Tune in to Toona

Sorry for the delay in this report but we were staying at an awsome mountain resort and they didn't have internet access...can you imagine, people used to live without this stuff!!!

Ok, so here is the rundown and it is very long, so get comfy if you want to read all the details! There is a good amound of eye candy as well so if you prefer just browse the pictures!(sorry if some of the pictures are sideways but I had a few computer issues and don't have time to resolve them, so just turn your head and don't ask any questions!)

Tour de Toona 2007...

An amateur’s experience:

Last year I had to turn down an offer to come ride this race for Verducci because of prior commitments. However this year I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the Verducci team and our full time riders (Theresa, Jessie, and I) are headed to Altoona with two guest riders (Jackie and Julia) and of course with our awesome team manager Gary, who somehow manages to put up with all us girls!

Upon arriving we found the original room we had booked was not only on the 3rd level but was probably going to be a tight squeeze with all the bikes and such. Don't get me wrong it was definatly doable but, after assesing the situation and finding that the larger accomodation was an additional $8, we decided that even if we had to pay the additional amount on our own it would be worth it for the comfort of our bicycles! A BIG thanks goes out to Phil for his support of this trip not only in spirit but also financially! So we ended up in a larger room that was on the 2nd level, and luckily the laundry room was just a few doors down! Here are a few pictures...

entering the room

kitchen & dining area

My "bedroom" area with Julia for the start of the week

then i discoverd this awsomeness!!! I could fit on the chair futon and it seemed nice at night there so i put it on the belcony and tried it out...how amazing! It was great, the cool night air, right next to the woods, waking to sun in the morning! It was pretty much perfect and not even one bug bite...not to often you get that situation so I was stoked to sleep on the belcony!

Stage 1:
The triple T (TTT) or the team time trial of 10.6miles. In the past this tour has had a prolog or individual time trial to start the week, but for whatever reason this year they decided to change things up. As many of the other teams rolled up to unload their full on time trial equipment with disk wheels, aero bars, aero helmets and the rest of the works, we pulled out our everyday road bikes (which aren’t too shabby I must say!) and put on our regular carbon race wheels. We worked well together considering it was our first ride as a team and we had never practiced a team time trial before. A few of the girls are quite strong in the arena of time trialing, myself not being one of them. I would say my pulls were a bit on the short side but I think I was at least holding our speed and not slowing things down. We were also at a bit of a disadvantage because we only had 5 girls as compared to some teams who had 7 or 8. In any case we ended up coming in 14th with a time of 27:22 and according to Theresa’s data we averaged about 40kph. There is a possibility we could have done a bit better if we road with different tactics and tried to sacrifice riders earlier on (the first 3 riders across the line determine the time, but others get time gapped for rolling in later), but it is hard to say and we can’t have regrets. As for myself I felt alright, but there was some pretty good gradual climbing involved and even the slight grades take a toll on my legs after while. I always feel pretty good and strong on anything flat or downhill(of course), but as soon as the upward slope comes into play my legs don’t function quite as well as much of my competition. Thankfully I have some teammates who are much better in that area and I was able to hang on and try to help more when we were on parts of the course I felt good at. With the women’s start times not going off until 7:30pm we arrived back at our accommodations quite late after grabbing a bit to eat, and it was time to try and get some recovery sleep before the next stage.

On the way to the TTT we observed some fun road signs...
Apparently poka-dots on the road is supposed to help drivers determine how far they should stay away from other vehicles...I followed the rule strictly of course!

Tailgateing...common, I'm just drafting to get batter gas milage!

I don't know why I even took a picture of this one, I mean I'm probably the least aggrasive driver ever, just ask my sister!

After the TTT it was Olive Garden for dinner even though they were close to closing time. Jessie pulled her usual indecisiveness about what she wanted to order and the waitress probably stood there for a good minute or two while she was trying to decide...it is so great! We figure the waitress was probably ready to strangle her becuase she wanted to go home for the night...don't worry Jess, I got your back and they would be in big trouble if they tried to mess with you!!!

