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Thursday, December 12, 2013

State Championship Cross

Last year we really lucked out and had temps somewhere in the 40’s. Unfortunately, that luck did not continue this year and it was around 10 degrees during our race! I made sure to layer up, wearing two pairs of tights, a dri fit, and thermal top under my skinsuit. I also put on a fleece lined jersey over top and wore neoprene shoe covers, hat, neck gator, and swix ski gloves. My mobility wasn’t that great, but hey, at least I was warm…kind of.
The officials all bundled up! Photo by
Natalie Rekemeyer
I had just a mediocre start, having trouble getting clipped in, but kept with the group up the start/finish climb and to the first set of barriers. I remounted on my bike and was promptly cut off by another racer who had a bad remount and jutted diagonally across the course and directly in front of me. I had to stop to prevent from running into her or being run into the tape. I fell behind the group and was immediately kicking myself for not having a better start and avoiding this mishap.

I stayed the same distance behind the main group (Robin and Brittany had broken ahead quickly) until I ate it going over the barriers (3rd lap?), tripping and landing on my knees. I really am the picture of grace sometimes ;) I dropped a little further behind the group but tried to keep up a decent pace.
Thank you Natalie Rekemeyer for braving the cold to take photos!
With about a lap and a half left the sun went away and I got really cold. I was very much motived to kick it in gear so I could finish and get back in the warm building!! As soon as I crossed the line, I turned and went directly to the building, no need for a cool down, ha!

I finally got my toes and fingers thawed out and went back out into the cold for the podiums. The Iowa City Cycling Club ladies had a great race!

Iowa Championship Medals:

Brittany McConnell – 1st (Cat 2.)
Robin Williams – 2nd (Cat 2.)
Vanessa Curtis – 1st (Cat. 3)
Alijah Beatty – 3rd (Cat. 3)
Emily Robnett – 4th (Cat. 3)
Cara Hamann 5th (Cat. 3)

Monday, December 2, 2013

Inspirational Cyclist - Robin Williams

Photo by Yet Another Bike Photo Page

I had a hard time writing this post about Robin. She is simply amazing. There is just too much to say about her that it was hard to decide what to write! Robin has been there for me from the beginning, always encouraging me to tackle (scary) new obstacles, upgrade racing categories when the time was right, and always push myself to get better. She would watch out for me on tough group rides to make sure I wouldn’t get dropped and would almost always be there for me at the start line of races to give advice and calm nerves. And I know I can count on her to yell things at me (at my request) during races so I keep pushing! I simply would not be the mountain biker or racer that I am without her. Thank you!

Robin is an incredibly strong and technical savvy rider, holding a UCI Mountain Bike license, and holds Category 2 Cyclocross license and Category 3 road license. She never hesitates to coach other riders who are just getting a start and has definitely inspired me to do the same. Robin is a dedicated racer, wife, and mother of a sweet little baby boy, Niels. Oh, and did I mention she is in her last year of residency at the U of I Hospitals & Clinics. Read below as she tells us how she got her start in cycling, shares her goals for next season, and explains how on earth she fits everything in with her busy schedule!

How did you get your start in cycling?

Kyle and I first bought bikes 3 weeks before RAGBRAI in 2005. A grad school friend of ours talked us into riding with his team "Fat Tom's Army" that year.

 How long have you been riding and/or racing?
We started racing in 2006. Our first race was a small local race at Prairie High School called Prairie Rude Days. It was put on by Two Bee Racing.
Robin racing in 2006

What bikes do you have?
I have a SWorks Tarmac road bike, a SWorks 29er hardtail MTB and Surly 1x1 singlespeed MTB, a Ridley X-Fire cross bike and custom Speedwagen cross bike, and a Redline Conquest for my townie (this was my first cross bike).

 Do you have a favorite race?
My absolute favorite mountain bike race is part of the WORS series. It used to be called the Big Ring Classic and it takes place in Wausau, WI.

What has racing done for you (how has it shaped your life)?
Racing keeps me focused. Riding in general actually does. I am very busy at work and when I ride I able to clear my head for all the things that go on there. I actually can't imagine it not being a part of my life.

What is your favorite aspect of cycling?
Although you can do this with any kind of exercise, I love pushing myself to the limit on the bike. The feeling of complete exhaustion after a hard ride. I have never found any other sport or activity which motivated me to work as hard as cycling does.
Jingle Cross 2011. Photo By Jeff Corcoran

Any goals for the upcoming season?
Since I was pregnant this year, my only goal was to keep riding as long as possible, which turned out to be up until the day I delivered. I had no hopes for racing, but was pleasantly surprised to be able to come back to cross after Niels was born. Next year, I am looking forward to joining the team again on the road and getting back up to Wisconsin to race mountain bikes.
WORS Subaru Cup 2012

Do you have any non-cycling hobbies?
Not really. No time :)

Who is your favorite cyclist or racing team?
Fabian Cancellara is my favorite road cyclist. He is a monster on the one day classics in the spring. My favorite mountain bike racer was Burry Stander. He was unfortunately killed last year after getting hit by a car. I have many favorites in cross, specifically Sven Nys, Niels Albert, and Lars van der Haar. Of the 3, I think I like Lars the most ;)

As far as women in cycling, I really like Marianne Vos. She seems to dominate every cycling discipline she tries. I also really like Leah Davison. She has been killing it in the World Cups on the MTB the last couple of years.

