November 5, 2012

Social media jersey and off season update!

In honor of coming in top ten in The Unofficial, Unsanctioned Women's Social Media Jersey competition, I'm choosing to celebrate with a new blog post! Yay! This contest was organized during the end of season women's races leading up to worlds, and encouraged rider use of social media. Fans generously donated towards a prize fund for the winners and could vote for riders nominated for their social media efforts. Overall, I thought it was a great idea for helping people follow women's racing! A frustrating problem in women's cycling at the moment is that it can be very difficult for fans to even follow the races because there is often times very little media coverage. Read more about the contest here:
Gonna hang this certificate proudly with the maple leaves on my wall

It has been a little while since the last race of the season which was the World championships where I finished 21st. I've been back in University mode since then and using my brain a bit more than my muscles.

The off season has been pretty great so far. I've been out mountain biking a ton on the amazing west coast trails, even got out for some night mountain biking last week with some other crazy fools from Republic bikes in Squamish. It is great training since I never want to be the last rider or dropped for fear of being eaten by a cougar.
The torrential west coast rain season has officially begun as well. I try to see training in the rain as a chance to improve bike skills and to work on my mental toughness. Really the hardest part is just getting yourself out the door, it's not so bad once you're out there. And the rain does make you really appreciate that token sunny day;).

Thanks to everyone who donated and voted in the social media contest! You are amazing for supporting women's cycling. I will try to live up to my prize and publish some more blogs. Happy trails!
A token sunny day!

September 17, 2012

The Kermesse, a classic Belgium experience

There is a classic experience that all cyclists must have if they race in Belgium, the Kermesse. A Kermesse is a local race usually hosted by the town bar and held over a short circuit. I've been told that the length of a lap is closely correlated to the amount of time it takes to drink a beer... These races are a pretty good deal to enter, 10 euros gets you an entry, and you get 5 euros back for a returned number!

Today Lex, Karol Ann and I drove about 30 km to get a final day of racing in our legs before the World Champs next weekend. A Kermesse is the perfect opportunity to get in some hard training and time to test out tactics in a low pressure environment.

The race followed a 5 km narrow winding loop, with a big wide road leading to the finish line. Lex was away in a small break early on, but it came back. There were sprints for primes every 2 laps of the 16 total laps. I rode near the front and took an opportunity to jump across to a solo rider who attacked on the 4th lap. We quickly gained a decent gap on the field, and gained a max 1 minute advantage. Based on the distance still left in the race (65 km), I thought our chances of staying away were slim, but I did want a good workout so drove the break. To my surprise, we still had an advantage coming into the last lap. Lex and Karol Ann had done a great job covering moves in the peloton behind. I felt like I was definitely the stronger rider and felt confident in my sprint coming to the finish. Turns out my breakaway partner was a bit of a sprinter herself, guess it helps to know the competition a little bit.

It is always easy to think of a race in hindsight and consider the things you could have done differently. Maybe I should have attacked earlier on in the lap. Maybe I should have played a few more games coming to the line when she sat on my wheel. It was a very close sprint, but I lost out.

In any case, it was cool to get my first kermesse podium and a great day of training, even if it wasn't the win. I'm feeling strong leading into the World Champs in five days!

Also a Belgian man gave me a link to video footage from the race..

Leah :)

September 13, 2012

2012 World Cycling Championships Team

I am happy to announce that I will be part of the Canadian Team for the 2012 Cycling World Championships held this year in Limburg, The Netherlands! The 122 km Elite Women's road race will be held on September 22rd.

My Canadian teammates include:
Lex Albrecht (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
Joelle Numainville (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies)
Veronique Labonte (CSM Epinay sur Seine)
Karol-Anne Canuel (Vienne-Futuroscope)

Rhae Shaw (Exergy) and Joelle will contest the 24.3 km time trial on September 18th.

And also congrats to fellow Winnipegger Chris Prendergast who will contest the junior men's road race on September 23rd!

We are all currently training at the Canadian base in Tielt-Winge Belgium and will be training in both Belgium and at the Worlds course for the next week.

For more event info, check out the Worlds website:
And here is a full list of all categories:

Leah :)

September 11, 2012

La Belle Vie en Ardeche

This past week I got to explore the beautiful south-central region of France called Ardeche for the Tour cycliste Feminin de l'Ardeche. No better way to see the countryside than by racing through it! The race included a prologue and six stages, making it my longest stage race this year.
Our small but mighty team!

