Motoring Along

This morning I realized that I’m ready. Really ready. I got out for a ride behind the motorbike and the body sensations were good. (Can’t say much for the ridiculous wind…) But nonetheless it was an excellent ride. Nothing quite like the feeling of speed when sitting just off the back of the motorbike with the legs spinning at 115 rpm and the wattage numbers looking sharp. Does so much for the body, mind, and soul. Just what I need a few days out from my first race of the season.

Tomorrow is looking like another most excellent day of cyclo-cross action. I’ve got a cyclo-cross practice session in the morning. Followed by a spin on the ‘cross bike. Then in the evening I’m hooking up with Karl and maybe Marc and Evan for some ‘cross skills work and a little bit of videotaping. A good day indeed.

I find the hardest thing for me these days is to take it easy. I’m feeling so good and I just want to squeeze as much as I can out of every training ride. I’m so tempted to throw in extra work-outs and to extend every ride. I know – this is not the best way to do things. I’m trying really hard not to do “too much”. Yes, it is possible to do to much. I have to remember I’ve got some busy weeks of travel and racing coming up. I guess it is just because I’m feeling so good and I feel as though I’ve progressed so far this summer that I want to see what else I can get out of myself. All in due time I suppose.

Pretty much all the plans have come together now for the cyclo-cross season. I finalized a car lease today – thanks to AutoCar Europe for the outstanding assistance. I managed to lease a Peugeot Tepee at a very reasonable price. This is a big weight off my mind. The Las Vegas trip is all sorted now – thanks to uber-planner and sponsor Skip Williams of KingsBridge for helping make this trip possible.

Actually, this is the perfect time to say thank-you to all my sponsors. The season starts on Saturday and truly without their support, I don’t know what I’d be doing. So without further adieu – thanks to the fine companies and individuals who are making my cyclo-cross racing dreams and goals a real possibility and reality for me:

  • KingsBridge: what can I say about this company of fine people? KingsBridge helps me out with all the “behind the scenes” stuff needed to make a cyclo-cross racing season come together. Owner Skip Williams had never heard of cyclo-cross until he started sponsoring me – and now he’s coming down to Cross Vegas to take in the action! Check out the KingsBridge blog, follow KingsBridge on Twitter, and check out the Facebook page.
  • The Cyclery: each time I walk into The Cyclery I really am overwhelmed. Owner Vince Caceres and his staff really do go that extra mile for me. Whether it is ordering in new chainrings, helping me choose new shoes, answering endless questions about my gear, and helping me out of last minute jams. My Stevens Bikes are built and maintained at The Cyclery – and for this I’m so grateful for – I know that they are well-built and will run perfectly all season. Vince does so much for the Ottawa cycling community that really does go overlooked – it is not often you’ll find a business owner who is willing to do so much for others for so little in return. If you’re looking for a bike, a helmet, shoes, some snazzy Icebreaker clothing, or maybe you just want to look at some cool bikes – be sure to visit The Cyclery.
  • Stevens Bikes: the support that Stevens Bikes gives me really is more than I can have ever imagined. I’m super lucky to have two brand new Stevens Carbon Team DA cyclo-cross bikes to race on this season. I’ve been riding Stevens Bikes since 2008 and I really wouldn’t have it any other way. The bikes are super reliable, fast, they turn well, take a beating, and they look damn good. Can’t ask for much more out of a bike. Thanks so much to Stevens Bikes Canada for the amazing support – I feel pretty fortunate to be riding on such solid cyclo-cross bikes and to have the Stevens Bikes logo on my clothing. Be sure to check out the new line-up of Stevens Bikes and don’t forget to follow Stevens Bikes Canada on Twitter and to visit the Stevens Bikes Canada Facebook page.
  • Champion Systems Canada: thanks to this clothing company, my Ottawa Cross clothing looks darn sharp. Not only does it look good, it fits well and I’m well prepared for the cyclo-cross season. Snow, mud, rain, ice, and the cold won’t be an issue thanks to the warm, waterproof and resilient clothing. I’m literally covered from head to toe with skinsuits, base layers, jerseys, thermal vests, thermal jackets, bib tights and for off the bike, I’ve got a waterproof, windproof, three-in-one coat to keep me toasty. If you need clothing and you want it done right and on-time, do yourself a favor and contact Champions Systems Canada.
  • Clif Bar: mmm, Peanut Butter Crunch, Chocolate Mint, Double Expresso, Caramel Nut Brownie – can’t go wrong with these flavors in your jersey pocket. Clif Bar is one of these companies that really is rock solid. Not only do they make excellent products for bike racers like me, but the company itself is just top-notch. I like the product, I like the people, and I like what Clif Bar does for its community-at-large. Do yourself a favor, slide some Clif Shot Bloks (Tropical Punch is very tasty) and a Chocolate Mint Clif Bar into your jersey the next time you go for a ride. Believe me, you’ll be well-fueled and your taste buds will thank-you. Oh, and to learn more about nutrition and sports, be sure to listen to the ClifCast.
  • Bell Lap Coaching: Steve Weller of Bell Lap Coaching makes it all happen. This is the guy with the plan, the vision, the knowledge, the patience, and the wisdom to make my racing seasons come together. No challenge is to big for Steve – when I told him I wanted to race at the World Cyclo-Cross Championships, he didn’t blink – he just said that “we’d make it happen”. This guy keeps me from doing too much and for pushing me that extra bit when I need it. His advice and knowledge really make the difference between a coach and a trainer. Bell Lap Coaching is going to get you where you want to be.
  • Outdoor Gear Canada: thanks to Outdoor Gear Canada, I’m riding on and using the best equipment out there. Fast and reliable wheels? Thanks to OGC, I’ve got them. A flashy and rock-solid helmet? Yep – got one of these as well. Stiff shoes that can take a beating? Oh yah, I’ve got these. OGC fills in the blanks for me and makes sure that I’ve got all the pieces I need to keep me rolling along quickly, safely, and smoothly. And I’ve got to say, yellow shoes are pretty darn awesome!
  • Oakley: be fast and look good – this is easily done thanks to Oakley. I’ve got some pretty hot glasses to wear this season including my pick of lenses to suit any light and course conditions. I’ve got to say that having worn Oakley glasses, I don’t think I can go back to my dollar store specials. These glasses really are the bomb. Beyond glasses, Oakley can set you up with some solid and durable luggage and snazzy clothing. Oakley – really what else is there to say?

