September 1, 2012

Breathing thin air in Aspen


Just landed in Brussels a few days ago and finally got back to blogging on the plane. Planes are probably one of the most efficient places to get stuff done, forced to sit in a confined place with no other distractions.

Last week was my final race of the season with Optum p/b KBS, the Blue Ribbon Alpine Challenge.

The team arrived in Denver a few days early to get used to the altitude and attend some sponsor events. Denver is exactly 1 mile above sea level and Aspen is at 8000 ft! Altitude does funny things to your body since oxygen is in short supply. It is slightly depressing to do a 30 second interval and be breathless for 10 minutes. Apparently it takes two weeks to start to truly acclimatize to altitude.

We had a good ride with folks from the Acura dealership and had a great visit with families staying at the Ronald McDonald house where families can stay for free near the hospital while their children receive medical attention. The foundation is doing really wonderful things. I hope we could provide a little entertainment and distraction in their day.
Ronald McD visit
Next stop was Aspen, the town I had heard so much about but never seen. Aspen lived up to all expectations. Our host house was none other than the Estee Lauder house! Absolutely incredible. Got to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous for a few days.

Not a bad set up (note rock climbing chimney, greatest idea ever!)

Annie and I enjoying the most delicious fish tacos ever.

My gorgeous bed, where to sleep with so many pillows?

We did eventually get around to racing on Wednesday. The women’s crit was held at the finish line of the men’s US Pro Challenge finish line. This helped draw out huge crowds for the event!

The roster for Aspen was Annie, Jade, Courtney, Carmen and myself. The race was ON from the very start. We averaged 42 km/h for an hour, racing on the 4-corner course with a slight downhill finish. There was a sprint competition within the race with 3 intermediate sprints and points at the finish. There was also a best young rider prize for the highest placed U25 rider. Our team goal was to go for the points competition and the win, and most importantly to showcase women’s cycling! We wanted an exciting race to catch people’s attention.

There were non-stop breaks and splits in the race, but nothing stayed away. The team did a great job helping Jade with the intermediate sprints and responding and initiating moves. The plan was to have Jade and Carmen lead me out for the final sprint. Our plans were slightly foiled by a late attack by Alison Power (NOW). Jade quickly jumped on her wheel. You can’t let Powers get too much room, her downhill skier background has transferred to some wicked fast cornering on the bike. The two held a small gap and Jade outsprinted Powers to the line! I took the sprint for third with Carmen in 4th. Jade won the overall and points competition, I won the Young Riders competition and we had three in the top 4, not too bad for a day of racing!
Powers, Jade and myself
Best young rider jersey
Huge thanks to all the sponsors that made the event possible: Blue Ribbon Restaurants, Primal, T Edwards wine, Bumsies, Ajax Tavern, the Little Nell, Limelight hotel, Aspen Snowmass, The Cosmopolitan, and Jason Dewey photography- you all rock! And most of all Jessica Philips for doing a great job as organizer. Hopefully the event will continue to grow in the future, there is so much potential to run women's events parallel to men's events. 

Next on my schedule is the Tour Cycliste Féminin de l’Ardèche in France from September 3-8th, and if that goes well then the World Championships road race on September 22nd. Stay tuned for updates!
(Also make sure to check out my teammate Lex Albrecht's blog for very current updates from Europe: http://lexalbrecht.blogspot.be/).

Leah


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