What do you think is the best way to promote women’s cycling?
Group rides. I think women want to ride with other women and draw motivation to ride from that. I think role models are also helpful in that they can make it easier for a new person to get acquainted with the sport.
How do you balance cycling with the rest of your life?

This one is tricky as my schedule changes from month to month. As a resident I work anywhere from 50-80 hours per week. So I ride when I can. Before having Niels, it was slightly less tricky because Kyle and I both enjoy riding, so it was something we did together in our free time. Now a days, we take turns going to group rides or riding on our own so that someone is always available to watch our son.
Kyle, Robin, & Niels. Photo by Mauro Heck

Anything else to add? Any tips for women interested in starting riding or racing?
All I can say is never give up. I came in last place the first 2 races I did and now I am often fighting for first. Push yourself and the fitness will come :)

Bobber's Cross 2012. Photo by Brittany McConnell

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shop Local: Creative Gifts for the Cyclists on Your List


Creative Gifts for the Cyclist on your List

 If you are anything like me, you struggle to figure out what to get your favorite cyclist for Christmas (or Birthday, or any other holiday!). My significant other knows WAY more about bikes that I ever will, so when thinking of a gift, I have to get creative. Bike parts and accessories are fantastic, but you have to know precisely what to get…and I never do :) I’ve put together a list of creative ideas that support local businesses and fellow cyclists. If you have any more ideas to add, send them my way and I’ll update the list!!

-A framed photograph of them racing

We have a bunch of very talented photographers that are nice enough to show up to local races and spend hours taking pictures. I know I love pouring over the photographs after races and really, who doesn’t like a great looking photo of themselves? Especially a bad ass racing photo! The following photographers have websites to order either prints or digital copies (print your own). Stick the photo in a frame and your gift is ready to give!

· Angy Snoop http://angysnoop.smugmug.com/

· Eric Roccacecca http://secca.smugmug.com/

· Dave Mable http://davemable.smugmug.com/Sports

· Jeff Corocan www.corcoransphotos.com

· Justin Torner www.justintornerphotography.com

· Mauro Heck http://www.flickr.com/photos/mauroheck/sets/ or (maurojheck@yahoo.com)

-CJH Recycled Bicycle Part Jewelry

Don’t know what to get your significant other, your mom, aunt, niece, or grandma? Check out Cara Hamann’s great selection of handcrafted jewelry! Cara incorporates various bicycle parts (chain parts, inner tube, spoke nipples, etc.) into her jewelry designs, some so subtle you might not know there are bicycle parts included, and others more obvious. Her pieces are available locally at Geoff’s Bike & Ski or online via her Etsy website.

Website: http://cjhjewelry.com/

Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/cjhjewelry

-Chamois Time/Iowa City Cycling Club T-Shirts, Tanks, or Socks

Show your support for the Iowa City Women’s Cycling Club, and purchase socks, Biker Chic tanks, or men’s or women’s t-shirts. Or go ahead and buy one of each! Email (icwomenscycling@gmail.com) or send a message on Facebook to purchase.



-Customized Apparel from Iowa Book & Supply

Stop by Iowa Book & Supply in downtown Iowa City to see Brittany McConnell for all your screen printing needs! With their new AnaJet printer, they are able to print shirts (and many other apparel items- just ask!) by the singles, with as many colors as you want. Bring in your own designs or check out some that have already been created. I have seen many of Brittany's creations first hand and they are all super cute and printed on really nice quality t-shirts.


-Handmade Soap

Bikers like to get dirty (and sometimes smelly!), help them clean up and smell fresh with handmade soap!

Amy's Soap by Amy Thaller



-Q7 Cycling Merchandise

Mens, Womens, & Kids jersey's, t-shirts, cycling socks, and accessories.





-An ICORR Membership

Buy them an annual ICORR membership! Not only will you help support the local trails they love to ride, but through the membership you will also be giving them free entry to all the ICORR Time Trials! Membership also comes with a free water bottle so you have something physical to give the recipient.


-Give the gift of fitness- Spin Class Punch Cards

Kim Eppen teaches a killer Spin Class on Monday’s Nights at Core Fitness (Iowa City). Core Fitness offers punch cards for classes which are great, and much less expensive, than paying a monthly membership. Although a normal membership would also make a great gift!

Carrie Van Orden opened a brand new studio this year, MaxEffect Cycling & Fitness. Her studio offers Spin Classes, Total Body Training, and Core Strengthening. Your first ride is free and she has 5, 10, & 20 ride passes, as well as monthly unlimited spin classes offered. Check out her website for more details! www.maxeffectstudio.com


Craig Carman and Thomas Behne are two very talented artists from the area who also happen to be cyclists. Pieces from either (or both!) would make an excellent addition to anyone's home. 




-Anything from your local bike shop!

So there are endless options here. Need some stocking stuffer ideas? How about some honey stinger waffles, pro bars, shot bloks or gu? Go crazy with several pairs of cycling socks – you can never have too many! Or how about gifting a new pair of gloves, or a sweet new blinkie light? If you have a little one on your list, surprise them with a new bike (and helmet of course)! I got this sweet looking Specialized Hotwalk and matching helmet at Geoff’s Bike & Ski for my littlest nephew (Christmas was too far way!).

