Melting Mann – Vandalia, MI

March 20, 2016

Melting Mann – A spring gravel road race in Vandalia, MI.

1st, Monica Tory, Women 40-49 (32 mile) (& 3rd, Women overall)

In the home stretch at Melting Mann!

In the home stretch at Melting Mann!

Teammates are What it’s All About!

April 28, 2014

(Here is Sue’s report from the Fort Ord Circuit Race)

The older I get, the less I feel like driving to a race.  So, I figured a race literally in my backyard was a good enough reason to consider racing.  The deciding factor was when Christina Hashimoto, VB Jr racer extraordinaire , said she wanted to race the event.  OK, now I’m in!  I figured the race promoters would put all the women together and they did.  Hot damn, I get to race with the 4’s and help Christina in her 4’s race.

 There were 6 Master women and approx. 15 CAT 4 women along with 3 CAT 1/2/3 all racing together.  On lap 2 of the circuit, the peloton was reduced to a strong field representing all the categories.  Having Christina in the race forced me to not to slum in the back of the peloton which is my habit.  I kept her in the front 1/3 the entire race and she stuck to my wheel like bees to honey.  She marked every move like a veteran and climbed with confidence.

Since no one could get away on the short windy climb, the race was going to come down to the slightly uphill sprint finish.  I shared with Christina where the best positioning was in the final corner and where to start her sprint.  I got her positioned right and lead her out the sprint.  She finished 3rd in her CAT 4 race and I sprinted to a first place in the old ladies category.

What made this race SO much fun was racing with Christina.  I think I was more excited that she was after the race!  I knew she could stick on the climbs because I see it every weekend when I train with her.  So, it is positioning and learning how to read a race that she is gaining valuable experience in by doing these local races.podium3

Seeing Christina’s smile on the podium was the culmination to an awesome day.


Bellas=Teamwork=Championship Jerseys

June 1, 2013

(Here is Andrea’s report on the Bellas win in the Northern California/Nevada Team Trial Championships in the 35+ category, held in Davis CA at the Steve Dunlap Memorial Time Trial):

I finished my warmup, zipped up my skinsuit, donned my aero gear and headed to the start.
I was ready.  Prepared, fit, warmed up, pysched.  Except I had to pee.  But we were lining up for the start
in 3 minutes.  Not enough time to execute the skinsuit-porto-potty gymnastics required.  I rolled up to my
teammates, and realized I had left my water bottle at the car.  It's Davis.  It's hot.  It's windy.  I need 
water.  With T minus 3 minutes I sprinted to my car through the dirt and gravel.  I couldn't believe they were 
starting us in a gravel driveway!!  I grabbed my bottle, hopped on my bike, and then decided I DID have time to 
take a "natural break."  I meandered over to the park bathrooms, and did my thing, taking time to wash my hands 
thoroughly with soap and water.  As I was scrub-scrub-scrubbing, I could hear the officials calling our team.  
EEEEEKKKK!!  I'm gonna miss the start!!!  I ran out of the bathroom, hopped on my bike, and started pedaling as 
fast as I could back through the gravel.  And then I woke up....     When I realized it was just a bad dream, 
I got out of bed, ate breakfast, packed my gear and drove to Davis, where they DID park us in a gravel lot!!   