Thanks so much for the support this season. I’m looking forward to another great year with many good things to come. I’ve set the bar high again this year, because really there is no other way to race or live.

It Is Here

Bike shops are hopping. Local parks are full of people doing “weird” things on their bikes. The low murmur about cyclo-cross has risen to a full on roar. People are excited. Racers, promoters, fans – everyone is ready for it. Well, good news is – it’s here. The racing starts now.

Well, not now but for me anyway this weekend in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania. Marc and I are making the trek down on Friday – the trusty Matrix will be loaded with Stevens Carbon Team DA bikes, all the wheels we own, and lots of sharp looking Ottawa Cross clothing. Yes, I’m excited. Can’t wait to get out and race my bike. Seems like a long time coming. Nothing like getting the first race of the season into the legs. In addition to the racing I’m looking forward to catching up with my cyclo-cross racing friends in person.

For those of you who have been waiting to find out about the local Ottawa Bicycle Club cyclo-cross series – well, the schedule and registration information is now posted. I can’t say enough good things about this local series. This is where I first got my taste of cyclo-cross, way back in 1994. I was out racing on my Specialized Rockhopper with toe clips. There weren’t a lot of us out there but we were a mighty bunch of racers. Many thanks to the tireless commitment of Bob, Ian, and Cheryl to continue to volunteer their time to keep this series going.

I actually can’t believe how quickly this cyclo-cross season is going to pass by. Two weeks from now I’ll be in Las Vegas getting ready for Cross Vegas. Then a little over a week later I’ll be on a plane to Switzerland for the UCI Cyclo-Cross Training Camp. By Oct. 27, I’ll have two World Cups completed and then on Nov. 6 I’m racing at the Canadian National Cyclo-Cross Championships in Toronto. Finally on Nov. 8, I’ll be back on a plane and landing in Belgium where I’ll stay for the winter. Busy times. Fast times. Lucky times. Fortunate times.

If you’re looking for a small focused cyclo-cross practice session, drop me an email. I’m holding a session this Thursday morning and have room for a couple more people. We’ll work on dismount/mounts, shouldering the bike, turning, and really anything you want to practice.

Well, I best close this off. I need to get some rest… Tomorrow morning I’m going to be behind the motorbike trying to keep my legs spinning and my lungs from popping out of my chest. Oh yeah, nothing like motorpacing to fire up the body sensations!

Double Double

Two double days in a row… Doesn’t get much better. Both days with time spent on the road bike and the ‘cross bike. Perfect combination of training.

