- Greta Neimanas
April 03, 2012, 23:45 BST,
April 04, 2012, 0:45 BST
Greta Neimanas answers all the big questions
Last year, the blog about living a double life as a para-cyclist garnered a fair amount of interest. As such, para-cycling is a topic I'll continue to write about. And honestly, who else is going to do it?! In this blog, I'll actually address a few things that people seem to ask the most questions about- classification, the equipment - bikes, prosthetics etc.- and where para-cycling takes you as an athlete.
One of the most common questions people ask is "So, what's the deal with all of those groups? Do you race against people in wheelchairs or without legs?" And the answer is "It depends."
There are four main categories that athletes are broken into - bicycles, for athletes that can pedal a standard bike, tandem bicycles, for blind and visually impaired athletes (the blind athletes ride on the back with an able-bodied pilot), handcycles, for athletes with severe lower extremity disability and/or quadriplegia that power the bike using their arms, and
trikes (tricycles), for athletes with severe balance impairment. Within those four groupings, there are varying degrees of impairment for the athletes.
For the sake of time, I'm just going to cover bicycles from here on out. The bikes are divided into five classifications depending on the severity of their disability. Think of these as weight classes. Like in wrestling, a 60kg athlete isn't going up against someone that's 100kg. Someone who is only missing a hand (like me) isn't going to race against someone who only pedals with one leg. Athletes can have anywhere from mild paralysis of a hand or a partial foot amputation, all the way to the other end of the spectrum, riding with one leg and one arm (or the medical equivalent).
Athletes go before an international panel of doctors to determine which class they belong in before they can compete. Athletes in the same classification compete against each other- just like weight classes.
"How do you shift? So, you only use one brake, then?"
Sometimes I want to answer "Telekinesis!" just to see the look on people's faces. Really though, cycling is an equipment intensive sport and is made better, or worse, depending on how you look at it, in para-cycling. We have all the bikes plus fake arms and legs!
More often than not, bikes will have some type of modification to account for the rider's disability. In my case, I have my shifting and braking set up on the right side of my bars. (This type of modification is the most common adaptation, determined by the rider's impaired side.) The front derailleur is operated by a TT shifter plugged into the drop on set of regular road bars. I do, in fact, operate both brakes and it's not on a hope and a prayer. A BMX part called a cable splitter allows me to run two brake cables to a single lever. That's it. Half the time people don't notice that my bike is any different. Riders with leg length discrepancies will use two different length cranks and riders with one leg will remove one crank entirely if not using it.
My primary riding hand was designed on a napkin and made by a friend, in his workshop, out of some pieces of scrap metal. It's simple, reliable and lightweight. All I have to do is unscrew the hook on my everyday arm and screw in the riding hand. Boom, ready to rock. The design of the hand allows me to move quickly from the hoods to the drops or the tops of the bar. Prosthetics are custom designed for each athlete and are often made of carbon fiber. Leg amputees use legs that look kind of like a post - there's no part that looks like a foot, only a cleat at the end of the leg that clips directly into the pedal.
"Where does para-cycling get you?"
That's a question that I won't be able to answer until I retire. I've said it before, not many people know that we even exist so being in it for the fame and fortune is off the list. Like every other athlete, we want to go as far as we can get in the sport. If that means USAC cat. 4 or if that that means a gold medal at the Games, that's what it is. I'm so fortunate to be a part of Exergy TWENTY12 and have the support of a team, staff and the best equipment for my every need - Felt, Zipp, SRAM, Pearl Izumi, and Oakley are the best in the business and it shows. It's rare that a para athlete is in such a position with a professional team and for that, I'm grateful. Riding and racing is what I love to do and wherever it takes me is where it will get me. In the meantime, I think I'll just keep riding.
If you have more questions, please, don't hesitate to ask! Hit me with questions onTwitter: @gretaneimanas or Facebook: www.facebook.com/Neimanation and be sure to follow the team (@ExergyTWENTY12) for the latest team news.
