Part 1: Mel Muddles Through Mountain Bike Nationals

I flew into Mont Saint Anne, Quebec for the 2004 Canadian mountain bike nationals and was greeted by pouring rain. Ontario and Quebec had been pummeled by rain and certain areas even needed to declare a state of emergency because of such heavy rain and flooding. This meant we were looking at a wet race, on slick, slippery and technical trails….. Continue reading “Part 1: Mel Muddles Through Mountain Bike Nationals”

July 3, 2004 – McQuaid’s Yard Sale in Calgary Olympic Park

OH NO Canada!

Canada’s 137th birthday and the 2004 Calgary World Cup are now said and done, and I was somewhat a part of both. I was flying to Calgary on the 1st of July, happy to be seeing my Ford Cycling teammate Dara Marks-Marino for the first time in a LONG time (both of us have been racing crazy, but in different countries!), and actually, it has been a while since I have been to Calgary. The race was held at the Calgary Olympic Park, so cross country and downhill mountainbiking in the shadow of the huge ski jumps from the Olympics. Kinda cool, I have only raced in Canmore in the past so this was all good for me. I like the course too, a good combination of power climbing and riding with some fun twisty singletrack. The down side is there is, like, NO passing, for a long ways. Start was critical…

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June 13, 2004 – McQuick Continues Winning Way

Melanie’s Personal Score: 1 triathlon – 1 Victory!

Always nice to kick off the season with a win, and although I was concerned that this one was going to be hard going, the legs came around in the crunch and carried me in for a solid winning race!

This race is cool because it is right in the middle of a metropolitan area, Richmond, Virginia, so lots of spectators and lots and lots of participants… like 2000 for all the events on the weekend. It is really quite cool…….

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June 7, 2004 – Reflective On European Campaign

Ah, back to the land of paranoid customs officers and the joy of starbucks, my first trip to Washington and the weather is thus far cooperating, even if my customs guy really was not… I did get into the country but not without a lot of exhausting interrogation and form filling. I holed up in a coma for 10 hours to recover, and now sit in the coffee shop planning my next steps. With the flag flying half mast as a reminder of the loss of one of America’s presidents, my heart was still happy to be back in North America, even if it is only my part time home I was returning to……

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May 16, 2004 – NORBA Nestled In Birthday Festivities

If you have to travel away from friends and family on your birthday weekend, there are certainly worse places than Sonoma, California to do so… and even though my birthday is actually tomorrow, Monday is not a good birthday day, so I considered the weekend the actual days for celebration. The race we were competing in did have some moments worth celebrating, and I was lucky to have some friends come in to do some birthday type celebrating as well in the midst of all the racing, so it was pretty good all round. To top it off, the race was earlier than expected so I am writing this report from the Air Canada lounge in Vancouver…. I managed to compress my weekend away to about 48 hours which is pretty awesome for travelling across the border… but I digress……

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May 2, 2004 – Stage Racing While Sucking Air Through A Straw

I guess it is a matter of opinion on whether a report is better late than never, but I have a story to tell so I am going to let you in on it whether you care at this late date what happened at Tour of the Gila, or whether you are so over that race. Those that got enough on cyclingnews.com, seeya, those that want to find out what REALLY happened, here’s my version.

Silver City is a tiny mining town in the middle of a hundred miles from nowhere and we stayed in a little town about 7miles from there called Pinos Altos. 7080 feet on top of spaghetti, this little gold rush town is quaint with a capital R for rustic. We were welcomed by the family that runs a little place called the Bear Creek Cabins for about the 8th year running…. this area was once stomping ground for Canadian training camp. This year we just came in to bust ass at the Tour of the Gila, a race known for very unforgiving courses, altitude, and beautiful scenery.

