Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Aaron's WINS Twilight...again!

Super big congrats go to my teammate Rebecca Larson who rode to victory in the Athen's Twilight Criterium on Saturday night!!! We had a strong team in the racing including Meredith, Erica, Anna, Catharine Powers, myself and Rebecca and our plan was to race HARD. We sent attack after attack including several stellar moves by Rebecca until one stuck. In the finale, Rebecca was able to come around the Cheerwine rider to take the win- the third in four years for Aaron's at Athens! It was so exciting, especially since Rebecca had committed to this race in particular way back at training camp. It feels so good to see a plan come together...and it really feels good to win!!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Behind the Scenes of Aarons

A lot of work goes into the success of the Aaron's Corporate Furnishings Pro Women's Cycling Team. Mostly, my responsibility as a rider is to come prepared to race and then give it all I've got when I get there. Carmen, our director, orchestrates a symphony of logistics, staff, riders and more, much of which I probably don't even know about. I CAN tell you a few things: things generally go smoothly so Carmen ROCKS and we couldn't do it without the unbelievably generosity and hospitality of the families we call host housing.

It's this second factor that I can tell you the most about. Instead of the team staying in a hotel, eating out at restaurants for every meal and mechanics setting up shop in the parking lot, Carmen works with each race management team to secure us a family willing to host us in their home. An BOY did we get hooked up at Redlands. Last year we stayed with Carol and Dick Gentile and thank goodness we behaved ourselves because they opened up their house to us again this year. Carol and Dick are unbelievable host family, so much so that by the end of the week we were calling Carol "MOM"!!! We literally took over their house:

-Bunking in every spare bedroom and office in their house
-Setting up massage in their living room
-Cooking all sorts of strange concoctions in their kitchen
-Turning the dining room into our pantry
-Putting their laundry room to the test
-Taking over the garage for our a bike shop
-Conferencing at their dinner table well into the night

Carol and Dick are true PRO- they knew what to expect and they couldn't wait to have us back! Crazy, right? And there's more...most nights Carol prepared enough food to feed an army (and we did our best to eat it all!), they made signs for us (see the one on their garage behind us in the photo above) and put them all over their neighborhood and Dick drove them both all over every single course we raced to cheer us on at what seemed like every turn.

They were out of this world hosts and I want to thank them from the bottom of all our Aaron's hearts!!!!! Carol and Dick Gentile ROCK!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Redlands Stage 3: Sunset Loop

I love this race- the Sunset Loop is one of my favorites hands down!!! I'm so excited to race on the Sunset Loop I can't even tell you!!! The day started out overcast and chilly so I bundled up for the 30 minute ride from our host housing to the course. Once we arrived at the course we were greeted by these fellows: They are Ethan, Josh and Reed Haglund and are the sons of a host housing family who Carmen stayed with in 1997!!! I'm not sure they were even born yet then!

Tension could be felt in the thick haze that was the air around downtown Redlands. Today's race starts with a neutral section from the start line out of town to the actual Sunset Loop course and it is a battle every year. It's the most non-neutral neutral on the NRC circuit- josseling for a position in the front of the pelaton is critical as entering "the loop" in the back means you're immediately behind because it's super narrow, twisty and turny. Here we are, not racing, riding neutral up to "the loop":We are so wide across the road because we are going slightly up hill and everyone is trying to zip up the outside to move to the front. I'm third from the left with the blue arms, beside the two girls in green...probably trying to move up closer to the front.

The race this year was not unlike any other year, one by one riders were dropped as the pelaton dwindled down from the group you see above to less than twenty riders. Aaron's had a good day, especially our superwoman Meredith Miller, who AGAIN spent much of the day off the front in a break. I had a good day, not great but good and loved every minute of the Sunset Loop. I can't wait 'till Redlands next year!!!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Redlands Criterium

The Redlands crit is legendary...possibly one of the toughest stage race crits we do all year. Not only is it fast but it's also extremely technical! But today, something happened to me that has never happened: I got a call up!!! In big races, the top riders are introduced to the crowd and "called up" to the front of the field at the starting line. (I'm thrid from the left above with the blue arm warmers on the front row.) This is such a big deal to me I can't even tell you...I felt a little self-conscious when I got up there but it was pretty cool :) ......and that was where my good day ended....I must have started the race with a slow leak because I struggled for the entire race only to notice with FIVE laps to go that I had a flat tire! Fortunately Carmen confirmed that I would receive pack time because I could barely hang on the back of the field. Trying to corner on a flat is scary and I was really happy to call it a day. Rebecca and Kat shined for the Aaron's team with a fifth and sixth place finish respectively.

And this is after the Beaumont RR- Redlands

So, as you can see, Beaumont went well!!! Aaron's definately raced hard and strong in this road race through the California town of Beaumont and it's surrounding foothills. Each of the four laps left the front group smaller and smaller as we would crest the top of the main climb with about thirteen riders. Meredith spent the majority of the race off the front, in a small break first then solo! Remarkably she still had enough left to help Julie and I bring Kat to line for the WIN!!! It was a great day, the team was awesome and boy winning sure is fun!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Redlands Stage 1: Beaumont

Today's stage was a 68 mile trek through and around the outskirts of Beaumont, California. We did four laps of a course that included flats and climbing on each lap. We drove the course yesterday and from the van, it seemed quite narrow and technical in places especially on the climbing sections yet our hopes were high for a big day. I wasn't as nervous today because I am part of the best team hands down. We are here in Beaumont to make our mark and I'm anxious, not nervous, about the magnitude of challenges we may face together today. I believe in my teammates and so this will be fun for sure. Here are Kat and I doing our best to relax before the race. I love these girls and I have plenty more to tell you about Beaumont.....later.....

Friday, April 4, 2008

Redlands School Visit

A BIG part of what we do as professional cyclists for the Aaron's Corporate Furnishings Womens Pro Cycling Team is visit elementary schools to teach the children about bicycle safety. The day before the Redlands Bicycle Classic started we all visit the Reche Canyon Elementary School. A croud of first through sixth graders gathered to learn about bike safety and our lives as professional cyclists. We aren't professional speakers but we do all thoroughly enjoy the time with the kids!

Redlands Here We Come!

I'm at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, one of the longest-running stage races in the United States. This race is also typically the first big test of the year and often the biggest thing since sliced bread in my early season! I am here with the Aaron's squad of Meredith Miller, Kat Carroll, Rebecca Larson, Allison Testerote and Julie Beverege along with our mechanic Jon, sougnier (translation: care giver) Mike and the most fearless of all leaders, our director Carmen. Day one we rode together to spin the flight out of our legs and I got this great shot of Kat's technique! We checked out the time trial course and also rode VERY EASY up the Sunset Loop climb...then scooted back to our host house (Carol and Dick Gentille).