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US Gran Prix of Cyclocross: Rounds 7 & 8: Deschutes Brewery Cup

by Maureen Bruno Roy in Cycling, Cyclocross, Train With Grain

The week following the NEPCX series final in New England had me working two more days in my temporary Arlington office before finally settling into my newly renovated Cambridge office on Wednesday. It was fantastic to be settled into one place. It seems as if I have spent the entire Fall moving in and out of offices and traveling to races every weekend in between. Phew!

Matt and I were both in need of putting in a solid full work week, so we planned to fly to the USGP finals in Bend, OR on Friday, race Saturday and Sunday and take a red-eye flight home Sunday night. Our plans included staying at the Mt Bachelor condos and having our Portland friends, Dan and Addie, join us for the weekend. The USGP finals have been in Portland for the last two years with Nationals in Bend the following week. Although we were a bit sad to miss out on spending an entire week at Dan and Addie’s house, it was great to have them for a quick 48 hours.

We arrived in Bend on Friday in time to hit the course for a pre-ride and check out the conditions. The venue for the course is nestled in between a grassy park, the Deschutes Brewery and a new shopping development. The course is situated on what could be described as an abandoned lot or a yet-to-be developed area of excavated earth. Squeezed in amongst the vendors are the most interesting features of the course (the flyover and stairs). The track then crosses onto the grass in front of the Brewery. The remainder of the course weaves through front-end loaded dirt piles on a loamy/dusty track and through a sparse stand of Ponderosa Pine trees (which smelled really good on one section of the course). Unlike the previous two years, Bend had been experiencing an unprecedented warm and dry spell.  The course would be dry and dusty all weekend long.

As expected, the course was dry, very dusty and the ground had several sections of very hard ground with lots of loose gravel. During my pre-ride I managed to test the limits of speed on the course by hitting the deck on a loose gravel corner. Fortunately, I got off with only some bruising and a scrape to the knee. I did however swap to more aggressive tires to have more traction for Saturday’s race.

day1

In addition to my racing obligations for the weekend, my clothing sponsor, Castelli, had contacted me about doing a photo-shoot for their Winter 2012 catalog. It was quite an honor to be asked to be in a catalog! We made arrangements to meet up on Saturday morning to head to beautiful Sun River for the shoot. It was 15 degrees but luckily I was modeling some of their fantastic winter jackets. Greg kept his car “sauna hot” for me to warm up in between takes and John and Joel toughed it out in the cold to perfect the shots. These guys are real perfectionists and were great to work with. I hope my eyes were open in the photos – it’s a trend of mine to be “sleeping” in photos!

 

Back to racing. My start was okay but not great.  It was definitely a course where the first lap was the most important lap and I didn’t quite nail it.  I had to work pretty hard to pass people and move up in the field of racers.


I felt comfortable catching up on the turns and the set of stairs but the rest of the course was super-fast and made for difficult for passing. I worked my way up to just outside the top 10 and finished 11th. Considering our hectic flight schedule, I was fairly satisfied with my result, feeling a lot more open coming into the last few laps.


That night we headed out into Bend for dinner at Joolz Restaurant for Dan’s birthday. We had a great meal and fantastic time relaxing with our pals. Happy Birthday, Dan!

 

day2

After Saturday’s race, I knew it would be important to have a better start because of the difficulty making up time on the fast course. There were a few changes to the track, but overall the feel of the course was the same, FAST! The temperature was also very cold on Sunday with highs around 23 degrees.

 

 A good start had me in the top five for the first few laps of the race, accelerating on every bit of pavement and flat grass section to stick with the riders in front. On the paved start/finish stretch, a split formed and I was alone in fifth for a while but knew that sixth place was soon to catch me.

 

I dug deep but knew I wouldn’t be able to hold my position alone for three more laps. A group of four was very close behind me and chasing hard. I was able to make a pass on one of the riders that caught me but three more were working together and were able to catch me in time for the last lap sprint finish. I was 9th in the end and although I would have preferred to have stayed in 5th or 6th place, I am pretty sure that is the hardest I have ever ridden my bike for 40 minutes.


After my race, I joined Dan and Addie and watched the men’s race while Matt worked for the Cannondale Cyclocrossworld Team. The temperature had dropped quite a bit so we hung out by the fire pits to keep warm and pet all the cute dogs that walked by.
Dan and Addie headed back to the condo to watch football while Matt and I packed up my bikes and wheels to get ready to head to the airport. We were able to make a quick return to the condo to say goodbye to our pals and headed home. We were about to squeeze in three more workdays before a 11-day trip to Belgium for 5 more races! In fact, by the time we send this, we’ll already be in Belgium… more on that soon.

Check out Mo’s Gift List for the CX racer on your list.

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Maureen Bruno Roy Google: Maureen Bruno Roy
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New England Pro CX Series, Rounds 7 & 8: NBX Gran Prix of Cross

by Maureen Bruno Roy in Cycling, Cyclocross, Train With Grain

We’ve got a lot to cover in this week’s newsletter. I had two days of lighting-fast racing in Rhode Island. Also, I finally succumbed to the pressure and did an interview in my “native” tongue. But more importantly Matt and I put together a special edition newsletter, the MMRacing 12 Days of CXMas! Keep on reading to find out more!