As we waited for our main course Jackie did some plate/food design work creating this little face

and Jess couldn't hold back and added her touch as well

Stage 2:
Point-to-point 48.6miles. The first road race of the week. And the first climb to claim a Queen of The Mountain (QOM) title was only 12 miles into the course! Many times a longer road race will start out pretty tame and the pack kind of gives itself some time to warm up before kicking in. Not today, there was no rolling warm up from the start line, it was a race to the base of the first climb. I didn’t mind much, a lot of it was downhill or flatter terrain and anything that went up I was pretty much able to just coast over by allowing myself to be swallowed in the pack and carried by momentum and others blocking the wind. Then it came, the climb had begun! I was actually feeling pretty good and a bit surprised by that. Not too far in there were some sharp switchback turns that went up at a pretty steep grade. Some girls were going backwards as their legs gave way, but I was plugging away and maintaining contact with the main group. I have to add in this little part about a motor bike because I’m not sure if what this guy did or what I do later on should win the most embarrassing act of the day award. It was probably the second or third switchback of the climb turning to the left, and of course these are the kind of switchbacks that are real short, sharp, steep inside corners. Thankfully at this point I had taken the inside line on the previous turn and was now on the wider part of this given turn. Now out of the corner of my eye I see a motor bike (one of the race vehicles mind you) attempting to come up the inside corner on the pack. He dropped off onto the dirt section, apparently thinking he was just going to do a little off roading to get ahead of us, but he must have realized he had underestimated the grade he was about to encounter because he proceeded to gun it in an effort to kick up and over, but instead he managed to take out a few riders by hitting them and then tipped his bike to its side for a graceful slide back down the banking and into the ditch! I don’t think any of the riders were seriously injured, but they sure have a heck of a story to tell. So, I would have been golden had the climb ended anytime soon after the switchbacks, but of course it continued on in its upward fashion. I started to feel bogged down and now I felt a bit like I was moving backwards, as I had watched others do before me. I fell back a group and was now hanging on and struggling to stay with the second wave of riders. My legs were on fire and my head was not feeling so great. We hit the last stepper section; I was breathings crazy hard and couldn’t seem to get a full breath of air into my body. It felt like my legs just wouldn’t go, they were loaded and tight. Why was I not able to hang on with the girls coming by? I was in my 27 on the rear cassette. Then I think the hard breathing and lack of oxygen really started to catch up with me as I got light headed and had the sensation of passing out. I said my legs were loaded and tight but that was the least of my worries when I was barely moving up the climb and my left quad cramped. I was going so slow that I actually just tipped over, o wait…it gets better. Gary gets me going again and maybe another 50 meters up the road and I’m eating dirt again, same story, why I didn’t unclip my foot and land on my shoe is yet to be determined, probably had to do with the fact that my head felt like it was going to explode and with a cramp in my quad I guess I didn’t have it in me to twist my foot. The cramping hurt but it wasn’t too severe I didn’t think. Had it been on a flat section I probably could have shaken it out of unclipped and let my leg swing a bit, but on a step grade it resulted in me tipping over. By the way I haven’t even gotten to the most embarrassing part yet. This second time we are on a little steep grade yet and Gary says just walk it off, push up the a bit and walk it off. So, pissed off and inferiorated(I don’t think that is a word), I walk/push over the major part of the grade left and then finally get to a point where my quad seems to have loosened and I think I can get back on without tipping over…again. This is when it happens, as I’m focusing on getting my right cleat clipped onto my pedal I notice that my chain is on the blazing BIG RING….aaaaaahhhhhh…what in the world is going on? I said above that I couldn’t figure out what my problem was; I mean I knew I was in the 27 