Travelling circus

November 30, 2006

by Melanie
I feel like a travelling circus traversing the east coast from North Carolina to Gloucester,MA with Kona tent and Velo Bella banner packed tight and four bikes on the roof. This season I’ve logged over 4,000 miles DRIVING all up and down the east coast for the sake of the thrill of a 40min race and hanging out with the Bellas, and I love it.

So I skipped Thanksgiving dinner with the family due to the passing storm which you all had in Portland the week before. Friday the skies cleared up and the sun was shining for the 8 hour drive to Sterling, MA for a classic Tom Steven’s New England style course. I had to see firsthand the log pile climb-up that “Scout” kept talking about in NC. Tried to calm Scout a little bit because she kept going on about how she never does well on this course of grass with crazy steep run-up and stomach-in-mouth drop-of-a-hill into this four foot high log-pile-steeplechase-like-thing….Turned out she had an awesome race and now can’t say it’s her worst course anymore since she had a rock solid, impressive ride.

Anna and I both hoped for better results as each of us ended up riding solo in no-man’s land.


After the race Judd and I packed up the tent and hit the road to head to Maryland for the local Wash DC area championship race. Arrived at midnight, washed some of the mudd off the wheels in the hotel bathtub, and went to bed. Legs were feeling a little tired from the time-trial the day before but once the gun went off for Sunday’s race, the legs felt fine. I really wanted to win the local cx bragging rights since I just missed out on winning the local series. So from the start I made a mad dash for the first turn and tried to increase my lead with every lap, just in case something should happen like a flat or mechanical or a fall. Although I did get taken down by some course tape towards the end of the race, I was able to force myself to stand up and accelerate out of corners and dig deep on the road sections in an attempt to not let my competitors gain time on me in these areas. Ended up finishing with the win. Mission accomplished.

A hometown race this weekend. Then the final trek of the year back up to New England. Looking forward to seeing all you Bellas at Nats.

November 25-26

November 28, 2006

Central Coast Cyclocross Series #3–Prunedale, CA
5th, Ann Fitzsimmons, Elite Women
2nd, Soni Andreini Poulsen, Women B
2nd, Kathleen Bortolussi, Women 35+
6th, Amy Abele, Women 35+
11th, Betty Jordan, Women 35+

Jingle Cross Rock, IA
7th, Karla Kingsley, Elite Women

And once, when I went to Kona Headquarters…

November 27, 2006

By Alex Burgess

A few weeks ago I travelled to Seattle for the fifth round of the US Grand Prix of Cyclocross and decided to make a quick pit stop at Kona Headquarters in Ferndale, WA. Not knowing the trip would take a total 4 hours roundtrip from SeaTac airport, I figured it would be nice to see where our frames come from and the folks taking care of us.

Kona is located on a side highway about 110 miles north of Seattle a few miles off of Puget Sound in a pretty town called Ferndale. The geniuses designing and selling our frames are housed in a non-descript warehouse with a couple of offices and all one needs to throw a fantastic party. There are two stoves, a coffee maker, and espresso maker, fuseball table, pool table, basketball net, ski boat, showers and A LOT OF BIKES!

Entering the front door, one sees years and years of memorabilia from world champions to national champions in many cycling disciplines. One also sees more bumper stickers and anarchist propoganda than one would normally in the average place of business, but hey, it’s Kona… A stereo connected to an Ipod pumps out a wide variety of tunes including everything from Dance Hall reggae, funk, folk punk, house and other styles of chemical-infused music.

Dale, Sarah, Ruth and Cory all work the phones in this area and sell Kona products to dealers all across the US. Dale and Cory tried to explain their sales territories to me, but I quickly got confused as they each have states all over the place and certainly someone was enjoying some good Washington micro-brew when the territories were drawn-up.

The Road team swung by the headquarters a few months ago on their way to British Columbia for races and signed one of our jerseys for the entire office. The jersey is located right next to the front door and one can’t help but see our glorious colors as soon as one walks through the door. No wonder everyone was smiling!

Just to the right of the front door sits our venerable ally and all around cheerleader/supporter, Mark Peterson. Mark has worked at Kona for almost 11 years and done everything from selling to marketing to shipping to barbecuing, and now heads worldwide team sponsorship. Mark is the guy who approached us a year ago about sponsoring the organization and has been instrumental in encouraging Kona to incorporate our design change requests into their Lisa line of women’s bikes. Mark also encouraged Dan and Jake (Co-owners) to include the Velo Bella logo on all 2007 Lisa frames/bikes. Thanks Mark!

