Wente Vineyards and Berkeley Hills Road Races


I didn't plan on doing Wente. 10 hours in the car returning from Utah on Friday and Cat's Hill Saturday weren't optimal prep, but when the new Mr. Cameron Mitchell (just changed his name there, sneaky huh?) said he wanted to race, I felt I had to be supportive. And how convenient, his race started just minutes after mine and we'd only have to get up at 5am to make it. 

Sadly, the women's P12 field has shrunk to a tiny version of its once mighty self, so there we were, just 6 of us lined up to take the start at this awesome NorCal classic. Marissa had Ivy and Christina joining her, making it a trio from JLVelo. Tanya was doing some training for her World's qualifier so she was there for Thirsty Bear. And then Brooke Danaher was a new face, having recently moved back to the Central Valley from Seattle. 

We rolled out along the flat start and already the wind was ripping. With such a small group, there wasn't going to be anywhere to hide. Plus it was cold...in Livermore! We rode tempo the first time over the climb and immediately reduced the group to 3: Tanya, Brooke and me. Two more laps riding around in the wind and I did a little attack after the hard left that leads to the Bump climb. You know the one where you have to slow down and try not to hit the dots, then it goes into a slight uphill. We lost Tanya there, so then it was just me and Brooke. She preferred to sit on, which is slightly annoying but ok. I took some digs on the climbs, testing my legs and seeing if I could tire her out a little. I couldn't remember the last time I'd ridden 60 miles so I wasn't sure that trying to ride away was the best tactic. Then again, my sprint isn't legendary, but I took my chances. We cat and moused it in the last couple Ks leading to the finish, but once the line was in sight - and I heard Mr. Cameron Mitchell yell GOOOOOO - I unleashed my almighty burst of speed and took the win. Afterward, I told Tanya what happened, about how I'd really put down the watts with my blistering sprint, to which Todd added "said Amy never." Thanks honey, I love you too.

Berkeley Hills

The best-laid plans of mice and men...and Mike's Bikes women...well you know the rest. It's bike racing, and things change faster than you can say "gravel in a corner." 

We lined up with a strong squad ready to lay down some serious tactics and set ourselves up for a 1-2 podium at Berkeley Hills Road Race. This wasn't unrealistic considering we comprised almost half the field and have been on a roll this year. All I could think was "this is going to be fun!" What could be better than 70 miles of aggressive, hilly racing with Diana, Sara, Zanna and Mel?

Our best-laid plans went awry early on, as a patch of gravel less than 10 miles in claimed various carbon bike parts and large swaths of skin from Mel, Zanna and Diana. Sara kindly stopped to assist with cleanup, and that left me (lucky and feeling the need to avenge the gravel) rolling on with the now seriously-reduced field, after a quick brake caliper fix. 

Almost everyone else was solo, and I knew attrition was going to be the name of the game from there on out, so my tactic was just to ramp up the pace over each climb to see who we could snap off. On such a windy day, no one was going to be able to re-attach. After 3 laps of this, I was left with Brooke and Eleanor, both of whom seemed pretty content rotating through until the last time up Mama Bear, when I went to the front again to wear them down a bit before the final climb. I felt good, and fairly confident in my uphill sprint, so figured that unless one of them decided to go early, I'd wait until I hit those finishing cones and then hard charge for the line. And that's how it went down. Both waited on me, I chose my spot and sprinted for the line to take it.

The big lesson: bike racing is unpredictable and you often have to do a quick change of strategy. I would have much rather raced with my teammates but it was nice to get the win for them. Many thanks to the Berkeley Bicycle Club and all of the volunteers who put on this beautiful race. Also, the prizes were legit - I won some new wheels! 

Bike racing is serious business

Bike racing is serious business

BHRR podium.jpg

Cat's Hill Classic

Cat’s Hill Classic Criterium - Words by Kortney Parman

It was early in the race season when one of my brothers, Brock, told me he wanted to come see me race my bike- his first time. I was really excited to learn he would be coming west from Atlanta, and looked at the race calendar- I wanted to choose a race which would be spectator friendly with a good turnout. Cat’s Hill is sponsored by Mikes Bikes and is a team race, so I knew it was on my schedule. I’d never raced it before, but I knew that as a crit, it would be spectator friendly.

