KS-Kenda Women’s Holiday Shopping Guide: Get the Inside Scoop on the Most Rad Gifts for the Cyclists on your List (and maybe for yourself too…)

Nikki confidently playing on the rocks with her KS dropper post!

KS LEV Ci Carbon dropper post. Seriously, a dropper post is a game changer! No Matter the dirt discipline your cyclist enjoys, a reliable dropper post will make descending faster, obstacles easier, and smiles larger. The LEV Ci Carbon is so light we have it on our featherweight hardtail Pivot LES XC race bikes, so reliable we use it on our ultra-distance and stage racing bikes, and Emma even put one on her Pivot Vault CX bike to really whip around the off-camber hair-pin corners with confidence. Of course a dropper is right at home on our Enduro bikes too!

KS Lev Ci Dropper Post Retail $460. KS does not sell Direct-to-Consumer so you can go visit your local bike shop to get your hands on one (they can also install it for you). Better yet, win one!  Submit a reason the person you would gift this to really needs one by Sunday, December 2nd HERE. Include Good to the Last Drop on the first line of the comments section. The winner will be notified by December 7th and the story will be shared on our social media after the holidays.

Hyperthread kits are stylish and sturdy enough to handle Jen’s monkeying around.

We all have that riding partner who we try not to ride behind because their shorts are see-through thin and has so many holes in their kit that it’s embarrassing to be seen with them at a post ride pizza stop. Or how about when you go to get dressed and realize that all of your kits are in the dirty laundry pile? Solution, a kit from Hyperthreads!

Hyperthreads Hyper Pro Jersey and Bib Retail $270, use our discount code HYPERKSKENDA for 50% off of a shopping cart with $250 or more! ** This discount is good for the first 15 shoppers** Even better, you can submit a pic of the person you want to gift a kit to (or self-gift) in their ridiculous “dirty laundry” riding outfit on on Instagram or Facebook by December 2nd to win one. Please tag @ks_kenda_women (IG) or @kskendawomenmtb (FB). We will sort through the submissions and post the finalists on our IG for public voting.  Winner will be notified by December 7th!

Emma is setting up her wheels with Happy Mediums for some gravel adventures.

Kenda Tires has recently come out with a new tire called the Alluvium Pro. It is capable on pavement as it is on hard packed single track and gravel. Use these tires if you are a fan of chasing sunsets on all-day gravel adventures (that may include a touch of single track) with a group of friends that include stops to eat pie!

Kenda Tires Happy Medium retail $49.95 and use our discount code KS-HOLIDAY25 for 25% off of your order.

Nikki’s bike sporting some gold bling.

Some people just love something sparkly under the tree. How about a gold chain, for the bike! Not only do these chains prolong the life of your drivechain, but they will shave some grams from your bike too.

KMC X11SL Ti Nitride Chain Retail $75 and use our discount code KSKENDA30 for 30% off your order.

Emma’s all smiles with toasty toes.

Lake Winter Riding Boots are a game changer if you plan to ride in the cold. Commuting,fat biking, road miles, you name it – these boots will get you playing bikes year-round. Warning: your trainer may collect dust.

Lake Cycling MXZ 303 Winter Riding Boots Retail $ 300

Mix and match colors or go for just one. Either way let your personality shine through!

ESI makes grips in every color of the rainbow! Grips that match the frame or a rider’s favorite color is an eye catching statement and can freshen up the look of any pedaling machine.

ESI Chunky MTB Grips retail $15 and use our discount code FREESHIPPING for free shipping on orders of $45 or more.  Code is good through Cyber Monday.

Jen’s flashy bike tricks need flashy socks.

You can never have enough cycling socks and HB Stache has some of the coolest and brightest designs we know of. They also have great non-wool winter sock options and for every two pairs of socks they sell, a pair is donated to the homeless! You could put coal in them for that cycling partner who is naughty (pirate trails, down on the uphill only, borrows your bike and returns it filthy…).

Handlebar Mustache Socks Retail $16 and use our discount code THANKS25 for 25% off your order.

Some of the spots of the QSE course call for mid-ride celebration.

We are going to race Quebec Single-track Experience in August. This is a must do for anyone who wants to ride incredible terrain fully supported for a week and enjoys riding with really cool people.

Quebec Single Track MTB Stage Race All Inclusive Package Retail $1500 and use our discount code EMMA150 for $150 off your entry.

Tasco kit, Lazer helmet, Lake shoes, ESI grips, and Pivot bike all in eye-catching blue.

Tasco glove and sock kits, Double Digits, come in all sorts of hip designs and colors to spice up a neutral-looking kit, add some personality to your team kit, or be completely matchy-matchy!


Tasco MTB Glove and Sock Kit Retail $45 and use our discount code
KSKendaHoliday good for 20% off all items, even sale items.

Nikki is post ride ready.

