Incredible story: Women take on the Tour de France route

I remember hearing about this incredible group of women who rode the entire route of the 2012 Tour de France. No, they weren’t elite athletes, just “everyday” women cyclists. I aspire to be like them! Read this story about them.

http://www.theclymb.com/stories/featured-stories/six-by-21/

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Race Recap: NC Criterium State Championships

This weekend I competed in two criterium championships. The first was Friday night and was an open race, but the Cat 4 women were scored separately from the Cat 1, 2, 3 women. Saturday was the age group criterium championships: categories included women Under 23, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, and 50+.

These races were both very fast and the fields included a 3 time and current US Pro National Champion in the Masters Road Race and Criterium Champion, Sara Tussey, and a current Exergy TWENTY16 (UCI team) development rider, Ashlyn Woods. You will regularly read about both of these incredible women cyclists in the major races on the USAC calendar.

I knew that I would have to give it more than I ever had before in these races to better my previous results in crits. I did my best. I inevitably got dropped from the field in both races.

I was really upset about getting dropped in the Friday night race, but try as I might, I just couldn’t get it together to stay on with the field. Sara and Ashlyn lapped the field and those of us dangling off the back in a break that started 10 minutes into the 45 minute race.

On Saturday, Sara and two other women broke off early in a break (probably within the first 10 minutes) and that was that for the rest of us. I did something different from I had ever done before–when the race started, I jumped to the front. I NEVER do this as I’m not the most reactive and aggressive cyclist. However, even though I planned to be near the front, I didn’t plan to be right on the VERY front. I kept it going for a few laps until I got popped off again. I lapped another rider on my own and completed the race. I actually ended up placing 3rd in my age group, 35-39. I won money and a medal. Not bad!

My husband, James, cheered for me the entire time and kept telling me that I could do it. I needed to hear that. I lack a lot of confidence when I race and my brain doesn’t always focus on what I should be doing and instead harps on what I am doing wrong. The constant support makes me feel better.

Yesterday when James and I discussed the race, he mentioned something that happened at the conclusion of the Saturday race that he regretted not responding to. He was cheering for me and telling me what a good job I had done and a guy beside him said, “Why? She was lapped TWICE,” trying to diminish what I was trying to accomplish. I’m so glad that I didn’t hear this after the race Saturday. It would have taken all of my restraint not to find this guy and give him a piece of my mind.

I have a message for this arrogant man (neither James nor I know who he is)–this quote from Theodore Roosevelt seems apropos and will undeniably be my new motto:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

You see, I know that I was lapped. Trust me, I know that better than anyone else. I was out there busting my rear end trying to finish the race and continuously push myself harder and harder. My breathing was extremely labored, my legs exhausted, my energy dwindling. But, you know what, I COMPLETED the race and got recognition for it (a nice podium shot below commemorates the occasion). That’s what matters to me. Sure, I would like to win a race or even finish with the field. I am working on getting there. However, this takes time–time that I am willing to put forth despite having a full-time job and other commitments. Cycling means a great deal to me and I don’t need some idiot making snide comments about my racing abilities to diminish my goals.

Comments like the one that jerk made to my husband are the kinds of comments that keep women especially out of cycling. How are we ever supposed to grow the sport if we are not encouraging of ALL types of cyclists–juniors, women, men of all ages, shapes, ethnicities, and sizes?

Cycling is a difficult support and we need to create environments of support and constructive criticism, not snide and uncalled for comments that diminish what we do.

That’s my rant for the time being. Thanks for reading. And to the jerk who insulted me, one day I’ll beat you (or someone like you) in a race. You and me and the open road. Guaranteed.

The podium for the Masters Women 35-39 age group:

I'm on the right of the photo in 3rd place.  First place: Marie Schmader Second place: Elizabeth Southern Third place: Mandy Gallagher

I’m on the right of the photo in 3rd place.
First place: Marie Schmader
Second place: Elizabeth Southern
Third place: Mandy Gallagher

My teammates also did really well and walked away with some loot (product, medals, and MONEY!)…

The podium for Under 23 Champion:

Women Under 23 Champion: Mary Conrad

Women Under 23 Champion: Mary Conrad

The podium for Women 30-34:

First place: Sara Tussey Second place: Amie Krasnozon Third place: Christy Quirk

First place: Sara Tussey
Second place: Amie Krasnozon
Third place: Christy Quirk

Photo of the team on podium:

Mary Conrad Christy Quirk Mandy Gallagher

Mary Conrad
Christy Quirk
Mandy Gallagher

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Women’s Cycling

I write a lot about women’s cycling. Today’s post is no exception.

