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
Winner, 30-34
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.

BH: Thanks!