The trip got off to an eventful start when we managed to leave my road bike in Belgium (always double check your equipment!). Thankfully team USA came to the rescue and I borrowed my teammate Janel's Orbea for the week. Besides this slight setback, it was a very successful race for Team Canada. I took home the white jersey for best young rider and 9th in GC, and Joelle got a stage win, two 2nd places and the green combined jersey!

Highlights for the week include:

Staying at a 4-star campsite near les fameuse Gorges de l'Ardeche. There are towering limestone canyon walls that follow the river, a popular destination for tourists. Apparently 4-star campsites include trailers and a full water park, pretty cool, I would go back for a vacation! 

Making the break of 15 on stage 1 and gaining 12 minutes on GC.  Definitely the most important move in the week of racing for anyone hoping to contest the final gc.

Finishing with the lead group to help Joelle win the stage 3 Queen stage. I fought hard to survive the 6300 ft of climbing … mean to make the road point up right off the start line!

A major stage 6 comeback after missing an important split on stage 5 and losing time. I made the select climbing group of 11 and successfully defended the young rider jersey with a 10 minute lead.

Emma Pooley was seriously impressive all week, escaping to two solo stage wins and taking the overall. You know you’re in trouble when she goes on the attack.. does she feel pain?

Overall my first race in France was an excellent experience. It was by far the most climbing I have ever done in one race. Not going to lie, there were many times I looked at the race profiles and doubted my abilities, but then remembered everyone else was also tired. Best to tackle long races one day at a time.

Only thing the race could work on for next year is better rider safety. There was a lot of oncoming traffic to avoid on supposedly closed roads, just a small suggestion. 

If you're interested in more details of how the race played out, check out this great write up:

Here are a few photos from the week: 

what 4 star camping looks like!

water park!
Team Canada: Vero L., Joelle, myself and Lex credit: Denise Kelly

Les Gorges de l'Ardeche

Start line for Stage 6 photo credit: Denise Kelly

Merci Ardeche, c’etais difficile mais formidable, à bientôt!

photo credit: Lex Albrecht

September 1, 2012

Breathing thin air in Aspen

Just landed in Brussels a few days ago and finally got back to blogging on the plane. Planes are probably one of the most efficient places to get stuff done, forced to sit in a confined place with no other distractions.

Last week was my final race of the season with Optum p/b KBS, the Blue Ribbon Alpine Challenge.

The team arrived in Denver a few days early to get used to the altitude and attend some sponsor events. Denver is exactly 1 mile above sea level and Aspen is at 8000 ft! Altitude does funny things to your body since oxygen is in short supply. It is slightly depressing to do a 30 second interval and be breathless for 10 minutes. Apparently it takes two weeks to start to truly acclimatize to altitude.

We had a good ride with folks from the Acura dealership and had a great visit with families staying at the Ronald McDonald house where families can stay for free near the hospital while their children receive medical attention. The foundation is doing really wonderful things. I hope we could provide a little entertainment and distraction in their day.
Ronald McD visit
Next stop was Aspen, the town I had heard so much about but never seen. Aspen lived up to all expectations. Our host house was none other than the Estee Lauder house! Absolutely incredible. Got to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous for a few days.

Not a bad set up (note rock climbing chimney, greatest idea ever!)

Annie and I enjoying the most delicious fish tacos ever.

My gorgeous bed, where to sleep with so many pillows?

We did eventually get around to racing on Wednesday. The women’s crit was held at the finish line of the men’s US Pro Challenge finish line. This helped draw out huge crowds for the event!

The roster for Aspen was Annie, Jade, Courtney, Carmen and myself. The race was ON from the very start. We averaged 42 km/h for an hour, racing on the 4-corner course with a slight downhill finish. There was a sprint competition within the race with 3 intermediate sprints and points at the finish. There was also a best young rider prize for the highest placed U25 rider. Our team goal was to go for the points competition and the win, and most importantly to showcase women’s cycling! We wanted an exciting race to catch people’s attention.

There were non-stop breaks and splits in the race, but nothing stayed away. The team did a great job helping Jade with the intermediate sprints and responding and initiating moves. The plan was to have Jade and Carmen lead me out for the final sprint. Our plans were slightly foiled by a late attack by Alison Power (NOW). Jade quickly jumped on her wheel. You can’t let Powers get too much room, her downhill skier background has transferred to some wicked fast cornering on the bike. The two held a small gap and Jade outsprinted Powers to the line! I took the sprint for third with Carmen in 4th. Jade won the overall and points competition, I won the Young Riders competition and we had three in the top 4, not too bad for a day of racing!
Powers, Jade and myself
Best young rider jersey
Huge thanks to all the sponsors that made the event possible: Blue Ribbon Restaurants, Primal, T Edwards wine, Bumsies, Ajax Tavern, the Little Nell, Limelight hotel, Aspen Snowmass, The Cosmopolitan, and Jason Dewey photography- you all rock! And most of all Jessica Philips for doing a great job as organizer. Hopefully the event will continue to grow in the future, there is so much potential to run women's events parallel to men's events. 