Little cutie! (we are still working on helmet straps...)


-Thank any of the numerous supporters of local bike racing by shopping their businesses. Gift cards to these place would make a nice (and meaningful) gift for your racer!

Geoff’s Bike & Ski                          Carlos O’Kellys                             Active Endeavors

G-Spot Hair Salon                          Bluebird Dinner                             Atlas

New Pi Co-op                                 World of Bikes                              30th CenturyBicycle

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Countdown to Thanksgiving

It’s almost Turkey Time!

And I’m getting excited! I’ve always got food on my mind (what cyclist doesn’t?) and am eager to try out some new recipes. I’ve turned into somewhat of a food snob and insist on using “real” ingredients for my Thanksgiving cooking. No prepackaged items, cream of whatever soup, or fake whipped topping will do. If I could go as far as too get my milk/cream straight from the cow I would. I tried convincing my Grandma to get some dairy cows for her farm and she suggested I put one in my backyard and deal with it myself….they are apparently pretty stubborn. But I digress…

Grandma & me on my wedding Day. She hates getting her picture taken,  so this is the most recent one I have of us of us together. Just don't tell her I posted it online!

My parents are actually hosting, but with around 30-40 relatives, I like to help out as much as I can. And really, it’s just an excuse for me to do a bunch a baking and cooking.

On the agenda are Sweet Potato Brioche Rolls and Butternut Squash Mac ‘n’ Cheese. Traditional items with classic fall ingredients added to make them a little more nutrient dense and hopefully, more flavorful and delicious! Although, If you’ve ever been to my family’s Thanksgiving you know my mom also makes some killer crescent rolls, and I’m not trying to upstage her! But her rolls disappear quicker than beer at a ‘cross race, and I want some leftover bread darn-it!

I’ve also volunteered to take on the turkey. I’ve got my eye on a pasture raised, antibiotic and growth hormone free turkey from our local Co-Op, and it’s a steal for less than $2.00 a pound. I plan trying out this recipe that involves brining, for the big day. Wish me luck!

And of course, no Thanksgiving meal is complete with pumpkin pie! I just finished baking three pie pumpkins to make fresh puree with, and am waiting for them to cool as I type.

What are your favorite recipes to whip up for Thanksgiving? Are you trying out anything new this year?!

I'm sure I'll have this guy (nephew) "helping" me in the kitchen Thanksgiving day. :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jingle Cross - Day 1

What a weekend! Seeing the course all set up, with team buses, rv’s, and tents everywhere as we arrived at the fairgrounds on Friday was really cool, I was a little mesmerized. Aaron and I had spent a few 6+ hour workdays at the fairgrounds, helping to get things prepped for the race. While many others had spent far more time putting the course together than we did, we still felt a sense of pride as the huge weekend of racing was getting ready to unfold.

I had made sure to sign up for the race within minutes of registration opening and got a spot on the front row (Friday was staged in order of registration for non UCI races). Last year there had been about 25-30 racers in the women’s Cat 2/3 race, making starting position pretty important. This year there were around 40 ladies signed up for the race, making the front row starting position even bigger of an advantage!

Start Line - Friday Night - Photo By Brittany McConnell

At the gun, we took off and I was pretty astonished to find myself in the front 3-4 riders going down the start/finish straightaway. I’m going to go ahead and accept that I’ve gotten pretty darn good at starts! We turned the first corner and headed to the “Yule Logs” a series of several logs to run over. I remounted (without a stutter-step, I might add) and made my way down the south side of the course. There was a really nice flow to a particular section that headed east toward the road before jutting back to the west and to the muddy section. I found that I could make up time on riders in this section throughout the weekend. I think my mountain bike skills kicked in here with my love of all things fast and flowy!

After going over the flyover, we headed toward the big hill climb. During pre-ride, I had made it over the three railroad ties at the beginning of the hill and partially up it, so I decided to give riding it a try in the race. I really do try to avoid running as much as possible! I cleared the railroad ties and made it up, maybe a third of the way to the first plateau and my rear wheel slipped, forcing me to dismount and shoulder the bike the rest of the way. I had already lost a few positions before the run up, and my not so pretty dismount probably cost me more time than if I would have just ran the whole way up – but I had to give it a try! Last year I couldn’t even make it over all the railroad ties, let alone any distance up the hill.

Going of the Flyover - Photo by Mauro Heck

Once at the top, I was able to remount and was rewarded with a spectacularly fun and ripping fast downhill section, then on to the barriers, sandpit/barn and the remainder of the course.

On the third lap, I made it to the steep climb by the bleachers right behind a group of 5-6 girls. I was hoping to maybe pass a few, since I knew I could ride it, while many couldn’t quite make it to the top. I ended up getting stuck right behind a couple riders who had to dismount, forcing me to dismount as well. I didn’t end up making a big pass like I hoped for. I’m kicking myself for not picking a better line, since I had already anticipated at least a couple wouldn’t make it up.

