Sunday, June 30, 2013

Lauren Stephens recounts Day 1 of the Giro Rosa for Team TIBCO

Giro Rosa Stage 1

Today was my first day to race in Europe and I could not have had a greater opportunity than this. The Giro Rosa is the biggest stage race in women's cycling; what a way to start my international career.

The atmosphere was something I had never experienced. We were celebrities and the stars of the show. We went to sign in as a team like you see the men do in the big races on tv, photographers were everywhere, fans were excited, little kids were getting autographs. Everyone had a kind word for us, too bad i didn't understand what they were saying!

My teammates advised me that all the racers nerves would be high in the first day. Of course this meant to stay towards the front to avoid crashes and chaos. To start things off right we went to the start line as a team so we could stay together and move to the front quickly. The first sprint, for points and time, was a quick 10km into the race. Manel Lacambra, our director, had warned us leading into the sprint the course would be technical.  We entered the town through a tunnel followed by a U-turn then a series of turns before we arrived at the sprint. The field so was strung out!  I had never seen a women's field so long which meant I had found my way too far to the back of the race.  Each town had a mixture of pave and turns to make it a bit more difficult. I learned my lesson quickly and was sure to be towards the front of the field as we approached each town.

Once we made it through the first couple of towns we were on wide flat roads along the coast. A few teams tried to form some breaks but nothing ever stuck. We rolled along towards the finishing town were we would do a two lap 15km circuit that made its way between two towns. The first lap was relatively safe but as we began the second lap the riders became a bit more aggressive. Several crashes happened in the corners as we passed through town. I luckily made it through them all safety. My teammate Shelley got caught up in one but was back in the bunch quickly and safely.

As we approached the last turn, still 3km to the finish, I had my teammate Claudia Haussler, or GC threat, on my wheel she wanted to move up so we did. I found Shelley so I left Claudia with my teammate Jo and moved up with Shelley. After three or four near crashes in the peloton I found my way right on Shelley's wheel at 1k to go. We thought it was a little to far out for me to make a move so we waited. Shelley got through a gap that closed on me so I was pushed back, not able to help for the last push to the line. Shelley freelanced and sprinted to 7th place but it wasn't our day, I know with my help and a little luck Shelley can get on the podium.

The whole race was a great experience and to find my way in the mix at 1k to go was a pretty nice feeling too. I feel like I belong in these races and can't wait for the 7 days ahead.

Lauren Stephens

Thursday, June 20, 2013

NVGP Support

NVGP from the background

Elbowz Racing p/b Boneshaker Project had some success at Tulsa Tough and we then travelled to NVGP for the 5 day stage race. We had a strong team of 6 riders (the max allowed) slated for the race so Heath Blackgrove and I played support role for the team.  Heath would be director/soigneur while I was the mechanic/soigneur and in both cases just did whatever they guys needed to be ready to race.  For the guys to be at their best from the first day to the last, they needed to have nutrition, recovery, maintenance, everything needed to be perfect. Their bikes and bodies had to be ready every day to be at peak performance. Every day seemed like a long day. The races were sometimes the most relaxing part of the day, when you had time to think, to breathe for a minute. Every day was a new challenge, from logistics, to navigation, and last minute adjustments. The 6 hrs you get to sleep are so nice, but that was your only down time! 
The first stage was the 22km Time Trial  and I was thrown into the fire.  We only had so many extra deep wheels so I had to grab wheels off one guy’s bike 30 seconds after their finish and I had approximately 90 seconds to run over and put those wheels in the next riders bike before they took off! Oh and it was pouring rain. I looked like I had jumped in a pool and was exhausted. My head was spinning so much and everything was becoming blurred together. I was really confused when I saw our last starter, Michael Sheehan, riding to the start house as I was packing up to leave! I turned around, swapped his wheels and sent him off.  One of 6 stages down.  
Before every stage all the bikes were washed, bottles rinsed and readied, cooler packed, riders picked up and dropped off. The rain we had a few of the days didn’t help, it just made everything more difficult. In the crits I was in the pit, ready for any crashes or mechanicals while Heath was on the course shouting instructions to the team. During the Road Races, Heath drove the caravan car making the tactical decision while I handled the bottles, food, mechanical assistance, and fed Heath course info and kept track of the situation via radio. I got to change one front flat for Joe Schmaltz during the road race and helped pushed Logan after his flat. Logan flatted at a bad time as the race was splitting apart and Shimano was close by who changed it for him.  When you are a new race mechanic you want to experience to get out there and perform your job but you also did your job if there aren’t any problems for you to fix. The two flats were just bad luck as there were probably 15 flats that day so I guess we just had our share. The guys had great results and I felt a part of that because they got to relax and recover. Their bike was race ready when they needed it and all they had to do was sit in the chair and drink their recovery drink after each stage.  Heath and I took care of the rest. All in all the reason I wrote this is to say that you should have a lot of respect for the guys that do the dirty work. It’s nowhere near as glamorous but just as important work as the domestique on the road. Bike racing is about body and machine, and when you take care of both, good things will happen.

