Joe Holmes

Athlete, coach, race promoter, team director

Trying To Not Fall Through The Cracks – Thorsten Askervold Heads to France

The intro to this post took me a while to put together. I was struggling with the direction that I wanted to go while at the same time trying to not go off on a rant about the current state of bicycle racing for young riders trying to make a go of it. I am not entirely sure that I succeeded but I do know that at some point I just needed to hit “publish”. So here it goes……


I have been a part of what I will call “the development pathway” for young aspiring American cyclists for the past 10+ years. I have been a sport director for domestic based teams at both the elite amateur and continental level. I have worked for USA Cycling as a part of their European Junior Development Program based in Sittard, NL. I have also been the personal coach to a number of young athletes striving to reach the highest level of the sport. I have seen a number of riders succeed at various levels but I have also seen many of them fall through the cracks.

If a rider’s goal is to reach the highest rung of bike racing they need to spend time racing as much as possible and they need to continually strive to swim in bigger and bigger ponds. If circumstances are just right (they started early enough, they were surrounded by people that not only had good intentions but also some actual knowledge, maybe they got selected by the junior or U23 national team and got to race in Europe or they were able to get on a domestic based team that got them to enough of the right kinds of races with at least a bare minimum level of support and they were able to get some results that got them noticed by individuals and teams higher up the food chain) then that rider might just make it.

If however all of those things don’t quite stack up in the right order then that rider may end up falling through the cracks.

And that would be a shame.

It’s particularly disheartening to see riders with potential who just need a little more time to develop and because of that have a tough time finding just the right kind of environment to help them with that development. It is particularly tough now that many of the old amateur development teams that were successful like Cal-Giant or Hagens-Berman or Snow Valley have either been absorbed by bigger programs looking for more cash or have gone away altogether. And many times if those riders that need a little more time do find a team often those teams promise a lot but deliver very little (but that is a topic for another post).

I would characterize PNW based Thorsten Askervold as one of those riders. He has shown some potential but he could just as easily fall through the cracks.

I started working with Thorsten in the fall of 2017 after he decided to make a coaching change. He had some success as a junior, even winning a national title on the track. Success was harder to come by in his under 23 years though in part because I think he was pigeonholed as a track rider and a sprinter and his previous training seemed more geared toward that without the proper level of volume to help him succeed on the road. We started to build in some volume and he was able to get onto a team in 2018 that seemed like it might be a good one for his development. The reality ended up being something different. They didn’t travel to many high level races (and remember part of the development pathway is actually racing and racing in races that will get you noticed). The one PRT race that they did go to was Redlands. Unfortunately Thorsten was involved in a pretty bad crash just a week prior so Redlands didn’t go well for him. He did ok at BC Superweek later in the year but nothing I would call earth shattering. He was able to salvage a result by getting on the podium at track nationals in the scratch race towards the end of the year. But with no real results on the road (and a tough environment with many long time teams folding) he was looking at a potentially grim 2019 season with even less support. Those cracks I mentioned that he could fall through – they were getting bigger.

I made a few inquiries to some teams that I thought might fit for him but nothing materialized. He reached out to a number of teams himself including a few in Europe. He ended up with a couple of options including one from a French based amateur team and another from a Pacific Northwest based team. The French team was going to be a stretch financially with the move so he decided to spend one more year racing domestically with the idea that he could save some money and then try for Europe again in the future. The PNW team was going to be a no frills affair but had a rather ambitious race schedule and two older riders (one a former continental pro who I also just started working with) who could mentor him so it seemed like a decent option. But then exactly two weeks into 2019 the team informed everyone that the company funding the team was declaring bankruptcy and there would in fact be no team.

Classic.

Classic, disappointing, but not surprising, especially if you have been around this sport for any amount of time. I could write numerous pieces about teams that promise a lot but deliver very little or in this case nothing at all. I felt bad for all the riders involved especially since January is a little, well actually A LOT late to try and find another team. I felt really bad for the young guys on the team like Thorsten (and got a little pissed because, like I said, I have seen this over and over and over again). Now those cracks were getting even bigger.

Thorsten reached out to the French team again. Fortunately they still had a spot for him and Thorsten and his family decided that he should just go for it. Things moved pretty fast from there and last week Thorsten boarded a plane for Paris. To say that I am psyched for him would be an understatement.

Those cracks just started getting smaller.

It’s not going to be easy. Living and racing in a foreign country on a foreign team and not knowing the language is going to be an entirely different level of stress and I am sure that he will find himself way outside of his comfort zone on more than one occasion. But this is a great opportunity which I am certain Thorsten will make the most of. I know that he is super motivated and that can carry you pretty far. He will be submitting posts throughout the season here on the site describing his time living and racing in France. Here is his first. I hope that you enjoy it.