on the rear cassette. Well, I found my problem; I had a total mental lapse and somehow managed to make an extremely stupid rider error, of all people, me, the one who loves to spin and is always in the easy gear trying to keep a high cadence, how did this happen? I wish for your sake but more importantly for my own that I could answer that question well, but unfortunately there is no good answer, just that it was unbelievably stupid on my part. At this point I’m off the back and can only see a few stragglers behind me. I pass one girl who I try to work with but she has less than me so I continue on. Of course she has less than me, she has been dropped because she was having a real bad day and her legs just didn’t have it. I didn’t feel all that bad; I was just stupid and as a non-climber tried to climb the steepest climb of the race in the big ring. So, now I’m on my own little adventure, trying to keep my head in the game and wondering if I had a shot at making the time cut and continuing in the races for stage 3. It started to spit a misty rain in the air and I looked at the sky, which to this point I really hadn’t taken note of. Oh my, looks like I’m headed into a storm…with no internet at our lodge this weather served as a great surprise to everyone on our team. As I pedaled on the droplets got bigger and came down harder until they were more like little pellets piercing my skin and bouncing off the road. A few rolls of thunder rolled over my head and bolts of lightning flashed in the distance. These kinds of conditions might seem discouraging to some but for whatever reason I enjoy riding in such weather, as long as it is a warmer rain and it is possible to maintain body temperature. My body almost feels like it has come more alive and is ready for more, what I wouldn’t give to be with the pack right now is all I can think to myself. I start a bit of a descending section and the rain comes down even harder. There is steam rising off the road creating a bit of fogginess and I’m trying to keep my glasses far enough away from the heat of my head to prevent them from fogging up. Visibility was pretty much non-existent but I didn’t want to lose time on a downhill so although my mother probably wouldn’t approve, I punched it! My focus was on the white line on the side of the road, it was about the only thing I could see. The idea was to focus on keeping my tires just to the side of the white line and watching for any deviation in the road, so as not to hit any cracks or holes. At the same time trying to avoid the white line because water streaming over wet paint and tiny bike tires on light carbon rims pumped up to 160psi moving at 30+ mph could result in one slippery, sliding mess if not maneuvered properly. Yeah, that’s right…I can do what I’ve stated just above but for some reason can’t remember that when going up a very steep hill it is necessary to use the little chain ring! Now, at the same time I’m hating the race and pissed at myself, I’m having a blast and thinking this might be one of my favorite rides ever…please, I must need some sort of psychological help. The weather calmed down and just kind of rained a bit here and there for the rest of the race, but the roads were still wet and that meant I needed to be a little more cautious then usual. I caught another girl on a slight uphill grade and road with her for about a mile or so before we hit a curvy decent. She was on my wheel at the top and I was avoiding bad road and taking a good line at reasonable speed I thought, but apparently she doesn’t like descending when it’s wet because she was nowhere to be seen when I reached the bottom and started up the second QOM of the race. I felt quite strong on the second climb and found it much easier than the first, one again probably because this time I used the proper gearing. My spirits were relatively good I think and I had sort of come to terms with my stupidity until I got closer to the finish line and the men’s team cars were headed out, then the lead vehicles came by, and maybe some of the women’s vehicles. Now, I was pissed again and angry with myself. I didn’t know if I had made the time cut and we wouldn’t find out until later, but I was not a happy camper and I knew my chances were probably slim. To get cut after the second day of a stage race was unacceptable and pretty much a devastating thought. I tried not to be too negative, because that wouldn’t help any of my teammates and I don’t need to bring them down with me, although I wouldn’t exactly say I acted myself. Jackie