The First Rapha Women’s Prestige Race – On 4 wheels, not 2.

On Saturday, April 7th, Rapha’s San Francisco Cycle Club was host to the first ever Women’s Prestige Race.  In the same vein as the Gentlemen’s races (RGR), the Women’s Prestige Race took teams of 6 riders across road, rock and mountain, challenging not only riders physical abilities but also their wits and wills. 


Having ridden in a Gentlemen’s Race previously, I had a glimpse of what lied ahead for the ladies queuing up at the Cycle Club.  I could feel the tension, sense the eagerness and hear the excitement.  It made me want to pedal my bike.  However, on this day I was there to provide support (both mechanical and emotional) for the ladies along their route.   I had the Studio Velo Sprinter van loaded up with water, tubes, tires and tools.  Each team was given a card outlining the route and a Garmin 800 to guide them on their adventure and track all their vital stats.  Stating times were staggered in six minute intervals, based on teams overall ability and experience, with the least experienced team starting first and the most experienced team starting in the last spot.



And just like every “officially unofficial” race, there are no marshals and no signs pointing the way, so it was up to the ladies to find their way through Marin and back to the Cycle Club.  Races like this are the ultimate test of teamwork.  It’s not the team with the strongest riders that wins; it’s the team who works best together that will emerge victorious.  Each team needs to start and finish together, so individual glory does not exist.  Communication is key and teamwork is truly tested.


Unlike any Rapha Race I have ever seen, the riding conditions were absolutely ideal.  Minimal wind, comfortable temperatures and not a cloud in sight.  The stage was set for a perfect day on the road.  After the last team head left, Derrick (our Rapha Strategic Accounts Manager) and I fired up the sprinter van and headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge.


Our first stop was on top of Mt. Tam, at the end of Railroad Grade fire trail.  If there was a part of the course that had the highest likely hood of mechanicals, this was the spot.  The women pedaled smoothly though, and the rocky fire road only claimed a few flats.  All we had to do was cheer the ladies on and provide a water stop.  Morale was high, gaps were forming, and the ladies pedaled on.  Over Mt. Tam, across the ridge and down to Alpine Dam. 

After all the teams were clear of the dirt section, we got back in the van and back on course.  Some of the teams began working together as the roads opened up a bit, as the chase was on and the pace picked up.  The terrain was rolling and the race was in full swing.  The next refueling stop would be at Rancho Nicasio where the teams could get an idea of the time gaps.  Some of the teams worked quickly and efficiently to refuel, some were taking in the whole scene.  No matter what the approach, they all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.


The next big challenge for the ladies would be the Marshall Wall.  The folks at Strava had set up the QOM for the course here, and the ladies were gunning for a little glory on the mountain.  Strategy played a role here, and despite the tired legs, teams were launching their strongest climbers up the climb for the glory.  At the top of the climb was an aid station set up by the folks at Strava.  Oranges, beef jerky, water and Peeps were all offered up.  The only thing that was more impressive than this fine spread was the view offered up by the combination of crystal clear skies, bright blue water, rolling green hills and a complete absence of fog.

We were called into action to fix a quick mechanical at the base of the Wall, but other than that, the ladies were self-sufficient.  Our role turned towards providing moral support more than mechanical support.  The once cheerful, focused and energetic groups of ladies were shifting to quiet, tired, and sometimes bickering and divided teams.  The race was taking its toll, physically and mentally.  I remember those moments so well.

This is where the strongest teams showed their colors and made up ground.  As we drove south along Route 1, we could see the agony setting in.  As we passed each team, honking and cheering, the response had switched from waving arms and some hollers to barely an acknowledgment.  The winds seem stronger, the climbs seem longer, the bumps seem bigger. The day was taking its toll.

In the end,  the women riders made their way back to the Cycle Club to celebrate their arduous day on the road and to celebrate the essence of team work. It was an interesting day for me to take on the SAG role and not compete in a Rapha race but I was honored to help support all of the ladies of the first annual Rapha Women’s Prestige Race here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Great work ladies. See you next year! 

SV: Women's Rapha Race Team

 SV:Women Take on the Rapha Prestige Race!

 

Meet the team:

Shelley H. - Team captain, SV:Women part-time employee, and Cat 3 racer.

Kim F. – Triathlete and Cat 4 racer.

