VeloNews.com » Judy Freeman http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Thu, 11 Feb 2016 21:53:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.1 Judy Freeman Journal: Recapping the worlds http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/09/news/judy-freeman-journal-keep-the-power-the-worlds-in-review_302502 http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/09/news/judy-freeman-journal-keep-the-power-the-worlds-in-review_302502#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 12:34:59 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=302502

The men start the cross-country race. Photo: Judy Freeman | VeloNews.com

The U.S. mountain biker talks about her performance at the recent world championships in South Africa

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The men start the cross-country race. Photo: Judy Freeman | VeloNews.com

The mountain bike worlds have come and gone. And like all events, it has been measured on a lot of levels, by a lot of viewpoints. Team management may focus on how the U.S. as a whole did; mechanics, if the bikes were in working order on time; the riders on personal performance. For an event like this, the host country will likely weigh in on how the event went and showcased the area. Worlds is a lot of things to a lot of people.

I find people’s responses to their performance interesting — especially if it was below the mark they set for themselves.

How was the ride?

As a rider, I focus on my race. And unfortunately, the subject of my review didn’t go so hot. It had moments though. I had some good laps where I was feeling good, riding strong, and making moves. I easily rode some lines that gave me nightmares last year. And I came home with all my teeth, which was one of the first questions from my mom as she picked me up at the airport.

But overall, the legs showed up late and didn’t stay long for the party. I got pulled one lap to go and finished 36th. I can think of some reasons why, and then I can go from there on what to do for a better performance next time. But at a standalone, invite-only race that comes once a year, all with a fair amount of to-do around it — not to mention this year’s added team selection drama — the bummer was a little more pronounced

Mid-sized stride

I figure I’m middle of the road with how a lot of people take getting upset. Get down on it to some degree but then shake it off and then rally the motivation for the next race. I do my best not to give my list of sad excuses on the course, especially to someone who is stoked on having just performed well. I think everyone at some point has been on the receiving end of that Eyore-esque exchange where you’re feeling good and someone comes up to tell you why they didn’t ‘do well’ — and possibly leave room to suggest they would have finished faster than you if the cycling gremlins hadn’t stolen their prerace meal or something similar. It’s annoying if it doesn’t just go for the full suck-the-wind-out-of-your-sails effect. That said, I know that despite my best intentions I’ve been that donkey on occasion. It happens.

But I’ve met riders that seem to shake it off just after the finish line. I mean, God knows what really goes on for another person, but at least to be able to keep a constant countenance, whether genuine or forced, after a less-than-hoped-for ride is pretty impressive; if not just another expression of good sportsmanship. Aside from that, it’s just a good plan.

Harnessing energy

Not giving your power away to a bummer result and indulging a deflated feeling is just smart. You need your personal power to just live and be happy, let alone race. It doesn’t mean stuffing the emotions away and whitewashing a piece of crap, either. It is being true to your feelings and acknowledging them but keeping the perspective on an even keel, and keeping your faith intact that it will all work out. Then hone your focus on the next race.

But anger, buckets of tears, kicking dirt, and bike shot putting is pretty much putting all your energy into saying, “I don’t believe it’ll ever work out for me.” And thus, your power goes … POOF! Gone. Leaving you to start from an even lower point to pull yourself together for the next round.

The same is true for a good result. Sure you got to celebrate the accomplishments big and small, but giving your power to a good result sets up a quirky foundation that won’t hold much should the results go the other way. (And for 99.99 percent of the population, they always do.)

I spoke with Geoff Kabush from Scott-3Rox after he finished seventh at the Czech Republic World Cup in May. I congratulated him on a solid ride and was surprised at his understated excitement at having finished so well at such a big race. He pretty much said he tried not to get too excited if he did well or too down if the reverse was true. Maybe that’s a part of the reason he’s been a top North American rider for years now.

Practice grasshopper

Anyhow, I’m getting better at this. I was frustrated to get pulled in Pietermaritzburg, but at the end of the day, I know I did the best I could and that was that. You can’t change the past, but you can change how it affects you.

But I did get to walk away knowing I rode lines that scared me last year. I had been visualizing riding this course since January. Some of my goals going in were practically a vendetta.

And then I just had fun — that underrated cliché in the world of competition. During the week, I rode laps with Amanda Sin (also from Scott-3 Rox) and just had a good time riding; dissecting the course, working on finding better, faster lines, and laughing. I followed Sin’s line down the log stairs for the first time and afterward we stopped for high fives. Sharing the conquer buzz with friends ranks pretty much as one of the things I love most in riding.

Finally, I just had to look around at the things I saw, the people I met, and everything I learned by just being there. In 10 years, I’ll likely have forgotten how I rode this weekend, but I won’t forget that was at the world championships in South Africa.

Heartfelt thanks to all the people who helped me get to South Africa. There are so many who helped make it both possible and happily memorable: Crankbrothers and all my sponsors, my family and friends, Team ShoAir, USA Cycling, Chloe Woodruff, Lea Davison, Tom Torrance, and countless others.

Being a competitive cyclist is one thing. Chasing your dreams with the love and support of incredible people is one of the most amazing feelings in the world.

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Judy Freeman Journal: Monkey off my back http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/07/mtb/judy-freeman-journal-monkey-off-my-back_295399 http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/07/mtb/judy-freeman-journal-monkey-off-my-back_295399#comments Mon, 15 Jul 2013 20:59:43 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=295399

After much inner dialogue, Judy nailed the A-line drop in Missoula. Photo: Tom Robertson | VeloNews.com

The A-line drop at the Missoula XC has dogged Judy Freeman for three years. Read about how she nailed it in June

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After much inner dialogue, Judy nailed the A-line drop in Missoula. Photo: Tom Robertson | VeloNews.com

MISSOULA, MONT. (VN) — Stop No. 6 on the Pro XCT circuit took us to Missoula, Montana, last month. The race in Missoula is one of my favorite U.S. national races. The course is fun. The crowd is energetic. And every trip I’ve made there to date has had some excellent Missoula-esque memories to take home — from a team-bonding clay pigeon shooting outing, to beer-drenched season finale parties (which are awesome for silky hair but horrible for dance floors).

But for two years now, I’ve also left with a feeling of discontent. Sent packing with my tail between my legs by an A-line option called the “Straight Shot.”

Big air in Big Sky

A signature feature of the Missoula course is a five-foot-plus drop that rests just below the top of the course. In 2011, when I first year saw it, I could only look at it to take stock of the situation. Scientific measurement showed the take-off stood taller than I did with a gap that reached longer than my bike. That was all I needed to know to shut down Operation: Big Sky. I went home and vowed to return the next year better prepared.

In 2012, I showed up with some drops practice under the belt and piss and vinegar in the veins. I was going to run the A-line! The day before the race, I rolled up near the drop, put my bike down and walked to the end of the drop for inspection.

I then proceeded to fixate on how far down terra firma rested below and imagined the various consequences of a botched attempt at radness. This counter-productive exercise also included a scenario that would rip up the shorts so my bare ass would be stuck in the air, front-and-center, as course marshals untangled me from the course fencing and spectator cameras recorded the carnage for YouTube.

And that was that. It was B-line for me. Despite a good race, I left Montana a disgruntled cyclist, taunted a second time by a course feature that thwarted my quest for airtime.

Cue the training montage music

Short of a neck tattoo reading “Missoula Or Bust 2013,” I fully committed myself to riding the A-line this year. I put a Kronolog post on my bike and hit the local bike park with race club technical coach Lee McCormack. We figured the medium and large slopestyle drops were pretty close to the gap I had to clear and the landing I had to get comfortable with to ride the line in Missoula, so my focus largely rested there.

I practiced my technique and then did non-stop laps on those lines. While kids a quarter my age (little to no exaggeration) rested above the x-large line before hitting a massive whale tail feature, I rode the large line over and over again to make sure I didn’t get twitchy with fatigue. It got to the point where they’d see me climbing back up and just give me the nod with their bobblehead-esque full face helmets and permit me to cut in line and hit the run again.

Thanks, little rider dudes.

Third time’s the charm?

On Friday before the race, I made my way back up to the top of the course. I rode the approach three times to get it down and decided to hit it on the fourth. I came down the hill, rounded the sloping left hand turn, banked up the hill for the right-hander and pointed my wheel toward the take off.

I then promptly put on the brakes to “check it out” one more time. In other words, I chickened out. It was looking like 2012 all over again.

I headed back up for another try.

I started to roll. Down the hill, around the corner, bank right turn and then my mind started to chatter again. “Check it out one more time.” I actually surprised myself when the inner response turned into a retort, “Nooo. You’re not stopping.” I had a full-scale internal argument going.

And then I was in the air.

The adrenaline hit me just as I landed. Of its own volition, my left hand grabbed the front brake. Twice. But I was back far enough each time to ride it out while my mind reigned it all back in. I pulled over to the side of the trail a ways after the landing. My hands were shaking. I had just ridden the A-line.

Solid

I rode one more lap in practice, this time without stopping, to dial in the drop for the next day’s race. I went without a hitch and I realized how confident I was in my setup.

For dropping over five feet, my hardtail Scott Scale 700 felt incredibly smooth. The fork was loaded perfectly for maximum travel. The 27.5-inch wheels and carbon layup cushioned any jarring, the rear thru axle kept the rear wheel stable. (I’m loving my biggie/small wheels.) I probably didn’t need to race with my Kronolog, but since my whole set up weighed in at 20.11 pounds, I kept it on for increased confidence and … well, to just up the fun factor.

It’s a jumper

When we finally got to the drop in the race the next day, I’m surprised how quickly it all happened, given how much I had built it up in my head. The spectators didn’t know who was going to do the A-line until they saw riders take the banking turn toward the drop (versus the straight-away to the B-line). It was at the bank turn that I’d hear a woman yell, “It’s a jumper!” which, if I wasn’t mildly hypoxic from the last climb, would have been a lot funnier, given it sounded like the medic’s “We’ve got a bleeder!” line from “There’s Something About Mary.”

And now, after three years, that is done! It was good to finally put this one to rest and finally get the monkey off my back. And given the A-line was about 10 seconds faster than the B-line, riding it for all five laps helped me secure a fifth-place finish. And to boot, it builds a lot of confidence for other things I’d like to ride.

Like this one drop in South Africa that dogged me last year. I want to revisit that in 2013 …

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Judy Freeman Journal: New Year and a rock star start http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/03/mtb/judy-freeman-journal-new-year-and-a-rockstar-start_276442 http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/03/mtb/judy-freeman-journal-new-year-and-a-rockstar-start_276442#comments Fri, 01 Mar 2013 23:55:38 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=276442

I'm looking at the new for 2013. Photo: TKTK

Judy Freeman is on the ground in Austin, Texas, for the Mellow Johnny's Classic and psyched up for a new cross-country season

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I'm looking at the new for 2013. Photo: TKTK

Editor’s note: VeloNews contributor Judy Freeman opens her 2013 season with the Mellow Johnny’s Classic on Saturday. The event opens the Pro XCT calendar and is offering equal prize money to the top 15 in the men’s and women’s pro categories.

Another race season begins with another flight. I’m sitting in Denver International Airport right now waiting for my flight to Austin, Texas, today for Pro XCT no. 1 at the Mellow Johnny’s Classic. While the year is starting out with some familiarity, there’s a lot of new heading into 2013, including a rock star fantasy or two.

Flying out of Denver has become somewhat of a comfortable routine. I’m sort of skilled now at schlepping 100 pounds of luggage up to the ticket stand. My suitcase doubles as a dolly for the bike bag. And the whole behemoth collection brings the expected wide-eyed side steps from oncoming fellow travelers. The laws of physics bring respect! But long gone are the days when the bike bag could be mistaken for a massage table and checked in without a bike box fee. Sigh

What’s new, Scott!

But 2013 is starting out differently all the same to stave off any ho-hum. Chloe Woodruff and I are still filling out the Race Club roster, but we’ve got some new sponsors on board. Scott has stepped in as our ride for the season. We’re heading to Texas on Scale 29ers. This is my first 29er, so I’m still getting familiar with how it rolls, but am so far loving it. Right now I feel in-between invincible and wondering how I ride this thing. It’s pretty amazing, the rolling and control benefits of a 29-inch bike over a 26-inch. Still, it’s a different ride.

Fitting a 29er to a 5-foot-2er has been interesting. I got my first Rëtul fit to get a better handle on all the variables. My boyfriend Tom was literally doing the math to figure out a stem for me, literally. (Why some companies don’t list the drop, I’ll never know.)

