling around the world. The thing is that you don’t always experience countries the way that most tourists might. Most site seeing takes place from the seat of your bike (some of it goes by quite quickly when you’re racing by at 40km/h..). It’s actually a very unique way to experience a country. A bike can bring you off the beaten path. It can carry you away from the hoards of tourists and into the quiet countryside. Or if you’re in a city, a bike can take you places a car can’t go, and you can cover more ground in a day compared to walking. There are tons of advantages of traveling by bike! We may not get to visit all the famous places a country has to offer, but we do still get to experience a countries culture by riding it’s roads, trying local cuisine and meeting new people.
However we do still get the rare opportunity to check out some cool places when time permits! Yesterday was one of those days, with our next race not until this weekend we decided it would be an excellent day to check out the city of Brugge in Belgium. Wikipedia tells me that Brugge is known as “The Venice of the North” because of all the canals running around the city. Wikipedia also tells me the historic city centre has been a UNESCO world Heritage site since 2000. Pretty cool!
The city managed to survive both world wars without being destroyed, so the city centre features preserved medieval architecture. It felt a bit like we had stepped back in time navigating the narrow alleys, as horse drawn carriages trotted down the cobbled streets. The hundreds of chocolate shops along with tourist and clothing shops boldly pointed out reality. 
We had a very relaxed Belgium day in Brugge… walked over the lake of love, observed the tall standing churches and other brick architecture, drank cappuccino’s out in the sun, sampled some hand made chocolate, and finished the evening off with some delicious Italian cuisine (yes wrong culture, but still made in Belgium so it counts). 
I would definitely like to go back and learn more about the history of the area. Maybe have a boat tour around the canals. It will have to wait for another day, for now it’s training until the next races. The weather in Belgium has been gorgeous lately, the sun is out, the sky is blue, the orchards are in full blossom! Who says Belgium has bad weather? 



Leah

April 18, 2011

Ronde van Gelderland

Today was the Ronde Van Gelderland in Appledorn. A UCI 1.2 race, 140 km long. Our awesome mechanic Julien was able to get my bike back up and running for today’s race! Luckily I had an extra derailleur hanger to replace the one snapped in two, and we were able to borrow a shifter off of another team. The spare biked worked well yesterday, but I definitely missed my Jamis!

The field had a lot more Holland club teams compared to yesterday’s world cup, which only had the top ranked teams and some national teams. Some of the top teams traveled to another UCI 1.2 race down in Belgium today. It’s crazy that there can be TWO huge UCI women’s races, on the same day, that both have over 100 competitors, only in Europe!

Unlike most of the flat recent races we’ve been doing, this course featured 5 climbs right in the first 50 km, and then finished flat. The course was backwards to that of last year, which had all the climbs at the end instead.I knew that the field would probably get split going through the climbs and twisty descents, so being at the front would be extremely important in that section (as always..). After getting through the 7 km neutral start, the race was on! I didn’t want a repeat of yesterday, so I wove through the pack and actually made it to the very front after about 10km, yay! I was in an awesome position going into the climbs, actually leading part way up the first climb. I stayed with the lead group all the way through the climbs and going into the flat section of the course. As I suspected, we lost a lot of people through the climbs, and unfortunately all of the Canadians due to some badly timed flats, mechanicals and getting stuck behind crashes.

There was a small break that got away through the climbs, almost all of the top teams represented. The break did get brought back after awhile. Thankfully it wasn’t too windy out, so wasn’t too much guttering and the group stayed together. We finished on a winding circuit though the city. i just didn't have the energy to get myself up to the front to try and sprint, but I was happy to finish with the group. The sprint was won by Ina Teutenberg of HTC and I rolled in at 45th/ 180 starters.
The drive back to Belgium felt so long after racing, but we did go out for the most delicious pizza at about 10 pm that lifted everyone’s spirits. Next race isn’t until next Saturday so now there is some time to re-energize the mind and body!

Here’s an awesome shot Karlee took of me right before the finish:

April 16, 2011

Drenthe World Cup

Dirty from the cobbles...
You know what was great about today? Crashing 4 km into a 132 km race. In the neutral start. You know what was even better! Having my derailleur ripped off and shifter broken in this crash. Thank goodness that our one spare bike happened to be set up with my pedals and saddle height!
Sigh, The Drenthe World cup seems to always be a crazy race, and this is only my second year doing it.
I was quite prepared for surprises after last year’s start. Last year involved riding from a warehouse and passing through a shopping mall complete with a red carpet in order to reach the actual start line. Then bikes were thrown everywhere as everyone raced to sign in to get to the actual start line in a good position. Definitely the most creative neutral start I’ve ever experienced.
I went in this year expecting some sort of craziness and it didn’t disappoint. The hardest part was finding where to start! I couldn’t help but think that we were at some sort of circus, circling aimlessly at the start line figuring out where to go, all while hundreds of motorbikes revved their engines, people walked everywhere, and the marching band played their tunes. We did eventually find where to go. Apparently all the teams had to do a team presentation inside one of the buildings, then go outside, sign in, then line up. Quite a few teams figured this out before us so we were one of the last ones to line up. The race is really well run and supported by the town, it’s just that all the extra formalities can be extremely confusing!
Next up was the crazy neutral start with my unfortunate crash. One of the girls who saw from behind said it happened when the group swerved over to avoid a car on the side of the road. Sometimes crashing is a bit unavoidable. In any case, I hopped onto the neutral bike, wiped away my tears of frustration and rejoined the battle.