 

Knowing that this was my first time ever being to Europe, I had no clue what to expect. It’s crazy to also think that this is my first time to Europe, yet I’m moving here. I arrived in Paris on the 21st and spent 4 days in the city staying with my family, they live in the center of Paris only a 7 min walk to the Eiffel Tower. Paris was a dream…. No matter how many times I’ve heard about it from family and all the times I’ve seen it on tv, it was an experience that I will never forget. It was the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, the food unbelievable, and the people were very welcoming. Honestly it felt like another world.

 

A little background of my family history. All of my family on my dad’s side of the family comes from France, my grandma was born in Paris, my dad was born in the US but he lived in France for a while and he did professional swimming for the French National team. So when I arrived my family picked me up and the crazy thing is that as soon as I landed it felt like home. I feel like I was meant to come here. I normally don’t feel like things happen for a reason, but with all that has happened to get me here I can’t help but feel like this part of my life happened for a reason. After my time in Paris eating great food and spending time with family I hopped on a TGV which is a high speed train to Laval where I will live and where my team is based out of.

 

When I arrived my Team President, Vice President and Manager greeted me. Next we drove to the big chocolate shop “Monbana” which is one of our title sponsors. Waiting there was the President of the Chocolate shop and multiple reporters waiting to interview me about my arrival and my ambitions for the racing season. It was a great time meeting all the sponsors, answering questions and taking pictures.

 

On the 27th I will have my first team trip in Lloret Del Mar, Spain. It will be the location of our team camp. That will be an 8 day trip, then I will fly back to Laval and arrive at my new studio apartment. Then 2 weeks later my racing season begins. The city of Paris was nice, but I can’t wait to get to the countryside and start training more on my bike and to start thinking about the season. It has been a little difficult communicating since I don’t speak fluent French yet, so hopefully I can learn quickly. This next month will be crazy I’m sure but I’m taking everything day by day and I’m staying positive. But it feels like home here and I can’t complain.

 

If you’re reading this and are curious about my team, its a division 2 French team called “Laval Cyclisme 53”. Check them out on all social media, I will also be sharing all of my experiences here in France. All of my writes ups will be here on “Tete De la Course” run by my coach Joe Holmes. So take a look at the website!!! Will keep you all posted 🙂

 

2018….Not Bad. Not Bad At All.

 

A VERY BIG GOAL REACHED

The ten year journey that Logan Owen and I began in 2008 reached the long term goal this year when he signed his World Tour contract with Education First. Developing Logan from a junior in Bremerton, WA to a World Tour Pro living in Belgium – I know that “Pride” may be one of the “Seven Deadly Sins” – that said, I am very proud of what Logan and I have been able to accomplish together. Now for the next chapter.

 

BACK ON THE DOMESTIC CIRCUIT

 

I journeyed back to Arkansas this past spring to be the guest director for the Texas Roadhouse Cycling Team at the Joe Martin Stage Race. It was nice being back on the U.S. Domestic Circuit after a 2 year hiatus.

 

BACK TO EU WITH USA CYCLING JUNIOR DEVELOPMENT

 

Checking another country off the list when I journeyed to the Czech Republic with USA Cycling’s Junior National Team for The Peace Race.

 

ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL DERBY DAYS CRIT

2018 was the 7th year that Tête de la Course Cycling produced The Redmond Derby Days Criterium and the 7th year that long time partner Castelli was involved.

 

As always – champagne for the Derby Days winner to spray

 

LOTS OF PODIUM APPEARANCES 

 

Logan Owen made it onto the podium as Most Aggressive Rider in his first World Tour Race at The Tour Down Under

 

Kaia Schmid made her way onto three different National Championship podiums in three different disciplines this year in the junior women 15-16 category. Remember that name.

 

Thorsten Askervold won the bronze in the scratch race at this year’s elite men’s National Track Championships.

 

There were A LOT of podium presentations for the 15-16 USA Cycling Junior group that I directed in EU in August!

 

Luke Lamperti – only the second American to win The Tour of West Flanders.

 

Only two Americans have won the overall at The West Flanders Tour, Logan Owen in 2011 and Luke Lamperti in 2018. It was an honor to play a small role in both.

 

Heidi Franz in her first UCI Classification Jersey – QOM at The Tour de l’Ardeche

 

LOTS OF GREAT RIDES (and Recovery Drinks After)

Riding with old friends and making some new – including World Champion Peter Sagan this past summer in Park City, Utah.

 

Recovery beer with my friend Sylvester in Park City. I met Sylvester last year at the UCI Coaching Course and we have stayed in touch. Suffice it to say, bike riding can open many doors to new friends and new experiences in a lot of new places.

