My fellow 'foreign' team mates and I have now been traveling from race to race since early May...not gonna lie, definitely over living out of the old suitcase ! Just a quick recap on what's been happening...
We started our big excursion with a flight in to St Louis, Missouri where team mate Maura Kinsella was born and raised...it was definitely an eye opener as to why miss MK is such a 'gangster' ;-)
Here we raced the Tour de Grove crit series; 3 days with a National Crit Calendar event on the Saturday. We had some good results and Captain Jenn X Reither finished it up superbly taking the big WIN on the final day after a very gustsy late race get-away. Go gurl
From Missouri we flew into Connecticut where we stayed in Norwalk with our East Coast teamie KB - Kathleen Billington and her hubby Mr Greg Wolf (aka. Wormy). Here we spent a week or so training it up on some pretty sweet ground before heading off to Gatineau, Canada for a UCI road race. This was my first time crossing the border and was quite the experience. We got queried a fair bit and almost - but not quite had the car raided...too many foreign people present!
Canada was a pretty cool time, even though we only had a few days there. The biggest highlight of the trip was most definitely all you can eat Sushi...this will never be forgotten by those who were lucky enough to be there. 72 rolls later and we were all carbo loaded for the race the next day...just great.'
The race ended up being really tough but a great day for Vanderkitten. Greg Wolf was taking on the roll of team director while Jono was busy in California. It was a new experience as he was very set on each rider's committment at different points in the race. My job was to be aggressive throughout the first half of the race and try and get something going. All up, everyone did what was asked and it ended up working out well for us. Coming into the final 3km after 120km of racing we had 3 riders in a split of 15 - a very chaotic finish with multiple crashes...I was in perfect position and was being well protected by team mates Jazzy and Kate but ended up crashing on the final corner. - The worst feeling ever is knowing how close you were and what might have been !! Frustrating to say the least but was happy to have Jaz and Kate both in the top ten. Part of the cycling game I guess!!
Post Gatineau we were back to Norwalk...for some training but mainly just healing up for me after banging up my hip.
Next big event on the cards was Philadelphia's, Liberty Classic, also a big UCI ranked event.
This race is definitely a favourite of mine, mainly due to the exciting crowds that come out to get in the action. The course is around 25km and we were set to do 4 laps. Each lap we go up 'the Manyunk wall' and whoa what a b***h of a wee climb! It may be short but it sure does make you hurt...
The wall is lined up with fun; party goers, lots of beer drinkers and general fans...this makes it even more of a blur !
The hardest part of the race is probably the fight for position each lap coming up to the wall. It was crazy! but lots of fun all in all. I managed to get through and was in a pretty great position coming into the final km sitting on Ina Teutenberg's (cycling legend) wheel fairly comfortably. The sprint was just total chaos though and unforuntaly got caught up in the Tibco lead out train on the inside. Managed to finish in 11th so wasn't too bad but was pretty bummed!
* Phily support crew
Post Phily we faced the glorious drive in our new team van 'Sharon' aka Shaz or Shazza...from Phily to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Sharon became part of the team in Phily and yes she is babein'.
20 or so hours later and an overnight stop off at the Kinsella household we made it...
Tulsa was a blast. We stayed with super cool host 'sister' Hill Taylor and had a tonne of Double shot coffee (the best coffee I've had in Amurica),
Tulsa Tough is a 3 day crit series. I ended up coming in 4th overall and was 1st young rider so wasn't a bad effort. Good fun and good people. Tulsa is def up there on the top places of the year list.
* Tulsa Tough - final day (CRY BABY hill)...literally! Photo by Tony Khalaf
* Super cool VK supporters on CBH, Tulsa
Following Tulsa we were straight off to Minnesota for the National calendar event; Nature Valley grandprix - a 5 day stage race. We had a pretty good week minus a crazy storm - a stage being cancelled and a few crashes...! I came away with a podium finish in the 130k Menomonie road race. It was a pretty brutal race and some great riders were present so was stoked to get a good result.
We ended the Tour with a sweet night out in downtown Minneapolis...cyclists can get rowdy!?
* With Captain Jenn X and Aussie's Loren Lozza Rowney and Bec Werner post race. (Roger Sitterly)
Post NVGP I was pretty smoked but after a few days off and a cruisy drive over to Wisconsin we were ready for our next big one; the Tour of America's Dairylands...11 days of racing - 9 one hour criteriums and two 100km road races.
We had a good squad of riders present so all up went pretty well. With some great team work and support I came away with 2nd overall in the general classification and 2nd in the final National Crit Calendar series. After 11 days of solid racing was pretty mentally cracked! Definitely learnt a lot along the way though...was great to be able to race against top American sprinter Laura Van Gilder. What a tank! Very cool to be able to learn from her and pick up some tips for future ref..;-)
All up, we had a great few weeks staying with the Larson's who were awesome hosts to the Vanderkittens. Good times.
* Team photo by Roger Sitterly. Kate, KB, me, Jazzy, Bridie and Starla
Finally, post Wisconsin most of the team headed back to Cali. Jaz and I decided to use our spare 10 days to go somewhere new. We opted for Boulder, Colorado as it's at high altitude and very mountainous...so thought it could be good prep for our next big stage race Cascade Cycling Classic in Oregon, also at altitude.
We stayed with top dogs Jon Husk and Jamie Emerson just out of downtown Boulder. The first few days were definitely a struggle with the altitude - really was like breathing through a straw! The second day we went out riding with the lads up one of the big climbs was puffin' the whole way and Jon was kind enough to label me the tomato. Great ride...
* Jamie, Jon and I @ 10,000 ft ...no worries.
The altitude did get easier after a few days of settling in which was good. Other than some good riding we did a bit of cheeky shopping...- let's call it browsing, and catching up with friends. Was a good, chilled ten days and was pretty nice to not have to think about racing for a bit....we all need a breather at some point!
* Catching up with little Charlie, Brian and Carolyn Dallas downtown.
The boys took us out downtown on our last night to a bar called 'The Downer' - very appealing?!
Was good fun; a few drinks, good company and even semii learn't how to play darts.