had finished very strong in the main pack; Theresa and Jessie were in the second bunch that came in and Julia in the third. It may have been a blessing that the weather was the way it was and we had a huge task in front of us because it got my mind off of my devastation. As a team we arrived at the race with: Theresa’s car with four bike racks on top, mine with one bike rack on top and my bike inside, 5 riders, and Gary our manager. We were using my Ford Focus station wagon as our caravan vehicle because it would get a better spot than Theresa’s sense it’s not a big SUV. We figured it would work just fine…Gary put his bike on top as a spare and at the finish of the Point-to-point I would just ride back with Gary and pick up the other car while the rest of the girls waited and did a little recovery. Great in theory until it was pouring rain, everyone was cold after racing, and there was no shelter for riders to stay in. So the challenge was: 6 bikes, at least 8 sets of wheels, a good sized cooler, 6 bodies, tool kits, and all the other natural odds and ends needed to loaded into the station wagon that was only made to seat 5 to begin with. Umm…you think we did it…common…we are bike racers, of course we did it! Julia’s bike is the biggest so that got put on the roof rack and we zip tied at least 5 wheels to the sides of her bike. I am of course thinking…why have I not gotten my act together and purchased a roof rack system yet?...but that would have taken all the fun out of it! The remaining 5 bikes were striped of their wheels and strategically tangled in one another up against he back seat. Then we pressed as many wheels as possible on top of and behind the bikes, shoved other random stuff in any holes available and the remaining wheels laid across laps with other various items. The drivers seat was moved all the way forward so we could fit the cooler on the floor behind it and even I with my short legs was pushing it to fit in. Gary was in the passenger seat, also all the way forward with 2 carbon wheels blocking him in. The back seat held more precious cargo with Theresa, Julia, and Jackie all facing forward, and Jessie sitting on the cooler and facing the rear. I’m pretty sure they were unable to buckle up…but don’t worry, they also had 2 carbon race wheels locking them in place! It was even a project to get my car into gear as Gary and I had to wrestle with the wheels that were in the way. Oh yeah, we left the map in the other car at the start line. Good thing Target Training was in a similar situation, had taken forever to pile into their car, and happened to have a GPS, so we followed them. We got back to the resort and it was non stop, trying to get some food in, cleaning bikes, cleaning bottles, changing wheels, showers, laundry, legs in the air, etc. Also, Theresa and Gary took the liberty of removing the rack system from their SUV and placing it on my car so that for stage 3 after racing over 95 miles and with rain in the forecast, our commute back to the second vehicle might not be so difficult. Julia got a call from her coach and he starts giving us results. And I got a slap in the face, I was the first one outside of the time cut and no longer considered a competitor…ouch. Jess tried to make me feel better by reminding me that “at least you were first,” but the reaction she got was not to heart felt as I picked something up off the table and chucked it at her. I did know she was trying to be humorous and I cracked a smile but it was defiantly a blow to me that I was not even able to hang in the first few days of this stage race. Gary brought me a bit of hope by telling me to bring everything to race stage 3. Apparently last year they allowed some of the girls in and given the weather conditions he is going to see if I might be able to race. So, with that little bit of hope still burning inside me I haven’t exactly cracked on myself yet, although I have come close. If I do get to race stage 3 I’d say I better get some caffeine in me because I’m sitting on my computer now after going to bed a 12:00pm, waking up at 4:30am and finally giving up on sleep and getting out of bed at 5:30am to sit in the dark and complete this report. My legs feel surprisingly ok at this point, but my lower back is still not doing so well. I have been doing core work but neglecting my back and now I’m paying for it. So, I’m praying for a lucky day and hoping my teammates will wake up recovered and ready to go.
Stage 2 results: Jackie-28, Theresa-63, Jessie-70, Julia-89, Kacey-100 and out of time limit