 

I took the plunge and got myself a gravel bike this year. Just this ride alone up Deer Park in the Olympic Peninsula that i did in October with Heidi Franz was worth it.

 

Seriously though, Heidi thought that this ride was Numero Uno!

 

A Coke and a…..grimace? Mark Twight at the half way point during “Training Camp”

 

Nothing makes me happier than a great ride with my friends. 2018 was a great one – onward to 2019!

Physical Effort.

Conversation.

Art.

It’s The People – Always.

Who you are. Who you surround yourself with.

That is what matters.

The Momentum is Building.

View things with the experience of time without the shackles of what you thought back then. Hold on and know that you will change.

HEIDI FRANZ GOES TO EUROPE

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Heidi in the QOM Jersey after Stage 2 of Tour de l’Ardeche

 

Tête de la Course athlete Heidi Franz made a couple of trips across the pond this season racing with both the U.S. National Team and her domestic team, Rally Cycling. There were some ups and downs (because….bike racing) but at the end of it all she proved (once again) that she was up for the challenge and ready for more. Here is her report:

 

Attempting to summarize my experiences racing in Europe over the last couple months is a pretty daunting task. In a way, it felt like a season’s worth of lessons and experience gained in just a month and a half of racing, and I can say that I’m a different, better, and more confident bike racer for it. I know that I’m lucky in being able to say that – racing in Europe for the first time is not easy, nor is it everyone’s favorite part of the year. My two trips there this year had quite a progression in the physical, technical, and emotional challenges that I took on. Nervousness to confidence, excitement to turmoil, and from feeling strong to just barely running on fumes. Getting both my legs and my mind to cooperate was extremely difficult, but proved not impossible.

 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned that there are a few different ways to approach your “firsts” in bike racing. The biggest lesson: it’s risky to focus on them to begin with. Something being your first time can become an excuse for not giving your best effort. There have been times when I’ve caught myself thinking “well, this is the first time I’ve ever done something like this, it’s okay if I just sit back here and let whatever happens, happen.” There is a time and place for that mentality, especially if you’re coming back from an injury or other setback. However, there’s danger if that mindset becomes a habit – you may never see the pointy end of a bike race, and most importantly, it doesn’t help your team. There comes a point when firsts don’t really matter anymore. I’ve learned that no matter what, whether it’s your first bike race or 10,000th, there is always something to learn or improve on when you put yourself in the driver’s seat and get out of your comfort zone.

 

Racing outside of North America for the first time was a big step, and a really big test for me – definitely outside my comfort zone. Talking to anyone about the upcoming trip came with versions of the same response – “it’s rough and tough out there”, “be prepared to get your teeth kicked in”, “it’s ‘real bike racing’, “the roads are half the size”, “there are roundabouts and road medians for days”, “the cobbles are legit”, and “the Europeans will smack you”.

 

All of those things are true.

 

Mentally preparing for the trip was a big part of the challenge. After all, I was bit of a gamble. The same people would say “you’ll be fine” or “you might feel out-gassed”, and I had to decide for myself how I would approach the challenge. So, I decided to treat it as if I were relearning how to bike race. I’d prepare myself in the best way I could, control what I could control up to the start line, but during the race I’d need to be willing to adapt on the fly and throw out any expectations of how I thought the next few hours should go. It reminded me of another memorable first that I checked off just over a year ago. The Redlands Bicycle Classic in 2017 was my first stage race, and my first-time racing in an American pro field. Wearing the colors of the Amy D Foundation, riders that I had only read about and looked up to from afar became my competitors. I was in awe of people like Kirsti Lay, Amber Neben, Ruth Winder, Katie Hall…women I never imagined being in the same race with, let alone on the same team a year later. To keep myself from getting overwhelmed by that, I had to leave my expectations of myself at the door and objectively focus on each day at a time. The racing was faster and harder than I’d ever experienced, and it took all my mental strength to stay focused every second. As a result, I learned how to be adaptable, to trust my instinct, and fight hard as hell. Europe was the best place to put those lessons to test- in addition to withholding my total Euro bike racer fan-girling.

 

That didn’t last too long.

 

I could barely hold my shit together when Sanne Cant, the women’s Cyclocross World Champion, lined up behind me for the BeNe Ladies Tour prologue. And when I held Marianne Vos’ wheel through several cobble sectors on an epic Stage 1, I nearly peed in my chamois. But then “HEIDI MOVE UP” went through my head and that was the end of the fan-girling. If I wasn’t moving up, I was going backwards, and I needed every second of focus I had to get through the day. One lapse could mean my wheel succumbing to the infamous Belgian “death crack”, or accidentally steering off course into a cornfield, or someone’s cow pasture.

 

“Middle!”