Todd and Garrett at Rëtul hooked me up to LED motion detectors and as I pedaled, a computer generated stick figure version of myself was up on the screen with me. We checked the pedaling efficiencies at various positions on the bike and made some significant changes. From the rides I’ve been on since the fit, it feels really good.

Pull grasshopper

To tip the scales more on the side of invincible, I’ve been riding with Lee McCormack, our team’s new technical coach. Our latest sessions have included a lot of me riding the pump track and Lee yelling cues so I pull up over rollers. I’m learning to pull up earlier with the larger wheel to get the timing down. If it weren’t for the missing gunshots, onlookers would think we were skeet shooting with as much as Lee yelled, “Pull!”

That kind of makes it sound like it’s drill sergeant training with Lee, but it’s not. Simply summed up, instruction and demonstrations come weaved in a martial arts/yoga/use-the-force-Luke philosophy that I don’t fully feel until later. I dig it. The ultimate goal of it all goes beyond riding faster and safer and culminates in the idea of being in the Flow and Riding. (Capital letters emphasized in class.) It has changed the way I ride, for sure.

Rock star

And then it’s not every season I get to start the year like a rock star. Vail Mountain had its annual snow sport festival with a ton of snow-based competitions. I usually head up for the criterium event, but this year organizers added a snowbike XC event where the winner won $250 and a 9:Zero:7 snowbike frame.

After a solid battle, I won the XC race and frame. I was stoked and thought it couldn’t get better. Then Colin, from 9:Zero:7 asked me if I wanted to get presented my new frame on-stage before the concert the next night. I said no at first, but then I thought, about it. How often do chances to get on stage at a rock concert come around? Don’t people dream of chances like this?

I didn’t ask myself, “What’s the worse thing that could happen?” — because you know that list will get long.

At the stage, I learned I was going up just after the big air winners; the crowd had just gotten all riled up watching the big air comp and John Brown’s Body — a reggae-funk band that brought in a rowdy dance-ready crowd. Awesome. No pressure.

And it was all on a time crunch. So, right after the podiums, Colin and I rushed onto the stage … where everything stopped.

Being on a stage, under lighting and in front of a crowd was surreal. My heart rate soared and a small sense of panic rushed in. Colin and the announcer said some words on the mic, which I couldn’t really hear, and then gave me the frame.

Sweet. Now it’s all eyes on me.

I don’t know what I was thinking, because it felt like my mind went blank, but I hopped atop the empty podium and threw up my arms to the crowd, which gave me a good little roar, even if they had no idea who I was.

And then I pretty much ran right back off stage.

Gene Simmons would not be proud, but at least I made it off-stage without tripping up in microphone cords.

And that was my .02 seconds of rock stardom.

Deep in the heart of Texas

I’m finishing this journal up in Texas. We got in last night. The women race on Saturday at 11:45 a.m. and it’s time to get ready.

It’s back to the grind in a way — but at the same time, a fully new year with possibility.

And I love it.

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Travel Like a Pro — Or Don’t. Makes No Difference http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/12/news/travel-like-a-pro-or-dont-makes-no-difference_252130 http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/12/news/travel-like-a-pro-or-dont-makes-no-difference_252130#comments Wed, 28 Dec 2011 16:38:37 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=28978

Singletrack.com columnist Judy Freeman was all smiles before Pro XCT #5, where she got sixth. She reversed those numbers at the next race, by placing fifth at Pro XCT #6. She earned herself a discretionary nomination. Photo Dave McElwaine

Judy Freeman's TSA nightmare shows that even the most seasoned travelers have travel disasters during the holidays

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Singletrack.com columnist Judy Freeman was all smiles before Pro XCT #5, where she got sixth. She reversed those numbers at the next race, by placing fifth at Pro XCT #6. She earned herself a discretionary nomination. Photo Dave McElwaine

It’s the height of holiday travel season right now. Having spent a few years traveling to races, I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two about flying and airports. I even fancy myself a bit of an expert. But it doesn’t matter what the subject, whenever I get comfortable with my level of expertise, Experience always shows up to trump the house.

OK, LOW LEVEL EXPERT

Admittedly, I couldn’t give ‘executive flyer status’ security line advice on par with George Clooney’s Up in the Air character, Ryan Bingham: “Never get behind people traveling with infants. I’ve never seen a stroller collapse in less than 20 minutes. Old people are worse. Their bodies are littered with hidden metal and they never seem to appreciate how little time they have left.”

But I can tell a race-travel newbie about the benefits of compression socks and disinfectant wipes for the germ party petri dish that is your foldout table.

And if you’re new to air travel after September 11th, like my mom, my ever-so-sage list of helpful hints is much longer. ‘Don’t bring yogurt unless you want to pound it in the security for the amusement of TSA’ tops the long list. (Shout out to Stans NoTubes rider, Nina Baum on yogurt culture confiscation. Props for keeping the snacks healthy, Neen — no matter the odds.)

KNOWLEDGE…PASS IT ON

Anyhow … I recently drove my mom to Denver International Airport to put her on a plane to Kansas for a visit with her sister. While I was nervous about her solo flight, I was more occupied being cocky as the resident expert on air travel. I pestered her (ok, probably grilled her) on permissible carry-on items. She assured me many times she didn’t have lotion, liquids or flat-changing Big Airs to worry anyone.

SEND OFF

So I see her off at the start of the security queue and then jog it up to the second floor where I perch myself at the overlook above the TSA area. I hung out while the line snaked its way to the metal detectors. When I saw her waiting extra long to get her purse and shoes back, I wasn’t surprised. There’s always something to slow the process.

But I did become a little alarmed when I noticed the number of TSA agents increase around the screening monitor in her line. Even so, as she was escorted to the side for inspection, she looked and waved at me with a smile, reminding me this is the norm. With her cute grin, she looked like a classic sweet little old lady — what could possibly be the problem.

Then it got interesting.

After some curious charades and hand gestures, my mom and the TSA agent looked up and waved me over to the side of security. I hustled down the stairs and on my way, remembered I forgot to mention Swiss Army pocketknives along with yogurt contraband.

Pocketknives seem to be a Freeman thing. My dad gave us all pocketknives every Christmas for years on end. Either he thought everyone dulled blades as quickly as he did or he was a huge proponent of being prepared for letter openings and emergency eyebrow tweezings at a moment’s notice. Under this reasoning, I’ve long suspected the Swiss must be well manicured and ever expectant of big Publisher Clearing House winnings.

THE TEACHER GETS TAUGHT

Either way, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I got to the roped-off area where the TSA agent handed me a Winchester-Western 38 Special blunt nosed bullet.

The conversation went something like this:

Agent: Are you Judy?
Me: Yes.
Agent: Here you go.
Me: Jeeee-zus!
Agent: Yeah.
Me:  A bullet?!
Agent: Yeah. She said it was some sort of memorabilia. Have a nice day.

And with that, the agent walked off. Annoyed or indifferent, I couldn’t tell. But her brevity punctuated the absurdity of the moment.

Motivated by disbelief, I scuttled back to the viewing area to give the woman the wide-eyed “What the hell?” look that was paining my face. But when I got there, she had already moved on.

I watched her move out of sight; chilling on the escalators cruising down towards the trains. She was cool as a cucumber and totally oblivious to my waving arms and saucer eyes that tried to catch her attention from behind the glass.

There was nothing left to do but take my bullet and go home.

MYSTERY SOLVED

As it happens, a friend of the family and FBI agent had given the bullet to my mom over 20 years ago. Reason? For good luck.

Yeah, lucky. It got a 77 year-old lady pulled over and frisked by federal agents as she was getting ready to board an airplane with live munitions. Super lucky.

And with that, I guess you learn something new, every day.

Wishing you happy and safe travels this holiday season and a wonderful new year.

Thank you for reading.

Judy Freeman is a member of the US Olympic long team. To see the Olympic selection procedures and names of the men’s and women’s long team, click here

Which two women will represent the US at the Olympics?

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What’s Going on in The Off-Season with Judy Freeman http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/12/news/whats-going-on-in-the-off-season-with-judy-freeman_252097 http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/12/news/whats-going-on-in-the-off-season-with-judy-freeman_252097#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2011 18:43:23 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=23327

November has been contrary to my summer race-focused routine of ride, eat, nap, eat, manicure, massage and fanned grape-eating

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Editor’s Note: Judy Freeman was accepted as a discretionary nominee to the 2012 Olympic long team Thursday morning
Contrary to my summer race-focused routine of ride, eat, nap, eat, manicure, massage and fanned grape-eating, November has been more run-around with a sprinkle variety. Here’s the highlights and heckling.

Judy Freeman

The Iceman climb. Photo: Caleb Wendel of The Bike Shop in Houghton, Michigan

Icewomen

Judy Freeman

Race Rig. Photo: Judy Freeman

The month started out with the Iceman Cometh race in Michigan. With sights on the $5,000 grand prize, we hopped up my size small Felt 26″ wheel hardtail to high-performance penny-farthing status. I had my friend throw on a rigid fork, a 29″ front wheel and a larger 44/32 front ring set up for me – because I’m pro and that’s how I roll. And truth be told, if I had done it myself, I’d likely have found myself course-side swinging around poorly tightened-downed bike parts like a chimp as the race carried on without me.

Judy Freeman

Big rings: Photo: Judy Freeman

And as planned…I rolled in first…give or take four spots. It wasn’t the mother lode but a respectable fifth place that sent me happily home $1,000 heavier in the pocket. Yaaah, buddy. This was good because …

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Don’t Tempt Fate. Just Don’t. http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/10/news/dont-tempt-fate-just-dont_252043 http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/10/news/dont-tempt-fate-just-dont_252043#comments Thu, 20 Oct 2011 18:38:15 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=22040

Going to let you in on a little secret. Life as a professional cyclist lacks a little of the glitter some people think it has. I know. Hard

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Going to let you in on a little secret. Life as a professional cyclist lacks a little of the glitter some people think it has. I know. Hard to believe, but really some days it’s just a crazy series of misadventures colored by Fate. And someone just told Fate you said her ass looked big in her favorite dress.

Or maybe that’s the painkillers talking. Lemme explain.

Peeing in the the pool

Recently I received a letter saying, “congratulations. You’ve been selected for the national testing pool.” This means I am now subject to out-of-competition testing. So the upside is, I’ve gotten fast enough that someone has noticed. The downside is that USADA wants to know where I’m at 24/7 so they can show up at my house unannounced for a urine sample. High fives, Champ.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ll do my duty to keep my sport clean. Besides, drinking enough water to stay hydrated … shoooot … I’ve got plenty of samples for USADA. But here’s where Madame Fate stepped in.

For whatever reason, USADA hasn’t been getting all the updates I’ve texted stating I’m in staying Boulder. So when they showed up at my home address in Brighton, Colorado, on Sunday night for a drug test, the only participant willing to fill a cup for an audience was a golden retriever named Lady. (It seems Irony and Fate are tight.)

So I get a message from my mom saying, “Judy, there are some people here for you.” My mom is also just getting a grasp of this testing thing and her 77-year-old graces make for a funny, if not cryptic, translation.

But then I remembered USADA and that you have 60 minutes from when they show up to meet them or it’s considered a missed test. Three missed tests in an 18-month stretch and you’re in trouble. I called back and got Phil on the phone. After a bit of deliberation on how to make the time cut, I told Phil of a King Soopers in between Boulder and Brighton where we could meet.

Plan made. I headed east and Phil got in his car to headed west. Problem Solved. Hey Fate, what else you got?

Don’t tempt Fate. Just don’t

Judy Freeman

Surveying the damage after the driver behind me failed to deploy Spidey web at the last minute

Just minutes into my drive, traffic came to a quick halt for a person fixing to cross at the crosswalk. With my keen Spidey senses, I stopped in time to avoid ramming the car in front of me. The Subaru behind me, not-so-Spidey; rumping my Subaru at speed with a good solid thud. No airbags deployed, just bumper cars — and not the amusing kind.

Still focused on the task at hand, I got out to survey the damage, hoping for the best. No luck. The hatch wouldn’t open. Awesomeness.

I called my mom back so she could chase Phil, who was just pulling out of the driveway, to hand him the phone. I could hear her yelling “Yoohoo” and practically saw her waving her arms to signal down an airship. I told Phil about the incident and that I’d be a little more than the initial 20-minute estimate but we were still good on the time limit. Before we hung up he said not to worry and to “take a big breath.”