Next on my schedule is the Tour Cycliste Féminin de l’Ardèche in France from September 3-8th, and if that goes well then the World Championships road race on September 22nd. Stay tuned for updates!
(Also make sure to check out my teammate Lex Albrecht's blog for very current updates from Europe:


August 13, 2012

August in Asheville

I'm currently hanging out in Asheville, NC getting in some amazing training rides with teammates. Pretty sure I've covered more elevation in the week than I've seen in a month in Winnipeg, but the wind is the prairie hill equivalent, right?

Asheville is a really cool hippy town with tons of great riding. There is a huge statewide system of paved highways, the Blue ridge parkway offers some especially amazing views.

Courtney, myself and Emma at the top of Mt.Mitchell
To bring you up to date, The Tour of Elk Grove went quite well for the team last weekend and was once again an epic battle to the very end!
Kinda cool to get #1 as defending champ
The prologue started out well with Jade the highest Optum rider in 3rd, and I  pulled off a repeat performance to last year with a 7th place finish. We had our work cut out for us since NOW and Novartis riders were crowding the front of results.

Stage 2 featured a 60 minute twisty criterium. The team did a great job helping set up Jade to take time bonuses. There were two sprints for points, and the overall points winner got 3 seconds, 2nd=2 seconds, 3rd= 1 second. The original plan was to set me up for the final sprint where I might have a better shot against the sprinters and could help take time bonuses away (10, 6, 4 seconds). In a moment of disorganization in another team's lead out, Jade attacked into the final two corners and gained a sizable gap! I went to go with her, but quickly realized this was a great opportunity. I sat near the front ready to go if she was brought back. Jade pulled off an absolutely amazing finish and held her gap all the way to the line!  The finish time bonus and intermediate sprints put her only 1 second off of Alison Power's in GC. The men also won their stage after a huge thunderstorm passed through the area, overall a great day for Optum.

We all knew Stage 3 was going to be intense with only 1 second separating the gc. We had to ride fully committed as a team to have any chance for the overall. Stage 3 was a circuit race that featured the 3 u-turns of the prologue, along with an extra twisty section thrown in for good measure to make a 10 km course. There were two sprints for points/time at the end of the 1st and 2nd laps, then bonus seconds at the finish. The team once again rode strong to keep the race together and lead Jade into the bonus laps. Jade won both the sprints, but Powers placed second, exactly tying them on time. Powers would win if we didn't get any more time at the finish. The finish was quite chaotic. One of our riders unfortunately turn one turn too soon on the final lap which did cause a crash in the field. Mistakes do happen in racing, and are even more likely when riding completely maxed out. I managed to find Jade and gave her a final lead out up the finish straight where she once again powered to a stage win, also claiming the overall race victory! A fantastic reward for the team's commitment and effort during the weekend.
Jade in Yellow!

I'm off to Aspen for a crit on the 22nd. Should be exciting as it will be held at the finish of one of the men's US Pro Challenge stages. Unfortunately the full women's stage race had to be shortened to just a criterium due to lack of sponsorship, but it should still be a great event. Anyone know any potential sponsors for next year's event?


August 3, 2012

Back racing and loving it

Hey guess what, I'm back racing! Last weekend was my first race back with the team since breaking my collarbone 6 weeks ago at Nature Valley. It is so great to be back with teammates and getting some racing into my legs. My teammate Jade pulled off an impressive 2nd place in Grand Rapids, and we dominated the smaller Sammy's St.Charles Prairie state crit the next day. Jade lapped the field, Lex beat out her breakaway partner, and I won the field sprint for 4th with a lead out from our director Rachel and Jade. Pretty fun times. Jade and Lex also won a corn cob along with their podium flowers, there are a lot of corn fields in the Illinois area.

We took a day off in between racing to enjoy Chicago! Highlights include:

an architectural boat tour right through downtown Chicago,

 A visit to the Cloud gate sculpture,

Eating deep dish Chicago pizza,

Watching a Cubs game,

And a drive through the Batman tunnel! 
google images

Overall, quite a wonderful day spent with teammates!