Greta Neimanas is a para-cyclist racing for Exergy TWENTY12 and the US Paralympic National team. When she was 16 years old, she entered an essay contest sponsored by US Paralympics with the topic of "What Ability Means to Me," and won a trip to the 2004 Paralympic Games in Athens. There, Neimanas watched cycling events and was inspired to take up competitive cycling. Shortly after being named to her first world championship team, Neimanas was invited to the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center's resident athlete program where she lived and trained from 2007-2011. Specializing in time trials and the individual pursuit on the track, Neimanas made her Paralympic Games debut in Beijing in 2008 and is now a seven time national champion, thirteen time world championship medalist, and ParaPan Am Games gold medalist.
- Exergy TWENTY12
March 07, 2012, 23:00 GMT,
March 07, 2012, 22:50 GMT
EXERGY Twenty 12 junior Kayla Sterling introduces herself to the world
In praise of the renewed recognition of cyclists
As a high school student I have made the choice to commute to and from school on my single speed. My peers have mixed feelings - amusement, dismay, disinterest and a few "really?" and "no ways!"
These are typical responses. In my community the whole bike thing is a little atypical for a teen. But as far as teens go I am a little atypical. Although as a cyclist I have had some typical moments with big trucks and small cars. It seems to be the right of passage for any cyclist to have a story or two about being buzzed, yelled and honked at while riding. My personal favorite includes a few filled styrofoam cups! I only include this to emphasize recognition of the efforts that have been taken to better support cyclist in my local community.
Good news! After all this time we are finally starting to see a move towards raising bike tolerance and awareness on my hometown roads including my whole route to school! I was very shocked, but excited when one day on my ride home I saw a road crew laying down painted bike patterns up and down the street right directly down the street from my house. I had a hard time believing that there was this kind of effort being put towards cyclists and other bike riders and I was very thankful to see this on a road so close to us. I have multiple ways to school, but there are two main roads that are used the most. By the end of that week, there were bike lanes the whole way through both of them all the way to my high school. I thought this was amazing! I know painted bike symbols may not seem like much to some people, but as a proud commuter I believe this deserves some appreciation! I've been riding these same roads daily for four years, I almost feel like they did it just for me! Go (Allen) Texas!
Dreams not yet realised
Besides placing 2nd in the crit and 4th in the TT on my road bike, I left the 2011 Junior Nationals with renewed motivation. My two trips to nationals have left me with lifelong memories. The atmosphere at nationals is really unique when shared by cyclists from all over the country. I went with a dream of a national jersey but I left with something far better. I was motivated by the genuine kindness from a cycling hero and I was encouraged by an unexpected stranger with a business card. I can only describe these moments as dreams coming true - dreams that I had not yet dared to dream.
I have many great memories to share but had an experience that was, for me, better than a national jersey and that was an unexpected conversation with - Kristin Armstrong. I was waiting with my parents at an awards ceremony and my stepmother pointed out Kristin Armstrong.
She was in the parking lot pushing her son along in a stroller. I had been presented the silver medal the previous year by Kristin for the criterium and my stepmother knew my regret for being too shy to say anything. I had let my shyness hold me back instead of asking to get a picture with her that year. This year was different. A little arguing and making excuses for why I shouldn't bother her didn't work this time. Sometimes parents do know what is best! I worked up the courage and started walking. As I approached her I hoped she would be understanding. I did want to meet her but I didn't' want to to be a pesky junior fan. I have read articles about Kristin and how genuine she is with fans and it was true. She was so nice even after a challenging day. In hindsight I have come to realize that she had a rough day from her time trial but she stood and talked to me for about 20 minutes. I came to Nationals a little burned out and doubting my potential as an elite cyclist. Kristin may not realize how uplifting and inspiring her conversation was for me. There were a couple of times we tried to let her go but she stayed to get to know me a little better. I had not met any rider at her level that was so interested in taking her valuable time to encourage me. I will never forget that type of genuineness and hope to pay it forward to others.