At first I was a little taken aback at how small the office was and thought to myself, “this is it?” Well, like Alex in Wonderland (work with me), all I had to do was open a camoflaged door in the back left to see where the rubber meets the road (so to speak).

I have never seen so many bikes in all of my life. Boxes piled three and four high full of frames and components. Stacks of shirts, jerseys, pedals, forks and all manner of cycling gadgetry, the Kona warehouse was impressive to say the least.

Bre, Trevor, Dennis and Ed are the ones who make sure your frames have all the bits and pieces they are supposed to, as well as sending you all the items you’ve ordered from Kona. They are in the process of bringing the warehouse into the 21st century with a new barcoding, scanning and inventory management system and I found them hard at work drinking coffee and preparing to prepare to move boxes from end of the great hall to the other. Ed was a little shy, but Bre, Trevor and Dennis were kind enough to pose for this photo.

All in all, my visit to Kona was fantastic. I really enjoyed meeting Ruth (who I speak to all the time on the phone) and Cory (who is responsible for much of the midwest including my local Kona dealer), as well as the rest of the team there. Definitely a happy group who clearly love creating and selling bikes. Not a bad gig! The drive back to Seattle along the coast helped me understand why they love living here so much. Breath taking…

Thanks everyone! We love our Kona bikes and hope to see you all at some races soon…

Velo Bella – Kona Crushes NC!

November 27, 2006

By Dee Dee “Grasshopper” Winfield

This was my first venture into the southeast for racing this year and I was very pleased with the course venue, organization, and experience as a whole. I have previously participated in some of Tim Hopkin’s races and pretty much had a similar feeling about them as I did this weekend. Buck and I arrived late Friday night after dropping Cadence off with my parents whom I owe many thanks for watching her on so many occasions so I can race my bike.

Saturday a.m. we had breakfast with some friends from Charlottesville who happened to be in the area for some nearby mountain biking adventures. We arrived at the race venue a little later than usual. The Kona tent was set up and Steph and Mel were there. We rode the course a few times between races (ssshhh. Don’t tell anyone!), picking lines, analyzing which were better, how to navigate this turn, etc.

We lined up at the start, and I started peeling off layers wondering if I would be warm enough. I thought to myself, if you get cold, just ride harder. The gun goes off, no warning, just blam, the race is on. I hit the grass first but can feel the breath of the riders on my neck knowing that one mistake could be completely detrimental. I remember riding close to the red zone wondering who was behind me, how long they would be there and always the question what will I do if this comes to a sprint finish.

Then the gap formed and Buck was giving me updates, your lead is increasing, keep pushing. I could see Mel gaining on 2nd place by leaps and bounds and thought she might catch her. She ended up with a great finish in 3rd place not far behind 2nd. Stephanie unfortunately had gone down in a crash but worked hard and didn’t lose her poise coming in 10th.

We all had a great dinner together Saturday night, laughing and chatting like we had known one another for years. This was followed up by a trip to the fudge shop next door with the best chocolate truffles I have ever eaten! Don’t tell Alex!

Sunday’s start was very similar only today I put it in my big ring, realizing yesterday I had failed to do so the entire race. I got the hole shot but Amy was right on me. She stayed with me for about 1.5 laps but when we hit the windy road section I punched it to see what happened. It was pretty windy out and I figured if I could get a gap I could keep it. So, I shifted down, stood up and “jammed it”, 20 feet, 30 feet, sweet.

The wind was pretty heavy here and without the draft, I had a small gap on her. She was still coming on strong so I had to keep my focus, keep the heart rate up and increase the gap. Heading into the woods, I gave my big ring some love and then pushed really hard up the woody climb. The course had many turns but most were wide and you could keep a lot of momentum coming through them. This is an area I am working on so it was great practice. I was able to keep the rubber side down and get up the “wall” each time on my bike. Mel wasn’t feeling it but still came in 5th and Steph had another misfortune having rolled her tubular. Note to self, always use more glue that you think is necessary…

It was another weekend of great racing and good times with the teammates. I am looking forward to Thanksgiving and getting the opportunity to do a local race with some friends and family in attendance!

Keep crushin’, VB!

And my Cross Season Comes to an End

November 27, 2006

By Shannon “Crazy Momma” Holden

Last weekend was the last 2 races in the USGP series and my first time racing on the national Cross scene. I was also super excited to meet the rest of the girls since I hadn’t been to any of the races with them yet.

