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Strive Racing Team's Number Watch:
2013 Events: 52
2013 Wins: 44  (Hannah 16, Rachel 12, Moriah 10, Luke 4, Sarah 2)
2013 Podiums: 147 (30+ for Hannah, Rachel, & Moriah)
Hannah's Cat 1 Upgrade Points: 16 (Needs 35)
Rachel's Cat 2 Upgrade: Done!

2014 Strive Racing Team Blog
  
October 12th, 2013 - The Pine Creek Challenge
The 3rd annual Pine Creek Challenge was the best one ever!  While I really wished that I did not have 8 stiches in my back and was out there climbing with my friends, it was really cool to be SAG and just bless the riders.  We had a total of 28 people show up; 23 of whom rode, and 5 of whom did support.  We had 14 junior riders and 9 adult riders.
 
First off, I want to thank the support team; Dawn Swan, Deb Kirby, Erin Steiner, and Dzuyen Vigil.  These four Women rock!  They encouraged, blessed, and cheerfully served the 23 riders with amazing support all day long, across 101 miles, 10,000 feet of climbing, 5 aid stations, and the post ride feast.  Having 4 support vehicles for only 23 riders, this event allowed each rider to do just the climbs they wanted, making the day perfect for everyone.
 
The weather was spectacular, the mountains were gorgeous, and the fellowship was priceless.  A lot of relationships were strengthened yesterday.  The post ride feast was filled with classic stories from the day, lots of laughter (despite the sore legs), and a close camaraderie that only comes from going through an adventure of this magnitude with those sitting around you.  When it finally came time to say good-bye, there were no hand shakes, . . . . only a plethora of big hugs, as everyone felt closer.  It was super cool!
 
Here is how the day ended up:
13 riders – All 3 climbs
8 riders – 2 of the 3 climbs
2 riders – 1 of the 3 climbs
 
While everyone did awesome yesterday, I have to give a special shout out to 10 year old Thomas Steiner and 9 year old Luke Swan (my son).  These two tiny guys did all of the Pine Creek climb, including the 22% Hook, and then all of the Engineers Rd. climb., taking on, and easily conquering, the steepest 4,000 feet of climbing on the day.  Then, after all that climbing, these two still had the energy to organize and engage in a 20 minute parking lot Criterium with Josiah and Tabitha Vigil during the post ride feast, which provided great entertainment.  Like most crits, it ended with a crash, which thank God was the only crash of the day, and everyone was fine.  The 2013 Pine Creek Challenge was the perfect ending to a perfect season.  Time to rest.
 
September 28th, 2013 - Richard's Worlds Blog - The Road Race
I have received a number of emails from people asking, “What Happened to Hannah?  47th place in the road race?"  Everyone, including myself, believed that Hannah would do much better in the Road Race than she did.  In an effort to help other Juniors who make it to Worlds for the first time, Dawn and I have decided to be 100% transparent with what went wrong.  While this will be a little bit humbling for Hannah, we value that character attribute, and we also know that sharing what we learned will provide the cycling community with some valuable knowledge that can be used by others in the future.
 
Unlike the TT, everything before the road race went perfect.  While we had noticed Hannah’s lack of focus in the days leading up to the race, we were still hopeful that she would do well.  81 Ladies took the start in the road race.  The race was 51 miles long with 5,000 feet of climbing, which was done via 5 laps of a 10 mile circuit.  Each lap had one long climb with a sustained 8%-9% finish and one short, 12% puncher climb, totaling 1,000 feet of climbing per lap.  The pace for 5,000 feet of climbing in 50 miles was pretty fast at 20.3 mph, but not unbearable.  After looking at Hannah’s HR data, the physical effort was not her challenge.  Hannah had the fitness to stay with the peloton until the end.  The 30 riders who could not hang with the peloton’s pace came off on the first climb, a mere 15 minutes into the race.  Hannah came off at 1 hour and 20 minutes into the race on the 5th climb and she did so in Zone 4.  Ouch!  Why did she come off that late and why in Zone 4?
 
Hannah’s challenge was mental.  She did not have the focus, ambition, and resolve required to ride at the front and embrace the race.  She was missing her mental fortitude.  We could see this in her demeanor in the days leading up to the race.  She was having a great time, but was too distracted by too many different, and “exciting” things.  All of them were cool, but all of them, were distractions.  On lap three, Hannah made the mistake of allowing herself to slide toward the back of the peloton at the end of the long climb, right toward the top.  Physically, she was doing fine with her HR, averaging mid Zone 4 up the climb.  Of course, right then a huge surge at the front radically strung everyone out and Hannah and a few others got gapped off.  Hannah chose not to dig deep and she paid the price by not getting back on before they crested the top of the hill.  The peloton drilled the downhill and the flats.  With where Hannah was at mentally, she had no chance of getting back on.  At that point, Hannah throttled back her effort and just rode smooth to the end, finishing in 47th place, 9 minutes behind the winner.  It was pretty discouraging for the first few hours after the race.  Once the emotions died down, Hannah was able to see that there is a lot she can learn from this experience.
 
So what did happen?  Why didn’t Hannah, who is normally a fierce, focused, competitor, have it together upstairs for this race?  Anyone who has been to Worlds as a Junior for the first time already knows the answer.  My hope is that the following information will be useful to some other family in the future, who like us, will be headed to Worlds for the first time totally clueless, inexperienced, and unaware of how the circumstances can affect their child.  If you do not have time to read this novel, here is the summary.  Worlds is an incredibly exciting, but terribly distracting, venue.  It takes a great deal of mental discipline to maintain your focus and not burn your mental, emotional, and spiritual matches.  The distractions come from three categories; the differences of a foreign culture, which are extreme in Italy, the national team experience, which is just incredible, and the World Championship race venue, which is very over-whelming.
 
Italian Insanity
The first distraction was the chaos of the Italian culture.  If you have been in an Italian metropolitan area, or have been reading this blog, then you already have an idea of how crazy this country is.  The Italians are a very passionate and expressive people.  Their language is very beautiful and it lends itself to incredible inflections, hand gestures, and animated expressions.  Combine that with the fact that the national drink here is espresso, and everywhere you go, it appears that people are jacked up and engaged in loud, heated arguments.  It is a little unsettling at times.  However, far more unsettling than the loud conversations, are the cars!  I always thought that the Jason Bourne movies played their car scenes in fast motion.  They don’t!  Everyone here drives like they are on Crystal Meth.  It is absolutely crazy!  No speed limits.  Just drive as fast as can go, all the time.  If you are in someone’s way, they will tailgate you, literally 2 feet off your bumper, honking their horn, flashing their lights, swerving all around you, even at 140 kph (87 mph), until you get out of their way or they can find enough inches (not feet) to squeeze by you.  It is very scary.   One day, after one of the many cars zooming in and out locked up his brakes for a 30 foot skid before hitting me, I went straight to a gas station and sat there, pounding caffeine, until I too was frying and able to keep up with the Italians.  Yes, even the gas stations have espresso bars and there is always a line.  Go figure.  Interestingly, I did much better driving in Italy after 200mg of caffeine.  At our hotel, at least once an hour, we hear the ambulance sirens, which are much louder than ours and very irritating, from the plethora of car wrecks.  As previously mentioned, Hannah was involved in a car accident on her way to the TT.  On top of that, Hannah had to do her training rides in the Italian traffic with no bike lanes and very skinny roads.  In short, being in Italy, especially for the first time, can cause you to experience some anxiety, which definitely affects your confidence come race day.

The National Team Experience
The second distraction is the national team experience and racing in Europe for the first time.  USAC is amazing.  They really do have junior development down to a science and it is no wonder that they are kicking out so many great riders that can compete at the international level.  That said, Hannah had never even been to a USAC talent ID camp before, raced outside of the US, nor met any of the upper brass from USAC.  Then, with just a few days’ notice, Hannah was:
  • Flown off to another country by herself
  • Given a new identity via USAC clothes, for both on and off the bike
  • Introduced to the entire upper brass of USAC
  • Set on a pampered pedestal with an amazing staff that met her every need
  • Brought to special conferences where Peter Sagan, Marianna Vos and other International Pros encouraged her.
  • Living with, eating with, and riding with many of the USA Pro Men and Women cyclists that she had “hero-worshipped” over the last five years.
  • Living on the same floor with all the other juniors, who were constantly coming into her room.  This was by far was one of the biggest distractions.
The national team experience was brand new and very exciting for Hannah.  It did make her over-all Worlds journey a lot of fun.  That said, many of these distractions burnt mental, emotional, and spiritual matches.  While we did not realize it at the time, the distractions were doing serious damage to Hannah’s ability to build up her race day resolve, which needed to be at an all-time high.

The World Championships Venue
The third and final distraction is the magnitude of the World Championships venue.  Yaaa, this race is just a little bit more intimidating than your local crit.  Here is a list of some of the items that can mess with your Mojo if you look around.
  • A small city built around the start/finish line
  • Multiple 20-30 foot tall TV screens
  • 10 miles (literally) of Chicanes covered in banners
  • 100 meters of grandstand seating right on the finish line
  • Walking up on the enormous stage in front of the crowds to do your “big board” sign in
  • Having your name announced over the PA in front of thousands of people
  • Being surrounded by 80 of the fastest riders in the world on the starting line, all very muscular and decked out in kits that list their country’s name.
  • Having most the riders around you speaking another language
  • Having huge video cameras on every corner pointed right at you
  • Being surrounded by hundreds of support vehicles, motorcycles, police, media, and support staff
  • Having motorcycle cameras stuck right in your face while you are suffering
  • Listening to the deafening sound of the fans beating the chicane signs to death
  • Feeling the pressure to represent the USA in a foreign land and beat the fastest racers in the world
There are many books out there that say cycling is 50% mental.  Everyone understands the physical matches analogy and that you only have so many matches to burn before your match book is empty and you have no more physical energy left.  Well, it is also true that burning emotional, mental, and spiritual energy can deplete you in other ways that are just as valuable to your success.  Determining to stay focused on your race day mentality during the two weeks leading up to Worlds is not only essential, but also requires amazing mental fortitude and discipline.  There are countless distractions that can chip away at your foundation.  Hannah got so caught up into the national team experience, having fun socially, and being captivated by the magnitude of the World Championships, that she lost sight of the race.  When the time came, she was not able to bring her normal fierce, competitive swagger, which was required to be competitive at a race of this magnitude. 
 
Everyone is different.  Depending on your personality, and whether or not you have dealt with these distractions in the past, you may or may not be able to handle them better than others.  Hannah learned the hard way, which is often the best way, a great deal about herself.  If she is blessed with the opportunity to return to Worlds next year, she will be far more prepared, more focused, and spend more time protecting her race day mentality.  Thank you all for your support and encouragement.
 
September 26th, 2013 - Richard's Worlds Blog - The Night Before
Well, it is the night before the big race and Hannah is in her “Bubble of Focus” so once again, I am doing the blogging.  The last few days have been really good and Hannah feels great.  Both Hannah and I got the TT put to rest and have turned all our attention to the RR.  Yesterday I pre-drove the Road Race course (yes, I am still risking my life in the little Italian stick-shift rent-a-car) and today, Hannah pre-rode it (Yeah!), during the scheduled pre-ride time.  She loves it!
 
The course really is an amazing race course!  Very hard, very fast, very steep, very skinny at parts, and very dangerous.  There are extremely sharp downhill corners, lots of traffic furniture (they love their round-a-bouts here), curbs that pop-up out of nowhere, lanes that end abruptly into buildings, etc.  We still do not know the RR field size, but last year there were 82 competitors in the Junior Women RR and the TT this year had an increase of 25%. So there could be close to 100 young women out there, all of them fast.  The battle for position, and for safety, will begin right from the whistle.  Hannah will have to get up and stay up, which will be much easier said than done with this caliber field, to avoid the crashes.
 