The very next day I raced the criterium but missed the jersey at the line. Later, at the podium ceremony I received my silver medal. I remember Kristin telling me that sometimes the biggest disappointments teach us the most. I was very grateful to receive a silver medal but am determined to learn from missing the jump. As I stood in the crowd a lady introduced herself to me. At the time I was in a daze and did not realize who she was but I knew she was important. Her name was Nicola Cranmer. I cannot even remember what I said and I cannot recall her exact words just that they were so unexpected and surprising. I do remember her asking about my plans for next year and to keep in touch. Then she handed me the most unexpected and amazing thing - her Peanut Butter & Co. TWENTY12 business card! I had not dared to dream that I would be handed a business card from Nicola Cranmer. This took a while to sink in. I just couldn't believe that a team this highly ranked would even consider me on their junior development team. I felt extremely lucky to be given this opportunity even if it wasn't certain at the time. I kept in contact and I am now living and believing in the cycling dream and the power of mentorship.
To this day, the card is laminated and kept in a safe place! It is a little intimidating to be wearing a ExergyTWENTY12 kit and I am still amazed that I have so many encouraging mentors surrounding and helping me. ExergyTWENTY12 is truly committed to encouraging and mentoring their juniors. I have many heightened goals for this season. I hope to place very well in the upcoming nationals events for road and track. I have a dream of going to worlds and wearing a national time trial jersey. More importantly though, as a junior rider I want to follow my coaches direction and absorb all the knowledge and advice I can to expand myself as a racer and represent my team and sponsors well. I am at a crucial point between being a junior and an adult racer and I still have vast amounts of knowledge to gain. This year I am very lucky to have top level female racers to help me through this process.
Lastly, but very important I just wanted to explain how proud I am have the opportunity to represent a company like the Exergy Development Group and be able to advertise the symbols of the windmills as I ride. Throughout high school I have been a big fan and have become very interested in renewable energy. I have considered many careers, but they all seem to relate back to the general field of aiding environmental improvement. In fact, I plan on going to college to major in Environmental Engineering in hopes of providing a way to transform renewable resource devices such as solar panels, commercial wind turbines, and other sustainable energy products into a more economical friendly component for homes. I actually have this dream that some day I will live in a full-blown self sufficient home able to live completely off the grid. So I have to say, the team found a very special company and concept to represent that has been an interest of mine for a long time. As my dad always says, we can't pass a wind turbine on the road without making a big deal about it.
Thank you to all the sponsors for giving this incredible opportunity to learn, grow and develop as a cyclist. I am so glad I am a cyclist and I am so appreciative of our sponsors and this life changing opportunity.
- Exergy TWENTY12
February 20, 2012, 5:00 GMT,
February 20, 2012, 4:52 GMT
Heather Logan-Sprenger talks Pro Cycling, Pro Hockey, PhD and Exergy TWENTY12
There is a lot more to being a good cyclist than just training and racing. One way to ensure you are getting the most out of the hours you are putting in is to ensure you are using the facts of nutrition and sport science and not believing the many myths associated with nutrition and performance. This article will address a few of the common facts and myths circulating, and hopefully provide you with a better understanding of physiology for optimal performance.
Myth versus fact:
1) Too much water can kill you.
Fact. Drinking copious amounts of plain water in a short period of time can significantly dilute the blood, altering the essential plasma electrolyte composition necessary for proper functioning. High sweat losses over long periods of exercise time (≥ 90 min) coupled with the consumption of large volumes of plain water is a recipe for a condition known as hyponatremia (low plasma sodium) also known as water intoxication. Hyponatremia expresses itself with symptoms similar to dehydration (headache, confusion, fatigue, lethargy) and if improperly diagnosed can result in extreme consequences (Shirreffs & Sawka, 2011). In light of the fact that sodium is the major ion lost in sweat and the major regulator of fluid balance in the body, it is important when exercise is ≥ 90 min to consume fluid in combination with sodium and to avoid large volumes of plain water at once (>3 L).
Most commercial sports drinks contain some sodium to avoid diluted plasma sodium concentration, not to mention carbohydrate to provide additional energy. Athletes who are high salt sweaters may require additional sodium supplementation during training and races to avoid muscle cramping and help maintain plasma sodium concentration. This can be achieved by adding a small amount of table salt (NaCl) to your water bottle or sports drink. The inclusion of sodium (0.5-0.7 g/L of water) in the rehydration solution ingested during exercise ≥ 90 min is recommended since it may be advantageous in enhancing palatability, promoting fluid retention, and perhaps preventing hyponatremia in athletes who drink excessive quantities of fluid (Convertino et al. 1996).