So to the race, we started with the time trial. I think it was around 17 miles of climb over a mountain pass into a headwind, descend down and then turn around and climb back up it, then throw it in your biggest gear and haul ass downhill with a tailwind to the finish. Fast chicks did it in just under 42 minutes, I did it in just over 43 minutes. Probably looking into a 56 for the time trial bike….53 was a tad slow. But the highlight of the day was testing out my super cool, orangerific time trial bike recently gifted to me by K2… my first time trial bike ever! The boys at Tommy O bikes in Phoenix had pimped it out for me the week before so it was all new bike action the day of the race and that made it fun. I wasn’t too fast, but I sure felt fast. Thanks go to Ian Abbott and Rob Hasagawa from Cedar Hill for outfitting the aero wheels, which are the next item on Melanie’s never ending bike component wish list. Busted out an 11th which is pretty good for a mountainbike girl sucking air through a straw on the first few days at altitude, and called it a day.

The next day was not good, at all. We rode from Silver City up to the top of Mogillon Pass, 71 miles or something of wind and mayhem topped off with a mega climb up to what felt like 37,000 feet. I was having issues at altitude and just the cross wind gutter action as the peloton motored to the mountain was almost enough to crack me, but turning the corner into a headwind looking at a 15km climb finished me off. I just sucked the second stage, lost like 10 minutes and went home with my tail between my legs.l

Stage 3 was a bit better, 77 miles of Inner Loop fun in a big circle up to Pinos Altos and along a beautiful road ending up back in Silver City. The climb to Pinos Altos was very civilized, not very hard a pace, then we descended like banshees into Lake Roberts (at one point me and 7 others had a cool little group of kamikazes that decided to maybe go fast downhill and see if we can keep the others away, but they caught us along the flats). The race really got hard in some of the last climbs within the last 20kms of the finish, tornado winds were mostly the reason, lots of attacks guttering us was the other, but I stayed with the lead group which was whittled to around 18 or so, and even without feeling great, some power was coming back to the system

Stage 4 was the criterium and it was a way different story from last year… I could attack. Yay! So right off the gun I tried setting a hard pace, attacked, got away, got caught, my teammate Dara attacked, got away with 2, I blocked, she cruised out front to take a prime and ride away for awhile, their group got caught, so then I sprinted for a prime and got a massive gap. I was joined by six others and then our break proceeded to put some massive real estate on the bunch. Won another prime, then started trying to imagine how to win the race, had a race plan, went into the last lap and got all jumbled up with other race plans, made a dumb move and was outsprinted by like, everyone, and ended up fifth. So much for all the fire power in starting breaks, dumb mountainbiker, but I learned a lot in that race so it was all good.

Anyway, so last day. 71 miles around the Inner Loop in the other direction. A break went really early and noone cared. So as we were meandering along I was super bored and was just about to start attacking just to get some training in and Andrea Hannos went right beside me, so I jumped with her, started busting ass with her right away, we were joined by three others and boom, a break is born. A good one too, as none of us were too high in the GC.. This one stuck, most of us worked, a hard day of hammering along the flats to be greeted by the fun climb we had so much fun careening down the other day. Three of us worked hard on the climb so we lost a couple, caught the first break, and the the decisive move was made by Kim Anderson. She was too fast for me as I was being crushed at 8000 feet, and so I just stayed with my little group of four trying to not have to pedal very hard since I was on the rivets already. Then my group became very unfriendly as they RACED, dammit! So I just held on as long as I could, until the last 500m (which is uphill because the whole last mile is climbing to the finish). At that point I knew even if I completely cracked it was all downhill to my hotel room so I would be all right, and I pulled in a 7th.

So some good riding at the end of the week, some really crap at the beginning, and an 18th overall despite the meltdown on Thursday. Tour of the Gila all over, I have some dope legs to take with me to Sonoma and Europe, and the race was so hard I was further chiseled by calorie deficit. Went back to my spring training base in Phoenix to do some last laps in the pool (okay, okay, I lay in a chair beside the pool and thought about doing laps….) and to say goodbye to my wicked hosts Jerry and Erin, and with a twinge of regret knowing I am done with Arizona, which has been my training base and home away from home since March. But they just served us vanilla ice cream on this flight so I am over it already!

