Catch Them If You Can

September 21, 2009

Velo Bella-Ellsworth Gravity Newsletter

The Velo Bella-Ellsworth Elite Downhill team has been getting up to all sorts of hijinx over the last few months. First, they built up their all new Ellsworth Dare downhill rigs. Then, they headed off to the races, including the World Cup races at Mont-Sainte-Anne and Bromont. Along the way, Kimber picked up her best ever elite finish in the Super D with a second place at Snowmass. Catch up on all the Downhill adventures in the Summer edition of the Velo Bella-Ellsworth Gravity Team Newsletter. Download it up!

Velo Bella-Ellsworth Gravity Team Newsletter (pdf).

Also, the Velo Bella-Ellsworth women have invaded Twitter. So follow them already!
Kimber G
Connie M
Allie B

Want to know more about new Bike sponsor Ellsworth? Follow Ellsworth Bikes.

Winds Over My Hammy

August 25, 2009

By Allie Burch
Patterson, New York

This weekend was like your very favorite sandwich stacked high between two pieces of moldy bread.

Destination: Windham, NY
Purpose: Regain some ground on the season by landing a top 5 spot in the National downhill event

Thursday night my friend Shawnee and I drove the short distance to our rented condo near Windham resort where the other six occupants would arrive at various times throughout the night and early morning.

Friday morning started with a leisurely breakfast, a logging in to do a bit of work, and then heading over to the venue to register and for our scheduled afternoon practice. Omen number one: No other pros were there registering or waiting in line for Cat 1 practice to end. DAMN! The schedule had been changed to an every-catagory-for-themselves all-day conglomeration. I now had exactly one hour in which to get my bearings started on the course.

This wasn’t that big of a deal. I had seen the new features at the end of the course, a wooden drop and two large doubles, and as I watched the guys roll the first double, coast, pedal then sail effortlessly over the last set, I figured I’d probably just roll them at first and check them out like I normally do. After all, they were nothing to be scared of.

I knew the course pretty well already. The first section was from last year’s national course, and the middle to bottom were from the Gravity East event earlier in the year, minus the foot of mud that covered it then.

On my first run down I swooped and pumped the fun stuff then stopped and hiked section by section to re-run it smoother and faster. The course was phenomenal. Every part of it was fun, well maintained and manageable, however at race speed is when it started getting tricky and demanding respect. I rolled down the wooden ramp as I always do on a first inspection run, hit the last berm towards the two finish doubles then rolled the first set easily. It was at this point that my head went straight up my ass.

I don’t know what made me do it. In ten years of racing, I have never hit something without scrutinizing it first. Well, there’s a first time for everything. I figured I’d coast, then take some hard pedals to the last set of doubles. To say that I was surprised when I got to the larger-than-anticipated lip and further-than-anticipated gap is an understatement. To my horror I was going much too slow to clear it, much too fast to slam on the brakes, but juuust the right speed to pack my front end into the front of the transition. KA-LUNK…KAPOI.I.I.I.NG!!!! I’da pulled it off, too…if it weren’t for the fact my visor hooked a brake cable and basically attached my head to the handlebars. (Feel free to laugh; I cannot imagine how ridiculous this looked)

I remember thinking, “Whoa! I’m gonna pull it off! Oh no…SHIT! My head’s stuck!” At that point I tried to jerk my head up, which wrenched the front wheel sideways and bucked me straight over onto my right side noggin first.

I remember hearing birds tweet and seeing stars circling as I picked myself up, dragged to the grass, dropped everything I was carrying and stumbled immediately to first-aid. (At this point I’d like to say thanks to Joanna, Sue, Lauren and anyone else who might have come in to check on me while I was having a nice little chat about head trauma with Ron the medic. They sent me on my way. Obviously, that was the end of my practice for the day, so I walked the course later instead. I’m really not sure how beneficial that was since I was suffering from a bit of random memory loss that night.

Saturday through qualifying Sunday was a delightful mix of friends, swimming, BBQing and having a great time riding the racecourse. I took one practice run on Sunday and was ready to go.