I did some course recon the morning of, watching my boyfriend race the Cat 3 field, explaining to Brock the race basics and tactics. I lined up with the field, assessing who was there.  I was riding without teammates this race, and I decided who I needed to pay attention to, including the NCNCA Cat 3 Woman leader, Jennifer Wilson of Razzle Dazzle. The race was off and I settled in. The first part of the course is a false flat to approach the famous Cat’s Hill, which was the unknown for me as I’d never ridden it. I shifted into any easy gear and got out of the saddle to take the climb. It’s not an easy effort, but just short enough that I still felt I could punch it.

Early in the race a strong rider from Specialized Muscle Milk, Jamie Erickson, picked up the pace and invited me to join- her goal was to see if she could cause some separation in the field. I pushed with her, but the field stayed together pretty well. Then she had a mechanical, which ended up taking her out of the race.

Haley Nielsen of SheSpoke is a strong sprinter and she went for early primes, which was fine with me as I didn’t want to burn too many matches early on. But in the middle of the race, when I realized that no matter where I was positioned in the peloton at the base of the climb I was capable of summiting Cat’s Hill with the front riders, I decided to put some pressure on the field and pushed the pace a few times, even maintaining a break for half a lap with a few laps to go. I took two mid-race primes.

On the last lap, I was first up Cat’s Hill. My plan was to push really hard on the descent and subsequent small hill, trying to get as much of a gap as I could, and then prepare for the final sprint. Arielle Little of SunPower crested just behind me and then made a well-played attack, which I followed. I felt as long as I stayed with her and was at least 3rd wheel going into the final stretch, I was doing okay. As she, Jennifer, and I came around the final turn, I sprinted. Thankfully I was able to hold my pace to the end and crossed the line first. It was my first win of the season, and I was so thankful for Brock to have been present for it. If he didn’t appreciate my crazy cycling before, I think he does now.


TMBW Early Season Round Up

Words by Melanie Wong

I’m never quite sure how it happens, but time seems to be something that constantly escapes me. It’s like a slow leak - you wake up every morning with a firm grip on the road, but throughout the day you start getting flat to the point where it’s time for bed and you’re still desperately trying to make it to the finish on a ruined rim. Okay - maybe that was a little over-dramatic - but in an effort to make up for lost time, here’s a recap of Team Mikes Bikes Women’s racing.

Land Park Criterium - In which Diana executes to perfection

The field at Land Park was stacked with some of the fastest ladies in Norcal, including sprinters from JL Velo, Jakroo and Specialized Cyclesport. From the gun, it was active with Jakroo raining down attacks and Specialized countering. We wanted to make sure we had a representative in each likely move, but didn’t want to consume too much energy until we had the right composition. Diana and Kortney did an amazing job reading the race and putting in the effort when it really counted. On the final lap, Diana put in a perfectly timed attack to keep the pace high and I muscled my way into 3rd wheel. Rounding the last corner, I popped the clutch and sprinted around for the win.

Bariani Road Race - In which I test the waters

With a new course that included a few short climbs and a field stacked with three riders from Cyclesport Specialized, I knew Bariani was going to be a tough race. Early in the first lap Diana got a flat, so I was left to my own devices, along with a smattering of strong single riders including Ellie Velez, Marissa Axell and Casey Myers. Leading up to the first hill, the Cyclesport Specialized riders started to attack leaving me with no other option but to jump and chase. With the hill approaching I chose to counter-attack one of their moves, which ended up dropping two of the Cyclesport riders and leaving only one rider left from each team - a much more level playing field. All 5 riders worked together for the next couple of laps, pushing to keep the pace up. On the final hill, Ellie jumped and I followed. As we approached the crest of the hill, I attacked around her and pushed through the downhill. With no one on my wheel, I gunned it and finished solo, followed by Ellie and Casey who battled it out for second and third.