I could definitely feel the fatigue from the past few races in my legs today. I was sitting wayyyy too far back in the bunch, but just didn’t have the energy to propel myself through the group. It makes me realize that my position in the pack actually hasn’t been all that bad in the past few races. The back is awful, braking from the front of the pack gets amplified x100, and you get caught behind every single crash. I have made it a goal to not ride any more races back there!

The course featured three climbs up an old garbage dump. The first one 10 km in, and then two later on in the finishing circuits (really just the same “hill” backwards). There were also three distinct cobble sections after around 50 km. I knew that nothing would stay away after the first hill, but that the cobbles would probably determine most of the race. First cobbles were good, stayed with the group. Second cobbles were hard, 2.5 km of pain. I left these just a bit off the back of the group. It took a little while of chasing with a few other girls and weaving through the caravan, but we made it back to the group! Third cobbles, not so great, 2 more km of pain. It was this section that really broke up the race and I found myself in a smallish group of 20. Our group slowly grew as we caught people/ were joined by people chasing.
Three of the other Canadian girls fought hard through the cobbles, but didn’t quite make it through with a group. Leah G. ended up in the same group as myself, it was nice to have some company!
We rode most of the rest of the race in this group. Our group surprisingly came back in contact with the front before the 2nd climb, but then it separated again after the climb. It sort of did this a few times, but then the pace quickened and distinct groups formed. I was pretty darn tired at the end of the race.. longest last 25 km ever! The fans out watching, and helicopter out videotaping were good motivation nearing the end.
Marianne Vos won the final sprint (wow she is fast!). I rolled in 85/155 starters.
Managed to finish my second world cup (Flanders was the first), so at least that's pretty cool!
We get to do it all again tomorrow. 140 km of Ronde van Gelderland, starting from the track where Worlds just took place (where Tara Whitten won her omnium Gold!).
Anyways, this post is turning into a novel so I’m going to stop now!


Leah

April 14, 2011

Drenste 8 van dwingeloo

Dwingeloo, Dwingeloo, Dwingeloo! It's just fun to say! As you can probably tell we raced in a town called Dwingeloo today in the Drenste 8, a UCI 1.1 event.
I went into the race pretty positive. The roads were actually wide, there was barely any wind and the cobbles had a smooth strip down the middle to ride. All very good things when bike racing in Holland!

The race 141 km and I don't think I can describe what kind of loops we did. It seemed like we were always returning to the same town and then heading off in a different direction. I did the same race last year, but only recognized parts of the course. I relied on the piece of tape on my stem marking out the distances for cobbles and intermediate sprints. The races are so long that you usually don't get to see the whole course before a race, making the tape and a speedometer very useful things to have. Most of the intermediate sprints were only 2 km after the cobbles so it got pretty strung out through that section of the course.

Even though the roads were wider, I had a difficult time moving up today. I was caught up behind quite a few crashes and the corners were very slow with lots of people. Usually the best place to move up is on the sides of the road, but you need to be really vigilant when doing this! There are all sorts of obstacles you risk running into such as parked trucks and cars, garbage cans, concrete blocks, random poles... you need to always be looking ahead.
The race came down to a big bunch sprint won by Marianne Vos. I rolled in with the same group in 48th/165 starters. I was hoping for a better result, but oh well, there is still lots of racing to come. And I wasn't dropped like last year so that's a positive!
Here's a link showing some of the race:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oYcFMsJkBI&feature=share

Next up is the World cup on Saturday. There is a hill in this race! And the Winnipegers reading will appreciate this... it's an old garbage dump! Pretty sure it's the biggest/only hill in Holland.
Photo credit- Karlee    
The team and staff.. looks like it could be Christmas  

Leah

April 12, 2011

Rest days

Brr it's cold in Belgium. I write this as I sit on my bed under two blankets, wearing 4 layers and a toque, all while drinking warm tea. What happened to the 20 degree weather from yesterday? At least the rain has gone away.
Rest days between races are so nice. They give you a chance to relax and recover both mentally and physically from the demands of racing. When there's only a few days in between races, the focus is more on recovery and not actual training. Most of the rides are easy and include very few intervals.
Some cyclists really enjoy doing coffee shop rides on rest days! These consist of riding to a coffee shop within close proximity to the house, spending more time hanging out drinking coffee then actually riding, then eventually going home. Coffee shop rides are quite wonderful.
We discovered the greatest coffee shop in a small town near Tielt just last week. First they had a speculoos latte on the menu which I just had to try. Speculoos for those who have never tried it is a sort of like ginger cookies in spread form. It's quite popular in Europe, along with nutella.. Second, the waiter at the cafe kept bringing us plates of home-made chocolates. I think all of us left that cafe quite high on sugar with sore stomachs. Still it was worth it, they were so delicious :).
We leave tomorrow to return to the Netherlands. I think everyone is recovered and ready to get back to racing again!

Leah