When Liz texted me last week about joining her in a 4 person team, I immediately blurted out, "Heck no!"  
Actually I used a different word, but it is very bad.  After my knee jerk reaction, I allowed myself to 
consider it.  Hmmmmmm...let's see.  A few years back at the Pinole 2 person TTT, I was taking a pull on a 
slight uphill grade at a heart rate of 183 when Liz rolled by me and said, "Here!  Get on my wheel and 
recover.  The big climbs are coming up!!"  I dropped in behind her and drafted.  My heart rate dropped to 181 
and never came down.  And the real nightmare was the 4 person TTT on Altimont where I contributed to our losing 
the district championship to the other team by 8 seconds.  Even though I tried to forget it, I keep thinking, 
"if they'd only cut me loose sooner!!!'  Both times I practically barfed.  One of those times I cried.     
Then my inner coach kicked in and convinced me to consider the positives:  it would be great practice for 
Sattley, maybe I would learn something by TT'ing with other women who are strong, I'm more fit this year, I 
have aero equipment, and IT'S FLAT!!!!!!     I'm in.  And excited.  Maybe we can get the medal and cool 
Champ jersey!!   Leading up to the race I was relaxed and in "the zone."  Heidi called me just as I was 
exiting I-80.  She said she was lost.  She had just exited I-80 too, so it was easy to find her.  The highly 
visible Golden Arches served as our landmark.  Note to self:  purchase ice cold Coke on way home.  We 
arrived, checked in and warmed up.  I took care of all my pre-race routines with plenty of time to spare and 
carried my bike across the gravel to the PAVED road where the start was.     The first half of the race was 
glorious.  Flat, warm, and fast.  I took some solid pulls, and even felt that I could go faster, faster, 
faster!!  But Yvonne and Liz had warned us to reserve energy for the last half, which was into a strong 
headwind.  Making the turn to the North, Liz took the first pull into the wind.  I was on her wheel.  Heart 
rate:  181.  Oh No!     "EASE!" I cried.  She did.  All this time I'm worried that the Velo Girls are gaining. 
Must keep pushing.  Must keep pushing.  When my turn at the front came, I rotated straight to the back.   
Recover, recover, recover. Recover?  OMG!  These girls are STRONG.  We got a respite when we took a jog to 
the East.  But in a short while we were on the final headwind leg to the finish. Again I had to ask for the 
pace to ease and I began to wonder where the Gosh Darn finish line was.  Finally, we could see it in the 
distance.  We pushed hard.  We finished strong, all together, and I didn't quite throw up after crossing the 
line.  I waited to be sure no Velo Girls showed up within the start gap.  We were safe!  WE WON!!!   We 
waited a while for the podium, which was not big enough for teams of 4, but we managed, with 3 on top and 
Heidi mugging for the camera on the lower step:
District Champs!
We got water bottles, T-shirts, medals, money and NCNCA Champion socks, plus the link to order fancy State 
Champ kits!! Gold Medals!

It was a great day, with great teamwork, and it felt bad in a good way.  Or good in a bad way.   Thanks to
Yvonne for orchestrating this, to Heidi for her natural ability and sheer willpower, and to Liz for renting 
my legs rather than ripping them off!   In fact, other than ALMOST blacking out once and ALMOST puking once 
during the race, the only other negative is that the socks were too big: Podium pup modeling medal and socks.
They really DO extend several inches out in front of her.  We REALLY need to talk to the Sock Guy about 

 Thanks for reading,


Conquering Mt. Hamilton

May 26, 2013

(Here is Liz’s report from her win at the Norcal/Nevada State Masters RR Championship):

Hi Girls,

Cammy and I raced the Calaveras TT the day before.  Cammy was smokin’ she is really the queen of the road!

Mt. Hamilton had to be the toughest race I have done in a while.  I had to think how I was going to outfox Leslie, and had to put time into her on the climb so she wouldn’t pass me on the 5 mile tricky descent off the summit.

As we climbed Hamilton the herd thinned….I think the 60+ gang was gone early, and we had 2 thirstybears, Jane Despas, Jennie Phillips, Cammy, Leslie and Tracy Lillig who was having shifting issues.  Jane and the bears went up the road, I stayed with Jennie and Leslie,  at some point Jennie pulled ahead when I was on Leslie’s wheel, and then I closed the gap with Leslie in tow.  Next time that happened I told Leslie “we need to stay with her 3 is better than 2, she worked a bit, then I came around her hard, latched onto Jennie, who set a fierce tempo.  Leslie was now gone, but I had to keep going since I knew she would fly down the hill like a banshee.   At one point when it was just the 3 of us, I was trying to eat a power gel chomp—I think I was munching on that for a couple switchbacks, and realized I had no energy for chewing, I patooied it and it bounced off one of the other gal’s  wheel.  She didn’t see it but I thought it funny.

Jennie was all for giving Leslie the business, and helped me up the climb.

I knew at the summit that I couldn’t keep up with Jennie on the descent, so rode within myself, and did the friggin’ longest time trial to the finish, kept consistent power, suffered mightily.  “I’m NEVER doing this race again” went through my fried brain.   Got  a wonderful, cold bottle at the feed from Andrea.  Soooo good to see her at the feed!

Was happy to see the 1k  then 200m, and Wayne.

It will take me about a year to consider doing THAT again.

Many thanks to Andrea,  who was full on cheerleader at the feed zone, and lent us a podium pup!


Firsts are Special

May 10, 2013

(This is an essay by Christina Hashimoto on her first experience bike racing.  She is a 14 year old Velo Bella and this is what she wrote about racing at Sea Otter this year…..)

