On June 9th and 10th, I raced the Pro XCT and short track in Missoula, Montana. I spent a lot of time on the dirt in that week and soaked in the views. It is wildflower season in Montana right now which means the trails are lined with Lupine, Indian Paintbrush, and other beautiful, colorful flowers! I took way too many pictures because I was not sure how much I would be able to appreciate them come race day when I was cross-eyed!

Having not raced for several months, I was nervous to come to a Pro XCT but I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to hang out with Paul, Theresa, Natalie, Jack and Tickle! What’s even cooler is they opened their house up to my teammate Fairlee and her husband, Evelyn Dong, Sofia Villafane-Gomez, Ryan Standish, and Howie Grotts for wonderful dinners filled with great conversation and good times. Making memories like these are a large reason why I love racing so much!

With only 13 registrants, it was going to be a small race. It ended up being even smaller when only ten women lined up on Saturday for the cross country event. Of those ten women only eight of us finished the race.

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Fairlee and I pre-riding!

I had a great race. I was able to finish on the lead lap, which means I happily suffered for all 5 laps of the insanely steep (up and down) course! In UCI races, they have something called the “80% rule”. If you are not within 80% of the leaders lap time as you cross the finish, the UCI official will pull you from the race. You are still included in the results but it is a milestone to make those lead laps! This was a big feat for me since last year I only completed 4 laps before being pulled by the UCI official. Though my 2018 race season has been short due to sickness, I have been able to finish on the lead lap every race this year, even in the HC races that were filled with Olympians! This is big progress for me and has changed my mindset and boosted my confidence!

Besides training hard and improving my fitness, a huge part of being able to finish on the lead lap of these races is the equipment I am racing on this year. The Pivot Mach 429SL is the most capable bike I have ever trained and raced on! The geometry is so efficient for climbing. The best part though? The Pivot is equipped with a KS Lev CI Carbon seat dropper post! This dropper has been a game changer. My confidence has sky rocketed and my descending has improved an insane amount! Missoula is known for it’s steep descents and this year the course was no problem with a dropper (last year I raced with no dropper). That was an exciting feeling! Finally, I chose to run a 29″ 2.2 Kenda Tire Honey Badger Pro/Kozmik Lite Pro combo which gave me great traction on the steep ups and downs. Feeling 100% sure about my race bike is a really great feeling!

Missoula KS
The KS Lev CI Carbon Seat Dropper has been a game changer for me this season!

For those who don’t know, I had some tough luck this winter and spring- first the flu, then bronchitis, followed by a bout of pneumonia. I am still getting tested for allergies and asthma, but the pneumonia is officially cleared and I am finally able to add intensity to my training after missing three large races over the last few months. Unfortunately, Fairlee woke up the morning of the race with a stomach bug. After much debate, she made the decision to not race. Though it was a difficult choice, I am proud of her for looking at her long term goals and knowing that racing could have made her even sicker, however, I definitely missed having her on the start line with me! Luckily, we were able to spend time together the day before drinking coffee, pre-riding the course, and cheering on the junior racers.

As I crossed the finish line exhausted, I was stoked to find out I had finished 7th– in the points and money and my best Pro XCT finish yet! The podium was made up of super strong women whom I look up to and I am proud with where I landed. Based on last year’s results, I would have been right in the mix for a top ten finish with a solid group of women. And then something interesting happened. Someone back in California made a comment that I got second to last (since the results show only 8 of us finishing). It has made me think: did I get second to last? Or did I get 7th?

In my mind I got 7th. I had a solid race, even splits, and a competitive time. Women’s cycling unfortunately has small fields. What if only six women had finished? Heck, what if there were only two women? In my opinion, EVERY woman out there needs to know that they are a badass just for finishing the race. Part of what needs to change is that we need to have a much more positive mindset about women’s cycling. Instead of criticizing women’s performances because of small fields we need to celebrate their performances for even showing up. Every woman starting a Pro race is significant. Someone has to finish last just like someone has to finish first.

*UPDATE: I just recieved a HANDWRITTEN THANK YOU card from the race director thanking me for putting Missoula on my schedule. This is such a simple thing but it made me feel really happy. I will definitely be coming back next year and hopefully with my other teammates!

 

 

Meet our Bike Fettish

Do you know Bike Fettish? We do! This small company knows great products and is backed by cyclists across the US who are shredding on gear they believe in. Jen has even driven to Georgia from Ohio to sample the dirt with the Bike Fettish Crew. Jake and Hector, the owners of Bike Fettish, identify emerging European bike component companies that are relatively unknown in the US market. Bike Fettish then becomes the distributor of the product in the US market. Lucky KS-Kenda Women get to play bikes with the fruits of their labor.

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Hector and Jake of Bike Fettish hanging with the team at Sea Otter

 

 

Do you have a Bike Fettish? If not, here are some bright shiny things to make your list:

Joe’s No Flats – Innovation from Israel. Joe’s produce environmentally friendly tire sealant and bike cleaning products that work as well as their toxic counterparts. The degreaser is so potent Jen did not believe the eco claims so she took a sample to her biochemistry lab at OSU to verify. Her “independent testing” certifies that its earth friendly! Fairlee has given the sealant a fair bit of field testing on sharp rocks and it has sealed gashes and sidewall rubs with no problem. Joe’s No Flats also makes a small portable tire pump designed to seat tubeless tires. This is a must-have for a cyclist who may want to change tires when an air compressor is not available.