My qualifying run went pretty well up until the lone muddy section. I hit every line I wanted to and paid attention to where I could hold more speed and where I needed to brake in my race run. I was having a good ol’ time laughing and whooping it up along with those on the side of the course, then I heard Sue cheering and ringing her cowbell. Maybe I just tried to come in to fast, but for whatever reason I tapped the brakes and my tires slipped right out from under me. The cheering stopped. I looked up, saw Sue, couldn’t help but laugh as I quickly picked my bike up and got going again, “Hey! I never practiced falling here!” I rolled both sets of doubles this time and crossed the line in 4th behind Joanna Petterson, Darian Harvey and Dawn Bourque. Respectable, but I could definitely shave some time off my race run.

Five – hours – later. We waited and waited and waited. Finally our scheduled 3PM start arrived. This was it. I felt good. I was going to redeem myself from nearly a summer’s worth of result-bummery. I had a good start out of the gate, down the chutes and across the grass. I dove into the first rocky section. CLANK! *rattle*rattle*rattle* The rattling turned to grinding, the grinding turned to only being able to ratchet the pedals to get just a little bit of power from the chain. Pretty soon there was nothing but the momentum I had and could gain from pumping anything I could. I hit the wooden drop and pumped through the last berm. My eyes were set on the first double and suddenly I was skidding in the grass and slid out. My rear wheel had totally locked up. What else is there to do but pick up the pieces and run like hell to the finish?

So, I finished. And to quote one of the all time best movies ever, “And when they pulled his body from the twisted, burning wreck, it looked like… THIS!!!!”


Damage toll: 1 mangled chainguide, 10 severed spokes, 1 bent rear cassette, 1 possible damaged hub, 1 twisted chain, 1 rear derailleur severed in half and one shifter cable with housing wrapped into the drivetrain. Mmm..special.

My qualifying time would have put me on the podium, so I can’t really be all that upset. I’m still up there. The Dare rode like a champ and was insanely efficient. Time to rebuild and get back on the horse. There’s still a lot of riding left this year!

New Zeal Day!

June 16, 2009

By Allie Burch
Patterson, New York

Allie Burch Velo Bella

There’s nothing in this world quite like putting on a pair of brand new goggles or sunglasses. Looking out from behind the pristine lenses is like having your very own window to the world, where eyeballs are free to open fully, gaping unscathed as ocular danger flies past.

My Zeals came today. Finally, the event I was waiting ever so impatiently for, after a random “Act of Dodge” crushed my beloved black Juice glasses, was upon me. A sorely needed pair of Link MX goggles and a pair of blue/wood grain Airestreams, that quite frankly had me concerned as to the way they would fit my small face. Would I look “hip and happenin’” or would I look like something that came out of Roswell, NM as I do with nearly every other brand of sunglass.

Like and old friend, the MX Links were true to fit and form as from the past five years of trusting their protection, breathability and clarity. They fit my small face perfectly while allowing a full range of peripheral vision. They also fit into my helmet, as if the helmet was made to pair only with them. The tearoffs that they came with are easy to use and the lenses are a “snap” (literally) to replace quickly and confidently without the need for “man hands”. The sassy protective cases that come complimentary with this goggle range in surprises from fuzzy leopard print, a grey technical fabric, or this year’s camo. They also include a goggle bag, which is ideal for keeping on your person and wiping the mud off your lenses.

Next were the Airestreams. I opened the hard-shell protective case (that every pair of Zeal glasses ship with) and put the Airestreams on. Much to my surprise, they were weightless on my face. I peered into the car window (I was so excited I opened the box in the driveway and never quite made it into the house) expecting to see a tiny noggin hidden behind some oversized glasses. Not the case. I liked how they looked on me! I ran inside and to my amazement they were perfect! The color, the style, the field of vision, everything!

The Airestreams are my new favorite glasses. Already they have been with me cycling, running, lounging, working in the yard, driving, and they stand up to every task. They stay put without bouncing while running, they provide near total wind block while riding, they stay clear while sweat rolls down my face while mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, etc. Then, a swipe over the lenses with the included glasses bag, has them cleaning up easier than I do and ready to wear for social functions.