This past weekend was the finale of the New England Pro Cylocross Series in Warwick, RI. The weather was once again beautiful, sunny and mild… a trend this season in New England. The racecourse was also another very fast track with a downhill sprint finish both days. I knew that I would be hard pressed to be able to beat the road racers/sprinters in a straight up battle, so I hoped that the running sections in the sand might be my one chance to prevent the race from coming down to a big sprint.

Unfortunately, neither day turned out the results I had hoped for, but I certainly hope the training will prepare me for the transition to the upcoming more technical courses in Bend, OR this weekend and Belgium in 10 days!

day1

The short uphill start may have been a sign of the way the rest of the race would unfold as two riders veered in front of me rather than going straight up the road.  The pace was fast from the start on a very long paved stretch that unfolded onto the grass and then into the woods to the sandy beach run.

 
I took the lead on the run and drove the pace until we reemerged onto the pavement and the road racing tactics began to unfold. I had already made the mistake of racing as if I were on a more technical course where I may have been able to take an advantage.


However, with a team of three riders attacking the group while the more road savvy riders sat on wheels out of the wind, I was wasting energy and not paying attention to what the others were up to.

I was on the back of the train of riders when another racer slipped and fell on a short uphill section causing myself and one other rider to get gapped off of the main pack. My friend and I spent the remainder of the race painfully close to catching the leaders but were never able to latch back on.

In the end I was 7th, quite disappointed in the endless errors I had made misreading the race but hopeful that I could learn from them for the next day.

day2

Fortunately, I was able to discuss Saturday’s race with Matt who is a very savvy road racer and has the mind to see and anticipate things before they even happen. It’s a game of tricks, outsmarting and tactics.  I tend to be impulsive, inattentive about what others are up to and frustrated that you can’t just train, be fast and try your best and have those factors dictate your results. I was able to pre-ride Sunday’s course with my good friend Adam who is also a cycling coach. He patiently helped me plan out my tactics for the day.

 

I was pleased to see a second beach run and much less pavement on Sunday but there was still a big downhill finish to contend with. I was also lucky to meet the very stylish seven and nine year old sisters, Marlee and Jillian. They both ride bikes and were big fans, cheering loudly for me both days. Thanks girls!


Immediately after the start, I pushed myself to get on the train of riders that were leading the race. Five of us quickly broke off from the rest of the pack. We all rode wheel-to-wheel through every section of the race.


I was able to recover on the running sections and turns. I knew that my only chance was to sprint the last running section, but I hesitated, fearing that it was still too far from the finish and I would expend energy I didn’t need to.

Unfortunately, I still wasn’t playing the game correctly and, instead of attacking, one of the riders bumped me after the sand causing a bit of a jam. Meanwhile another rider slipped on a corner allowing the eventual winner to have a gap. The rest of us came through the downhill in a sprint where I trailed the group in 5th. I wasn’t very pleased with my overall weekend but planned to use what I had learned for the next time.

 

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Maureen Bruno Roy Google: Maureen Bruno Roy
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UCI Carousel Volkswagon Jingle Cross Rock

by Maureen Bruno Roy in Cycling, Cyclocross, Train With Grain

After getting home from Louisville, I took a much-needed day off of work and a nice training / recovery week followed by a weekend at home to clear out my head cold. I was feeling recovered enough by the following Sunday to get in a nice workout and begin my prep for the Jingle Cross Rock races. Immediately after Thanksgiving, Matt and I would be heading to Iowa City for three days of important UCI races including a points-heavy Category-1 UCI race on the third day.

We had decided to travel on the Friday after Thanksgiving so that we could have a nice holiday meal with Matt’s family. Thursday morning, Matt joined me in the woods for my pre-race training ride before heading home to whip up a “whatever’s in the pantry” casserole for Thanksgiving. I settled on a butternut squash, kale and stuffing casserole, which is the Recipe of the Week.

The race on Friday was scheduled for 6:30 PM, so that morning we took a 6:30 AM flight to Chicago followed by a three hour drive to Iowa City. As usual, Matt plugged in the addresses of the local food Co-op as well as several veggie restaurants and cafes into the GPS ahead of time. Arriving in Iowa City a little after noon, we picked up some lunch and breakfast foods and settled into the hotel before heading to the race venue a few hours later.

In addition to taking care of my bikes, Matt was working for the Cannondale Cyclocrossworld team for the weekend as well and they generously allowed me to use their warm tent for my pre-race prep. As always, the crew from the Rapha Focus Team and SRAM Neutral Race Support were generous in offering their assistance – thanks guys!

day1

I’ve only done one other nighttime race and I was happy to hear that the course would be well lit! It sounds a bit scary to be racing your bike down a hillside in the dark! The temperature was around 50 degrees and the course was fast and dry but had a big, long climb up the infamous Mt. Krumpet and some challenging technical sections. I knew that I would be a bit slow to get going since I hadn’t raced in two weeks but I had a good warm up and a front row start.


The pace from the start was very fast and within two laps, there was a large group of nine of us together off the front. I was feeling my limit on the long, flat straight-aways but was able to pull it back together on the run and the technical bits.