I exchanged information with the other driver and then carried on eastwardly — if not resolutely — on what was becoming a grail quest of sorts. I arrived at the destination, but Phil didn’t. His GPS landed him at a nearby Safeway. Nice touch, Fate. But it’s a minute away, and I hopped in the Suby and cruised (cautiously) down the road.

I met up with Phil and cohort Sarah. After a pantomime of the accident, condolences and a cell phone demonstration of my information-received texts, we headed into Safeway for “the exchange.” We tabled the whereabouts conversation for different experts. Phil’s department just rhymes with I.T. We’d met the time limit, and it was time to get down to business.

Pick up, Aisle 9

But first we had a seat at an in-store Starbucks table. For a process that gets pretty personal, there was a load of formality. I got the official introductions and statements, signed papers, chose my cup (checking for cracks to avoid catastrophe) and then it was a skip to the loo.

Sarah was my chaperone. You have to be witnessed providing the sample naturally. Which I suppose if you’re desperate enough to cheat, you may not have qualms about toting around 90ml of clean urine. Cheating is just dirty.

So we made small talk, as you would in a public stall with a total stranger watching you in all your glory tend to nature aero-tucked like the Herminator. Turns out, Sarah’s day job as an esthetician made the USADA gig pretty tame. They may be all smiles in lab-coats, but don’t be fooled, Rippers have to have nerves of steel and a disposition like Marky Mark in The Italian Job to do the full Brazilian robbery.

Then, to spare any shoppers confusion on what kind of samples we had, Phil came into the ladies’ room for the official distribution into the safety sealed bottles. Sarah stood guard outside. I did hear her direct one poor gal away who ended up just using the men’s. A bonus evening with the thrill of the unknown and lure of cakes, I’m sure.

Dirty work to keep it clean

Anyhow … we finished up the transfer and the final paper work. Noticeably we didn’t end with handshakes, but I’m OK with that. Joking aside, Phil and Sarah were very cool and doing the dirty work to keep cycling clean.

Today I’m waiting to hear from the insurance company. Seems Geckos are cute on TV, just slower on phones. I also saw the chiropractor to get reset after what turned out to be a brutal trip to the bathroom. Anyhow … it gave me something to write about.

Until next time … Hey Fate, you’re a vision in lycra.

Added note: By the time of this post, the Gecko had called back. The Subaru heads to the shop (again…sigh) later this week. Rock on.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2011, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2011 include Kenda, Felt, TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Sun Ringle, Pearl Izumi, Voler, WickWerks, KMC, FSA, Crank Bros, Fi’zi:k, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics, TriFlow, 2XU, Action Wipes, Louis Garneau and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Do the needful, but keep the focus http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/08/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-do-the-needful-but-keep-the-focus_19748 http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/08/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-do-the-needful-but-keep-the-focus_19748#comments Wed, 10 Aug 2011 02:32:04 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=19748

So....I got a call from my fella, Tom, on Friday while I was driving to a race in Snowmass, Colorado.

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So….I got a call from my fella, Tom, on Friday while I was driving to a race in Snowmass, Colorado.

On a five hour drive filled with highway logjams and a couple of stops for oil and antifreeze checks, “Yay!” was the answer to the ringing phone.

“Are you “Yaying” because you made the Worlds team?” he asked.

“No. I’m “yaying” because it’s you. I haven’t heard if I’ve made the team or not.”

“Oh. Well, I’m telling you, you made the Worlds team.

At least the race went
better than than the drive.

…which is when responses went from cheery “yays,” to glass shattering, “YEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHs!”

I’m headed to Champery, Switzerland to race the World Championships on September 3rd.

I’m psyched beyond words. It’s been a crazy year getting to this point and I’m so happy I made the team. I really can’t wait to go back to the World Championships.

But, wait I must. I’m currently in Vail, Colorado right now dealing with some car issues.

My trip home from Saturday’s race has shown that the car needs a little more than antifreeze. And by little, I mean to say, you really don’t want to know.

I bought this used car in May just after my last car went to that great big junkyard in the sky as I was moving boxes from my place in Boulder to live with my mom in Brighton, Colorado. The plan to save some cash for racing didn’t factor in the car-going-kaput variable.

So…I’ve got some stuff to do for sure. Make it home, buy a ticket to the land of cows and chocolate, head to a job interview in Denver, keep the training up. Do the needful, but keep the focus….

Maybe Pavel, the mechanic I saw this morning, summed the situation up to its essence. After he gave me the range of diagnoses from the grim to really grim with the accompanying courses of action, he asked why I had all the bike stuff in the back of my Subaru. I explained I raced bikes and that this car situation comes after learning I made the Worlds Team…and that tickets to Switzerland aren’t cheap.

After a short pause staring at the hood, he extended his hand to shake mine in congratulations and, with his Bulgarian accent, he gave another option.

“F@#k the car. Chase your dreams.”

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Go Deep to Chase the Carrot http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/06/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-go-deep-to-chase-the-carrot_16967 http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/06/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-go-deep-to-chase-the-carrot_16967#comments Fri, 10 Jun 2011 00:21:06 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=16967 Singletrack.com's resident racer Judy Freeman says that what you commit to will make you dig deep to get it.

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The 10th annual Teva Mountain Games in Vail, Colorado came and went this past weekend.

As if the $3,000 payout for first place in the pro XC race wasn’t enough to draw riders from across the U.S., there was also a festival organized around competitive mountain sports from rock climbing to slopestyle riding with a slew of rad others in between.

The venue was teeming with elite level athletes all devoted to their sports. And even though the atmosphere is fun and exciting, you know what preceded the arrival of all these competitors was the many hours of training and commitment. While I’m sure performance goals varied by individual, all these competitive athletes likely worked to overcome some financial, physical or emotional challenges just to get to their respective start lines.

Why people gravitate to one sport over another is their own gig, but I think it’s a human trait to set a carrot and go after it.

WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO

Abraham Maslow was a humanistic psychologist who had a lot to say about human behavior. One thing that stuck in my mind was his idea that people have an internal desire to find their potential — to become more of themselves, or to “self-actualize.”

We aren’t initially driven by this desire. A lot of stuff comes before wanting to satisfy reaching one’s potential; like eating, having shelter or having a sense of belonging. But when humans get the chance, we will entertain this desire and maybe work to satisfy it.

How we go about becoming more of ourselves is different for everyone. It could be competition in a sport, it could be dedication to becoming a doctor. I don’t think it’s about what you do, but rather how much you give of yourself to it. It’s the commitment that’s the fire forging your steel.

It’s also more than money or time invested. Dreams, passion, ego (in varying degrees), and, in no small measure, your heart get involved. All of it — and more — rolls up to the line at some point with no guarantees of the desired return on investment. Still, despite the risks, it’s what we humans do.

SOMETHING VENTURED, SOMETHING GAINED

On the mountain bike scene, it seems to me that for so many riders it’s not just that racing provides joy, adventure or satisfaction, but it creates a space that allows people to be their unique selves. And as such he or she will contribute that which only that person can give — only in his or her own way.

That makes racing, in my opinion, a form of expression and an exercise in becoming more of oneself.

The author navigating the course at the 2010 Windham World Cup. File Photo

Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces — the book that helped cement the Star Wars stories in the imagination of millions worldwide — said, “When you follow your bliss… doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.”

I can’t count the number of people I’ve met who are amazed at the life experiences they’ve had because they got on bikes and followed their hearts. They all had their own journeys, each with their own doors along the way.

GROWING PAINS

No matter your endeavor there will be challenges, and the challenges will pull little bits and pieces of the “you” you didn’t know you had to the surface. Maybe you find new levels of determination, creativity or courage. You will get put in situations where you’re faced with overcoming fears, demanding more of yourself or for yourself. The process is rarely a comfortable one. Committing to a dream is — brace for the cliché — daring to live the life you want.

TO SHINE AND NOT TO SHINE

And just the same, the space that gives a spotlight to our superstar selves, can be the space that shines a light on things we’d rather not see. In racing maybe it’s being a poor sport or, worse, a cheat. All those instances are involved and complex for the individual. But at a basic level what gets drudged up belongs uniquely to that person, and it can’t be removed unless it comes to the surface.

FORGING STEEL

What you commit to will make you dig deep to get it. It will test you many times to see if that is what you really want. And more so, it will ask you what you are willing to do in order to get it. It will make you meet yourself halfway and ask you the hard questions.

But in doing so, when you come out the other end I believe you’re better for it. It’s what brings your soul closer to the surface. Whatever your “final” or “most notable” achievement, somehow what you accomplish is what your soul set out to do.

There are lots of ways to go through life with all sorts of creative outlets. Some people may have a single lifelong pursuit while others have many.

Everybody has a way to express themselves. The bike is mine. Literally and figuratively; it’s my vehicle.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2011, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2011 include Kenda, Felt, TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Sun Ringle, Pearl Izumi, Voler, WickWerks, KMC, FSA, Crank Bros, Fi’zi:k, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics, TriFlow, 2XU, Action Wipes, Louis Garneau and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Talk to Yourself http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/04/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-having-a-discussion-with-yourself_15586 http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/04/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-having-a-discussion-with-yourself_15586#comments Tue, 26 Apr 2011 15:02:41 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=15586 What you tell yourself can make or break a race: Choose wisely, Grasshopper

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“When I’m godawful close to the edge — a cliff, a tree — I try to get through it by believing in myself and saying, ‘I can pull this off,’ rather than hitting the brake.” — Missy Giove, 14 national DH titles, 1994 DH World Champ

Competitive cyclists spend countless hours getting fit and honing technical skills. Not to be overlooked, however, is training to be a good conversationalist — with oneself.

SPEAKING UP

I talked with sports psychologist Stephen Walker, Ph.D. about the practice of self-talk and how it relates to performance at his office in Boulder, Colorado.

“People talk to themselves all the time,” says Walker. “They just don’t know they’re doing it.”

In addition to being editor-in-chief of PodiumSportsJournal.com, Dr. Walker is a sports psychologist who has done extensive work in the fields of psychology and biofeedback.

“Self-defeating thoughts are all manifest in the way you talk to yourself. It alters the way you engage with yourself,” says Walker. As such, “self-talk can either help or hinder” your performance.

To help his clients gauge how they talk to themselves, Walker has outlined nine dimensions of self-talk. The categories aren’t tied to any order or a particular phase of an event, but are designed to help individuals become aware of how they talk to themselves and help them keep their mental conversations productive.

The following is a brief introduction to these categories. Ever found yourself in a similar conversation?

DON’T INTERRUPT ME

DIMENSIONS OF SELF-TALK
By Dr. Stephen Walker
1. Active vs. Passive Focus
2. Outcome vs. Process Focus
3. Purposeful vs. Random Focus
4. Past vs. Present Focus
5. Present vs. Future Focus
6. Constructive vs. Destructive Focus
7. Instructive vs. Evaluative Focus
8. Positive Self-expectation vs. Negative Self-expectation
9. Optimistic vs. Pessimistic Focus
www.drstephenwalker.com

“Self-talk can be active or passive,” explains Walker. “You want to be very active in what you’re saying to yourself.”

Basically you want to “drive the bus.”

“Passive self-talk is being receptive to other things that can either direct or redirect your self-talk,” Walker says.

When waiting on the line of your race, are you absorbing comments about how boring the course is or are you telling yourself you’re ready for a good race? Choose wisely, Grasshopper.

STAY ON COURSE

Or even if you direct the conversation, does your internal dialogue wander to thoughts like “Daaamn, my legs need shaving.” If so, consider keeping your self-talk more purposeful than random.

“Random self-talk is passive and allowing of a negative intrusion at a time when you really need to keep yourself purposeful,” Walker says.

In other words, you’ve got more important things to focus on than your furry getaway sticks.

DO YOU KNOW THE TIME?

Years ago I had a friend who, when asked what time it was, never failed to reply, “Now.” It was mildly annoying, but his repetition never let me forget: Always be in the present.

Which brings us to two categories of self-talk described by Walker as past vs. present and present vs. future self-talk.  Say you crash in a turn lined by spectators. Do you berate yourself for making a total junk show of that corner? Or do you start envisioning your glorious redemption run on the next lap?

“You have to keep yourself in the ‘now’ moment… throughout the entirety of the race,” Walker says.

The past is over and future events are never guaranteed — for example the line you’re planning may not be open because of a crashed rider.

Staying in the present also keeps you engaged in the process, which is the difference between process vs. outcome self-talk.

Walker explains that he’s not big on the idea of being outcome-focused.

“Some athletes say ‘I’m going to win this race,’ which is an outcome goal, but my first question is ‘What do you have to… do really well in the process of racing that is going to contribute to the outcome of you being on the podium?”