 

“Small!”

 

“Auto!”

 

“AAHHH!”

 

Those were just a few important things to keep your ears open for.  

 

At each finish, my mind was sore as if I’d just taken a five-hour SAT test. But I didn’t want to take a backseat to the racing. Personally, I knew that if I could engage in the racing here in the throws in Belgium, I could do it again elsewhere. And as for the team, we needed to prove that we belonged in this field. No one was going to take a backseat if they could help it.

 

We had proven at BeNe that as a team we were ready to show up and be competitive. Then, in London, at the Women’s World Tour RideLondon Classique, we put that on display to another 20,000 people or so in front of Queen Elizabeth’s house. It was alright I guess, just a little bit loud. In the last kilometer of the race, a slap on my leg from winner Kirsten Wild confirmed that we’d made an impression as I brought Emma up to the tail of the Wiggle-High5 leadout train. And I knew for myself that I wasn’t brought to Europe just to get shelled by the big girls at first sight. A test in the throws of Belgium and another with the world’s best in London, and I had relearned to race my bike. I had the tools to adapt, focus, and be present in the European field, and I really couldn’t wait to go back.  

 

Well, to my surprise I got to go back, all of about three weeks later. If I hadn’t gotten out of my comfort zone enough with the first trip, this second trip would make sure of that and then some. When you get used to racing at a consistent level of difficulty, you can learn how to cope with small mistakes or moments of weakness without compromising a whole week’s worth of racing. In North America, you can be just “ok” at getting bottles from the car without too many consequences. The roads are wider, so weaving your way back up the 10-car-deep caravan to feed your teammates isn’t such a daunting task. But when you step up to that bigger stage, the cracks that are your insecurities or weaknesses become more visible and harder to fill in. Fetching those bottles might be the most important thing you do in the race that day, and if you can’t do it successfully, even the chance of a team result can disappear. I knew that at The Boels Ladies Tour and Tour de l’Ardeche, I’d be pushed physically beyond my limit and cracks were going to show, gaps in fitness that I wasn’t going to be able to fill. If fetching bottles from the team car was the most important thing I could do all week, then so be it. Let’s just say that I got a lot of practice fetching bottles at those races. But getting to do that when I’m wearing the colors of the US National Team is a pretty cool thing, even when it’s stage five of a WorldTour stage race in Holland and I’ve chased my way back to the peloton four times already. I’d never suffered on a bike so much before (definitely jinxed myself there) and yet, I’d look down at the jersey I was wearing and keep going. Over here, there were no crits to break up the chain of 80+ mile days we’d had in a row, and my mind always had to be turned on.  Always alert, always focused- except for those couple hours on stage 3 when the peloton was happy to let one rider stay five minutes up the road. We were going so slow that even Annemiek Van Vleuten, leading the race, stopped behind the peloton for a pee break. That was a nice and welcomed exception, but it was short lived – the last 18 miles of the same stage wouldn’t come close to the speed of any crit I’d ever raced in my life. Annemiek even said to one of her teammates, “I’m scared, move me up.”

 

Heidi Franz (USA) comes back for bottles at Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l'Ardèche 2018 - Stage 4, a 116.3km road race from Chateauneuf de Gadagne to Mont Serein, France on September 15, 2018. Photo by Sean Robinson/velofocus.com

Heidi Franz (USA) comes back for bottles at Tour Cycliste Féminin International de l’Ardèche 2018 – Stage 4, a 116.3km road race from Chateauneuf de Gadagne to Mont Serein, France. Photo by Sean Robinson/velofocus.com

 

After spending a few great weeks with the U.S. team, I was back in orange to put together everything I’d learned over the season into one last race, The Tour de l’Ardèche. Oh, but Ardeche. It really deserves its own separate race report but I’ll try to give it justice here. In short: to cope with my outstandingly high fatigue level, the brutality of climbing as high as Mt. Rainier over 2.5 times, I ate my body weight in cheese, baguettes, mint tabbouleh, salami slices, and French pastries for six days. A couple of whole pizzas, a very special praline brioche, and frites got lost in there too. In proper form, it was a race of incredible highs and absolute lowest of lows. One of my proudest days on the bike was followed up with one of the most brutal. While wearing my first UCI classification leader’s jersey (QOM) in a bike race, I nearly stopped pedaling on the side of a hill to cry and think about what I was doing there. The previous two hours had felt like a whole week, and I still had two more hours to go. I had literally and figuratively run out of gears, and it was only day two. When I crossed the finish line next to my teammate I was cracked open and terrified of the four days ahead. Meanwhile, my teammate Sara Poidevin (aka Robot T-1000) was having the most impressive race of her season, and she would need absolutely every bullet that the remaining four of us had left to help her. To stay in the game I had to be really careful to use my energy in a moment when it was most needed, otherwise I’d disappear fast. Sure enough, I made it through the next day and the next. I was never not on the brink of total self-destruction, but I had learned when to use my one or two bullets every day, and when to let the race go up the road. Then, I could take a second to look around at where I was, and remember how lucky I was to be there, eating glorious French goat cheese and staring at castle ruins with 170 other bike racers.