Heading to post ride beers and want to get to know the rider who just moved to town? Run into the restroom to rinse the sweat and dust off your face then apply Aeemelia face oil to your skin to put a glow on your cheeks. Plus, it will fight the damage done from the sun!

Aeemelia Everyday Face Oil Retail $65 and use our discount code KSKENDA for 20% off of your order.

Emma out for a night ride with the local posse.

Extend their ride time window (and safety) with a serious night riding light kit. We’re talking 8000 Lumens blasting out from the Magicshine MJ-908 Bicycle Light to fly the descent way after the sun has set or to be seen by traffic on the way to the trailhead. We’ve used this budget friendly light in 24 hour races and post work bike park sessions. Pair it with the MJ-886B headlamp that easily attaches to your helmet and darkness will not be a deterrent for getting out there.

Magicshine Bike Lights Retail $240

Jen getting a chance to do some reading for fun while on the road.

Time on planes ofers a rare opportunity for many of us to read. Traveling to Bentonville, AR for Epic Rides OZ Trails, Emma read the story of Gino Bartali who not only was a Tour de France winner, but smuggled identity papers to help Jews escape documents in his bikes down tube. Who says riding a bike can’t save the world?


Road to Valor: a True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation, by Aili and Andres McConnon Retail $10

Injury Recovery is Serious Business

This is not how I envisioned finishing SSWC

My 2018 race season ended with an exclamation point.  Not the tattoo I hoped to sport from a victory at Single Speed World Championships (SSWC), but with a broken clavicle in pursuit of said tattoo. After a few days of tears, moping around, and various medical appointments it was time to focus on my training.  “What, back to a regimented training plan?” Well no… and yes. This block of work is filled with things to heal my injury. Here is what I am doing:

Coffee in the hot tub is the more enjoyable part of contrast bathing

Medicine: My Orthopedist immobilized my clavicle and is monitoring it to make sure the bone is aligned and healing. He also has me doing some home-care to speed up my recovery.

  • I am contrast bathing to pump circulation through my healing site and flush out inflammation by going back and forth between hot and cold.  I do this 2-3 times a day: first thing in the morning (with coffee in hand), after work, and before bed. To contrast bath I am soaking in my hot tub for 2-5 minutes, then jumping into a cold shower (or roll around in the snow) for 1-2 minutes for 3 cycles a session.
  • For pain relief I am not taking NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, etc.).  These COX-1 and 2 inhibitors dull pain, but they also delay bone healing. For the first few days I took Tylenol instead.
  • Naps. I am taking plenty of naps! The hormones that drive healing are released during sleep. Getting 8 hours of good nighttime sleep is important, but hard to do when I wake up every time I move. Naps can fill in the gaps and reduce stress hormones which also slow healing.
  • I am asking for help. I hate this. Yes, I can figure out how to wield a vacuum, but it will likely tweak my clavicle. It’s not worth it, so I am asking for help. And surprise-surprise, the people in my life are happy to be able to do something for me.
  • I believe complementary medicine assists my healing. It could be placebo, but even that is very powerful. I am getting acupuncture and massage (circulatory around my clavicle and deep tissue to the rest of my upper body) weekly to increase my healing potential and manage pain.
Elder the Cat really likes that I’m embracing cat naps

Rest: My injury is well timed. SSWC was my last race of the season to be followed by a light month before I start my build for the 2019 season. My off month (or two) is way more off than I expected, but this is a blessing in disguise.

  • I’ve not been off my bike for more than 3-4 days in over 5 years. Not pedaling for a few weeks will let my body repair the repetitive stress from all the biking, reducing my risk of injury down the road.
  • In this off phase I will lose my top end speed, power, and strength.  However, gains in these need cyclical builds to make big gains over time.
  • My base endurance will not disappear! If I keep active, even in an easy aerobic state for 1-2 hours a day I will not lose much aerobic fitness and rebuilding will be a quick and easy process.
Hiking up to the South Sister

Exercise: Yes, exercise! Not only does getting my heart rate up increase the circulation to my healing clavicle, but gentle jostling of my clavicle stimulates the repair process. Exercise is a huge part of my life (20 hrs/week) and filling this void is good for my mental health too. My CTS coach has come up with training that compliments my big picture cycling goals and will keep my head in the game. Here is what Coach is having me do:

  • I am walking. I usually bike everywhere, even two blocks to the grocery store…and now I walk; briskly. If I walk all my commuting routes daily it is translating into two hours a day of walking. Bonus: there are a lot of apple and pear trees in my neighborhood and I have sampled them all to find the best ones!
  • On weekends I am hiking but making sure I am on terrain that I am highly unlikely to take a fall on. I’ve done several local hikes to places I had no idea were in my backyard.
  • I am doing breathwork. Some of it is meditation-based and some of it is while I’m walking. The walking breathwork is designed to increase my CO2 tolerance. I’m excited to see the benefits of this as soon as I’m given the green light to ski tour at altitude.
  • I cross-train by skiing (Alpine, ski touring, and Nordic) in the winter.  Lower body strength is important for these. I am doing all sorts of walking strength training drills Coach Durner fondly calls “Lunge-Fest.”
  • My Pilates practice is still in full force, but obviously has to be modified for no upper body motion. This work is making sure I continue to train my dynamic stability, range of motion, and small muscle strength.