Process-oriented self-talk, like, “I’m climbing this hill smooth and fast,” is positive, focused on the task at hand and leaves no room for self-defeating thoughts, he says.

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE

But at least if you’re thinking of topping the cake, you’re on the right track. Keep a positive instead of a negative self-expectation. Walker used a quote from Henry Ford to explain this category: “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.”

‘Nuff said.

BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS

Is your internal dialogue constructive or destructive? Are you building yourself up or are you tearing yourself down? How you talk to yourself “can get you into to a deterioration of the relationship with yourself,” explains Walker.

And really, if you’re not in your own corner why are you even in the fight?

How you relate to yourself can be apparent in how you talk to yourself after making a mistake. If you make a mistake, Walker recommends being instructive vs. evaluative. If you crash on a practice ride, spare yourself the, “Good job, Stupid,” and focus on, “I know to stay left here.”

If technical coach Lee McCormack catches riders harshly criticizing themselves for a mistake, he’ll stop them and say, “Hey! I don’t let people talk to my friends that way.”

Moral of the story? Be your own friend.

OH, POOH

Which leads us to the last category of optimistic vs. pessimistic self-talk. Do you think things are working for or against you? Among other things, “optimistic self-talk allows you process things and set yourself up for a better performance in the future,” says Walker.

“There is no bad race,” he says. “There are only races where you learn this or that and then go forward.”

And with all there is to do to get ready for a race, you don’t have time to be an Eeyore.

COURSE CORRECTION

Habits can be hard to break. If you want to change how you talk to yourself, but catch yourself needing a course correction, Walker says to, “just acknowledge it, recognize it… and pay it as much emotional attention as unloading the dishwasher.”

In other words, don’t beat yourself up over it. Tell yourself you’ll do it better next time. Just remember when you do that it’s all in how you say it.

Thanks to Dr. Stephen Walker for his expertise and contributions to this post. If you have more questions on the benefits of sports psychology, you can call Dr. Walker at 303-530-4439, visit www.drstephenwalker.com.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2011, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2011 include Kenda, Felt, TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Sun Ringle, Pearl Izumi, Voler, WickWerks, KMC, FSA, Crank Bros, Fi’zi:k, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics, TriFlow, 2XU, Action Wipes, Louis Garneau and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Planes, Pains & Automobiles http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/02/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-planes-pains-automobiles_251850 http://velonews.competitor.com/2011/02/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-planes-pains-automobiles_251850#comments Mon, 14 Feb 2011 20:27:27 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=13303 How to get to far-flung races? Judy Freeman's been there done that

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JFreeman-Kenda-Mug1Though snow is still covering trails across most the U.S., the national mountain bike calendar will be kicking off in a few weeks with its first stop at Bonelli Park in Southern California.

That means it’s not only time to be race ready, it’s also time to be ready for travel.

For years I’ve been making race travel plans to get around the U.S., all of which had to be on budget. I’ve tried a number of methods to achieve the objective; carpooling with friends, hitching rides with friends of friends, bumming floor space on couches or under dining room tables, sleeping in cars. Can’t say I know enough to open a travel agency, but I have learned a thing or two.

The Magic Number

My road trip from Boulder, Colorado to Fontana, California last year had intros tow truck drivers and mechanics.

Judy Freeman's road trip from Boulder, Colorado to Fontana, California last spring had introductions to tow truck drivers, mechanics and insurance agents.

Organizing a small group to share rental cars, food and lodging has been the best route. Four people seem to be a good number; large enough for cost sharing benefits and small enough to be manageable. You can usually fit four in one hotel room but it does take some Tetris-worthy organizing and solid communication skills because the hotel help isn’t always savvy to broke-bike racer plan.

Somehow trying to book a room with two beds large enough to sleep four adults always loses something in translation. I’ve had conversations that have gone something like this:

Me: So the room has double beds? Double double beds?

Clerk: Yeah, double.

Me: Two double beds, right?

Clerk: Yeah. double bed…works for two.

Not caught in time that sort of dialogue adds up to lots of talks with the front desks or a Jenga-type sleeping arrangement.

Nice to Meet You?

Traveling with the same group also helps because you find a groove, but that luxury doesn’t always work out and I’ve ended up tagging along in groups with people I don’t really know. It’s cool getting to hang out with new people, but the ro-sham-bo for bed space at the Motel 6 can land you in an awkward situation. Waking up in the middle of the night to find your rock-paper-scissor throw landed you in bed with a drooling sleep-snuggler hugging on you like a woobie is a weird introduction.

Up in the Air

With all the time needed off work to drive to some races, flying has actually ended up the cheaper prospect, especially if you can rack up the frequent-flyer points for a free flight. But the cost of flying with the bike can make it null and void. Checking my bike on one of those free flights through United cost me $175 once. One way. And at 6 a.m. with no other options to make my connections all I could do was grit my teeth as I handed over a credit card for the mugging.

I’ve had better luck on Southwest lately with their flat $50 bike fee. It also got a lot easier once I got a Pika Packworks soft case. That bag and my bike easily come in way under the 50 pound weight limit, leaving loads of room for extra tires, gear and a sherpa named Ming-mat to lug it around for me once I arrive.

Road-O-Nomics

All said, a good road trip always holds appeal for me, if only for the adventure. I spent one season sleeping in my station wagon. My dad helped me put in a small bunk for sleeping and storage space and I hit the road for almost every race. Looking back, I saved some cash on hotel rooms but I think the bills I racked up for Advil and chiropractic visits kept me in the red.

I met a lot of nice people though and I’ve enjoyed seeing them at the races for years now; all of us brought together by the luxury suites in the parking lot.

But that station wagon has seen it’s better days now. My road trip from Boulder, Colorado to Fontana, California last year had a few too many introductions. A mechanical breakdown four hours into the trip and a set of keys locked in the car two states later got me pretty acquainted with tow truck drivers, garage mechanics and insurance agents. Nice people – just wish we’d met under different circumstances.

Dare to Dream

Things are a bit easier now. Our team doesn’t have full travel budget but we do get help with lodging, which is awesome. I usually get my own bed these days and as far as I’m concerned, I’m living large.

Meanwhile I’m getting ready for Bonelli on March 12. My coach has been helping me get back to a regular riding program now that my broken foot is ready for action. I’ve started 2011 with a bit less fitness and a bit more safety chub than I’d like after three months in a boot, but it’ll turn around and I’ll soon be back in the groove. Because you know, it’s just like riding a bicycle.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2011, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2011 include Kenda, Felt, TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Sun Ringle, Pearl Izumi, Voler, WickWerks, KMC, FSA, Crank Bros, Fi’zi:k, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics, TriFlow, 2XU, Action Wipes, Louis Garneau and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Lookin’ Back http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/12/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-lookin-back-on-2010_251793 http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/12/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-lookin-back-on-2010_251793#comments Thu, 30 Dec 2010 21:26:45 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=12345 Our resident pro Judy Freeeman says a special coffee and 2010 had a certain symmetry for her.

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JFreeman-Kenda-Mug1It’s almost the new year and time when a lot of cyclists are reviewing the year past to plan for the next. That and a cup of coffee will set the stage for reflection.

Thanks to my Jakarta-based sister, I had a little reflection time with a surprisingly tasty cup of Kopi Luwak. Kopi Luwak, or civet coffee, is coffee from Indonesia made from beans that have undergone a unique processing that gives it a less bitter taste and, ironically, a pleasant aromatic quality.

Crappy and Tasty

Processing starts with the coffee cherries being eaten by the civet cat. Then, the fruit is dissolved in the digestive tract. The bean doesn’t lose its shape, but is chemically changed in the process. When it leaves the cat (and you know how), it is then harvested, cleaned, sun-dried, roasted and then sold as the world’s most expensive coffee. It can reportedly  fetch between $100 to $600 a pound. Suck it, Starbucks.

A Year in Review

So somehow a cup of Kopi Luwak and reviewing my 2010 had a certain symmetry for me.

I entered 2010 still feeling the injured hand I earned four days before racing my first mountain bike world championships. And now I’m closing 2010 wearing a boot for the foot I broke in October. Sandwiched in between was the unexpected death of my dad in May from pancreatic cancer.

A friend helped me realize it’s all made me leery that life wasn’t about to deliver another sucker punch at any moment. He was right. Personally and professionally I’ve been bracing for the other shoe to drop, whether I’ve known it or not. It’s been no way to live and definitely no way to race.

Luwaks and Lemons

And that’s how, when trying to find some sense in the year, Kopi Luwak came to strike me like the ‘ol lemons to lemonade story; but different.

People like to say that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But lemons are cute, they even have zest. People like having lemons around. Lemons get used as decoration in kitchens and paintings.

Cat droppings, for obvious reasons, don’t get the same positive attention. But neither do the most influential catalysts for change in a person’s life.

Sometimes it takes a while to see that something seriously unpleasant has a value.

What it’s Worth

I’m not saying I know exactly what positives I can find in 2010 for me, but I do know that 2010 has been a major change agent in my life. I’ve read that all life is relationships — your relationship with people, things, yourself, everything. And I can’t think of a relationship I have that hasn’t changed this year. Some for the better some seemingly for the worse.

When my friend told me I had a shaky confidence in life, it was a wake up call that my relationship with life needed a change.

It hasn’t always been lemon pretty. But bottom line is it made all my relationships grow in some way and me along with them.

Back on the Bike

As far as racing I’d like to say I got back on my bike after my dad died and won my first race. But truth is, a friend found me crying on the trailside looking for a short cut back to my car. Encouraging me to continue, he stayed with me as I rode back to the finish.

My training partner also dealt with some workouts cut short this summer. Turns out, it’s really hard to do intervals when you’re sobbing. It has something to do with needing to breathe. Whodathunk.

Still, even when my bike yanked tears out of me, it’s been the place I always want to get back to. And my friends, family, coach and sponsors have helped me along the way.

They were all cheering me on when I had my best finish at nationals this year — just missing the podium. If they weren’t actually on the sideline, they were calling or emailing. For these experiences and many others, I know I have much to be thankful for.

2011

I’m optimistic about 2011, even though I know there’s no guarantee it won’t be as hard as 2010. I’m hoping for the best but know that no matter what I do life is going to go where it’s going to go.

This time though I think I’ve got a better base to have faith that whatever happens, it all has the makings to push me toward something better.

I’ll believe it if for no other reason that is doesn’t serve me to think anything else. And maybe also because when I last checked, lemons didn’t yield coffee worth $600 bucks a pound.

Suck it, lemonade.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Dave Towle http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/12/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-dave-towle_251785 http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/12/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-dave-towle_251785#comments Fri, 10 Dec 2010 17:34:36 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=12235 Singletrack.com's Judy Freeman catches up with a familiar voice in U.S. cycling — Dave Towle

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FreemanCrowds will gather this weekend to watch some of the biggest names in U.S. cycling duke it out at the cyclocross national championships in Bend, Oregon.

But equally entertaining will be the voices calling out those names. And one of those voices belongs to Dave Towle. There are a lot of announcers out there I really enjoy, but I’ll say it outright: I’m a Towle fan.

As a racer and a spectator, I appreciate Dave’s passion for the sport, interest in the riders and respect for his job as announcer. But Dave’s ability to make you think and laugh at the same time, for me, makes him a top pro at his job.

Dave has been making me laugh since the days he was sitting on a hay bale announcing the local Boulder short track races about eight years ago. It was after one of those races I had to grab a dictionary to look up the word “donnybrook” only to learn I got dropped in what Dave was calling a “rowdy brawl or free for all.”

Schooled twice. Thanks, Dave.

Dave Towle working the 2010 mountain bike national championships. Photo by Brad Kaminski

Dave Towle working the 2010 mountain bike national championships. Photo by Brad Kaminski

A Mic Does Not An MC Make

Still, I didn’t start to appreciate how difficult it is for an announcer to be funny until a few years later at a road crit where I listened to an announcer who made the event about as uncomfortable as having a drunk clown at a birthday party.

In an effort to get a laugh out of the crowd (unless he was trying to get fired) that announcer repeatedly conjured up less-than-savory images for commentary. As I recall, the effects of spicy food on the weak of stomach seemed to be his go-to material.

However, the whole event did clue me in to just how hard race announcing is. You’ve got to be quick on your feet to hype up crowds and racers, relay information, smooth over dead air and incidents and promote the event — all at once. An attempt at humor can be a dangerous addition to the mix.

Do it right and you can convert first-time spectators into passionate fans. Do it wrong and you can convince a whole crowd of perfect strangers that you spend an inordinate amount of time in bathrooms.

