Monday, October 27, 2008

Robbie giving the Queen Ann some love

Jergen and Stefan prepping the bikes

The CZE smog 

They are rubber boots. But they look like converse! How cool is that?

Tabor, CZE World Cup #2

I have never been to Czech Republic so I was pretty excited to race in a new country. It was a long haul but traveling with the Swift crew in their sweet pink camper van makes travel a hell of a lot smoother. Our crew was Stefan Wyman (Helen’s husband and the Swift team manager), Robbie the mechanic and Jergen the soigneur. Luckily Helen and Gabby were willing to share their mens. On the way down I watched the 2006 Tabor race to get an idea of the course. Grass. Fast. Not much else to report. When we got there Sat afternoon (after everyone playing a viscious game of scrabble in the back got brutal headaches once we hit the twisty turny roads of CZE) it hadn’t changed much. Grass. Fast. And long. There were 3 big metal up and over bridges and 2 sets of stairs scattered on the hilly course.

We went to find our Hotel but the signs looked more like a strip club than the official UCI accommodation. Hmmm. The smog (pollution filled fog) was rolling in when Stefan returned from the manager meeting with news and numbers. They were doing call up by UCI ranking so my “world number one” status was getting me on the line first. I figured if there was ever going to be a time when I would be a “random” choice for doping controls it would be now. Did I mention I was world number one?

The vampires came for me the morning of the race. But they were pretty nice vampires. I was a little disturbed when they went to take blood from me and they didn’t have gloves. What is the deal? Can the UCI not afford gloves to work with the blood and piss required to test athletes. The blood was for a quick hematocrit test that they would do at the race venue. If it was “abnormal” I wouldn’t be allowed to start. 

So as world number one I was part of the front row club. I am not going to lie. It’s a lot different up there. It really IS that much better. I had a great start without burning too many matches even after sustaining a massive blow from 66kg of pure German muscle going into the first corner. I may only have 60kg to hold my ground but I was a solid kid nicknamed “The Wall” in soccer. You are going to have to do better than that. I settled in behind Hanka and Daphny. I know we had just started but it wasn’t even that fast up here. This is what the front row club is all about. I wanted a permanent membership. I was sitting 3rd wheel for most of the first two laps. Nice and comfortable. Everything was great until I slipped a pedal and tried to make up the time on a fast steep bumpy downhill. I went in so hot I blew out the corner and shot UNDER the course snow fencing. Rung my bell. Stunned I crawled back underneath, almost got gunned down by the chase group and jumped on my bike. But my chain was off so I had to get off and manually do it. More riders whizzed passed me. Possible podium to 15th. arrrrrg. Dammit! I was starting to despair at the distance to the next group when Helen bridged up and stomped on the gas up the long hill. Her “come on, Wendy!” was all I needed to focus again. I rested up behind her for a bit and then took the lead at the start/finish. No more front row club. I was back to working my ass off. All alone. It took me 2 laps of suffering but I tagged onto the end of the first chase group. But the effort had taken its toll. I was dangling dangerously. I was wiped. I rested up a bit and then Robbie and the boys were yelling at me to move up so I struggled up to 3rd wheel. It was not pretty. Then we caught Daphny. I knew I should keep moving forward but I didn’t have the juice and stayed put to end up 7th overall. Bittersweet…

My doping control chaperone had to wait a few minutes for me to be able to talk. Long enough to hear that poor Gabby Day was running the last half lap. I was a “random.” Again. I started drinking as soon as I could. When it was my turn I could only eek out 60mL so I was relegated to the wait room until I could bring the cup up to a solid 100mL. Sitting in the wait room with a sample of my own pee. Not cool for conversation. 4L of water, 3 tries and 125mL of amber urine later I was allowed to go.

So my membership to the front row club has likely expired as European champs are next week and with it, points I am not allowed to get. I am surely bumped from World Number One and likely bumped from the front row. But I got a taste and -Wendy like - so I hope to be back soon.