I'm now at the Tour of Elk Grove. Racing starts today with a prologue, a crit on Saturday and circuit race on Sunday. I have my work cut out for me as last years defending champion where it came down to an exhilarating finish (recap here). Optum is looking to defend the title, so the other teams better watch out!

July 16, 2012

Help support World Bicycle Relief!

In case you have not yet heard, Optum p/b KBS is partnered with a great non-profit organization called World Bicycle Relief this season!

World Bicycle Relief provides bicycles to people around the world with the idea that increased mobility leads to increased access to healthcare, education, and economic development opportunities. Bicycles improve productivity by cutting down on transit time, and they also increase one’s carrying capacity.

World Bicycle Relief was founded by SRAM in 2005 after the catastrophic Indian Ocean Tsunami. Partnering with aid organizations, they distributed 24 000 bikes in Sri Lanka to help people rebuild their lives. Following this success, they went on to distribute 23 000 bikes to healthcare workers in Zambia, a country where 40% of the population is impacted by HIV/AIDS, in order for them to treat patients more easily.

The program has expanded to include work in microfinance, education, social enterprise and field mechanic training programs across Africa. A lot of structure has been put into place to help ensure the success of the program, with a large focus on collaborating with local communities. An example is their mechanic training program. To ensure bikes stay usable, spare parts are provided and locals trained to be mechanics!

My teammates have been doing a great job organizing fund-raising events this year. If you are in Bend, Oregon for the Cascade Classic be sure to check out the upcoming silent auction fundraiser on July 22nd!

I will not be in Bend, but the women of Winnipeg should come out to the Velodonnas 'Ride with a Pro' WBR fundraiser ride. Ride will be at 7 pm, Monday July 23rd, meet at King's Park. Ride will be fun and casual, just bring a small donation.

If you can't make it out to either of these events but would still like to support a great cause, donations are still welcome and appreciated

You have probably experienced the feeling of freedom and endless possibilities a bicycle provides; please consider giving this opportunity to another person. Bicycles can be very powerful tools for change!


July 7, 2012

"When it rains it pours"

"When it rains, it pours.." At least that’s what a lot of people have been telling me lately. Between a broken collarbone, disappointment with olympic selections and the passing of my Grandma, I think it is a fairly accurate statement.

It all began at Nature Valley a few weeks ago, my hopes of a stage win quickly came to a end at the Uptown crit. Another rider rode me into the barriers with 4 laps to go. My bars hooked the barriers, which led to a spectacular crash where my bike was thrown over the speeding peloton and landed quite far away. I had hardly any road rash to show for it, but ended up with a very sore shoulder. The medic assured me that nothing was broken and I did not need x-rays. Extremely relieved, I went on my merry way.

Despite being quite sore, I still raced the next day’s Menomonie stage. I resented every single pothole and climb, but survived the 122 km stage and finished with the front group. Decided that sprinting was not a good idea since I could only really ride the tops.

The next day was the infamous Stillwater criterium, featuring laps of a brutal 22 % climb. My shoulder and back just felt worse. I couldn’t do my own hair and could hardly ride the trainer to warm up. Not knowing how I would possibly be any help to defend the team's yellow jersey, I broke down before the race and called it, better to rest for nationals. I cheered on my team as they successfully defended the yellow jersey for Carmen and took team GC! Spirits were high as the Optum men's team also won yellow and team GC!

I became more seriously concerned about my injuries after travelling all the way to Lac Megantic, QC for nationals. Twelve hours later of waiting in emergency, I found out that my collarbone was indeed broken. I contemplated the advantages of private healthcare during this wait time.

It was also around this time that I was surprised and disappointed with being named the Olympic alternate (decision was made pre-injury). I am happy for my Canadian teammates who made the team, but I really thought that  my racing performance this year could merit me a spot. It is disappointing when proven performance and evidence of being a good teammate are not enough in a discretionary selection. 

All of this other stuff became insignificant when I learned of the death of my Grandma back home in Winnipeg. She has been such an influential figure in my life that I would call her my idol.

I admired and adored every single thing about her. Something I admired most was how she could be so strong in the face of adversity. After winning her first battle with breast cancer, she joined the Chemo savvy dragon boat team and would defiantly dye her hair hot pink every year! Even during this second battle with a new form of cancer, she remained resilient and optimistic. Never once did she complain and just continued to put the needs of others first. Nothing could stop her from living life to the fullest!

I am sad that my Grandma is gone and will miss her, but I am so grateful to have had such a wonderful role model in my life. She taught me to be strong, optimistic, kind, grateful, resilient, to follow my passions, stand up for my beliefs, and to find joy in the smallest things in life. 