Do the Numbers

Humor, I think, is a numbers game. The more you throw out there the greater the chance of something going wrong. But Dave always seems to keep the balance. Off limits are topics that wouldn’t make for polite conversations, let alone race announcing, like sex, race or religion.

You’d think that is a given, but Dave has heard it done before. Aside from unprofessional, he says that to be that insensitive “you ruin someone’s day, maybe their week,” he says. “Why would you do that?”

What is Your Quest?

“I love bike racers. My goal is to make them feel that,” says Towle. “I want [the crowd] to understand just how hard racing is. Racing takes courage.”

Towle’s strategy to this end is simple but not easy.

“I want to actively engage people in the race,” he explained. “[Humor is] a way to engage people.”

For Dave, it’s not sufficient just to say a rider is working hard to make a move. To drive it home to the crowd, he’ll yell out that a rider is “flogging himself like a rented mule due back at 4 today!”

“If I can make someone think, ‘Did he really just say that?’ and make them think how hard the rider is working — getting them more engaged in the race, then I’ve done a good job,” he says.

The Source

Dave did his racing years ago to get the feel of the “hurricane of pain” or riding in the “jail break” he calls out in races. Today, he gives a lot of credit to his racing friends.

“Bike racers are funny people,” says Towle. “I’m lucky I have racing friends I talk with and learn from.”

A big source of inspiration for announcing, however, goes back years ago to watching his dad at family functions.

“My dad had amazing social skills. He was great at connecting people,” he recalls. “His strength was that he genuinely cared.”

Connecting people with racing is how Dave continues that legacy. A bit uneasy with any flattery I offered, Dave was quick to say that he has his critics. He acknowledged he’ll never please everyone. The documentary “Hecklers” was good to watch, he says.

In the Bend

Knowing how hard the job can be, Dave says he has respect for many announcers on the cycling scene. This weekend he’ll be commenting alongside Richard Fries, a fellow announcer with whom he loves to work.

“We play to each other strengths,” he says.

If you’re out in Bend for CX ationals this week, be prepared to see and hear some of the top pros in the game.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Why is the Iceman so Hot? http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/11/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-why-is-the-iceman-so-hot_11475 http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/11/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-why-is-the-iceman-so-hot_11475#comments Tue, 16 Nov 2010 14:19:32 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=11475 Judy Freeman says the largest single-day mountain bike race in the U.S isn't only a race but a force for change.

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JFreeman Kenda-MugA few weeks ago, a stair off my back porch pulled a kung-fu move on me, breaking my foot and dashing plans to race this year’s Iceman Cometh Challenge in Traverse City, Michigan.

While upset about this, I think my boyfriend Tom was even more so. Consoling myself that at least I wasn’t missing the Olympics, my Michigan-born beau replied, “But baby, it’s the goddamn Mid-west Olympics!”

And this wasn’t the first time I had heard something like this. So I kept my ticket and went to see what all the noise was about.

But after attending the largest single-day mountain bike race in the U.S., it became evident that the Iceman isn’t only a race but an event and a force for change.

THE RACE

Brian Matter celebrates another Iceman victory. Photo by John Russell at Great Lakes Images

Brian Matter celebrates another Iceman victory. Photo by John Russell at Great Lakes Images

The 2010 Iceman Cometh Challenge saw close to 4,700 riders across three events — the Iceman 29.5-mile point-to-point, the 16.5-mile Slushcup and the Kid’s SnoCone race.

I asked the Iceman’s creator, director, and one-man-show, Steve Brown, how he manages to get so many people to northern Michigan in November to race bikes.

“Honestly, I don’t really know,” chuckled Brown. “I think it has something to do with the unpredictability of the weather. There could be snow, or it could be 62 degrees and sunny.

“There’s a sense of adventure and of battling the elements that attracts people,” added Brown. “For me, that’s the spirit of mountain bike racing.”

And attract it does. Registration for the event reached capacity in less than one day.

20 percent of the racers came from 37 states outside Michigan. Some Iceman fields were so large several age groups were their own categories. The men’s age-40 field, for example, had 120 riders to itself. Not to be outdone, the SnoCone rallied 300 kids to race.

A total prize purse of roughly $43,000 was no small carrot either. The startlines saw our reigning cross-country national champ, Todd Wells, and my teammate, reigning National Ultra Endurance Series winner, Amanda Carey. Amanda and Wisconsin rider Brian Matter both walked away $3,500 heavier in the pocket for their pro class wins.

The attraction of Iceman is varied, Brown said.

“You’ll have riders who train for this race and some who will pull their bike out of the garage two weeks before,” he said.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

L to R: National XC champ Todd Wells, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Russell Finsterwald start the 2010 Iceman. Photo John Russell at Great Lakes Images

L to R: National XC champ Todd Wells, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Russell Finsterwald start the 2010 Iceman. Photo John Russell at Great Lakes Images

Created as something to do in the downtime between the first snowfall and the start of deer hunting season, the inaugural Iceman goaded 35 riders to prove mountain bikes, while still in their infancy, could ride through the forests from Kalkaska to Traverse City.

Twenty years later, roughly 4,000 riders made the same trek. But for many I talked with the big draw is the atmosphere. Last year’s Iceman winner, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, broke his collarbone before heading to Iceman a few years back, but he chose to still make the trip just to be a part of it.

All events finish in the campgrounds of the Pere Marquette State Forest, making for crowd sizes to match the jumbotron results board. The gathering grows till the last event of the day with the finish of the men’s and women’s pro race; a deliberate design by Brown.

“[People] are there celebrating their own finish and then sticking around to see their heroes ride” he said.

Rick Kozole of Clarkson, Michigan, races only a few times year but has been making it back to the Iceman for five years. Somewhat typical, Rick came out with a crew of 15 friends and family to race and enjoy a little après Iceman.

“What’s nice about the race is it’s a family sport,” Kozole said. “It’s not just for hardcore racers.”

THE BUS STOP

Maybe a lesser-known Iceman staple is “The Party Bus.” The bus has made it to more Icemen than its owner, Kent Noller. Never having raced the event himself, Noller has been to the Iceman about eight years now to watch the race, visit with friends and “guilt himself into exercising and eating right by surrounding [himself] into with world class athletes,” he said.

And this could be true. The bus itself has hosted about six national mountain bike champs, a few Olympians and one World Champ for post-Iceman celebrations.

But on a serious note, Noller, a long-time Traverse City resident, finds a positive impact on the city because of the race.

“It brings an element of athletic activity that most of Michigan isn’t really aware of,” said Noller, citing the growth of the Cherry-Roubaix road race.

IMPACT

Brian Matter and Amanda Carey with their Iceman hardware. Photo by John Russell at Great Lakes Images

Brian Matter and Amanda Carey with their Iceman hardware. Photo by John Russell at Great Lakes Images

Brown would agree, likening the effect to that of the Red Zinger Road Classic on Boulder, Colorado, Brown said that for cyclists, the Iceman “has put Traverse City on the map.”

Brown also reports the race has an economic impact of roughly $1.5 million on Traverse City and the surrounding the area.

Community groups look forward to participating in the Iceman. Local high school sport teams volunteer for the race and in return receive fund raising donations.

The city of Kalkaska asked Brown to move the start more toward the town center. This increased community involvement and helped Brown lengthen the start before the singletrack to alleviate bottlenecks.

“The town welcomes the riders and [the riders] feel it,” said Brown. “I hate to [use a cliché], but it’s a win-win situation.”

Even the local Coast Guard installment asked to be part of the Iceman; having a presence and adding a dramatic flyover to finish the singing of the National Anthem at the race’s start.

CULTURAL GROWTH

When asked what’s the coolest thing about the Iceman, Brown said he “gets a kick out of seeing a cycling culture develop in Traverse City. There’s a lot more commuting by bike.”

Just this summer, Brown bumped into a father of one of the football team volunteers. The parent had lost about 50 pounds and looked a completely changed person. A new-found love of cycling, instigated by the Iceman, was the cause.

So, with thousands of racers, top pros, huge crowds, financial boon and life-changing effect, it is somewhat Olympic-esque. Maybe Tom was right, but just this once.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Pro Riders Face Chhh Chhh Chhh Changes http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/10/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-pro-riders-face-chhh-chhh-chhh-changes_251728 http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/10/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-pro-riders-face-chhh-chhh-chhh-changes_251728#comments Wed, 27 Oct 2010 16:06:30 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=10888 For pro mountain bikers, sponsorship ain't what it used to be. But that ain't all bad.

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Back in the heyday of mountain biking, when tales circulated of six-figure incomes and expert-level riders getting paid to race, I’m told that approaching a sponsor with only a race résumé showed solid organization and that a main expectation of a sponsored athlete was to showcase product.

Whether accurate or not, that was then. With today’s tight budgets, gaining sponsorship takes more than showing up with just paper. The role of the athlete has evolved from entertainer to engager.

Changing Times

“Back then,” explains former Sobe/Cannondale team manager, Matt Jewett, “you had non-endemic sponsors flocking to the sport bringing the cash with them that helped fund the big teams, big team staffs, semi’s, etc.  There were two primary events that athletes were focused on — XC and DH.”

Manufacturers could reach the majority of their market at a single event, and in the mid-1990s before the arrival of full-suspension, even with just one bike.

However, with the addition of Super D, marathon and ultra events, Jewett says that the sport of mountain biking has “evolved and fragmented into a much more diverse and welcoming sport.”

“All these points of access,” he says, “have gotten the spectators off the sidelines and onto the start lines.”

So now with more events and bikes to cater to these various interests, sponsors are looking for different ways to reach their markets instead of the one-stop, single big factory team to grace the race venue.

And to respond, riders are taking it on themselves to be that solution.

Being the Solution

Top results can speak for themselves, but to show to sponsors more return on their investment, more and more riders are stepping up as their own marketing machines.

A recent USA Today article (9/21/10) explained how endurance racer Rebecca Rusch has hired two friends to help with her exposure. Putting her marketing degree to use, Rusch doesn’t rest on cycling laurels to earn sponsorship and a paycheck. She uses a web site, Facebook and Twitter to update her fans on her latest endeavors.

Zack Vestal, former team manager of the Trek/VW Team elaborates on how marketing itself has changed expectations for today’s sponsored athlete.

“Facebook and Twitter didn’t even exist [in the 1990s]. The Internet was barely around. Expectations were a lot less,” he says.

Vestal says that now, instead of just autograph signings and appearances, athletes are bolstering their exposure with these avenues of social media to speak directly to supporters.

You, Inc.

Additionally, either in personality or program, athletes are branding themselves. By finding personal niches, some riders have created their own way.

“The world is crowded with activity, events,” says Vestal. “[manufacturers and athletes are] fighting to stay relevant.”

Vestal points to “Rad” Ross Schnell as an example of today’s athlete. Moving from a predominant XC schedule to create his own race program, Schnell has become “the face of all-mountain riding.”

Time for Creativity

Riders have to be creative, but this is also a time ripe for creativity.

“Mountain biking,” says Jewett, “has always provided … sponsors a chance to get their products and services in front of a very large, health-focused, and quite affluent, audience. That was true in the nineties and it’s even truer today.”

With more emphasis on spectators experiencing — instead of just watching — an event and the rise of high school mountain bike teams, Vestal says he sees mountain biking in the U.S. as “poised for growth,” if it’s done correctly.

“It’s a lot of work being a sponsored rider today. No question to that,” says Vestal, adding that riders are forced to be more professional. “With more diligent and professional riders to the sport, we can adopt new people to mountain biking; to grow the sport with more participation.”

More points of contact via social media or smaller events create greater ability for professional athletes to engage new riders in mountain biking.

Vestal says he looks forward to the day when instead of seeing two manufacturers “fighting each other for attention, they’re fighting video games,” and getting kids off the couch.

No Effort Wasted

And the benefit of these new times in mountain biking isn’t lost on the athlete either. My team director for Kenda/Felt, David Myers, poses an upside to this new responsibility for the sponsored rider.

“A career as a mountain bike athlete at the pro level is relatively short-lived,” Myers says. “Developing the skills to interact in the business of a team can help you throughout life. These skill sets are transferable.”

The Kenda/Felt team has a tight budget and a four-rider-and-director crew who all share in the responsibilities of keeping our program running.

“We have to leverage the experience of everyone involved to meet the expectations of our sponsors and supporters,” Myers says. “If not, we can easily lose that support to a team that is willing to push beyond their limits. We have to be that team.”