With two laps to go, the group was pulling apart and I was holding steady in 4th place, hoping to move ahead to the podium spots. In the end though, I held my position and finished in 4th place. I was now warmed up, the cobwebs cleared and ready for two more days of racing. I hoped weather radar was right and that the impending rain would be in my favor the next day.


That night we headed out for dinner in town and found Masala Vegetarian Indian Restaurant. It was a fantastic meal and the staff was very nice.We were pretty impressed by this small Mid-Western city!

day2

We awoke to a steady drizzle and before heading to the venue, we popped into one of the cafes Matt had found, called the Fair Grounds Coffehouse. It was an all vegan café with great coffee and a full breakfast menu. We had already eaten but I purchased a tasty looking gingerbread cupcake for after the race!


Overnight rain and morning drizzle had made the course incredibly slippery but not actually muddy. During my pre-ride, the bike was sliding all over the course but not gathering up any sticky mud. Unless the conditions changed leading up to my race, the pace would still be fast. It would be a game of quick accelerations, maintaining speed on the long straight-aways and trying to not make any mistakes that could cost valuable time.

Unfortunately, I felt as though I was not reading the course very well and kept making little mistakes and judgment errors in my timing on and off the bike. I was able to move into 3rd place but was not confident in my position as another rider caught me in the last lap.


We fought for that last podium spot but I wasn’t able to close the gap in the finishing sprint and took another 4th place. I was disappointed that I simply did not ride my bike well, considering the slippery conditions. However, I was feeling more energetic and “opened up” after the second day and hoped that would translate into a stronger race for the Category-1 event on Sunday.


That night, we headed to the local laundromat, Spin City, where there were about 15 other cyclists washing their muddy clothes. We joined Jessica (THE wife of the My Wife Inc cyclocross team and pro cupcake baker) and had a blast getting to know her. After the laundry was done, we headed out to The Red Avocado for dinner. Normally we stay in a hotel with a kitchen and I cook all of our meals, but we had only found a regular hotel near the venue, so we decided to check out some of the local restaurants. This place was fantastic and a perfect way to end a long muddy day.

 day3

We were impressed enough by the menu and coffee at Fair Grounds that we went back for breakfast on Sunday. I got a giant waffle with strawberries and Matt got a tofu scramble burrito. Both were delicious and it was nice to have a relaxing morning with the local café dwellers and the weird counter guy in the pseudo-military-safari outfit.

The rain had stopped overnight, the temperatures had dropped to 35º and the winds picked up. However, the damage from the rain was done and the course was truly muddy, sticky and more difficult on day 3. I was feeling ready for the challenge and took off at the start sitting in the top five riders.

Within two laps, one rider was off the front and the rest of us were fighting for position especially up the long run and climbing sections. With one lap to go, I was able to move from 4th to 3rd place. The leader was fading a bit and I was able to catch her and take the lead for half of the penultimate lap before another rider joined me.

 

On the last lap, the three of us remained very close. I was trying to not make any mistakes but slipped out on one corner allowing a small gap to open up. I recovered from the spill and dug deep, dropping the third placed rider and chasing for the leader. In the end I took second place, 7 seconds down on the winner. I was pleased to have my first podium result of the season and to do so at at C1 UCI event made it all the more special.

To make my finish that much sweeter, Matt tracked down a guy who had been walking around with the cutest little puppy. He brought the puppy into the finishing stretch and seconds after I turned around and before I even had a second to wipe the mud off of my face, the puppy was jumping up on me and, well, slobbering all over me. Thanks, Matt (and puppy guy)!

After a press conference for the podium of the men’s and women’s races, Matt and I helped pack up the Cannondale truck. We eventually headed back to Chicago and spent the night in a hotel near the airport to make it easier to be on time for our 7am flight to Boston. We had an uneventful flight back home but by 3 that afternoon, our 4AM wake up call really had me dragging! Luckily for me I took the day off to recover… of course, Matt went into the lab for the rest of the day.

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Maureen Bruno Roy Google: Maureen Bruno Roy
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USGP Rounds 5 and 6: Derby City Cup

by Maureen Bruno Roy in Cyclocross, Train With Grain

November is usually the time in the racing season to start to reflect upon how things are going. It’s also the time of the season where you want things to “click” and really be coming together nicely in preparation for the next 6-8 weeks before Nationals. As I am looking back on the last eight weeks of racing, I can definitely say that I am feeling stronger and more comfortable racing harder this season. I can also say the competition just keeps getting faster and for some unseen reason I keep running into a bit of bad luck. So, despite my improvements, my results are not where I would like them and I’d like to shake the little black cloud now, please.

day1

We left a very mild, rainy Boston and arrived in Louisville late on Thursday evening to chilly temperatures and dry air. It was a bit of a surprise to have it so chilly, but the weekend forecast looked mild and dry. Too bad for me as I was looking for some mud to race in because I have only had one muddy race so far this season!

Friday morning we ran our errands to the grocery store and then headed to the venue for a pre ride. By this time I was feeling some of the telltale signs of a head cold coming on, but thought if I just ignored it, it might go away until after the racing was over.

Getting to the venue the day before the races is a really nice thing to do when we can. Not only do I get the oppotunity to see the course with very little obstruction, but we also get to catch up with our cyclocross family. It’s always good to see SRAM Neutral Race Support super-mechanic and good friend Jose and his daughter Piera.