-The mullet is alive and well in the Czech Republic
-The fans are no where near the numbers you see at Belgium races but you can always count on the Czech fans for a real air raid siren and I was not let down
-2010 World Champs is in Tabor but it will likely be a different game played on ice and snow in Jan of that year

Thursday, October 23, 2008

kmag just sent me a great quote:

Talent is nice. Guts are better

- John Munroe

Im getting HUGE-er in Finland

(YAWN) so maybe you have heard the news, I am currently ranked #1 in the WORLD at the moment. I am for SURE going to be even bigger in Finland. When I ride down the street here in Belgium, people yell out "Hey Wendy Simms, world #1!!" (OK it was Helen and Gabby). I figure Canada should really name a stat holiday named after me now. 

2009 UCI Cyclo-Cross Rankings
Women Elite

Last ranking / Women Elite : 20.10.2008
Ranking Winner

Mondial Ranking SIMMS Wendy (CAN)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Tielt Winger crew. photo by some random Belgian in the crowd....

Back in Belgium!
After Nationals I went home for a day, unpacked everything, washed everything and then repacked everything. 40 hour complete turnaround. The Air Canada check in lady was a little frazzled with her deja vu as a few days ago when I checked in she had gotten in trouble for not charging me for the bikes. This time I was traveling with a big double bike case AND a separate bike bag full of FSA wheels (I couldn't leave them at home!) so I thought for sure she would be double dinging me for 2 bike bags. I was ready with the VISA but she must have really hated her job because she waived me through with no excess baggage charges. Apparently someone had been a tattle-tale last time and that was why she had to call me out of the boarding area to pay when I was almost through, scott free. Suzie Suck-up was not there today so free bike travel combined with my business class upgrade and things were looking good. I was traveling so smooth I didn't even mind the overly chatty guy next to me complaining about the shoddy decor and seating in Air Canada planes. Blah blah blah. Yah I get it, you have $$$. Headphones on.

I am staying at the Wymans in Tielt Winge for the month so Stefan picked me up and Helen had dinner waiting for me! More smooth. The house was full of cyclists from around the world as per usual and whose American twang do I hear when I walk in, but Garry and Betty, friends of Barb Howe's that I met last year in Belgium! Small world. There was lots of talk about racing and racers and bikes and everything else but I was fading fast. I crashed hard and slept until almost 10am. Yikes. But a few fuzzy jet lagged days and a leg flush from Jergen and I was ready to go.

We took the pink Swift "camper van" (translation: RV)  to the race. Traveling in STYLE. Checked out the course at Kalmthout and I loved it! FOUR sets of stairs (yes I said FOUR and two were almost on top of one another), a few lollipop 180degree turns and a lot of twisty, turny, swoopy tracks through the woods plus a couple of sand pits. I do love the world cup courses. They is just SO much going on. 

I had a pretty good call up from last years UCI ranking - 9th - so I was on the second row. I needed a good start as the course had some turns coming up pretty quick. Unfortunately the gun went "click" pause "click" so the start was a bit crazy as some bolted at the clicks, some rolled off the line, some laughed and I stupidly paused thinking that they would call a false start. I should know better. This happened to me last year and they never call a false start (unless you are Sven Nys). Go with it. So my start was not great and I went into the dirt in the 20s as I got squeezed out by many in the terrifying corners off the start. The race was strung out immediately so I had to pick people off whenever I could. I soon realized my long legs could do it on the stairs with ease so one by one I picked the minis off. I was moving through nicely but the lead group of 6-7 was gone. So when Maryline Salvetat from France bridged up to me I decided to play smart and get some rest on her wheel. It was a good place to be until a few girls bridged up and on the last lap sharpened their blades, I mean elbows. I had forgotten how pushy and aggressive these gals are. I got slammed into the gates twice by the same chick, squeezed out by another and T-boned (on purpose) by a third, all in about the span of 2mins. I was pissed. I had not worked this hard to get shut out by demolition derby style racing. I passed mini#1 on the stairs and then set my sights on the menace, but by then Salvetat had made a break. I squeezed some anger into my legs and bridged and then passed the menace in a sprint finish for 8th. I was wasted but happy my legs could talk back. But next time  missy, it will be elbows. 

Monday, October 13, 2008

Canadian National Cyclocross Championships & Jim Horner UCI race
Edmonton, Alberta

As we boarded the plane to head to Edmonton for CX Nationals, the Air Canada agents laughed at us and told us to expect snow. They weren't far off on the temperature scale (it was hovering around freezing) but we were lucky to get mostly sun for the weekend. I had raced the Jim Horner event here last year so I had a pretty good idea of the course - a long (3.1km), fast, mostly grassy loop with a few tight corners and a fun bowl section with some ups and downs. Nothing too extreme, but not a lot of rest.