Santa Cruz Classic Criterium - In which Kortney attacks and it starts to hail

Santa Cruz is another one of those classics that is on my “must do” list for the season. With a kicker hill and a tight 180 turn, it is a course that has a lot to do with good timing. Although we had clear weather all day at the startline the heavens opened up and it started to rain - no matter, we are made of tougher stuff.  As usual, the Jakroo girls started firing attacks fast and early. My hope was to reserve some energy for the latter half of the race, and Kortney and Diana did a good job covering - even throwing down an attack or two themselves. It started to hail (no really - it was crazy!) and the race went on. By the mid point we had shed about half of the group and I was taking pulls with the remaining single riders. I knew positioning into the final hill would make or break the race so on the final corner I took the inside line and was the first to power up the hill and jumped into the sprint. I could see Evie from Jakroo coming on my outside so I kicked a gear harder and gave it everything I had to power across the line first.

Copperopolis Road Race - In which I practice time trialing

Before this year, I’d only done Copperopolis road race once before in my first year of racing...and I absolutely hated it. With little fitness and less than stellar bike handling skills, I remember getting dropped on the first hill and barely making it across the finish line without crying. While I’ve grown as a rider since then, I showed up to the race expecting a tough day - especially since I don’t really count myself as a climber. On the first hill, Ellie Velez put in a strong attack, which I countered. The field split, but even with 4 riders it was clear there wasn’t much motivation to work together this early in the race, so we regrouped. On lap two, Diana put in a surprise attack on the first hill, which I once again countered. I drilled it to the top of the climb and was surprised to see no one with me. As I started to descend I resolved to keep pressure on the pedals and ride a strong tempo, secretly hoping someone would bridge to join me. However, as the miles wore on - particularly with all the turns and bends in the course - it started to become clear that I needed to settle into time trial mode and prepare for the long haul. I knew if I could reach the final hill solo, I would be in good shape to finish by myself. The miles ticked on and I ate all the food I had, drank copious amounts of water and chased rabbits until I crested the final hill. Rolling across the finish line, I felt exhausted, but triumphant that I had turned the tables on the Copperopolis Road Race.

On the horizon is Redlands and some of my favorite epic Norcal races. See you on the road!

Snelling Race Report

By Melanie Wong

Snelling has always been one of those races on my “hit list” - a classic NorCal course with power climbs, windy false flats and a kicker uphill finish. I’ve been lucky enough to be within the top spots for the past couple years, so I knew the course favored my punchy riding style. However, unlike past years, I didn’t really want to go into the race with an overly formal plan. Chatting casually in the parking with Amy, we had pretty general goals: be active, race hard, conserve when appropriate and be ready to set-up the sprint if it came down to it.

This year the small women’s field had two dominant teams (5 from JL Velo and 4 from Cyclesport Specialized) along with two strong unattached riders. On lap one Sarabeth Liebert (Cyclesport Specialized), rolled away from the field while JL was tempoing at the front. Since it was so early in the race, I wasn’t overly concerned with this escapee, but as the gap widened with no response from JL Velo I became more and more nervous. The Snelling course has many turns in it. Once a rider gets “out of sight, out of mind” it can be hard to bring them back. Halfway through lap 2, with Sarabeth 1 minute up the road, I started to put in small attacks to elevate the pace. Amy countered my attacks and Megan Ruble (Cyclesport Specialized) did the same to try and break away from the field. Bit by bit we pulled back Sarabeth and by the start of lap 3, the group was together, minus 3 JL Velo riders who were dropped.

With the first signs of strain starting to show in the field, Amy threw down laps 3 and 4. When she wasn’t sharing the pacemaking with the Cyclesport Specialized riders, she was attacking the roller hills. All her hard work meant that I could sit in, recover and conserve as much energy as possible. I only countered or attacked when the composition of riders or the terrain made it particularly beneficial. By the end of lap 4 we had dropped two more riders from Cyclesport Specialized, and the remaining members of the field were preparing for the sprint.

Heading into the final, long “L” stretch stretch before the finish, riders were jockeying for position.  We knew I needed to be top 4 going into the final right hand turn, so Amy worked with Megan to keep the pace up, while I sat snugly 3rd wheel. In the final 200m before the turn, Eleanor Velez (Unattached) emerged from the left side of the group to pass Amy and be the first into the turn, taking the outside line. I jumped with her and used the inside line to my advantage to bridge up to her quickly. As I approached her rear wheel, I kicked hard and attacked through her then sprinted the rest of the way to the line.

