S2 Emma Roots
Spiritual climbing (Surge is right behind me). PS – My Kenda Honey Badgers are perfect for these roots!

Stage  2 of Quebec Singletrack must have known my legs would need a little boost, so we started off with a switchback climb to a chapel.  I’m pretty sure every rider asked the Patron Saint of Cyclists for good legs as they rode by.  I sure did!

S2 heading out of town
Heading out to the trails

After some position jockeying early on, I settled into my race and connected with Surge, who was right on my wheel.  Surge and I chatted on while we climbed each peak which kept us in a reasonable effort.  Surge has ridden the trails here at the ski town Saint-Raymond and was giving me updates on the lines coming up and if we were really at the top of yet another climb.  I felt like I had a bike tour guide today, and this is one of the things I love so much about stage racing; you get to meet up with riders and work together to make the day a success!

S2 Nicole smile
My room mate Nicole really loved todays trails

The course today was up and down and up again through dense forests and root mazes, but these trails were polished.  Burmed corners, little jumps/ gaps/ table tops, plank bridges, and optional B lines.  I’m pretty sure my hooting and hollering kept the wildlife at bay (except tigers, giraffes, penguins, and other stuffed animals lining one section of trail).  Surge was a gentleman and insisted I pull into the finish line ahead of him, then we both celebrated a solid ride that restored our energy to tackle Mont Sainte-Anne tomorrow!  I feel my moment of worship today paid off.

S2 wildlife
Wildlife keeping us moving

 

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!

 

 

Ok, I am going to be totally honest:

1. I’ve never had a helmet with MIPS technology before this season.
2. I was pretty misinformed about the valuable purpose of this technology.

So what the heck IS a MIPS helmet anyways?

MIPS, or the Multi-Directional Impact Protection System, was developed in Sweden with the intention of reducing rotational motion of the skull in bike crash scenarios by “absorbing and re-directing rotational energies and forces transferred to the brain from angled impacts to the head”. Essentially, when a MIPS helmet is “crashed” with an angled impact, which is pretty much every mountain bike crash ever, the low friction “MIPS” layer allows the helmet to slide relative to your skull. This sliding motion serves to reduce the force of impact on your actual brain tissue. More information regarding the technology can be found on Lazer’s website.

MIPS vs No MIPS

Helmet test

This is very important and can literally mean the difference between severe brain damage or suffering mild concussion symptoms that are treatable. My teammate Jen Malik likes to refer to her MIPS helmets as her “MAY I PLEASE SURVIVE” devices while my other teammate Emma Maaranen literally WILL NOT ride a bike of any kind without a MIPS helmet. For Emma, wearing a MIPS helmet literally saved her life while bike commuting in Utah 8 years ago. She was struck from behind (while obeying all traffic laws and riding within a protected bike lane!) by an intoxicated and altered driver already being pursued by the police. According to police footage, her bike was dragged under the front of the sport utility vehicle while she was thrown into the air “like a piece of toast.” Luckily for her, she had purchased a MIPS helmet 2-3 months prior; they were just hitting the market around that time.  Her trauma doctor told her “If you hadn’t been wearing that helmet, you probably wouldn’t be here.” As it was, she still suffered severe concussion symptoms and injuries related to the crash but lived to tell the tale (and shred on)!

Although developed over the last 2 decades, MIPS technology is still a relatively new addition to the list of available safety features for high-end bicycle helmets. It has gained a great deal of popularity in all facets of cycling (road, mountain and cross) over the last few years. For me, however, it seemed like just another extra “bell and whistle” that unnecessarily increased the cost of a helmet. This was largely due to the fact that I had once been wrongly informed by someone that MIPS stood for “Multiple Impact Protection System.” My understanding had been that MIPS was a more durable, probably heavier, and reusable-after-crashes type of helmet; you know, like for crazy Enduro people who crash a lot pre-riding (j/k Enduro fam- we luv u!) or a motorcycle DOT helmet!

Of note: ALL helmets should be always inspected for signs of impact after every crash, and replaced after major crashes or according to the manufacturer’s guidelines; usually 5-6 years, but check the inside of your helmet to be sure- it will generally be printed on a sticker.

Inside helmet

I finally discovered the error of my misunderstanding while discussing helmet choices with my KS Kenda teammates who were genuinely confused as to why I was voting for the pretty colored non-MIPS helmet. So after a sheepish explanation of my version of the MIPS acronym and some good-hearted laughter, we opted as a team to be safer bike racers and select our team helmets from Lazer’s amazing line-up of MIPS offerings.

MIPS Lazer Helmet

Lazer has been working with MIPS for almost as long as it has been available to the market. As our race helmets, we opted to race the Blade helmet. We loved the Blade for its extremely light weight (lighter than some MIPS helmets on the market that cost twice as much!) and $130.00 price point. This helmet is a bargain for all of the technology bundled into it and Lazer nailed the fit and comfort! Our other selections for training include the Z1, Bullet and Revolution. The Z1 and Bullet are primarily for road and CX training and the Revolution is for DH and Enduro. Each of these helmets is also offered in MIPS. To learn more about Lazer’s awesome offerings, check out the link here!

After spending so many years in school trying to educate our noggins, MIPS really was the right decision for protecting a very important investment that we’ve each chosen to make!
-Fairlee Frey