Mary and Mike return to North America

USA, October 7, 2006

Mike and I were glad to make our way back to the East Coast of North America after seven weeks in Europe. During our three weeks back, we raced the US NORBA National in Mount Snow, Vermont and the World Cup in Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec, and then we spent a precious week of down time on Martha's Vineyard island in Massachusetts.

Early summer travels (June 14- July 7, 2006)

It was great flying into Boston being picked up and taken care of by our sponsor and good friend Jennifer Miller of Seven Cycles. Thanks to her, we could easily transition from intense travels and racing to relaxing and recovering at her house in Medford for a few days. After living in an RV for extended periods of time, hot running showers and private space become a luxury. It was nice to be back in the USA where the sun was shining, people communicated in English, and best of all, we were heading excitedly for two of our favorite race venues.

US NORBA National #3: Mount Snow, Vermont

Mount Snow is a classic mountain bike race. The steep climbs and descents, riddled with technical rooty, rocky terrain is what off-road cycling is all about for us. This course requires a balance of good fitness to get up the unrelenting climbs and the skills to handle the bike on the bumpy and rooty descents. My first NORBA victory was on this course in 2003, and my goal was to repeat the win.

The travel from Europe had left Mike and I jet lagged and fighting a head cold. Lucky for us, Jennifer and Cris' sweet little cabin in New Hampshire (1.5 hours away from the venue) was the perfect place to focus on resting and mentally preparing for the cross country. Mike and I were familiar with the race track and felt confident with only one pre-ride before the competition. Spending time at a race venue can be draining, so we chose to lay low and showed up on race day, psyched and rarin' to go.

That morning, my legs felt peppy. My mind was focused and calm. My plan was to go out front and make as much time on the climbs from
the get go, and that is what I did. Big ring climbing never felt so strong. I moved forward, solo, pulling away from the field. I was somewhat conservative on the descents, not wanting to puncture, crash, or take a bad line. After the first lap, I had 70 seconds on the women's field. by the end of the second lap, two minutes! This allowed me to ease up a bit on the last lap, just enough to relish the experience and flow the sweet, final descent.

It felt great to win on my adopted home turf and in front of the home town crew. It was an incredible feeling as I crossed that
finish line, clapping my hands over my head, in thanks to all of those who played a part of my victory. It was a hard-fought honor to stand on the top podium box with Shonny Vanlandingham, Alison Sydor, Willow Koerber, and Heather Irmiger surrounding me.

Mike was stoked to compete once again at the Mount Snow venue where he has already raced about a dozen times. He worked his way up into fifteenth on the first long ascent, although he started near the back of the field since we have not focused our energy on the national series. The men had to complete four laps on the course, each with a leg burning 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Mike hung tough and moved into the top ten by the mid point of the race. In the final two laps, he was hindered by chain suck and was forced to ride entirely in the big chain ring, Ouch! Mike ended the day a respectable thirteenth place.

For the next two days, I was so sore and fatigued I couldn't do much more than soak in a stream with my biggest power output being swatting at mosquitoes.

Being a two person race team can be very simple, wonderful, and efficient, but also has limitations... especially if both team members involved are trying to race to their highest potential. We have worked hard to get where we are, and we have been very lucky to have family and friends to help fill the gaps in our program. THANK YOU!! to all of those who help us out at the races, feeding, cheering, giving us tech support, taking pictures, and letting us stay in your homes. We are ever grateful to all of you who have generously supported us.

On the hot list this year at all the NORBA National Series venues in California and Mount Snow would have to be Dave McElwain who passed us bottles on the hill and gave us time splits during the race. He was also snapping photos. His great pictures viewed at (Check the Mount Snow photo gallery). Thanks again, Dave!

UCI World Cup Cross Country #5: Mont Sainte Anne, Quebec

Mike and I always enjoy racing in Quebec, Canada. This was our fifth year competing at the Mont Sainte Anne World Cup venue. We knew the ropes and where to stay, buy healthy food, park, register, and warm up. It feels good to return to a familiar place, and the rooty, technical terrain is fantastic to ride (if you pick the right lines).

The World Cup was scheduled for the day after my 35th birthday. I knew that race day would somewhat curb the type of celebrating I could potentially a week-long moderate birthday celebration was the solution. A bit of chocolate, some wine, and a roasted lamb feast two nights out. My actual birthday was very low key as it was the day before the big race. I rested, rode a little, went to the managers meeting, and made pasta with chicken for dinner. Mike sang "Happy Birthday" to me over a bowl of yogurt, and we went to bed early. To earn the podium spot that I wanted for my birthday, I would make some sacrifices.

Stan, Cindy, and Jerry of came up from New York to watch the World Cup and to help us out in our tech pit. Stan has revolutionized the bike industry with his Notubes sealant and pushed the limits of what is possible with racing bikes in many ways, but what few know is that he can also cook a mean steak!

On race day, our pack of caffeinated women flew from the start line, all trying to get to the front in the first few minutes–cranks churning , dust filling the air, tires grating on the gravel, anaerobic thresholds nearing their limit. I maintained my position towards the front, calm and within myself. Sometimes we get so anaerobic we can't see straight. I try not to do this before a technical section. I was riding strong, descending well, and pushing the climbs. I was so focused on moving forward that I had no idea what the rest of the pack was doing behind me. Zoned in, I just kept pushing it. I rode alone in fifth place for the rest of the day. I was SUPER psyched to meet my goal of making the World Cup podium again.

Mike maintained a solid top 25 placing for five of seven laps until he noticed a strange rattling noise. As the team mechanic, he knew immediately that it was the sound of the rear rotor rattling loose. Mike rode half a lap with out rear brakes before making a quick pit stop for a repair. Stan of Notubes performed a lightening wheel exchange, and Mike was off for his final two laps. Mike lost quite a few positions as there were only seconds separating all the men, but he still managed to cross the line in 36th.

That night we quietly celebrated with another home cooked meal and a great bottle of red wine. It is always a huge relief to make it through a race with success. We set season goals and work hard to create the perfect conditions, but as Mike illustrated, there are no guarantees of success no matter how good the legs are feeling. Bolts can come loose, another rider could cause you to crash, and there are so many other variables. I can't explain how very sweet it is when all you've worked for comes together.

After two more hard weeks of racing we were once again blown out and looking forward to some down time at Mike's family's home on Martha's Vineyard. The island was the perfect place to rest and recover for five days in isolation, happily without a car or cell service.

Mary and Mike (Team Kenda/Seven Cycles)

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