Like many cycling fanatics, I have been watching the Tour de France everyday. I wait patiently (and sometimes on the edge of my seat) for the sprints, feel inspired (and pained) watching the riders climb the mountain passes, and generally feel in awe at the idea that these incredible athletes get up everyday and do it over again for 21 days. All of that combined with the incredible views that are shown day in and day out are enough to take my breath away.

While I think events like the Tour de France are great for cycling, I can’t help but feel a little frustration and resentment because professional women’s cycling doesn’t get nearly the publicity that men’s professional cycling does. Did you know that the first week of the Tour de France also marked the beginning of the Giro Rosa, the premiere women’s cycling stage event that goes through much of the terrain that the men’s Giro Italia covers? For those of us who pay closest attention to the sport, the answer to this question is probably yes. For the rest, I am fairly certain the answer is no. Well, that’s not really a surprise to me. I had to search the Internet extensively to get any decent amount of information about the stage results each day. Even some of the premiere sites for cycling news didn’t feature the event prominently, if at all. That’s really frustrating. Women cyclists, especially at the professional levels, are such incredible athletes. They don’t get paid well, if at all (even less than the few men who get paid enough to be professional cyclists), and they have to work doubly hard as their male counterparts to land sponsorships each year. At a time when sponsors are questioning their returns on sponsorship, women have additional hurdles to clear as they do not get nearly the amount of attention that men do in cycling. It’s a vicious cycle (pardon the pun).

Without media attention, women’s teams won’t be able to attain the sponsorships that the teams need to survive. A few years ago, the top ranked HTC-High Road women’s team was disbanded. The men’s team was as well after the sponsors pulled their support. The men’s team had a much easier time landing BMC as a sponsor and the women’s team had to wait for a while before Specialized and Lululemon stepped in as sponsors. I am so thankful for Specialized’s and Lululemon’s support and strong commitment to women’s cycling. It is great to see two leaders in the industry setting such a good example. However, not all stories end so positively. Some teams and riders have been left in the dust. This leads to less support for women’s cycling and a lack of attention paid to the huge discrepancies between men and women in the sport.

However, since the media and other groups haven’t been able to take on this problem, the women in the professional peloton have. Just in the last week, a group of professional women cyclists formed the Women’s Cycling Association, a group of women who want to see more equality in the support and coverage of women’s professional cycling. I was really happy to see the organization form. (For more information on the organization, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/WomensCyclingAssociation?fref=ts and their Web site: http://www.biking4women.com/links.asp). While it is just a beginning step to addressing inequality in professional cycling, it is a good start.

I hope that once this discussion occurs and some of these inequalities are addressed, that such discussion will have at elite and amateur levels. If we ever want to grow the sport, especially for women, these inequalities must be addressed. It will be better for the sport as a whole as a new generation of professional cyclists are being born and growing up with a whole world in front of them. We should encourage the next generations to realize their potentials. I’m committed to women’s cycling and I hope other will join me.

So, how can you help you might ask? Get people to ride their bikes. Get them to race. I know lots of women in particular who are very strong on the bike but feel they don’t have the support to take it to the next level. These are the people we need to reach. Talk to them, encourage them to get on their bikes more and get their friends to ride more too. Maybe get them to race and help grow the community. The sport will be better because of it.

Keep riding on!

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Team NOW-Novartis (image from: http://www.rolfprima.com/athletes-team-NOW.php).

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2013 USAC Professional Road Race Champion, Jade Wilcoxson (image from: http://www.usacycling.org/wilcoxson-rodriguez-surge-to-victory-at-pro-road-nationals.htm).