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Off-Season XC Fitness and ‘Cross http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/09/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-off-season-xc-fitness-and-cross_10557 http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/09/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-off-season-xc-fitness-and-cross_10557#comments Mon, 27 Sep 2010 15:39:04 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=10557 Cross-country mountain bike race seasons are tying up for many and some cyclists are putting up their wheels and fixing for a winter off

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Cross-country mountain bike race seasons are tying up for many and some cyclists are putting up their wheels and fixing for a winter off the bike.

The “off-season” is a time to rest the bones and brains from the demands of training and racing all summer and get ready for the next year. But if you weren’t thinking of racing cyclocross this fall, you may want to consider it as part of your off-season training.

The Case for ‘Cross

2000 Atlanta mountain bike Olympian, physical therapist and my cycling coach Ann Trombley says she sees many benefits of ‘cross for cross-country riders. Trombley offers cyclocross  racing as an intensive 45-minute focus on skills and fitness as well as a great way to maintain hard-won fitness in the off season.

Because of the shorter duration, ‘cross  races generally run faster with a higher average heart rate than cross-country races. Usually, it’s about 45 minutes on full throttle versus two hours of mostly high-end endurance.

Trombley explains that pushing yourself to race at higher intensity for a full ‘cross  race can train your body to tolerate longer intensity efforts in a way you won’t likely get from a cross-country race.

“It teaches you to suffer more; to tolerate that higher level more,” says Trombley.

Elite cyclist Amy Dombroski made a recent transition from professional road to elite XC racing, saying she found that “‘cross  helped a lot going into the mountain bike season” as “mountain biking is a different animal.”

“There’s no hiding if you’re not feeling good like you can in road racing,” says Dombroski, who compares XC racing to time trials.

With 45 minutes of go-time, Trombley says that ‘cross can increase one’s capacity and inclination to suffer through instead of hide from the pain.

Don’t Give Up

TOO MUCH PEDALING?
Cycling coach Ann Trombley cautions devoted cross-country racers from jumping into a serious cyclocross race season – or vice versa.
It takes years of fitness to be able to tolerate two full race schedules without a considerable break. While some cyclists won’t have a problem, riders can experience decreased output or just burnout midway through the second season. Until you’ve built up the tolerance, Trombley advises to make one season your focus and the other for enjoyment.
Amy Dombroski, who raced a full ‘cross season in 2009, but only just completed her first full XC race season this summer, would agree. She admits she is still figuring out the fitness demands for her new sport.
“I don’t think I took a big enough break after ‘cross worlds [this past January]. I was kinda already fried as we started the [XC] season. So I definitely struggled fitness-wise.”
But with just having placed second at the talent-packed ‘cross Vegas race at Interbike last week, it appears she’s getting it sorted out.
There are still more benefits to get from ‘cross racing, but to sum them up, “Racing is racing practice,” as Trombley puts it.
So before you hang the wheels up this off-season, remember cyclocross racing is a good way build and maintain cycling fitness for your upcoming XC season and at the same time change it up a bit.

Moreover, Trombley says that a common mistake for athletes in the off-season is excluding higher-end efforts from their workouts. While she’ll schedule her cross-country riders time to recover from the summer race season, she’ll balance it with efforts to minimize the effects of “detraining.”

Reduced or just a complete cessation of exercising can cause “detraining” where the body loses the physiological adaptations made from training. So a winter without higher-end efforts can mean a cyclist returning to the bike “will have to spend more time rebuilding the upper-end capacity that was lost instead of honing what he or she might have maintained while working on other areas of fitness and skills,” says Trombley.

Trombley adds that while there’s no hard-and-fast rule on age and performance, on average, athletes over the age of 35 are especially susceptible to the effects of detraining. Trombley has found that older athletes can need more time adapting to new training programs.

Older athletes, she says, “have a harder time regaining what they have lost, especially for fast-twitch or speed activities.”

Incorporating ‘cross  racing into the program can help maintain the higher-end readiness.

KER-POW!

Tight corners, barriers and short steep climbs in ‘cross racing are much like heavy-set NFL fans covered in body paint on TV — they show up often, so brace yourself.

The need for (and opportunity to develop) explosive power is typically greater in a ‘cross  race than an XC race. So when the chance comes to drop a buddy out of a corner on your next XC race, you’ll be glad you got all that practice in the fall.

Without the emphasis on building endurance, Trombley finds the ‘cross season is also a great time to add more explosive power training into the schedule, such as plyometric exercises. More time is available to put these demands on the body without overtaxing the athlete. Additionally, this mixing up the training can help round out weaknesses in a body and improve overall performance.

Mad Skills

Trombley reminds cyclists that ‘cross can also help a rider hone the technical skills. Like in XC racing, a ‘cross racer is railing corners and negotiating unfriendly terrain, like mud or sand, but now he or she is doing it on much smaller tires and tread. Throw in the fact that your position on a ‘cross bike is setup less for maneuverability than speed, and you see that you’re also refining your sense of balance in unstable conditions. Once you get back on your XC rig and 2.0s, you’ll feel like you’re riding with the Force.

Still relatively new to the ways of dirt, Dombroski points to the art of dialing in tire pressure and “how to take loose corners” as other key skills she transferred from her ‘cross-to-mountain experience. With little mountain bike experience to speak of, Dombroski transitioned from the road to become 2009 U23 MTB national champion.

And if just the thought of “More Cowbell” isn’t enough to make you smile, ‘cross may appeal to a more utilitarian sense of fun. You can bust out a solid workout in an hour, watch some races with friends from the beer garden and still be home in time to get on the house tasks you’ve been meaning to finish all summer.

Thanks to Ann Trombley and Amy Dombroski for their contributions to this post. To  contact Ann or learn more about Trailmaster Coaching, call 303.278.0291 or visit TrailmasterCoaching.com.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Racing the World http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/09/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-racing-the-world_251659 http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/09/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-racing-the-world_251659#comments Fri, 03 Sep 2010 11:43:03 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=10126 From the competition, to the course and even registration, Singletrack.com columnist Judy Freeman says what's different about racing a

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“The great thing about Worlds is anyone can be exceptional on that given day. And if you are great, you have a chance to win that title.” — Todd Wells

Waiting for the gun on the start line of the World Cup finals last weekend in Windham, New York it struck me just how different racing a World Cup event is from racing a national event in the U.S.

It wasn’t just the starting protocol that had all the formality of a Scripps National Spelling Bee — the official-monitored starting corrals, the pre-race instructions in French and English, the sea of riders from around the world and the clearly absent cheer of the race announcer rousing the crowd to “C’mon and make some noise!”

International cycling rules give the microphone to the race official for the last three minutes before the gun. So between the utterance of “Trois minutes!” and the gun shot you are left with only silence and thoughts of the impending pain to keep you company.

From the competition, to the course and even registration what’s different about racing a World Cup is, well, pretty much everything.

Best in the World

I asked the recently crowned U.S. 2010 XC national champion, Todd Wells, what he thinks about racing World Cups and nationals.

“World Cup racing is completely different from domestic,” Wells says. “We have a strong domestic field but it’s not as deep as the World Cup. The World Cup has all the best riders in the world, so instead of one or two-minute time gaps between riders, there are usually only a few seconds.

“Mess up a section in a domestic race and it’s no problem,” Wells says. “Mess up a section in a World Cup and you get passed by a handful of riders.”

For two years running, Heather Irmiger has worn the MTB marathon national champion’s jersey. She agrees with Wells’ assessment on the deep international fields.

“Because there is so much talent, there is always someone very close to you waiting to pass you,” she says. “For this reason, I think a racer will push him or herself harder than they knew they could to fight for a position. I’d say international racing is the best way to be your best and maximize your talent and potential.”

In addition to the depth of talent, there’s the breadth of attendance. Olympic Cross Country (XCO) World Cup races, especially in Europe, draw larger fields; averaging close to 200 for the men and more than 100 for the elite women. That’s compared with national fields that typically see half of that. The numbers alone make riders have to scrap for room on a crowded singletrack.

Elite XC rider, Erin Huck of Boulder, Colorado got her first crack at the world at the recent Windham race. New to World Cup racing, her call up put her in the back row of 67 women. Huck’s first lap was “was a mix of riding furiously, running furiously, and waiting furiously due to the bottle-necks.”

High-Caliber Course

The author navigating the course at the Windham World Cup. Photo by Shannon DeCelle

The author navigating the course at the Windham World Cup. Photo by Shannon DeCelle

While international rules make XCO circuits between 5 to 9 km/lap (3 to 5.5 miles per lap), perhaps it’s tradition that seems to make them more technical. And more technical means more planning.

“The WC courses vary quite a bit, but usually all have at least one or two crazy ‘Euro Shoots’ you either ride, crash trying or ride around,” says Wells. “You don’t make up much time because the riders either make it or they don’t.”

In the U.S. the descents tend to be longer and not as tricky, Wells explains.

“You don’t lose any sleep over them the night before the race and they are often places where you can make up or lose time because they are rideable at different speeds,” he says.

PEDALING TILL PULLED

Though more national races are adopting a “World Cup style” course format, the XCO courses still tend to be shorter with more laps. This is where the “80 percent rule” sees more use. To keep the course clear for the leaders, officials pull riders running 80 percent behind the lead pace.

At Windham, where the top elite men were riding close to 17-minute laps and the women roughly 20-minute laps, the fast pace and tire-flatting rocks saw 25 percent of the women’s field and 37 percent of the men’s pulled out of the race.

Navigating the New

Even registering for the event is different, which sounds ludicrous to note, but given you have two opportunities to miss registration you find it notable. An elite racer must register with the UCI, cycling’s international governing body, or USA Cycling almost two weeks in advance of the race. Several riders (author included) found this out the hard way.

Huck admits that as a first timer navigating the “whole World Cup procedure was intimidating,” but she’ll be back when Windham hosts another World Cup in 2011. Won over by the energy of the event, she says she enjoyed “being surrounded by athletes from all over the world speaking a variety of different languages and riding on equipment I’d never seen before.”

Venue and Vibe

Not to be underappreciated is the World Cup atmosphere — and this is not by accident. Windham Race Director Nick Bove says that the standards to host a World Cup event “are just higher.”

World Cup races are expected to provide off-hour entertainment and a committed marketing budget to pull larger crowds. Non-race attractions like Windham’s block party that closed a stretch of state highway for thousands of people, a two story fall into a stunt bag, helicopter rides, a free concert and fireworks display added to the vibe and attendance.

And the race committee — compiled of Windham residents, not professional race promoters — indeed pulled it off; exceeding the estimated attendance of 10,000 with 16,000 people to race, cheer on the racers and peruse the largely filled expo area.

Bring it on Home

To have had a World Cup on American soil was  “special treat,” as Irmiger puts it. A homegrown World Cup race comes with benefits.

Wells, who grew up just an hour from Windham in Kingston, New York points out, “World Cup races are so hard that it’s nice to have the location familiar and comfortable instead of doing one of the hardest races we do all year in a place that is foreign.”

Overcoming a time zone challenge of maybe one to three hours compared to 10-plus hours is also a boon for most North American riders.

“The difference between being on the podium and off it is only a few parts of a percent — and the fatigue of travel and jet lag can be that difference,” explains Irmiger.

If European racers had to contend with as much extensive travel, Irmiger speculates, “the results for the North Americans would be more consistently high.”

Waiting for Worlds

This weekend brings the mountain bike world championships — and the best of the best — to Quebec, Canada.

In addition to Wells and Irmiger, Americans Georgia Gould, who earned bronze in Windham, and Willow Koerber, who placed second overall in the World Cup series, will also race in Quebec.

The vibe of the event is motivating for Irmiger, who says she feels a bit worn from a packed 2010 schedule.

“The World’s venue is one of the best in the world: music, activities for spectators, cool course…they’re expecting 100,000 people this weekend!”

Her 11th place finish at Windham will also fuel the fire.

Despite some flat tire issues in New York, Wells also has a positive look towards Worlds.

“The great thing about Worlds is anyone can be exceptional on that given day,” he says. “And if you are great, you have a chance to win that title.”

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: An Injured Cyclist’s Emotions in Motion http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/08/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-an-injured-cyclists-emotions-in-motion_251626 http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/08/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-an-injured-cyclists-emotions-in-motion_251626#comments Fri, 20 Aug 2010 17:36:10 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=9839 Ever been injured, sick or unable to train, race or just ride? Singletrack.com's Judy Freeman looks into various ways being out of action

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Flipping through bike magazines, most race photographs I see of Katie Compton catch her with a countenance to make you think you were staring at the business end of a gun — serious and steely.