 

All year, with each race I started, I did something for the first time. Had I been without my mentors, coach, family, partner, team, and community, I wouldn’t have had the strength to welcome the discomfort of learning. This year was not about my results as an individual but about how I learned to handle pressure, find and push limits, and stand up for myself too. It’s not going to get easier (you just get faster, right?), but at least I can breathe knowing I don’t have to prove myself capable of a challenge.

 

Thanks for reading, it’s been an incredible year. Here’s to an even better one in 2019.

2018 REDMOND DERBY DAYS CRITERIUM

 

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Pre-registration will be open until 10pm PST on Thursday, July 12. To register go here:

2018 Derby Days Registration with USA Cycling

HEIDI FRANZ – U.S. PRO NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS REPORT

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Heidi Franz – on the sharp end of Sunday’s road race – photo by John Hollingsworth

Tête de la Course athlete Heidi Franz had one hell of a race at U.S. Pro last weekend. For those of you who didn’t see the live stream of the road race, Heidi was off the front in a break from lap 4 to lap 9 and most of lap 9 she was solo after dropping her breakaway companions. She was caught with less than 5 km to go.

However, her first time at U.S. Pro Championships did not start out “as planned” due to a hell day of travel involving delayed flights, cancelled flights and lost baggage. She managed to make some lemonade though. Here is her report:

When I got to Knoxville and was preparing for the road race on Sunday, I was thinking “Oh man, I should definitely write up some kind of report for Nationals. It’ll be easy, no problem.” And then Sunday happened and my task became so much harder. Not that it was going to be easy to begin with. After all, it’s a National Championship, and nothing about it is, or should be, easy.

 

This was my first trip to Pro Road Nationals, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that this race is just different. Obviously I don’t have multiple years to back up that statement but even as a newbie it became very clear, very fast, that this event was unlike any kind of challenge I had lined up for. Being so coveted, the build-up is enormous and it absolutely requires that your best fall right in line with that race, that day. There’s no prize money, but there’s a jersey, and the pride of being the owner of that jersey for a whole year in the eye of the cycling world. It’s a big freakin’ deal.

 

For some people, this is a race that always escapes them. The game doesn’t play out in their favor in the first few laps and suddenly the race is up the road. For others, they might get one step closer, year after year, and the one thing that turns their race around can be such a seemingly small detail. Having one extra bottle of water, one less moment of hesitation, one more teammate, or one simple check back at who’s behind you. Depending on who’s there, that look can either mentally extinguish your fight, or keep you going. More on that later. All in all, the whole experience is fascinating to be around and to be a part of, racing against some of the world’s absolute best for the first time.

 

For me, Nationals resembled something like a coming of age. That sounds ridiculously cliché and part of me cringes writing that out, but that’s the best way I can describe it. All week, there were many emotional hoops and challenges to jump through, whether I felt ready for them or not. For example, when I drove from Nashville to Knoxville the day before the time trial without any of my bags it forced me to say “f$%* it”, drink the beer[s] that my director gave me, and make the most out of the [Joker] cards I was dealt. I didn’t have a whole lot to lose in those 32 minutes, and I quickly figured out how it feels to race a ProNats Time Trial after not riding a bike for two days. Turns out it really sucks, and it wasn’t a surprise that I didn’t do well. But it drove me to take each following day as its own isolated challenge. It made no sense to stay awake all night wondering, what if my bags hadn’t gotten lost? Eh, who knows. What if I had taken one more caffeine gel 20 minutes earlier? Eh, who knows. What if it had been 80% humidity instead of 99%? Those seemingly small details I was talking about- you can’t really control 95% of them. What you do with that other 5% is what can make something worthwhile. (Sure, go ahead and put that on a motivational fitness ad.)

 

So it’s Crit Day. Need to make lemonade out of that 5%. Warmed up on the trainer before the start, went to the bathroom approximately seven times, lowered my tire pressure to 68psi because it was raining (for real!), put that weird smelling stuff on Oakleys that sheds water, and went over the race plan in my head. Again. And…again. Probably too many times, because if you stick to the plan literally and don’t start reacting to what’s happening right in front of you, pretty soon you’ll finish the race with your teammate in 2nd.

 

Then, you’ll be asking yourself (1) why do I still have energy and where should I have spent it and (2) Did I just forget how to race my bike for a second there?