Saturdays course was pretty straight forward except a good run up. The rest was a lot of flats with a small fun decent and the course was dry. I was most nervous about the start, even though I race mountain bikes I was just freaked about that many women taking off all at once. And let me tell you I had white nuckles for the first 400 meters. After that I saw Ann Knapp in front of me and I grabed her rear wheel. I was able to follow her up the run up and then she ditched me.

I didn’t really feel very smooth Saturday I botched all my mounts and dismounts loosing precious time. I t was pretty cool to have teammates out there with me. With 2 laps to go I decided I should get aggresive, with my familiy, friends, and Alex yelling at me on the side lines I was getting pumped. Probably a little to0 pumped because my front wheel slid out from under me on a tight corner and I went down hard. All I remember was Alex yelling at me to get up and my first thought was how long had I been laying there. Well long enough to lose 4 places. My KONA Queen Ann and SRAM Rival shifters took the hit pretty good and kept going.

I love my bike so much I forgot to switch it out when I realized the shifters were twisted. I hit pretty hard which left some marks on me for Sunday. I never did manage to get back in the race mentally and decided not to clip out for the next trip through the barriers leading to a face plant. This also did not help with my race. All in all I wasn’t very pretty pleased with my first big race; I knew I could do better and Alex helped remind me of that later in the evening at host housing.

I woke up Sunday morning with my knee swollen so bad I couldn’t bend it. I worked some of the swelling out and felt otherwise pretty good. When we arrived at the course in Portland it was a mud pit. I don’t get to ride in the mud much so I was actually pretty excited. My nerves were really kicking in before the start, I thought at one point I was going to throw up. I guess I really wanted to do better then Saturday and was nervous as all get out.

My start was not any better than the day before, still timid and freaked out. Once I got ahold of myself I hammered to get my placing before the mud. I was actually riding really well and pushed hard on the straights. I feel like I am at a wall with racing and I just need to break through this wall and I would really start to race faster. It happened to me in college when I raced Cross country running, I was at the 20 minute mark for the longest time then one race I got mad and really pushed eventhough I thought I would die. After that I was racing in the 18minutes. That is where I am with cycling I just need to break through the wall.

I felt myself starting push it down on Sunday, realizing I can push harder than I thought and maintain. So maybe the next race I can start that hard and maintain the entire race. So all of us girls were covered in mud but I was still able to tell when I came up on Anna. I was so excited to have someone to work with. She switched out bikes, which was smart. I really should have switched and had them clean it off so I could switch back out then next lap. We pushed for awhile, but I lost her wheel when my husband gave me some bad advice and I ran down the downhill.

One of the best parts of the race was my sister with Noah (my son) on her back running all over the course cheering me on. I love having family and friends cheering for me. So I worked hard to finish out the race and I got 26th. Better than yesterday but not where I want to be. I had so much adrenaline in my body I didn’t even know my knee hurt from yesterday until I got off of my bike and almost fell.

So a great weekend of racing and I was so happy to meet the rest of the team. I learned alot this weekend about cross racing and think that my next race at the national level will be even better!! So racing is over for me for the season, thanks to all who have read my race reports this year and cheered me on. You will hear from me again in March. Have a wonderful winter and happy riding!!

Thanks to all our sponsors and to everyone at VB-K that makes it possible for me to race!!!

The Thanksgiving CX Report:

November 27, 2006

By Anna “Trees” Milkowski

Focus is essential in bike racing. It’s how we set goals and pursue them, and how we balance training, travel, and racing with working full-time, raising kids, being a student, and managing the rest of life, with all its predictabilities and unpredictabilities. For many of us, focus involves tradeoffs and periods of blindness to some of the things that demand our attention: times when calls to relatives, errands, non-urgent projects at work or school, time with friends, and house projects get ignored and delayed, with the expectation that there will be a balloon of time at some point to catch up. We are all masters of life triage, and without focus, we would be lost. But sometimes, focus results in a nearsightedness that doesn’t necessarily fuel the racing, or much else.

