Friday, July 25, 2008

Wanna know what I've been up to?

I am typing this in between sending out 'business' emails, doing laundry, packing for this evening's race, and working on Sven Nys' interview so it will be a little short and probably scattered.

In the last few days since my last post, I have raced twice, gone to Paris for the day, picnic'd in La Roche en Ardenne, took a train ride (a very short one) in Durbuy - the smallest town in the world, shopped for food, hosted a wedding reception, ripped my rear deraileur off, and celebrated my birthday.
The photos on this post are from the race on my birthday July 19th. Julie drove with us because it was her birthday too! It was a very fun day on the bikes; we sung, we attacked, we were in breaks that we instigated and we had champagne afterwards. Good day.

The second race I did which was three days ago didn't last long enough to take photos. Four minutes into the event my chain got caught between the frame and small chainring. Sara Carrigan of Lotto-Belisol was kind enough to push me forever in hopes that i could fix it on the fly but no such luck. I finally stopped and took some time to pull it out. As i tried to chase back onto the peloton I quickly found out that i had NOT ONE single gear that didn't skip. With no way to put full power on the pedals I had no hope of rejoining the peloton. And even if i did, I'd be seriously putting myself in danger of injury from trying to ride a bike that is skipping. After riding about 10km dangling just behind the peloton while trying to baby the pedals, my deraileur decided it had enough and ripped off the bike.

OK gotta go - I will write more soon. Mom leaves on tuesday so i should be able to write more regularly after that.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I just scored an interview with SVEN NYS

I just got word back that Sven Nys accepted an interview request from me. Considering he made it publicly clear that he is NOT accepting any interviews until after the Mountain Bike Olympics, I am thrilled that he chose to make an exception for me! I have been a huge fan of his for years so you can imagine how excited i am. I am interviewing him for Cyclocross Magazine's upcoming issue that will be released in time for the infamous Vegas Bike Show.

If you have any questions you would like me to ask Sven or any questions you think readers of Cyclocross Magazine would find interesting, please let me know as soon as possible.

On a completely separate note, I raced last two days ago and had another fun time out. The course was a slightly twisty one consisting of both super wide roads and tiny trails - flat but lots of wind. Average speed just over 40kph. Before the race, my friend Julie and I planned our race strategy. On lap 7 of 12 we were to attack into the headwind on a tiny trail just before the tight turn onto tiny s-turn tailwind trails.

As I sat buried in the center of the peloton on lap #2, I see a little orange ball shoot off the front of the peloton. It was Julie. Clearly something was lost in the French/Flemish/English communication of our gameplan. A couple of laps later after Julie was brought back, I found myself third wheel in the peloton chasing another gal off the front. Once she was caught, the attacks started. I knew who to watch - Liesbet De Vocht, my former Lotto-Belisol teammate. I went with as many attacks that she was in that I could handle without exploding. But just after a few of them in a row, the key break broke lose- with her and without me. And that is why SHE is the one to watch and not ME - not yet.

Not wanting to leave my final result to chance in an erratic sprint, I attacked on the last lap. Although i did get caught before the finish, at least i tried. My effort didn't effect my sprint nearly as much as the random gals parked on the finishing strip - in the middle of the sprint. It felt like trying to sprint around trees in the middle of the road. Strange. Thankfully there were no crashes - just a lot of screaming and yelling at the parked riders.

Tomorrow is another race in Belgium. It is both my and Julie's birthday so obviously we will plan to try something. As long as we review our numbers beforehand (ie. 7th lap does not mean 2nd lap) , our birthday enthusiasm may help us to pull something off !

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


three days of racing in a row. There was a low point, namely the second race due to operator error, but other than that it was a great workout. More importantly I had a boatload of fun.

Friday's course in Geel (which means Yellow in dutch) was a simple 4-corner counterclockwise course of about 22 laps of 3-point-something kilometers per lap. We got lost on the way there, oddly enough thanks to TomTom, so without ample time to warm up before the race, the first few minutes were a bit painful. Lucky for me, teammie Liz Hatch was in the race; she covered just about every break - even instigating a few herself- for the first few laps until my body was ready to join my mental desire to show my face at the front.

Once there, I took turns with Liz infiltrating breaks and jumping off the front to keep the race interesting. I think it was my first time this season actually instigating a real attack. Even if none of them led to anything as we finished in a group sprint, I felt really alive - and, in hindsight, right at home based on the encouraging words such as "A-friggin-llez" I found myself yelling to the others in the break. I've said this before but i just couldn't imagine any recreational drugs comparing to the high I get from racing. But then again I have not tried anything other than vicodin or morphine (for broken bones.)