Thanks so much go to my support people. Most importantly to my coach Houshang Amiri of the Pacificsport National Cycling Center. I would also like to thank Ford Motor Company, Ford Cycling (www.quickrelease.com), K2 Bicycles, Saucony, Maxxis, Compex, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano, Giro, Powerbar, Descente, Rider’s Cycles, Arq Salon, Pacificsport, and Deuter. Ian Abbott, our massage therapist, thanks for coaxing some power out of very tired legs, TommyO, thanks for the mechanical hookup and the friendly group to ride with, and again to Jerry and Erin, look forward to seeing you guys again soon!

Next stop Sonoma…….some NORBA action to tune up for the big World Cup campaign in Europe…Rice A Roni, anyone?

April 18th, 2004 – Ford Claims Podiums At Sea Otter 2004

The Sea Otter Classic has finished, and our team had some highlights and lowlights to color the weekend. The race was held in Monterey, and for most of the weekend it was cool but sunny, perfect mountain bike racing weather!

All three of us raced, myself, Dara Marks-Marino and LIsa Matlock. The race had four stages, ie four individual races all of which counted towards an overall GC…. stage racing!

The race opened with a new stage, the Super XC, which was a circuit race with a lot of paved road and a small bit of gravelly singletrack. The race was to go for 75minutes, so we didn’t know how many laps we would do at the beginning. It was pretty windy, so it meant the race was a bit negative because it was very difficult to get away from the group with all the wind. It was somewhat flat-ish as well, so hard to make moves. The group came in as about 25, and I had a good sprint and finished 3rd (first team podium of the weekend!) and Dara came in 16th.

The next stage was the time trial, which was 6 miles on a new course. It was a lot of downhill and then a big wide open fire road climb basically to the finish. I raced as hard as I could despite feeling a bit off, and ended up rolling in 8th, and my teammate Dara was within seconds of me (we were actually all within seconds in the top 10) and she took 10th, and moved into 10th overall while I was in 6th at this stage.

The short track was on Saturday, a 20minute criterium offroad… this is the exciting spectator day as tons of people were there to watch. It was very cool. I wanted to erase some time from my disappointing time trial and attacked very hard to make a break go, and it did. It was like deja vu of last year as I was in a small group with two Luna girls, Alison Dunlap and Katerina Hanusova, and the two of them worked me over with team tactics and I got outsprinted to the final critical turn again, and took second. We had a good gap on the field which achieved my goal and I moved into third overall. Dara finished with the group and remained in the top 10.

So the final day was the cross country, two giant loops on a new-ish course. I was very focussed and went hard on the start to make sure I made the initial selection, but very early in the race I knew I was in trouble. I had no legs at all, and for a lap I fought to stay with the leaders where I knew I belonged.. but after an hour and a half of racing I was shivering with cold while RACING . I was having real trouble at that point and decided not to risk anything and I cut my losses and had to retire from the race. Dara was racing quite well until a mechanical sidelined her and dropped her just out of the top 10, but a good showing regardless.

So two podiums for the team in a world class field. A disappointing finish but it looks like all is in order for the big races coming up in Europe. Next stop for the team is Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico, a road stage race, then the team will go to Sonoma for the second NORBA stop.

Thanks so much go to my support people. Most importantly to my coach Houshang Amiri of the Pacificsport National Cycling Center. I would also like to thank Ford Motor Company, Ford Cycling (www.quickrelease.com), K2 Bicycles, Saucony, Maxxis, Compex, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano, Giro, Powerbar, Descente, Rider’s Cycles, Arq Salon, Pacificsport, and Deuter.

March 28th, 2004 – Top Mountainbike Team at Redlands 2004

I’m a little late in catching all of you up on the past week in Redlands, mixing it up with the road chicks, but it was a pretty big week and it took a couple of days to catch my breath and regroup. Now that I am at 37,000 feet on my way back to Victoria I can reflect on the awesome week Team Ford had road racing in California.