Christy A. – First time racer with distance experience, loves to ride her bike!

Danielle H. – Former collegiate racer, half and full Ironman experience.

Erin W. – Newly minted Cat 4 racer, mountain biker at heart!

Jen V. W. – Former collegiate racer, Cat 3 racer, coming back from an injury.

 

 

On, April 7th the inaugural Women’s Rapha Prestige Race will be lighting up the Bay Area. The invite-only race, conducted many seasons in Portland and on the East Coast, now has a race specifically for women!

The Studio Velo Women’s team will be making its debut, here, in our own backyard, with hopes of victory. Our women will be dressed in Studio Velo kits and the pink Rapha caps. The Rapha Prestige Race is different from any other race because it is the ultimate team competition- “Each team is only as fast as its slowest member,” says Chris Reed, Studio Velo partner, who has raced the Rapha Gentlemen’s Race (RGR) in Portland, OR.

This race is a challenge not only because it is self-supported but also because the course is not revealed until a couple of days before the race. “We do know the route will highlight the best the Bay Area has to offer,” says Shelley Hagen. Typically a Rapha race is long, very hilly and includes both road and dirt. In short, a RGR is a grueling, entertaining, and highly emotional race.

Studio Velo and SV: Women are excited to support our Women riders as they battle other teams of six, not for the individual glory of first across the line, but for entire team completion!

 

Pine Flat Road Race -- Race Report

Sometimes, a race report gives interesting insights into the world of road racing, something many of us enjoy doing or watching. Shelley, one of our SV: Women employees, shares her experience of her first California Road Race. Enjoy the read. It's worth it. 

...............................

By Shelley Hagen  

Race: Pine Flat Road Race, Womens 3 (P1/2/3)
Course: 62 miles, 4150′ vertical feet (http://app.strava.com/rides/4328694)
Teammates: Misha (cat 3) and Emily (cat 2)



Today I lined up for the first time in Cali, shivering as much from nerves as I was from the cold. As there were only 11 women on the start line, five w3s and six P1/2s, we very quickly agreed to race together (with the 3s to be scored separately.) Duh. The 15% grade, quarter mile climb out of the parking lot seemed like a reasonable neutral start, although I did find myself wondering why we couldn’t have just started the race up on the road.

At any rate, once we turned on to Trimmer Springs Rd, the race began. Apparently womens racing in Cali isn’t all that different from it is in Texas, and I soon found myself chatting in a double paceline with everyone sharing the “work.” A few pulls were harder than others and I got the sense that some of the women were sizing each other up, but general consensus seemed to be that it was pointless to start actually racing until we hit the first climb – at mile 51. Part of me was a little indignant that the ladies had chosen to have a 50 mile social ride followed by a 12 mile race, but given that my front derailer wasn’t shifting reliably from the get-go, I haven’t raced in 8  months, the hub cone in my front wheel was loose by mile 5, there were women with impressive pedigrees in the small field, and I’ve never raced 62 miles before, I happily settled in for the promenade. Really, it was a good thing, because more than anything, I needed to start meeting the women who race in NorCal.

<girlie moment> OMG, they’re super nice! That was so much fun! </girlie moment>

About 30 miles into the race the strangest thing happened. We stopped for a pee break. Personally, when I race, I’m always wound up so tight relaxing enough to pee would be impossible. Apparently, that’s just me. Instead of watching the gals squat, I looked down and realized I was almost done with one bottle and my flask was pretty full still. Not good. I finished up the bottle and took a hit from the flask, resolved to drink more consistently. Of course had I been paying attention, I would have realized that I was already in trouble.

Promenading up Trimmer Springs to Belmont was getting really old. I watched wistfully as a few groups of masters stormed past us. <sigh> Oh yeah, that’s what racing looks like. Misha and Emily were riding strong, taking good pulls. On Belmont I started keeping towards the front of the rotation. I was beginning to fear, at our current pace, we’d be out all the live-long-day. Nice, except my calves were twitchy. We turned on to Riverbend, mile 40, and I realized there were no neutral water hand-ups. What the?! Shit. I was down to half a bottle and cramping already. Wanting to at least finish today, I decided we’d better hurry so I pulled more, each time a little harder. Clearly, for some of the group, my attempts to turn up the heat were child’s play. Misha came along beside me and gave me a heads up about the course – one climb coming up soon where people will start attacking, go hard, there’s a long descent for recovery before the final mile uphill to the finish. Not having done my homework, e.g. mapping the route in Google Earth before the race, I was incredibly grateful for her recon on the course.