On the fourth and final lap I decided to dismount before the railroad ties for the long run up and my fourth lap ended up being my fastest. Imagine that! As I was nearing the last section of course before the straighaway to the finish, I heard my parents cheering for me. I was excited they had made it, since I hadn’t seen them before the start. When I crossed the finish line I really had no idea how I did. There were so many ladies, plus a ton of guys on the course at the same time. Once results were posted, I saw my name 14th on the list! That is several places better than I did last year, and with more riders! Doing well made me eager for Saturday’s race!

Full Results

Video of Jeremy Powers & Ben Berden bunny hopping the barrier Friday night, which the chase group following behind, so cool to see in person!

Jean & I with Ben Berden & Nicole Duke at Thursday's Meet the Pro's Event

Jeremey Powers, Ben Jacques-Maynes, John Meehan (race promoter), Amanda Miller, Nicole Duke,  Ben Berden. These pro's were nice enough to partcipate in the Meet the Pro's event, signing autographs and posing for photos.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Devil's Cross - Bettendorf

I loved these gorgeous yellow trees!
It felt great to be back racing after a 2 week hiatus. The weather was better than expected for November and the trees at Devils Glen Park were absolutely gorgeous. Three deer even decided to join in on the fun during the men’s race. Luckily the men were on the other side of the course at the time!

At the start line for the Women’s Open, all seven of us were Iowa City women (one was actually from Cedar Rapids, but she races for an Iowa City team), not a single lady from the Quad Cities. It reminded me of how lucky I am to live in Iowa City and have such a wonderful cycling community filled with both genders!

The start of our race was fairly fast and we all took off chasing Britt, trying to stay with her as long as possible. I had another good start and was in 2nd place going into the first set of barriers. I managed to stay in 2nd place for the first twisty and technical lap, with Lisa D. and Cara right behind.

Lisa took over 2nd place as we were coming through the start/finish going into the the second lap, but she, Cara, and I remained within about 15-30 seconds of each other. The lap cards showed us four laps to go. It was a long course and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to hold 3rd place that long. It was a really fun course though with all the twisty sections mixed in with plenty of rocket fast straightaways, semi-scary off camber sections, and a few steep climbs. Oh and some of sections had fallen acorns on them, making the off camber areas and turns extra exciting.

Throughout the next four laps I focused on not sliding out! And all three of us remained close, still fluctuating around 15-30 seconds ahead or behind one another. It was really fun to have someone so close ahead and so close behind to really push me. Too often things get spread out a lot farther and it’s harder to keep racing all out the whole time.
Photo By John Stonebarger

I tried to bridge the small gap up to Lisa and wish I would have carried a little more sped in certain sections, but there was also plenty of course tape down, making me think that maybe it was good I didn’t. I did have some trouble on an uphill remount, with two laps to go, but at the other barriers I was able to do some remounts without a stutter step which was pretty exciting. I never managed to catch up to Lisa and finished in 3rd place. Overall I’m really happy with how I raced and am now looking forward to Jingle Cross this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday!

Monday, November 4, 2013

How the Women's Division of the Iowa City Cycling Club Got it's Start

Cara H. & Cassandra K. & the start of the Iowa City Women’s Cycling Club

Let me just start by saying these two ladies played a very key role in my start in cycling. It was through the beginner friendly Gal Rides they organized, that I really got into cycling. As soon as I had a road bike, my husband encouraged me to give the ladies group ride a try. This was a lot less intimidating than trying to keep up with my husband and his guy friends!

Cara, Sandy, and the other ladies would wait up for me when I was struggling and motivate me to keep pushing myself. While the rides where difficult for me in the beginning, they became so much more than a hard workout; they brought about a sense of camaraderie with the girls, and gave me a sense of accomplishment at being able to finish the ride. It kept me coming back every week!

Enough about me though, let’s hear how Cara & Sandy came together, how Sandy started the Women’s division of the Iowa City Cycling Club, how they implemented the ladies only group rides, and have been making efforts ever since to get more women involved in cycling.

How did the two of you meet? What where your roles in cycling community before you met?

Cara Hamann: I actually knew Sandy’s sister Paula first—we became friends during undergrad. After undergrad I moved away from Iowa for 5 years and when I came back Paula and my mutual friend, Beth, put me in touch with Sandy. The first time I met her, I think, was at cross practice which was basically a bunch of Team Skin (Jean, Darcy, Todd…) people getting together to ride around in the grass and practice mounting and dismounting.

I had only been back in IC for a few weeks when we met, so my role in the community was just a newbie biker who wanted to get to know more people, especially other ladies to ride with.

Sandy Kessler: I first heard Cara yell my name at the 2008 Scramble when I thought I was probably going to collapse, but instead managed to live through the 3rd hour of the race.

Sandy @ the 2008 Sugar Bottom Scramble
Our first date was cross practice at the UI Field Hockey field a few weeks later. I fell in love with her when she raced the Old Cap crit the next spring 2009… I had yet to work up the guts to do it. She was my hero and got out there and rocked it in the rain while I sat on my towny on a street corner and watched in amazement. I vowed to be out there with her the following year and I did it. We continually found ourselves on the start line and working together throughout road races, each with different kits on throughout 2009. I knew early on that I wanted to wear the same outfit as her, no matter what color or team. It took until the fall of 2009 for the plan/idea to materialize. Prior to this I don’t believe I had much of a role in the community.

