Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I Love it When a Plan Comes Together

So, the plan going into the Hunny Bop was to get Sara into a break, possibly with me. We're both "breakaway riders" and Sara has been working her tail off for the team, so it was about time we gave her the chance to shine. And shine she did !!

The race started with a full field ... we didnt have the entire HPC squad out there but we had a full Kenda team, Artemis brought out their heavy hitters (except Erin... we neither confirm nor deny that Robin pulled a Tonya Harding on her), C3 brought a couple strongwomen and, of course, Team CycleLife sported a nice squad of 5. The racing was hot and heavy (much like the weather) from the get: attacks went out one after the other while the flat, open course contributed to high speeds and barely any time to drink, eat or call home. Before the race, sponsor Michelle (Teaism) told us she wanted to see us controlling the race. We heart our sponsors, so we obliged.

Pretty early in the race, Kenda sent out a solo attack. Sara and I drifted toward the front as the field chased and when we got to about 20 meters of catching Kenda, I sent Sara off. I knew that if I went with her, the field would chase so she went solo. The field, not realizing that Sara was a time trial specialist, waited to react. Kristy Scheff (HPC) finally jumped and went across clean to Sara and I silently celebrated that Sara would have some help - Sara is a 3 and they were scoring separately so Kristy (Cat1) was a good pairing.

Our plan worked and had a great chance for success. Teams took turns sending one-off attacks throughout the rest of the race - thankfully, no one really organized and Team CycleLife did a phenomenal job (if I do say so myself) of patrolling the front and marking the potentially dangerous riders. Mel did a nice job setting tempo a lot of the time, Leslie went with a few dangerous moves to sit on, Robin stayed in good position and powered her way to win a prime.

Me ? I was glued to Sonja (C3) and Rachel (JuicePlus) because I knew they both had the potential to launch clear ... kudos to both riders as they did not make it easy for me - it was like a full-time job ! I must've been incognito the entire race because the announcers called me every member of my team EXCEPT me ... "there goes Leslie Jennings" ... "Melanie covering Sonja" .... "Robin Zimmerly chasing Rachel". Eh, at least they had the right team !

Team CycleLife kept the field in check and competitors were growing tired with the laps winding down. A 60 min crit for us in that heat seemed like eons ... I dont know how the big-boys did 75 minutes without melting. I have learned to drink during these hot races - if for no other reason than I'd like to avoid falling off my bike with 20 mins to go in a race.

With a few laps to go, Artemis rider Amanda made a hail-mary attempt to bridge up to the break. I think the field was too tired to respond and our general thought was that if we went with her, we'd bring the entire field. If she made it, she made it (and she did) ... if not, it was a valiant attempt. Leslie indicated that she needed me to drive the pace for the last two laps to keep things safe (ie prevent the inevitable mushroom-move as everyone stared at each other). I went to the front and drove it for all I had - it was fun to come across the start/finish to get the bell hearing that I had the entire field strung out. That is always a great feeling ... That and the fact that I know that my girls can close the deal. Amanda did make the bridge and finished 2nd to Kristy, but Sara did a phenomenal job through sheer determination to bring home 3rd overall, 2nd in her category. Leslie took advantage of the fast closing pace and took the field sprint for 2nd in our category, 4th overall. Melanie and Robin were not far behind, both placing in the top 10 overall.

Me ? I crossed the line about 1/2 lap behind the rest of the field, tired, spent and happy to be able to give my all to the team. Nice job, Ladies ... a great day for Team CycleLife and another race in the books.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

CycleLife Brings Home the MABRA Criterium Championship Jersey

A full field at the start of the Hagerstown MABRA Championship Criterium (including pro cyclist Sara Caravella racing for Team TIBCO). The field started fast and never slowed with HPC throwing in attacks and Team Kenda and Team CycleLife countering.

Sara throws an attack mid-race and Jen Cheng notes the cloud of HPC/Altarum gathering behind them...

Robin and Melanie race hard through the first corner, careful not to let anything get away.
Wendy throws another attack.

And then Leslie brings it on home in a field sprint with Sara Caravella. Still nursing battle wounds from Masters Nationals (see left arm) Leslie was able to pick up yet another medal and the MABRA Crit Championship jersey.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Soloing it up in Fitchy

After sitting on the fence for a few weeks, I finally decided to take the trip up to Mass for the Fitchburg Longsjo Classic...and I'm glad. I learned a ton, including:

1. Time trials are the best events EVER

The weekend started with a 10 km stair-stepping TT. Not much to say except it hurt. a lot. I rode in at 20.54, good enough for 4th for the day.

2. It is possible to survive a 50 mph descent. in the rain. in a cat 3/4 field. (And getting a call-up ROCKS)

We woke up to torrential rain and cold temps on day 2...but the officials started the 37 mile road race on time. My 4th from the day before earned me a ticket to the front as they did call-ups for the first 10 spots. I gotta admit, getting a call-up and having everyone think you're a badass (Ha fooled them!) is pretty addicting. We took off down the descent at 45-50 mph...I, of course, had a death grip on my bars and let myself glide immediately to the back in typical Zeigler fashion. Fortunately, it wasn't the type of course that allowed for break-aways, and the field stayed more or less together even through the climbs and QOM sprints. After 3 laps, we headed up the mountain in the final climb of the race. The front group took off, with local superstar Amanda Watson (Artemis) among them. I rode it conservatively, thinking it pitched more aggressively than it did. I know better for next time!!! I slipped to 13th in the GC with a 22nd place in the RR...Amanda jumped up to 10th in the GC. The highlights of the race included: (1) me running over a freshly killed squirrel and having it fly at Amanda behind me. (2) Christina Briseno's (C3) crazy save when a girl tried to squeeze between her and another down the descent. JFC's abounded.