Diet: This is NOT the time to try and lose a few pounds. It takes a lot of energy (calories) to heal bone and being depleted will slow my bone repair. I have made a few tweaks to my diet to ensure I have all the nutrients to repair the damage and don’t gain weight.

  • Bone is a protein matrix that hardens with mineral crystals. I am increasing my protein by 10g/day. I am focusing on lean and “good fat” proteins such as chicken and salmon and a plant-based protein shake. I am also using a collagen powder.
  • My need for carbohydrates is not as great as when I am training, but they are still important. I am reducing/eliminating all simple carbohydrates (sugars, processed grains such as flour and white rice) and replacing them with whole grains (rolled oats and barley ,for example) and carbohydrate dense vegetables (sweet potatoes and rutabagas).
  • I am making sure I have ample minerals available for bone growth. I increase foods rich in these minerals and take a supplement as well.
Calcium and Phosphorus are the primary elements of bone mineral crystals. Eat dairy, soy, Omega-3 rich fish (sardines, salmon, etc.), dark leafy greens, and almonds.
Copper is a key component in the protein bone matrix.Eat oysters, sesame seeds, cashews and shiitake mushrooms.
Silicon is a catalyst for making bone protein matrix.Eat onions, whole wheat berries/ winter wheat, and cucumbers.
Zinc is needed to harden healing bone.Eat lentils, garbanzos and turkey/ wild game.
  • Several vitamins are also needed to build bone.
Vitamin B6 is needed for vitamin K to do its job.Eat avocados, bananas and potatoes
Vitamin C is essential in making the protein matrix of bone and reduces inflammation.Eat bell peppers, Brussel sprouts, and kiwi.
Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and stimulated bone stem cells to make bone.Eat red fleshed fish (trout, salmon, etc.) and brown mushrooms.
Vitamin K binds calcium to the protein matrix in the mineral crystallization process.Eat fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, pickles, and kimchi), leafy greens, and asparagus.
Weekend get-away at the Oregon Coast with Joe

Mental Superpower: My attitude toward injury and recovery may be the most important factor to my healing. This doesn’t mean that everything is all rainbows and sunshine, but taking the time to find the benefits of injury recovery and taking an active role in my healing process will set me up for a strong base building phase for the 2019 season. I do get bummed that I am missing out on some biking plans I had made but am instead taking weekend trips to the coast or desert and dedicating more time to local cycling advocacy projects like the Big Sky Bike Park expansion. Just like in bike racing, a disadvantage can be made into an advantage with strategy and smart execution. Look out 2019 MTB racers, I am going to be a force to be reckoned with!

More than Results- Epic Rides Oz Race Review

This past weekend I took a whirlwind trip…to Arkansas. I made the trek to compete in the final round of the Epic Ride Series, which also happened to be the largest mountain bike payout ever in North America. Oh, did I mention I missed the other three races due to pneumonia, bronchitis, or the NICA National Conference (two of those were awful, one was fantastic)?! This made the event even more special to me and to top it off I got to spend the weekend with Emma, who was about to complete the entire series! Being an Epic Rides Coin Carrying Badass is a really big deal (the prize you get for finishing the series). I keep mine by my bed and am damn proud of it!

Fun Friday- Fat Tire Crit

I arrived to the South majorly lacking sleep. After a 1 a.m. flight on Friday out of Ontario Airport in California, I landed in Bentonville, Arkansas at 8 a.m. I drank a coffee, put my Pivot Mach 429SL bike together (I also added some slick honey to my KS Suspension seat dropper), and headed to the Pro Rider meeting with Emma, Nic, and Fischer, my Yorkie (he attends many races, including the Whiskey 50). A few hours later, I found myself fumbling at the start of the Fat Tire Crit and missing a pedal for the first 30 seconds. It was embarrassing, but also not surprising after such a long venture to arrive! I found some good wheels to draft and put in some hard efforts in the Crit. Later in the race, I ended up cheering on Emma as she killed it and covered attack after attack with the top women in the race! Excited about our efforts, we cooled down together and went back to our house to cook a delicious Pesto pasta dinner. We caught up in person and went to bed at a decent hour before we turned into pumpkins.

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Emma and I were stoked to be racing together in Arkansas!

