Monday, April 30, 2007

The Gran Fondo

This past Friday afternoon, we found out about a HUGE group ride that will come right by the house on Sunday. It's 140km, supported, and the "thing" to do if you like to ride your bike and are in Italy. It's called the Gran Fondo. We all decided that would be super fun, so our "SRM house Dad" signed us up.

I was really excited. I love "Ride the Rockies" kinds of rides. Everyone starts when they want to, goes at their own pace, and stopping at the aid stations is a must. I was really excited for Italian aid stations (would there be cappuccino?). What other kinds of yummies would there be?

Saturday night we got our entry packet. Instead of a T-shirt and water bottle, it was filled with a number for your jersey, a number for your bike and a timing chip. A timing chip?! What kind of "Ride the Rockies" ride is this?

The next morning as we drove to the start, we pass not one typical "RTR" rider (no panniers). Instead all the participants are there with teams, some are warming up on trainers, others are getting their legs rubbed and we didn't see a single female.

Despite all this, I was still planning on aid stations and a "RTR" type of ride. The plan was to ride with Brooke and we both would "stop and smell the flowers" on the ride. With camera in hand, we rode to the start 10 min before it was supposed to start.

Here is what we saw:

Our SRM "house Dad" told the announcer who we were and he had us come right to the front of the start. See the red timing mats under the blue banner? That is where we (the 5 U.S. girls) started. I don't have a picture of that because all of a sudden I realized this was no "RTR" kind of ride. We were placed in front of 2,990 foaming-at-the-mouth, big-ego men who were there to race each other (the other 10 participants were the women). As we stood on the red mats, I gave my camera to Frank and got really nervous. It felt like we were in the running of the bulls.

The gun went off and all 3,000 of us started. Fast! After 5km of racing, tangling handlebars with a guy and seeing 3 crashes one of which tried to involve me and did involve the under-23 World Champion I decided I wanted no part of this "race". It was the worst male ego trip I have ever seen. When you risk crashing yourself and another (especially a girl) in a for fun race, that is when you know your ego is too big. I had men taking my wheel, yelling at me and trying to prove they were better than me.

Despite these negatives, it was a neat ride. I saw amazing scenery, tons of people were there to support their big-egoed loved ones and I did stop at the one aid station and ate 2 chocolate cookies, a dried fig the size of my fist (not really, but it was big and really good), and filled both my water bottles with fizzy water, of course as this is Europe.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Having fun on the Whee!- (Huy)

You know you are officially "Pro" when your numbers are stick-on numbers. No pinning needed. This picture is of me sticking on my numbers the night before the race. It was a very exciting time. Though an important thing to remember is; do not wash your jersey with those numbers or else you will get a sticky-gooey mess that is really hard to clean.

This past Wednesday was Fleche-Wallonne. It was fun! I, personally, had a HUGE explosion on the second to last climb and got dropped, but Kirstin got 5th and Team USA was one of only two teams who actually raced their bikes today (T-Mobile being the other one).

It was actually pretty neat, after I got dropped, I had my very own motorcycle escort for the last 15km of the race. Spectators clapped and cheered me on. BUT, the best part of the race was the last climb to the finish. It is a famous climb in the town of Huy, Belgium, called the Mur de Huy. It is only 800 meters long, but VERY steep. VERY steep. And, that is where thousands of spectators are. Since we were finishing right before the men's race, the crowds were already in place.

After I got dropped and was suffering to make it up the second to last climb, I wondered how in the world I was going to make it up the Huy. I really hoped I wouldn't have to zig-zag up the climb to make it easier. But I knew my pride would NEVER let me make "Z's" up a climb. That's what wussies do. Then I hoped I wouldn't fall right off my bike because I was going so slowly. Then for sure I would have to walk. That would be the worst of all the possibilities because thousands of people would watch me walk up the hill in shame. So, I hoped for the best and believed in myself that I could make it up to the finish.