When I flew to Portland last weekend for the USGP races, the trip felt like the final leg of the decathlon of a long pre-vacation stretch that had run me ragged. On Friday, I took an exam and jumped on the plane for the cross-country flight, beginning a weekend played out in a haze of fatigue and misplaced perspective. I raced mediocrely both days, but what’s more, I came closer to the bratty and spoiled athlete than ever before: the athlete who is tough on herself, demanding of others, selfish, and who most importantly, fails to see the joy in what she is doing (though I did quite like the epic mud on Sunday). Thanksgiving could not have come at a better time, offering a chance to sleep and take stock. At risk of sounding cliché, thanks for:

Health: There is nothing like being injured or ill to remind me how much racing means to me. As hardy as we seem, our health is fickle. If we could always be fueled by that energizing gratitude and jubilance of a return to health and competition, how much better off would we be?

Community: Most of us exist in a host of worlds, but typically the more involved we become with racing, the more racing becomes our community. It’s a question of time in that racing consumes time previously dedicated to other things, and one of perspective, that the more goal-oriented we become, the more we come to feel that what’s most dear to us is best understood by our companions in bike racing. I flew across the country to be greeted at the airport by a most jovial crew of Alex, Mike, and Tim, all there purely for love of sport. They extend themselves for us to no end. At races, our festive Velo Bella tent belays the unity of purpose in team. We are welcomed into host homes, helped by our “competitors”, advised by teammates, cheered by family and friends, supported by sponsors, invited to share the knowledge we’ve acquired, and bolstered by the interest and admiration of grass-roots athletes. In the age of Bowling Alone, of lives lived on the Internet, how lucky are we?

Sponsors: Sponsors come in many forms, and athletes writing race reports sometimes balk at making plugs. But what if a plug is sincere? Few of us could afford to race at this level were it not for the sponsorship we receive. This year I’m racing on the best equipment, no ifs, ands, or buts: Kona bikes, SRAM drive train, Easton wheels and fork, Sella San Marco saddles, Crankbrothers pedals, Chris King headsets, and Vanderkitten and Patagonia clothing. How can you beat that? It is stuff, but it’s also a measure of confidence in you, a trust that you will deliver and that you will represent with poise.

After a week of sleeping and de-caffeinating, of allowing myself to feel tired finally, I returned to New England yesterday for round 5 of the New England Verge Series. I drove up with a dear friend with whom I used to always carpool to races and had regrettably slipped out of touch. I hadn’t raced in New England since the middle of October – far too long ago for this hometown racer who draws a huge amount of strength from the local scene. This year I’ve done a lot of racing across the country, representing but also doing a fair amount of anonymous racing. Here I was on my former coach Tom Stevens’s deluxe course, in a race sponsored by my first and still-beloved cycling team, with family and friends there to cheer. Teammates Stephanie and Melanie were there in the blue and pink, racing with typical zeal. My legs seemed to have stayed home on the day, but the race featured an unexpected reward: someone told me I had raced the whole race smiling.

Thanks to all, for everything including bearing with me. Let’s have a fantastic rest of the cross season!


November 18-19

November 20, 2006

Bay Area Super Prestige Cyclocross Series #4, Golden Gate Park, CA
9th, Andi Mackie, Elite Women
12th, Troy Watson, Elite Women
9th, Soni Andreini Poulsen, Women B
13th, Katrina Loera, Women B
3rd, Nicole Bumbaca, Women C
19th, Rebecca Dyas, Women C
2nd, Kathleen Bortolussi, Women 35+
8th, Amy Abele, Women 35+
10th, Betty Jordan, Women 35+
11th, Mary Hoover, Women 35+

North Carolina Grand Prix #1, NC
1st, Dee-Dee Winfield, Elite Women
3rd, Melanie Swartz, Elite Women
10th, Stephanie White, Elite Women

North Carolina Grand Prix #2, NC
1st, Dee-Dee Winfield, Elite Women
5th, Melanie Swartz, Elite Women

Rad Cup, USGP #5, WA
9th, Sarah Kerlin, Elite Women
21st, Erin Kassoy, Elite Women
22nd, Anna Milkowski, Elite Women
30th, Shannon Holden, Elite Women

Stumptown Cup, USGP #6, OR
12th, Sarah Kerlin, Elite Women
20th, Erin Kassoy, Elite Women
22nd, Anna Milkowski, Elite Women
26th, Shannon Holden, Elite Women
32nd, Ann Fitzsimmons, Elite Women
37th, Marian Jamison, Elite Women

The NW Inland Series Queen!

November 14, 2006

By Shannon “Crazy Momma” Holden

I have been fighting this upper respitory cold all week, and really have been having some troubles getting my workouts in. Saturday morning came along, I didn’t feel much better than the rest of the week, but I decided I would race to get points for the series. So the course is a lot of road with a huge sand area which was ever changing throughout the race. In one spot if you took a good line you could power through, otherwise you were running.