It’s what one would expect from a cyclist with multiple national titles and World Cup wins. (What in France they might call a bahdass.)

THE GRIEF CYCLE
In her book, On Death & Dying, published in 1969, Swedish doctor Elisabeth Kübler-Ross proposed a “Grief Cycle” — a model she developed from her work with terminally ill patients. While these stages were found typical of patients’ response to death and bereavement, the stages of the Grief Cycle were later found conducive to understanding responses to many forms of trauma and loss, such as the loss of a loved one, a possession or one’s health.
The Five Stages
Denial – “I’m not hurt. It’s not that bad.”
Anger – “Why did this happen to me?!” “[Blank] is to blame!” “What’s the point? I quit!”
Bargaining – Maybe if I don’t train as much this week, the doctor will OK me to race.”
Depression – “What’s the point?” “I’m quitting.” “It’s not that fun anymore.” “I don’t feel like training anymore.”
Acceptance – “Alright, I’m injured. I’ve got to work with this to get beyond it.”

But it may not be the image you’d expect from a person whose biking career has been riddled with periods of hopelessness, defeat and wanting to quit because of a yet-to-be diagnosed leg condition she’s had since she was 18.

This is the same leg issue that forced Compton to pull out after one lap of the 2009 Cyclocross World Championships in the Czech Republic this past January where she was in contention for the rainbow jersey. It was, as Compton recalls, “one of my lowest points as a racer.”

Every cyclist can relate to having a setback in his or her training or racing schedule. Work gets busy or you catch a cold and you’re off the bike for a week. It’s frustrating, but you’re soon over it.

But what happens when setbacks go from a few days to a few months or even years due to an injury or an illness? Plans to get physically back in the saddle are a given. But what might not be expected is that there is an emotional side to dealing with injury and illness that will also need attention.

Along with talking to Compton about her experiences, I spoke with Dr. Julie Emmerman, a former professional mountain biker, now psychotherapist, who specializes in working with athletes in sport psychology. In addition to other issues, Emmerman helps both professional and recreational athletes deal with the emotional and mental challenges that often accompany injury and illness in sport.

GAIN AND LOSS

Athletes, Emmerman points out, are often “gain focused.”

“We focus on gaining fitness, power and rankings,” she says. “Experiences of temporary loss through injury or even prolonged illness naturally take people by surprise. These experiences are anxiety-inducing, and often very confusing, especially in complex medical situations.”

Understanding the emotional effects of loss, a cyclist can then be more equipped to cope with a physical setback.

Looking at the Kübler-Ross “Grief Cycle,” which proposes five stages to deal with loss, an athlete can better see the variety of emotions he or she may face. Forms of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are stages an injured cyclist can experience.

Be aware, however, that it may not be obvious to you or others what you are feeling. Indications of depression, for example, can have a wide array of expressions, such as withdrawal, difficulty sleeping, increased alcohol use or loss of motivation or pleasure in activities one used to enjoy.

Asked if she’s ever wanted to quit racing, Compton replied, “Yep, I’ve wanted to quit on numerous occasions and did when I was in college.”

Returning to cycling as a pilot on a tandem bike with a blind partner in the Paralympic Games, however, rekindled Compton’s love of the sport.

“I forgot how much I missed the competition, going fast and turning myself inside out to win,” she said.

Still, to add to any confusion, is that grieving is not a linear process. An injured cyclist may jump right to experiencing anger over a crash that left him injured before sliding back into denying the injury is even serious. This could happen over a few days or a few minutes — something Compton knows all too well.

“I could…do without those feelings of dread, disappointment, anger at my body and increased stress levels whenever I get off a plane, walk down a set of stairs, or hit my quad on my handle bar, which can trigger the pain and my heavy heart that soon follows,” Compton says.

A ticket to an emotional roller coaster often comes free with injury. Knowing this however can be a step toward acceptance and support recovery, which is why Compton just takes it “one day at a time.”

Along with the loss of health, there might be a sense of losing control over one’s life. Instead of training as hard as you’d like, for example, now your injury is calling the shots. Fighting it, in effort to regain control, might just invite further injury and more emotional difficulty.

“Recognizing and then choosing from the parameter of available options helps athletes regain a sense of control and empowers them to move forward with a constructive recovery plan,” Emmerman says.

LASHING OUT

CAN’T RIDE? DO THIS:
1. Know that a wide variety of emotions are normal and that no one is comfortable all the time while dealing with injury or illness. Know you aren’t alone. Consult with a professional if your emotional responses concern you, interfere with your relationships at home or work and/or you are engaging in self-destructive behavior (e.g.: Reluctance to eat because of fear of weight gain or excessive use of drugs and/or alcohol.)
2. Don’t isolate yourself. Talk with friends and family about how you’re feeling. “Being around people who respect your athletic pursuits is especially helpful as they may better understand the context as to why you’re upset,” says Dr. Julie Emmerman. Elite racer Katie Compton credits her husband, family and friends in helping her persevere when times get tough.
3. “Flex other muscles — physically and socially. It’s important to be adaptable and able to engage with life in a variety of ways,” says Emmerman. Maybe your injury keeps you out of a race, but gives you more time to build valuable core strength through yoga. Or maybe your now-reduced race schedule will now allow more time to see friends you miss during the season.
4. Be diligent but flexible. While you work diligently toward your rehabilitation, be flexible in your recovery. The goals and plans you set at the start of the season may need to be reevaluated. Compton now takes a day-by-day approach to training depending on what her body needs. It’s not the way she’d like to train, but she doesn’t let her mind put unrealistic demands on her body.
5. Use the injury as a training block to get mentally stronger. Learn how you react to adversity and practice turning it to a positive. There is wisdom and experience you can gain from it. Consider it a spice in your growth as a seasoned athlete.
6. Manage your anxiety in a healthy way. Using alcohol or recreational drugs as an outlet may only exacerbate the negative emotions. If you’re anxious about a delayed return to racing you might return too soon, risking further injury. Being in a good space emotionally can assist with better decision-making.
7. Focus on the positive. Compton reminds herself often that disappointment builds character and that makes a person better. As in any situation, reaching for the positive can help make a tough time easier.
Katie Compton
Dr. Julie Emmerman

Another aspect to injury a cyclist may not anticipate is how it will affect relationships. Consider the stress injury can bring, such as financial hardship or inability to meet work or sponsor obligations. And then top it off with the removal of a key stress outlet (i.e. training) and the door opens further to moodiness, which is often directed at those closest to the ailing athlete.

Remember that getting grumpy on your honey may be more about being injured than the bike pump left in the middle of the garage. Although she’s generally a happy person, when leg pain pushes Compton to irritability she accepts it and gives herself some space. Being able to keep perspective can help keep the peace.

CRACKED MIRROR

Also tied up in an athlete’s pursuits can be part of their identity. Athletes can base a little to a lot of how they see themselves in their activities. Putting the kibosh on training so a person no longer feels like “a cyclist” or decreased performance levels that leave a person feeling like they “suck” are likely signs of a negatively affected self-image.

Even with the mindset that has brought her numerous World Cup wins, Compton says she still wonders at times what it would be like to race with good legs and feel like “a normal person.”

An individual is going to feel what he or she feels, but being able to identify that a negative self-perception may be more the result of an injury can help a person see what that feeling is really about.

Keeping it in balance, Compton says she can see the flipside to her struggle. Having pushed through years of excruciating leg pain, Compton has found new levels to her pain threshold and has learned how to race smarter; all adding to her strengths and confidence as a cyclist.

When the game is 90 percent mental, adversity can bear gifts that “normalcy” may never provide.

ACCEPT IT

Almost by definition, athletes thrive on challenge. Accepting that injury is a natural part of the athletic process can help view a setback as a challenge, which then can help in committing to the recovery process. Rather than feeling fully derailed, an injury can be incorporated as part of the athlete’s journey.

“Bracing against it can limit performance in a variety of ways,” Emmerman says, “while accepting it into the overall picture helps the growth curve maintain forward momentum.”

ALL ABOUT YOU

While typical reactions to grief are well documented, responses can vary individually and even by gender. Though it’d be impossible to describe all the possible responses, an awareness that an injured athlete may need more than PT appointments can help you or an athlete you know. Emotional support from a coach, sport psychologist, friends and/or family members may be integral to recovery.

KATIE COMES BACK

Despite her leg issues, Compton recently placed fourth at the 2010 World Cup cross-country race at Val di Sole, Italy — her highest mountain bike World Cup finish to date. She was also named to the 2010 U.S. cross-country team headed to Quebec for the mountain bike world championships. Ironically, a recently diagnosed thyroid condition brings Compton some hope. It’s possible that her progress in correcting a low thyroid function may help with her legs.

What’s to come for Compton is yet to be seen, but given 14 years of illness and adversity haven’t stopped her from doing what she loves, I expect it won’t be long till I open a page in another bike rag and find Katie Compton staring intently out.

Thank you to Katie Compton for her openness and willingness to share her experiences and to Dr. Julie Emmerman for her expertise and contributions to this post. If you have more questions on the benefits of sport psychology, you can call Dr. Emmerman at 720.839.7350.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Hurts So Good http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/07/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-hurts-so-good_251554 http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/07/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-hurts-so-good_251554#comments Wed, 07 Jul 2010 01:02:19 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=9106 Massage can do a competitive cyclist's body good, but Judy Freeman says a good sports massage is a bit different than what non-cycling

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JFreeman-Kenda-Mug1The competitive cyclist’s vocabulary can sometimes cause small communication breakdowns with non-cycling folks.

For example, I once asked a friend to “feed” me at race as I came through on my laps. Not realizing I was talking about handing me water bottles, she kindly replied yes and asked if she should have a sandwich ready to go or if I would be stopping to eat.

Telling a cycling civilian that I’m going for a massage can cause some disconnect as well. “Must be nice” is a common reply. It’s as if I were going to a day spa where harps and chirping crickets play on CD while scented oils are rubbed into my tired legs.

Reality, however, is a dude with a shaved head named Jeff and The Kings of Leon. And if I’m coming in after a good crash or big training block, well then I’m also getting a treatment where I’ll tap out if the pain gets to be too much.

The Right Tools for the Job

Jeff Staron uses trigger point therapy on one of his clients. Photo by Judy Freeman

Jeff Staron uses trigger point therapy on one of his clients. Photo by Judy Freeman

Don’t get me wrong; a soothing massage that uses light pressure has its own benefits. It’s just that as an athlete who trains six to seven days a week, I choose sports massage to keep me rolling and recovering from injuries.

I’ve been going to Jeff Staron for sport and orthopedic massage for about four years now. Jeff works on Olympic-level athletes to office employees suffering from repetitive movement injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Jeff uses 85 percent trigger point therapy in his massage. Trigger points (areas that cause sensations in other parts of the body) can serve as road maps to other locations that contribute to a problem. By releasing the trigger point, you can alleviate the root of the pain and then work out other affected muscles.

Cyclists, for example, often get tight hip flexors. This can contribute to, among other things, lower back pain, sore glutes and tight hamstrings. If not addressed, outcomes can range from soreness to reduced power output to possible overuse injury.

Hurts So Good

But here’s the catch, when the body has a super tight or injured muscle, it does something of a lockdown to protect itself. Muscle fibers that should be running smoothly knot up instead. To work those out Jeff applies pressure to the knotted area.

This is where chirping crickets and harps turn to screech owls and band saws, as the discomfort can get intense. But some people feel that’s a good thing.

I talked with Tim Rieger, another client of Jeff’s who runs marathons. Tim is out of Ohio but comes to Boulder, Colorado for the training and massage therapy. With eyes on the 2012 Olympic trials, Tim will log up to 120 miles a week in his training season. So in effort to see that his body keeps up with the demands he puts on it, he gets maintenance massage to remove any muscular glitches before they create bigger issues, which makes him less prone to injury.

Tim says he doesn’t mind the momentary pain because, in his experience, that pain is what makes his legs feel better on his next run.

Whine and Machismo

GOOD FOR RABBITS
A 2008 study by Ohio State University researchers found that Swedish massage helped to speed muscle strength recovery time and decrease muscle damage and inflammation in rabbits. This suggests post-activity massage would have positive benefits for humans as well.
Though a 2004 study of cyclists by the British Journal of Sports Medicine didn’t find conclusive evidence that massage aided recovery time, it did report the cyclists felt less fatigue. I’d imagine the cyclists might have also reported increased feelings of self-worth knowing that they were getting treated on par with rabbits.
— Judy Freeman

It’s not that Jeff’s approach is based on a “No Pain, No Gain” credo. It just happens that pain leads to the gain for many of his clients. Jeff determines how deep to work on an area depending upon the issue or if that individual is about to go into a race. You can need time to recover from some intensive massage work before the muscles feel “fresh” again.