Despite my pre-cold omens, I felt pretty good on the pre ride.  The course would be fast, technical in some sections and promised to be a real fight in the stacked 50-plus-rider field.


That night we headed out to a new vegetarian restaurant, Roots. We had been to another restaurant by the same owner in years past and the new place was delicious Asian food with in-house made fresh tofu.

At the table next to us we struck up a conversation a fantastic guy named LaMarr visiting from Baltimore.  We had a great night sharing stories of our vegetarian travels.  LaMarr is the president and founder of an amazing organization, the Urban Leadership Institute, a social enterprise based in Baltimore, Maryland. ULI aims to empower youth and adults to create and launch their own enterprises, and through these enterprises, to take greater responsibility for their lives and communities.  Take a minute and check it out.  Great people doing great things.


The morning of the race , I knew I was fighting a cold but still was feeling OK on the bike during my warm up. However, after the first lap of the race when I had begun to dig deep, my energy tank was feeling pretty empty. I started to fade back several spots. My legs were achy and sore and despite a good nights sleep, I was feeling tired. I gave it everything I had but was never really able to dig deep, finishing a disappointing 18th place.

That night I took a hot bath, drank a lot of fluids and made dinner at home. I emailed my coach to let him know that I was under the weather and we decided to play the next day by ear and see how I felt.

day2

If I were at home, I would have skipped training in favor of resting, but being at the race venue and coming all that way meant that I would toe the line and at least give some representation to my fantastic sponsors who make it possible for me to do this! Huge thanks to Bob’s Red Mill and Seven Cycles!

Despite a mostly sleepless night, I started the race and had a very good position into the first technical sections. I was able to stay in a decent spot for one lap but quickly faded again. Into the second lap I knew there was very little benefit to continue the race and would only be disappointed that I was unable to give it an honest effort, so I pulled the plug. I headed back to the car to blow my nose for the 100th time, to get some fluids and rest.

I was able to walk around and spectate the men’s race while Matt worked with the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld team.  I took a handful of photos and watched the lines the men took at the trickier sections.  As the race started to wind down, I was getting a bit feverish.  I knew I had made the right call to end my race early.

That night we packed up and had another nice dinner at home before heading out to the movies. It’s something we always say we’ll do when we are at the races, but it’s the first time we actually did it! It was quite a nice way to wrap up an otherwise crappy weekend.

Back at home, I took a sick day from work and rested as much as possible and by mid week, I’m feeling close to 100%.  I’ll have this coming weekend off from racing and I’m excited for a little family get together at my sister’s house. Matt will be attending his first RAAM conference in NYC…stay tuned for more details on his next HUGE adventure!

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Maureen Bruno Roy Google: Maureen Bruno Roy
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Post Season Wrap Up: Mark Swartzendruber

by Mark Swartzendruber in Cycling, Road Cycling, Train With Grain

As I sit here typing this post season report, it is early November (sorry for blowing my deadline, oops) It’s hard to imagine that just two months ago I won my 10th IL State time trial championship with an average speed over the 33 kilometer course of 28.7 miles per hour.  And then the following week, I teamed up with 3 team mates to compete in a 4 person team time trial of 55 kilometers and we averaged over 30 mph!

I did a 100k ride on Saturday and ran into a racing friend out on the route.  We were riding along at around 18-22 mph and it was genuinely a struggle at times!  It’s amazing how quickly competitive form is lost.  I find it difficult to reflect on the season past without wondering if I’ll ever be able to make a bike go fast again next season or was this the last year that I’ll win a race?

I generally struggle through the winters.  Living in Chicago makes it tough to get much training in other than what I can do indoors.  So, moored to my trainer, I play music sets that I saved from my days as an indoor cycling instructor at fitness club trying to pass the hours pretending I’m not on a trainer in the basement.  Last winter was a record year for snowfall in Chicago.  I get my upper body off season strength training by shoveling snow.  This photo of the alley behind my home will give you an idea.  The city doesn’t plow the alleys so I and the neighbors had to shovel and snow blow the alley just to be able to get our cars out of the garages.  It took 3 days.


At some point in January, I’ve generally had all I can take of indoor training and snow shoveling so I make travel arrangements to head to warmer weather.  I’m fortunate to have a good friend and former team mate as well as my bicycle sponsor Leader Bicycles in San Diego.  Between the two I can generally get lodging and food while I ride my bike up and down the coast and in the inland mountains.  In March I go back out to California.  This season, my March trip was to Ventura where my brother lives.  I was able to log over 600 miles and 30 hours of bike time in 6 days of riding and was beginning to feel like a bike racer rather than a pasty, chubby, Midwestern shut in.

The racing in the Midwest starts in March, but I generally skip the early season races unless the weather is good.  We had an absolutely miserable spring so I wasn’t racing.  Something about racing in two layers of tights, thermal jackets and wearing a balaclava under my helmet is less than appealing.

 

My racing started in April with a road race in the St Louis area in Southern IL.  My early season training paid off and I was able to break away with 21 time national champion on the track Curtis Tolson and another rider.  We built a good time gap and I finished 2nd.  A week later I won another tough road race in brutal weather conditions.  It was a good start.