By the time we turned on to Watts Valley Rd, the field was getting strung out. Emily, who had worked hard for the team the day before, was fading. Misha was toward the front still, in smooth pedals. We hit the climb and Tanya (RED Racing) magically disappeared into the fog, with Korina (Metromint) on her wheel. Taking Misha’s advice, I hit the climb hard. Awesome! Unfortunately, it would have been a good idea to ask her how long the climb was. I began to pull away from the others and hammered off in search of the two up the road. A few minutes (that felt like hours) later I caught Korina, my lungs filling up with congestion at the onset of effort. “Nice work” she says as I pass her. I managed some inarticulate vowel sounds and wheezed past her. Legs on fire, lungs struggling, fog obscuring the road ahead, I looked down to watch my watts drop even though cadence and heart rate weren’t. Stupid asthma. The motor needs oxygen. Going backwards now. Not so awesome. I heard Misha behind me, “Not much further” and I fought to keep her wheel as she pedaled pretty circles away from me.

Ultimately, on the long descent that followed, we became a group of five, with Tanya still lost somewhere in the fog. (Which in all honesty was really cool.) My big chainring proved elusive and by now both calves and my left hamstring were writhing, threatening to seize up entirely if I eased off the effort too much. With nothing left in my bottles, I took a quick hit of EFS and spun out my small chainring trying to keep up as best I could with the chase group that was now flying downhill at 35 mph. In the interest of just about everything going wrong, my left contact lens decided to fly out of my eye, it too now lost in the fog at mile 59.

Briefly I considered dropping out but decided I would profoundly regret it. We were so close to the finish. However, these ladies were now actually racing and I didn’t feel safe mixing it up without my good friend, depth perception. I fell to the back of the break and kept some distance in front of my wheel. I wasn’t going to jockey for position but keeping the group in sight was good motivation not to go fetal and cry on the side of the road until SAG came to get me. By the time we hit the final climb the distance in front of my wheel had grown. No worries, at this point I just wanted to finish this sufferfest. I stood and pedaled, trying to keep the cramps at bay just one more mile, pausing for a split second as I rode closer to Misha. After all, my race ended at mile 59 when my contact took flight, and the rest of the field was nowhere in sight. Maybe I should stay here, behind my teammate.

In that same split second my right hamstring started to twitch. I sat down. Time to finish this (sorry Misha.) Now on a 14% grade with cramps in both calves, both hamstrings, and in my right bicep (that’s weird) I turned the cranks over in the saddle, thinking I had a few choice words for the jokers that put the 200m sign five miles away from the finish line. I unceremoniously crossed the finish line, quickly pulled over to the side of the road and stopped before I fell over. Welcome back to racing. That hurt. A lot.

Lessons learned:

  • Bring a 3rd water bottle. Always.
  • Investigate vision correction options, although had I been properly hydrated, perhaps my contact would have stayed put.
  • Womens racing ain’t so different after all. There still aren’t enough of us, even here.
  • Eat more. Drink more.Duh.
  • Get routine with the FloVent, dummy. You’ve got asthma.
  • Upon inspection, Mark says my outer ring is warped. Look into options asap. That sucked.
  • Always recon the route.What were you thinking?

Cross training for women cyclists

Looks like winter has finally arrived to the Bay Area. And we thought Indian summer could last forever... 

Ladies don’t despair there are plenty of options to get you through winter and still be in great shape come next cycling season. Of course there is the indoor training option or spin classes at places like Velo SF in San Francisco or Endurance Mill Valley, but when you are looking for something new and different and want to escape the cold and wet roads, there are plenty of other activities you can do that are fun and most importantly that will keep you in great shape this season! They compliment riding and will offer a great respite from the regular road season. 

Cross training is a chance to use some different muscles and improve your overall fitness. So, what are some cross training options that compliment us cyclists? Here are some ideas to consider that can get you through winter and keep you in tip-top shape.