The highlight of the day was easily having my mom on the sidelines cheering me on. This was only the second time ever she saw me race. The first one was Cat's Hill Criterium in California - one of the few courses in California I miss.

Saturday's race was also 22 laps of flat riding but 10km longer and included a tricky s-turn. The pace started off fast (very partly due to my attacking efforts) allowing for few opportunities to eat or drink so i made the amateurish decision to subside on my pasta eaten three hours ago along with my Emergen-C drink I had for breakfast.

One hour into the 2+ hour ride I was dead. I continued on, trying to hide behind the biggest gal in an effort to nab some reprieve from the wind. It worked as i was able to stick it out until the sprint finish where I was spit out the back like a rotten pit.

The next day my modest plan was to eat and drink enough. As a precautionary measure Jonas taped signs on my handlebar and stem that read DRINK EAT. What i didn't realize until after the race was that I never look down at my handlebar in a race. Luckily Jonas' 18 post-saturday-race snide jokes (ie. I'd pour you a glass of your favorite wine with dinner but it seems you don't drink) stuck in my mind and i did manage to eat a few energy gels and drink a full 1 1/2 bottles of water during Sunday's race.

Sunday's course was contested on a more exciting loop with two whole highway-style overpasses, narrow roads and bad pavement. Julie, my travel companion for the day, was also thrilled for the change in course style to keep her awake. On two hours sleep and a party buzz that was still fading, Julie announced to me before the race that she was going to rely on me to entertain her since it's hard to fall asleep while laughing.

The race played out mostly like the previous two races - a flurry of attacks. Midway through the race Julie rode up alongside me. I turned to her and said, "Can't you see I'm busy?" It didn't make her laugh so i tried again, following up with, "Do these shorts make my ass look fat?" Based on her stoic expression I realized i failed her. Instead she opted for plan B - attack the field. It worked. It got laughs...from me though. What a way to stay awake.

With three laps to go, she was caught so I went to the front to try and get myself in a small group so I could avoid the dreaded group sprint. After a couple failed efforts, we all rode in together for yet another sprint.

After the event, all the racers gathered around the registration office to return race numbers and collect prize money. Easier said than done. I overheard a teary-eyed gal telling someone that the finishline camera malfunctioned so her stellar result was not recorded. With that in mind, i collected my 5 euro deposit for the race numbers and skipped the possible 5-10 euro prize money for 30ish place to avoid any kind of she-said-she-said interaction.

The highlight of this race was easily the interaction i had with the other gals. The first few races of the season here in Belgium were a bit trying. It is as if the gals here put each newbie through a hazing ritual of sorts. They will yell at you, push you out of the way, and try to get you to do work for them. It subsides only when they either get to know you or you've proven yourself somehow. Sunday's race was a turning point for me. Girls will now move out of the way for me if they see that i'm trying to move over, they'll include me in small talk, invite me in breaks, and even stick up for me if someone else is snapping at me. As fifth-grade as it sounds, it feels good to be accepted. Speaking of fifth grade, after the race when Julie asked me why i didn't join her for her one-woman-show off the front, i told her that my ass got stuck between two girls so i couldn't move forward. Still no laughs.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mom is in Town

She just arrived at the airport today. I forgot how much fun it is to watch someone experience Belgium for the first time. We just got back from the supermarket (Delhaize for those of you who know the stores here) and everything from the chocolate aisle to the bread slicing machine was an adventure for her. Even the walk to the store was new and different. To get to the store, we walked by sheep, a farm, a soccer field, two friendly cows who came over to say hello, another soccer field and a church. I'd imagine a walk like this is anything but normal for someone who is from Florida via Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Since she had me as her escort she got the bonus privledge of walking home with mushrooms in hand. My little backpack wasn't big enough to hold all my groceries so the bread, mushrooms and drink umbrellas had to be handheld home. If i simply paid the 3 cents for a bag to carry the food, then I may not learn the lesson of never going to the store hungry. I also woudn't get to enjoy watching the look on my mom's face when I motioned to her that we are going to walk out of the store bag-less.

I just can't wait for tomorrow's race in Geel, Belgium. My mom will get to watch me race and teammie Liz Hatch will be joining in on the fun. Maybe if i go to sleep now, the race will be sooner...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I WON...

the wholeshot, that is.

