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Making the most of winter

USA, March 20, 2007

Mary and I spent the majority of the winter in my hometown of Chilmark, Massachusetts, kind of by mistake. We came off a huge year of travel and racing in 2006 and were talking and planning as if we were ready for more. We dreamed of an incredible winter off-season in New Zealand or Hawaii, certainly somewhere warm and beautiful, until we made the trip to the quiet island off the east coast of Massachusetts and rediscovered how much we enjoy not traveling. Having a full size kitchen complete with breadmaker and ample room to do yoga was enough to keep Mary occupied between cold training rides and body ball workouts. For me, the lure of my own semi-set-up bike shop along with my family's metal and wood-working shop was a welcome chance to tap into some creative energy and get involved in a few crazy projects.

The highest point on Martha's Vineyard island is 311 feet--actually more like 305--but someone piled a bunch of stones up on the top of one of the local hills to edge out another for the bragging rights. So the climbing is a bit limited, but we found plenty of ways to keep ourselves occupied and in good condition throughout our longer than anticipated winter stay (November to February). Global warming was kind enough to keep things mild and snow free through the end of December before the frigid temps came.

At this point, we enjoyed a rare chance to skate the local ponds, break out the carbide studded Kenda winter tires and do some performance testing in our Adidas cold weather cycling gear. Though it was a bit brutal, the training was always possible, and we made the most of it. Luckily for us (and for all those who live in the flat lands), it seems that it is possible to stay in shape without the huge climbs and radical trails that you read about and crave to ride. Just plain old hours of suffering on the windy flats and hours and hours on the knobbies on the same old trails seem to work.

We made the trip out to northern California for a two week training block in early February and only there realized how tough things had been out East. It was so much easier to put in the long rides without the limiters of frozen feet and icing water bottles. Here the mountainbiking is so good that most of it has rules, restrictions, speed limits, and etc. attached to it to keep people from hurting one another or themselves. Although this tends to limit some of the enjoyment, Mary and I were more than happy for the transition to the balmy 50 degree weather.

It was motivating to see other people out riding, in fact TONS of people. We were staying in Mary's hometown of Fairfax, typically an epicenter for launching mass road and mountain rides, but we had arrived just a few days before the Tour of California was to start, and you could feel the anticipation in the air. The number of people cycling the roads riding was just awesome. Central California's mild climate and productive job market has inspired plenty of people to throw down for that sweet bike and spend a good bit of time riding it--definitely a world away from Martha's vineyard where Mary and I seemingly trained alone all winter.

We slipped seductively deeper into that time of year when back-to-back five hour rides blur the reality of everything else. Of course we had lots of other stuff to do. It was just put off as we were too knackerd to handle it.

California highlights included being able to participate in a unique and special type of cycling event. We did the first event of the season of a 10 year tradition known as the Grasshopper series, an event that is officially referred to as "a ride" although it is highly contested, and as most rides, requires no fee to participate. There are no prizes awarded, no officials, and very little structure is included. A laminated map is passed out at the start outlining the ride to approximately 100 people, men and women, on bikes varying from road to cyclo-cross to mountain bikes with no clear advantage to any one type. People just seem to show up out of a common love for the bike and to enjoy the opportunity to take part in something that is bigger that any one rider or ride could be. It is born out of pure cycling energy and for the love of the sport.

The Northern California cycling community is certainly one of the most special in the world. Throw in the climate and plethora of training options, and it is little wonder that Mary and I return to live and train here year after year. It's not like we have a house here or anything, just a van and trailer in a storage unit filled with equipment that allows us to be a part of what goes on here. It just feels like our home since we love that people and what goes on here. Also a huge bonus to have Mary's family's basement space in Fairfax to live out of.

We are happy to announce that our team title will remain "Kenda -Seven Cycles" for 2007. We are so grateful to have backing from these and other select companies that results in Mary and me running the finest parts and equipment that we could imagine. We are proud to represent for all of our great sponsors, and will do so on the World Cup circuit and in international races over a broad swath of Europe and the Americas.

For 2007, we have planned an extensive race schedule, built up some wicked bikes, and sorted out out an ambitious and yet 100% legal vitamin program to help us stay healthy and perform at our best.

Mary and I look forward to traveling and learning about the cultures and people we come across in our racing along the way. We both feel so lucky to be able to do this and have a huge feeling of gratitude for our sponsors and people who make it possible.

Our first round of racing will take place in Argentina in early March at the Pan American Championships. We are busy cooking up a plan to parlay this with a stint of travel through Chile to see as much of these countries as we can while preparing for this race as best we can.

We look forward to keeping everyone updated through our Cyclingnews journal and hope we will be able to keep things current as we foresee this to be our most intense year of racing and travel to date.

Good rides to you!
Mike and Mary

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MTB "super-couple", Mary McConneloug and Mike Broderick live together, train together, travel together and race together. They also share this diary on Cyclingnews.

Follow their adventures as they race the World Cup cross country circuit throughout 2009. Enjoy the unique, professional racing style of these two accomplished racers and world travelers.