April and may have been a bit of a whirlwind for the ladies of Ritte. There have been races, and photo shoots, and crashes and birthdays and all sorts of things going on! We are fighting that mid season lul and pushing through.
On the horizon we have the Cascade Cycling classic, Tour de Nez , and of course the Manhattan Beach and Brentwood GP's. We recently took a wonderful group of Ritte Ambassador women on the Rapha Women's Prestige. Ritte Women's Ambassador Tracy Chandler shares here story here...
Friend: “So how did you do?”
Me: “It was awesome! We did well!”
Friend: “No I mean, how did you doooo?”
Me: “Oh, you mean, like what place did we get? Did we win? I actually don’t know. I never thought to look.”
That was the exchange I had with a friend after returning from a weekend in California’s East Bay area for the Rapha Women’s Prestige. A “race” that includes a handful of all-women teams from around the country coming together to ride an epic course of miles, climbing, and dirt.
I had the privilege of riding with Ritte, a bike company and women's team which I had greatly admired ever since starting cycling a few years back. Not only are they about quality and results but do it with style and personality. When my friend, Kelli, asked me to join their team of ambassadors for this event I jumped at the chance. I did not think twice about it. That is until after I had already committed….
The course was rumored to be over 100 miles of road and dirt with at least 10k of climbing including the famed Mt Diablo. Mt. Diablo…. I had heard of that. Over 10 miles of steep twists and turns with a nice fuck-you punch at the end. Mt. Diablo. Like Mt. Devil. Even the name is scary.
I started to panic. I can’t do this. What am I thinking? This is for real “racing girls,” not some enthusiast like me. I called Kelli and expressed my doubts. She was so calm and cool. “You got this. We are there to have fun.” Fun? The thought never entered my mind. I was consumed with words like “sufferfest” and “off-the-back.” Fun? Really? I thought she was crazy. Then I thought.. she is way more experienced than I am. Maybe I should trust her?
I am glad I did. She put together a group of awesome girls from around the state. A mix-match of talents. Emilie Cole, an experienced road racer with fast legs and even faster wit. Julia Geischen, a talented coach and rider with the stamina and strength of ten men, Dara Richman, a pint-sized mountain biking bad-ass, and Crystal Talbot-Haggard, an industry vet who has probably put in more miles on a bike than I have in a car.
Not only was the team great we were styled-out with top notch gear from Giro, Oakley, Continental, Golden Saddle Cyclery, complete with the coveted Ritte Women’s Team kit. This made everything even more real. Damn, how will I live up to this?!
As we met for training rides, my fears began to melt as I learned we were all intimidated in some way. This was a big event no matter how talented or experienced you are. We made a pact… the only goal here… have fun!
And that we did. After, road-tripping up the 5, (complete with obligatory stop at In-And-Out,) we arrived in Livermore for dinner and team briefing... Course profile - gnarly. Weather - windy. Mileage - a lot. Butterflies started forming in my stomach. Then our team meeting focused on the more important details…. Food - PBJ portables made by my husband, Andre. Support - team car driven by Dara’s boyfriend, Garreth. Emergency supplies - a flask of bourbon to be carried by Kelli. Reminder - team goal is to have fun. I thought… Ok. We will be ok.
The day came early. Captain’s meeting at 6:30. We decided to ride the 3 miles from the hotel. A good way to spin out the morning nerves. As we waited for our start, we had plenty to keep us busy. Last minute flats, valve malfunctions, Garmin freak-outs due to course changes, and cramming in the last bits of food and coffee. We nervously scrambled about the other mingling teams of girls in their own throws of preparation. As per usual, Rapha did it right with coffee, support, photographers, the whole nine yards. It hit me again. This is the real-deal. Then it was our turn to roll to the start. Everything got kind-of quiet. Crystal pointed out I was chuckling. Not at anything in particular. Just a slow nervous he. he. he. he. Then we were off.
Ah, it felt good to get rolling. Give my legs something to do and my nerves quickly calmed. A moving meditation. Pedal pedal pedal. We started out through the rolling hills of a nature preserve and I started to come back to the present. The sun was just coming up giving every detail a rim light and long shadow. I noticed a massive bird flying ahead, it swooped down beside us almost guiding our mini peloton up and over the rollers. “What is that?” I asked. “A crane?” “An egret,” answered Dara with the expertise of an x-bay-area-local. I appreciated her confidence and tried to soak it in.