It turns out, that last climb was the best part of the entire race. The people were amazing. They were cheering, clapping and willing me on like I was in first place. THEN, something even better happened. I smiled at a group of men cheering for me and one ran out and gave me a huge push up the hill. His friend followed by running with me while pushing me up the hill. He then gave me a push big enough to actually make me laugh. It was awesome.

I made it to the finish no problem and was very proud of myself and the race. What a great experience!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Under the Tuscan Sun

Here's what life is like at the USA house in Lucca, Italy (it's rough):

The first day, we rode to Pisa-and saw the leaning tower.

That afternoon, I had a Cappuccino (my first Italian coffee. I have since had more). The pastry is actually Frank's, but it looked good for the picture.Here's the view from our house (not bad)

The second day we had a special "tour guide" for our four hour mountain ride (any guesses?).

Not sure who it is?

Surprise! Yeah, crazy hugh? Yes, he still smells and looks good after a four hour ride.

Day three was, again, a ride with Super Mario. This time he took us to the coast. Riding behind him on the flats is like motor pacing at 45 kph (that means it's REALLY hard!). Even after ACL surgery (which he blew out skiing) he is SO fast.

Mario lives across the street, and apparently he likes riding with us, because he said "see you next week". I don't think the novelty of riding with him will ever wear off. It is SO COOL! Plus, he is amazingly nice and patient.

Tomorrow, we leave this oasis and fly back to Holland. We have a one day UCI race on Saturday, go to Belgium for a few days and get ready for Fleche-Wallonne on Wednesday. After racing Wednesday, we will come back to Mario...I mean Lucca for some Mario time...Uh, training that is.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


There are a few things to know before racing in Holland:
1.) It is fast and hard; the ENTIRE race.
2.) Do NOT climb the trash hill in your big chain ring.
3.) When descending the trash hill, do not forget about the big right-hand turn at the bottom, or else you will end up in the grass, in your big chain ring.
4.) It is fast, hard and windy; the ENTIRE race.
5.) If you are dirty after the race, it means you spent some time in the caravan (aka-chasing the main field through the follow cars after either being dropped, getting a flat in the cobbles, or crashing).
6.) It is fast, hard, windy, and crit-like; the ENTIRE race.

This picture is from the finish of yesterdays' race, the Ronde van Drenthe World Cup. Dramatic Brooke is leaning on me, Rebecca "migit" is front left, Katheryn "why are you guys so dirty?" is front center and Kristin "strong as bull, get flat, chase for half the race and catch the front pack" is front right. Unfortunately, Lauren "had bad luck the entire trip" isn't pictured because at the time of this picture she was in the hospital getting treated for a broken hand after an Italian pushed her into the railing of a bridge (slimy Italians).

Since being here in Holland we have raced, what felt like a 3 hour long crit, on Thursday where our super-star sprinter, Brooke got 8th. Yesterday was the World Cup and again Brooke did a GREAT job getting some place in the teens (I can't remember), and today is a circut race up and over the trash hill 5 times (no big chain ring, big turn at the bottom, no big chain ring, big turn at the bottom). Tomorrow, we are off to Tuscany for 3 days at the team house and will return to Holland on Friday for a race over the weekend then to Belgium for Fleche(!!) in a week and a half.

There are some great photos of us racing here in Europe on

This is how you look when you climb the trash hill in your big chain ring:

Sunday, April 8, 2007

The Cobble Hobble

There are three reasons why you would hobble around after racing the Tour of Flanders.

Number 1- You crashed in the massive pile-up 25km into the race, tried to chase back on to the group, then got pulled "so the Men's race wouldn't catch you".

Number 2- You crashed and still finished.

Number 3- You raced and finished (I, thankfully, fall into this category).