Saturday- A Day to Hang Out at the Venue

After 12 hours of sleep, I awoke feeling much more refreshed. Emma had been up for hours and had a very productive morning. I ate a good breakfast, savored a mug of coffee from Backporch Coffee Roasters (thank you, Emma!), and got ready to go. As soon as we got to the venue we took off our Kenda Flintridge tires and swapped them for the 2.2 Honeybadgers with the KSCT casing. We rode the beginning and end of the 50 mile course and even met up with Jenn Jackson for a bit. Emma knew her from the other Epic Rides. She also met some of her crew at the Quebec Single Track Experience! At the end, we couldn’t help but stop a few times at the awesome features to ride them, film them, and snap a few pictures! Once we finished our ride, Emma and I made sure to hang around the venue to chat with locals, cheer the amateurs finishing, and soak in the vibe. Epic Rides does such an awesome job with the atmosphere, which is one of the reasons that Emma and I keep coming back for more!

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Emma snapped this shot of me playing on one of the many features on the All-American trail, which leaves straight from Bentonville’s downtown!

Sunday- 50 Miles of Backcountry Mayhem

On Sunday we woke up at 6 a.m.…. or to be more accurate, we woke up at 4 a.m. our time. Pre-race breakfast included coffee, bagels (gluten-free and gluten-ous), and eggs. We headed to the venue at 7 a.m. so that Nic could begin warming up first. Emma and I warmed up together on the empty, peaceful bike path. This is one of the coolest parts about having teammates at races! Our easy spin was similar and then we did efforts on our own. It is relaxing to wake up the legs together before splitting off to do what is best for ourselves. These rituals have become more and more a part of my routine and I hope they continue for a long time. There is something to be said about warming up with a teammate who has big goals yet remains cool and collected!

The race was epic! After a nice start, attacks started to happen on the dirt road. For the first time ever, I was able to remain with the lead group until the single track. From my point of view, Emma was nicely settled into the middle of the pack and was at a relaxed pace. When I am in races with her I often look at her to see her positioning and place in the pack. I am constantly learning! Once we reached the single track the race split up. I went at a hard but realistic pace. The course required a lot of pedaling which means it also required being mentally “on it” at all times. Sometime into the single track it began to thunder…and then pour…and then pour…and then dump! As the rain lightened I entered a new part of the singletrack that was amazing! I looked around and saw the leaves were a beautiful mix of green, yellow, orange, and red. At one point, I remember thinking, “Holy Crap!!!! This is the coolest thing ever!!!”

I finished with a clean race and a huge smile on my face. I was 22nd and had a race that I was satisfied with! Even better is that Emma finished with a 12th place finish in a sprint finish. We celebrated with Onyx Café lattes and pizza! There is nothing better than having two stoked teammates because they raced their hardest, took chances, and most importantly, enjoyed the ride. As we each finished a pizza on our own, I looked around and realized that as much a racing is about results, it is so much more than that. It is the experiences, knowing that you gave it your all, having flawless equipment, and sharing the stoke with others!

Emma After Race Latte
After a stellar race, Emma celebrated with a latte and a Honey Lavender macaroon!

Gear Gossip: Lake Shoes

Believe it or not, cycling shoes are designed specific to the type of riding a rider does. For example, a road rider will spend long days in the saddle spinning a high cadence. An exact fit to control the foot is needed for efficiency. When mountain biking, a rider will maneuver over obstacles with varying angles of pressure on the pedals and occasionally need to hike up a slope. The cycling shoe will need more room in the toe box but a secure heel not to pull out of the shoe, plus a grippy sole with a tiny amount of flex.

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While we are a cross country mountain bike team, our riders cross-train and compete in a multitude of cycling disciplines. Emma refuses to get on a trainer in winter and gets out on her fat bike most winter days. Jen races UCI cyclocross as a Pro as well as the mountain bike. Nikki makes sure to take advantage of the sunny days in SoCal on weekends by participating in Gran Fondos during base season. It is a good thing we teamed up with Lake Cycling this season to meet all our team members cycling demands!  Here are some of the shoes we love this season:

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MX180 Enduro is at home on the bike and hiking through the bush.

Our custom XC race shoe, the MX332 is not just eye catching, but also a high performance mtb race shoe. It features a more snug fit than training shoes to maximize efficiency. One of the unique features that Lake offers is the ability to tweak your shoe even more to your needs with their mouldable heel cup. For riders like Jen, who have a narrower heel, the ability to further adjust the fit so that it does not slip is a huge win! I mean, who doesn’t love to cook their shoe in the oven?!

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Our custom MX332 Is function and fashion.

Our mtb training shoe, the MX241 Endurance, will be worn for long hours, walked in while scouting and working lines, lounged in trailside while recharging on GU Waffles, and standing around the trailhead with friends gushing about the ride. This shoe is a little more roomie in the toe box for trail maneuvers and is a bit more snug in the heel so the heel does not rise when hiking back up the trail.

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Our training shoe, the MX241 Endurance is comfortable for any post-ride celebration.