2009 Snake Alley Crit - L-R -Cara, Lisa, Darcy, & Sandy

Of all the cycling clubs in Iowa City, what made you decide to approach the Iowa City Cycling Club when you looking for a club to join?

CH: I joined ICCC primarily because I had started dating Brian and he was already a member, so he encouraged me to join.

SK: We were wooed! The boys at the bike shop had heard that Cara & I were shopping for a team to join together, a place where we could also invite other women too. Rick Hopson heard the rumor and got excited, passed us a note in the hallway (via Brian, at the bike shop), inviting us over for wine at his palace in University Heights to discuss. The first thing I did was break a glass. The stem broke and the bulb of the wineglass tumbled right to the floor and shattered all over his living room. There was no going back. I was going to have to pay for the wine glass and join the team. Lucky for me Cara was already there and we were given the freedom to encourage other women to also wear blue.

Sandy - How did you go from joining the club, to becoming the head of the women’s division?

SK: Naiveté! I asked so many questions about kits that first year- why isn’t there any women specific stuff, I don’t like bibs, can’t I have a pair of short cut shorts- that the guy who was previously in charge of ordering packed up and left town. Rick again invited me over for wine, opened bottle after bottle and it was settled: I would take over the team’s kit ordering. I think becoming the women’s team captain (directeur sportif/DS) went hand in hand. I had the time and organizational skills and was willing to ask the right questions to try to make things happen. Cara & I were getting more and more interest from women and it was clear that we were going to have no problem meeting the minimums on women’s specific clothing. Meanwhile, I upgraded to a 3 on the road and started racing with Anne in some of the bigger races and Robin at the more local races. I was the local girl (Anne’s from WI) without the super demanding jobs in healthcare (Robin was in Med School at the time). But most importantly I have Cara! She’s the true brains and organization that brings the women’s team together. Case in point is the Race Calendar that she sends out to all of the women every year advertising most of the races in the tri-state area while also giving everyone a chance to see what everyone else is racing/doing.

Why was it so important for you both to reach out to other women and try to grow the number of women interested in cycling & racing?

SK: Selfishness! I don’t get excited to go out and ride by myself. We also felt that new people coming to town needed a place to start. As we upgraded we also felt the need to replace ourselves. Emily, you are the perfect example of the most rewarding part. Seeing someone go from townying around town only to struggling to hang during a beginner ride to rocking mountain bike races to upgrading on the road! It’s so totally awesome and indescribable.

CH: It was important to me, honestly, kind of for selfish reasons. The only group rides in town were too intimidating to me and were primarily men. I didn’t feel ready to attend those, but wanted some ladies to ride with that would be friendly and maybe more my pace.

Even though it was kind of a selfish start, it has been super rewarding because I have gotten to see women go from not being able to hang on a Monday ride (the beginner-friendly ladies ride) to now being able to kick my butt (Emily, you are definitely in that category)! It’s really exciting to see people get ‘hooked’ on the sport and become great riders.

What have been your biggest challenges with all your efforts to get more women involved?

SK: Getting past that hurdle of women thinking they are not ready yet, don’t think they can keep up. Some days it doesn’t matter how nice or fun we are, those ICCC kits look intimidating. I can’t help but be proud when 6 or 9 girls in blue set foot on the start line, but I can see why it looks a little scary. Small things like wearing a different color on Mondays during the Beginner Ride probably helps, but we just need to keep doing what we are doing, having a presence and advertising it. The rest will fall into place.

CH: Convincing women to show up. When we have new women come to a Monday or Wed ride I always like to ask about how they heard about the ride and a little about their background in cycling—a survey, of sorts. In doing that, I have heard a lot of women say they have been wanting to come for a long time, but it took them a while to get the courage to show up or they didn’t think they could keep up, etc. We really try to make the rides friendly and encouraging, which I think comes across once a new rider gives it a try, but convincing them to come in the first place is a hard one.

Where did the idea for the Chamois Time race series come from? How difficult was that for you to start?

CH: Hmm…

I think the idea of having a series came from Hopson. The name came from Kim/Brian Eppen. The concept came from a bunch of us. I think several of us got together and just talked about what we wanted from the series—beginner friendly, a taste of all the disciplines (road, gravel, mountain bike), local, etc.

It definitely has had its challenges. In the beginning it was just all the little things you have to figure out because it is the first time. We definitely leaned on more experienced people, like Mark Guthart and Rick Hopson. Just figuring out the ins and out of how to get it permitted via USAC, getting permission from land owners, choosing venues/courses, naming the series, etc. I remember the first year especially, I thought ‘what did I get myself into?’ But somehow it came together and people had fun and it was all worth it. Each year it seems to get a little easier.

SK: Oh man! I don’t know why I look back on that as such a stressful time, but I do. We started out as Women on Wheels and then almost got sued by some motorcyclists. We wanted to have a race series that would attract both women and men so the name couldn’t be too girly. Lots of emails flew around. Kim Eppen ultimately threw out the name Chamois Time and a lightbulb went on. Kimber Damhorst hooked us up with a graphic designer named Jake that came up with the fabulous logo we still have. Going into debt paying for USAC permits for FIVE races, buying those first baby blue Ts, and business cards. It’s such a blur and it wasn’t simple. But it also wasn’t that hard and has paid off tenfold.
May 2010 - First Chamois Time Race Ever!