2) Excess protein in the diet leads to more muscle gain.
Myth. Protein is an essential component of the diet and is involved in almost every structural and functional component of the human body. It has been shown that during endurance exercise, amino acid oxidation accounts for only 1-6% of the energy requirement at 65% VO2max, with the amount varying with training status and carbohydrate availability (Burke & Deakin, 2010). High intensity endurance training may affect the need for an increase in dietary protein by increasing the oxidation of amino acids. Therefore, it is recommended that endurance athletes consume 1.4 g/kg/body mass (BM) compared to a non-athlete (0.85-0.9 g/kg/BM).
Some athletes believe that protein intake is directly proportional to protein synthesis or muscle gain, resulting in an overconsumption of protein in the range of 3-4 g/kg/BM (Phillips & Van Loon, 2011). The body will use the essential amino acids it needs from the diet for muscle and tissue growth and repair, and the excess will be oxidized with no additional increase in strength or muscle mass (Burke & Deakin, 2010). The recommended intake of 1.4 g/kg/BM appears to be the appropriate amount to maintain net protein synthesis in endurance athletes. Athletes need to be cautious of excessive protein in the diet as this may decrease dietary carbohydrate intake and may lead to premature fatigue during high intensity training and competition.
3) Neglecting fluid intake during exercise may impair performance.
Fact. It has been consistently demonstrated that dehydration of 2% BM loss significantly heightens heart rate, core temperature, rating of perceived exertion (RPE), and carbohydrate oxidation compared to being in a fluid balance leading to premature fatigue. High sweat loss coupled with inadequate fluid consumption can quickly lead to significant BM loss and exacerbated physiological responses (Shirreffs & Sawka, 2011). Therefore, the goal is to drink to meet sweat loss, but how do you know your individual sweat loss? An easy way to determine this is to weigh yourself before a ride in minimal clothing and then again after you ride in the same minimal clothing. Then you need to factor in the volume of fluid you consumed during the ride, using the equation below:
Sweat loss = (pre-ride body mass (kg) - post-ride body mass (kg)) + fluid intake (ml) - urine output (ml)
This will give you an idea of your sweat loss during that workout at that specific intensity in that environmental condition. Use this to help customize your own fluid intake and make yourself aware of how much fluid you need to consume to maintain fluid balance. In addition to hydration testing, an athlete may wish to determine their sweat electrolyte composition through an individual sweat analysis. This will help customize a fluid and electrolyte plan to prevent exasperated physiological strain due to voluntary dehydration. To learn more about being sweat and hydration tested visit, peakgenics.com
4) There are 4 major goals to post exercise nutritional recovery.
Fact. During recovery from exercise, an athlete needs to strive to restore 4 major sources: fluid & sodium, restoration of metabolized carbohydrate, repair of damaged protein, and remodeling protein (Phillips & Van Loon, 2011). In light of this, the most optimal recovery nutrition is in liquid form concurrent with high quality protein and carbohydrate, providing the optimal package of nutrients enhancing recovery.
Supplemental sodium into a beverage has been shown to accelerate the restoration of fluid balance after exercise, which will prove beneficial during stage races. Additionally, it has been shown that immediately post exercise there is a potentiation of carbohydrate and amino acid uptake enhancing muscle glycogen re-synthesis and protein synthesis respectively. So, the sooner you can consume fluid with some electrolytes, specifically sodium, combined with high quality protein (10-20g) and carbohydrate, the better your workout or race will be the next day.
This article briefly touched on a few common myths and facts of exercise performance. Hopefully the information discussed has provided some insight that you can use to enhance your training for optimal performance on the bike!
Looking forward to a great season!
PhD, professor of exercise physiology & nutrition
Burke, L., Deakin, V. 2010. Clinical Sports Nutrition, 4th Ed. McGraw Hill, Australia.