After those two races, my season went into shut down mode as I promote a race weekend in my home town of Champaign and a two person time trial in May.  Those events require a good deal of planning and my ability and time to race was greatly diminished.  Those races were quite successful but my racing fitness was shot.  I am a guy that in addition to training, I need to race a lot to be sharp.  Add in more off time with a Memorial Day weekend vacation with my lovely wife and dog and a graduation ceremony for a daughter who had earned a Masters degree in Education and well, you can see I wasn’t getting much racing in.  In June, I was able to ride to a 3rd place in the Illinois state road championship which was won by a team mate of mine but I never felt really on top of things.  Then, it was back to off the racing scene with another daughter marrying in June.  Mind, you these are diversions from racing of the best kind and I am so proud of my girls.

I was finally able to get back to racing regularly in July, doing 10 days of the International Cycling Classic in Illinois and Wisconsin.  My best race was a 4th place finish at the Evanston Grand Prix criterium.

Photo @ Josh Dreyfus

The last week of July, I did RAGBRAI for the first time.  It was a blast to do this and believe it or not, it was one of the best training weeks of my life!  Something about sleep deprivation combined with alcohol abuse and heavy miles for a solid week leaves the body stronger after a week of rehab :)

In August I won the IL State road race sanctioned by American Bicycle Racing had good finishes in a couple of Pro 1, 2 criteriums and did a 40k time trial on the road bike you see in the photo and rolled a time of 54:06.  This indicated to me that I was on what we call diamond legs.

In September I set the course record and won the state time trial championship and that put a good bookend on the season.  Since then I’ve been playing more golf that riding. So, here it is November again. I wonder when the snow will begin…

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Mark Swartzendruber Google: Mark Swartzendruber
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Looking Back: 2011 Recap

by Meredith Miller in Cycling, Road Cycling, Train With Grain

Has another racing season really come and gone already? I can’t believe that I am sitting here at my computer, looking out the window at the snow falling, while thinking back on the 2011 road racing season.

It all happened so fast – I was competing at the Cyclocross World Championships in St Wendel, Germany on Jan 30. Two and a half weeks later I was at training camp with Team TIBCO in Carpinteria, CA. Whoa. A week after camp I was in Washington DC wearing my cycling advocacy hat at the National Bike Summit. Three weeks later the racing season was underway at the Redlands Bicycle Classic.

I chuckle to myself when I think of the number of times I have raced Redlands. I smile when I think of all the different families I have stayed with and continue to look forward to seeing year after year. I think of how the race has changed from ten years ago when it was a 6-day event to the 4-day event that it is now. I can remember numerous courses that have come and gone, some that I wish were still in existence, but the two that have always remained the same are the downtown criterium and the Sunset circuit race – two of the hardest races on the calendar all year.

April was a big racing month – Redlands, Sunny King, Sea Otter and SRAM Tour of the Gila. It was a good month of racing in regards to the races themselves, but it was a tough one for the team. Several of our top riders, Ali Powers, Erinne Willock and Carmen Small, were home nursing injuries. As our team leaders, they left a big gap to fill. Luckily the rest of the team was up for the task. We raced hard. We didn’t get the results we wanted, but we didn’t give up either.

May – Joe Martin and Tour de Grove. The team got a win at Joe Martin and we cleaned up at Tour de Grove. We were happy for sure.

June was another huge month of racing. We were at the Liberty Classic in Philly, Clarendon in Washington DC, Nature Valley Grand Prix in MN, and US Road Nationals in GA. Junes was a mixed bag of emotions and results. We had good days, races that went well but didn’t yield the final result we wanted. And we had bad days. Races that just went wrong, days when we just didn’t click. But, that’s bike racing. Things don’t always go your way, but when they do it’s magic.

What I remember most about July is how little I was home. About 5 days total. It was a loooong month on the road. I was all over the place. We started with Tour de ‘Toona, a race that once had been a premier stage race and was now resurrecting itself from a three year hiatus. I was happy to be back in Altoona, PA. From there I went to Sun Valley, ID with my husband, Ben, to support him at US MTB Nationals. And maybe I snuck in a little time on my mtn bike, too. Next thing I knew I was in Bend, my home away from home, for Cascade, one of my favorite races all year. Bend is where I won road nationals. I’ve had some notable cross results there, too, so Bend has a special place in my heart. The team’s results at Cascade were good, not great. We could have done better and we knew it.

The last race of the month and the last race of the season for me was the Presbyterian Classic in Charlotte. It’s a prestigious criterium with a lot of money on the line. My teammates and I did everything we could to get that result that had been eluding us all season, that one BIG result. We didn’t get it.

We may not have gotten a big result, but we did take something meaningful home with us. The day before the race we visited the pediatric cancer ward at the Presbyterian Hospital where we visited with several inspirational, courageous and tenacious kids who may have been sick but didn’t want us to know it. They smiled when they met us. They wanted to watch the bike race. They enjoyed our company. For a little while, hopefully, their sickness was forgotten.