I can use her lessons now to be optimistic in dealing with these small setbacks. Yes I am frustrated and disappointed with a few things at the moment, but I am still young and have lots of other opportunities to look forward to. It is important to keep things in perspective in both sport and life. Small set backs can give you the motivation needed to achieve great things in the future!

June 7, 2012

Philly, Walls & Olympic excitement

Another weekend, another race. I can hardly keep up with my own schedule! This past weekend was the Liberty Classic in Philadelphia. The Liberty classic is a very famous one-day UCI sanctioned race that has been running now for 19 years. An interesting fact is that an American had never won the race since it began... and that tradition continues. The course follows a circuit right through central Philadelphia and makes its way up the famed Manayunk Wall. The picture I had in my mind after speaking with many cyclists was that this was one heck of a climb. Maxing out at 17%, this climb would make your legs scream for mercy.
This google image gives you a good perspective, I would also like to point out that it continues once you turn left.

My legs did scream for mercy each of the four times up this climb in the race, but I was still relieved it wasn't the literal wall pictured in my mind. It is also amazing what thousands of screaming fans can do for motivation!

Even with this slight obstacle on course to make it hard and whittle down the race, most big teams had their sprinters and wanted to keep the race together for a bunch sprint. We set up a nearly successful lead out coming into the finish. A slight error led to 4th place for me and 5th for Joelle. Close but not quite. Ina was the victor in the end, still no American winner for this American event.

In other exciting news, Cycling Canada recently released the road Olympic selection pool and I'm in it! Canada has three spots for the Olympics, and the final team will be announced in the next couple of weeks...fingers crossed! To see the full press release follow this link:

photo credit: Jonathan Devich

This weekend I will return to race as defending champ for the Airforce Cycling Classic in Arlington, Virginia! I'm super excited to meet up with team-mates again and to race some crits.


June 2, 2012

Exergy Tour

The Optum p/b KBS team recently wrapped up racing at the very first Exergy Tour in Boise, Idaho. There used to be a very big race in Idaho called the ‘Women’s Challenge’ that ran from 1984-2002. The inaugural Exergy Tour sought to bring women's racing back to the area and did a darn good job!  It was the most professional event I have ever attended; we were treated like superstars for the whole week! Here is a brief summary of the week:


Super fast 2-mile course through downtown Boise. Pulled off a decent time for 20th, Jade was the top finisher in 8th. Canadians ruled the day taking the top 3 positions (it helps to have our track pursuit team racing)!  Race favourite Kristin Armstrong hit the ground and broke her collarbone. Fortunately it sounds like she will be back training in no time.
Oh Canada! photo credit: veloimages

Stage 1. Nampa

Wet roads greeted us for the start of the 123 km road race which featured two times up a short but steep climb. I got away with a group of nine after the first climb and we gained a decent gap. However there were teams who were not too happy with the combo and brought it back. It was a bunch sprint coming into the finish. Lex and Jade threw down some impressive last minute flyers, and Carmen kept me up front in a good position coming into town. The finish was technical and I messed up position a bit to come 4th, a good result but still a hard place to come. The stage win went to Theresa Cliff-Ryan (Exergy) after a very impressive sprint! There was a bad crash with 1 km to go that took down many riders, including Bronzini, reigning World Champ. The team was hungry for a stage win after a very close result.
Idaho is quite beautiful! photo credit: veloimages

Stage 2. Time Trial, Kuna

It was another wet and rainy day for the rolling time trial. Couldn’t really feel my body and cornered like a child, but still pulled off a decent time for 23rd. I'll complain about racing in the rain, but I really don't mind it that much! Amber Neben took the stage win with an impressive ride. Had the most delicious Mexican hot chocolate at the finish that made my day quite happy :). 
photo credit: veloimages My teammates Denise and Joelle passing each other in the rain, good timing!

Stage 3. The Queen's Stage. Crouch to Idaho City

This 93 km course featured an intimidating elevation profile on paper, the stage would include 4500 ft of climbing. Our team attacked like crazy right from the start, but couldn’t get a break going for long. A small break with Janel did end up gaining some time on the climb, but it all came back together descending into the finish. We had our best lead out of the week on this stage. Jade set pace at 3 km out, then Clara from Lululemon took over. Janel absolutely drilled the pace at 1 km to go with Carmen and I behind her. Carmen then led through the final corner with 300 m to go. It was an exhilarating drag race between myself and Ina Teutenberg from Lululemon. I ended up second on the stage, but still excited by our great team effort, and a close finish to the fastest sprinter in the world!