Edmontonian love
As always, the Edmonton hospitality was in full effect the moment we arrived. Dan from the Juventus Cycling Club that hosted the event gave us a guided tour of the course before it was even set up, Don Fox the organizer invited Mike Garrigan and myself to be on Breakfast TV to promote the event as the defending National Champions, and Tom from River Valley Cycles (second biggest Kona dealer in Canada) gave us a guided tour of his shop and helped out our Junior travel buddy Nick Holatko (team BC) whose bike had a catastrophic failure while we were doing a 5 up sprint pre-riding the course. For the record, Nick did get the holeshot on the sprint but a few pedal strokes later his bike exploded and ended up in pieces. Not bad for an 80lb 16 year old kid (should have bought a Kona).

The main event
With Lyne Bessette retired, the question was whether Alison Sydor would start. She hadn't shown up at a single CX race yet this year and she did not seem like the type to "wing it" unprepared so I had my doubts. In the end she was a no show. So there would be a lot of strong cyclists at the race but only a few pure CX addicts. It wasn't a very technical course so I figured if they were smart, a few could work together and pose a problem. Star crossed 2007 ring a bell to any of the gals that ganged up on me? Boooo. But that didn't change my stratgey. I wanted to go off the front from the gun and see who was game. I got a gap on the first lap and it was only young Pepper Harlton (Team Alberta/Juventus) that posed a threat. I had raced her last year and knew she had speed, skill and guts but not a lot of endurance built up yet so I kept my eye on her. Any problems and she would be able to close the gap quickly. She held the ~20 second gap steady for a couple laps but then faded a bit near the end of the race so I got to cruise into the finish and savour my 4th National Championship title. Red and white for another year!

My fourth National Championship title! photo by Joe Sales

Overzealous Officials

Its a bit unfortuante that even though the Juventus Cycling Club put on a great event the talk of the weekend was the overly anal officials enforcing random UCI rules. It was like they had scanned the rules manual (and there a LOT of UCI rules) and cherry picked their favourite obscure ones to enforce. At registration they told everyone that there would be a mandatory bike check 30mins before the start. ?? A bike check, WTF?? Apparently they were going to check and enforce rule

1.3.013 The peak of the saddle shall be a minimum of 5 cm to the rear of a vertical plane passing through the bottom bracket spindle

So 30mins before my race I went to the tent for my bike check. On an uneven grassy field with the wind blowing the plumb line they eyeballed my bike without a ruler. The "expert" said ohhh, uhhhm, yeaahhh, I don't know, this one is pretty close and called in another official expert. Ohhhh, uhhhmmm, yeahhh, I don't know, this one is close, get her on the bike. So I got on my bike against a table and they "measured" from my knee. They made it seem like they were doing me a favour and let it slide but I was supposed to go in the box now 30mins before my race or risk getting checked again. I chose to continue my warm up.

Contrary to UCI rules which state that the podium event should take place right after the race, Norm's awards ceremony for the Masters race was 2+ hours after his finish so he decided to stop the festering in his crotch and change out of his chammy. He went to the podium for his third place in pants and a Frontrunners jersey. As this is against rule

1.2.113 Unless otherwise stated, riders shall appear at official ceremonies wearing competition clothing.

Norm got FINED for wearing inappropriate gear to the podium. And he also got a fine for giving sass to the officials (although I can't find this rule in the UCI handbook....). They didn't actually tell him that he was fined, the posted it on an official communique that he happened to see outside the clubhouse. He was pissed! You can guess he will be protesting that fine. Two can play at that game.

After my award ceremony (in full accordance with rule 1.2.113) I asked an official if I could wear my pre screened KONA National Champion jersey for the UCI race the next day. They said yup no problem. Wait let me check with another official, yup no problem. But I had remembered some random rule reference a few years ago that you couldn't wear any sponsors on the jersey for 24hrs (I can't even find this rule, but i am getting a little dizzy). Since my race was 23hours later I decided to play it safe and wore my orange KONA skinsuit with the plain National Champ jersey over top (sorry Kona).