The road season was over. My race season was not. Cross season was a month and a half away. I had a couple weeks off the bike completely, a few weeks on the mtn bike and then before I could say ‘boo’ I was lining up for the first cross race of the season – CrossVegas. But that’s another story…

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Meredith Miller Google: Meredith Miller
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New England Pro Cyclocross Series Rounds 5 and 6

by Maureen Bruno Roy in Cycling, Cyclocross, Train With Grain

After returning from the Czech Republic, we decided to take the following weekend off from racing to tackle the chest high laundry pile, get back to my clients and get Matt back into the lab! We had a freak snowstorm over that weekend which meant that there would be really muddy racing in New Jersey. I was torn about taking the weekend off but stuck to it and enjoyed a little downtime and some solid training without getting in a moving vehicle.

The next race I had lined up was the CycleSmart International, part of the Shimano New England Pro Cyclocross Series in Northampton, MA. Northampton had received about 20 inches of snow in the Sunday storm, but I knew by the following Saturday it would be gone. In the 21 year history of the CSI race, it has never rained and it has always been an especially fast, flat race course.

When the weekend arrived, it was sunny, warm and dry. I was ready for some very fast, dynamic pack-style racing, much like a crit, but on grass!

day1

As expected, when we arrived on Saturday morning, all traces of snow had disappeared.  The Nor’easter that clobbered Northampton a week prior was a distant memory.  After I took my customary course inspection, we packed up the mud tires and got my go-to dry condition tires, the Challenge Griffos, ready to go.

I had a good start to the race, mixing it up with the top three riders right off the line.  Unfortunately, I ended up taking a corner a little too tight and clipped my pedal resulting in what was more of a stumble than a crash.

In doing so, I knocked the chain off of the chainring and fumbled for a while to get it back on.  This seemed to take forever. By the time I got it back on I was almost last.  The front of the race was long gone and I would really have to dig deep if I wanted to salvage my race.

The course was already super fast and a pack of five racers was on the front driving the pace. I was able to move up several spots each lap and finally made my way to 9th place by the finish.  I had used up a bit more energy than I would have liked given there was still a second day of racing ahead.

Rather than stay in Northampton for what always seems like a lousy nights’ sleep, we headed back to Boston for the launch of the 2012 Seven Cycles bicycle line.  Matt gave the Mo-Honey a quick wash and we delivered it to the party so all could gawk at it.  Seven dropped the 2012 catalog that night as well.  Like the bikes they make, the catalog is a work of art.

There are a bunch of great pictures of Matt from the Green Mountain Double Century and some of me on my Mudhoney.  You can get a catalog of your own by visiting the Ride Studio Café or by requesting one here.

day2

I was resigned to having a better go of it on Sunday in Northampton.  Although there were some changes to the course from the previous day, it was still super fast and smooth racing. I had a strong start and sat in third place for a few laps.

By the third lap, there was a group of four of us chasing the leader. Although we all tried to pass one another and get a gap in the rideable sand sections, it came down to the last lap where the riders with the most power turned it up.

I finished in 5th place, just about where I expected but feeling a bit of fatigue from the previous days effort. That night Matt had a late time point in the lab so we headed to the lab for a few hours and grabbed dinner at a new local restaurant in the area to wrap up the weekend.

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Maureen Bruno Roy Google: Maureen Bruno Roy
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Mo1

UCI World Cup, Rounds 1 & 2

by Maureen Bruno Roy in Cycling, Cyclocross, Train With Grain

Last week we set off to the Czech Republic for the first two World Cup races of the season. I was looking forward to the challenging race courses and the chance to compete against the toughest competition in the world. In addition to our stays at the race venues, we had booked a studio apartment in Prague and planned to spend the five days between the two races training and being tourists. It bears repeating that this trip would not have been possible without the amazing support of our sponsors. Thanks, Bob’s Red Mill ! Thanks, Seven Cycles.

We arrived in Prague a bit exhausted from lack of sleep on the overnight flight. I can’t imagine the parents or the child that cried the entire plane trip felt much better. We stumbled our way through the airport happy to have all of our luggage (two bags, two bikes, and ten wheels!) arrive safely.  We grabbed the rental car and navigated our way to the apartment we had rented.

In spite of the maze-like cobbled streets of Prague, our arrival was a smooth one.  Matt unpacked the bikes and I headed out for a quick ride.  After a little rest, we crossed the Charles Bridge for dinner at one of the many vegetarian restaurants in the city. I opted for the vegetarian take on a classic Czech goulash.

The next day, we packed the car back up and headed to Plzen or Pilsen, home of Pilsner Urquell beer and the site of the first World up race of the season.

day1

On Saturday, we were greeted by several familiar faces as I pre-rode the course. The US had sent a full women’s roster and several men to the event and we were all able to meet up and check in with one another before the racing began. I was also lucky enough to get in a lap on the course with my old friend Tim Johnson and was thankful for the pointers he generously offered. It was going to be a tough course with a lot of pedaling and power and a few punchy hills to really work the legs.

 

Based on my points from the previous season, my start position was close to the back row, making for an especially tricky start.  It was going to be really tough to get into a good spot on the first lap.


Unfortunately, my start was not as strong as I would have liked and I was in the back of the group coming through the first technical sections. I avoided some crashed riders and began the chase to pass as many people as I could each lap to move into the top groups.

 

It’s always cool (and motivating!) to hear people cheering your name.  It’s especially cool when you’re racing in the Czech Republic and there are people cheering for you.  Partway through the race I heard someone yell, “Happy Birthday, Mo!”  It was last week. Thanks, guy!