photo credit: veloimages

 Stage 4. Boise

The final stage held on Memorial day was short and hilly (75 km). The race started with some excitement as they had coordinated a jet fly over at the start line! Thousands of people came out to downtown Boise to cheer us on, and fans were dressed up as super heroes, devils and christmas trees out on the course! The shorter stage forced aggressive riding right from the gun. My team suffered a devastating loss about 100 m into the race when a crash took out Courtney and Janel, two of our top climbers. A break got away on the first QOM at 7 km into the race. With Optum not represented, we worked hard to bring it back and get super climber Carmen into a good break. The race shattered as we hit the relentless climbs. Carmen fortunately made the final selection, and Jade and I rode in with the second group. Claudia Hausler (Greenedge) took the win, riding in with Evelyn Stevens (Lulu), overall race winner. Carmen pulled off an impressive 4th place finish and ranked 3rd in the Mountains classification. 
photo credit: veloimages

This last stage really blew apart the field. There were only 34 final race finishers from the initial 103 starters at the beginning of the week! I finished 23rd overall, and ranked 2nd in sprint points classification. 

The whole event ended in true Western fashion with a rodeo, complete with real rodeo competitions, a mechanical bull and chuck wagon food. To top it off we all got sweet belt buckles as a gift from the race!

Check out Tour Tracker site for recaps and commentary from all the stages. Definitely worth checking out if you missed it live! Hope to see more awesome coverage like this for future events.

I'll be racing the Liberty Classic in Philadelphia with the team tomorrow. It is my first time at this race, so I'm quite excited/nervous to experience racing up the famous Manayunk Wall!


May 24, 2012

Gatineau 2012: A Weekend of very Fast Females

I'm writing this post from Boise, Idaho, site of the Exergy Tour happening this week! Monday I raced for 3.5 hours at the GP Gatineau, then proceeded to sprint to the airport, take 3 planes, avoid one broken plane, and cross two time zones to end up in Idaho. Talk about a long day. Here is a recap of last weekend's inaugural Fast and Female event and the GP Gatineau road race.
photo credit: Fast and Female

Saturday was the very first Fast and Female road cycling event! Just a recap for those who may not know what Fast and Female is, it is a non- profit organization with a goal of female empowerment through sport. It was originally founded by Olympic gold medal xc-ski winner Chandra Crawford in an effort to inspire girls to stay in sport. The organization has since begun to expand to include other sports as well. It was during a fall training ride with fellow Canadian, Leah Guloein, that Fast and Female came up in a conversation. We were trying to come up with ways to get more girls into cycling, and we both agreed that it would be cool to try and host a road cycling event to get girls excited about the sport. And what better venue for the event than the Grand Prix Cycliste Gatineau, Canada's biggest women's UCI cycling weekend featuring world reknown cyclists?! The organization was soon on board and took charge of logistics, while Leah and I recruited some more ambassadors and prepared some activities.
photo credit: Fast and Female

Twenty-seven amazing young cyclists between 9-19 came out for the first event! We began the day split into four groups. Each group came up with a team name, named strengths that everybody brought to the group, and got to go crazy with the face glitter!

After a great pep talk from National Team coach, Denise Kelly, all of the ambassadors were introduced then it was off for a ride. It was a perfect sunny and hot day for riding. There was a mix of mtb and road bikes in my group of 10/11 year olds. We regrouped often and talked about important riding skills and tactics to focus on. We also hit up a good climb in Gatineau park and I was super impressed by how strong the girls were at climbing!

We returned for a quick healthy snack and inspirational speech from my Optum p/b KBS team-mate Joelle. Joelle did a great job talking about perseverance, balance and achieving your goals. It was really a great speech and the girls had many questions. Denise then followed up by talking about the previous day's time trial (won by Canadian Clara Hughes!) and the impressive competition she was up against.
Zumba time     Photo credit: Fast and Female 

Next up was Zumba time! I have never done Zumba in my life and have to say it was an interesting experience. Learned some sweet new dance moves and worked up a sweat laughing.

Overall I would say the event was a success! Some of the girls came out to cheer the next day which was really cool!  Check out to find out about upcoming events.

Racing time:
The next day my team raced in the GP Gatineau, a UCI 1.1 ranked road race. It was an important event since the Olympic qualification period ends at the end of this month, and countries are still busy seeking out UCI points to qualify more spots.