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Winston-Salem Cycling Classic

This past weekend I watched the criteriums at the Winston-Salem Cycling Classic last weekend. This is the first annual 2-day event that next year will most likely be on the NRC and maybe a UCI event. There were only elite riders competing in these criteriums. The day started with a men’s Cat 3 crit, then was followed by the women’s Pro, 1, 2, 3 criterium (crit). There were several professional teams and accomplished women riders there, including riders for NOW Novartis, Pepper Palace Pro Cycling, and others. Alison Powers (NOW Novartis) won the crit too! I was so impressed by the strength these women cyclists showed during the 60 minutes they raced. I had two teammates race in this crit and they did a fantastic job! You’ll see one of them on the front line on your right in the photo below–Angelina Stevens. My other teammate, Sarah Kraxberger competed as well. I was so proud of them and so happy to be there cheering them on.

photo (2)

After the women’s crit was completed, I watched the men’s Pro, 1, 2, 3 crit. This crit had over 120 riders in it, the biggest field I’ve seen live. In fact, the field was so large it took 30-45 seconds to get everyone through the start/finish line each lap. Below is a video that I took with my iPhone of the field passing through as they raced around for another lap.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVGtBbcuqbE&feature=youtu.be

This event is just the first for the area in what I hope will be the continuing presence of high-profile racing. The USAC Pro Criteriums Championships happen in late July in High Point, NC, so stayed tuned for more pics and videos from that event. I’ll be racing in the amateur criteriums early in the weekend, but plan to be there for the professional races and participate as a cheering spectator.

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Video “I am Specialized.”

This is the video that was shot while I was at the Specialized Headquarters for the Specialized Women’s Ambassador Summit:

(The video was filmed outside of Specialized’s headquarters in Morgan Hill, California.)

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The importance of your health

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was wondering why I felt so tired. I train a lot, have a full-time job, etc., but for whatever reason, I couldn’t shake my fatigue. My FTP was low, I was still suffering in races, and I didn’t seem to be improving at all. I called my doctor and she requested that I have some blood work done.

Sure enough, we found out that I am extremely anemic and have deficiencies in Vitamins B-12 and D. When I got the results, I can’t say that I was that surprised. You see, I don’t eat as well (or as much) as I probably should given the amount of exercise that I do each week. I push myself hard on my bike, race frequently, and have started going back to the gym for weight training. I also don’t have the most regular sleep schedule. Needless to say, since the results of my blood work came back, I’ve started changing things in a BIG way. I take supplements, eat more protein (including meat, which I really prefer not to eat), and try to get a normal and consistent amount of sleep each night. I’m also working on eating healthier choices for meals and snacks.

How have things gone so far? Well, I competed in a crit this past Sunday in Greenville, NC. I am pleased to say that I had my best result ever in a race–I was 5th out of 10th. Was this just a coincidence? Was this outcome related to my attention to my health problems and deficiencies? Was this a turning point race for me? I’m not sure, but I’ll see how it continues to play out.

So, lesson learned…GO TO YOUR DOCTOR! It is important that you keep up with your health. Your body can’t pedal on nothing. I was doing just that I don’t know for how long. I’ve learned my lesson!

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Women riding, women racing

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I can continue to encourage women to get into riding and racing. I remember just a few short years ago, I was afraid to clip in and out of my pedals and ride with traffic on the roads around here in the triangle. Then, I joined my first women’s bike ride, lead by my friend Randi Foraker. That experience changed my life. It made me discover my love for cycling. It helped me figure out my life and what I want out of it. Just me and my bike–I feel like I can conquer anything. There’s nothing better than being outside with you, your bike, and a few friends to put things into perspective. It’s the best time you can spend with yourself and others. I found my passion in life and I want to share that passion with other women. You don’t have to be the fastest or strongest on the bike, you just need to get out there and do it!

The pic below was a gift from my husband last Christmas. It depicts Rosie the Riveter carrying her cross bike. I LOVE this shirt, not just because it is a reminder that I tackled another fear of mine–cross racing, which by the way is TONS of fun–instead, it reminds me that literally you can do just about anything if you put your mind to it. I have had to shut my mind off a lot when racing. I’m definitely not the fastest and you probably won’t see me win races anytime soon (if ever), but I feel like by just lining up to race than I’ve already won. It’s a perspective that I hope I can share with others, especially those women new to cycling.

Keep pedaling on!

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