Let the following serve as a reminder to never challenge a cyclist regarding their ability to fit a large quantity of material into or onto and object! When a situation becomes pressing, there is always a way!

Target training at least had a good rack set up and they were able to fit 8 bikes up there and cram 8 bodies inside...they had a GPS in thier fancy Volvo so we followed them back to the start area to get our other vehicle.

Then their was our group and we had to be a bit more creative becuase "someone" dosn't have their act together yet and only has one roof rack on their car...yeah that is me. This is Julia's bike(the biggest one) with 6 wheels ziptied to it!...o yeah we were getting real creative!

girls trying to stay warm in the car after the race

the drivers seat was moved all the way forward to fit the cooler...guess who had to drive?

it was kinda tight...

I'm sure we could have fit more...

I mean, there's all sorts of room left...

and Gary is giving me the "stop taking pictures and and get us to the other car" look!...common, what guy wouldn't want to be jammed in a car with 5 lovely ladies and amazing carbon bikes and wheels!

I got all my precious cargo safely back to the start and we all got a bit more breathing space!

Stage 3:
One of the longest days of the tour at 95.9miles of road racing with lots of climbing. Unfortunately even Gary’s persuasive charm couldn’t bail me out this morning and I was not allowed to start the race. Any bubble of hope I had was bust and this 7 day tour of riding had come to an end for me as a competitor. Lucky for me there was too much going on and too many things that needed to be done for sulking time. More than anything the girls needed me to remain positive and my new job was to help the team out in every capacity other than riding. Gary was of course driving in the caravan and that meant we were going to have no one in the feed zones of the race, that was until I was no longer racing of course. So after arriving at the race start I helped get the girls ready to roll. Basically that involves pumping up tires, making sure they have liquid and food, taking request for feed zone hand offs, handling whatever else comes up and wishing them luck before heading off to find the feed zones and find a good spot to position myself. All the feed zone vehicles whip out of the parking area and dash for the feed zone caravan style, it was kinda fun, speeding along and blowing threw lights as cops just smile and wave you on! Then, once at the feed zone it is time to wait, wait, wait, and wait some more. I would have the correct bottles ready to go in the cooler, maybe make a few coke bottles, do some de-fizzing and then just hang out either sitting in the tailgate or chatting with other feeders, but basically it is a lot of standing around staring at trees. Until the riders are coming and then it goes from zero to sixty! We usually got word by radio or phone about how far out the riders were and then of course the cops and motor bikes would roll threw a bit ahead. All feed bottles were wiped down from out of the cooler and loaded into my left arm in some sort of order, ready to be shuffled and handed out to the appropriate rider. So, things go from very dead and staring at cornfields to a pack of 100 riders coming at me while I squint and try to pick out my girls for hand off’s. As soon as I spot who is coming first I grab their planned bottle from the collection in my left arm and continue to hold it close to my body until my rider is right beside me and only then do I extend my arm and sweep with the motion of the race through the hand off. It is important to wait until your rider is very close because if you hold the bottle out too soon another rider is likely to snag it and then your short a bottle and may have given away your riders Gatorade or Accelerade, which is quite important to that rider in the middle of a 100 mile race! It is actually a quite stressful job at times…I told the girls after the first feed when I jumped back in the car to catch on the group and head to the next feed zone my legs were frickin shaking and I was like “geezz, calm down kacey!” Same thing in the next feed zone but I remained a bit calmer this time! Good news is that I didn’t miss any of my girls and they said I did alright. Given that I wasn’t in the race I don’t really have any course details or fun stories, but I know it was a very tough course and the girls all did well just to fight threw it! Jackie even got caught up and ended up off the road and crashed at one point, but she was a fighter and chased back up to the pack as they were starting the Blue Knob climb!
Stage 3 Results: Theresa-46 and won the 1st sprint(5pts.), Jackie-56, Jessie-69, Julia-72

driving to feed zone

the team was full of life and everyone got along well, which was of course a blessing. A common sight was Jackie reading her new Harry Potter book, but this picture was just too funny to leave out. One night after everyone had gone to bed she just wanted to finish the chapter so to avoid keeping anyone up we found her sitting on the toilet in the bathroom...we love you Jackie!

Stage 4:
60mile circuit road race. Same routine as yesterday for me…get girls ready, head to the feed zones, take care of hand offs, etc. From what I heard the race was really fast and started that way from the gun. Theresa won the first sprint of the day again! Things are looking pretty good for Theresa to have a good run at the sprint jersey, which would be an amazing accomplishment for her and the rest of the team! Also, Phil came into town last night and now Gary has some help in the caravan car, so that is nice! Phil is the sponsor of the team and his interest in and promotion of the sport is so great to see. We all really appreciate his support and it was great to have him around! I also want to mention Giaco, Phil’s awesome chocolate lab that serves as a sort of lucky mascot!
Stage 4 Results: Theresa-37 and won 1st sprint(5pts), Jessie-56, Jackie-63, Julia-79

Stage 5:
76.8mile circuit road race. Same gig for me again today and the girls are ready to race again. Best news of the day was Theresa winning both sprints early on in the race! I got some excitement in the feed zone with two riders changing their mind on what they wanted for feed. I have my left arm loaded with two bottles for each rider, a water and some sort of mix for example. Usually we plan it out and they typically take a mix for the first feed and a water or coke for the second. But things get exciting and fast when a rider is 2 feet in front of you and all the sudden they scream water, as opposed to the planned mix bottle. So I either return the mix bottle to my stash or just drop it on the ground and quickly grab a strategically placed water to quickly sling out into the path of the riders waiting and anxious open hand! I don’t mind the change in mind and I completely understand it being a rider myself. I’m just glad I was able to get the riders what they really wanted and didn’t miss anyone’s hand! Pheew…mission accomplished!
Stage 5 Results: Theresa-19 and 2 sprint wins, Jessie-39, Jackie-50, Julia-53