The run up was on a non-existant trail on the side of a hill. We take off at the start and since I didn’t feel good I sat in. After the first run up I passed the girl in first and made my way from there. I was able to find lines through the sand everytime so it was a big advantage to me. It was my first race on the Q-rings, they felt really good. It wasn’t unitil the last lap that I felt like being sick all week hit me. I managed to pull out a huge win. So I was really happy, unfortunately I coughed for the next hour until my ribs hurt.

Sunday was a whole different story. I actually felt a little better as far as my cold went My legs were a little tired but I felt strong. Ready to give it my all I wanted take the lead from the start and hammer hard to get away. So the gun went off I made it about 10 pedal strokes off of the start and I hear this terrible noise and my bike came to a hault. I had caught a branch in my rear wheel and my rear derailluer got wrapped around it tearing off my derailluer hanger. I was so bummed because I just had spare wheels not a bike and I needed to at least place second to win the series. Lucky for me I am in pretty good with the juniors up here, one of the mom’s came over and said I could borrow one of the girls’ spare bikes. So I ran my clean beautiful, featherweight 54″ KONA and traded it in for a 42″ Redline tank. Yes I looked like a circus clown on this bike.

I was 2 minutes behind the other girls and I took off ripping around the course. I had to ride out of the saddle because I didn’t really fit otherwise and yes this did pose some issues. Mounting a way too small bike can prove to be rather odd and I landed on the rear tire. I made up quite a bit of time on the girls I had gotten a minute back by 1/2 way, but I had blown up my quads and my back. I managed to work my way into third place before feeling like my legs were going to blow. I just couldn’t get anything else out of them the last 2 laps.

The cool thing is I found out I can hammer out of the saddle for good 50 minutes before they blow and I got to race. I ended up tied for 1st place in the series ( that was with missing 1 race) but they gave it to the girl that won today. So now I have to be really nice to my husband to see if he can fix my bike for next weeks US Grand Prix.

Happy riding.
Shannon Holden

Strong Showing for Velo Bella-Kona Mud-Squad in the Mid-Atlantic

November 14, 2006

By Melanie “Wrong Way” Swartz

Strong Showing for Velo Bella-Kona Mud-Squad in the Mid-Atlantic

Saturday was one of the hottest days of the Mid-Atlantic series with temps in the 70s and sunny.

Power was the name of the game at the Lower Allen Classic in Harrisburg, PA with a course that was predominantly grass with quite a few tacky off-camber turns, one sandpit traversed twice, and a long uphill gravel-asphalt mix road finish all handled perfectly with our fantastic Easton Circuit tubular wheels. Diedre’s power prevailed as she steadily put time between herself and 2nd place, further securing her position as the Mid-Atlantic series leader.

“Wrong Way” Swartz rode-hard to try to regain places she lost after a tumble in the sand-pit on the first lap, but regaining contact with the top-5 meant she lost a few more spots to a very respectable 9th place finish. Junior rider, Stephanie White, had a strong start but suffered a mechanical. Winfield, 1st. Swartz, 9th.

Sunday was a very different day with cool temps, rain, and lots of mud at Thompson Park in Jamesburg, NJ. The Velo Bella-Kona east coast squad showed why they are called the Mudders as they finished four in the top eight. The team relied on their experience and the flawless SRAM shifting to get around in the muddy conditions. For each racer, persevance and patience was the key since the conditions weren’t suited for speed like the day before. Winfield and Swartz rounded out the podium for 2nd and 3rd, Milkowski and White close behind in 6th, 8th respectively.

This weekend the east coast squad heads south to North Carolina for the North Carolina Grand-Prix UCI C2 double header in Hendersonville, NC, while most of the team congregates on the west coast for the final two rounds of the US Grand Prix of Cylcocross sponsored by the always awesome Crank Brothers. Thanks Christina (and Lance)!

A few articles in the mass media highlighted our sucess:

Saturday’s race:

Sunday’s race:

November 11-12

November 13, 2006

Lower Allen Classic/MACC #4, PA
1st, Dee-Dee Winfield, Elite Women
9th, Melanie Swartz, Elite Women
22nd, Alicia Styer, Women B

Highland Park Cyclocross/MACC #5, NJ
2nd, Dee-Dee Winfield, Elite Women
3rd, Melanie Swartz, Elite Women
6th, Anna Milkowski, Elite Women
8th, Stephanie White, Elite Women

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