The first cool thing is that our team is specifically a mountainbike team, and we were the only mountainbike team in Redlands this year. This is unusual because in years past there would be a number of mountainbike specific teams that would travel to CA to get some training in to prepare for the mountainbike season, but this year it was only us and 26 other road teams. I have to point out at this point that we kicked ass and finished 6th overall, in front of some very good road teams.

So I will break it down for you day by day. Day one was the prologue, a 5km uphill time trial at Mt Rubidoux by Riverside, CA. This was our first top 10 finish of the week as I got 9th in the stage, and Sara Noble, our secret agent from the Rocky Mountain team, took 14th in the stage as well. Solid day one.

Day two was a new stage. Lots of kilometres in the cross wind topped off with a nasty climb at altitude up to a village called Crestline. Basically it is like heading to Big Bear. This was Sara and Daras day, as they kicked ass and rode up at the front, with Sara cracking the top 10 and Dara staying up with the lead girls. Lisa was having a wicked day as well until she flatted on the climb, and still managed a strong finish. I kinda had a rough day, was rode into the ditch, took too much wind, but sucked it up and finished okay.

The next day was another day of flat and cross winds capped off this time with a 10km climb. I was in no mood to parade to the bottom of the climb, and rode very agressively to try and get a break away. In the first 5km I went away with a small break, which was caught, and then I attacked again and noone came with. So I decided to train and see what would happen, and basically rode until the first QOM to steal some points and then waited for the pack to get me. We then rode together to the climb which felt pretty awful to me, but Sara rode at mock speed, and finished again in the top 10. Dara and I rode in about a minute apart and LIsa not far behind that.

The Panorama Point Road Race is a short circuit race of 65km, with a big fat 20% wall in it. I was starting to feel great by the end of the week and was intent on getting out of the pack and doing something fun. A break did get away with Amy Moore from Quark and Grace Fleury from Scuba Genesis (and a Rona and Basis girl who were dropped), and I thought for sure we would be gone but unfortunately noone would work but me…. other plans in the works. But again, no point in going back to the pack, might as well do some training. Eventually Lynn Bessette, SUe Palmer and Kristin Armstrong caught us on the last lap while hoofing it away from Genevieve Jeanson, and I tried to hold on as hard as I could but after pulling for three laps they gapped me on the wall. Our break was caught with that of Jeanson, and that lead group rode in behind the three front runners and I got 8th. The other girls did well in staying with good strong packs as the race really broke apart on this stage.

In the criterium on Saturday we all rode in the pack, and despite covering every break opportunity, nothing got away. Won some money, got some sprint points to take third overall in the sprinter competition, but I couldn’t get up there on the last lap and ended up 14th. The rest of the team stayed in and upright!

So the last day was our very best day of teamwork by far. The race was hard, and although I rode agressively to try and get away, I didn’t have the legs and frankly, was really hurting. LIsa rode amazing and was there on the last two laps, handing me a coke and some water, and offering all kinds of help. Sara was beside me pacing me and encouraging me to not give up ( I felt SO bad!) and Dara was up front as well riding safely with us as a team. Our fantastic riding on that stage, having three team members in the front group and one seconds off, moved us in front of Webcor who only kept two in that group, to take 6th overall.

So if you have been paying attention, our team finished in the top 15 EVERY stage, top 10 for four stages, made all but the last major break, and in general were female bad asses.

It was such a fun week! Sara took 16th overall, I took 19th overall, Dara was 26th and LIsa 39th. Not half crappy for a bunch of dirt girls.

We would like to thank the McClintock family for such a rockstar homestay. The groupie van was awesome.

Thanks to our soigneur/mechanic/driver/personal assistant Ian Abbot for getting us to and from the races happy and in top form!

