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!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

photo credit: ken conley (


The Sea Slaughter 2009 Report: by Melodie Metzger

Every year this race invokes a strong love-hate response in me and this year proved to be no different. Love it because it brings together cycling enthusiasts from all disciplines and all parts of the world. Hate it because the promoters charge too much darn money. Love it because it was my first non-collegiate race back in 2001 as a mountain biker. Hate it because it is such a hard and relentless course that gets me every time.
This year the trip to Sea Otter was a quick one-day stop to represent Vanderkitten in Saturday's circuit race. The non-NRC status attracted a smaller-than-usual, but still powerful and talented field. Tibco and Colavita were the two heavy hitters, but Easton-Sugar CRM proved to be the most active early in the race using their numbers to hit the field with attacks on every part of the course. My thoughts were to try and get Vanderkitten in a break, but nothing was sticking. I was in one promising break for a few laps, but it was early and my break-partner didn't have the juice to keep up the pace necessary to stay away. I blew a few too many matches with this and a few other attempts and ended up running out of steam in the crucial last 5 laps of the race. A large group of 15 broke from the field and I failed to make it over the top with them. I finished 20th and Lizzer, Mary, and Virginia were not far behind.
I had a great time at the race, seeing old friends, hanging out with the team, checking in with our amazingly generous sponsors, and taking pictures with fans. All-in-all I walked away feeling happy that I went this year.
I look forward to cheering on the team from across the pond while they kick ass at speed week next week!
Thanks for reading,
M^2, P0, The Butcher

Monday, March 16, 2009

VK's Melodie Metzger Takes 2nd at Tri-Flow Menlo Park Grand Prix!!

Photo: Kurt Harvey

VK's Melodie Metzger, Charlotte Hart, and Mary Maroon came out in force for the Tri-Flow Menlo Park Grand Prix on March 8th!  With the help of her super awesome kitten teammates, Melodie took second to Tibco's Brooke Miller. 

Below is race recap from VK's Charlotte Hart:

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

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

Vanderkitten Racing Kicks Off 2009 Season!

Photo: Kurt Harvey

Vanderkitten Racing kicked off their 2009 season on February 15th, during the Tour of California Women's Criterium!  

Photo: Kurt Harvey

Below is race recap from VK's super fast Jenn Wilson:

The season has started!  Though I thought I would be more prepared here it is and I am excited.  Like last year, our first NRC race of the season was the Women’s Criterium at the Tour of California in Santa RosaCA.  Lucky for me, my good friend and partner in crime, Jenn X is guest riding with Vanderkitten for this race so we drove up to Berkeley together on Friday morning.  We left at 7am and made the customary stop at Starbucks in Valencia and off we went.  The grapevine was open and the mountains looked beautiful with the snow on them.  The iPod was hooked up and we were rockin’.  We arrived in Berkeley at 1pm and promptly got dressed and went on a ride with some of the other VKs, Liz and Leigh.  It was great to see them as I had not seen them since Vegas in September.  We attempted to get an easy ride in to loosen the legs but the rain came and we jetted back to our hotel.  We were treated in the evening to a team dinner at Dave and Jennie’s house which was magnificent. Thanks again for a great evening! 


The next day we all drove to San Jose to do a local criterium to get the legs open for the BIG race the next day.  Even though it was a local race, most all of the big teams were there doing the same as us.  It was a course with quite a few turns and the wind was picking up.  VK did a great job of making sure we were in nearly every move off the front and we were working well together.  It was great to be back in the mix.  Our “guest” rider Jenn X got a prime during the race.  I got myself in 3 moves off the front but nothing stuck.  Even though the sun was out we did experience a bit of rain which caused a crash; only a prelude to what we would endure on Sunday.  I was feeling pretty good for my first race back with the “big” girls.  With 2 laps to go I made a bad choice and took the wheel of some girls cookin’ up the inside to a turn which I had taken the inside of nearly every time during the race and found it to be the fast.  However, this time was different and we got pinched and I had to ebrake.  I spent the last lap fighting for position.  Ugh! I bungled the sprint!  The important thing was that I rode at the front and was able to position myself into moves.

The VK gang went out to dinner that night at the Pyramid Brewery where I enjoyed a yummy Kobe beef burger.  It was great to be hanging with the gang again. After dinner it was back to the hotel to rest up and gear up for what was going to be a very rainy day if the weather channel was correct.

Typical Jenn X

Guess what? We awoke to gray skies and rain.  We packed up the van and headed north for Santa Rosa. After a quick stroll through the vendors it was down to business. We had wonderful help from Emma and other Vanderkitten’s and it was great to be surrounded by so many well wishers.  I got a good warm up in and somehow found myself rushing at the end trying to figure out where the time went.  It turns out they were starting the race 10 minutes early, strange.  And, of course as our race start came so did the rain in a torrential down pour. Because the race started early and we were unaware of this, we all started the race at the back of the pack. Not the best place to be when you have heavy hitters like Ina Teutenberg and National Champion Brooke Miller in the peloton.

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’.

At least we didn't super size!

Vanderkitten Racing's next big NRC race will be the Redland's Bicycle Classic March 26th-29th.  Come out and support the hottest team in women's cycling!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Texas State Crit Junior Champ Madeleine McDuff Destroys Competition!
Madeleine McDuff, the reigning Texas State Junior Champion in Criterium,  won both the Time Trial and Criterium during the Alsatian Country Omnium on Saturday, February 7th!  
Madeleine not only took first place in the Time Trial Junior girls category, but also stood her ground against the fastest Junior boys in Texas with an overall top ten Time Trial finish!
During the criterium Madeleine raced against the top two Texas Junior male teams.  She again showed the boys what she was made of, and ultimately ended up winning the Junior girls category!  
Madeleine is a 13 year old Junior Track and Road Cyclist.  She is a cycling leader in her community as she founded the Beckendorff Junior High School Cycling Club.  With her season now underway, she is excited to promote both junior and women's cycling in her Vanderkitten kit.  

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Introducing Millie "Milliegoat" Tanner

Vanderkitten is pleased to announce that SoCal's Millie "Milliegoat" Tanner will be rockin' the VK kit for the 2009 season! Millie is the current State Champion for both California and Nevada in Road Race and Time Trial in the 10-12 division. Millie is also featured in the Jan/Feb issue of Sports Illustrated KIDS special 20th Birthday Edition. At 11 years old, this impressive young rider is already a leader in the cycling community! She likes to go fast, enjoys suffering, and wants to inspire young riders to start cycling. She will, without a doubt, dominate the 2009 season! To visit Millie's official website please click here. To follow Millie's blog, please click here.

We look forward to seeing Millie kit up with Vanderkitten in 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