Sea Otter Classic, my first cycling race, was a great experience to start racing,although I did not realize how large of an event I was attending. I had the opportunity to see other cyclists from other states and young kids similar to myself, who were enjoying working together as a team to achieve their goals. Not knowing anyone I was racing against, I found others who were similar in speed to me who I drafted off and worked with which ended up being a great first experience. The Road Race was different from the Circuit Race because our group split up into many small groups. Practicing the course before the Road Race had helped me very much so I knew what to expect.A motorcycle led our group and I found a group of girls to draft off. On the last hill approaching the finish line, everyone was tired. The girl racing closest to me had helped pace me at a good speed andwas tired on the last hill. I passed her and almost caught up to another girl farther ahead. This girl and I ended up racing to the finish linewhere she finished just two seconds ahead of me. I had a great experience on the twenty-three mile road race. I had great support from my family, friends, and spectators throughout the race which was encouraging. I not only learned a lot about racing, but the race helped me understand what cyclists havebeen teaching me. I had an opportunity to see teams work together and to see kids close to my own age racing, although I wasone of the youngest.At the end of my race, we saw the junior boys Road Race finish which was amazing to watch.Racing at the Sea Otter Classic was an experience I will never forget and I hope to race again in the future.

Other than racing, seeing all of the road bikes was a fun experience, and seeing the different types of bikes was amazing. I enjoyed watching the varieties of mountain biking and the incredible things that people were doing with the bikes. Seeing the junior group was very exciting because I am used to riding with adults who are very helpful and supportive; a special thank you to Gordon and Sue Martine and the Velo Bella group. They have helped me get to where I am now, and I thank everyone for their help. Attending this huge event, I saw lots of awesome things, but participating in races at the Sea Otter Classic was the most exciting and memorable cycling experience.

Brains, Power, and Teamwork

March 12, 2013

(Here’s the Race Report from the Madera Stage Race 2013 as told by Cammy, the overall Women 35+ GC winner)…..

We repeated our Bella 2012 Madera County Stage Race GC win with an added bonus result, but it was a squeaker, and not without drama in the RR!

Criterium – the usual course, temperatures and time bonuses. The usual plan, too, except I could not resist trying a breakaway move following the final time bonus prime. Waited for all the contenders to slow up and then hit it, got off the front for only one lap before getting reeled in and settling in for the remainder of the race. Linda and Adrea strung out the group on the last lap to keep it safe and Sue shepherded Liz and me to line with the front group.  Chapeau to Amy Russo for a beautiful sprint win and to Andi Smith who kept the race animated and exciting.

Won the TT by 11.5  seconds over Kim – obviously she had a super ride. Very grateful that none of us were nailed by the big fuzzy bees in the air. Liz close behind along with a number of ladies who have clearly been working on their TT! Bad luck for national record holder MaryAnn Levinson who flatted a solid kilo or so into the race – she was running back to the start – if it had been me I would not have had the legs to restart.

I probably shocked the field by actually riding smart (for a change) in the and RR – thanks to all the Bellas for their strategizing and support. The Bellas were indeed superb in the RR – and there was a fair amount of action. Andrea, Linda and Sue chased the right moves and led through key sections and giving me no reason to put my nose in the wind. With ~10K to go on the broken pavement section Liz shot to the front, cranked up and maintained such a high pace that no attacks could go. And it went on… and on… and on… I sat on her wheel wondering how she could possibly last for another second and the watts just kept pouring out of her.  I  was well rested for the final 2K, and now at the front accelerating over the final rollers. Then the inevitable – the sound of acceleration to the left; I was watching the riders in  2nd and 3rd place GC like a hawk and marking them versus risking a move for the stage placing that could have cost the GC win if it had gone wrong. Sue got the right wheel – Jennie Phillips – and sprinted around for the win, nabbing the 30  sec time bonus – what a fabulous result! Jennie took second and then Jen Jordan third. I was on Kim’s wheel and the GC was in the bag. Liz held on to the tail of the now fractured peloton to grab 6th place GC – the rest of the field finished 52 sec  back of our little lead group.

So very proud of the Bellas! It was a terrific day!