I can’t say thanks enough to Amy for her incredible amounts of work - it was truly a team effort that out-manned and out-gunned we were still able to pull off the win and finish with sweaty faces, sore muscles, and big smiles.



Team Camp 2018!

I was particularly excited about this team camp, for a couple reasons.  It was going to be in Santa Cruz, my hometown and best city for cycling (in the world?!), our team roster boasted 11 of my favorite cycling friends, and the weather was going to be perfect.

Friday night we all showed up at the host house with bikes spilling out of cars and hugs and chatter all around.   Amy opened up the Equator box and handed around our Equator beanies and bags of fresh coffee.  I handed out the team t-shirts and broke open the box of Gu product for the weekend.  It was the ultimate cyclist partay.  Even the two host house kittens made friends and cautiously investigated the noisy living room.  

Saturday dawned clear and COLD.  After a huge breakfast by our own Melanie (oatmeal, and bacon and scrambled eggs, and baked cinnamon apples!!!) complete with the requisite Equator French presses, we went through the typical layers on and layers off and finally rolled down the hill into the redwood trees and backroads.

Team camp doubled as kitty camp

Team camp doubled as kitty camp


Today’s ride was an iconic 55 mile Santa Cruz classic; Eureka Canyon.   The loop did not disappoint.  After warming up through the trees, and meandering out through town, we hit Corralitos and the base of Eureka with smiles and miles of snacks to go. Some people smashed up the hill, and some rode casually to take in the views, but by the time we rounded up at the top of Soquel-San Jose Rd, everyone had logged a decent leg beating at some point or another.  Lunch was equally epic and dinner soon followed.  We tried to go mini-golfing but the Boardwalk had rented the golf course out to a “private event”.

Always time for mid-ride selfies

Always time for mid-ride selfies

Day 2 was intended to be a team day, with a flat route to facilitate rotating and team work.  After our team picture in our beanies and tees, we took the scenic route past East Cliff, to take in the ocean breeze and views of Monterey, before heading to the flatlands of South County.  Along San Andreas, we hammered out a team time trial, staggering two teams to add an element of racing.  At the turn around point, it was time to head home, as the miles of smiles was taking a toll.  Rolling back smoothly, we climbed the brutal 4 minute, 15% hill to the host house, and collapsed around the table for a late lunch. 

Beach day!

Beach day!

2018 Grasshopper Adventure Series: Old Caz


The first Grasshopper of the series, Old Caz is always a mighty wake-up call that the season of bikes has officially begun. This wake-up call isn't of the gentle iPhone alarm variety though. No, for me it's usually more like a punch in the gut or a bucket of cold water straight to the face. "AMY, it's time to get serious," it yells. "Pfft," I scoff, "notice my lack of fitness, these knobby tires I'm riding and this goofy grin on my face. Clearly serious isn't my plan. Plus, JANUARY."

This year Jennifer, Sara and I joined 680 of our closest friends for the 20th anniversary of this "race," which always attracts some serious hitters on the men's and women's side. Sara was rocking her FS MTB, and asked about a Camelbak (her chill factor was sky high). Jen has a Stigmata that matches mine, but she probably rides it as much as I do. At least we all looked really good!

Climb, descend (keep your mouth closed), group up with some others, climb, descend, shove in some food, climb, refill bottles, descend, slosh across the creek, climb, roll for a bit, climb, DONE. See, wasn't that easy? Well yes and no. I couldn't help but be awed by the gorgeous day we got to enjoy. The area around Occidental is just insanely beautiful and every time I'm up there I'm thankful we get to ride around like kids in such a great area. The race itself forces you to go into the red from the gun, right up the Coleman climb, so nothing about it is particularly easy. This was my first year riding my Santa Cruz Stigmata CC, though, and it definitely made a difference. Plus I've been riding dirt a little bit more than usual, so I was a *wee bit* faster downhill this year (don't laugh). 

For me, Old Caz is all about the experience: seeing a bunch of friends at reg and on the start line, riding a stunning course, laughing at my own misadventures and those of others, getting really dirty, embracing the punch to the gut. The season of bikes is officially here my friends, and I couldn't be happier! See you at Chileno...