Sunday, October 19, 2008


Photo: Ken Conley

Vanderkitten won the USA Crit Series Team Title Championship on September 25th in Las Vegas, NV!  Below is race recap from VK’s Jen Wilson.

Vegas baby!  The final race in the USA Crit Series and what a ride it has been.  After racking up the airline mileage, suffering a concussion and getting a second row of stitches on my chin it is finally culminating.  I have to admit that parking lot crits are not my favorite but off we went to defend our team lead in the crit series and my second place overall.  After nearly taking out my eye running into a wire that I did not see in the in field, we all arrived at the starting line.  Luckily since most of the VKs were sitting in the top ten, most of us got called up before the race which on this course was pretty important since the areas available to move up were slim with the barriers being on either side. 

As it has been all season, the pace was fast from the start and did not let up.  The big teams were in force, especially Colavita/Sutter Home and Cheerwine.  As is typical of this course there were crashes in the first couple of laps and throughout the entire race.  Luckily none of us were directly involved.  The VK girls did a great job of staying up in the front and monitoring and dictating the race pace.  It was great to see them doing their stuff and I felt that for a first year team we were given the respect of a more developed squad.  I had to keep on eye on Kelly Benjamin (Cheerwine) and hope that something magical might happen for me today to overcome her 65 point lead over me in the series.  It has been a season long battle with us trading off the top spot.  The heat exhaustion I experienced in Charlotte, SC was where the tides switched and Kelly took the lead.  It has been an uphill battle trying to gain points back on her.  She is such a strong rider with a very strong team and I have learned a lot “battling” with them.

As we were getting into some type of rhythm on the course I saw an opportunity to attack through the chicane area.  However, no one wanted to let me go.  Jen McRae took off soon after that and was in a two rider break.  She is so strong that she eventually dropped the other rider and soloed her way to the win.  Colavitta/Sutter Home and Cheerwine chased hard but on this course a single rider has much more of an advantage than the pack.  The team put in a good effort with about 4 laps to go and I was able to maintain my position in the top.  We came into the sprint and I came in 8th.  It was over!  We had done it and maintained our team overall lead! 

For my first season on the national circuit it was great.  Vanderkitten accomplished a lot in one year and it was exciting being a part of it and surrounded by such wonderful people; both the riders and management.  In addition, it has also been great to have our sponsors believe in us especially since it was our first year and we had no track record.  I am already looking forward to next season!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

VK Still Leads USA Crit Series After San Francisco Twilight Crit!!
Photos: Ken Conley
Vanderkitten raced a tough race at San Francisco's Twilight Criterium on August 13th. Below is pre race and race recap from VK's Liz Hatch:

After a year of traveling to every major race cross-country by plane or long distance drive I was really looking forward to the San Francisco Twilight as it's basically in my backyard. We rented a really cool apt in The Castro and had 6 of us share the space for the weekend. I've grown to love racing this year not just for the actual competition but for the time I get to spend with my teammates. For the majority of the past 5 months it's been the 4 core members, which include Leigh, Jen W., Melissa and myself, so it was especially nice to have Jenny Trew back with us along with a special guest, Jen Reither. Yes, half our team had some variance of the name Jennifer!

The night before the race we went to the Galaxy Club to pick up our race packets and number and have a beer, after which we went to a team dinner with Mark and Robin Zellner who has been guest directing for us to share a meal and some pre-race plans. Jen Wilson has been battling it out with Kelly Benjamin all year for the overall in the USA Crit Series and we as a team have had a narrow lead over Cheerwine for the top team in the standings so we were all feeling the pressure of the race on Saturday. Kelly has had a banner year and for that reason we knew it would be a tough road but not unthinkable. Jen is one of the toughest women I've ever met on a bike and if anyone could win the overall for our small team it would be her.

Race day came and proved to be quite chilly and windy as we woke early to put on a free clinic for women in the Bay Area looking to improve their bike skills and even a bit of mechanical training. A nice group showed up and we got to spend a couple of hours with them talking about A to Z bike stuff. A big thanks to Dan Horndasch for coming out and running the show as far as the bike maintenance went, he answered everyone's questions with patience and precise direction.

After a few hours of lounging around our condo we packed up and headed down to Union St. to the Pro Village. I have to stop here and give a huge round of applause to Ryan Dawkins and Webcore as well as the city of San Fran for allowing pro cycling to come back to the streets of San Fran. It's a huge shame that the SF Grand Prix is no more but this is a step back in the right direction. The whole affair was a joy to be present at and to race made it all the better. Thanks guys!!

We warmed up and got our pre race instructions followed by our callups. I think every member of Vanderkitten received a call up as we are all ranked in the USA Crits top 10 except for myself but since I'm a local I guess that was their excuse. I always feel a little awkward going wheel to wheel with girls like Kelly Benjamin, Laura Van Gilder, Kat Carroll or Christine Thorburn. I'm such a newbie but I hope to emulate their success on the bike at some point.

The race started out fast with me leading the first lap semi on accident. I've grown used to starting in the back out of personal preference but as I was at the line I decided to go out and dictate the pace for the first lap or two. From the gun it was fast and furious with a strong break getting away after about 5 or 6 laps which included all the heavies except on of us! NO GOOD!! Robin was sounding pretty stressed in our earpieces, of course. We worked hard the whole race to put things right and pull it back but for some reason we just weren't firing the way we normally do. It's been along year and the 4 of us have race so hard and perhaps we were a bit tired however there was no option to call time out of give up which none of us ever do anyway.