 

With every passing lap, I was riding stronger and stronger. I was able to pass enough riders to get myself into 20th position by the finish. I was hoping for a top 15 and knew that I’d have to improve my start next week to get into the mix.

prague

In between the World Cups, Matt and I stayed in Prague. Our studio apartment was in the Malá Strana section of Prague with the castle (the Hrad) looming above us each time we left the building.

 

Although training was a big part of my daily routine, Matt and I still managed to experience Prague by exploring a new section of the city or visiting a museum nearly every day. Highlights included Petrin Hill, the John Lennon Wall, the Kampa Museum and the Museum of Young Art.

 day2

After a full week of touring the amazing sights of Prague, training in beautiful city parks and enjoying a few surprise eateries, we headed to Tabor for the next World Cup. I had been to Tabor two years before for the World Championships when it was covered in snow and ice. This time, though, the course was dry and very fast with some leg sapping climbs. I felt confident that I could have a better start and hoped that I would have a better result come race day.

The weather had turned very cloudy and chilly for the start of the race but there wasn’t a drop of rain to be had.  The course was hard-packed and the race would be smoking fast.

Off the line I settled in the top 15 and spent the first three laps swapping places back and forth with several other riders as everyone fought for every single spot and every inch of room on the course.

 

With two laps to go I was leading a large group of about six riders. Everyone was pushing the pace and trying to create some time gaps. Each time one rider made an error, another one of us would take the advantage until the last lap when the pace began to pull the group apart.

I finished 18th for the day a bit disappointed to not have been able to secure a top 15 spot but pleased with my best World Cup finish to date.


Oh, by the way, apparently my ride in Tabor did not go unoticed. Colt at CyclingDirt named me the “Jump of the Week” in his weekly “Who’s #1″ cross rankings. Check out the video clip here. Thanks, Colt!

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Maureen Bruno Roy Google: Maureen Bruno Roy
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top-photo-providence

New England Pro CX Series: Rounds 3 and 4: Providence CX Festival

by Maureen Bruno Roy in Cycling, Cyclocross, Train With Grain

I’ve had some of the best races of my life at Roger Williams Park in Providence, RI. At the 2005 Cyclocross National Championships, I won the Master’s 30-34 National Championship and earned a bronze medal in the Elite Women’s race the next day. I’ve also had some of the worst races there. It all depends on the weather and the course design that the promoters are using on a given year.

Truly amazing cyclocross racers can race any course in any conditions with the same results. I aspire to be that well rounded, but truth be told, I lack mass and power and sometimes get a bit bored on courses that aren’t technically challenging if not at least muddy. I’m much less interested in learning race tactics and playing games than I am in simply racing my guts out. As American Cyclocross develops, there is a trend towards a style of course dubbed “American Style” which for me means I have to change my stubborn ways and learn to race properly on whatever course comes my way.

day1

The forecast called for lots of sun and 80 degree temperatures.  It was unseasonably warm for a ‘cross race and the preceding dry spell meant that the course would be fast and dry. I had a decent start and sat behind the race leaders until the high pace caused a small gap to open up. I found myself with three other riders chasing the lead three and we were closing in on a tiring third place. My legs felt good and I was feeling confident that I would be able to put in a good fight for at least fourth place.


Racing in a pack involves anticipating the moves of the other riders and finding out where you have the advantage over them. There were enough turns in the course that might allow me a gap if I could be patient, find the right time and make my move…..but wait! A 20-foot section of course tape, broken by a crashed rider on the first lap, had been flapping around for the last 30 minutes and when I took a corner wide, it was sucked into my rear cassette and jammed my bike completely.


Not only was I out of my group, I was passed by three more riders as I attempted to free the tape from my wheel. Rather than run ¾ of a lap to the pit, I rode my bike with one gear that was skipping all the way around to the pit. After swapping bikes, I gave it my all but it was the last lap and I was unable to gain back any of the spots I had lost. 10th. I was really hoping the promoters would go back to one of the older style courses that was more technical for day 2!

day2

No such luck on getting a more technical version of the course for Day 2. It was actually the least technical course I’ve ridden to date with about 1.5 km of pavement (roughly half of the course), which is far more than the norm. Later, we had heard that the park arborist requested that the course not be routed too close to the trees both days due to erosion from Hurricane Irene the previous month. The ENTIRE park is filled with trees.

I had a solid start and for the first three laps I was in a group of about ten riders in a paceline like a road race. I was even running out of gears where the pavement went downhill before coming onto the grass.

Needless to say, 80-degree temps and non-stop fast pedaling took its toll and the group began to pull apart. I gave it what I had but was passed by one rider in the last lap and ended up 7th.

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At the start in Gloucester. Photo credit: Marybeth Dowd

Racing Back into Cyclocross

by Patricia Dowd in Cycling, Cyclocross, Train With Grain

I grew up in a small town on the coast of Massachusetts between Providence, RI and Cape Cod. As a kid I rode bikes with my family and friends and rode my first little red bike until it was too small for me, climbing onto bigger bikes as I grew.

So, it seems appropriate to make my return to elite women’s cyclocross racing in Massachusetts—a place steeped in cyclocross tradition, the place where I first learned to ride a bicycle as a little girl.