All bikes were supposed to be checked again for the UCI race on Sunday (you never know I might have slipped in a TT bike in while they weren't looking...) so as they were doing call ups (15mins before the race which is contrary to UCI rules) there was a line up of people waiting for their bike check to pass. I missed my call up. They called up everyone again and I was still in line. When I finally got through I was second last to pick a spot on the start grid. Our brand new National Champion in row 3. Respect. I wasn't the only front row racer to miss their call up so someone in the crowd yelled out "your start grid is all wrong" so a few of the girls moved aside and tried to let me through but the officials got very angry and said we would all be fined if they moved their position. You want to prove a point, I will prove a point. So I held my third row start position for the gun. The gun went off and I blew out all my anger and proceeded to get the holeshot. Bite me.

In the mens race, our new National Champion Geoff Kabush missed his call up and the racers moved aside to let him start on the front row. He was FINED $100 for not respecting the start order.

2008 Canadian National Champions. The commisaires tried to fine Geoff Kabush for wearing a hat on the podium but he reminded them this was not an official UCI podium. Suckers.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Island Racing

So the reason we did a 48 hour turnaround in Vegas was because we had to get back to the Island for some local events that are too good to be missed. The Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race (MOMAR) was up in Cumberland Saturday, after-party Sat night up at Mount Washington and then the Ramble Mountain Bike marathon event was in Parksville Sunday. I was doing the double which ended up being about 10 hours of training and left me almost crippled.

I have been on an adventure racing hiatus for the past couple years but Norm convinced me to partner up with him at 8pm the night before the MOMAR race. With 1 paddle this summer (3 last year), minimal running and zero navigation we would not be back to our winning ways so we decided to go for the spirit award. Norm pulled out his golden box of 80s workout gear (a birthday present from Stefan and Ceri whose mom used to sell fitness gear). And team Frontrunners Fitness was born.

Wendy and Norm stretching Geo style after the MOMAR race. It turns out with 2.5 hours of hilly trail running (~30mins of that because of "misnavigation") we needed a lot more than stretching to recover. photo by Lisa Ludwig

Unfortuantely we only got an honourable mention as "Team Haggis" outdid us in the spirit department. 4 gals dressed up as Jimmy 1, Jimmy 2, Jimmy 3 and Jimmy 4 with kilts, orange matted wigs and matching plaid hats. I just about killed myself on the mountain bike portion of the race as my split shorts kept getting caught on my saddle. I am not sure how they managed riding trails that were in BC Bike Race in kilts?? At the after party Norm decide to pay tribute to the 20+ MOMAR races he has done in the last 9 years. He put on every Tshirt he had from every race and now I have a pretty good idea of what he will look like if he gets fat.

Fat Norm (with 20 MOMAR T-shirts on) caught loading up at the after-party dessert table. photo by Lisa Ludwig

I am not sure how I managed to get up the next morning and go to Parksville to race the Ramble marathon event. I could barely walk. But it was worth it. Bluebird day to race on some sweet singletrack and hang out with friends in the sun for burger and beer after the race. Ahh Island Life. Good times. Fat Norm never made it....

Cross Vegas

What can I say about this race other than its crazy. Thousands of fans spilling out of the beer garden onto the course, legends from the sport showing up to race and getting swarmed by fans trying to steal his number, vegas lights in the backdrop. Its nutty. Not my favourite course in the world as it is all grass that is so thick it feels like you are racing on shag carpet but its more about the "show". Norm came down with me this year because he wanted to see the show first hand and check out Interbike. He got dizzy there was so much stuff to see. 48 hours later we were back in BC waiting for a 20min flight home to Nanaimo. It got cancelled so we had to stay in the airport hotel. Should have stayed in Vegas for the KONA marriachi party.....

I got a picture taken with THE Jen Tilley. photo by Norm Thibault

A little muddy at Star Crossed. Photo by Joe Sales

Me in the "NACT" leaders jersey after the Rad Racing GP. Too bad I won't be doing anymore in the by Norm Thibault

Demo Dave looking buff in the pits at Rad Racing GP. No problem, he had it all figured out by Sunday. photo by Norm Thibault

Norm suffering on the Dale Knapp run-up. Dale Knapp getting a taste of his own pain. Photo by Joe Sales