Bella Fashion–Podium Style

September 9, 2012

Liz Benishin reports:

Mt Bachelor RR Masters Women 55-59
USAC Masters Road Championships

52 miles
Wayne and I drove and studied the course, and pre rode the final hill.  Unfortunately the wind shifted on race day so my plans had to be modified, I assumed tailwind on climb and headwind on the 180 into the finish.  Aaaaaah, the best laid plans.
We started with a neutral promenade down the hill.  Wide open and not too steep but the Moto kept the pace down, but it still was reasonable, not riding my brakes or anything.  We essentially were neutral for about 8 miles till the turn off on a rolling road.  The 60 yo men’s group soon passed us, not sure why they started them 5 minutes after us.
There was one small climb at about mile 30 but the group stayed together.  There was one attack just before the climb which I was in position to do about 10 hard pedal strokes and jump on. Since it was Arrietta the TT machine I didn’t want to let her go plus now I was getting a good tug going into the hill.  Blam went someone’s tire (Nancy from CT) but were going at a mellow tempo and the wheels were right there so she was back in quickly.  On the descent I was in front enjoying the ride and got a bee sting on my leg, which burned like crazy, I’m not allergic but get a big big red welt from those things.  Better than a flat though.
Some sketchy riding for unclear reasons.  I thought “and I’m gonna do the crit with these girls”.

There was no neutral feed but Jill offered me a bottle, with what tasted like beer.  Whats in this bottle?
Tastes like beer!


No really!

“Beer” well you can have it back.

Real action happened about mile 40, start of a 1.5 mile not too steep climb.  The group was all together and riding like a fine training ride.  I put in a big acceleration and within a few minutes split the field in half.  We had 7 at the top of that climb, and on the plateau had a rotating paceline with about 5 rotators and a couple passengers.  Arrietta to my surprise was there.  She is bigger than your average climber and was not even under pressure.

Not knowing what else to do I attacked HARD on the second climb.  In tow were Mary Ann from South Carolina (multiple nat’l champ that I beat by fractions of a sec in the TT ) Leslie Jensen,& Arrietta.  Leslie was falling off, and after my big punch I tucked in behind the 2 girls but lost my mojo and fell off, regrouped with Leslie and essentially dragged her up the last 5 k.  I kept flapping my wing to have her come through but she was wasted, she maybe gave me a smidgen of rest, and of course someone bridged up (Nancy the flatter).  Relief came after 3 k, one last nasty hill then level, bit of downhill, rounded the corner and sweet tailwind.   Dang if Nancy didn’t outkick me at the line.

Arrietta shredded off MaryAnn, finishing a full minute ahead of her, then we were about 1 min back of MaryAnn.
I’m not sure if the hard attacks on the hill made sense or not—definitely for a podium but not the win.  Needed Cammy to put in her killer punches on the climbs for sure, and I know Lauraleen would have been super aggressive on the climbs.

My second medal of the championships!  Course a win would be sweet but this wasn’t the year.


Bellas Love Time Trials!

June 12, 2012


District TT 6/10/12
Masters Women 55-59
Sattley CA

Woke up to 30 degree temperature, wow, what a difference from last week!
I really wanted to do well in this race, and now that the pavement is smoothed out, it is a national record breaking course.

Unlike last week, it was hard to warm up (maybe the freeze ass temps had to do with that) felt like I was dying every hard warm up effort. There was really no perceptible wind (start time was 8 am) and I felt fast the first part of the outbound leg. Just before the turnaround, Cammy passed me (she started 30 seconds behind) and was looking super strong. I was only the slightest shade of green with envy, because she is after all my pal and teammate! Anyway having her to follow kept me on a better pace but I really struggled to keep my power up, just like last week, but I couldn’t blame it on scorchin’ heat. My stupid shoe cover unzipped sometime during the ride and likely cost me MINUTES!!!

I did squeak in a second place, a mere 7 seconds faster than 3rd.

Great results competing with the best time trialists in the district, if not the nation (3 of those gals were on the podium last year at nationals….and we beat them all.

My legs have post timetrial traumatic syndrome and feel like lead.

Respectfully Submitted,

Liz Benishin

It’s Not About the Race

May 23, 2012



Here is Liz’s report from mariposa:


Mariposa Stage Race

I really wanted to write up a fun report on this race—-how  Sue, Cammy, Linda, Julie, Andrea and I geared up for this race, planning strategy, enlisting the help of Monica and Erika, how we had super duper teamwork and support.