Yesterday, the Men’s Time Trial started just outside our hotel.  We were right on the chicanes as Phinney, Wiggins, Cancellara and Martin came down the ramp.  It was an insane experience.  So much energy!  Hannah has been riding with the US Pros (at least on the spin rides) and enjoying the whole USAC Euro experience.  I was blessed with a 10 minute 1 on 1 with Tejay Van Garderen yesterday.  He was sitting alone eating so I joined him.  Tejay is a really neat man.  Very humble, friendly and just cool to talk to.  He asked about Hannah’s ITT (he had heard about the car accident) and then shared about BMC’s TTT and we both commiserated with each other, as neither race went how we wanted it to go.  He wrote a little note on some BMC literature to Luke, telling him to “Ride Hard!”  Luke will be totally stoked to get that.  Well, it is almost 5:30pm now here.  Time to eat and get to bed.  I will be up at O-dark-thirty to walk to the train station.  I am not risking the car ride tomorrow.  I will take two trains, and then one taxi, and then do a long walk, to make it to the climb with my video camera.  Pray for Hannah!  Toodaloo!

September 23rd, 2013 - Richard's Worlds Blog - The TT
Hello Friends!  Hannah is a little frustrated right now, so I thought I would post today’s blog.  There is a hard truth in cycling, that circumstances do not always go your way.  When things go south, you just have to do the best you can.  Well, today, things went way south. 
 
The original plan was that yesterday Hannah was supposed to pre-drive the TT course once, and then pre-ride it twice.  Being part of a 29 rider delegation, Hannah goes with the USAC flow and schedule.  The duration of the morning big group spin ride, lunch, and then horrible Italian traffic on the commute to the course yesterday, unfortunately ended up killing the TT pre-ride.  So, the plan was then altered to get up early today so that Hannah could at least get one pre-ride of the TT course in, 2 hours before her actual TT. 
 
Driving in Italy is an insane, very stressful, experience.  I know, I have been doing it for the last two days.  Every time I make it back to the hotel in one piece, I stop and “Thank God” I am still alive, and did not get hit by one of the many race-car-driving Italians who love to speed at 180km on the Autostrada and dangerously swerve in and out of traffic.  Well, sure enough, on their way to the TT course this morning, the USAC vehicle with Hannah in it got in an auto accident.  While nobody was seriously injured, the USAC riders and their gear had to be switched to another car while the polizia came.  Long story short, Hannah never got to pre-ride the TT course the way she wanted, and even worse, did not get the 45 minute focused warm up she wanted on the trainer, but instead a rushed and frazzled 10 minute quickie just before having to head to the line for her TT start.  Then came the icing on the cake.  The UCI officials rejected Hannah’s bike because they did not like her elbow pads.  So with no pre-ride and no decent warm up, Hannah then got to experience the stress of not having a bike literally minutes before her World Championship TT start.  Fortunately, the USAC Rock-Star mechanics quickly came to the rescue cutting up towels and strips of tape to fashion elbow pads that made the UCI officials happy.  However, Hannah was given her altered bike back, literally right before she was called to the edge of the starting ramp.  It was that close.  Not the way you want to start the most important race of your life.
 
There were 47 Ladies that took the start for the TT today.  Hannah’s time of 23:31 was only good for 21st place, 49 seconds behind the winner.  After looking at Hannah’s data, it was painfully clear that it took her 10 minutes to get loose, shake off the morning stress, find her grove, and settle into her target HR, which she nailed perfectly for the last 12 minutes of her TT.  Ironically, in the last half of the TT, the UCI time check placings show that Hannah advanced her placing by 9 riders in the last 8 km of the TT.  OUCH!  We will never know what Hannah could have done with a pre-ride of the course, no car crash, a good warm-up, and no last second stress of a bike failure and elbow pad change.  Hannah’s USAC teammate, Kelly Catlin, who started 30 minutes after Hannah, and got a much better warm up in, finished in 7th place.  Kelly only missed the win by 21 seconds.  Great job, Kelly!  As Hannah beat Kelly at Nationals by 19 seconds, Hannah is having a tough time right now wondering what if . . . .
 
Hannah’s average speed today was 25.7 MPH, which was just over 3% slower than then winner’s average speed.  Of the 47 ladies, only 11 of them were 17 years old like Hannah, while 36 of them were a year older than Hannah.  The eleven 17 year olds, including Hannah, will have the opportunity to come back to Worlds next year and compete in this same division.  They will all have the advantage of this years’ experience.
 
While the odds of all these challenging circumstances happening together right before the most important race of your life are hard to swallow, God does things for a reason.  This experience will end up being a huge blessing for Hannah, as it will provide her with knowledge and understanding that cannot be taught, but can only be learned through personal experience.  She will be better and more prepared in the future as a result of today.  AND, . . . .  we still have the road race on Friday!  Strive On!

September 20th, 2013 - Hannah's Worlds Blog
Hi Friends!  It is now the evening of Friday, September 20th.  My blog continued...... That night, I slept like concrete, but woke up the next morning totally warped.  After eating and meeting with the crew, we headed out for our first real effort, this time on the TT bikes.  I’m not sure if I ate something I shouldn’t have, or picked up a bug on the plane, but I had severe stomach pain and just felt like junk.  It definitely was affecting my ability to ride strong.  The next day, yesterday, we went back to the road bikes and did 46 miles with lots of short, but really steep (20%+) climbs to help prepare us for the Road Race in Italy, which has a 16% puncher climb.  My stomach was still bothering me, but felt a little better than the day before.  Today we went out for a 1 hour spin on the TT bikes, and I finally started to feel like myself again.  As soon as we finished our ride today, our bikes were loaded up and driven off to Italy.  I’m getting on a plane first thing tomorrow morning for an hour and 40 minute flight from Belgium to Italy.  We will be staying in a hotel just outside of Firenze, Italy.  As soon as our flight touches down, we will be heading for the TT course to get a pre-ride in.  The USAC staff really does have this junior development stuff down to a science and I have been having a blast.  The World Championships begin on Sunday with a team time trial.  My first race, the Individual Time Trial, is on Monday at 10:00am.  My second race, the Road Race, is on Friday the 27th at 8:30am.  Getting closer… getting excited!

September 17th, 2013 - Hannah's Worlds Blog
Hey Friends!  I am going to do my best to blog at least every other day, so please check back here for more updates.  Dad and I got up today, or was that yesterday??? at 3:00am for my very long day.  My first flight was from San Diego to New York.  In New York I had a four hour layover, so I got a bite to eat, did some homework, and then met up with Kelly Catlin for the long, boring, 9 hour flight to Brussels.  Kelly is cool.  Unfortunately, on the plane I was surrounded by screaming babies, so I got like 2 hours of sleep.  In Brussels, we waited forever in the passport line and these two ladies with five year old quadruplets, and a one year old, cut in front of us.  The kids were hysterical. They looked at Kelly and then at me and started shouting weird things in Dutch (I think), pointing, and laughing!  It was very entertaining to say the least.  Then the passport guy went “All Protective Father” on us and didn’t want to let us through because we didn’t know who was picking us up.  After a while he asked if we had an address and if we knew where we were going.  I took a chance, called his bluff with a confident “YES!” and he finally let us pass :^).  We found the USAC driver guy in the café and soon we were off.  At least until he pulled out of the parking space and smashed into a HUGE concrete pillar totally messing up the car! :^).  Then we had to pull over on the freeway to get something out from underneath the car because it was banging around under us.  It was quiet the 1.5 hour drive!  Once we arrived in Sittard Netherlands at the USAC Center, I met Jim Miller (THE Jim), Billy Crane, Billy Innes, Andrew Hawks and two junior boys, Zeke and Michael, who we would ride with later.  Then I saw my good friend, Justin Oien.  I was so siked to finally see a familiar face!  The USAC Center is amazing.  I have my own room and it’s totally laid back here.  After getting settled, my bike was put together for me and we went on a short ride.  We then hit a coffee shop and I got a smoothie!  We came back, ate some dinner and then got totally decked out with USAC clothes!  It was sooooo cool!  Well, I have slept for 2 hours in the past 36 hours, so I am going to pass out now.  I think I will sleep pretty good.  Ciao!

September 16th, 2013 - Worlds
Hello faithful blog readers!  I am sorry for going so long without a post.  Part of the reason is simply that it has been a long, hard season.   The larger part however is that Hannah and I have been extremely busy preparing for Worlds.  Wow!  Did I just type that?  The World Championships?  Really?  Guess it is still sinking in.  What an incredible opportunity and honor to represent the USA at Worlds.  We are so blessed.  God is so good!

It seems like just yesterday that Hannah won Nats, but tomorrow morning we are getting up at 3:00am to send her off to Worlds.  She will be flying into Brussels, then driving to the USAC Center in Sittard, Netherlands, which is right on the border of Belgium and Germany.  She will train there for four days before heading down to Italy on the 21st.  She will then compete in the World Championship Time Trial on the 23rd and then in the World Championship Road Race on the 27th.

The competition at Worlds will be extremely tough for Hannah.  Last year there were 82 ladies that took the start in the Road Race.  82!  Thank God Hannah did nine races with the Cat 3 Men this year, or she would not know what a field that big feels like.  Last year, none of the four Americans could make the 20 person lead group, and the highest US finish was 35th.  Out of the 40 competitors in the TT, the best US finish was 18th.  In addition, the majority of the riders at Worlds are 18 year olds.  At just 17 years old and a mere 112 lbs, Hannah will have her hands full with the bigger, stronger, European riders who aggressively battle for position right from the whistle.  That said, Hannah has put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into her training and she is stronger and faster than she has ever been.  She is 100% ready, physically and mentally!  We are so excited for this awesome opportunity.  Please keep Hannah in your prayers.  Strive On!

August 24th & 25h, 2013 - The Everest Challenge!
With the rest of the family on vacation and Hannah still training for Worlds, the two of us made the trek to Bishop to tackle the 2013 Everest Challenge, the hardest two day stage race in America with 29,000 feet of climbing via multiple 20 mile long, double-digit grade climbs, and multiple trips above 10,000 foot elevations.  The new dates of the event tremendously reduced the field sizes and only 21 women braved the start of this insane race.  Pro rider Katie Donovan, who holds the speed record at E.C. and has won this race the last few years signed up, so we knew it would be tough.  Sure enough, Katie's tempo riding on the first climb trimmed the 21 ladies down to 5, Katie, Hannah, Rachel Holzer, Amy Benner, and Athena Countouriotis (who we knew nothing about).  13 miles up the first climb, as soon as it got really steep, Katie decided to flex her climbing legs, shattering the group of 5 ladies into 5 solo riders, all fighting to get back to the wheel in front of them.  Athena would eventually claw her way back to Katie's wheel, but no one else could match Katie's speed.  Amy and Hannah would come together on the first descent just behind Rachel.  At the start of the third climb, Hannah found her grove, dropping Amy, bridging up to Rachel, and then dropping Rachel.  She finished the 15,000 feet of climbing in 6 hours and 41 minutes, 15 minutes faster than her time from last year.  She would finish 26 minutes ahead of Amy, but 27 minutes behind Katie.  Athena, who was racing 3-4 was in the middle.  Day two was awesome!  As soon as the ladies hit the first roller at the base of Glacier Lodge, Athena went to the front and did a 5 minute hard pull. That effort instantly snapped the field resulting in an elite group of four, Katie, Athena, Hannah, and Amy.  Amy would eventually get popped and the 3 remaining ladies pulled away from the rest of the field, getting a large gap.  They would stay together all the way to the top of the first climb.  Katie then flexed her legs again and popped both Athena and Hannah. Athena's excellent, but scary, descending skills would bring her back to Katie, but Katie would once again cycle away from her on the final climb.  Hannah was solo for the rest of the race.  Hannah climbed strong throughout day two, finishing the 14,000 feet of climbing in 6 hours and 19 minutes, finishing 36 minutes behind Katie, but 54 minutes in front of her next closest competitor, Amy Benner.  The 2nd place finish was Hannah's 100th Podium of her career.  Everest Challenge was a blast and great Worlds training.