Joes No flats
Innovative bike cleaning in a hotel shower with Joe’s Bio-Degreaser

HT pedals – Easy to clip into by just stamping your foot on the pedal. We are training and racing on the M1T (titanium); they come in a rainbow of colors so we were able to match our bikes or add a little flare with an accent color. Also, they add a miniscule 232g to our bikes which for reference, is 50g less than the leading clipless pedal on the market. Emma has even braved the elements and trail tested pedals in snowball flightworthy snow and soul sucking mud without issues; which is more than her bike companions on those rides could boast.

HT Components
No trouble getting clipped in on HT M1 pedals

Smanie Saddles – What would a saddle designed by a pro mountain biker/ biomedical engineer be like? AMAZING! Our own Jen Malik worked with Smanie to develop our team’s saddle to ensure ergonomics and performance. The saddles come in bike-matching colors and are rated saddle sore free from our team (lucky for Jen or she would get an earful from the team, and lucky for Fairlee or she would be nursing our wounds). While the N.Spire saddle is marketed at an enduro saddle we have found that the narrow nose and comfort play nicely in the cross country world where days consist of long rides and increasingly technical terrain.

Smanie Saddles
N.Spire saddle is so matchy-matchy!

Novatec Wheels – Make our team go round! We are racing and training on Flowtrail 29” and 27.5” wheels. When Jen put these on her race whip (Pivot Mach 429SL) she marveled at the quick response and light feel the wheels gave. What more could you ask for? Novatec wheels for road, gravel, cx and enduro? Yeah, they make those too!

Novatec
Nikki excited to train hard on her Novatec wheels

“When I went down to visit them in GA it wasn’t like going to a corporate business, but it was a small inclusive office with ping pong, long boards, and open offices of people talking and hanging out. Basically, like going over to somebody’s house to hang out ha but work was being done.” – Jen Malik

 

Bikefettish Ride
Bike Fettish crew is thumbs up after a muddy shop ride

So, you signed up for a MTB stage race; now what?

Lucky you! These events showcase a community’s best trails, local cuisine, and hospitality, all while bringing cyclists together from near and far to embark on an adventure in a festival atmosphere. It is no wonder MTB stage racing is growing! You should be excited, maybe a little nervous.  Let me, Emma, take you through a tour of my preparations for a MTB stage race. Better yet, sign up to do the Quebec Single-Track Experience Stage Race (QSE) with me and we can prepare together!

What have you signed up for?

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QSE Racers being serenaded along the trail.

MTB stage racing consists of several back-to-back days of cross-country style mountain bike racing.  Riders depart each day with a mass start and contend for the fastest cumulative time over all the stages.  Expect stages to take strong riders three to five hours each day on courses that typically start and finish in the same location.  Many MTB stage race participants are not racing per-say, but are challenging themselves to a big mountain biking undertaking with course support and kindred spirits. There is a place in MTB stage racing for all mountain bike enthusiasts.  Aid stations are along the courses and are stocked with water, snacks, and mechanical and medical support. Riders still need to carry hydration, nutrition, clothing for inclement weather, maps if a wrong turn is taken, and tools to manage mechanicals due to the distance between stations and the remote nature of the stages.

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I can’t wait to ride these trails!

I have registered to race the Quebec Singletrack Experience (QSE). I chose this event because I have heard whispers that the mountain biking in Eastern Canada is a little-known gem and Quebec is a providence of natural and historical treasures to explore.   When I am researching a MTB stage race to participate in, I take a close look at the logistics and support the event provides.  QSE has anticipated and made available all the features I look for to make my experience smooth.

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Make sure your transportation and bikes are sorted out before you depart so you don’t get stuck for hours waiting at passenger pick-up like I have.
  • Travel
    • Proximity of airport and shuttle service that can transport your Evoc Bike Travel Case if you fly with your bike.
      • Get in two days before the start date if possible, especially if flying so you can handle travel delays.
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Fairlee and I post-ride social media bragging in a cozy hotel room at Fontana ProXCT.
  • Housing
    • You will get the most out of the experience if you stay at the housing recommended by the race. These are discounted, plus it’s fun to share stories and get advice from the numerous other participants staying there.
    • Being at the site of post-race events lets you take advantage of all the extra-curricular activities: music, rider meetings, celebrations, etc.
    • Ability to charge electronics. You are going to document all this fun to brag at home, right?
  • Transportation to and from the start/finish of each stage.
    • Driving a rental car without a bike rack in an unfamiliar area or country while trying to find a trailhead early in the morning can be epic… and not the good type of epic.
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Jen is creative at washing and storing bikes in hotel rooms, but utilizing event services will keep your team mates happy and un-stinky.
  • Bike storage and transportation.
    • Don’t roll your muddy post-stage bike through the hotel lobby! Sign-up for bike valet services and bike washing. Knowing your bike will be there to race is not just peace of mind. It’s hard to ride a stage if your steed is not there.
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Leave the derailleur adjustments to the experts and go celebrate a great day! Thanks Win!!
  • Mechanical service available.
    • TSA may take your bike tools and wouldn’t you rather relax at the lake after your ride than run all over a town you don’t know looking for a replacement rotor?
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Fairlee enjoying a tasty race meal, relaxing, and catching up with other event participants at Bonelli ProXCT.
  • Meal service.
    • Grocery shopping and cooking while tired is not practical. Plus, it’s fun to sample the local cuisine and get tips at the table from riders who have done the race before.

Yeah, QSE is a tight ship you want to board!  Want to join me for this one?  Of course you do.  I have three 50% off codes to register.  Message me and I’ll hook you up.

Now comes the fun part: looking at the stages and beginning your preparations.  Take a preview of what is to come in this video.  Talk soon!

Emma