When coaching skill clinics, we find ourselves running around a lot, getting on and off the bike repeatedly, and still needing to perform (perfectly) bike skills. For this, the MX180 Enduro shoe is a great choice. It is a more flexible shoe that you actually want to stand around in. The tread heavy sole gives confident grip when standing on rocks while spotting a rider in a technical section. The “high tops” protect our ankles from rogue shrubbery when dragging logs to practice jumps over. And, it is still a performance shoe for riding where we can wheelie and track stand as well as sprint off a start line in.

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Nikki’s Enduro shoes are at home in the bike park and the bike classroom coaching NICA coaches to coach.

We ride year-round.  Even though Nikkis lives in SoCal, her home is in the mountains of Idyllwild at 5,400 ft and she often finds herself riding in colder temperatures on weekdays when she finishes workouts at dusk (and they even get snow). On the mountain bike, fat bike, or even the road, a winter riding boot is a game changer!  Warm, dry feet are a must if you want to enjoy riding in the elements.

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Emma is all smiles with toasty toes in her MXZ303 Winter Boots, racing in -22 temps at Frosty’s Fat Bike Festival.

Running through sand, grinding in mud, and going fast is what Jen loves about cyclocross.  The MX237 Supercross has the properties of a mtb shoe, but also is drilled and tapped for 4 cleats so that banana peel turf is no match for her as she tackles calf burning run-ups.

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The mud at Jingle Cross World Cup may have been to slick to ride, but Jen’s Supercross shoes with cleats had no problem finding traction.

Do you need six pairs of cycling shoes? No. Need is a strong word but finding a cycling shoe that meets a riders cycling demands will make the ride not just more fun but also more safe and enable a rider to do the cycling things they want to do. If Imalga Marco was a cyclist, her closet would have had 3009 pairs of shoes; the extra nine would be Lake Cycling shoes.

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Gear Gossip: KMC Chains

Whether you like to ride your road bike along winding country roads, grind your singlespeed up the sides of veritable earthen skyscrapers, or push and challenge yourself up, down and around the wild mountain paths of your home state (my favorite), you will probably need a chain on your bike. Preferably a very strong, very light, versatile, low-maintenance and reliable one.

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Having a reliable, strong and light chain makes it much easier to seek out adventures without worry.

Chains are something that cyclists tend to only notice when things aren’t working so well. For example: when we break them or forget to lube them before a long ride- then we REALLY pay attention to them. This season, the KS-Kenda women have teamed up with KMC Chain to run what we consider to be the best racing chain on the market. KMC began their journey in 1977 under the guidance of founder Charles Wu. More than 30 years later, their motto is still “If it isn’t good enough for us, it isn’t good enough for you.” And they mean it. KMC builds chains exclusively and is constantly striving to improve their products and designs. We love working with them and we are benefiting daily from their dedication to constant growth and product improvement!

For the 2018 season, the KS-Kenda women are running the X11- SL Titanium Nitride Chain. You probably know it as the beautiful GOLD bling that adorns each and every one of our Pivot steeds, but let us tell you- there’s a lot more to these chains than just a pretty face. They get the job done well, not to mention in style.

 

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Many hours of thoughtful design and research go into making a KMC chain.

Out of the box, the X-11 SL Ti-Ni weighs in at 243 Grams, comes with 116 links, which has proven to be plenty of length for our Shimano XTR 1×11 Drivetrains and the various combinations of front chainrings and cassettes that we each use.

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Win Allen of Win’s Wheels, getting our KMC Chains clean, fast and ready to go for race day.

The plates composing each link are made with a special steel alloy that reduces chain stretch, thereby extending chain life. The outer level of these plates are also specially designed to shift smoother and more quietly with an “X” shaped pattern called “X-Bridge”. As an added bonus, this shape aids the chain in shedding mud for those crazy conditions that tend to be a favorite of Cyclocross enthusiasts (of note: Cross is coming! Make sure your chain is ready).

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Emma Maaranen putting in the miles at the Epic Rides Grand Junction Off-Road this summer

 

In the case of our Titanium Nitride-coated chains, friction is further reduced with this special coating- also cutting down on the amount of maintenance necessary for keeping our chains running as smooth as the first day you put it on. KMC even uses a proprietary treatment of the chain’s pins called Extreme Stretch-Proof Treatment (X-SP) which makes them much less susceptible to the wear and stretch caused by mud and sand entering into the moving parts of the chain over time.

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The best equipment makes the best adventures possible. We love our KMC Chains!

To date, we have run these chains in variable conditions across the US! Between the 4 of us, there are bone-dry deserts, sand, mud and muck, rocks, dusty and gritty long climbs, short punchy, humid climbs; long road miles, cyclocross training, sprint work and park laps that compose our training and racing. Not one of us has broken a chain in any of these settings. Personally, I have been through half as many chains this season as I have in race seasons-past. So the verdict sits: the KMC SL series is light, strong, quiet and seriously hard to kill.

Tech Tips: Care and Maintenance of you KMC

Be sure to check out this LINK to the KMC Website where they have created some wonderful educational and DIY tutorials.