August 17 & 18th, 2013 - Mount Baldy Hill Climb and Ontario #6
The racing this last weekend was tough, but still fun.  The Mt. Baldy TT, which boasts 4,200 feet of climbing and double digit grades, saw temps that hit the low 90’s.  All four girls did this brutal race and finished.  It took Sarah just over 2 hours.  As expected, Hannah was the fastest Swan at 1:21, easily winning her division.  The fastest time of the day across all 83 competitors was set by the Cat 1 MRI rider, Alexander Kusztyk, who posted a 1:03.  

The next day was Ontario 6, the last junior race of the season.  All the girls were pretty sore from Baldy, but were still excited to do the best they could with what legs they had left. 15 boys and 7 girls made up the younger junior race field.  Here, with 5 laps to go, the Comers executed some beautiful team tactics, shooting Cheyenne off the front with a very impressive surprise attack.  Moriah waited patiently to see if any of the 20+ other riders would respond, but when nobody did, Cheyenne got a huge gap.  With 4 to go, Courtney just sat there with a big smile on her face.  With no other ladies willing to help, Sarah and Moriah were forced to do the work to reel her in.  Both Moriah and Sarah took turns on the front drilling it until they nailed Cheyenne back, which was just before the bell.  Spent from the previous day and all the work she had just done, Moriah tried to quickly recover on the last lap before the final sprint.  She got her HR down, and got on Courtney’s wheel just as the pace quickened.  As the pack rounded the last bend and punched it, they unfortunately ran into some lapped riders with 150m to go.  I’m not sure why, but the lappers did not pull over, and instead floated right through the middle of the charging peloton, almost taking Moriah out in the process.  Courtney 1st.  Moriah 2nd.  These two split their last 6 SoCal meetings, 3-3.  Next year, they both move up to 15-18 and join the two Rachels, Millie, and Hannah. They will have their hands full and wins will be hard to come by.

In the next race, which saw a field of 24 (8 girls and 16 boys), Strive successfully isolated the girls so that they could have their own 8 person race.  Once the boys were gone, Moriah attacked.  Rachel Cross let Moriah go at first, but within one lap Moriah had opened up a 500m lead.  Cross finally went after her, getting part way across the gap before she gassed.  When she did, Hannah quickly swung, dropping the two Rachels (Swan & Cross), and eventually bridging up to Moriah.  They would finish 1st and 2nd.  The final Rachel vs. Rachel (Swan vs. Cross) sprint of the season was awesome to watch, as these two were dead even, bar to bar, with 150m to go and stayed that way until 25m to go, when the 4,200 feet of climbing finally caught up with Swan.  Cross inched ahead just before the line to squeak out 3rd.  It was very exciting to watch.  Next week is the Grand Daddy of all Road Races, The Everest Challenge!

August 11th, 2013 - Torrance Criterium
Another fun weekend of racing is in the books.  At Torrance, we did all four Women races.  We began with the 10-14 race, which has been incredibly entertaining the last few weeks, primarily because of the 10-12 boys.  The racing has seen repeated attacks, breakaways, bridging, and counter attacks.  Between Osvaldo Mora, the three Mitchel brothers, two Swans, and two Comers, there is constant action and you would never know this is the youngest race of the day, by watching the team tactics play out.  This race came down to an incredible one on one 200 meter sprint battle between Moriah and Courtney.  Side by side these two threw down in an awesome spectacle, which included a dead even bar bang with 20 meters to go.  On the line it was Courtney by a few inches.  After beating Moriah in the first four SoCal Cup battles, Moriah has gotten the better of Courtney in 3 out of the last 5 SoCal races.  It is a great rivalry that will go on for many years to come.  It was great to see Lauren back in the line up.  The 15-18 race was next.  In this race, nobody wanted to pull for the last 2.5 miles and of course everyone wanted Hannah’s wheel.  Being the good teammate, Rachel took the headwind for the majority of the last three laps and then, after all that, sacrificed herself at 400m to go by drilling a smokin’ leadout for Hannah.  It was textbook, as Rachel and Hannah rounded the last corner 1st & 2nd.  Hannah then swung with 200m to go and pulled away to take the win by over 10 bike lengths.  Rachel held her sprint for about 350m then blew up, getting passed by Rachel Cross just before the line.  The Cat. 1-3 race was next.  The highlight here was Joy’s solo attack into the brutal headwind with 1.25 miles to go.  She held it all the way to the line.  It was awesome.  Hannah was a bit spent, but still held on to take 3rd in the field sprint.  Our last race of the day was the Women 3-4, which was very uneventful.  Rachel was pretty shot from all  her work in the Junior race and Moriah was on her 3rd race of the day and had taken a bad crash during her warm up.  In the final sprint, both Rachel and Charity had to hit their brakes as they got pushed into the gutter.  Rachel still salvaged 3rd and Moriah hung on for 7th.  Great day of racing!

August 5th, 2013 - San Marcos Crit & Brentwood Grand Prix
Yesterday, Rachel got back on the bike for her first real effort since her bad crash two weeks prior.  As expected, she struggled a bit physically, but was hopefully able to shed the race rust and should have better form next week.  The last two weekends of racing were an absolute hoot!  Strive Racing tallied up five more wins, including Hannah’s historical 50th win, which came at San Marcos.  Then, following in Hannah and Rachel’s 2013 double-digit win footsteps, Moriah notched her 10th win of the season the next weekend at Brentwood, when Osvaldo Mora and Moriah attacked the field again, got another small gap together, and then painfully drilled the two person break away to hold off the chasing field of boys and girls for the second time this season.  Both Courtney and Cheyenne each almost bridged the gap on two separate occasions, but they blew up just short and fell back to the pack.  It was a thrilling race to watch, as were Hannah’s last two Women 1-3 races, both of which saw the toughest local fields of the year, as each race had a few Pros join the field.  That in turn, then drew out all the local heavy hitters as well.  At Brentwood, 44 Ladies took the start, but 35 of them were Elite (Pro, Cat 1 or Cat 2).  OUCH!  The Women’s 1-3 races at both San Marcos and Brentwood were extremely fast, suffer-fests of attrition, where no break got away, but the consistent hard racing blew people out the back, lap after lap after lap.  It was both thrilling, and painful, to watch.  The lead group at San Marcos was widdled down from 42 to 14 riders.  At Brentwood, where the Women’s race boasted over $5,000 in cash and prizes, including two different $500 cash primes, the lead group went from 44 down to 20.  Hannah did exceptionally well in both races and was right there in each final sprint.  However, there were too many Pros and Cat 1’s left in each race for her to make the podium.  Given Hannah’s 5’7” 115lb build, we were very pleased with her two top 10 finishes in these extremely tough races.  Hannah had a blast.  The hardest races, can also be the most fun races. Strive On!
 
July 20th & 21st, 2013 - Sherman Pass Road Race and Ontario #5
There are weekends that have really long hard races.  Then there are other weekends where the quantity of Zone 5 time leaves you walking a little funny the next day.  Finally, there are weekends when you have horrific crashes.  When you combine all three of those types of weekends into one weekend, the only word that adequately describes the experience is . . . PAIN!

This was a weekend of pain.  We began with the Sherman Pass Road Race, which ended up being 53 miles long with 9,000 feet of brutal climbing in temperatures that hit the upper 90’s.  Then throw in the finishing elevation of 9,200 feet and the fact that Julie Cutts and Tracy Tilton were both in the race, and the destruction of legs was inevitable.  Sherman Pass RR was a vicious race, where Hannah logged more Zone 5 time than she had ever logged before in a race, destroying her legs in the process.  Her time of 4 hours and 17 minutes was faster than all of the 10 Ladies who did the race, minus the two mentioned above and was over 1 hour faster than Rachel’s time of 5 hours and 18 minutes.  Moriah had a great day and finished 8 minutes ahead of Rachel.  While Sarah only climbed up to the junior finish line, which was still just under 4,000 feet of climbing, she logged an hour and twenty minutes of Zone 5 time (Insane!).  All four girls could barely walk today, but the Ontario Crit was right on the way home and I figured it would serve as a good recovery spin, which was heavily needed.  With small fields, I knew the speeds would be slow enough to actually help the girls recover from their painful climbing experience the day before. 

Unfortunately, in the first race of the day, Rachel, who was racing with the 15-16 boys, was taken out 50m after the field took the last lap bell and everyone punched it.  The guy on the front had just done a long hard pull.  He was spent and pulled off without looking back.  Unfortunately, he pulled off the wrong direction, not realizing the charging field was all already coming around him.  He drifted hard right into Rachel who was doing 28 MPH and could not see around the big guy in front of her, who just barely missed the drifter.  Rachel had no chance.  The two of them went down very hard.  A four inch by two inch section of Rachel’s helmet shattered, but it saved her life.  While both of them miraculously had no broken bones, they were both totally shredded, as the Ontario asphalt is not very forgiving.  We are watching Rachel very close, and so far, there are no signs of a concussion, despite a good bump on her head.  Her body on the other hand is really cut up.  Both of her knees, her thigh, hip, elbow, back, and shoulder all have large, deep cuts and/or road rash on them.

Poor Rachel has crashed twice this year, both bad ones, and both times, not her fault.  If you do not count her very first race, Rachel has hit the deck 3 times in her 152 races.  Independent of fault, hitting the deck about 1 in every 50 - 75 races seems to be about the average across the whole team.  As our Team Advisor Amber Neben always says, “It is not a question of if they will crash; it is only a question of when they will crash.  Crashing is just part of racing.”  I spoke to the boy afterward and he was very humble and honest.  He told me, “I did my turn on the front and then pulled off.”  He paused, and then said, “I never saw her.”  Please pray for a speedy recovery for both of them.

Moriah had a great day, getting in a break away with Osvaldo, where each of them took 1st place in their divisions without having to sprint.  Hannah was pretty shaken up by watching Rachel’s wreck. However she still did the 15-18 race immediately following but had to deal with some very unsportsmanlike and unkind comments from a boy in her field about Rachel’s crash and thus swung wide and did not engage in the final sprint of her race, but did get her recovery spin in and still took 2nd.