I have found that these oversized glasses vent well and offer a fuller field of vision than any other style I’ve tried. These fit well on a smaller face. Finally, something that the peanut-headed can feel confident in!

Thank you Michael and Wink for all of the work you do to put out such a great product!

Head Up! Allie Fifth at Nationals

July 22, 2008

By Allie Burch
Patterson, New York

Mike and I have recently moved to NY and thankfully it’s in a spot where I can start giving back some host housing. 

Kimber, Connie and Shannon Edson all arrived Wednesday evening, however Kimber and Connie were not allowed out of the plane until early Thursday morning.  I picked them up from the airport and around 1am the three of us rolled in to my driveway exhausted.

We started out the next morning building bikes and loading cars.  Shannon and Connie were to follow Kimber and me out, however when I pulled out of the driveway and made a right onto the road they were nowhere to be seen.  I swore they were right behind us.  There is no cell service where I live so we circled back around to the house retracing our 500-yard gain in search of them, but no dice.  They had disappeared.  That’s gotta be a record!

Shannon and Connie made their way to Vermont using her directions and a rental car map while Kimber and I relied on my impeccable sense of direction.  (HA!)  Surprisingly we made pretty good time, that is, until we got to the Mass/Vermont Border.

A good day starts with a good breakfast:

…Or brunch, or lunch and a snack, or gorging on impulse boutique foods at the Vermont state line.

Kimber and I made our way through the last bits of Mass and into Vermont as our tummies started to get a little grumbly.  Right at the state line, you know, where the road narrows and you can almost knock on someone’s front door while driving by, there sat an innocuous looking little country store with “pastries and deli” painted in the window.

We weren’t even all the way through the door yet and we both had our hands on freshly baked cookies the size of our heads.  There was every type of Vermonty maple delight one could imagine.  Maple smoked mozzarella, maple sugar, maple syrup, maple-fried-maple…it went on and on.  We grabbed a sandwich, I couldn’t resist a sampling of the maple pulled pork and we tugged each other the hell out of there before any more damage was done.   

Down low, two slow!

We arrived, but not in time for Kimber’s Super D practice.  Downhill practice was later in the day, so after registering, we took the chairlift up to walk the course.  It took longer than I thought an my legs started to ache already so I bailed out ¼ way down and hiked the fire road the rest of the way.  

I suited up for practice and I was so tired I nearly fell asleep on the chairlift ride up.  I took two slow runs in order to look the course over since I was just too exhausted to walk it and pick out lines this day.


Friday’s practice was spent on two timed cruiser runs.  My arms were still ok, but I could feel the fatigue setting in.  I knew I was riding better and able to conserve energy by letting the brakes go in certain sections, including a very fast section of boney, pocked shale slab that was just a tad off camber.  This is usually not my style, as I don’t relish high-speed sections.

The bike bucked and skipped as my suspension soaked up all of the hits.  I felt the bike leave the ground and land again, only to skip over more shale-bone.  With every hit I thanked God for the Stan’s NoTubes guys and their strong wheel-building prowess. Clang!…Clang!…KAPOW! ……CLANG!  “ooh.  That sounded like a big hit I should probably check my air pressure when I get back to the pits.”

I headed down for a breather and to check over my bike.  I went to pump up my front tire, to which it’s response was, “HISSSSssssss.”  What the hell?  I looked down and saw the side of rim was basically folded in, however the Stan’s had sealed it enough to allow me to finish my run without realizing it was slowly going flat.

A couple of other good side dings made my eyes well up with sadness for my pretty new ZTR Flow wheels.  Upon further investigation moments later, Alex found that I had actually cracked the rim right in half.  At that time Mike from Stan’s walked up to our tent and had thankfully brought an extra set of rims I ordered.   “I guess this means that I’ve been going faster.”  And in an odd sense, the fact I was going fast and hard enough to break one of their wheels kinda made me feel validated as a racer.

I noticed later, there were dead rims all over the place.  I only cracked one where other people were going through two and three sets of wheels.  I guess they should have been riding NoTubes.  