I wanted to report how Sue paced me up the hillclimb stage, to help me pull back some time I lost in the TT, and how Monica lent me a pair of gloves that gave me magical sprinting power and I got enough time bonus to lead GC going into the last stage. I thought myself clever when I dubbed the neutral descent to the hillclimb start the Velo-Promo-naide.

But the joy that is the Women’s stage race turned to sadness, as we bore witness to tragedy. Our Sisterhood of Bike Racers has sustained a loss, and we grieve our loss.


Many of the Norcal Bellas have already heard about how Suzanne Rivera, a cat 4 racer from Bakersfield, died from injuries she sustained during a crash in Stage 4 of this stage race. For those of you who want more information,


Here is a link to a news article about the accident.

Here is a link to Suzanne’s obituary and there is a guestbook if you’d like to leave a condolence.


Copperopolis Road Race Podium Sweep!!

April 7, 2012


This is Cammy’s report of the day:


The race is billed as “The Paris Roubaix of Northern California”. The setting is a beautiful, practically unspoiled swatch of the eastern edge of California’s Central Valley, where pastures rise to meet the rocky vanguard of the Sierra foothills. Always held the Saturday before Easter, the vistas are spectacular in their mosaic of poppies, lupines and other wildflowers woven into the brilliant green hillsides. Unlike “The Hell of the North” (source unknown), the “Heck of the West” (L. Benishin, ca 2000) is a 21-mile circuit versus point-to-point, rough, broken patchwork pavement (>75%) versus cobbles and it is not flat (1500 feet of elevation gain per lap). The race has historically drawn pros like Leipheimer and Jacque-Maynes.

Flying the Bella flag were Monica Neilson and Marsha Kirschbaum who committed their Saturday to supporting the three of us and crafting some gorgeous photography! Sue Martine, Liz Benishin and I lined up with Leslie Jensen (One Team, fearless descender, world champ stripes, extreme competitive spirit and a wicked sprint), Lauraleen Fenech (Los Gatos, no “Off” switch, relentless and capable of winning on a long solo effort) and newbie Cindy Mike (Penn Velo). A small field but worthy. Notably absent were the Wells Fargo girls – we miss them and wish them all speedy and full recoveries from the tough breaks their team has suffered this year.

Priorities: (1) Bella win (2) Bella podium sweep (3) All-Bella selection. Strategy: neutralize threats by wearing down / shutting down the competition before the final pitch and plunge to the finish.

I was amped – I love this race, I love the course, it was a beautiful day. Liz had turned in two podiums in back-to-back 20K TTs (MW and W1,2,3) two weeks prior, so I figured she was flying and a good bet for a long haul effort. Sue is a fast finisher and eager to “pop [the] Copper cherry”. I was the wild card. We had agreed to stay together but I could not help myself and went off the line in a crescendo-ing tempo, giving Liz a great leadout to the first climb. She launched and left the 5 of us gasping. I covered the front as Lori tried to reel Liz in. At one point Lori must have wanted to bridge, but hesitated. The momentum gained by covering her move took me half way to Liz with air space behind. I thought about either trying to out-descend Leslie or suffer in a two-up break for 37 miles and went for the latter. Once together we steadily pulled away, up and over the remainder of the climb and out on to the rollers. Sue followed Leslie and Lori. At the far point of the course we had built up a one minute gap. Up and over the last pitch on to the twisty, fast, patchwork-surfaced (feels like the pavement was carpet-bombed) descent. Behind us Sue accelerated on the final pitch, Leslie chased and as expected flew past on the descent. Sue regrouped with Leslie; Lori apparently got stuck in the middle of the hard-charging pro field and was gapped off.

On the final lap’s long climb, Liz and I were tiring but still maintaining a good tempo. Monica and Marsha on the feed hill, cheering, smiling, channeling energy! Near the top, out of nowhere, a fast-approaching whirrrrrr became audible – the instant I looked back, heart in mouth thinking it was Lori, Leslie et al, SUE shouted out “it’s just me!” How she bridged a one minute gap in the space of that short (but painful) climb was absolutely phenomenal – she is certainly one to watch! Over the rollers, into the apex and back home the three of us worked together happily and fully committed – it was within our grasp to achieve all three race priorities. At the base of the final ~100m climb, we agreed that each of us would go when ready. Monica and Marsha cheered wildly on the finish line hill. I crossed the line first, then Liz and then Sue.

 I was totally choked up watching my team-mates finish – we had nailed it! It is only fitting to conclude with another L. Benishin quote: “I love being a Bella”!


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