Tuesday was an excellent day of training and racing. I kicked the day off with a skill session in my local park. I focused on dismounts/mounts, turning, and some start intervals. The usual stuff. This year I’m teaching myself a new way of dismounting… I used to always pre-unclip the left foot as I came into a barrier or obstacle. Now I’m only unclipping the left foot at the last moment before dismounting. This method is considered by some to be rather “risky”. Well, I also thought it was a bit risky until last week when Marc showed me how to do it and then we put it into practice in the woods. I’ve learned that it is much faster and when done correctly, there is no risk involved. So I’ve been spending a lot of time breaking down this dismount technique and working on getting the basics of it correct so when I do it at speed, I won’t have any issues.

Second part of Tuesday’s training day was spent at the Tuesday night training criterium. Again, another fast night at the local training race. All the usual suspects were out with a few new faces in the crowd to mix things up. I was having a great ride until my chain started to act up. All of a sudden the chain started hopping and skipping all over the cassette. This made for some rather erratic pedaling and riding. I stopped to look at it – couldn’t see a problem so decided to jump back in…. Well, as soon as I applied pressure to the pedals, the chain jumped from the big ring to the small ring and was chattering all over the cassette. Sigh…. Thanks to Shaun and Vince, I discovered that I had a “kink” in my chain and it was a bit twisted… Bummer but at least the chain didn’t break during the race. All in all, it was a great night of training/racing. I hit some good numbers and I did feel comfortable in the pack. Nice to see this form at this point in the season. Extra bonus of the night was catching up with my pal Sheri Jay.

Today is another day of doubling-up. Doing things in reverse today, starting with a road ride in the morning and a ‘cross ride in the evening. Today was all about 1 minute efforts on the road bike. Yeesh, never has a minute felt so long and so painful! Ah well, money in the bank for the upcoming cyclo-cross season. Looking forward to getting out on my new cyclo-cross bike again tonight. I have to say, I’m really liking the way the new Stevens Carbon Team feels. It corners really nicely. There are some smooth finishing touches on it like the flattened out top tube that allows the bike to rest on my shoulder nicely. And the paint job is slick – I love that yellow! Tonight Karl, Conor, and Marc and I will hit up the trails for some fast riding. Nothing like a night of chasing the fast guys through the woods, sand, and trees!

Yep, some pretty good days around these parts. Cyclo-cross season is right around the corner with my first race on Sept. 11 in Trexlertown, Pennsylvania. Can’t wait. My new cyclo-cross clothing will be arriving any day now. Looking forward to showing off the red, white, and black Ottawa Cross kit again this year. Many thanks to Champion Systems Canada for the excellent support this year.

If you find yourself wondering about cyclo-cross training, why not join me and a few others on Thursday morning for some ‘cross practice? The 90 minute session will focus on the basics of cyclo-cross with dismount/mounts, uphill shouldering, follow the leader, and a few other drills. Good time with a relaxed tone guaranteed. Email me for details.

Pinch Me

Guess you can tell by the title that I’m having one of those good days. Actually, day is too narrow – lets rephrase this to seasons or phases or times. Anyway, lets just say that I’m in a good place right now. Everything is just coming together so perfectly for the upcoming season.

I had a fantastic ride today. Legs felt great, ticking over nicely and just really loved every second of it. Rode to the little town of Merrickville today. It was super windy but it was sunny and dry – no complaints here. Great afternoon at the office.

I’m getting my schedule sorted out and have registered for a bunch of races already. Today I registered for Cross Vegas! I’m stoked. Can’t believe I’m going to race at Cross Vegas. I’ve wanted to race at Cross Vegas for two years now. Can’t really believe that I’m going to race this race. Kind of crazy, in 2007 I was racing with the 3/4 women’s field and held a masters license – now in 2010 after a few successful seasons in my legs, I’m racing in the elite women’s field at Cross Vegas. Cool. Very cool.

The Cross Vegas trip will involve a lot of firsts for me. First time to Las Vegas. First time racing at Cross Vegas. First time at a bike trade show. First time doing an evening race. A lot of first times. No complaints here. I’m super looking forward to the race and to attending Interbike.

Oh, in case you missed it, I’ve started writing rider diaries again for Cyclocross Magazine, my latest rider diary is posted. Also there is an article about the latest Stevens cyclo-cross bikes that Katie Compton, Marriane Vos, Hanka Kupfernagel, Niels Albert, and I will be riding – check it out. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Canadian Cyclist Magazine to read some of my latest articles.