You both have done so much – what are some small things that others can do help grow the sport for women?

SK: Tell your friends! Everybody knows a female that has a bike and wants to ride it more or wants to buy a bike and start riding. Small things that meant a lot to us was encouragement along the way. And even money sometimes is the easiest thing for people. I remember being in debt and Jean Gilpin and Jim Yoon both wanted to donate to the cause. Their generosity combined with the popularity of those first Ts and the explosion of racers we had at our first races put us into unfamiliar territory: profit and what to do with it. We probably should create a manual at some point. None of this stuff is rocket science, but it does require some research and planning to figure out how to put on a race series. Managing other people’s opinions is another thing entirely, but I won’t get into that J

CH: Oh, lots of things. Ride your bikes. Help out when you can—volunteer to lead a Monday ride or help out with Chamois Time or other races. If you already ride and race, encourage other women to come on a ride with you. If you don’t ride or are intimidated riding in a group, come to a Monday ride. We promise we will be nice and won’t leave you stranded somewhere! I guess overall, just be a good ambassador. Lead by example.

Thanks Sandy & Cara for all you have done and continue to do!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Oakley Night Cap Race

The IC crew rolled up in syle on the Cutter's bus :)
Oakley Night Cap Cross is a race I that I definitely look forward to each year! The race is held at Mullet’s bar in Des Moines, under the lights and complete with a live band playing in the middle of the course during the races. There are a ton of spectators and there is always a great turnout of racers. I was completely overwhelmed by the number of ladies that showed up this year, it was awesome!

I lined up early to ensure a good starting position and got a spot on the front row. As with all the previous cross races this year, my goal was to stick with the leaders as long as possible (trying to stay with them a little longer each race!). On the whistle, we took off down a long grass straightaway. Lisa D. and I got our bars tangled few times, but we both stayed calm (and are good bike handlers!) and luckily didn’t go down. I made it to the off camber downhill/uphill section and I was ecstatic to be in 3rd place amid such a talented field of ladies.

Darcy & I at the startline. Photo by Jeff Corocan
I flew down the steep downhill and through the winding sections of the course to a very steep climb (I was using my granny gear!). At the top of this climb there was a blacktop straightaway where I really kicked into high gear. I made a couple more turns and then made it over the first set of barriers and to a nice downward sloping straightaway. After some more twisting course, I went through a dark tree lined section (where we were mooned the first lap!) and to the big log over. I made sure to treat it just like a barrier and run over it (goal from last race - after Aaron pointed out that I was stopping for the non-standard barriers). I couldn’t believe that a couple riders were bunny hopping the log – it was big enough that the thought didn’t even cross my mind.

I promise my eyes weren't closed, I was just looking down.... Thanks Jeff for capturing me actually running!

After another straightaway there was a short uphill, which if you hit right you could catch some air. All the cool kids were doing it (yeah, I’m not a cool kid). There was another set of barriers directly in front of the band and a huge section of spectators. I really need to work some more on getting rid of my stutter step but didn’t want to face plant in front of the large crowd! I noticed other ladies catching up to me right after the barriers, so even though I feel like I have improved, I still need to work on them!

After a lot more ups, downs, and turns, I made it back to the start/finish straightaway. I believe I was still in the top 5, which I managed to hold for a few laps (I think we did a total of 7?). I faded a bit and got passed by a group of three at once. I’m not surprised a. because there were a bunch of super-fast ladies and b. because I had really poor planning and ate a pro bar instead of dinner when we didn’t start until 8:45, and didn’t even have my normal pre-race shot blok… oops.

For the last two laps it was hard to tell what place you were in with all the categories together and lapped riders. The Women’s Open, Women's Cat 4. and Women's Masters all raced at the same time (over 50 of us!). At the end of the final lap I didn’t have anyone close in front or behind so I grabbed a dollar from a booze bottle at one of the corners, much to the delight of the spectators. I tried shoving it my back pocket and then remembered I was wearing a skin suit – so it went up my shorts instead. I was informed later it is proper procedure to stuff them down the top of your skin suit, you know, stripper style, lol.

I managed to finish 9th out of 17 in the Open. I was just so happy about having a good start and staying in the top 5 for so long. I love being able to see improvement, even if it is only a tiny bit!

Who wants to work on barriers with me?!

Full Results

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Bobber's Cross

What a great day for a ‘cross race! This race has typically fallen on a cold, rainy, and windy day – but not this year! We had an absolutely gorgeous and sunny fall day. No arm warmers or base layers needed!
I hung out with these cuties during the singlespeed race

The guys at Geoff’s Bike & Ski put together a really fun course, complete with a sand pit, an uphill log-over, some gnarly roots and plenty of fast and flowy sections. The course even went right through the outdoor patio at Bobber’s Grill. This made for great spectating! They also offered plenty of women’s categories and actually ran the Women’s Masters race at a different time than the Women’s Open so women could double up if interested (which doesn’t happen very often).

At the start line we were quite confused when the officials had the Women’s 3/4 field line up ahead of the Women’s Open field and Men’s 3/4 field. Racers from all fields and even the guys from Geoff’s (aka event organizers) strongly questioned this… only to have the official say that was the way it was going to be. It just did not make sense and wasn’t safe to send out the Beginner Women 30 seconds before a charging Open field and 60 seconds before the men’s field. The head official tried to reason they were doing it this way because they didn’t want lapped riders; however I’m not sure how a 30 second gap would accomplish this.