Convertino, V.A., Armstrong, L.E., Coyle, E.F., Mack, G.W. Sawka, M.N., Senay, L.C., Sherman, M.W. 1996. ACSM position stand: Exercise & fluid replacement. Medicine & Sciences in Sports & Exercise, 28(10): i-ix.
Phillips, S.M., Van Loon, L.J.C. 2011. Dietary protein for athletes: From requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(S1): S29-S38.
Shirreffs, S.M., Sawka, M.N. 2011. Fluid & electrolyte needs for training and competition. Journal of Sports Sciences, 29(S1): S39-S46.
Heather started racing her bike professionally in 2009 as a form of off-season training for her main sport of ice hockey where she competed for over 13 years in the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL/CWHL) and as a 6-year member of Canada’s women’s National hockey team captaining the Jr. team in 2003-2004. Heather raced with Team Colavita Pro Women’s Cycling for the 2009, 2010, & 2011 season. 2009 was her first year in the women’s peloton competing in both NRC and European races, which ended with the opportunity to represent Canada at the 2009 World Road Cycling Championships in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Besides being a 2-sport National team athlete, Heather completed her doctorate in exercise physiology, nutrition, and metabolism in 2011, & currently is a Professor of Physiology & Exercise Science at the University of Guelph-Humber & the Humber Polytechnic Institute in Toronto, Canada. In addition to teaching, she is the director of exercise science at Peak Genics, providing lab & field physiological testing, nutrition consulting, and professional training for optimal athletic performance. Heather joins Exergy TWENTY12 with great energy & enthusiasm for a successful 2012 season!
- Jessica Van Garderen
February 12, 2012, 14:00 GMT,
February 12, 2012, 14:33 GMT
Jessica plans for success in 2012
A fantastic year in review! I realize that February is already well into 2012, and most people are finished refecting on the past year, but I say "better late than never." 2011 was an exciting, overwhelming, and all-around fantastic year! I have to admit that I welcomed 2012 with a little sadness as I did not want 2011 to end.
I am honored to share some of the highlights with you and tell my story of the best year ever!
Ok, this really begins at the end of June, but let's just file it under July. Tejay (van Garderen) had been selected to race the Tour de France for his HTC-Highroad team, which was an accomplishment in itself. But the most exciting part was that he was arriving to France an engaged man! Yes, just days before Tejay left for the Tour, he proposed, and needless to say I didn't have to think twice before I accepted!
Tejay is an amazing person and I am looking forward to spending my life with him. And a true highlight of the year was Tejay's performance in the Tour de France. Not only did he finish, and manage to stay upright, he wore the polka dot mountain jersey. It may have only been on his back for one day, but people say that he is the first American to wear the jersey (other Americans who had the jersey never actually wore it because they also had another jersey that took precedence).
I do believe that Tejay has what it takes to be a Tour contender and I am so proud of his first attempt.
The Aspen/Snowmass Women's Pro Stage Race was actually happening! The idea for this race was born the previous fall when I read about the men's US Pro Cycling Challenge and quickly realized that there was nothing for professional women. The rest is history and 2011 marked the inaugural women's race. I want to thank everyone who helped make the race happen, including volunteers, sponsors, and the teams and riders who suffered at 8,000 ft. The highlight of the 3-day race for me was the final stage-the downtown crit!
This really was the grand finally to a remarkable event and introduced Aspen to the high-speed and exciting racing of the professional women! One of the key features of the women's crit was that it shared a finish line with the men, who would be ascending and descending Independence Pass while the women sped around downtown. As soon as our race was over, I ran to the jumbo TV to check on Tejay. Although there was a helicopter following their race overhead, the picture didn't come through because of stormy conditions.
So all I could do was wait and hope Tejay came into Aspen in a good position. And boy did he deliver (I did tell him he had to do well in Aspen for me to marry him)! Tejay raced into town finishing 2nd on the stage and moving into the yellow jersey! Standing back in the audience watching Tejay throw his podium flowers to my mom, all I could think was this was one of the top 5 days of my life!