Still, most times the discomfort is kind of amusing in an absurd way (think the chest-waxing scene from The 40 Year Old Virgin.) And I don’t think I’m the only one who thinks so. As a joke, another client left a bottle of tequila in the office for pre-massage shots of courage. You got to celebrate the pain at least in part to pass the time.

Meanwhile, in the case of injury massage can also help deter scar tissue build-up and increase mobility. Jeff says that appropriately applied massage following an injury is the best time to promote healing. However it’s also when people want to work the least with an injured area.

Mo’ Money

If money weren’t an issue, Jeff would recommend daily massage for a competitive athlete. For an individual training up to six to seven days a week, this could help prevent muscle imbalances, gross inflammation and/or injury in addition to possibly help speed up recovery from activity.

Self-massage, such as using a foam roller, and the always-a-favorite ice bath can help out between visits.

I get a massage about once a month. It usually comes after a big training block or before a big race. Sometimes I make an appointment after a good crash too — this comes admittedly more often than I’d like.

Ask Around

If you decide to get massage, Jeff recommends figuring out what is bothering you before your appointment. That way you can give your therapist the most effective direction. There are literally hundreds of muscles in the body, the better you can explain where the discomfort is greatest or what movements aggravate it, the better your therapist can help you with the issue.

And make sure to ask around first. Get a recommendation for a therapist from someone who understands what you need. There are many different styles of massage all having their own focus, technique and benefit. It’s best to make sure you’re speaking the same language.

Thanks to Jeff Staron of Staron Sport & Orthopedic Massage in Boulder, Colorado for contributing to this piece. To schedule an appointment with Jeff call 303.379.8000.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: The Social Event of the Year http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/04/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-the-social-event-of-the-year_251409 http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/04/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-the-social-event-of-the-year_251409#comments Mon, 26 Apr 2010 18:32:41 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=7516 For Singletrack.com columnist and pro XC racer Judy Freeman, the Sea Otter Classic is all about the bike — with some racing thrown

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The Sea Otter Classic is one of the biggest cycling events of the year in the U.S. In its 20 years, the event has grown, shrunk and grown again – but all the while still holding its place as an early season classic in the mountain bike scene.

Just by looking at the venue it’s easy to see that manufacturers use the event to get face-to-face with the public – putting their best foot forward, launching a product or two and maybe even adding to the showmanship element. The Luna Pro Team sported some cool all-white skinsuits with gold detailing for the short-track. I’m assuming they had the standard blue kits in waiting in case of rain.

Da Numbers

The Sea Otter Classic celebrated its 20th year in 2010. Photo courtesy Chris Worden

The Sea Otter Classic celebrated its 20th year in 2010. Photo courtesy Chris Worden

More than 15 separate events and activities between road, cross-country, gravity and non-competitive rides take place over the four days of Sea Otter. About 8,500 participants and an estimated 45,000 spectators make the Sea Otter a place to see and be seen on the cycling… uh… scene.

So, as a sponsored athlete, Sea Otter holds a double duty. You head out to Laguna Seca Raceway to race, of course. But it is also a prime opportunity to get to see, and sometimes meet for the first time ever, the sponsors that help keep you rolling all season long.

Kenda was a major event sponsor and upped the ante on its usual race presence. There was Kenda rider and seven-time National Trials Champion Mike Steidley out impressing the crowds; the Kenda drifting car (which I was not permitted to drive for some reason); the Kenda retail booth and a postcard signing with the Kenda/Felt Team. Yah… I felt a little celeb on that last one, all the way until one guy said, “I’m your biggest fan. What’s your name?”

A few of the Kenda executives also came out. We even got North American Kenda President Jimmy Yang out on the course watching his first mountain bike races. More a golfer when he’s actually got free time, Yang still got amped. Jimmy was course-side for all four races cheering on my teammates and I, for both the men’s and women’s XC and STXC races.

I’m thinking a comparison would be if Obama stationed himself on postal routes — giving feeds and cheering on mail carriers as they delivered mail.

It was cool to have that kind of support.

The Courses, of Course

The Kenda support crew was out in full force at Sea Otter. Photo courtesy Chris Worden

The Kenda support crew was out in full force at Sea Otter. Photo courtesy Chris Worden

The Sea Otter mountain bike event, which used to make up a big early season training block for many riders, has been tailored yet again. Once a four-stage event, it was trimmed back a few years ago to just a short-track race and cross-country race that seemingly did go across the country. But for 2010, in effort to get the course compliant for UCI sanctioning, the race was shortened considerably.

Compared to the pro women’s race of 2006, when then-reigning World Champ Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa won the XC in 2:56, this year Georgia Gould won it in 1:16.

While the race directors have acknowledged the course was a little short, it still ran well for a race. I’d be in favor of chucking out the long stretch of paved raceway that broke up each lap, but aside from that, I think it was all a change for the better. The biggest improvement for me was making it more viewer-friendly.

My race, while much better than the first Pro XCT race in Fontana, wasn’t stellar, so it was nice to have spectators cheering all around the course. This is compared to last year’s race when if you we’re suffering on the backside of the course, all you had was the turkey vultures and groundhogs to boost morale. And the turkey vultures were just creepy.

Somebody's got to do it: ocean-view mornings in Pebble Beach.

Somebody's got to do it: ocean-view mornings in Pebble Beach.

Sunshine and 60-degree weather made the venue a nice place to hang after the races. After my races I headed over to say hey to our SDG saddles sponsor and the Felt crew. I spent some time checking out the Felt headquarters in Irvine, California after the Fontana race, so it was good to see the crew in Monterey and check out the demo and display tent that also served as a race pit for some employees. Creative Director Brett King was heading out for his DH race as I was walking in.

Pretty much everyone on the Felt crew is a two-wheeled-fiend in one way or another; riding, racing or just tightening the screws on the company lunch ride. It seemed like a typical day at the office when I toured the Irvine location and met the Head Engineer Jeff Soucek who was building a BMX bike amidst the stockpile of test and prototype bikes in the machine shop.  There was even a Ducati Sport Classic getting built from the ground up. If it has two wheels, they’re on it.

And at the end of the day, after the racing, I got to retire to my humble digs in Pebble Beach. It’s true. Our team was hosted in ‘PBo’ as they call it in the hood. Actually, I don’t know what they call it, but we called it home for the weekend.

And as for the hood, Pebble Beach was already putting on its finery for the traffic and media circus that will be the US Open in June. I suppose if I had to live there, I could deal with that. And then I’d call it PBo all I want.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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Life as a Bike Jockey: Do the Nietzsche http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/04/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-do-the-nietechze_251363 http://velonews.competitor.com/2010/04/news/life-as-a-bike-jockey-do-the-nietechze_251363#comments Mon, 05 Apr 2010 17:42:08 +0000 http://singletrack.competitor.com/?p=7048 You may not know who the hell Freddy Nietzsche is, but if you've ever raced mountain bikes you know what the philosopher meant when he

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judyMugGerman philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is credited with giving us the idea, “That which doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.”

With all due respect to Herr Nietzsche, I don’t think the man raced mountain bikes. Still, I’ll admit, he was on to something.

I’m back in Colorado now, reviewing the race weekend in Fontana, California for the opener of USA Cycling’s Pro Cross-Country Tour. The race wasn’t my finest hour, or finest 1:55 to be more exact, but that’s racing. Plenty of other riders have said this too – a lot has to come together to have a good race. Mechanicals, flats, or in my case, just having no legs can crop up when you least expect it.

All Systems, No-Go

The Kenda-Felt crew preps their bikes for the Fontana Pro XCT race. Photo by Judy Freeman

The Kenda-Felt crew preps their bikes for the Fontana Pro XCT race. Photo by Judy Freeman

For whatever reason, I didn’t wake up ready to race on Saturday. I knew something was amiss after Friday’s lackadaisical pre-ride, but I hoped it’d sort itself out by the race. I wanted to race, but wasn’t amped about it, which was kind of odd, since the course was fun riding.

Though Fontana’s honor as a mountain bike race venue has been questioned (the park is nestled in the bosom of L.A.’s trucking center), the designers make a good course. There was a fair amount of passing opportunities, fast rock face chutes, boulder-lined mazes to descend, heinous steep climbs and fast, undulating, twisty lines that zigzagged across the grassy hillside. Ignoring the graffiti and chain link fence areas, it even had some picturesque scenery.

In any event, Saturday didn’t go according to plan. The temperature was in the 80s and biblical 30 mph winds that ambushed you when rounding corners didn’t help either. Even with tempered early-season expectations, I thought I’d feel better than I did. About 30 minutes in, at the start of lap two, it became evident there was a glitch in the Matrix. I started going backwards and seeing everyone I worked to pass in lap one as they rode by.

Labor Strike!

I should have known something was brewing from the foreshadowing a day earlier, but it seems a labor dispute between the mind and body came to a head in the race. The Corporal Union Workers (i.e. “legs”) sent a message to Management (i.e. “mind”) that they weren’t going to work anymore, and I (i.e. “unlucky tag-along ego”) was left to grumble out the strike. I tried to rally, but had no upper-end intensity. The remaining three laps of the 16-mile course were focused on just finishing.

Upside was that by Sunday’s short-track, I was feeling a lot better. Since I hadn’t put in a full race effort since September my system was not pleased with the rude reunion with racing. The XC must’ve helped meet the leg’s demands for a re-introduction before agreeing to business as usual. I think there’s also a lot to be said about settling back into the groove of racing to reduce the stress level.

After Saturday’s effort, the STXC felt more like the fitness I was anticipating for this event: not the strongest, but not resistant to the working conditions either. Agreement reached — strike ended.

It’s All Good

Kenda-Felt's Colin Cares gets some encouragement during the Fontana short-track. Photo by Judy Freeman

Kenda-Felt's Colin Cares gets some encouragement during the Fontana short-track. Photo by Judy Freeman

All told, it was still a good trip, even if in unforeseen ways. My car breaking down en route to the race ended up being my introduction to some new, engaging trails: The Lunch Loops in Grand Junction, Colorado. It was my first race traveling with my Kenda teammates. This team program is different from other ones I’ve been on in the past, so it’s been cool being part of a new gig. Amanda, Andy and Colin all had good early-season races, with Amanda even getting a podium spot in the Super D.

It was also good to catch up with some friends I don’t normally see unless at the races. Sunday night we had a team dinner with the Kenda trailer staff and Jim Wannamaker, Kenda’s North American bicycling marketing director.

In addition to being a former road racer, committed sponsor to several bike teams and programs, Jim is on the road most the year working at these events. If you get the chance, stop by the Kenda booth and say hey to Jim. He’s a good dude and one of the hardest working folks in show business.

Glamour Shots

The Kenda-Felt team's photo shoot. Photo by Judy Freeman

The Kenda-Felt team's photo shoot. Photo by Judy Freeman

At sunrise on Monday morning, my teammates and I regrouped for team photos back at the venue with a professional photographer. Being my first team photos, it all felt a little rock star. We were just one wind machine and latte-fetching assistant short of living the dream. Siiiighhh — next year, next year…

Afterwards it was down to Irvine to check out the Felt offices before heading home to Colorado. I’ll talk more about my visit at Felt next time, it was pretty cool to check out the U.S. office and meet the Felt gang.

Growth Opportunity

It’s disappointing having a bad race, but I’d agree it makes a person stronger. My coach and I have logged this one in the books. Better to be a student of it, than just getting schooled by it.

There’s plenty more racing to focus on and early season fitness doesn’t write anything in stone. Just building the cache of experience and the (always-a-favorite) opportunity for ego management practice can ultimately make a bad race worthwhile. (And I’m saying this after being a serious Grumper Majoris over more than one really bad race day.)

At the end of the day, I know how fortunate I am to be doing what I love. And at the very least, a bad race helps make the good ones that much better.

Judy Freeman is a pro mountain biker out of Boulder, Colorado. In 2009 she represented the U.S. at the World Championships in Canberra, Australia. For 2010, she’ll be racing for Kenda/Felt Mountain Bike Team. Other sponsors for 2010 include TrailMaster Coaching, Hayes, Manitou, Voler Apparel, Pearl Izumi, WickWerks, KMC, SDG, Crank Brothers, Uvex, Pika Packworks, Smith Optics and Mighty Good Coffee.

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