3. Circuit races can hurt.

I'm used to nice, relatively flat circuit races like Carl Dolan and Tysons in these parts. The Fitchburg circuit race on day 3 was anything but flat. A double climb into the finish hurt every single lap of the 11 lap course. I'm talking standing up, easiest gear, throwing my body towards the front of the bike, wheezing type of hurt. Again, not much exciting happened in the was about survival and punching through the turns and hills for most of us. Christine was a rock star and pulled me to the front at one point. I finished with the field for 15th and stayed 13th in the GC.

4. Getting caught after a ballsy flyer and finishing near last is waaaay more fun than riding in with the pack.

By day 4 we were all pretty toasted. The crit on the final day was not terribly technical...though a set of tight turns at the back of the course was a little rough. Everyone was breaking through them, forcing us to sprint out of the corners on every lap. The field stayed together and I knew I didn't have a chance if I just sat in. With 2 laps to go I took off. No one chased me at first...the points leader was a mere 12 seconds off of the GC leader and no one was going to make a move if they didn't. Christine yelled for Amanda to get to the front and slam on her breaks...haha, I'm sure she got some looks for that one! Finally, one of the points leader's teammates reeled me in, and I was caught in the final set of turns. It was so worth it though. I left the race knowing that was everything I had left. I finished 29th on the day, securing my 13th place in the GC. Oh and Sonya Evers (C3) finished 7th in the pro crit!!!!

Fitchburg was an amazing weekend and learning experience. Serious props to my surrogate teammates Amanda Watson, Christine Briseno, and Sonya Evers. It was great to work as teammates with people who are usually my competitors.

WARNING: Violence, Language and Partial Nudity

As promised - here's a look at how tough our girl LJ really is ... despite being bumped and pushed all the way down the finishing stretch, she held her own and STILL managed to grab a silver medal as she was taken out at the line. Watch the video. The pics tell the aftermath. Adjust your volume appropriately - your camera-woman has a well timed expletive as the video ends ...

Note the ice packs being sported on the hip and arm ... Not too many people can pull that off on the podium. Nice work, LJ - heal quickly.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Team CycleLife Takes 3 More Podium Spots

More details and maybe even a video to follow ... but Robin Zimmerly sprinted for a 5th place finish in the women's 30-34 criterium while Wendy Ulmer took the bronze, putting BOTH CycleLife teammates on the same podium ! In the 35-39 field, powerhouse Leslie Jennings took a close 2nd, surviving a dramatic finish line crash. All three competitors were pictured in the local newspaper.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Team CycleLife secures two podiums at Masters Nationals

Day 2, 3, & 4

We know, we've neglected to update our blog. But we've been busy! Suffice to say, we have sufficiently soaked in Louisville, KY and decided that this is a fantastic venue for holding the Masters Nationals Competition.

Thanks to Wendy for securing awesome housing for the week--our own single-family home with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and a garden veranda where we chill in the mornings drinking our coffee and reading the local newspaper.

On the days we aren't racing, we're exploring, and of course helping each other apply sunscreen.

In the evenings, we're grilling and chillin. Keith assumed role of grill-master and the ladies made salad, bought the wine, and prepared the fixings. After all was eaten, stories were shared, bellies were full, and the midnight hour was upon us---the ladies went to bed. And the men [Keith Reeder - ABRT/Latitude, Andy Shaw - NCVC, and Rick Norton LSV] did the clean-up. We mention their team affiliations because we are an equal MABRA opportunity household.
You will note that while Andy and Keith are working hard, making strong efforts, and getting closer to the finish--Rick has assumed a draft position if-you-will. He's content to watch the action and when asked whether he was going to "pull through," he explained that he is a finisher. And thus, he did finish the job.

Back to race results. Yes, we're collecting hardware. And there is more racing to come.

For the time trial - Robin secured a podium spot with a 4th place finish at 1:01:22. The bronze place finisher rode in at 1:01:07. The top two competitors were sub-1 hour...thus proving, they are competitors of the highest caliber. Here are a few pictures. Robin gets tested and approved for a morphological exception to the UCI fit rules for her TT position. Robin and Wendy racing the TT. (The photos are blurry because they are going fast!) Robin wearing her medal.

Next hardware - the Women's 35-39 road race - Leslie secures a silver medal! Pictures tell it all. Leslie coming across the line securing her 2nd place spot by several bike lengths. Leslie on the podium. Leslie sporting her bling.

Art felt he needed to carry something a little more "bling" than his badge, so he, too, secured a podium spot with a 4th place finish. And he also tested the medal to make sure it was truly carbon-ti.

More later.....the 40+ boys [Rick, Keith and Andy] race at 10am.