I also need to thank my coach, Houshang Amiri at Pacificsport National Cycling Center, Team Ford and our Michigan cheerleaders David Myers and Paul Alman. I would like to thank Ford Motor Company, K2 Bicycles, Saucony, Maxxis, Compex, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano, Giro, Powerbar, Descente, Rider’s Cycles, Cliff English (Competitive Edge Training Systems), Arq Salon, Pacificsport and Deuter.

I’m out for a couple of weeks to prepare for some mudstomping in Sea Otter.

Peace.

Mel

March 22, 2004 – Top Spot at First Mountainbike Race of the Season

My initial three weeks in Phoenix culminated with a fun little stage race at McDowell Mountain Park in Fountain Hills, AZ. Our team was doing tons of photos and stuff around the race so we didn’t really bring our "A" game, but we were there to stir it up.

The first stage was an 8mile time trial around the desert. Very bumpy, lots of twisty, turny singletrack.. a fun course. I chose the K2 Razorback SL because the rear suspension really helped on the super bumpy sections. Unfortunately, I encountered a rider with a problem on the trail, in a blind corner, and the only line around her was through a rough little rock garden, and I flatted. I hadn’t put any Maxxis tires on at the time and the flat cost me a lot of time for a 36 minute race (for me, the winning time by Chrissy Redden (SUbaru-Gary Fisher) was 33 ish).

My teammate, Dara Marks-Marino, did well and took a podium spot for the team in fifth, and my other teammate Lisa Matlock was around me in the standings.

The next day was the short track, about a 1000m loop with a cool singletrack section. I didn’t want to finish as a group because I desperately needed time to start clawing my way back up the standings. I got the hole shot off the start line and went mental for three laps just to see what would happen. By the end of the second lap, Chrissy Redden (Subaru-Gary Fisher) and I had gapped the field and we were trying to distance ourselves further. We worked really hard, I had a couple of scary moments where I bashed into stuff, and we came to the finish together. I rode the Maxxis Larsen TT on the front and a High Roller on the rear, and all the bad lines I chose didn’t really matter. Chrissy finished first and I took second with her, and Kiara Bisaro (Gears Racing) was third. Dara moved into fourth overall with a sixth place in the Short track and Lisa finished with a group in 22nd.

The final day was the Cross Country, three laps, and was guaranteed to be a very short race. I needed two minutes to move into the top 3, and I needed more than that for second, so my goal was just to make sure I moved to the top 5. It was HOT, like 94 degrees, and the course was really smooth with lots of wind so there was tons of drafting. I decided to try my short track tactic and see if it would work for the XC…. and told my teammates that was what I was doing. I went super hard off the front, and halfway through the lap, Chrissy and I were away, but Kiara was dangling close by. I pulled hard, trying to get us away from the field and Chrissy and I worked well to keep moving fast. The end of the lap came so fast with us going about 23 minutes for the first one…..and the end of the race came even quicker. There was no chance for me to get away from Chrissy, so I just attacked as hard as I could about a km out from the finish, and managed to gap her to come in alone, with her very close behind, and Kiara coming in third.

The win in the XC was enough to move me up to fourth overall which was good for my first race of the season…Chrissy Redden(Subaru-GaryFisher) was first overall, Kiara Bisaro(Gears) was second, Kelli Emmett(Specialized) was third, I was fourth and Trish Sinclair (Gears) was fifth. My teammate Lisa had a great race, coming 10th in the XC and Dara had a rough day but still rode at the front and took 9th overall.

So I would like to thank my team for helping with my first win of the year… my coach, Houshang Amiri at Pacificsport National Cycling Center, Team Ford and our extra help from Ian Abbot, David Myers and Paul Alman. I would like to thank Ford Motor Company, K2 Bicycles, Saucony, Maxxis, Compex, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano, Giro, Powerbar, Descente, Rider’s Cycles, Cliff English (Competitive Edge Training Systems), Arq Salon, Pacificsport and Deuter.