 

Cool, another lesson learned. Communicate with your teammates, read the race in front of you and not the one in your ears, and use the energy that you have!! What better place to relearn that than the US Pro National Championships? [Insert sarcastic *eyebrow raise* here.] I had fun reflecting on that, sitting in my soaking wet chamois while I ate my dinner in the team van. Back at the motel, Summer, Emma and I went swimming in our cheeky motel pool to wash off the day. Debrief done, we’d better make tomorrow count. Everyone else will be doing the same thing.

 

You may have seen a picture at the end of the road race, where Emma is putting her hand on my shoulder after a hug while I’m bursting into tears. I’m a pretty emotional person but there are only two times when I’ve finished a race and cried. The first time was when I felt that I’d truly let down my teammates and disappointed myself in the process. Here it was because for the first time I honestly believed that my teammates and I had done everything that we possibly could have done to get ourselves the National Championship. It felt different than any race I had ever finished before. Everyone rode out of their skin and with full confidence that we could pull it off. I wasn’t crying because I was sad that my breakaway adventure ended with 2.5 miles left in the race or even that Emma had finished 3rd. We took advantage of every minute, every move that we could control and left nothing else in the tank, and it was something to be incredibly proud of. Personally, I got to have the best ride I have ever had, knowing 100% that I was lucky to be racing for such a worthy teammate in Emma. Feeling truly drained and exhausted in the best possible way, I could only just hug her and be proud of the effort.

 

“Just over this last one Heidi, as hard as you can. Over the top. Keep going. This is it.”

 

I didn’t have to think about what regrets or stresses I’d had from the days before, and I didn’t have to look back at who was behind me until the last second, because I already knew.

 

After the time trial on Thursday, my teammate and friend Brad Huff told me that over the next two days, I’d surprise myself.

 

He couldn’t have been more right.

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This is what it looks like to give 100% – photo by Snowy Mountain Photography

Why Do We Race? Because. It’s. Really. Damn. Fun.

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Bike racing in Middle Earth.

 

PostRaceFeast

Fuel to keep us going. Top fuel too, none of that 87 octane stuff.

 

 

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Hidden Heroes: the staff who are up at all hours making our job easier.

 

Tête de la Course Cycling athlete Heidi Franz was back in California this past week – racing at the Chico Stage Race and then taking part in another training camp as the #RallyCats honed their preparation for the big goals of 2018. She filed this report on her way back to Seattle:

 

I’m writing this little race report a bit differently this time, and a bit late from Chico, California while we finish up a post-race team camp. The legs…they are tired! If you followed along with the race on social media you probably saw some pretty pictures of a few very epic stage wins by the Rally Cats, three to be exact. In short, we held the race lead with Summer Moak for two stages, lost it in the time trial, and fired off everything we had to make up 15 seconds for Sara Bergen in the criterium. It was an all-in, 100% team effort with everyone shelling themselves for the cause. Though we couldn’t make up the time to take the overall, we still had teammates Sara Bergen and Summer Moak take 2nd and 3rd in the general classification, respectively. Shamelessly borrowing these stats from Rally Cycling’s report, I’ll brag that between the seven of us racing, we accounted for 16 top-ten finishes and eight podiums. All said and done, it was a pretty successful weekend and the North American women’s peloton knows that the Rally Cats have shown up strong and stoked to take on the year. Races like this and Valley of the Sun are just the appetizers for the main course of the season to come.

 

This past week of racing and camp was all-hands-on-deck to run the first big team showing of the season. With usual suspects Zach, Zane, and Kelly, we also had Ina Yoko-Teutenberg joining the Rally Cycling crew as a new women’s director for a few races this year. We also had our team nutritionist, Dana Lis, come and work with each of us to figure out what in the world we should be eating for the four days of racing and beyond. Her expertise, “science in spandex” fueling tricks, and motherly encouragement basically kept us upright and on our bikes.

 

For those of you who don’t know of Ina, her palmarès include over 200 wins in her 12-year career and two trips to the Olympics. I really could – and should – go on and on, about how amazing she is, but to keep this report semi-short, you just need to know that we are incredibly lucky to have her with us. And that she is my new favorite German.

 

I had never been to Chico before, and what I didn’t expect was the feeling that I was riding on some European country roads (and yes, I have ridden a bike on European country roads). Flat farm land and pastures everywhere brought all kinds of wind conditions and some potential Strade Bianche-like weather, especially with the eight miles of gravel we’d race during Stage 2. Imagine that.

 

Throughout the race and especially in the last couple of days of this team camp, Ina absolutely schooled us (simultaneously destroyed and educated us) on how to work with cross, head, and tail winds, and how to improve our sprinting- her specialty. After a debrief of some drills, she would attack and out-sprint us as naturally as breathing. I can’t wait to keep learning from her.