 
July 14th, 2013 - CBR#7
Believe it or not, it was very nice to get back to the laid back, stress free, fun racing of SoCal.  After the intensity of Nationals, it was refreshing to race a local CBR event.  At Nationals, Rachel was by far the strongest physically for her division amongst the four Strive Racing girls.  Her HR data was but a fraction of her three sisters in the areas of total time above lactate threshold, VO2 Max, and Total Max.  However, while the physical effort was the easiest for Rachel, the mental and emotional piece was the hardest for her at Nationals.  The magnitude of the venue and her competition simply overwhelmed her.  Loosing mentally, she had no chance physically.  It cost her the podium at Nats.  Coming back to SoCal was liberating for Rachel, as she felt no pressure.  Most of the Ladies on the starting line in the Women’s 3-4 race were good friends who all gave her huge hugs.  Thus, it was fairly easy for Rachel to get her mental game on and return to her winning ways.  On the last lap, Rachel approached corner three in 15th.  On the hill between corners 3 and 4, she drilled past all but three Ladies and came around corner 4 in fourth place.  However, she was still 7 bike lengths behind Amelia Christensen, who was out front and looked like she had the win in the bag.  Then with 150m to go Rachel swung and just lit up a blazing final sprint to take the win by 1.5 bike lengths.  I asked her after the race what was the difference and why she could not ride like that at Nats.  She said, “it was all mental.  Today I felt totally comfortable.  I did not feel that way at Nats.”  Lots to learn here about the connection between the mental and the physical.  Moriah hung on for third, which was her 4th top five finish in Women 3-4 in the last two months.  Look out for Mighty Mo.  She is eventually going to win one of these.  In the Women 1-3 race, Julie Cutts once again drilled the break-away of Hannah, Becky, and Vikki until she popped Vikki and then eventually popped Becky and Hannah.  Julie would then lap everyone except Hannah and Becky who had a great final sprint battle.  It was Becky by half a wheel.  Hannah 3rd.  Great day of racing! 

July 8th, 2013 - NATs Update
While a full Nationals race report is in the works, I wanted to give you the “short” version of our trip.  NATs was an incredible experience, made possible through the generous contributions of 40 different individuals and our team sponsors.  It still amazes me that so many people donated to our team and became part of our dream.  While our primary goal at NATs was to have lots of fun and give the children an amazing experience that they will always remember, winning a National Championship was still one of our objectives.  I am thrilled to report, that after four years of striving for the top step of the podium at the USA Cycling Road National Championships, the team finally hit this elusive target when Hannah took 1st place in the Individual Time Trial this year.  Hannah stepped onto the top step of the podium in front of hundreds of cheering people, where she received the coveted Stars and Stripes Jersey and her big gold medal.
 
The win also gave Hannah an automatic entry into the World Championships, being held this September in Florence, Italy.  Hannah has now been given the opportunity to represent the United States and USA Cycling at Worlds, where she will race against the fastest girls from each country.  Hannah also did extremely well in the other two races, finishing 3rd in the Road Race, and 4th in the Crit.  The Crit was very inspirational as Hannah hit the deck hard in a nasty crash on lap 3, but then fought back and ended up in a thrilling photo finish, where she missed 3rd place by one inch, and 2nd place by less than a wheel.  As Hannah was at the bottom of her two year age division this year, her three results were truly amazing.
 
Just as inspirational was Sarah’s story.  Poor Sarah broke her arm in a crash just three weeks before we got on the plane.  While her Radius was displaced, the break only went half way through the bone and while the Doctor strongly advised against it, she also said that it might be possible for Sarah to race in the right brace, if she could take the pain.  Sarah really wanted to race, even though she knew that she would be in tremendous pain and that she would be at a huge disadvantage, not having full use of her right arm.  So, we built her a custom hard plastic brace that would allow her to compete.  Her first race was a mere 3 weeks and 3 days from the accident, and it was pretty discouraging.  The pain Sarah went through was brutal and she got beat by 75% of the field.  However, Sarah refused to quit.  In her second race, the old determined “Super Sarah” began to emerge and she started to figure out how to get some power with one arm.  She fought through the pain again, but this time she finished in 6th just one spot off the podium.  Then, in her final race of this year’s NATs, on the last lap, last hill, Sarah pushed her injured body five beats (literally) above her previous max HR to come from behind and capture the final podium spot.  It was soooooooo awesome.  We all cried happy tears, as Sarah was given her huge medal.  God is good!
 
There will be more to come in the full race report, but I wanted all of you to know how humbly thankful we are for you and for all of your support.

July 4th, 2013 - NATs and Sarah Update
Well, yesterday was the beginning of our Nationals competition, but only Hannah and Rachel had a race.  The first race of our 2013 NATs was quite the but-kicker road race with double digit grades, long hard climbs, and even harder competition.  I don’t have time right now to post all the details (full race report to report to follow), but Rachel finished 8th out of the 27 Ladies in her 15-16 field and Hannah, at the bottom of her age division, finished 3rd out of the 21 Ladies in her 17-18 field.  It was the highest place finish for both of them ever at Nationals, so it was a great start.  Today, all four of them race the TT.  Yes, even Sarah, is going to give it a try with her broken arm.  We did a test ride with her on the course, which is flat, smooth, and straight, and with her new hard plastic brace, she was able to take the pain.  It is a very tough decision as a parent, but one that we have repeatedly had to face at Nationals.  Do we let our children race injured???  Sarah has worked so hard this year and she really wants to race, so we are going to let her try.  Coming into Nationals, Sarah, who made the podium twice last year in this same division at age 11, had the best chance at winning a National Championship this year in 10-12, and was even predicted to win by USAC.  Her goals now are simply to finish and have fun, not going to hard, and not coming out of the saddle.  The other three will be giving everything they have today, gunning for the podium.
 
June 27th, 2013 - NATs and Sarah Update
Well, today we went to the Ortho Doctor, took off Sarah’s cast, and shot a new set of X-Rays.  The displacement of the Radius has been naturally pulling back in and is straightening out nicely.  The doctor said that while a little remodeling of the fracture has already occurred, it will not be totally healed for three more weeks.  Sarah’s first race is in one week.  She did say that the bone would get stronger in this next week and that Sarah might be able to race on it with a really good brace.  The compromise was to put Sarah in an Ortho-Plast (hard plastic) custom brace, so that she would at least have the option to race, if she feels strong enough and the pain is tolerable for her.  In short, it will be a race day decision, made by Sarah.  Fortunately, her first race is the TT where she will not need to come out of the saddle or use the arm very much.  Sarah will pre-ride the TT course in Zone 3 the day before and see how her arm feels.  Please keep her in your prayers.  In addition to healing, she needs encouragement.
 
On the donations front, we are now up to 36 donors and $5,040.  Tomorrow is our final packing day, as Saturday morning we are up at 3:45am to catch our plane ride from San Diego to Madison.  Thanks to a few different people giving up their airline miles, the total cost of all our 7 plane tickets was only $375.  After our 80 hour nightmare of driving across the country last year (30+ hours straight on the way out), we are very thankful to be flying this year.  God is good! The girls are so excited.

June 24th, 2013 - NATs Update
We shipped 6 bikes and 18 wheels (thank you HED!) today.  Wow, what a project that was!?!?   We also put Sarah on the trainer in her cast to see if her legs still worked.  Her legs were not too bad, but even sitting up and still, her arm started hurting after about 20 minutes, so we stopped.  Please keep praying for her healing and her encouragement.  We are shooting a new set of X-rays on Thursday. 

June 22th, 2013 - Rosena Ranch #3
It was a fun and very exciting final day of racing before NATs.  After the girls began their day with an uneventful 18 mile junior race, Rachel and Moriah joined a field of 13 ladies in the Women 3-4 race.  The race was fairly slow until the last corner and uphill finish, when the hammer went down.  At this point, Moriah and Rachel were on mile 40, when the rest of the field was on mile 22, so I was not too sure how they would finish.  Rachel rounded the last corner in 5th.  As they hit the little hill before the finish with 300m to go, Rachel was in 4th.  Knowing the finish was uphill and into a good headwind, she waited patiently until there was only 50 meters to go.  Then she exploded out of the pack and dropped the field to take the win by a few bike lengths.  Moriah also came blasting out at just the right time to take 2nd by half a bike length.  It was a very cool finish to watch.  Our third and last race of the day was the Women 1-3, which would do yet another 22 miles.  This was Rachel and Moriah’s 3rd race of the day, and Hannah’s 2nd.  The rest of the 18 person field, 12 of whom were Category 1 / 2 riders, was fresh, which was a little bit scary, especially for Moriah.  On lap 2 of 9 Terra Kier shot off solo and the field gave her some space.  She opened up a 1 minute gap before the field started shooting off small breaks to go join her.  Emily from Helens nailed back the breaks, setting up Suzanne who finally shot with 5 laps to go.  Keely from La Grange held her wheel and with 5 Ladies blocking on the front, those two quickly opened up a 30 second gap over the field.  There was no doubt they would soon have Terra, who was fading fast.  When they caught her, Terra was too spent from her solo effort to stay attached and she quickly fell back to the field.  Hannah figured with three SC Velo riders and Ruth Clemence missing the break, that Suzy and Keely would get reeled back in.  But when the gap hit two minutes, it was clear that Hannah had missed the winning break.  So with 30 minutes left of racing to go, Hannah shot off solo, hoping that Ruth and Pamela would come out and join her.  She held a 10 second gap over the field for half a lap, tempting someone to break free of the field and bridge to her.  When the field decided to let her roast, Hannah put her head down and decided to go for it solo.  It was a bold move with 30 minutes of racing still to go.  Hannah brought her effort up to threshold and parked it, staying as aero as she could in the windy conditions.  She opened up a 30 second gap over the field, but still had over 6 miles of racing to go.  Rachel and Mo went to the front to soft pedal.  Once the field saw them blocking, they started shooting riders off to bridge to Hannah.  Rachel, like a great teammate, covered the attacks.  Once Hannah had a full minute gap over the field, they gave up.  Hannah finished the race 1:10 behind Suzy and Keely and 1:25 ahead of the field, taking 3rd with a brutal 30 minute solo effort.  Great job Hannah!  Then came the field sprint.  With the rest of the field on mile 22, and Rachel on mile 62, and given all the work that Rachel did killing attacks, I expected her to get dead last in the field sprint.  To my amazement, she took fourth, giving her a 7th place finish, which was her best W1-3 result to date.  Rachel was also the first Cat 3 to cross the line.  Moriah courageously hung for almost an hour in this race, but she got popped on the last lap, just after mile 60, which was amazing for those tiny legs.  All in all, it was an incredible day of racing and a perfect way to head into Nationals.  The girls are ready!
 
June 19th, 2013 - Fundraising and Sarah Update
Hello Family, Friends, Sponsors, and Supporters.  Given the recent financial “fraudulence” within the local cycling community, I figured that it would be a good thing to be 100% transparent on our Nationals fundraising efforts.   As of this morning the total number of donors is 31.  The total amount of funds that have been donated thus far is $4,350.  The cost of the trip is $6,500.  While we are still over $2,000 short right now, we are 100% committed and we will be going to Madison, WI.  If we end up short, the balance will just sit on the credit card until we can pay it off.  For the 31 of you who have invested into Strive Racing, please know that we have been genuinely touched by your generosity and that we are humbly thankful for your support.  It is very cool that so many people have become a part of pursuing our dream and we will Strive to the best of our ability to represent SoCal with integrity, good sportsmanship, and honorable character.  In addition, we will bring plenty of passion, determination, and VO2 max to the racing.  The girls are very excited.  Right now, the plan is to take Sarah’s cast off the day before we leave and shoot another set of X-rays.  I will keep you posted on Sarah, but please keep her in your prayers, as she is pretty discouraged right now.  

June 16th, 2013 - Ladera Ranch Grand Prix
It was an absolutely beautiful day for racing.  The Ladera Ranch GP course, while dangerous, is super fun and set in a beautiful area with lots of green grass.  Dawn and Luke joined us for the day, which was cool because Dawn got to meet Vicki, Amy, Charity, PC, Jessica, Erin and a few others and have good fellowship with them.  Moriah got to have great fellowship with Vicki in-between races as well.  Poor Sarah had to sit there all day in her new pink cast, wishing she could be out there racing.  Just yesterday, her pain was a little less “sharp and piercing” and a little more “throbbing and achy”, which is a good sign that the bone is starting to heal.  