The race began with an early breakaway for Tara Whitten (Tibco), a multiple world champion track cyclist (and one to watch in the next Olympics!). The race was 132 km long (13 laps) and it was a very hot day for racing, so the peloton allowed her a gap up to 1:45 before chasing. The race really started to light up after the initial laps. There were constant attacks and breakaways, but nothing would stick for very long. Our team did a great job being well represented in these moves which was great. A late break in the race looked promising, Optum had Lex and Denise up there, and Joelle decided to make a big effort to bridge across to it. Unfortunately this move also did not succeed and it looked like the race would be a bunch sprint again. A round a bout 300 metres from the end meant it would be a technical finish. There have been crashes there every year, so I think everyone was hoping for a break for a safer finish.
3 Canadians in one break! Just wish everyone would work..

The finish plan was for Carmen and I to lead out Joelle for the sprint. With 2 km to go everything was looking good. Carmen had Joelle on her wheel and sat top 10, then one rider sat between myself and Joelle.  However I did not expect that rider to suddenly be suddenly hitting the pavement when we turned off the final off ramp section of the course. Crashes suck. By some miracle I pulled out some impressive bike skills and came to screeching stop before t-boning anybody. I saw an Optum rider hit the ground in the whole ordeal. What a mess. I hopped off and back onto my bike then rode hard to find that the crash had gaped the front riders from the rest of the group. I took the sprint for 12th place and went off to find my teammates. Turns out that Carmen did a beautiful job at the finish, completely overtaking the Lululemon lead out right before the final round-a-bout. Joelle sprinted for a 4th place and Carmen was 5th. Not the podium we were hoping for, but still pretty darn good! The race was won by sprint machine Ina Teutenberg from Lululemon. Unfortunately that final crash left poor Annie concussed, we are all wishing her a quick recovery.

As I mentioned, the team is now in Idaho for the Exergy Tour. Check out the Exergy Tour Tracker app to follow the racing: . They are going to be live streaming all of our races. I'm so impressed by the event already, they are treating us like rock stars!

Leah :)

May 20, 2012

Home Sweet Home

This year has already included a lot of travel all over the US, South America and Europe. A break in the racing finally allowed for a visit home to Winnipeg! So nice to reconnect with friends and family and sleep in my own bed for a little while. Some highlights included:

  • Banana bread experimentation time. Coconut, peanut butter and cocoa powder make excellent additions. My first attempt suffered slight structural issues though..

  • Racing locally! The Seven Sisters Falls race coincided with being home. Racing with the guys was good entertainment. Thought I was back in Holland a few times. Same extreme flatness and relentless wind, but with much wider roads (fun fact, there is a Holland, MB, they even have a wind mill. Ironically it is one of the few places WITH elevation in the province). 

  • Training with the provincial team program kids. It is crazy to return and see how much the program has grown in the past few years. There were probably five of us back when I was training in Winnipeg, now there are 35 kids in the program, and they are fast!

  • It has also become tradition that the Manitoba Sports Centre puts me through a series of "torture" tests every time I come home for a visit. Fun times being poked and prodded, forced to ride exhaustion with a mask on my face and repeatedly stabbed in the finger. At least it is motivating to break records and see improvements:). I’ll forgive them for this pain because I am extremely grateful for all their support and services! The Sports Centre has been instrumental in helping to bring my performance to the next level these past couple of years.
All set for testing
I even got a few days off for a cabin adventure! 

Cyclists take note, tree climbing is an excellent arm workout
I tried to teach MJ to fetch, but she really just wants to look pretty and get pats
The spring flowers were out in full force! 

I’m now in Ottawa for the GP Gatineau UCI race tomorrow. Afterwards it’s a bit of an epic adventure around the US as demonstrated by this travel schedule between now and the end of June:

GP Gatineau, Gatineau; Exergy Tour, Boise, Idahot; Liberty Classic, Philadelphia ;Airforce Classic, Arlington, Virginia > Nature Valley Grand Prix, Minneapolis, MN; Nationals, Lac Megantic, Quebec; Home.

If any readers are from these places, come out to cheer on the team and say hi!
 I will also add some photos here once I find a better internet connection.


April 26, 2012

Part 2: Rain, wind, and cobbles, just another weekend in Europe

As promised, here is Part 2 of last weekend's racing excitement, Part 1 can be found here.