 

With the race plus a team camp, fueling and recovery became super important for us. While putting out so much work over 10 days, staying healthy can be a big challenge if you don’t have a system figured out, and that’s exactly what Dana was brought in to help us with. If we’re not on bikes, we’re either eating, sleeping, stretching, making more food, vegged out reading a book, or just watching The West Wing mindlessly if you were like me this week. During this race I very quickly realized that I would probably spend more time making and eating food than actually racing my bike. I’m also starting to think that something’s wrong with me because I can’t jump on the nap train, and I’ll stay up past 10pm- mostly because I just won’t be able to fall asleep any earlier.  Solution: Just pedal harder?  I suppose…..

 

At this point in my life, every day that I sit on a bike I learn something new, so I’ll finish with a lesson I learned this week.

 

It’s a big shocker: Mistakes!  They. Will. Happen.

 

And as the “greenest” and newest bike racer on the team, I will inevitably make a mistake every now and then. Chalk it up to inexperience, bad judgement, or just not being aware; at some point I might cost the team a result, cause a crash, or make my teammate’s jobs harder.

 

During the race, I made a silly mistake.

 

I’m lucky to have such genuinely good human beings for teammates who don’t hesitate to make it a learning opportunity for me, but also bring it to my attention in a way that benefits the team as a whole. As someone who habitually carries around my own backpack of pressure, any mistake that I make is followed by some self-deprecation. Being able to come away from that with a lighter backpack this week was a real testament to the people on this team and the respect in it.

 

Because why do we race in the first place? It’s just really damn fun. And it always should be.

Thorsten Askervold Race Report from Chico Stage Race

Thorsten

The team rolling in the hills of Nor Cal during team camp

 

TACSR

What happens when your team mate gets a flat on the way back from the stage……..Team Work Of Course! Check out the video on @taskervold on IG. #squadgoals

 

Thorsten Askervold is a Tête de la Course Cycling coached U23 rider racing for the domestic elite Team California. Along with Logan Owen and Heidi Franz, Thorsten will be posting about life on the road racing bikes. Here is his first post from last weekend’s Chico Stage Race. Enjoy.

The Chico Stage Race was the first race for “Team California” and I. If you have not heard of the team already it’s based out of Northern California hence the name. We are a development team racing under the guidance of AJ Kennedy, Freddie Rodriguez and Kirk Carlsen. Our Main sponsors are Storck, FSA/Vision and Gu Energy Labs. 2018 is my 2nd year with the team although the team went through a huge transformation going into this season. A very cool thing about our team is the diversity of our team. We have 2 Mexican riders, a kiwi, a rider from Hong Kong and others scattered all over the US.

 

Going into the stage race I wasn’t sure how we were going to ride as a team since we’ve only ridden once together at team camp back in February. Day one was the thunder hill circuit race. Our team objective was to get my teammate Cooper and I in a winning position for the end. However near the end a break ended up getting away and we had Cooper in it and he sprinted for 5th. A good result, but we were hungry for more.

 

Going into the 2nd day I knew this was a perfect course for he and I. It was a 90 mile road race with a 4 mile gravel section and a small hill during and after it that we had to do 2 times. We had a plan going into the race and we stuck with it. I was really excited the way our team rode. We entered the gravel section as a team first on the last time through. I was feeling very optimistic with a couple teammates in front of me and Cooper right behind me. About halfway through the gravel Cooper had gotten a flat so it was up to me to finish it off. Patience was my enemy though and I decided to make an attack on the gravel hill (about 5-6 miles from the finish). I thought that this could succeed because I saw everyone was hurting and no teams were organized and I had good legs. However I ended up getting caught right before the next hill exiting the gravel section and that is when Team Rally decided to attack and that was the end of my race. It was the difference between me sitting in on the final little hill and making the front group. But my lesson was learned.

 

On the last day patience was our enemy again during the final stage (the crit). We made too many moves to be fresh at the end. But with about 2 Laps to go we had Gera up in a break, but the gap closing very quickly as Team Elevate took control of the race. 1 lap to go I had Cooper in front of me but he got moved off his line and lost some speed which left it up to just me. I had to gain a couple more positions to be where I wanted and got there and then the sprinting started –  going into the final corner we caught the breakaway. We were going a lot faster then the guys we caught and they were all spread out through the corner and I got caught behind them as I took the outside line when I should have gone to the inside – missing out on a potentially very good result.

 

This was our first race as a team and we made mistakes. But our team has a lot of potential and we learned from those mistakes. Main lesson being patience and how big of a difference it makes in this sport.

 

Next race for our team is Tour of Gila and Redlands Bicycle Classic.