All of us trying to figure out what what going on at the start!
 As a beginner, I would have been absolutely terrified! It’s one thing to start behind the faster classes and then have them spread out and trickle through if/when they lap you. It’s downright scary and not safe to have the entire field out there passing you at once! To drive the point of how ridiculous this was, can you image sending the cat 5 men out 30 seconds in front of the Men’s Open race? I didn’t think so. (I think the official must have just been having an off day – there aren’t usually issues like this).

Women's Open field getting ready to start

Anyways, back to the racing! My goal was to stick a wheel and stay with Robin or Brittany for as long as possible, expecting them to be in the lead from the start. The Women’s 3/4 field took off and before we knew it, we too were off! I had a great start and was in the lead going into the first obstacle, the gnarly roots. Wait, what? I was supposed to be following a wheel, not in the lead! It was like I didn’t know what to do – things were not going as planned (yes, I know this sounds crazy, but it was completely unexpected and I panicked a little). It was as if everything was happening in slow motion, I looked to my right and saw Robin riding the roots (badass) and then saw Darcy and Brittany running by. I finally snapped back into reality and ran over the root, jumped back on my bike and tried to chase back up to the group.

I saw Robin, Britt, and Darcy just ahead and watched them get around a couple Cat. 3/4 women right before a tight, twisting section of the course. I caught up to the Cat. 3/4 women right as they were entering this section and lost my chance to catch up to the leaders. In the following open section I continued chasing and was able to pass a few more ladies from the beginner’s race, while trying to keep the leaders of the open race in my sight.

I got to the uphill log over and dismounted to run over it and up the hill. I actually ran up the hill (I’m patting my back here). I rode on to the steep uphill, and then over to the barriers and then on to the sand pit. I was about 1/3rd of the way through and had to dismount because the girl directly ahead didn’t make it. I again ran(!) and hopped back on my bike to ride to the start/finish area, the leaders no longer in my sight.

Photo by Tara Coady. Thank you for capturing me riding the sand!

 Things were still a little congested in the second lap and I had to get off my bike on the steep uphill and the sand pit due to riders from the beginners race dismounting right in front of me. By the third lap, things were thankfully much more spread out. I was passed by two racers in the open, but fought to stay with them. Usually I get pretty deflated by getting passed, but I was able to get over it and keep going hard. Mentally, this is/was something big for me to overcome.

I yo-yoed for a while and then with two laps to go made a pass. I was able to make the pass stick and finished 5th. With such a strong field of ladies, I’ll take it!

And I will admit that I wouldn’t have been able to hang on to the lead group the entire race, maybe not even an entire lap, but I was a little frustrated to get stuck behind lap traffic right away and not get the chance. It was of course in absolutely no way the fault of any of the other riders, just poor planning by the officials.

Aaron and I were chatting about the races later that evening and he pointed out that I basically came to a stop when dismounting for obstacles, such as the roots and the log. I hadn’t even realized I was consistently treating these differently than the barriers, which I do fairly smoothly. I’ll have to be more conscious of that for next time. I’m glad the men’s & women’s open race at different times so Aaron can spot things like this that I would never realize!

And speaking of Aaron, he had a fabulous day of racing. He took the win in the single speed race and then went on to finish 3rd in the men’s open. So proud!

Jerome, Kevin, Britt, Kevin, and Aaron at the start of the singlespeed race.

Full Results

Sunday, October 13, 2013

My Top 10 Tips for Beginners

1. Don’t give up! 

Remember, everyone started out as a beginner at some point. It takes time and dedication to get stronger. My first season was the hardest, but I stuck with it and worked hard. By the next season I had surprised myself by how much I had improved.

2. Take something away from every race or ride – especially the bad ones.

It’s all a learning experience. Think back and reflect on why it didn’t go well. What could you have done differently that would have made it go better? Were you too timid on the start? Did you get dropped because you weren’t able to anticipate an attack? Did you lose focus and make a careless mistake? This will give you an idea of what to work on. I still do this after every race and focus on that area for the next time.

Photo By Angy Snoop (And thanks Robin :) )

3. Set goals for yourself.
Setting goals gives you something to work towards. What do you want to accomplish? Participate in a new kind of race? Learn how to ride a technical section of trail? Improve your climbing or descending? Get rid of a stutter step on a cyclocross remount? Achieving your goals, not matter how small, is huge confidence builder. Having a set of goals is highly motivating and gives a purpose to your training.

4. Join a club/team or join a group ride.
Having a set time each week to ride with a group of people gets you out riding consistently. There is a little extra pressure to ride on those days that you might otherwise be lazy ;) If the riders of the group are stronger than you, it will teach you constantly push yourself and you will find yourself getting stronger. There is so much that can be learned from more experienced riders/racers.

5. Buy a nice bike.
I cannot begin to tell you how much a decent bike makes a difference. Go to your local bike shop and have them help you find one to meet your needs. And make sure to get a bike fit while you are at it. I hated my first mountain bike and wanted to throw it off a cliff. It was a heavy, a little too small, and had a quick release adjustable seat post that was always slipping. At least having that bike made me appreciate the next one that much more!