We began our racing with the Women 3-4 race.  Heads turned, eye-brows rose, and then heads discouragingly dropped across the parking lot when both Jessica Cerra and Tracy Tilton showed up and on-sited for this race.  Each of these Ladies has been dropping entire Women Cat 1-3 fields as of late, so it did not look good for the rest of the field.  Jessica, a leading Professional Mountain Biker apologized for “sand-bagging” and said that she has submitted for her Cat 2 upgrade, but she needed another win to seal the deal.   As expected, Jessica attacked the field early.  Tracy, Erin, Angela, and Rachel were the only ones that could stay with her and a very fast break away group was formed.  Unfortunately, Jessica then attacked the break.  Rachel and Angela got popped and Erin Gunn hung on by a thread and just barely got back on.  Then there was a group of three (Jessica, Tracy, Erin) and a group of two (Angela, Rachel) out in front of the chasing peloton.  Angela and Rachel worked really hard.  The two of them averaged 24.1mph and held off the field, but they could not pull back the three leaders.  Because Angela did more work on the front of their twosome, Rachel chose not to sprint against her at the end.  I love it when my kids make decisions with integrity.  Good job Rachel.  Jess and Tracy went one and two.  Jess would then do, and finish, the screaming fast 45+ Masters race, and then after all that take 3rd in the Women’s 1-3 race, which was her third hard race of the day.  Moriah had a bad day, finishing 14th.

In the Women’s 1-3 race, 29 Ladies took the start.  After a few civil laps, Jess and Suzanne worked hard to establish a strong break-away of 9 Ladies.  Hannah made the break and did her share of work on the front.  As they took the bell, the Hammer went down and the battle for position sent everyone into corner one really fast.  As the Ladies laid it down for that very tight corner, Jenny Rios’ wheels slid out and 5 of the 9 riders went down.  Melina and Rebecca were just in front of the crash and got away clean.  Erin and Jess were just behind the crash and got away clean.  Erin actually went off course and against on-coming traffic for a 1/16 of a mile to keep from going down.  Crazy!  Hannah flew over her bars and landed on PC and then rolled onto the grassy median.  Not seriously injured, Hannah realized they still had a good gap over the field, so she jumped back on her damaged bike and fought a bad brake rub to get to the finish line and salvage 5th.  It was an unfortunate finish, but all part of racing.  We were very thankful Hannah did not break a bone like Sarah did the week before.  Rosena Ranch is all that stands between us and NATs.  Getting close! 

June 9th, 2013  -  CBR #6
Hey faithful Blog readers.  Sorry for missing last week.  We did go to Bakersfield and race, but did so primarily for NATs training.  Rachel, Sarah and Mo did the 50 mile Women 3-4 on Saturday, which essentially ruined them for winning their junior races on Sunday.  At the same time, the 25 mile long Junior race Sunday morning for Hannah and Rachel, essentially ruined them for the 50 mile Women 1-3 race 1 hour later.  That said it was good NATs training and Hannah and Rachel still won the team two more Junior State Championships.  This weekend we did CBR #6, which was a memorial race for Chris Contreras who was killed in a crash at CBR#5.  It was a very emotional day.  While we did not know the family personally, when Hannah was given flowers on the podium from Chris’ wife, it was very heavy. 
 
The racing was very exciting.  We began with the Women 1-3 race, which Christopher Lotts brought back for this race to raise more money for the Contreras family.  18 Ladies took the start, including Hannah, Rachel, and Moriah.  After four different failed break-away attempts, one finally stuck that had Hannah, Suzanne Sonye, and Rebecca Siegel.  Suzanne, who won the race, was on a mission and really drove the break.  The three of them averaged just under 25 MPH and beat the field by over a minute.  Hannah would take 3rd and grab another upgrade point toward her Cat 1.  Rachel took 10th and Moriah got 14th.  It was pretty cool to see Moriah hanging again in a Cat 1-3 race, and like Sarah in Cat 3-4, she is starting to beat a few riders.  The second race for us was the Women 3-4, which saw a field of 35 Ladies take the start, including Rachel (2nd race), Moriah (2nd race), and Sarah (1st race).  The excitement began when Sarah got pushed wide and hit the HUGE start finish line cone, which launched Sarah like Superman right in front of everyone, with her bike cart-wheeling above her body.  She hit the deck hard, breaking her arm in the process (displaced Radius).  After the medic threw a pizza box sling on Sarah and gave her a couple Advil, I was able to watch the finish of the race.  Unfortunately, the group did the "sit up bubble" with 1 to go and Rachel ended up 10th wheel once it strung back out.  As she rounded corner three, she knew she did not have a chance in 10th, as the riders in front of her were single file and drilling it.  So, with 400m to go, Rachel launched and slowly clawed her way past the 9 riders in front of her, with Moriah in tow.  She made it into corner four first, but she was totally spent at that point.  In the last 50 meters, three riders came by her.  Rachel got 4th, Moriah got 5th, and Sarah, well, . . . she got a cast as her trophy.  Once the Women 3-4 race was over, Sarah’s 4 Advil started kicking in, and with a huge smile, she insisted on staying so that Hannah and Rachel could do the Men’s Cat 3 race.  With Hannah in that 3 rider Women’s Cat 1-3 break for 50 minutes in the morning, and with Rachel heading into her 3rd hard race of the day, we were not too hopeful the girls would hang.  It would depend on the pace.  Of course, the pace ended up being blistering at 27.1MPH.  Rachel hung for 25 minutes and then got shot out the back.  Hannah made it till the end, albeit purple, and she set a new record average speed for a race.  Very cool.  We are hopeful that Sarah’s break will heal in time for NATs.  It will be 3 weeks and 3 days from the break to her first NATs race.  Please keep Sarah’s healing in your prayers.
 
May 26th & 27th, 2013 - Barry Wolfe GP & CBR #5
Wow!  What an amazing weekend of cycling.  Many records fell this weekend and there was an unbelievable amount of inspiring “first time occurrences” that made this weekend one of the most rewarding weekends in Strive Racing’s three year history.  Here are some of the first times:
  1. First time 8 year old Luke did over 30 miles and 3,000 feet of climbing in one ride.
  2. First time Sarah hung in till the end in a Cat 3-4 race (Did it twice).
  3. First time Moriah made the SoCal cup points (top 12) in Cat 3-4 (Did it twice).
  4. First time Moriah made the podium in a Cat 3-4 race (got 2nd out of 26 starters).
  5. First time Moriah hung till the end of a Cat. 1-3 race.
  6. First time Moriah received a #1 National ranking this year.
  7. First time Rachel won a CBR race.
  8. First time Rachel has won a TT, Crit, Circuit, and RR in same year.
  9. First time Rachel is leading the team in Total Wins for the year (8 total).
  10. First time Rachel averaged over 26.0 MPH in a race (CBR Cat. 4 Men’s).
  11. First time Rachel has enough upgrade points to become a Cat. 2.
  12. First time Rachel received a #1 National ranking.
  13. First time Hannah averaged over 26.5 MPH in a race (CBR Cat. 3 Race)
  14. First time that Hannah has been ranked #1 in the Nation in all three disciplines (TT, Crit, RR).
  15. First time ever that everyone on the team has at least one, #1 National Ranking (Whoo-Hoo!)
While accomplishments are not why we race, the team has worked very hard and needless to say they feel really good.  12 year-old Sarah has been trying to hang in a Cat 3-4 race for three years and has failed in her previous 22 attempts, so she is just ecstatic that she did it twice this weekend.  Here are the details of our fun weekend.

With no race for the girls on Saturday, 8 year old Luke and I decided to try and break his long ride record of 26 miles.  Luke finished the 31 mile ride, with 3,000 feet of climbing, with no problem.  He could have easily gone 40 and we had a spectacular Father-Son ride through the beautiful San Diego East County mountains.  We also ran into Bill Holland, one of our sponsors, while out on Sunrise HWY which was very cool for Luke to meet the maker of his bike (Moriah’s old bike).  On Sunday the girls did the Barry Wolfe GP.  Approximately 40 Ladies took the start in the Woman’s Cat. 3-4 Crit.  The speed was pretty good for a Women’s 3-4 race at 22.8 mph, and we were super stoked that 12 year old Sarah hung in till the end, and even beat a number of Ladies finishing in 30th.  Erin Gunn, who has had a number of great sprint battles with Rachel this year, caught Rachel off guard, attacking her and the rest of the leaders in corner one on the last lap.  Rachel was 6th wheel at the time and the 4 riders right in front of Rachel did not respond right away to the attack, giving Erin a huge gap that she would hold to take the win.  It was a risky, but very smart attack with the long backside tail wind.  Great job Erin!  Rachel held her position through the last corner, then swung with 200m to go.  She came by the other riders to take 2nd place in an awesome final sprint.  Moriah finished 11th, which was her best Cat. 3-4 finish of the season.  In the Women’s 1-3 race, 4 breaks got away, but then got reeled in before a fifth break of 5 riders finally stuck.  Of course Hannah missed that break, so her field sprint was for 6th place and the field still contained a lot of heavy sprinters including Valente, Reynolds, Sonye, and Breck, among others.  So Hannah tried to go way early.  That did not work out so well.  She finished in 13th place.  In her second race of the day, Moriah hung on until the end for the first time in a Women’s Cat 1-3 race.  After the two races, Moriah had logged a total of 85 minutes of Garmin Zone 5 (90%+ of max HR), so we were not expecting too much from Moriah on Sunday at CBR.  Little did we know!

Sunday’s CBR race began with the Women 3-4, where 26 Ladies took the start.  While the field was a bit smaller, the presence of Erin Gunn, Michelle Ignash, Charity Chia, and Vikki Appel meant that Rachel would have her hands full in the final sprint.  The 2 to go “sit-up” bubble, ironically happened a second time just before the bell, destroying everyone’s position, including Rachel’s, who got pushed back to 15th as the bell rang.  She came around corner 3 of 4 in 10th place with Moriah right behind her in 11th.  Rachel knew she was too far back to swing late.  So, with 300 meters to go, Rachel launched and just buried herself into the little rise before corner 4.  Amazingly, with 2 hours of Zone 5 in her legs over the last 24 hours, little “Mighty Mo” was able to hold Rachel’s wheel, and the two of them drilled past the nine riders in front of them.  They came screaming into corner four in 1st and 2nd and held off the charging field to finish in that order.  It was Rachel’s 8th win of the year, and gave her the remaining points she needs to become a Category 2.  Even more amazing was that 14 year old Moriah took 2nd in a strong Cat. 3-4 field, and that Sarah for the second day in a row hung till the end, and even beat 6 riders.  It was an awesome finish to watch.  In Rachel’s 2nd race of the day, the Men’s Cat 4 race, which averaged 26.0 mph, Rachel hung in there and finished 51st out of the 63 starters.  In the Men’s Cat 3 race, which averaged 26.5 mph, Hannah took 29th out of the 49 starters.  Both of those races were super fun for the girls and fun to watch.  What a weekend!

May 18th  & 19th, 2013 - ITT State Championships & Ontario #4
As far as Strive Racing’s performance this weekend, the team had the most stellar results in our 3 year history, winning 5 races and capturing 3 more State Championships.  That said, I will not be blogging about any of our races, as most of you have seen the gruesome crash that our dear friend, mentor, and Team Advisor, Amber Neben, experienced in the Tour of California this weekend.  Amber broke her hip, multiple ribs, and possibly her nose in the crash.  For those of you who have taken a violent slam of that magnitude on the bike, you know that there are many mental and emotional challenges to deal with, on top of all the physical pain. Amber sent our family an email the day after her crash.  While the email is very personal and some portions have been omitted, I feel compelled to share some of the email with you, as Amber’s perspective as she enters this long and painful trial, . . .  is simply inspiring.  The following are Amber’s words from the email:

Hey Swans!