View from feed zone

Jackie dropping back to the caravan for a feed

Stage 6:
The longest stage of the tour coming in at 98.5miles of racing and once again with lots of climbing. This was it, one more day to make it through for the girls and then it was time for the CRIT!!! Yahoo! I headed out to the feed zone per usual and got ready for the gang to come. I got hand offs to both Theresa and Jessie and was surprised that Jackie hadn’t come threw yet when she came around the corner pedaling slowly and not looking too alive. It was too much, she had been feeling pains in her achilles tendon the day before and it didn’t feel like it was going to make the remaining 60+ miles for the day so she pulled off at the feed zone and I loaded her bike and made room for her in the car. I also hadn’t seen Julia yet and was wondering where she was. Julia soon arrived with another girl and as I got her a couple bottles she told me that they had been directed incorrectly on the course and sent out of their way, which was a bummer because it pretty much ruined any chance of catching back up to some sort of group during the race. In the end stage 6 was a bit rough for the team with Jackie stopping because of an injury and Julia not making the time cut in order to continue on into the next day. Theresa and Jessie finished with a good group and once again Theresa had won both of the sprints at the start of the race! Even all the mountain climbing didn’t seem to be hindering Theresa’s ability to sprint extremely fast! The highlight of the evening was homemade blueberry pie made and brought over by Phil!
Stage 6 Results: Theresa-51, Jessie-54

Stage 7:
Thank goodness the crit is finally here! The girls wake up tired, but that is to be expected after the week of racing! I walked the course while Theresa and Jessie warmed up and it made me want to race so bad! The course looked awesome and I just wanted to tear around it as fast as I could, but it was not my time. My job was to position myself in sight of the lap cards and give radio updates to Phil, Gary and the girls! Typically when someone is stationed near the start/finish line with the announcer and such there it is very hard to hear them, but that is of course not a problem for me. I was able to watch the lap cards and still cheer on my friends so they could hear! Theresa was looking great to start and everything was going well. Jessie moved up as the race got closer to the midway sprint and another team tried to mess with Theresa and throw off her sprint. As it turned out one girl got some ground on the others and won, with Theresa and the green jersey coming in for a photo finish 2nd and 3rd. Theresa barely got beat but took the 3rd. Jessie was hanging in but the pace was pretty crazy fast and eventually was too much after the previous 6 days and Jessie decided to call it a day. As the race went on I was a bit concerned with how tired Theresa looked, but common, who could blame her. It had been a super long week with tons of climbing, so maybe it was natural that she didn’t look quite herself. Then she was looking good and in great position with 2 laps to go, still looking good with 1 lap to go, and then they came around the corner headed for the sprint. I could see her helmet in the 2nd line of girls and I cheered as loud as I could! She was right there, all she had to do was kick again; get through a hole (which she is very good at) and then out kick the few girls in front of her…sounds easy enough right? Not really when you’re moving 40+ mph but Theresa is very good at it! As much as I tried to tighten my muscles and strain to make her go faster, as loud as I could scream, it just wasn’t enough and she came across 6th, which of course isn’t too shabby, but it didn’t quite look like a typical Theresa finish. Well, there was a good reason it didn’t quite look right. As it turns out we discovered after the race that Theresa’s front tire was low and she had a slow leak. So a tire that is usually pumped to 160psi was down to more like 80psi. It must have been awful difficult to sprint against the best in the country on a flat and she still managed to get 6th! It was of course very frustrating and a bit disappointing, but at the same time it came as some comfort that there was at least a good reason for the way that she was feeling, which was not good. At the end of the day Theresa held 2nd place in the sprint series and everyone was safe and had ultimately enjoyed the week!

I will leave you with this view, which could be seen as we decended down from the mounain resort


Anonymous said...

Ok - so I laughed out loud as I read your disintegration up the first big climb - only to have you discover you were in the big ring. I didn't realize we had so much in common - get all prepped and ready to go and then forget to do something basic.

Remind me to tell you about the time I drove to a race in New Jersey and forgot my shoes...

-John Coyle

Scott said...

that was the longest blog entry i have ever seen

Anonymous said...

lol when have I ever commented on your driving/yelling :-)
Love you