6. Use your gears.
This may seem silly, but it took me a long time to really use my gears. Don’t be afraid to shift a lot, especially on mountain bike trails. Don’t hesitate to shift down several gears to get up a hill. You want to maintain a good cadence, not "show off" how hard of a gear you can use to barely get up a climb. And, and if you in too hard of a gear on a climb, you won’t be able to respond as well to potential attacks.

Photo by Justin Torner

7. Step outside your comfort zone.
You know the saying: “If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done” (Thomas Jefferson). This is so true. The things that seem the most terrifying can turn out to be the most rewarding. Yes, it may be scary to join up with faster riders, and yes, you may get dropped. It can be scary the first time you race, race a new cycling discipline or upgrade categories. But the important thing is that you will get stronger and become a better rider because of it.

8. Don’t be a sandbagger!
Yes, it feels good to do really well and win a bunch of races, but know when it is time to upgrade. Staying in a category that is easy for you won’t help you improve. You have to be challenged in order to improve. My biggest motivator to work hard has been upgrading categories. Knowing the next season would be even more challenging made me put in just a little more effort and keep focused over the winter.

9. Ride consistently.
It gets cold and downright miserable in the Midwest, but that does not keep me from being active December through February. I aim to get outside at least once per week, ride the trainer even though it can suck, and do other activities such as cross country skiing and yoga. (Swimming is good too, but I am not a swimmer).

10. Keep it fun.
Unless you are a pro and doing this for your job, don’t take things too seriously. Not every ride has to be a training ride. Stop and enjoy the scenery every once in a while, townie around, take a friend along for a ride. If you aren’t having fun, then what’s the point?

Muddy Cyclocross Race
Photo by Mauro Heck

Have any tips to add? Post them below in the comments section!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Iowa XC Mtb State Championships – Lake Ahquabi

Time for the last mountain bike race of the year, the Iowa State Championship! This was my first time riding at Lake Ahquabi, and I had heard plenty about it, but was anxious to pre-ride and see for myself. It was just as expected; 90% doubletrack and gravel road, with a lot of climbing and a sprinkle of singletrack thrown in here and there. I know I say this a lot, but I wasn’t sure how this would go, it wasn’t really my type of course. I prefer mainly singletrack with smaller elevation changes….
Lake Ahquabi
The pre-ride sucked (I don’t know why, but my legs almost always feel terrible on the pre-ride!). We rode all but the very end of the lap and headed to the start where everyone was already lining up. I reluctantly peeled off my extra layers in the cold breeze and lined up next to my teammate Brittany and the other Cat. 1 ladies. Going into the race I knew I was leading the IMBCS Series, but if I had a really bad race or DNF’d I could lose it.

The official called out the 30 second warning and before I knew it we were off! Britt was in front of the group with me following in second. We made it to the first steep climb and it felt like I was going so slow, I was sure I was going to get passed already. I could see someone moving up on my right and a stab of disappointment hit me. They moved past me and I could see it was a guy from the marathon race, I felt slight relief. I tried to keep Brittany in my sight, but that didn’t last long! I made it up the first singletrack section, which was a long climb and onto the gravel road with its constant ups and downs. I was actually having fun on the doubletrack :)

Photo By Eric Roccasecca

There was a point when I was out there with no one around and I thought I may have taken a wrong turn (they only had arrows pointing the correct direction, the wrong ways were not taped off) and I was frantically waiting to see the next arrow or another racer. I finally saw it and was relieved I was on the right path!

I made it up the steep gravel road and the rest of the final climbs to the area of fresh cut singletrack. I saw Britt coming from the opposite direction and she yelled at me to go the correct way. She had taken a wrong turn and I’m sure I would have too had she not been there! I followed her down the fresh cut path and through the taped off cyclocross style course at the end of the lap to the start/finish line. By the top of the first climb she was out of sight again. It’s no wonder I feel like such a slow climber next to her ;)

I continued on and was feeling pretty good, and was able to overtake some guys on the climbs, impressing myself, lol (they were probably all in the marathon race, but it still made me feel better and made me push that much harder). I made it to the 3rd and final lap and knew I had a decent gap to 3rd place.
Photo by Eric Roccasecca
I hammered out the flat sections and tried to keep a decent pace on the climbs. I made sure to take it a little easier on the downhill sections, not wanting to risk sliding out. I happily made it to the steep gravel hill and following final climbs. I went down the fresh cut singletrack and through the course tape to finish in 2nd place. I was so happy! Brittany had won, so it was a 1-2 finish for the Iowa City Cycling Club women! And shortly after I finished, Aaron came through in first place. It was a great day and we had both sealed our wins in the IMBCS Series!
Expert Women's Podium
(Karmen 3rd, Brittany 1st, Emily 2nd)
It was a long 3 hours (at least) before results were sorted out and the awards ceremony started. There was a potluck with a bunch of food, and plenty of good friends to hang out with though. We made it back into Iowa City around 9:30...after a short 35 minute detour at the Tanger outlets…I’m in the doghouse for that!

Aaron with his State Champ medal
Kevin Showing off his Rick Hopson Racing T-shirt next to Hopson
Full Results

 And now to finish up the year with cyclocross season!