Well, I guess that is about it. Tomorrow I’ve got a great day of training on deck. Hill sprints and cyclo-cross starts in the morning chased with an evening cyclo-cross ride with Karl and Marc. I’ll strap on the helmet camera tomorrow night and shoot some video of my favorite sand course.

So Close

Mmm, the cyclo-cross season is so close. So very close. The tell tale signs are everywhere. People are posting more about cyclo-cross. Old blogs are seeing some life again. Twitter is going crazy with all the #cyclocross hash tags. Bikereg.com has become super popular for us ‘crossers again as we race to get registered. People are mumbling about tire selection, chainring ratios, tire pressure, carbon this, and aluminum that. Yes, some good feelings in the air. I like it.

Had a great ride today. Took out my trusty Steven Super-Prestige. Have to say, I’m really going to miss this bike. It is going to a new home and I know the new owner will have some awesome times with it – just as I have. My new bikes are almost ready so I can’t hardly wait to get out and give them a go. Many many thanks to Vince at The Cyclery for helping me out so much. The support I’ve received this year from Stevens Bikes has been overwhelming – this is saying a lot since the season hasn’t even started yet! Huge shout out to both of these fine companies for their support, patience, and commitment to helping the sport grow.

So, my ride. Well I hit up my usual stomping grounds for some riding in the singletrack and doubletrack. Had a great time. Some solid music flowing into my ears, the weather was perfect, and the trails were pretty much empty. Just me, my bike, and nature. No complaints here. I hit up three of my favorite training loops. Each loop offers a little something different. The first one is all about sand and tight turns. This sand is serious – it reminds me of the sand at Koksijde (if you’ve raced at Koksijde you know what I mean!) – deep, unpredictable, leg-sucking sand. The second loop is one I call “the bridges” – yes, it features a number of bridges, some tight singletrack, some wide open doubletrack and short punchy climb. The third loop is the one I filmed the other day – bit of everything – sand, singletrack, roots, pavement, and doubletrack.

All in all, a most excellent time on the bike. The training time whipped by and I really wanted to stay out longer. But there is method to the training system and as tempting as it is to ride long and to ride hard each and everyday, this is not going to get me where I want. I am heading out again in a few hours to do some skill work. Yep, you guessed – more time spent on the dismount/mount. I realized today as I was dismounting/mounting over logs that it is so easy to revert to the old ways and bad habits – no time like the present to break these habits.

Had a good training day yesterday. I must admit V02Max intervals are not my favorites. But the work has to be done. And I’d much rather be out doing a challenging ride than sitting at home not…. Sealed the deal yesterday with a run. Yes, a run. That time of the year so I have to dust off my running shoes and pound the trails. Each time I go out for a run, I’m stunned to remember that I once was a runner and have even run a marathon! I definitely prefer sitting down and pedaling!

We had a great night last night. We hooked up with Karl Hoppner and his family for a most excellent meal and good conversation. All the plans for the ‘cross season in Belgium are really coming together. I’m feeling super organized (okay well I still have to book my flight and lease a car). I think this season is going to be really special and it will be great to have Karl and his family around for it. I’m looking forward to getting in some good training with Karl, showing him my favorite Belgian training routes, introducing to my Belgian friends, and just getting fully-immersed in life in Belgium again.

Since cyclo-cross season is getting so close, it really is time to start ticking through my “to do” list. Clothing is ordered and will be ready very soon – thanks Champion Systems. Bikes are nearly ready – thank-you to The Cyclery and Stevens Bikes. My head, feet, and wheels are taken care of – thanks OGC. My eyes are protected from the sun’s rays and those pesky twigs – thank-you Oakley. I’m never going to go hungry on or off the bike – thanks to Clif Bar. My legs, lungs, heart, and soul are right on track – thank-you Steve Weller of Bell Lap Coaching. My travel, logistics and behind-the-scene support are spot on – thanks to the fine folks at KingsBridge. Most of all, my number one fan is cheering me along every step of the way – thank-you and big hug for Marc.

Now, I guess I best book my plane tickets and sort out a car… Plane tickets are easy – just need to punch in the dates and book it! I’m hoping to lease another Reanault Kangoo from IdeaMerge – great support system with their new car leases and the Renault Kangoo is perfect for cyclo-cross racing. No time like the present to push the buttons and get the last little bits done.

So close. Love this time of the year. Body is ready. Mind is sound. Time to get out and have some fun!

Oh, almost forgot… Some of you have read my articles in Canadian Cycling Magazine. Well stay tuned for the next issue where I have written an article about cyclo-cross… And if you haven’t read my other articles – well – what are you waiting for! (written with a grin on my face!)