Stage 7: It’s Bittersweet to Become a Que-Biker

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Perfectly built gangways were on the menu today.

With a good night of sleep and breakfast cassoulet in my belly, I was ready to tackle the final stage of the Quebec Singletrack Experience.  Today, we rode the Enduro focused trail network at Sentiers Du Moulin.  Mercifully, it was a shorter course built up with wooden gangways (even one over a chalet), ginormous ramps, and huge slab rocks to roll down that were as steep as your stomach could handle.  The fun factor was high!

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Some of the support crew to make this all happen, including putting me and my bike back together.

My bike was expertly repaired by Hype Ski Velo, the local bike shop providing mechanical support for all the racers, and I lined up for the start ready to go. Somehow my fellow race car riders (we get a race car sticker on our number plate to mark that we are in the first wave at the start) had legs to blast off the start.  It took me a little bit to warm up, but I did just in time for the punchy technical terrain.  With a significant time deficit to retake the GC lead, I decided to ride smart and efficiently to see if that may add up to a fast ride.  On the climbs I spun in my smallest gears only pushing it to get up a technical feature and on the descents, I tried to pedal and brake as minimally as possible.  It was a game for me and it created a ride with flow that did take me to the finish as the first woman.   

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I played it a bit more safe today than Florian did.

As all the riders came into the finish area elated, I watched as they as I had some sadness for the moment.  Tomorrow I will not be getting on the bus with my friends to ride rad trails, challenge myself in new ways, and sit by the campfire in the evening swapping tales of the day.  Bike camp is concluded. Well, we still have a big party tonight, so I won’t shed a tear yet!

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Sam and I celebrating becoming Que-Bikers at the finish line Tiki Bar.

MTB stage racing is humbling.  It is exhilarating.  It is a challenge that’s boast worthy. It has brought out the best of me and pointed out spots where I can improve.  These lessons are not just on the bike, but it my engagement with myself and others.  Obviously, I really love to ride my bike, but I get just as much joy helping other riders have success.  I am afraid to fail or quit but calling it a day when I need to is not shameful.  For me it brought a level of knowing my limits and motivations to connect myself more deeply with my community.  Stage racing, it’s about so much more than the bike! Thank you, Quebec, for the “Singletrack” and the “Experience”.  I am officially a Que-Biker.  I’ll see you again next year!

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I expect to see all of these riders and some new faces next year.

Stage 6: No wonder Neilson Trail in Valle Bras-du-Nord is considered one of the top 10 MTB trails in the world.

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Sam getting ready to rock the Shannahan

To get to Quebec Singletrack Experience stage today, we abandon the lux coaches for a school bus that would be capable of getting up the Shannahan.  It instantly set a playful mode to the day.  Nicola was singing, “the wheels on the bus go round and round” and we were giggling at being launched off our seats over the big bumps.  The omen was right!

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It was hard to keep my eyes on the trail it was so picturesque.

We quickly spread out on fast, but technical singletrack that was perfectly tacky after a little rain last night.  Bridges between boulders with a drop exit, rock slabs to traverse that were tilted 30 degrees, boulder skinnies to cross creeks, and even a waterfall crossing were on the menu.  The Nelson is a jungle gym for mountain bikes.

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Nicola navigating a creek crossing.

I was feeling strong this morning and was savoring navigating the obstacles.  A technical stage is always a good one for me to pick up time and claw my way back from a 5-minute deficit on Laurance.  Flying down another bridge, I did not realize until it was too late that it made a sharp turn around a boulder instead of going strait.  I leaned my bike and resisted the brakes, but my speed and the wet planks put physics out of my favor.  Fortunately my bike took the brunt of the impact and I was only scraped and bruised.  However, this put me in stage racing adversity management again.  My rear brake lever did not survive being pounded by a rock at high speed.  The rear brake is more to finesse maneuvers and slowing, but it is your front brake that has a majority of the power.  If in a tough spot, I had a tiny nub of a lever left I could just access, so I continued albeit a little more conservatively with really only my front brake to use.  The trails were so fun, it would take a much more massive mechanical to make me call it a day.

S6 Annik
Annik confidently climbing

Then, the big summit of the day approached.  115 switchbacks in 4K to reach the top.  Honestly, I lost count before I got to the 8th switchback, but I do believe there were 115 of them! A big reward was on the other side, a perfectly developed descent full of berms, bridges, drops, and even a giant down tree to roll down the length of.  Up next, 12K of flowy single track with no major climbs or descents to the finish line.  But, wait.  What is that? Is my saddle wiggling? I thought all the giggling may have loosened the bolts on my saddle, but it was worse.  I must have smacked it hard in my fall too.  Again, I was so glad my bike took the impact, not me! I rode on, but soon my saddle simply fell off. 

S6 creek rocks
Brilliantly built trails on the Neilson.