Thank you for all the prayers! That is above all most important. God is listening, and He continues to give me His peace.  I am sore. Lots of things hurt. I'll be lying down in green pastures for a chunk of time, but I'll recover. God is working in the midst of this and through it. He always brings good from the bad. Tell the girls I am doing well!  

God's ways are not our ways... They are better!!  Sometimes it doesn't feel that way, I know.  Sometimes it doesn't seem fair, but go back to the default setting. God loved us enough to die for us, and He is the maker of the universe. All powerful, all knowing, and He loves us unconditionally.

I don't like being broken, but viewed through the lens of God's awesome love, greatness, and omniscience, I go with it in faith.  The goal we really race for is beyond this world, and we need to let Him work while we are here...for Him to reach souls...for the eternal victory!

Big hugs all around!

Amber
 
Please keep Amber in your prayers. 

May 11th  & 12th, 2013 - Devils Punchbowl RR & Chuck Pontius Crit
Brutal!  That is the only word that can describe the racing this weekend.  We began with the Devil’s Punchbowl RR, which has tons of climbing at good elevation.  Rachel, Moriah, and Sarah joined a field of 29 Ladies who braved the hot temps and 3,000+ feet of climbing in the Cat 3/4 race.  Rachel, who is now almost fully recovered from her crash attacked the field at mile 1.  She shattered the field into multiple groups and four Ladies held her wheel.  Unfortunately, one of the four was Pro mountain biker Jessica Cerra, who has been beating up on Cat 1’s this year, but is still a Cat 3 in Road, and doing Cat 3/4 Road Races???  At the top of the climb, Jessica attacked and Angela Wimberly was the only one who could hold her wheel.  Jessica then drilled the downhill and flats opening up a 2 minute lead over Rachel’s chase group.  Half way into lap two, Jessica would drop Angela and then easily solo off to the victory.  Jessica would later take 6th (at mile 80 with 8,000 feet of climbing) in the Cat 1-3 race.  Angela would hold on for a solo 2nd in an outstanding effort.   Rachel, who averaged just less than 19 mph on the day, out-sprinted Erin Gunn for 3rd and logged 4 more upgrade points toward her Cat 2.  Moriah finished 17th.  Sarah, for the first time in a Cat 3/4 road race, beat two riders, finishing 27th, logging 55 minutes of Zone 5 (90%+ of max HR) in the process.  The Women 1-3 race saw Tink (Kristabel) once again fly away solo to take the win by almost 4 minutes.  Tracy Tilton would also get clear of the chase group to take 2nd.  Hannah struggled mentally throughout 4,600 feet of climbing and finished in 10th.

The next day the girls did the Chuck Pontius Crit.  After racing the Junior race in the morning, then waiting around all day in the 104 degree heat (108 degrees on the course), the four girls tried to do the Cat 1-4 race, but really had nothing left in the tank to give.  Out of the 35 riders, Hannah finished 16th, Rachel 18th, Moriah 20th, and Sarah 30th.  At age 12, Sarah beat 5 people in this Category race and logged an additional 47 minutes in Zone 5, averaging 95.3% of her max HR for the 51 minute crit, which is just insane.  Granted the heat elevated everyone’s HR a few beats, but Sarah definitely won the Suffer Queen award this weekend, as she hung for 6 laps with the 24MPH pace being set by the Cat 1’s before getting dropped.  Way to go Sarah!

May 4th & 5th, 2013 - Barrio Logan State Championship Crit & Dana Point
Well the first set of State Championship races are officially in the books.  Prior to Rachel’s crash, we were hoping to win 2 out of the 4 Championship Races, as Sarah simply has not been able to match the speed of Lauren Stack this year in 10-12, nor has Moriah been able to match the speed of National Champion Courtney Comer this year in 13-14.  As expected, Lauren won 10-12 and Courtney won 13-14.  Great job Ladies!  In 15-16, Rachel’s competition was Millie Tanner.  Unlike previous years where Millie has dominated Rachel, this year Rachel had beaten Millie in 7 of their 10 races, and in 5 out of their last 6 races against each other.  So prior to Rachel’s crash, we were hopeful that Rachel could win this one.  However just like Hannah, who crashed exactly one week before her Crit State Championship the year before, Rachel’s damaged body simply would not perform.  Rachel got easily outsprinted both by Millie in the 15-16 race, and by a number of Ladies in the Cat 3-4 race that she has been repeatedly beating this year.  The whole right side of Rachel’s body was just in too much pain to sprint correctly.  For those of you who have not seen the photo of Rachel’s violent slam that has been floating across the internet, Kristy Morrow amazingly caught the 27MPH wipe out on camera.  Bailey Eckles, who is right behind Rachel in the photo, told me that it was actually another rider, who is not shown in this photo, who blew the corner and nailed the cone that flew up and landed right into Rachel’s front wheel, instantly taking her down.  Today, 10 days after her wreck, Rachel is still pretty sore.  Rachel is hopeful that by this weekend, she will be back to racing form.  In the 17-18 race, Hannah’s only true competition, Tara McCormick, did not choose to race, so Hannah easily won her State Championship race, which turned out to be our only win of the weekend.

Sunday was the Dana Point Grand Prix.  The Women Pro/1/2/3 race, which had a field of 38 Ladies, averaged 25.3 MPH, which was a little slower than last year.  Hannah took the bell in 8th, but got boxed in on the backside while the big sprinters shot up both sides of her, pushing her back.  She finished 14th.  Once again, Jen Valente flexed her powerful legs to come from behind and take the win.  The highlight of the weekend was watching Luke race.  Luke did both the 8 year old race and the 9 to 12 year old race at both Barrio and at Dana Point, giving him four races on the weekend.  At Barrio he took 2nd in both races, which had field sizes of 25 to 30 riders.  He was a little bit nervous and not too driven at Barrio.   However at Dana Point, Luke showed up very determined and wanting to win after his two 2nd places the day before.  His first race at Dana was the 9 to 12 year old race, a little bit out of his league.  Unfortunately, 8 year old Luke was pushed back by the “big kids” to the last row of racers on the starting line, giving him a horrible start for the two lap race.  At the end of the first straight away, he was in 21st out of the 43 starters.  He would finish the race in 8th which is pretty good given that everyone else in the race was older than him.  In his second race, the 8 year old race, 74 riders took the start.  Are you serious??  74 riders in a kids race!  Wow!   As the starting whistle blew, complete chaos ensued and Luke got plowed over by a much bigger 8 year old, knocking him down before he could even clip in.  By the time he got up and clipped in, the field was gone.  He took the bell and the screams of David Towle’s “ONE2GO-ONE2GO-ONE2GO-ONE2GO” in 61st place out of the 74 riders (yes, we counted on the video).  However, Luke had this extremely focused and determined look on his face as he started drilling past other riders.  In just one lap, Luke passed 59 other riders, bringing him to 2nd place, his 3rd second place finish of the weekend.   How Luke got 2nd place in this race after taking the bell in 61st is beyond comprehension.  It was the highlight of my weekend.

April 27th & 28th, 2013 - San Luis Rey RR and CBR #4
It was a very hard, but super fun, weekend of racing.   That is, until the last race of the weekend when Rachel got taken out by a flying cone.  More on that, later.  We began with the San Luis Rey RR, where the Women 3-4 race saw a record high field of 58 racers.  Wow!  On lap one, Jonie Celso and Alison Jones, who would finish 1st and 2nd on the day, lit things up on the climb, shattering the field into pieces.  44 riders, including Moriah and Sarah would not make the cut.  14 riders, including Rachel, formed an super-fast break away group that averaged just under 22 MPH for the 44 mile road race with 1,600 feet of climbing.  That is fast for a Women’s 3-4 Road Race!  On the final climb, Rachel cracked and ended up taking 9th.  Moriah, who logged over an hour of Zone 5 in the first chase group, had nothing left for the final climb.  She finished 30th.  Sarah ended up in 45th out of the 58 starters.  Not bad for a 12 year old.  

In the Women’s 1-3 race, only 19 riders took the start, however, all but three of the riders were Cat 1’s or Cat 2’s, and two of the Cat 3’s were Tracy Tilton and Jessica Cerra who continue to beat Cat 1’s each week, so the field was tough.  Sure enough at mile 55 of 74, Tracy and Jessica put the hammer down.  Only Julie Cutts could hang with the two fast climbers.  Hannah was almost able to hang through the mile long surge, topping out the climb in 4th place, just 15 seconds behind the three leaders.  Kirsten Darley, Tracy’s teammate, would join Hannah and they would hold off the field.  At mile 74, Hannah finished 5th.  Julie out sprinted the other two to take the win.  You rock Julie! 

On Sunday, Moriah, Rachel and I headed up to do CBR #4.  The Women’s race had a field of 26 ladies.  Rachel took 3rd and Moriah finished 14th.  In Rachel’s 2nd race, the rider in front of her hit a cone at the bottom of the hill on the Carson course.   The cone flew up and landed right into her front wheel, taking her instantly to the deck at 27 MPH.  We do not think anything is broken (other than her cracked helmet), but she has some pretty good war wounds on her hip, knee, and elbow.  Hopefully she will heal up in time to compete for the Crit State Championship next week.  Ironically, one year ago, Hannah also crashed just one week before this same State Championship.  She tried to compete with her injuries, but her body would not perform.  What are the odds that a crash like this would happen again just one week before States?  The team had not had a single crash since Hannah’s, spanning 224 rider races.  Rachel really wants to race this Saturday, so please keep her healing in your prayers. 

April 21, 2013 - Santiago TT and LA Circuit Race
There are good weekends.  There are great weekends.  Then there are unbelievable weekends where you just shake your head, look up to Heaven, and say, “Wow!  God is good!”  After winning the Vlees Huis Ronde Road Race last weekend, Rachel went 3 for 3 this weekend, extending her winning streak to 4 races in a row!  Moriah brought the team’s weekend win total to 5 by winning 2 out of her 4 races this weekend.  The team had never won 5 races in one weekend.  We began with the Santiago Time Trial, where Rachel would win 15-18 by almost 7 minutes posting a 30:22, which amazingly was 32 seconds faster than Hannah who took 3rd in the Women 1-3 division.  Rachel’s time was fast enough to get second in that division.  The next day was LA Circuit.  We began the Jr. Women 15-18 race.  On the last lap, we shot Moriah off the front.  She got a good gap and Rachel Cross was forced to reel her in.  The second Cross caught Moriah, Rachel Swan attacked.  Cross tried but could not bridge.  Rachel Swan then soloed to take the win.  Hannah would outsprint Cross for 2nd.  In the next race, Jr. Women 10-14, Moriah drilled the final sprint and took the win by 5 bike lengths.  The third race was the Women’s 1-3, where Hannah simply did not show up.  She did not ride toward the front, went into the last corner 20th and finished 18th out of the 30 starters.  She never engaged.  It happens.  PC and Suzanne would take 1st and 2nd.  Great job PC, I mean “Dude!”  Rachel, unlike Hannah, showed up in full effect, taking on a field of 47 Women in the Cat 3-4 race.  Rachel absolutely lit up the final sprint and won by 3 bike lengths.  She swung at 250m to go in 6th position, came by the other riders, then pulled away for her 4th win in a row.  It was the best sprint I have ever seen Rachel execute.  You can bet that one will make the next Strive Racing video.  4 more upgrade points for Rachel.  Special congrats to Lauren Stack who raced her first category race and hung on until the end, finishing 38th out of the 47 riders.  Great Job!

