Missoula Race Report: Wildflowers!

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.

Missoula 4
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!



Stage Race Series

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?

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.

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.

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.
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.
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.
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?
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!


ProXCT #2 Bonelli Park

This weekend at Bonelli the weather was even hotter and the field was the strongest and deepest that we had seen in 2018. Learning from last weekend, Jen, Nikki, and Fairlee took extra precautions to prepare for the heat which included GQ-6 bottles, Gu Energy Labs electrolyte tabs, ice socks, and ice water dump bottles twice per lap.

“The course was fast, loose and a perfect matchup for the Kenda Kozmik Lite Pro II’s,” said Fairlee while Jen said that the Kenda Saber Pro 2.4s were “the perfect balance of grip and speed.”

We were excited to see the familiar face of Win Allen of Win’s Wheels and are so grateful for him keeping our bikes immaculate and race ready!

The KS-Kenda Women finished out the weekend with a 30th, 33rd and 36th place finish in the XCO race and then a 29th, 31st and 33rd finish in a blazing fast STXC race.

“I know I keep saying this but seeing the Hyperthreads KS-Kenda kits on course sure gets me motivated!” said Nikki as the three riders greeted each other with finish line hugs and headed out on their cooldown.

Off the course we had a great time. We stayed at the Kenda house and cooked delicious, calorie-filled, healthy meals that we shared with other Kenda athletes. We had plenty of laughs…but we definitely missed our fourth teammate, Emma. Luckily we will all be together again this week at Sea Otter!

While Jen, Fairlee, and Nikki were racing Emma was completing her last big training block in preparation for Whiskey 50. On Saturday she hopped on her Pivot Vault and put in some asphalt miles with some strong ladies through the Painted Hills and John Day Fossil Beds in Oregon.

“The ladies even taught me roadie games: sign language for all sorts of road blemishes, windmill pacelines, and clown car jersey packing (I could not believe all the things these women pulled out from their pockets),” said Emma.

All four team members will be racing at Sea Otter Classic this week! They will be hanging out in the Kenda, Hyperthreads, or Bikefettish Expo tents so please feel free to say hi!!

Pro XCT – Fontana

Emma - Fontana
Emma Maaranen, photo by PBCreative

This weekend was filled with many firsts and was very special to us for many reasons. It was the first USA Cycling ProXCT weekend of 2018, it was the first time all four of us were together as a team, and the dream that we could create a women’s MTB team officially became a reality. Prior to heading to Fontana we were able to spend time at KS USA and mingle with the awesome crew as well as the Kenda folks and GQ-6 owner (and his family). These companies, as well as many others, are the reason we were able to make this dream a reality so to hang our with them was truly an honor!

Being the first big race of the season, we went into Fontana with expectations of shaking out the cobwebs, gaining West Coast race experience, and representing all of the amazing companies and people who have supported us with a positive and rad attitude. In the cross country race (XCO), Emma finished 27th after riding most of the last lap with a rear flat (thank you Joe’s for sealing a 3-inch glass gash across the tread), just missing a coveted UCI point by 2 places. Not far behind Nikki, Fairlee, and Jen finished in 32nd, 35th, and 38th respectively.

“A combination of early crashes and death by heat made for a brutal opening race but seeing my teammates crushing it up ahead and waiting for me as I crossed the line turned what could have been a negative experience into one of the most amazing ones I’ve had racing MTB,” said Jen Malik while looking at her lobster red arms.

The race was 3 laps on a 5-mile course filled with rutted switchback descents and two main climbs where the 93-degree temperature was very apparent. It was definitely a huge advantage to get out front early before the pavement climb (or burn some matches on it) to get ahead of as many riders as possible before continuing up the single track climb, which ended up being a “walk” near the back of the pack. Throughout the race, everybody was able to clean the tight and technically demanding switchbacks while red lined, a feat that is not easy and one we were all very proud of. The first main descent was a bit more technical while the other descent was fun and flowy. These descents offered few spots for passing so we were glad that Nikki was able to share her course experience and show us some sweet fast passing sections that we may have missed otherwise.

Nikki - Fontana
Nikki Peterson, photo by PBCreative

“This course was the real deal!” Emma exclaimed, “Technical single track obstacles both up and down, leg-searing climbs, and just enough flow sections descending to sneak in some photo-worthy air.  I can’t wait to sink my teeth into Fontana in 2019.”

For KS-Kenda women, races are more than results. Yes they are important, especially when building points for call-ups, but there are many factors that go into a good result and as a team, we do not want to lose sight of them. We asked each rider to provide a notable experience from the weekend and through each account, the strength of support through teamwork shines through.

For Emma, the ease being a part of a team brings to a race experience was notable.  Each of us naturally took over an aspect of getting this done: Jen’s time management, Nikki’s familiarity with the venue/people/logistics/course, and Fairlee’s mood-boosting antics.  “I have never had time to just BE at a race and take it all in.  I’ve also not been so calm, but in a good way.  I honestly hope to never go to a race again without a team mate, and now have some insights as to how I can be a better teammate to you.”

Jen said “the level of support both from our sponsors and teammates was surreal. Kenda and Win Allen taking care of our gear while giving us a couch to chill on (literally) was awesome while crossing the finish line and seeing my teammates there waiting cheering was the best ever.

Fairlee - Fontana
Fairlee Frey, photo by Jason Cleghorn Photography

For Fairlee, the weekend was full of so many incredible experiences. For her the very best ones were the tiny moments that could only be had with teammates – attempting to dye Jen’s hair blue, hand washing our kits in the hotel bath tub together before blow drying them on a countertop because the hotel had no laundry service, emptying the hotel ice machine and taking a frightfully frigid ice bath with Emma,  which more or less deteriorated into giggles and lots of unmentionable swear words, piling onto the inflatable Kenda lounge couch and cramming a lot of stuff into Nikki’s little car together, while being hit somewhere in the middle of all of the commotion that we were truly living the dream together. “This was the piece of racing that I had been missing- the good stuff.”

Nikki said, “The first race is always challenging, especially with the heat. This race was so rad though- having teammates makes racing bikes even better! I was also amazed at the level of support we received from Kenda. They had a tent with couches set up for us to stay off of our feet. They also had Win Allen of Win’s Wheels as the mechanic. Having these little details taken care of made a huge impact. I can’t wait for more races with my teammates!

Jen - Fontana
Jen Malik., photo by PBCreative

Fairlee, Jen, and Nikki will be competing in the second ProXCT race this weekend in Bonelli Park while Emma will be joining again for the Sea Otter Classic, in which Hyperthreads is the title sponsor for! We are looking forward to more team experiences and rad racing!