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Logan Owen – GP Larciano

logan italy

Yeah, that was a rough one….

Everyone was talking about the Strada Bianche from this past weekend – as they should. That was one hell of a bike race.

 

There was another bike race in Italy last weekend as well – the GP Larciano – held the day after Strada. This is a little late in appearing due to some travel delays following the race but here is Logan Owen’s report from Larciano:

On Sunday we had GP Larciano on tap. Many of the riders that raced an epic Strada Bianche were racing Larciano because it was really close to the finish of Strada.

 

As we rolled up to the start of the race it reminded me of many of the U23 Italian races I had taken part in in the past. From the presentation stage to the announcer – everything was very similar to my last few years of racing in Italy.

 

The plan for the day was for our climbers Dani Moreno, Daniel Martinez and Julian Cardona to wait for the 4th of 4 times up the 11km climb to follow moves or attack themselves. The team also gave me the green light to try and make it over the climb and be there for the sprint. After the 2nd time over the climb I realized I wasn’t going to have the legs and did everything I could to help all the climbers by positioning them into the climb. 

 

Martinez ended up finishing 25th. He was one of the strongest on the climb and was able to split it to just 8 riders but everyone looked at each other and a few other groups were able to get back on. I ended up being dropped the 3rd time up but kept smashing on with a big groupetto so we could finish the race. We ended up finishing 10 minutes behind the winner, Matej Mahoric. I can say that it was a rough one.

 

I am now in Girona for a few days with some of the guys for a mini-camp before I head back to Belgium.

 

I hope everyone enjoyed reading – thanks!

 

 

Thanks to Logan for the report. And – congratulations to his wife Chloe who absolutely smashed it at track worlds last week!

Logan Owen Reports from Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

OMLOOP

The Pink Armada with Logan sitting second wheel

OMLOOP COBBLES

Cobbles!

The 2018 Spring Classics season has finally arrived!

The opening events of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne took place this past weekend in Belgium and Tête de la Course Cycling athlete Logan Owen was there racing. Logan was originally supposed to make his European racing debut with his EF Education First team at KBK on Sunday but that changed when he was told last Tuesday that he would be racing Omloop Het Nieuwsblad instead.  Historically Omloop HNB has been harder then KBK, That definitely would be the case this year as it would cover the same roads and cobbled climbs of the old Tour of Flanders in the closing kilometers.

As his coach I was a little nervous. Logan was just getting over a cold and missed a scheduled session behind the motor to help get him back to race speed after the racing break he had following Tour Down Under. Now he was racing one day earlier in a harder race. Logan took it all in stride though and was pretty psyched to get a shot at Omloop HNB.

Below is his race report filed just after the race. Enjoy.

 

On Saturday I raced my first Spring Classic as a pro and probably my biggest race to date. I was a little nervous as to how hard the race would be since I’ve heard from many former pros that the classics are always full gas from start to finish.

 

Saturday morning we all got on the bus and prepared for war.

 

We played some old school rock to get pumped and ready for the race as a lot of the guys on the team were a bit older than me (so – a lot of the same music you heard in my car traveling with me to all of those races as a junior? 😉 – Joe)

 

As we walked off the bus to head to the sign-in in the center of the Ghent Velodrome there were tons of fans asking for autographs and pictures. In between trying to grab my bike and getting to the sign-in I had to sign around 30 autographs which was something I haven’t had to do on a large scale like this. I was blown away by how many fans showed up and how big the whole race seemed. After sign-in we did our final radio checks and headed to the start.

 

The temperature was just above freezing and everyone was completely bundled up. My job for the race was to make sure Sep and the other couple of guys going for the finish were taken care of all day and to make sure they were in the front at kilometer 115. If I made it past that I was to position them for the bottom of the Kokerelle, which was a new climb to the race and where fireworks were expected to go off.

 

Everything went according to plan and I was able to help put them in the front for both of those sections. It wasn’t easy as I spent a lot of energy closing gaps and keeping Sep out of the wind earlier in the race.

 

I basically treated those two points as my finish line and gave everything to make sure we were in the front for the key points in the race. After that I held on to the back of the bunch for a couple more kilometers before getting dropped with a big group.

 

Before the race started I told myself that no matter what I was going to finish the race. Many guys in the group that I was in got in their respective vans and team cars but I slugged on with 7 other guys to the finish. Although I finished they put me down as a DNF for some reason even though I wasn’t outside time cut but I was able to complete all the goals the team and I set out for myself before the race.

 

Sep really rewarded all of our hard work with a podium finish.

 

For my first classic in the World Tour I couldn’t have asked for a much better start.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

-Logan

 

 

Logan races again next week at the GP Industria & Artigianato in Larciano, Italy.