Friday, December 18, 2009
Barb Howe was once Queen of the Galaxy and a top US cross racer. Then illness and injury took Barbarella out of the game. After representing the USA at the CX World Championships 2 consecutive years in a row she new she still had what it takes.
Barb worked hard to recover from a snapped Achilles, get back on the bike and race again! For Cross 2009, we teamed up with Barb to set a new course for Vanderkitten and get our brand back to the roots where it all began.
VK's Amy Wiliams recently caught up with Barb after her commanding win in Bend, Oregon to take the 30-34 Master's National Title!
Interview with Barb Howe
USA Cycling National Cyclo-cross Championships
Dec 10-13, Bend Oregon
VK: Firstly congratulations on your win. A tough well deserved win.
BH: Thanks, I’m super stoked about the win. My head is still spinning. It was tough yes, they always are.
VK: So Barb, How did you get into 'cross and long have you been competing at the pro level?
BH: I got into cross when I sold my VW van and used the proceeds to buy a cross bike. I've been racing as a pro crosser since I started cross, I had been racing as a pro mtb so it didn't seem right to race as a B. My first cx race was in 2003 and I didn't finish the race.
VK: Your season this year has been pretty impressive, with a number of top 5 finishes. How did you feel going into this year’s Nationals?
BH: I felt like I had a chance but was up against some very fast women. As the season progressed I felt stronger and stronger.
VK: How were you feeling the morning of? Do you have any pre race rituals you go through?
BH: I had a headache the morning of; I think it was from being chronically dehydrated from the dry air in Bend. I always eat pasta and eggs with lots of salt before a race.
VK: You mentioned you ride well in the colder temps, what was the temperature on the day?
BH: It was in the low 30's and felt warmer in the sun. Balmy! We stood in staging for a long time and were lucky that the sun was out and it wasn't windy. I like the cold weather because I tend to overheat when it's hot. The heat is another story; I can get heat stroke in less than 20 minutes. You might not believe it but it's happened.
VK: What was going through your mind towards the end, when you realized you were leading and would win? Did you realize at all?
BH: Towards the end of the race I was smiling and heard lots of people yelling my name. You can't ever count on a win you never know what might go wrong. I had a good crash right before the steps on the last lap and plenty of lapped riders to sort through. I was worried from the start that a lapped rider might go down in front of me so I was playing it very carefully around them.
VK: Did you have a race plan? I guess you won, but did your race go to plan?
BH: My plan was to mark Andrea Smith because she's been riding really strong, I also had to keep an eye on Kari Studley and Dede Winfield, both of them are super fast and have beat me this season. Once it was down to Kari and me we started hitting lapped riders and I got in front to make sure I didn't get held up. From there on I just tried to take good lines in corners and not crash. There was some confusion at the end of the race, with one to go the announcers missed me and I never got a bell lap. They also missed me when I actually finished. I was confused and ready to do another lap but stopped when all the photographers and people standing on the course. There's a picture of me coming through the finish with the lap counter reading one to go and a guy ringing a bell. All of my winning photos show me looking very confused.
VK: How did it feel to get up there on that podium in 1st place?
BH: Really really good. It's been a long time since I've won a big race. It took several years to get over illness and injury and feel fast again. Ibis, my bike sponsor, was there and I was happy to show that the Hakkalugi is a worthy race bike. Dave was there as well and if it wasn't for Vanderkitten I wouldn't have been able to travel to races this season.
VK: What's next for a National Champ? (Race wise, fame, fortune, Christmas...?)
BH: Working and off season. I didn't work very much for the last few months so I have to make up for it now. It's also time to start contacting potential sponsors for next cross season and make plans for the upcoming summer. Also the Sierra's have been getting lots of snow so it might be time to go skiing!
VK: You see the same women at almost every race, are you friends or friendly with the girls you compete against?
BH: Yes, racing is a social event as much as a sporting event. It's kind of sad after nationals because I won't see most of the women again until next cross season. Many of us have been racing together for several years and keep in touch in the off season.
VK: Does it ever get nasty out there? Any trash talk?
BH: Generally it isn't too bad here in the US. The occasional bad word slips out and sometimes people get yelled at but it's usually followed by an apology afterwards.
VK: Have you ever given someone an elbow or knee or something? Or vise versa?
BH: Bumping happens now and again, usually it's accidental. Sometimes you get cut off in corners but that's racing. Euro women are much more aggressive and meaner. I've been yanked backwards on a run up over there hard enough to almost fall down. If someone did that to me here I'd file a protest.
VK: How did your Ibis handle?
BH: The Hakkalugi was phenomenal, it's light and easy to carry, and it felt solid in the corners and stiff enough to accelerate out of corners.
VK: Any scary moments in the race where you thought you might come off or go over the barrier?
BH: There were a few slick spots and my rear tire cut loose a few times in corners but I managed to stay upright. I fell on the steps on the first lap, they were very slippery and you approached them from an angle. After that I made sure to take the steps at a right angle.
VK: Did you have a big glass of wine or something to celebrate?
BH: I’ve been eating cheese and beer, kind of like wine only different.