April 14th, 2013 - De Vlees Huis Ronde Road Race
Ya Baby!  What a tremendously entertaining day, topped off by some incredible results.  Hannah began the day, joining a field of 19 Ladies in the Women’s Cat 1-3 race, which did 60 miles and 5,000 feet of climbing on this technical, but very fun course.  Deep into lap two, Hannah attacked.  She was joined by Tracy Tilton and Jessica Cerra, the two new phenoms in SoCal.  The three opened up a gap, but the other two ladies were just too strong for Hannah, who got popped and fell back to the chase group that contained Julie Cuts, Joy McCulloch, Lisa Campbell, Ruth Clemence, and Amy Rice.  Tracy and Jessica unbelievably held off this powerful chase group, and won by three minutes.  The pace was very fast, given the 5,000 feet of climbing, at just under 20 MPH.  On the final kicker climb, Hannah was able to beat everyone in the chase group except Julie, giving Hannah 4th place on the day and 3 more upgrade points towards her Cat 1 upgrade.  Awesome job Hannah!

Rachel and Moriah did the Women’s 3/4 race.  In the exact same spot where Hannah put in her scintillating winning attack last year, Rachel attacked the field of 22 ladies, opening up a nice gap and shattering the field.  Eventually a breakaway group of 5 riders was established.  The group entered the final steep kicker hill before the finish and fireworks ensued.  Three pulled away from two, and as they rounded the final corner, Rachel was second wheel.  With 150m to go, she swung right and buried herself, opening up a 10 bike length lead to take the win and log 3 more upgrade points toward her Cat 2 upgrade.  Moriah had a great day as well, taking 13th.

April 6th & 7th, 2013 - Rosena Ranch and Redlands Crit
Wow! What a super fun weekend of racing!  We began with the Rosena Ranch Circuit Race.  Rachel and Moriah would start the day, joining a field of 35 ladies in the Women’s 3-4 race, that battled the early morning chill for 22 miles.  Jennifer Whalen led out the final, slightly uphill, sprint from a long way out to record her 3rd win of the year.  Great job Jen!  Rachel took 3rd finishing 2 bike lengths behind Jen, grabbing 2 more upgrade points toward her Cat. 2.  Moriah would hang on for 14th, which is her best 3-4 finish of the year.  The second race was the Jr. Women 15-18, who raced with the Jr. Men 15-16.  Hannah, who was the only girl able to hang with the boys, won by a few minutes.  Rachel, who got a whopping 1 minute rest after her 3-4 race, won the field sprint and took 2nd.  Moriah, who also had 40 miles in her legs, hung on for 6th and Sarah, who has been sick for a month, finished 9th.  Next to Rachel’s awesome final sprint, the highlight of the race was watching Lauren Stack successfully bridge back up the to the field solo.  The third and final race of the day for Team Strive was the Women’s Cat 1-3.  This was Hannah’s 2nd and Rachel’s 3rd race of the day.  25 Ladies took the start.  Both Hannah and Rachel would make the 12 person break.  Hannah finished 4th and Rachel, who was on race mile 62, took 10th.  The next day was the Redlands Crit, where Hannah, Rachel and Moriah took the start in the Women’s 1-3 race with a field of 28 Ladies.  This was Moriah’s 1st Cat 1-3 Crit.  She hung for 8 laps before getting popped.  Rachel would take 14th and Hannah would get 7th, with all 6 riders in front of her being Cat 1’s.  The highlight of this race was watching Julie Cutts attempt to solo away with 2 to go.  She held off the field through the final corner.  However, Jen Valente would come from 20 bike lengths back with 100m to go to blow by Julie and take the win.  Jen, a World Champion on the track who is riding for Exergy Twenty16, has incredible power in her final sprint.  Kristen Armstrong and Nicola Cranmer stood next to me at the finish.  They each furnished a small grin as Jen crossed the line with her hands raised.  Next week is De Vlees Huis Ronde RR.

March 30th-31st, 2013 - Peninsula Cliff Climb TT and Ontario #3
It was a very fun weekend of racing.  We began with the Peninsula Cliff Climb TT, which has 1,200 feet of climbing.  Moriah won the 10-14 division by about a minute and a half after posting a 28:51.  Sarah, who has been sick all week would take 3rd.  Rachel won W15-18 by well over a minute, posting a 26:51.  Hannah raced the Women 1-3 and posted a new best time of 25:26, which was good for third.  Her time was over two minutes slower than the World Champion Ruth Clemence’s winning time of 23:16. 

The next day we raced the two Ontario Junior races, where the boys would once again affect both results.  The W10-14/M10-12 race was fairly uneventful until the end.  Cheyenne Comer (Courtney’s sister) stayed clear of the boys chaos and drilled a very long final sprint up the outside to take the win.  Moriah took her chances mixing in with the boys.  She got trapped and did not get clear of them in time to catch Cheyenne.  She would take 2nd by 1/2 a bike length again (5th time this season!).  That was an awesome final sprint, Cheyenne!  Great job.

Bored with the same old Jr. crit, we thought we would have some fun in the W15-18/M13-14 race.  We decided to launch a three pronged counter attack with four to go and send each girl on a solo suicide mission.  The plan was to shoot Moriah off the front first, then Rachel, and finally Hannah, hoping that Hannah could hang on to solo to the finish.  The problem was that Moriah’s attack only lasted 20 seconds before it was reeled in.  That left Rachel attacking with with almost 4 full laps to go on the long Ontario course.  Ouch!  Rachel attacked hard and opened up a 12 second gap.  She held it for an entire lap before the boys finally reeled her in.  Unfortunately, that left Hannah with almost 3 full laps to go.  Good luck!  She attacked anyway and opened up a 20 second gap over the group of 20 boys, that had Rachel Cross in tow!  Hannah worked really hard for those three laps and came around the final corner 1st.  However, her lead was down to just 4 seconds, and she had nothing left in her legs for the final sprint.  Boys started driving past her.  With 25m to go, Hannah still had a two bike length lead over Rachel Cross, but Hannah had eaten too much wind in those three laps.  Hannah would lose to Cross on the line by a few inches in a thrilling photo finish.  3 laps.  Soooooo close!  Gotta love racing with the boys, who did all the work reeling Hannah in when it was not even their race.  It was still very exciting and fun to watch, and both Hannah and Rachel Swan learned a lot about how long they can hold off a 13-14 boys field with a solo effort.

March 24th, 2013 - New Sponsor and Racing with Amber Neben
I apologize to the faithful readers of this blog for not posting for so long.  Life just got busy and hard.  That said, there are incredible things to report!  First off, Strive Racing has finalized all the details of our new HED sponsorship and the whole team is now riding HED wheels both in training and in races.  We are very humbled, honored, and thankful to have such a well-respected industry name as our wheel sponsor.  Second, Hannah and Rachel were given an incredible opportunity by our Team Advisor, World Champion Amber Neben, who invited the two of them to ride alongside her for her non-profit cycling team, The Dare To Be Project, in the San Dimas Stage Race.  While this race is not officially on the NRC circuit, the field of 78 ladies this year included virtually every NRC Domestic Elite Women’s team and all four USA based UCI World Tour Women’s Teams (Exergy Twenty16, Specialized-Lululemon, Tibco, and Optum).

Hannah and Rachel joined Cash-Call’s Joy McCulloch, and the Italian UCI powerhouse Diadora-Pasta Zara’s Amber Neben and Addy Albershardt to make up the five person team. All 78 Ladies started stage one, the uphill TT.  Rachel finished 68th, Hannah 63rd, Joy 41st, Addy 11th, and Amber 2nd.  Mara Abbott from Exergy took the win.  The second day was the 56 mile road race with 3,300 feet of climbing.  Given the climbing and technical nature of the course, the pace was pretty stiff at 22.22mph and only 59 of the 78 riders made the cut.  Fortunately, our entire team made it.  Rachel finished 51st, Hannah 50th, Joy 46th, Addy 19th, and Amber 2nd by less than a bike-length in an awesome final sprint!  Day three was the Crit and the four UCI teams decided to flex their big legs right from the whistle.  The 55 minute hammer-fest, that had an average speed of 26.7MPH, was just too fast for Hannah and Rachel who were the only two juniors left in the 59 rider field.  Rachel got shot out the back 7 minutes into the race and was pulled by the refs a few laps later.  Hannah hung for 22 minutes before a strong break-away, ironically containing Amber, strung things out and pegged Hannah in mid zone five until she finally detached and got yanked.  Hannah and Rachel were not alone however, as there were a total of 14 riders that got dropped, pulled, and cut.  The rest of our team made it to the end.  Addy finished 22nd, Joy 18th, and Amber 11th.   45 of the 78 starters made the final cut and got placed in the final GC standings.  While Hannah and Rachel did not make it, only 7 non Pro/Cat 1 riders did make the list of 45.  Joy, a Cat 2, was one of those 7 riders.  She finished 42nd.  Addy finished 12th and Amber ended up in 2nd to Mara Abbott by a mere 9 seconds.  The girls had a blast and it was a fascinating look into the next level.  Thank you, Amber, for being such a HUGE blessing to our team.  You are deeply loved!

March 3rd, 2013 - CBR #3
Form!  Yes!  It is finally showing across the whole team.  CBR #3 began for us with the Women’s 3-4 race, which saw a season high of 36 Ladies take the start in a very stacked field.  The talent level was reflected in the pace, which was fast for a Women’s 3-4 race at 23.6MPH.  13 year old Moriah, whose form was hurt the most by our three month break, finally saw some great gains in HR data.  While she only took 27th out of the 36 starters, she hung strong with the fast pace and finished right there with the peleton.  Rachel lead out the final sprint with 300m to go and hung on to take 3rd, finishing in front of a number of talented sprinters.  Rachel’s second race, the Men’s Cat 4, was even more encouraging.  Here Rachel took the line with 67 men who drilled it at 25.7MPH for 40 minutes.  Rachel hung on to take 53rd.  It was a new high average speed for Rachel, who logged 20 minutes of Zone 5 in this outstanding effort.  The last race of the day for us was the 55 minute long Men’s Cat 3 race, where Hannah took the start with a field of 52 strong men.  The pace was blisteringly fast at 26.6MPH, which was also a new record high speed for Hannah, who finished 37th out of the 52 starters, logging over 30 minutes of Zone 5 in the process.  Ouch!  Outstanding effort Ladies :^)

February 23th - 24th, 2013 - Rosena Ranch, Ontario #2, and Valley of Fire Stage Race
Wow!  What an incredibly fun weekend of racing.  For the first time this season, we saw some good form starting to return.  Whoo-Hooo!  Dawn took Sarah and Mo to Rosena Ranch and Ontario and I took Hannah and Rachel to the Valley of Fire Stage Race in Nevada.  Once again, Courtney got the better of Mo, and Lauren got the better of Sarah, but the racing in California was good and fun.  Despite another 2nd place, for the first time Mo was within a bike length of beating Courtney.  The VOF stage race was very encouraging, as both Rachel and Hannah showed some respectable form for the first time this year.  The Women’s field had 26 racers, 8 of whom were Cat 1s and 6 more were Cat 2s.  Stage 1 was a 7 mile, pretty hilly, TT.  Both girls struggled a bit in this short TT, falling way below their LTHRs (over 5%), but they still took 11th and 12th with Rachel beating Hannah by 2 seconds.  Their times were 9.5% slower than the race winner, Julie Cutts, but only 5.4% slower than 2nd place, which was encouraging.  The Crit was later that same day.  Hannah and Rachel fought hard in this race and ended up taking 7th and 8th only getting beat by six Cat 1’s!  The next morning was the brutal 62 mile road race with 4,000 feet of climbing, which went off in 34 degrees.  40MPH winds made this already hard race extremely challenging at times.  At mile 38 the race exploded as Julie Cutts and Flavia Oliveria dropped everyone.  They would finish 1st and 2nd in that order.  Hannah would make the 1st chase group of three riders, that worked hard to reel in the two leaders.  Hannah finished 5th, just 47 seconds behind Julie and Flavia, after spending 3 hours and 26 minutes in the saddle.  Her outstanding effort in the road race would propel her up to 5th in the final GC standings.  Rachel would make the second chase group of five select riders which finished about 5 minutes behind Hannah’s group.  Rachel took 7th in the stage at finished 8th in the final GC.  Given that there were 14 elite riders in the 26 person field, we were all very pleased with 5th and 8th.  Way to go Ladies!