Lucky for me the trail was built taking advantage of all the dips and mounds to make it ride a bit like a pump track.  The SQuad riders caught up to me while I was standing to pedal, and I was so grateful for their encouragement.  I turned it into a game, trying to gain as much speed as possible working the features, never touching my brakes (I did twice), and picking the perfect gear when I had to pedal.  When I got to the finish line one of the SQuad riders told me he lowered his saddle and tried to ride the trail standing up but got too tired to do it for long.  That made me proud!

S6 beautyMechanicals happen. So do crashes.  No one is immune to this.  What makes us “stage racers” is that we accept the challenges that are thrown at us and find the way to use it to our advantage.  Today I learned more about my strength as a rider; confidence in my ability to ride demanding terrain and the ability to dance with my bike to manage momentum.  Some of my weaknesses were illuminated too; when I am fatigued from 5 days of racing I do not look down the trail as dutifully as I normally do and get lazy with my core causing me to put too much weight on my handlebars.  I also savored the best part of stage racing; embracing an adventure with friends and loving every minute of it!

S6 E road
How can you not smile here?

Stage 5: And Some Days are Hard, too

Today’s Quebec Singletrack Experience stage took us to the resort town of Lac Beauport where permission was granted from 68 private land owners for us to ride a circumference of the lake up in the surrounding mountains.  But don’t think this was a quaint pedal around a pristine lake where I nibbled on pan au chocolate and sipped rosé…today was a beast.

S5 maps
Just a little navigation and logistics for today.

After the initial 5K of frenzy for position, I settled in with a group of 4 riders. I was happy to be in their company.  My legs were feeling good, for stage 5 that is, and I was enjoying the technical climbing (that felt endless). I was a little ahead of my comrades where there was a down tree on the trail.  In my enjoying all things challenging mode, I used my Bend, OR skills to bunny hop the tree. A few feet from that I popped out on the road, a volunteer at the crossing waved me onto the trail and I was back to climbing.  My ego was in full swing as I didn’t see the guys behind me and figured they ran the down tree like a barrier.  And after climbing for a few kilometers, I recognized a feature and knew I had somehow looped back onto an earlier section of trail.  Frustrated at myself for my boastful error, I turned around and found my mistake.  I was to turn at the down tree, not go over it!  The course was marked, but my showing-off distracted me. 

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Finding my grove back on course.

I knew that Laurant, the woman in second, likely got ahead of me but I knew that going hard to catch back up would zap too much energy.  I have a significant time lead and decided today I would cash in some of that time.  I was isolated, which is tough for me on a hard day, so I found my stoke working the most efficient lines on the twisty roots.  More climbing.  Some hike-a-bike.  Slow, high tech descents that I was not able to recover on.  I will admit, I am tired.  The last climb was grueling for me.  When my cadence fell to 60 RPM in my smallest gear, I walked.  Just when I thought I was at the top, the trail turned for an upward trending traverse.  And then the trail looked familiar.  Again. Somehow, I missed another turn and ended up on another earlier section of the course.  I’m not going to lie, I felt defeated.  I turned around again to find where I missed my turn but could not find it.  I found some volunteers whose job was timing, so they did not know the course well enough to point me in the right direction.  I was approaching riding 5K more than the course should have been and decided to go down the timed climb that would take me to town and the finish line.   

S5 Showing off
I’m glad I’m not the only one showing off.

It was the right decision for me.  I am here to race bikes, challenge myself, ride amazing trails, meet great people, and have fun.  I do enjoy being in the hunt for the women’s GC win, but it is the hunt that I love, not the accolades of a prize.  This is stage racing.  It is the fact that the winner of the race is not necessarily the most fit, best rider, or most familiar with the terrain.  It is the rider who rides smart, within themselves, and embraces the adventure that usually ends up on top.  And some good luck helps too.  I told the race official and director of my decision to cut to the end of the course, missing the final descent.  They will figure out how impose a time penalty, but I get to keep racing!  Time to soak my weary body in Lac Beauport, eat some tasty lunch and watch my fellow racers in Dragon boats!

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Well deserved lunch at the lake.

Stage 4: An Easy Day, Quebec Style

S4 E legs
When I look like this at the finish, you know it’s been a fantastic day!

Sandwiched between two big days of the Quebec Singletrack Experience was Stage 4 at Lac Delage.  Have you heard of it? Yes, then you must be a fat biker. The trails here are reputed to be the best fat bike trails in North America!  I’ll tell you that they are the real deal mountain bike trails too.  Our fearless race director, Francois, told us today would be an easy day, one where we could restore some energy.  The stage was the shortest so far in time and distance, but I was on my A game for 19 kilometers of single track.

S4 rocks
Mud. Roots. Rocks. Oh My!