After Saturday's race in Kontich, Belgium ended in frustration due to a crash that split the field in two (you guess it - i was in the second group) I never got a chance to give it a go off the front. As Coach Elmo says, "You can't win a race from behind." He was right. Surprisingly that was the only crash during the race considering the treacherous roads; rain does not mix well with cobbles or shiny pavement - neither the white nor black variety.

Even so, I attacked and went with breaks in a futile attempt to bridge the gap. Our efforts were always foiled by some gal who would either chase us down with the whole peloton in tow or reach us solo not contribute a drop to the workload. When we'd motion for her to come around, we would be greeted by puzzled look. If looks could talk, it would usually say, "Whhhhhaaaaaat... Why are you looking at me? What do you expect me to do. Do you think I'm in a bike race or something?!?" I understand these moves if they are part of a team strategy or even a personal strategy but unfortunately they are almost always not part of any plan larger than the one move it took to bridge to us. Strange.

Anyway, after a frustrating Saturday I was keyed up for Sunday's event in Zwevegem. I got myself a front row position and vigilantly held it. Girls pushed and shoved but i didn't waver. The course was a 3.8km simple gradual-up-and-down style loop - up one side and down the other - with the start line placed 2/3 of the way up the climb.

As i stood on the line, i kept a close eye on the race director. When he raised the whistle to his mouth, I firmly grabbed the brakes and put full pressure on the pedal strategically aligned in the two o'clock position anticipating the absolute chaos that typically ensues within a millisecond of the whistle sound. I watched him take a deep breath and my heartrate must have shot up twenty beats per minute. When the screetch hit my ears, I exploded off the line - WHOLESHOT BABY!

I shot up the hill, made the tight left turn onto the church cobbles, rode through the kermis (town carnival), passed skateboarders working on their tricks on the church steps, smiled at Guy Kostermans of Belisol who was in front of a cafe as he screamed my name, then it was onto a bit of twisty pavement before I was joined by a Norwegian gal. We worked together for a few minutes before engulfed by the hard-charging peloton. Game over...for now.

By lap two of 22, I was back at it again. And lap three, and four as well. Unfortunately for me my recovery after attacking is not lightning fast yet which forces me to wait a couple of minutes before going back out again. And in one of those moments of recovery the winning break was born. I watched them go but there was nothing i could do. The break waits for nobody. Actually that's not true but it sounds good in this context.

I joined in a few more mini groups trying to bridge to the front but none lasted. My last real effort of the race seemed the most promising. With four laps to go, I got off the front of the peloton with my former Lotto-Belisol teammate Kim Schoenbaert. I assumed it would stick since she had teammates in the group. Shortly thereafter I was reminded of what assume stood for. I finished the race firmly in the middle of the peloton. Considering I am still working my way back to fitness, I am pleased, but not satisfied, with the weekends outcome.

My upcoming races are Friday, Saturday and Sunday - three more
opportunities to shoot for satisfied.

(photo to right is of me, julie and adeline post-race and the one next to it is of the finish line banner)

Thanks everyone for reading!!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Busy in Belgium

Next week is going to be super busy. Racing kicks up to about 3-7 events per week. Mom arrives for a 3-week visit which means it is time to clean the place, shop for normal food, move furniture around, and start wearing clothes when when on the computer in the living room. I have 4 (hopefully 5) articles and an outline due shortly. I need to find a haircutter that doesn't shave my face and cut one side longer than the other. Cyclo-Cross season needs to be planned. Since this is solden month in Belgium where the whole country goes on sale, I have to buy a skirt and maybe some foot covering other than sneakers to go with it. I tell people I just don't have any nice feminine clothes here - that it is all back in California - but the truth is that i cannot even remember the last time i wore a skirt that wasn't wraparound with a built-in chamois. Oops, I'd list more but i now have to pack my stuff and make pasta and coffee for my race today.

Enjoy the weekend!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I am the New VegNews Magazine COLUMNIST

I am excited to announce that I am VegNews Magazine's new Fitness Columnist. What a perfect way to unite my pro cycling career, writing career, and vegan diet. As a long time fan and subscriber of VegNews, I am honored to be a part of the magazine.

The column will be about fitness, health, and of course sports. Here is my first column (July/August issue) for your review.

VegNews is available at bookstores, health food stores such as Whole Foods, and a bunch of other places.

OR you can order a subscription to the mag (6 issues
per year.)

If you have a minute to submit a comment to VegNews regarding my column or any other comments/questions, you can send them to:
It is much appreciated since my column is on a trial period. They need to hear enough positive feedback from readers regarding my first article (above) before my column is granted a permanent home.
As always, thanks for reading my blog.