February 16th - 17th, 2013 - UCLA Road Race & CBR #2 Crit
Another great weekend of racing is in the books and for the first time “small glimmers of future form” are starting to emerge!  We began the weekend at the UCLA Road Race.  The Women 3-4 had a starting field of 15 ladies that braved the 37 degree start, including our Rachel.  On lap one Amy Rice and Rachel Holzer, two great climbers who both beat Hannah last year, attacked.  Our Rachel, Rachel Swan, and Antigone Payne were the only two out of the group that could hang, and the breakaway of 4 riders was established.  Unfortunately, on the last lap, our Rachel de-chained and could not get it fixed for a couple of minutes.  Gotta love Jr. Gearing!   She would take 5th place because of that mechanical.  Hannah’s Women Cat 1-3 race was next, which saw a very talented field of 25 great climbers take the start for the challenging 50 mile race.  Hannah would end up in 10th.  The next day was CBR #2 which was on the very exciting and “hilly” Carson course.  26 Ladies took the start in Women’s 3-4, including the younger three Swans.  Sarah finished 21st, Moriah 17th, and Rachel 6th.  In search of a good workout, Rachel then jumped into a 2nd race with 81 Category 4 Men, who drilled it at 25.4mph, which on that course, is pretty stiff.  Rachel lasted for 30 minutes, then sat up.  After that, Hannah raced the Men’s Cat. 3 race, which averaged 26.1MPH for 55 minutes.  She rode great and even engaged in the final sprint, taking 26th out of the field of 60 Men.

February 10th, 2013 - Roger Milliken Crit
Well, another weekend of racing is in the books, and once again I have to remind myself that our 3 month break was worth it.  With only 1 month of training in their legs, the girls are still struggling with their form.  Speed, intensity, endurance, and power are all still way down.  Poor Moriah is over 10% under where she finished last season in all of these categories, and the other three are not too much better.  “Patience” I remind myself.  “The form will eventually return.”  Our first race of the day was the Women’s 10-14 race, which had a field of 9 riders.  3X National Champ Courtney Comer would lead out the final sprint and take the win by 2 bike lengths.  Moriah would take 2nd inching out a charging 3rd place Lauren, who no doubt will do very well at Nats this year in 10-12.  12 year old Sarah got edged out by the two 13 year olds in the race and took 6th.  The second race was the Women 1-3 race, where Hannah and Rachel joined a fast field of 35 Ladies.  The pace of the 50 minute long crit was pretty stiff at 24.3MPH, which really wore out Hannah and Rachel, who would race back to back, immediately following this race in the W. 15-18.  The W 1-3 race was won by Jennifer Valente who on the last lap took the bell in 26th, entered corner 1 in 12th, came out of corner 4 in 4th, and then blew past Shelby Reynolds, Holly Breck, and Julie Cutts, 3 great sprinters, to take the win.  That’s a world champion last lap.  Great job Jen!  Wiped out from the 50 minutes of hammering, the girls had nothing left for the final sprint.  Hannah took 16th and Rachel took 26th.  After a super quick roll out and number change, the girls went straight back to the line for Women 15-18 race, which also saw a good pace at 23.3MPH.  After an hour and twenty minutes of hard riding, the girls were done.  Rachel Cross, who skipped the W 1-3 race, was fresh.  She rode very smart, sitting inches off Hannah’s wheel for most of the race.  She stayed there until half way down the final sprint, then swung and easily took the win.  Great job Rae-Rae!

February 2nd - 3rd, 2013 - Boulevard RR and Red Trolley Crit
It was another great weekend of racing, minus the form that is still in development.  We began with the Boulevard Road Race.  Rachel, Moriah, and Sarah joined a field of 39 ladies in Women 3/4.  Once again, Tracey Tilton, Amy Benner, and Joanie Celso lit things up on the first climb, shattering the field into countless chase groups and floaters.  Those three would finish in that order.  All three Swans, who are all still base building, essentially did this race as a 44 mile training ride.  Rachel only had 3 minutes of Zone 5 in 2.5 hours of cycling and averaged 68% of her max.  She still finished 18th.  Moriah finished 30th and Sarah finished 37th.  Hannah had the same low HR data as Rachel and finished 11th out of the 26 racers in Women’s 1-3, but she did 66 tough miles with 5,500 feet of climbing.  Pro racer Janel Holcomb easily took the win from the 4 person lead group.  The next day was the Red Trolley Crit, where 36 Ladies took the start in the Women 1-3 race, many of them, like Hannah and Rachel, having sore legs from Boulevard.  Suzanne Sonye would win her second race of the year with a powerful final sprint.  Hannah took 10th and Rachel took 27th in a super fun Crit.
 
January 26th - 27th, 2013 - Poor College Kids RR and Mothballs Crit
It was a tough weekend of racing, especially on the results front.  The cost of our extended three month break came glaring to the surface this weekend.  With only 1 month of base building in their legs and no threshold training, the team is missing virtually all of their high intensity form.  That form probably will not exist for at least another month, which is OK.  The break was worth it.  That said, we found out that there are a ton of Ladies who already have exceptional form in January. We began with the Poor College Kids road race in the Women’s 1-3 division.  Julie Cutts and Amber Gaffney easily broke away from the field and won the race by over 10 minutes.  Unfortunately, they were both DQ-ed for not separating themselves fast enough from a large Men’s Masters field that enveloped them right in front of the officials.  Hannah, who was with the thinning peloton unfortunately flatted after logging 47 tough miles.  Wish that would have happened at mile 4.7!  The Women’s 3/4 race was next.  Rachel and Moriah, both of whom have been sick for most of the last month, took the start in a field of 46 Ladies.  Amy Benner, Joanie Celso, and Tracy Tilton shattered the field into pieces on the first climb, setting a brutal pace.  The fast speed DNF-ed a large number of ladies.  Rachel and Mo persevered till the end and finished 20th and 26th respectively. The following day was the Mothballs Criterium, which began with the Women’s 15-18 race.  The pace was pretty good at 24.3 MPH because the ladies raced with the 17-18 boys.  Hannah took first.  Rachel Cross, Millie Tanner, and Rachel Swan all had a great battle for 2nd and finished respectively in that order.  The Jr. Women 10-14 race was next, which only had a field of 7 riders.  Moriah and Lauren Stack would lap the other 5 riders.  Unfortunately, the two of them got sucked into the Jr. Men’s 15-16 finish on the last lap and chaos ensued as the charging field of boys encountered lots of lapped traffic approaching the final corner.  Lauren got around it.  Moriah didn’t and had to hit her brakes.  Lauren 1st (great job!).  Moriah 2nd. The final race of the day was the Women 1-3, which saw 30 riders take the start.  The pace was pretty good at 24.8 MPH and there was a lot of action at the front.  Hannah worked really hard to make two different breaks and she made them both.  However, neither of them survived.  She also nailed back two other breaks that she initially missed.  All of that work on the front, combined with the 47 miles from the day before, emptied her gas tank for the final sprint.  Hannah fell 10 beats short in her final sprint HR, which was only good enough for 14th.  Rachel would take 22nd.  The ever-young and super-talented Suzanne Sonye would drill the final sprint to take yet another win.  While the weekend was tough and it revealed the painful reality of the teams’ early season form, it was still a huge blessing and lots of fun. 

January 20th, 2013 - CBR #1 - Anger Management Crit
It was an awesome day of racing today.  We began with the Women’s Category 3/4 race, where 22 ladies took the start, including Rachel and Moriah.  The pace stayed fairly slow (20.9 MPH) until the final lap, when the faster ladies drilled it.  Jennifer Whalen came around the final corner in 3rd, but nailed the final sprint to win by 2 bike lengths.  Charity Chia, Amy Firth, Tracy Tilton and our Rachel were all shoulder to shoulder in a thrilling battle for 2nd.  Rachel would end up taking 5th missing the podium by less than a bike length.  With no Women’s Cat. 1-3 race this year at CBR, Rachel and Moriah decided to hop in the Men’s Category 4 race for their 2nd race of the day.  With a starting field of over 70 grown men, it was a little intimidating for these two “little girls,” who weigh 98lbs and 78lbs respectively.  The screaming fast 2 minute lap times were just too hard for 13 year old Moriah who red zoned for three laps before getting shot out the back.  Amazingly 15 year old Rachel hung with the 25.4MPH pace for the entire 40 minute race, ebbing and flowing right in the heart of a massive peloton of men.  It was very cool to watch.  She finally did get blown out the back on the last lap, but I was amazed with her incredible effort.  It was a new record average speed for Rachel in a race. Hannah, who is now a Cat 2, could not do either of the two races her sisters did.  However, because she is allowed to race one Category down in a Men’s race, she did race the Men’s Category 3 race.  Still battling bronchitis, she was not 100% physically, but managed to hang with the 26.1MPH pace for the entire 55 minutes, taking 35th out of the 44 starters.  Great work today Ladies!

January 13, 2013 - Ontario 1 Crit
The first race of the year went great, with the exception of the 30 degree temperature in the morning.  12 brave young Ladies, took the icy start in the Junior Women's 10-14 race that went off in brutally cold conditions.  Ralph Elliot announced it was 26 degrees on his thermometer, but it was probably a few degrees warmer than that.  9 of the 12 starters made it to the finish.  Courtney Comer, fresh off her 3rd National Championship win (way to go girl!), drilled the final sprint to take 1st by a couple of bike lengths.  Moriah, who is looking forward to some good battles with Courtney this year, took 2nd.  Sarah just missed 3rd by a couple of inches, but got the better of her 12 year old rival Lauren by a bike length.  Lauren would get Sarah back in the next race.  The Women’s 15-18 race was a little bit warmer, going off in a cozy 38 degrees.  This race was fairly uneventful and slow, with an average speed of 21 MPH for the lead group.  It was too cold with the wind chill to go any faster.  10 Ladies took the start.  Hannah and Rachel Swan got separated on the last lap (so much for the lead out), and Rachel Cross quickly grabbed Hannah’s wheel, which she held onto through the final sprint.  Hannah 1st, Rachel Cross 2nd, Rachel Swan 3rd.

January 1st, 2013 - Happy New Year
Well, . . . It’s a new year and Strive Racing is excited to embark on a new adventure. Because we raced so much in 2012, we ended up taking almost three full months off. We all lost some speed, but the extended break was incredibly refreshing upstairs. The form will come back in time. More importantly, mentally, we are now totally refreshed and ready to go!