Wedding bells, or more like champagne popping, was the theme to this month. Yes it was a short engagement, but the calendar of a professional cyclist is unique and the fall really is the best time for a party!
And our wedding was one big party, filled with volleyball, fantastic food and wine, singing and dancing!!! Some of you may have seen the YouTube video of the singing, and if you haven't, I suggest you check it out. Taylor Phinney and Tejay got on stage and sang a lovely rendition of Marvin Gay's "Let's Get It On." And if any of you are wondering if Tejay van Garderen can dance...give him enough to drink and a nightclub and you won't believe his moves! But honestly, our wedding exceeded all my expectations and also goes down as one of my top 5 best days ever!
Although technically in the new year, I am going to consider January in my year-in- review. I am currently writing this diary from the plane, on my way to a yoga retreat in Bali!
I know I am spoiled, but the last week has been insane, and I do believe I have earned this trip (my wedding present from Tejay). In the past I’ve days I have packed up our place in California, loaded a U-Haul truck, drove the truck with car in tow to Colorado, unloaded the truck and car into storage, picked out paint and carpet for our new house, and finished 2011 taxes!!!
I have to admit I could have never done it without the help and company of my mom, but together we accomplished a lot. I intend to use Bali as a transition week, where I restore my body and gain energy and insight into the year to come. I am so excited about what lies ahead and I plan on being fully present and committed. First and foremost, I take my role as a wife very seriously. Tejay is riding for BMC and I want to do my part in guaranteeing a successful season.
Secondly, I am thrilled to be working with Exergy TWENTY12 as a rider, mentor, leader and hopefully role model. In addition, along with my partners, I am working hard on the 2012 Aspen/Snowmass Women's Pro Challenge. This year will see an additional stage for women along with an increased prize purse and race coverage. I recently witnessed a friend ask a very wealthy women what she does for work, and her response was "I dabble." I think that is my new job description as I dabble in being a house wife, personal assistant, professional cyclist, team staff, and race promoter!
- Alison Tetrick
January 16, 2012, 19:45 GMT,
January 16, 2012, 19:47 GMT
Alison Tetrick describes what it takes to train with someone
‘Tis the season for training, which means instead of searching for that perfect holiday gift, you are seeking an ideal training partner to join you on countless base miles in less than ideal conditions: A companion for the road, an accountability partner, an opportune therapist.
A good training partner is hard to come by, and may be one of the bigger decisions that you ever make. I assume it is comparable to a reliable babysitter or a compatible life partner.
I have been able to ride with my sister, Jennifer Tetrick, for the last month, and it has been priceless. A gorgeous professional triathlete, who happens to be my sister and closest friend? Doesn't get any better. Among many other interesting topics of conversation, most of which cannot be divulged, the time did allowed us to discuss the qualities and expectations of a solid training partner and the seriousness that that job entails.
What is the appropriate chemistry and etiquette for a training partner relationship? Can you apply for this job, or are you destined to train alone and constantly be the brunt of the group ride joke? You either find that training partner, or you start learning about yourself and invest in another pair of headphones.
What is the job description of a good training partner? Is there an app for that? Do you have what it takes?
My Top 10 Qualities of a Training Partner.
Ride Leader. It is quite simple; there must always be a ride leader. As a ride leader, you must accept this duty with utter gravity. You have to pick the route and adhere to the appropriate parameters that have been previously designated. Therefore, whoever is the ride leader must be prepared to accept full responsibility if the duration of the ride falls short or longer than the planned time, as well if the terrain or weather does not cooperate. If it is too long, or too short, or your training partner gets stuck in a headwind all day or monsoon downpour, the ride leader must apologize profusely and make amends in a comparable fashion. Please take this job seriously. Too many chiefs on a ride lend to arguments, and too many Indians cultivate indecisiveness. The rider leader may vary on the day and protocol. It is not a lifetime commitment to take on this job, just a ride commitment. Commit and deliver, or be prepared for ridicule.