First up was Morgan’s Territory, a large swooping climb through the ranch lands. The wide-open fields gave us no room for cover from the already hot sun and strong side winds. The chatter died down as we tucked-in and climbed. The pitch was steep and changing. Just as you found a groove the terrain would kick and push you out of saddle. Up down. Up down. Hard to get a rhythm. Then I heard.. “photo op!” I looked up from my pedals to see a gaudy archway leading to a not-so-humble abode. Ah, great place to pee! We all did our thing, losing all sense of modesty due to the practicalities of bib shorts. Then pulled ourselves together for a photo. The theme for this one? Metal!! I immediately had Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills stuck in my head. It stayed with me down the shady decent and through the suburbs towards our next big feat… Mt Diablo.
The course circumvented the beast, teasing us, looming as we made our way through stop lights and strip malls to the north side. Fuck, let’s just go already! On Garreth’s cue, we crammed in more food in prep for the climb. Another pee stop, a wrong turn or two, and we were there, passing through the ranger station and starting up the grade. It was beautiful. Sweeping views all the way to the city, trails of hikers dipping down into the shady canyons, and looking up a perfect switchback to the summit. I settled in to a pace.. one two one two. Metronome legs.
The climb went on for 10 miles or so. Kelli, Emilie, and Julia had gone ahead in quest of a rumored QOM prize. Dara, Crystal, and I hung back and marched our way to the top. Teams passed us with hi’s. We passed teams with hello’s. After a while we could see the summit. Just a few switchbacks to go. As per usual with these famed climbs the pitch in the last few strides kicked up for a final blow. We charged it knowing the rest of our team was there to greet us.
A few swigs of coca-cola (and maybe a shot of bourbon for some) and we were off again. Half way through the day and we had already tamed this beast. Not bad. I knew we had miles ahead of us as well as some dirt but felt good to have a few of the hurdles behind us. Plus we were having fun. We had all settled into a groove, trusting each-other and ourselves. Like Kelli said.. We got this.
The descent was technical but fun, leapfrogging our way back to sea-level. At the bottom, we wound our way through miles of strip malls, subdivisions, and stoplights. After a few big rollers and a wilderness pass we came upon Redwood park and started to climb through a preserve among campers and hikers. The potted roads were a mess. Why are we here? Oh shit. This is the dirt section!
I have ridden dirt here and there, I mountain biked back in high school, but I was in no way confident about taking my road bike through miles of trail riding. I rode up to Kelli… “um, not feeling so good about this dirt.” Once again she replied… “Oh please, you got this.” Once again, I chose to believe her. We circumvented some campers setting up a tent and charged up the trail.
The path was compact and smooth. The grade was mellow. I thought to myself… “Ok, not so bad. This is totally manageable.” That is until we rounded the corner and faced the descent. Super steep grade, nothing but ruts, and basically a cliff running alongside the off-camber turns. There were girls everywhere. Skidding out, walking their bikes, lots of expletives.
My team charged ahead like it was nothing. All I could think of was “holy shit, hold your line, hold your line!” I let my body go loose and let the hill guide me. I dodged the ruts and just hung on for dear life. At the bottom, I looked around… 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 teammates. We were all here and all plastered with the hugest smiles on our faces. “Dude, that was crazy! We just charged that! Hell yeah!”
The rush gave us a second wind and after that everything felt easy-peasy. With the wind now at our backs we rolled towards home chatting and laughing, recounting the highlights of the day. Kelli announced we were super close. Not long now. On our last turn towards the finish, there appeared to be a virtual wall in front of us. A 20% last-laugh grade from our friends at Rapha. There was nothing to do but break out the beer and start celebrating early. (We had purchased Miller High Life the night before. It is the champagne of beers, after all.) A few swigs, and we charged the hill.
The sun was now low in the sky and hinted at the days end. We rolled in to the finish and were greeted by friends, family, and burritos. It seemed that everyone was floating with a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment. A great day on the bike. A great day with friends. We turned in our Garmin so our time could be calculated and I was reminded that this was a “race.” I had totally forgotten. We all had. That was the plan. Besides, no matter what our time was, we won. As Crystal put it perfectly…. We won at fun.