VK: Congratulations again Barb.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
SEA OTTER CLASSIC - APRIL 18, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
Considering I'm coming back from pulling my groin (long ski story) Menlo was a much better race for me than Merco. The pace was fast -- Sugar CRM was really aggressive launching attacks and of course Tibco was countering and covering everything. I tried to stay up front and go with moves, and at one point with Mel on the front I jumped to chase two girls off the front. A few laps later on the backside of the course I did the same for her and got in a nice block allowing her to open a big gap before the pack woke up. All in all, for only a three person team we were doing a good job of being defensive!
With three to go I moved up and passed Mel -- who I think grabbed my wheel and followed. But tunnel vision during racing always surprises me. Anyhow I was able to take Brooke Miller's wheel with 3 to go. I was ultra surprised! Then the elbows for her wheel in the corners started flying and I remember thinking, why are girls jabbing me? Oh, duh I'm on the WHEEL to have. Initially I knew Brooke would be plan B (insider's knowledge ha) and that they would try to get one of their riders in a break. However, since it was going to be a bunch sprint, plan A was to lead Brooke out. So I was in great position as the laps wound down. With one to go, Sugar CRM attacked forcing Brooke to chase. I followed in pursuit but the gap she opened was as big as the Atlantic Ocean. I bridged and then burned. The effort gassed me. But considering I've been training lightly it was no surprise. What was good is that the rest of the riders came across with me and I'm sure that helped Mel stay in perfect position to light the sprint up.
Below is a pic of Vk's Mary Maroon working the field!
Photo: Kurt Harvey
Next up for Vanderkitten Racing? Redlands Classic! Come out and support the super fast ladies of Vanderkitten Racing!!
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
The next day we all drove to
The VK gang went out to dinner that night at the Pyramid Brewery where I enjoyed a yummy
Typical Jenn X
Guess what? We awoke to gray skies and rain. We packed up the van and headed north for
Myself and Jenn X "racin" TOC 2009 photo courtesy Larry Rosa
The pace was pretty fast from the start though we were careful through the turns due to the rain. To add to the “fun” there were tons of bot dots on the course which you had to navigate even while turning. It took a little bit of time to get to the front of the race since I started way in the back. The only good news about starting at the back was that when Versus showed the seconds of coverage there was my butt. Hot! Within 12minutes there was a break from the pack. I was sitting on the opposite side of the peloton pretty boxed in when it happened. Twelve riders went free and I did a quick check, all the heads of state were still in the peloton: Ina, Gina, Tina, Brooke and LVG. There was a lot more time in the race and I thought for sure they would be brought back. Jenn X decided not to wait around for that and launched herself off the front. I was on her wheel and made the decision to sit up and let her go. In hindsight, it would have been nice to have 2 VKs in the
break to help each other. After killing herself she eventually bridged to the break, now they were 13. I stayed up at the front to monitor and block as best I could should anyone decide to take the leap. There were mini attacks and LVG was anxious to try and break free. I was on them all figuring if anyone was going to bridge they were taking me with them. The race organization started to give pack primes and after I realized that the break was going to stay away I decided to go for one. Lucky or unlucky for me the one I went for also appeared to be on Ina’s check list and I got second behind her. Bummer, but not bad considering she is such an animal. Next on the list was to prepare for the finish. Even though we were not sprinting for the win I knew it would be an all out sprint for the finish considering who I was with. The rain continued to come down heavy and it seemed to be getting colder.
How do I get so dirty? photo courtesy Dave Verrecchia
I really took to heart Jeff “Hoppy” Hopkins words of advice and was able to stay on Tina’s wheel through the last couple of laps and only started to lose it when Ina who was in front of her lit it up entering turn 4 and exploded away from all of us. I was pretty gassed at this point having done so much work to stay at the front and suffered during the sprint. It was so cold outside and I could not feel my fingers having no clue what lever I was hitting to select my gear. Jenn X did a great job in the break and finished 11th. I held my own in the sprint and got 10th in the field for a 23rd finish overall. At least now I have more confidence in being able to hang with the top sprinters to the line.
Are we having fun yet? photo courtesy Kurt Harvey
Jenn and I went to the Russian River Brewery after the race to try and finish my gift card that I won last year in a prime. We did not do much damage because we were driving home. After a coffee at Peet’s (my favorite) it was back to the van for the long drive home. The iPod was roaring and the caffeine flowin’.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Berkeley , Calif. – January 18, 2009
On Saturday Jan 17th, Vanderkitten Racing Elite team member Liz Hatch was involved in a solo-rider accident whilst participating in the Benefit for Women’s ATOC Criterium and All –Sport Team Swift ride outside Santa Rosa, CA. Following a comprehensive examination at the hospital, she was released and is now recovering at home. We wish Liz a quick and healthy recovery.
The Vanderkitten Racing team/club rules state that all members MUST wear an approved helmet at all times. Liz’s helmet in this instance absorbed a majority of the force of her crash, and was destroyed. As always, safety remains our highest priority and hopefully all of us can walk away with a reminder that helmets do reduce injury and save lives.
Please direct any questions or concerns of Liz's recovery or Vanderkitten Racing to the Managing Director: Mark Zefeldt firstname.lastname@example.org