Being from the Northwestern United States, I often ride trails that are steep, muddy, rooted, moss covered, slick rocked, tight or twisty; but all together, this is something new.  I am enjoying playing on this type of terrain.  A sense of humor when my bike slides sideways down a trail, believing in my skills to just let go of the brakes and allow my Pivot Mach429 to do the work, and embracing the fact that my skills apply here too is making me excited every day to ride again.  Today the new challenge was rain.  It was not a downpour, but the already mucky trails swelled with the added water.  Giant puddles of unknown depth, trails that more resembled a creek bed than single track, and slime mud that had me aiming for the off-camber roots for traction was a whole new challenge.  Challenge accepted. 

S4 Matt bridge
Matt catching his breath and taking in the scenery.

I started off the day charging in the front and quickly dialed it back.  In a tight bunch, I was unable to look down the trail and if I slowed the rider behind me would run into my rear tire making me stiff and not riding my best.  It was a great call, because as soon as I could go my pace and see several feet ahead of me I started to figure out how to pilot my bike.  Before I knew it, I could discern mud with grip from mud that was like sheet ice and would even use the sheet ice to whip around a boulder or switchback.  Roots became allies to match my wheels and preferred lines.  Boulders became launchpads.  Suddenly the unpredictability was predictable, and the fun was exponential.  Don’t worry, my legs are tired, and I was always thrilled to be at the top of a climb!

S4 Bevin
Bevin peeking at the other side… giant puddle?

Aside from a mountain bike skills lesson from Mother Nature, my stage was uneventful.  And that is always a good thing in stage racing.  Two of the SQuad riders followed me for the second half of the course, I’m not sure if they followed me because they were worried I would have problems or simply because they enjoyed chit chatting while I was gasping for breath cleaning an uphill obstacle, but it was nice to have company.  I believe my stoke to play on trails that are challenging for me was the key to my crossing the line today as the first woman!

S4 plane

Expect the unexpected at Lac Delage

Stage 3: A Little World Cup DH and XC

S3 view
View from Mont Sainte Anne

Today’s stage of the Quebec Singletrack Experience took us to Mont Sainte Anne, home of the World Cup since the early 90’s (and getting ready for it again this coming weekend).  Fortunately, we took the télécabine (I’m being helped with my French; this is a gondola) to the top and took in the 360 views.  But don’t be fooled into thinking this was a downhill stage! Even though we dropped 1,950 ft. in elevation from start to finish, we still climbed 2,850 ft. The course took us on a tour of a huge array of amazing trails from a DH off the top (we rode the “chicken” lines), what the locals call “old school trails” which are narrow and unmanicured, flow trails with drops and banked turns, a spin along the river bank, and up some of the XC course.  This sampling of terrain and trails makes me want to spend a week exploring.

S3 Emma 2
Moments before my stage race became a game of management

My race today encompassed yet another thing that I love about stage racing.  Ranking over the stages is a combination of fitness, bike handling skills, ability to manage set-backs, and bonne chance.  This is one reason I’ve been relatively quiet about the fact that I hold the overall women’s lead, things can decisively change in a moment.  Today was a stage race.

S3 fast
Some sections were so fast and so fun

After a start loop around the mountain top, we dove onto a DH trail.  Up first was a nice rock drop and I launched it for the camera.  As I pressed my bike into the air, my pedal went flying ahead of me.  I was able to land it (with Matt the camera man already running to save me), pull over, find my pedal, hand tighten it back on, then get back to the fun.  I then carefully passed riders on the DH to resume my place with those who hoped to stay with for the ride.  At the bottom of the DH I was almost back up, then my pedal flew out again.  I must not have tightened it well enough.  I could not find it.  Sam stopped to help me look for it in the bushes, then three SQuad (trail support riders) joined the Easter egg hunt.  As time was ticking away it was looking like I would need to borrow a pedal and cleat from a generous SQuad rider, I bent down to take my shoe off and my pedal was still attached to my cleat.  I was mortified.  Crazy race brain did not think of the most likely thing.  With my pedal tool tightened back on my crank, Sam and I worked together to make up some of the lost time.

S3 Emma Chasing
I’m on the hunt

I settled down several kilometers down the trail and realized that I was going too hard for day 3 of 7.  The time was lost, and I would loose even more if I cooked myself.  But like magic, the course put us on those old school trails and my bike handling skills moved me ahead of rider after rider.  Bad things happen in threes they say.  After exiting these trails and turning onto a gravel road, I had a safe place to take in some food.  Happily pedaling and munching along, I started to think it had been a while since I saw a trail marker.  The course is excellently marked, and they put a confidence flag at least every kilometer, so I decided to pedal on for one kilometer then turn around if I didn’t see another flag.  Fortunately, I didn’t have to go that far before Lynn and a few other riders were pedaling toward me having missed the trail too.  Back on track.  The rest of the course was a blissful blur of spectacular trails, riding with other racers, and making it to the finish line with Laurance.

S3 Laurance
Laurance, my carrot for the day

Yes, today was the full package experience of stage racing.  I was able to hold onto my GC lead; BONNE CHANCE!

S3 pre race

I’ll be back to Mont Sainte Anne again