Racing was not done for the weekend, even after Saturday's adventure. We drove straight back to Belgium after the race and prepared for the next event, GP Stad Roeselare. This race was completely different from Omloop van Borsele, mainly the course profile showed some elevation change! There were nine climbs on the course profile, including the famous Kemmelberg cobbled climb. It averages 11% and pitches to 20%, making for a very steep ascent. With girls swerving left and right, you really want to stay upright and on your bike because running is not much fun.
photo credit: Kris Claeye      The Kemmelberg

I awoke Sunday morning to the blazing sun in my eyes. My first reaction was to be annoyed, but wait, sun- not rain- sun!
The sun does shine in Belgium (occasionally)
However I was once again fooled by the weather. Race start times in Europe are quite relaxed for the most part. It is highly unusual to start a stage before noon, and even that is pretty early. Of course the clouds started rolling in as we showed up to the start. Sheets of relentless rain soon followed. I just sat in the van suffering horrible flashbacks of yesterday’s experience, and piecing together how to render myself completely rain and wind proof. Thankfully the rain let up before the start. But having learned a lesson yesterday, still insisted on racing with my leg warmers, long gloves and a rain jacket for good measure.
photo credit: Kris Claeye Warm in all my clothing on the far left

I was pretty toasty after about 10 minutes of racing and covering early attacks. The rest of the peloton must have felt the same way because everyone was quickly pealing off layers. An Australian was allowed to ride off the front, and the pack assumed a steady pace, the race would happen on the climbs starting 30 km in. This first part was very dangerous in the pack since the roads were slick from rain. I experienced this first hand when I slid out first wheel through a corner. There are many things I am thankful for concerning this crash #1. Nobody ran into me #2. My extra rain layers and slick road minimized any road rash #3. Didn’t even have to chase back on since I crashed at the front and the pack was 200 riders deep. Fortunately I was back on the bike in no time, and really more embarrassed than anything.
Photo credit: Kris Claeye On the Kemmelberg

Back on my bike and in the peloton, it was time again to focus. Needed to make it to the front before the climbs. A crash right before the climbs at a round about sent me chasing again, making it to the main bunch right before the Kemmelberg appeared. I felt strong climbing and weaved through riders swerving left and right. Fans lined up on the climb gave helpful pushes to those who had veered off course. Cresting the top of the climb, I found that I was with a small group of riders just off of the front selection. Since Joelle had made the first group, Denise and I were happy to let others work to bridge the gap. It took a little while, but we did finally reconnect with the front group. I was just getting comfortable and into a rhythm, when suddenly either the girl in front of me braked too hard, or I braked too late approaching a corner. Either way, I suddenly turned into a ping-pong ball, bouncing off riders left and right, and finally flew head first into a mud and water filled Belgian ditch, how lovely!

I was very thrown off by this crash. Two crashes in one day? I hadn’t even crashed yet this season. I guess everyone has off days.

I pulled myself and my bike out of the ditch to assess the damage. My brake lever was definitely pointing 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Hmm it appeared quite broken. Neutral rolled up and checked it out, somehow they managed to put it in its initial place. I was convinced it was broken and would need a new bike. They told me to keep riding and the car would eventually come, then off they sped leaving me in the middle of a field. 

The unfortunate part about hilly races and racing on small roads, is that the caravan can end up really far back when the race splits up. They barrage the cars so that dropped riders cannot draft the cars to get back on. I started riding alone and pretty frustrated. However, upon testing my shifter, I discovered that it still worked! It wasn’t the easiest thing to operate with a broken shifter, but it would have to do..brakes only slow you down anyways.

I was soon caught by the second large group. I was frustrated riding with this group, thinking that the race was up the road and I really couldn’t be much help to the team in this position. In an unusual turn of events, my group actually caught back onto to the first group, looked like I could actually be of some help! Upon joining this group, I was informed that a group of three riders were now up the road with a very large lead, they would stay away until the end. Annemiek van Vleuten was the champion of the day.
photo credit: Kris Claeye Bunch sprint for 4th, won by Bronzini
The race finished with three very technical circuits winding through a city. Rhae and Denise did a good job  covering and attacking through the circuits. I started to feel the effects of crashing twice, and didn’t feel too confident operating my broken brake lever through the tight corners. I was determined to make it up to the front by the end to help Joelle with the sprint for 4th. It was a bit chaotic navigating the final kilometers. No teams had a solid lead out set up, so all the sprinters jockeyed for position. I ended up on the front with 2 km to go, but was overtaken out of the corner. In the mess I lost Joelle and hoped she found a good wheel. A final corner took us to 300 m to go on a slight uphill drag. I finished 8th in the bunch, for 12th overall. Still have much to learn, but feel more comfortable fighting for position coming into those big bunch sprints.

Next stop is Luxembourg this weekend for the Festival Luxembourgeois du cyclism feminin Elsy Jacobs, a three day stage race (prologue + 2 road races). I love Luxembourg so it should be a good time!