May 24, 2012

Gatineau 2012: A Weekend of very Fast Females

I'm writing this post from Boise, Idaho, site of the Exergy Tour happening this week! Monday I raced for 3.5 hours at the GP Gatineau, then proceeded to sprint to the airport, take 3 planes, avoid one broken plane, and cross two time zones to end up in Idaho. Talk about a long day. Here is a recap of last weekend's inaugural Fast and Female event and the GP Gatineau road race.
photo credit: Fast and Female

Saturday was the very first Fast and Female road cycling event! Just a recap for those who may not know what Fast and Female is, it is a non- profit organization with a goal of female empowerment through sport. It was originally founded by Olympic gold medal xc-ski winner Chandra Crawford in an effort to inspire girls to stay in sport. The organization has since begun to expand to include other sports as well. It was during a fall training ride with fellow Canadian, Leah Guloein, that Fast and Female came up in a conversation. We were trying to come up with ways to get more girls into cycling, and we both agreed that it would be cool to try and host a road cycling event to get girls excited about the sport. And what better venue for the event than the Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau, Canada's biggest women's UCI cycling weekend featuring world reknown cyclists?! The organization was soon on board and took charge of logistics, while Leah and I recruited some more ambassadors and prepared some activities.
photo credit: Fast and Female

Twenty-seven amazing young cyclists between 9-19 came out for the first event! We began the day split into four groups. Each group came up with a team name, named strengths that everybody brought to the group, and got to go crazy with the face glitter!

After a great pep talk from National Team coach, Denise Kelly, all of the ambassadors were introduced then it was off for a ride. It was a perfect sunny and hot day for riding. There was a mix of mtb and road bikes in my group of 10/11 year olds. We regrouped often and talked about important riding skills and tactics to focus on. We also hit up a good climb in Gatineau park and I was super impressed by how strong the girls were at climbing!

We returned for a quick healthy snack and inspirational speech from my Optum p/b KBS team-mate Joelle. Joelle did a great job talking about perseverance, balance and achieving your goals. It was really a great speech and the girls had many questions. Denise then followed up by talking about the previous day's time trial (won by Canadian Clara Hughes!) and the impressive competition she was up against.
Zumba time     Photo credit: Fast and Female 

Next up was Zumba time! I have never done Zumba in my life and have to say it was an interesting experience. Learned some sweet new dance moves and worked up a sweat laughing.

Overall I would say the event was a success! Some of the girls came out to cheer the next day which was really cool!  Check out to find out about upcoming events.

Racing time:
The next day my team raced in the GP Gatineau, a UCI 1.1 ranked road race. It was an important event since the Olympic qualification period ends at the end of this month, and countries are still busy seeking out UCI points to qualify more spots.

The race began with an early breakaway for Tara Whitten (Tibco), a multiple world champion track cyclist (and one to watch in the next Olympics!). The race was 132 km long (13 laps) and it was a very hot day for racing, so the peloton allowed her a gap up to 1:45 before chasing. The race really started to light up after the initial laps. There were constant attacks and breakaways, but nothing would stick for very long. Our team did a great job being well represented in these moves which was great. A late break in the race looked promising, Optum had Lex and Denise up there, and Joelle decided to make a big effort to bridge across to it. Unfortunately this move also did not succeed and it looked like the race would be a bunch sprint again. A round a bout 300 metres from the end meant it would be a technical finish. There have been crashes there every year, so I think everyone was hoping for a break for a safer finish.
3 Canadians in one break! Just wish everyone would work..

The finish plan was for Carmen and I to lead out Joelle for the sprint. With 2 km to go everything was looking good. Carmen had Joelle on her wheel and sat top 10, then one rider sat between myself and Joelle.  However I did not expect that rider to suddenly be suddenly hitting the pavement when we turned off the final off ramp section of the course. Crashes suck. By some miracle I pulled out some impressive bike skills and came to screeching stop before t-boning anybody. I saw an Optum rider hit the ground in the whole ordeal. What a mess. I hopped off and back onto my bike then rode hard to find that the crash had gaped the front riders from the rest of the group. I took the sprint for 12th place and went off to find my teammates. Turns out that Carmen did a beautiful job at the finish, completely overtaking the Lululemon lead out right before the final round-a-bout. Joelle sprinted for a 4th place and Carmen was 5th. Not the podium we were hoping for, but still pretty darn good! The race was won by sprint machine Ina Teutenberg from Lululemon. Unfortunately that final crash left poor Annie concussed, we are all wishing her a quick recovery.

As I mentioned, the team is now in Idaho for the Exergy Tour. Check out the Exergy Tour Tracker app to follow the racing: . They are going to be live streaming all of our races. I'm so impressed by the event already, they are treating us like rock stars!

Leah :)

May 20, 2012

Home Sweet Home

This year has already included a lot of travel all over the US, South America and Europe. A break in the racing finally allowed for a visit home to Winnipeg! So nice to reconnect with friends and family and sleep in my own bed for a little while. Some highlights included:

  • Banana bread experimentation time. Coconut, peanut butter and cocoa powder make excellent additions. My first attempt suffered slight structural issues though..

  • Racing locally! The Seven Sisters Falls race coincided with being home. Racing with the guys was good entertainment. Thought I was back in Holland a few times. Same extreme flatness and relentless wind, but with much wider roads (fun fact, there is a Holland, MB, they even have a wind mill. Ironically it is one of the few places WITH elevation in the province). 

  • Training with the provincial team program kids. It is crazy to return and see how much the program has grown in the past few years. There were probably five of us back when I was training in Winnipeg, now there are 35 kids in the program, and they are fast!

  • It has also become tradition that the Manitoba Sports Centre puts me through a series of "torture" tests every time I come home for a visit. Fun times being poked and prodded, forced to ride exhaustion with a mask on my face and repeatedly stabbed in the finger. At least it is motivating to break records and see improvements:). I’ll forgive them for this pain because I am extremely grateful for all their support and services! The Sports Centre has been instrumental in helping to bring my performance to the next level these past couple of years.
All set for testing
I even got a few days off for a cabin adventure! 

Cyclists take note, tree climbing is an excellent arm workout
I tried to teach MJ to fetch, but she really just wants to look pretty and get pats
The spring flowers were out in full force! 

I’m now in Ottawa for the GP Gatineau UCI race tomorrow. Afterwards it’s a bit of an epic adventure around the US as demonstrated by this travel schedule between now and the end of June:

GP Gatineau, Gatineau; Exergy Tour, Boise, Idahot; Liberty Classic, Philadelphia ;Airforce Classic, Arlington, Virginia > Nature Valley Grand Prix, Minneapolis, MN; Nationals, Lac Megantic, Quebec; Home.

If any readers are from these places, come out to cheer on the team and say hi!
 I will also add some photos here once I find a better internet connection.