Mat Stephens

Friday, June 14, 2013

Day 2 Nature Valley Grand Prix

Cannon Falls is a 93 mile road race for the men and women. This is an unusually long road race for the women. The most exciting thing that happened in the race was when the break took a wrong half way through the race. We were making our way through a town with a series of turns as we come up on a right hand turn suddenly the break is heading towards us making a left hand turn on to the same road. The race was neutralized. The officials decide to stop the peloton to re-establish the 40sec gap. I wish I had a picture the riders were scattered across the road with the cars spread out behind. Directors were out of the car bringing food and water to there riders. Girls were taking the opportunity to take care of nature.  And the best part was they stopped us at the bottom of a hill. 

At the last QOH a new break of three was off the front. Claudia attacked up the hill stringing out the whole field up the hill. It all settled down at the top but the break was still up the road. 

The next important section of the race was a gravel road the team plan was full gas on the dirt then see what happens. Amanda went in first wheel with the team lined up behind her. The group was all back together and we were almost to the finishing four two mile circuits. The race was aggressive through the finishing circuits. Claudia got in a break but was caught just before the final lap. About kilometer from the line there was a steep hill. My job was to lead out to the top of that hill. With Claudia sitting second wheel with Shelley on her I made a move to the front just before the turn on to the hill and I sprinted to the top. There were a few more turns to the finish but all down hill until the final 100 meters. Jade Wilcoxson (Optum) took first and Shelley took 2nd. It wasn't our day but tomorrow is a new day at the uptown Crit Friday evening. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

First Day NVGP by Lauren Stephens

The first day of Nature Valley is a double stage. In the morning is a 7.7 mile TT in St. Paul along the river followed by a criterium in downtown St. Paul in the evening. 

The weather was not ideal. It started raining about the time we arrived at the couse andit continued to rain through out the TT. Manel (director) hadna simple plan "full power" pretty straight forward.  Our top rider Claudia Hausler finished 6th 21 seconds behind the leader followed by Selley Olds 25 seconds back. I finished 48 seconds back. 

After the TT we came back to our host family to eat and sleep before the Crit. Our Crit wasat 6:15 we headed out about 4:00 to get stuck in traffic and only get there right at an hour before the race. At first it was a little stressful but then I made the decision there was nothing I could change so just stay calm and get focused. 

As soon as we arrived to the Crit we had our team meeting. The plan was for me to go for the intermediate sprints and set Shelley up for the finish. I got caught up in a crash only 8 minutes in to the race. When I got to the pit Andres (mechanic) was there to check my bike over. With everything being good to go I calmed down relaxed and focused. Quickly the first sprint came around at 18 to go  I finished 3rd. The second sprint was at 8 to go I finished 2nd. Shelley and I had a gap along with a Colivita rider after the sprint. We kept our gap for a lap. Once we got caught it was 7 to go I fell a little far back. My team was at the front. At 1 to go our lead out was in jeopardy with Optum getting organized behind us. 

We finished 3rd with Shelley. She is now only 10 seconds back and will be wearing the most aggressive rider jersey today. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lauren Stephens First Outing With Team TIBCO

Air Force Classic was another successful weekend for Team TIBCO. We had a strong squad of 6, Rushlee Buchanan (Saturday director), Joanne Kiesanowski (Sunday director), Melanie Spath, Sam Schneider, Amanda Miller, and Lauren Stephens. We had 3 different Victories. Saturday Amanda Miller lapped the field and took the leaders jersey. Then Sunday I (Laruen Stephens) went solo late for the victory. Joanne Kiesanowski took 4th both days and won the overall.

The weekend plan was racing 101. We wanted to make the race hard since we had 6 of the 40 girls racing. We were confident in all of our girls. We attacked and countered until we had the move we wanted. It was fun for the plan to be so simple and so successful. The best part of the weekend is that we had 3 different victories!!
Next up Nature Valley.