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The first time is always sweet

July 19 , 2006

Here, there, everywhere is the story of my summertime life. No wonder my parents always say ‘we can’t keep up with you’, I can barely keep up with myself!

My latest traveling saga started in Crested Butte, Colorado. I have always had a fascination with this appealing mountain town and it was hosting the 6th annual Wildflower Rush mountain bike race which is a part of the Mountain States Cup series.

I hadn’t planned on competing due to the fact that Tom and I had limited time to spend together. Thursday before the race, which was on Saturday, Tom mentioned maybe I should race. Since I often get my training advice from Tom, I couldn’t object. I pleaded with Tom to join me on the short outing but since there are really only two roads surrounding Crested Butte he had to turn me down. So off I drove; over Colbank pass, Molas Pass, Red Mountain Pass into the gorgeous ski town of Crested Butte. The course was perfect for me, long high altitude climbs through Aspen trees with easy fire road descents. I felt confident after my pre-ride and was ready for the race.

As the pro women blazed through the wild columbine, lupine and sunflowers I found myself battling for first with a strong woman. She was much stronger than me on the first lap and I kept losing sight of her. It always takes my body a while before my legs start to open up so I felt better on the second lap and was able to pass my mystery competitor and cross the finish line in first place. I was SO excited because this was my first victory as a “professional” racer. Later I found out that my mystery competitor is a very talented lady who currently is the Australian National mountain bike champion, Dellys Starr. I am happy that Tom suggested I race because I went into my next NORBA with a little more confidence.

After Crested Butte Tom and I drove to Colorado Springs, where Tom had sponsorship obligations with AMD. AMD also sponsors Nascar racing and some of the top Nascar racers joined Tom and Jason McCartney on a couple of rides combined with Chris Carmichael Training Systems. It was interesting to hear how other top athletes prepare for their particular discipline. Tom and I parted ways after the event was over. He headed back across the pond where he would be competing in the Tour of Austria. I headed to Denver to visit my parents.

Usually I don’t mind the drive back to Durango from Denver but that day I witnessed one of the most sickening scenes that a cyclist could view. As I drove from Pagosa Springs toward Durango, the Tour of Colorado was underway and hundreds of cyclists were on their last leg of the tour ending in Pagosa Springs. It was great to see so many cyclists of all kinds; kids, men, women, people on mountain bikes, older cyclist, you name it they were out there pedaling away. As I came upon stopped traffic I was praying that it was for construction and not an accident involving a cyclist. When a police officer on a motorcycle drove by my hopes of construction disappeared. When traffic was allowed to continue on, I drove past one of the saddest scenes that is now permanently imprinted in my memory. A cyclist was hit by a pickup truck and his body was covered with, what looked like, a blanket and his mangled bike was off to the side. I became so sick to my stomach that I almost had to pull over. Needless to say I was a wreck for days. I later read that he was 26 years old and lived in Albuquerque New Mexico (Ben Inglis, 26, of Albuquerque - Ed.).

That day reality hit me hard. I realized how incredibly precious our lives are and how it can all end in the blink of an eye. One of my teammates, Kim, gave me a t-shirt yesterday that says Life’s Short…..Enjoy the Ride! Now, more than ever, I appreciate the message that is printed on my new pink t-shirt.

Being home was nice. I caught up with friends and rode on the familiar trails around D-town before I had to hop in our black Subaru again. I sped to Park City, Utah for the 4th NORBA of the season. When I drove up to the condominium that we had for our Vello Bellas my jaw dropped. It was the most elegant condo that I have stayed in since I started racing. Not only were our sleeping accommodations first class we also had a personal chef, our team manager’s mother Judy. The weekend was a blast. Our whole team was in full force that past weekend and I realized how great it is to be apart of such a positive environment.

Before the start of our cross country race I received a text from Tom titled ‘Won it!!!!’. He had just won the Tour of Austria, his first European victory! I was so incredibly happy for him, I knew (everyone knew) he could do it. I went into my race motivated from the good news. Both of my races went well, I am so close to accomplishing my goal for the season. I am defiantly looking forward to the next NORBA races located near my hometown (relatively). Each Bella put in a solid race and more important than anything is, that we all had fun racing our bikes across Deer Valley Mountain ski resort.

I drove back home for one day to do my laundry and, before I knew it, off I was in the air flying to Sacramento California for the U.S. national race, located in Sonoma California. The Bellas pre-rode the course yesterday on our awesome Kona bikes. It’s going to be a fast and hot day today. The course is very wide open with rolling hills and much of our course is, oddly enough, on pavement. The temperature is supposed to be close to 100 degrees today so I better go down some more fluids. I was excited for today because I was going to be called to my start position close to the front line (due to my results at the past NORBA races) but I found out from our team manager, Alex, that they are calling up racers based on last years national race results, agghh…. I raced on the road last year so I will be called up, maybe, last woman. I know today I will have to fight pretty hard off that starting line to get up to the front but I’m up for the task at hand. Time to put my feet up, drink some Cyto and feel the butterflies flutter in my stomach until the national race is underway!

Till next time,

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The long-time partner and now wife of Discovery Channel rider Tom Danielson, Kristin Danielson (nee Johnson) is a talent in her own right. Like her hubby, Kristin came from a background racing on fat tyres before recently making the transition to the road, and after a season with Ford-Basis, she'll be riding in Velo Bella-Kona colours in 2006.