Jogging/Hiking 

With Mount Tam in our backyard,  there are plenty of trails to explore for both running and hiking. Don’t have a waterproof jacket? Grab one of the Rapha rainproof jackets, made specifically for women by women.  Not only is this jacket stylish you can use this for a rainy run or put it in your jersey pocket for those bike days you think you might get caught in the rain or cold.  This jacket can also double up as a wind stopper when spring comes or for the cold descents off peaks like Haleakala in Maui. 



Cross Country Skiing or In-line Skating 

Looking for something that gives you more cardio when you are up in Tahoe, try cross country skiing or inline skating. These are some of the best cardio workouts in the world and they undoubtedly compliment cycling. Work on your base training by staying  in your easy training zones while working on balance and eye-hand coordination. And what's best about these sports, you can use much of your cycling gear. Take the Rapha women's specific Softshell Jacket. It works great for those cold morning rides locally and also is the perfect cross-country top. The jacket’s softshell fabric is windproof, water-resistant and highly breathable. 



Mountain biking

Yes, this is still bike riding. However, on days that are a little chiller or overcast, it’s actually quite nice to get off the damp roads and get into the trees. Grab a warm, long-sleeve jersey like the Capo Bacio long sleeve,  and pair it with your favorite rain or wind jacket, and you will be toasty warm and prepared for anything. It's a great social experience too. I love meeting riders on Mt Tam who are hanging out at West Point, relishing in the slower pace of winter. 



So now that it's winter grab your running shoes or hit the cross-country trails with your new warm winter riding clothing gear and be ready for next season! Please use SV: Women as your resource for information, gear and much more. With part-time employees who ride and train all year round like Shelley H, Lynda G, and Rachel P, we have the expertise and experience in off-season cross training and all the gear that makes it much more fun and enjoyable. 

Levi Leipheimer's Gran Fondo


 As cyclists, we all know very well that the majority of our organized endurance rides, races, and events tend to start early in the morning.  Funny how we forget the uncomfortable stages of waking up and preparing for such events as another sneaks up on the calendar.  This weekend's  4am buzz of the alarm and 4:30am departure for Levi Leipheimer's Gran Fondo quickly reminded me the joys of being a morning person as I jumped into the SV van with a mix of 8 morning and non morning enthused cyclists.  Throughout the smooth ride to Santa Rosa, registration, and co-mingling around the sprinter van everyone had completely come to life.  Coffee had kicked in sending out smiles, laughter, and a healthy amount of banter surrounding the red, white, and black kits.  Before we knew it, it was time to line up with 7500 of our friends.


  A few of us were very fortunate to be invited to the Fondo last minute through one of the leading sponsors of the ride; Capo.  For those of you who don't know, Capo is an Italian cycling apparel brand.  Not just any brand, but an industry leading brand in not only men's but women's apparel.  Their quality and design can be seen here in our Custom Studio Velo kits or here in the chosen Fondo jersey; thankfully the guys at Capo made a few adjustments to make the kits more suitable for the few of us women who were invited to join their group.  Thanks again guys!



It was such an honor to have started among some of the area's strongest and accomplished cyclists.  Levi Leipheimer, Grey's Anatomy Dr. McDreamy, The Fat Cyclist, and not to mention our very own SV celebrity, Christian Hobbs.  Ok, so maybe Hobbs skews the list a touch; but he and the other SV men all rode very impressively.  At the start, I had a great chance to meet all of these known names and yes the Fat Cyclist is as genuinely funny as he comes off in his blogs and Patrick Dempsey looks just as good if not better in spandex than scrubs.

Unfortunately, my day only consisted of the first 45 miles as an unpredictable bike mechanical prevented me from going any further.  All in all, I know I made the right decision as the weather and roads proposed precarious conditions for a bike that wasn't working in its typical 100% condition.  My very first sag van ride aside, I had a beautiful 45 mile ride with a very enjoyable climb up King's Ridge; can't wait to do it again in better conditions!

The day brought on many accidents, some minor, but more than a few resulted very severely.  Some recent crashes that have hit home to dear friends were also weighing on my mind and aided in my decision to bail out.  Thoughts on a speedy recovery to all who may be spending some time off the bike due to injury.  We are very happy to know you'll be around to ride with us soon!


After everyone finished up and regrouped, many positive notes were shared from the day, and we were all quick to relax and enjoy the company of our cycling friends in the Capo VIP tent.



Thanks again to a great day with amazing friends and a few new lessons in bicycle riding.  It's good to know when to push, but even more important to know when to set it down.

 KJ