I missed last year’s cx season after breaking my clavicle in September 2010. I raced on the road this spring and early summer then broke my clavicle (same one) in July 2011. Being in the broken wing club (once, never mind twice) is not something I recommend.

I’m back on my bike, training and racing into cyclocross. 2011-2012 is a rebuild year for me and I’m learning that coming back from injury requires more determination and perseverance than I thought I had in me. As the season unfolds I continue to set small goals, and meet them. I continue to learn about myself and the art of cyclocross racing.

Setting and meeting short term goals helps me track progress. Setting long term goals helps me stay motivated.

Great Brewers Gran Prix of Gloucester

 

Gloucester, known as the “New England Nationals,” kicked off the New England Holy Week of Cyclocross and included the top U.S., Canadian and European pros. My goals for Gloucester: race my race. Ride clean: no crashing, no mechanicals.

At the start in Gloucester. Photo credit: Marybeth Dowd

Gloucester did not go as planned. I flatted on the first lap on the backside of the course on a rocky descent before a long muddy run up. My rim hit rock and I prayed to the cyclocross gods, “please don’t have a flat.” On the run-up I felt my tubular: totally flat, so instead of hopping back on my bike with the rest of the field, I kept running—all the way to the other side of the course to the pit.

Working my way through the field, pre-flat. Photo credit: Marybeth Dowd

By the time I got back to riding the field had completely disappeared into the fog. I got back into “my own race,” ticked off 2 laps before the leaders caught me. My race was over.

 

My Dad, Uncle John and Aunt Marybeth sent me off from the start line, cheered for me and greeted me with hugs after my race. My brother, Jim Dowd, worked the pit (and was jealous of Cannondale’s power-washer).

Gloucester 2011: Bob Dowd (Dad), Patricia Dowd, John Dowd (Uncle). Photo credit: Marybeth Dowd (Aunt)

When I’m not working or riding my bike, I love to cook. At home in Bozeman, Montana, I get my food from Field Day Farms and the Community Food Co-op. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island I hit the roadside farm stands and the neighborhood fish market.

Shopping for dinner, Orr’s Farm Stand, Westport, MA. Photo credit: Patricia Dowd

One night my Mom, sister-in-law, Sandi, Jim and I made this fantastic dinner: local Atlantic Haddock, roasted butternut squash (recipe below) and fresh sautéed kale.

Here’s a recipe to try this fall:

Roasted Butternut Squash with Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo Beans

INGREDIENTS: (improvise if you don’t have all ingredients on hand)

  • 1 medium Butternut Squash (peeled and chopped)
  • 3-4 Carrots (chopped)
  • 1 small Onion (cut in half and thinly sliced)
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil (or whatever oil you like to use)
  • 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo Beans/Chickpeas (cooked) *Note: Pre-cook beans and store them in the frig
  • 4-5 Scallions (chopped)
  • 1 Chili (use chili powder if chilis aren’t in season)
  • 1 tbsp Cumin (or more to taste)
  • 2 cups Water/Vegetable Stock
  • Fresh cilantro (chopped) to taste
  • Sea Salt and fresh ground Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F degrees. Peel and chop the butternut squash, chop carrots and onions. Place in a roasting dish, toss with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Cook for about 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender and caramelized. Combine chickpeas, scallions, chili, cumin and vegetable stock in pan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the contents of the pan over the butternut squash and roast in the oven for another 5 minutes. Toss in fresh cilantro and serve. De-lish!

Adapted from The Café Paradiso Cookbook: Vegetarian Cooking Season-by-Season, Denis Cotter.

The week between Gloucester and the Providence Cyclocross Festival, I raced the Night Weasel at Ski Ward near Shrewsbury, MA. The course: uphill switchbacks in the MUD with a traverse across more mud, over barriers, up the muddy stairs. Okay, you get the idea, it was MUDDY!

The elite women raced at night with lights overhead. Parts of the course were really dark, forcing me to rely on my other senses, let my bike roll and go with the flow. I finished my race then heckled the pro men.

The next morning I woke up with a fire in my belly, psyched to race my bike in Providence. I hadn’t felt the fire—the desire to race cyclocross—since December 2009. In my first few races this year I was going through the motions. I was riding, not racing, my bike. I was in a lot of pain and wasn’t able to trust my body. I was unsure of myself. I questioned why I was racing. I was afraid to crash and break my bones. It took a few months, but I worked through my fears, put them in the back of my mind and found my cyclocross race mojo in Providence, Rhode Island.

Providence run up, Photo credit: SmugMug

I also found and met some stellar people in New England, including two of Bob’s Red Mill’s finest: Michelle Dwyer and Judy Donahue. Michelle and Judy served up free samples of Bob’s Steel Cut Oats and Oatmeal to racers and spectators in Gloucester and Providence.

Look for Michelle and Judy at other New England cyclocross races this fall and for the Bob’s Red Mill Train With Grain table at races throughout the country.

Michelle and Judy, Providence, 2011. Photo credit: Patricia Dowd

Cyclocross season is on and I’m psyched to be racing cyclocross back into my legs, heart, lungs and head! See you at the races.

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Patricia Dowd Google: Patricia Dowd
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