Kat Carroll put in an amazing solo attack hoping to repeat her win at Charlotte earlier this year but was pulled back with 5 or so to go and eventually the whole field, drastically reduced from the start, came back together. Next Meredith Miller made one last MONSTER attack which just shredded the field and made the final selection from which Shelly Olds would go on to win and Laura Van Gilder would take 2nd and Kelly Benjamin 3rd. Jen ended up 10th and the rest of somewhere behind. Personally the race was not my best, I could not seem to get the legs going until about 45 mins which was way too late. A shame too as the course had a nice rise on the back side which normally would suit me well. You win some you lose some, eh??

In the end Jen is in a solid second place overall behind Kelly and we sit as a team on the top over Cheerwine. Not bad for a ragtag first year team! And I say ragtag in the most loving and prideful way possible. We've bonded through good and bad this year and have really fought for our place in the top teams without having all the benefits of a bigger team. I'm really grateful to Mark and Dave for understanding what we are trying to accomplish here and supporting us. Next year will only be bigger and better!

Now it's time for Vegas and our last race so see you there! Lizzer

Monday, October 06, 2008

VK's Jenny Trew Takes 6th At Women's Tour of Missouri Crit!

For the first time in history, a Women's Pro-Am Criterium took place in Kansas City September 8th during the men's international elite Tour of Missouri. Vanderkitten was represented by Jenny Trew, Liz Hatch, and Melissa Sanborn. Below is VK's Jenny Trew's recap of events leading up to the women's criterium:

I arrived in Kansas City, Missouri (after figuring out myself and then explaining to numerous parties that Kansas City is not in Kansas - at least not this one!) on Sunday afternoon to be greeted by Holly and Jeff - the friendly neighbourhood picker uppers. I felt particularly important as they stood outside the gate with a sign that read "Jenny Trew - Vanderkitten Racing" and that set the tone for the weekend. I have NEVER been treated so wonderfully at a race. The Tour of Missouri Women's Crit organizers thought of everything and managed to put on quite a show! Special props to Kelly Benjamin of Cheerwine Cycling who managed to do an incredibly job helping out with the organization AND race - it was pretty great to see one of the best riders in the country contribute back to the sport like that!
Sunday evening we had a rider's get-together where we were given food (the fastest way to my heart!) as well as goodie bags and a six-pack of Boulevard beer each (earmarked for the next evening!). Liz, Mel and myself were taken away with the hospitality and looking forward to the next day of racing.
I was woken up early on Monday morning to the crash of lightening and I briefly wondered if we were going to have a repeat of the storm and subsequent power loss in Tulsa. However by noon the weather had "cleared" to overcast but no rain - which was lucky as the final corner would have been really sketchy under less ideal conditions. Mel's client Rob took super care of us and gave my bike a brief tune up in the hotel parking lot the morning of the race - it must have been the extra care that helped me feel the love in the race!
Personally I was a little nervous about how I was going to feel once on the course as since our Track Nationals a week ago I had been taking it easy as I am fairly done from the season! However out on the six corner crit I was good to go. It was a fairly aggressive race and although there were only 40 or 50 girls present - it was the who's who of women's crit cycling in North America - so we knew going into it that it was bound to be a good day. Highlights of the afternoon included a magnificent attempt at the $1000 prime with 5 laps to go. Mel and Liz were perfectly positioned as they called the prime and Mel put in a spectacular sprint - taking it from the last corner about 350m out - only to get pipped at the line by Tibco's Amber Rais...definately painful. That having been said, we still had a decent payday as I crossed the line the final time in 6th behind double National Champion Brooke Miller of Tibco in first, Erica Allar of Aarons in second and Jen McRae in third. Liz added to the cash in twentieth while Mel rounded out the Vanderkitten crew in the pack - exhausted by her fantastic effort.
It's been awesome to be reunited with the VK crew and I know that we're going to lay it down in San Fran next weekend!!! Until next time! Jen :)
VK Holds Strong At USA Cycling National Championships in Downers Grove, IL
Below is race recap as told by Vanderkitten's Melissa Sanborn:

This past weekend in Downers Grove, IL brought one of the fastest criteriums of the year. The US Criterium National Championship title was on the line and it was a big day for many teams as Vanderkitten fielded the strong core group of riders Jennifer Wilson, Liz Hatch, Leigh Valletti, and Melissa Sanborn. The VKats were primed to place at least one of their riders in the top 10 since they knew it was going to be a very tough race with the winners of the last five national crit championships present with full supporting teams along with recently crowned National Road Champion Brooke Miller in attendance as well.

The pace set off furiously with immediate attacks on the famed figure-8 course, which has been used for many years to decide the champion. As if the course’s technical and undulating terrain wasn’t challenge enough, the wind was also a factor. Several breakaway attempts were made and the VKats awaited the right combination knowing that, unlike the previous day’s warmup race, nothing was likely to get away with so many top sprinters in the race gunning for the championship. The 31 laps took their toll on the field, and the VKats were not immune. Melissa crashed with 6 laps to go but was able to get back into the race and take Jen as far as she could on the last lap. Liz unbelievably blew out both tires around 7 laps to go but was able to get back into the race to help lead the chase to bring back a late break. Leigh also had an unfortunate mishap, getting taken out on the last turn and crashing hard but got back up and finished the race. Jen was left to fight it out solo through the last 5 turns, a hard task to tackle while the strongest teams of the race charged to drop off their sprinters into the final turns to victory. Still, she hung on for a strong 11th place.

The Vanderkittens still lead the USA Crit Series overall team competition and sprinter kitten Jen Wilson is just 16 points from the top spot in 2nd. Come watch the team defend at the final two races of the series in San Francisco on September 13th and Las Vegas on September 25th!

Photo: Leonard Basobas,