Consistency. I love the sense of exploration in riding more than most, but I also revere momentum and consistency. I hate stopping while riding. I don't get coffee while riding, unless the Ride Leader has predestined the ride as a coffee shop ride in which case that is completely appropriate. Coffee may be consumed after the ride, or before the ride. But if it is a training day, the ride is just that. A ride. Training. Your bike must be in working order, you must be prepared with the flat fixing necessities (especially since I have the tendency to be ill-prepared), and you must be ready to ride the quoted ride or be prepared to learn Survival 101. You need to count on each other for timeliness, fitness, and motivation. You need to have consistency, preparation, and resourcefulness.
Understanding and Flexibility. Training can vary on the day or the time of year, and a good training partner will understand the job and be able to adapt as the year progresses. If one rider has 3x20 minutes at Tempo, and the other has 5x6 minutes of SFR's, you may start out the ride together, but you must be prepared to split off and do your individual effort if that is the necessary agenda. There is no fluff and no bragging. It is a simple parting of ways to get the work done. Although you may be envious of the others training day, you don't make a snide comment hinting that they lack stamina or strength. There is no judgment. No wasted time. A training partner is able to get you out the door on a cold foggy morning and sometimes that is the hardest interval you will face that day. There is understanding and flexibility.
Cohesion and Craziness. Intervals aside, who really wants to ride a 4-5 hour ride by themselves? I know I am quite entertaining to myself, but that wears off eventually. I soon discover that I would rather not be alone in my thoughts day in and day out. That just gets me in trouble. Cohesive company can be priceless, and a solid training partner needs to be just a little bit as crazy as you are. Ride out to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse? Why not. What happens if we take a right to Fort Jenner? Let's find out. You are cohesive in your purpose, and you both border on extreme. We are all cyclists and all a little crazy, but the common theme is a curious mind.
Politically Correct Phrasing. A good training partner employs politically correct phrasing, and they will not state that they "dropped" you; however, they may refer to it as "that time that I rode ahead of you…and then had to wait…" You didn't get dropped. You let them ride up the road. They know they dropped you. You know they dropped you. But for your confidence and delicate self-esteem, they use politically correct phrasing of the event just to ensure you don't become a puddle of sweat and tears into the asphalt after a rough day. We all have bad days, no sense in exploiting that. Does this make me sensitive? Just human. Training partners can bolster each other's confidence and that is important. That being said, I will win and I will drop from time to time.
Challenge. I need to be challenged. A training partner knows when to push you past your limits, and they know when to back it off. There is a time to leave me alone in my misery, and there is a time I need to be babysat. It is a fine balance. It is a team effort at times, and a solo mission at others. Sometimes their fitness is so beyond yours all you can do is hang on for dear life, and other days, you are the stronger rider. They challenge you. You challenge them. It simply works. Challenge me.
Patience. Although these training partner requirements may sound too difficult for the faint of heart, there is sensitivity and patience to each other that is a pivotal for a good training partner. No one is perfect. I might forget a glove or two. I might not want to change my flat. I might complain about the weather, my sore legs, or the impending hill. Be patient with each other. There are more important things than riding a silly bike, but we are out there together with a similar goal and determination. Be patient and understanding in your moments of suffering and weakness.
Timeliness. Promptness and timeliness is extremely important, I like to be on time for my rides. Ok, so I actually show up a little bit too early most of the time. I will be patient, and you will be on time. Sounds like a plan to me. Who is the first one to show up? Oh yeah, that's usually me.
Entertainment. Cracking during a ride is not always because of the physical strain, but can also be because of the mental exhaustion. Tell a good story or a funny anecdote. A tale that has nothing to do about cycling. A story about a scary movie, or your first job as a lifeguard and that one girl… I need entertainment that gets my mind off of the repetitive statement "just keep pedaling, just keep pedaling". I train the majority of the time by myself, but sometimes I need an escape from the norm. I need a good story or laugh. I will reciprocate when the time is right, I promise. Feel free to entertain me.
Just a ride. And like I told Bob Roll on the RoadID, it is just a ride. Nothing more, nothing less. It is just a ride.