Pretty much, no matter what happened to each and everyone of us racing today we are all "hobbling" around. The race was epic but, for me, not as epic as I was thinking it would be. The cool-ness factor of actually racing the Ronde van Vlaanderen (as it is officially named) far out weighed any epic-ness. Yes, it was hard, yes, a lot of stuff hurts; my back, my quads, my hamstrings, my calves, my hands, my biceps and my brain, but it was FUN! Crowds lined the race course and encouraged us up each and every climb. They cheered us on in the cobbles and cringed when someone went down. It was epic, it was special, but overall, it was just dang neat (I know that sounds cheesy, but that really is how it was: really neat!).

Here are some pictures from today!

Driving to the start; in the fog (please don't rain!).

Brooke Miller and me (aka Spidey #1 and Spidey #2) before the start. We think our USA kits look like Spider Man 's suit.

Big moustache man at the finish.

Driving through the finish after finishing through it (no one was sitting in the grandstands when we raced through).

We race again on Thursday in Holland. Rumor has it, that Hotel is a *****! That's right, a five star hotel!! That means really YUMMY food (and a new country).

Friday, April 6, 2007


Everything about today was stimulating. At breakfast they had fruit, and after a pear and 2 apples, my taste buds were well stimulated. We then drove to the start of Sunday's race and rode the second half of the course. Right away, the old factory was stimulated with one of the more common Belgium smells; poop. We rode in poo, smelled poo, got poo on our bikes and talked of having poo envy. Then, came the ultimate stimulation....cobbles. There are a few things to know about riding on cobbles;

1.) Everything jiggles. Everything.
2.) Your bike feels and sounds like it is going to break into pieces at any moment.
3.) Your hands, fingers and feet will go numb from all the jiggling.
4.) While going downhill and coasting, if you lift your butt just slightly off the saddle and are female, you can get all the vibration you could ever want.

Our quads, after six short, steep, out of the saddle climbs, were well stimulated. Then, came the Grandaddy of stimulation (for those of you who don't know, Grandaddy is one better than ultimate and far beats out riding the cobbles, unless you are horny). 15km from the finish of Sunday's race is the famous Muur climb. The climb itself, isn't too bad. Short, steep, cobbled, but the pure satisfaction of riding up the famous Muur itself almost propels you up the climb (almost). But, it's the lead into the Muur that makes you want to cry for your Mommy. A short decent into the town of Muur leads to a narrow brick road (pain and suffering and Toph, Oh My!) that goes up. This narrow brick road, (pain and suffering and Toph, Oh My!) then leads to a wide open cobbled square in the middle of town that somehow continues to go up, and up. After a right hand turn onto another narrow cobbled "goat path", you finally get to ascend the Muur. For me, the satisfaction of riding such an epic and cool climb was not stimulated enough, so I did it again (no one else felt the need to come with me). Finally, our adrenaline gland was well stimulated as we were riding toward the finish town and a semi felt the need to honk its horn at us as it drove by 8" away (I also needed to clean out my chamois after that).

Today was an amazing day. Sunday is going to be an EPIC race. That's why it is called Flanders and is a classic race. I am so amazed to be here in Belgium riding and getting ready to race. What a neat experience.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Belgium Smells

It is a well known fact that when you travel in and around Europe you are going to come across some interesting smells. For example, when in Austria or Switzerland, you are going to smell the reason why the grass is so green (i.e. organic, very fresh fertilizer. If you are really lucky, you may even see the scheisse werfer). Or when traveling in and around Koln, Dutschland the very sweet smell of chocolate may fill your nostrils. However, a little known fact is that when traveling (or riding in this case) in Belgium, you get to experience a wide variety of interesting smells in a very small amount of time. This is because Belgium has to keep its smells confined to an itty-bitty amount of space for a country. If you are lucky enough, in the span of a 2 hour ride, you may smell cheese, oil, poo, bread, farts, chocolate, fish and more poo. My teammates and I were just that lucky today during our training ride. I now feel well introduced to Belgium and its smells.

If you would like to see some pictures of our inaugural Belgium "smell" ride, check out and click on her Blog.