- Alisha Welsh
July 02, 2011, 3:47 BST,
July 02, 2011, 4:48 BST
Alisha Welsh travels to the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic
As a mid-season decision the Peanut Butter and Co./Twenty12team decided to race the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic and what a good decision it turned out to be. The week leading into the race I was watching the weather forecast knowing that the Hood River area is generally known for rain and this was exactly what the forecast was calling for. However, each day as I checked the updated forecast the percentage chance of rain decreased. By the time we rolled into town, the rain had cleared out and we raced under sunny skies in one of the most beautiful places that I have ever been.
The scenery surrounding the Columbia River Gorge is spectacular. We were treated to majestic views of Mt. Hood and Mt. Adams, rows and rows of apple orchards and lush green forests. After living in Arizona for the last year, I was in awe to be surrounded by so much green. The Columbia River Gorge is a sight to see.
Before the racing started we were also able to visit two schools and help race promoter Chad Sperry with some presentations on the sport of cycling, bicycle safety, and racing at the professional level. It was fun to take one of our super-light Felt ZW race bikes with deep-and-fast Zipp 404's as eye candy. The kids are always intrigued by how fast and light our bikes are. We also take a pair of shoes and explain how our feet are attached to our bikes when we ride through clipless pedals. An aero helmet is also something fun to show because, well, let's admit it, we all look a little funny when we wear them.
The energy coming from the kids is contagious as every kid had their hand raised high in the air during Q & A. Questions we have been asked cover a wide range of topics. One of the more impressive questions we have been asked was "How do you promote Peanut Butter & Co. by riding bikes?" What a great opportunity to talk about how much our sport depends on sponsors. Another question they usually seem to ask is "How do you go to the bathroom when you are riding?" Good question! I usually let one of my teammates answer this one. My favorite part of the school visits is after the assembly when the kids who are really interested will come up to take a closer look at the bike or ask you a more specific question they've been dying to know. It gets me excited to play a small role in inspiring the next generation of American cyclists.
With the school visits completed, the team's focus returned to our racing plans for the week. The courses were both fun and challenging which made for some of the best racing of the 2011 season. The Peanut Butter and Co./Twenty12 girls worked like a well oiled machine. We raced up and down the Columbia River Gorge on stage one. For the stage two time trial we travelled over the bridge to Washington. Stage three was a technical downtown crit held in Hood River including one downhill 180 degree corner.
Stage four was guaranteed to be epic with 8200 ft. of climbing on the schedule. We climbed on small forest service roads covered with pine needles and moss, passing waterfalls and snow banks and had some fast twisty descents through the trees.
It was all about teamwork as everyone on our team worked for our overall goals, each doing their job and churning out some fantastic results in the process. It is something special to be a part of when each person is willing to sacrifice their own result in order to achieve a bigger goal. The experience of being on a squad of this caliber is entirely different than when I raced Mt. Hood two years ago without a team as an aspiring racer. The yellow jersey was juggled between two of the riders on our team: Kristin Armstrong and Alison Starnes with Kristin claiming the overall win in a fiercely contested battle over the final 500 meters of the last stage with Clara Hughes (Canadian Olympic medalist).
When the racing was done the team ate dinner together overlooking the Columbia River. The rain that had so politely held off now finally returned with flashes of lightning and claps of thunder. Rarely have I been more exhausted after a week of racing, but as I sat there reminiscing and laughing with friends and teammates after an epic stage race I heard my current favourite song "Good Life" by One Republic playing.
Racing has its ups and downs, but as for the good life, at Mt. Hood in 2011 this is it.
The Exergy/Twenty 12 riders will be contributing on a regular basis to Cyclingnews, although content will have a team emphasis, its my hope to create a hub for women cyclists fun stories, informative articles, health and wellness tips and the occasional peloton gossip column.
The Exergy/Twenty12 team: Kaitlin Antonneau, Kristin Armstrong, Theresa Cliff-Ryan, Jackie Crowell, Andrea Dvorak, Cari Higgins, Kristin McGrath, Greta Neimanas, Jessica Phillips, Coryn Rivera, Lauren Tamayo, Alison Tetrick Starnes and Tayler Wiles. International riders include Canadians Rhae Christie Shaw and Heather Logan-Sprenger along with Switzerland's Pascale Schnider.