Ice, Ice, Baby:

Saturday we were all feeling the effects of the rough long course.  We were bumped, bruised, sore and tired.  Since practice was held in the morning, we had the rest of the day to do what we wanted, which quite honestly for me was to sleep.  Kimber suggested that we head over to the condo for ice baths.  So, that’s what we did, each of us taking turns in the tub with our own bag of ice for seven to ten minutes of soaking in excruciatingly cold water.  YOW!

It’s a little ironic, a downhill team taking ice baths and foregoing a party (Vermont’s institution of the “naked crit”) to head out early to offsite host housing.  We then went for a relaxing swim with the dogs and friends in the Connecticut River.   The swim was not, however without the obligatory “stand on an inner tube in the middle of the river” contest.

For the Record:

allieAfter Friday’s…well, let’s face it, disaster in the slalom qualifier, and an incapacitating uphill footrace in the Super D, we, on the Velo Bella Downhill team were faced with the very real possibility that for the first time this year there might not be a podium appearance for us at a race.  It would have been so good to have a showing at the National Championships.  

I guess what “They” say about momentum carrying a rider or team because I don’t know what the hell happened during downhill qualifiers, but as I was laying on the ground at the tent wallowing in what I thought was a joke of a run, Alicia runs up to the tent with the shocking news: “HOLY CRAP!!! ALLIE, you qualified 4th!!!”  I was in no way prepared for this information so I let out my default response while rolling on the ground: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAA!!!”  But, there it was.  My name, in print right in between 3, Dawn Bourque and 5, Marla Streb.  Talk about a hero sandwich!  (They are two of my favorite riders from when I started racing)

At two-o-clock we lined up for the final in reverse order of our qualifying run with the fastest qualifiers in the back.  Marla looked back at me and gave me a “good luck!”  I cracked back, probably a little too eagerly and loudly, “You too!” It was obvious that I was nervous.  On a side note, I NEVER EVER thought that I would see the back of Marla’s jersey from the start block.  Usually, when I look back at the line of riders to follow me, she’s a little speck off in the distance of top three qualifiers.  Something horrific must have happened to her in qualifying, or she was just setting the bait with a slower time.

This time, I looked back and saw only three.  The very fast, very aggressive and very hungry Bourque, Pruitt and Buhl.  Holy Shit.  Remember the “Rabbit Chase” scene from the movie “Snatch”?  (Queue the music)

Marla rolled up onto the starting block but not before she said to me in low voice, “head up.”  We had spoken earlier and I explained that I had worked with her old coach Blair Lombardi this past spring.  “Head up” is one of the fundamental keys.  Just little things she does like that keeps Marla up on a pedestal as a class act.  (I still wanna grow up to be like her)

Then there were four.  I loaded into the start gate and to calm myself tried to make small talk with the official and give a big cheesy full-face grin to a guy taking snapshots, all without fogging up my goggles.  Well, it worked and I was off.  Down the right of the pocked ski run, staying loose over the steppy-steps, letting my bike work and flow under me while I hung on for dear life over my desired lines.  I knew my speed was good, yet I was confident – an incredible combination that I hadn’t yet been completely able to put together.  I tried to gauge my run by the spectator’s cheers.  When I nailed a difficult off camber  section, I heard a guy give a surprised “yeAH!”  I thought to myself, “Hell yes that was good!  You’re actually nailing this!”  I was then on to the high-speed “Wheel Crusher” section which I tried to stay loose and flow over, but somehow I got sucked into the weeds.  I thought I was going over but managed to pull the bike out and still carry a bit of momentum, but not enough to where I didn’t have to pedal like crazy into the woods.

I dove in as the course spotter blew her whistle.  (course spotters communicate via whistle blows, one blow=rider through, two blows=rider down, etc) Over the rooty places that caused me a bit of trouble, then as I passed another course spotter who blew his whistle, I heard another whistle blast from behind me.  “Oh my God!” I thought, “Dawn’s RIGHT THERE! She’s caught up already!!” New strategy – pedal like hell.  .  I had to basically do standing two-minute sprint intervals while maneuvering a nearly forty-pound bike.  Oh, it hurt so badly.  I forced myself to pedal in every single straight.  Up and over the rock-drop, landing with an “OOF!” pedaling through the woods where I could and then through the last wooded section where my smarty-pants husband was yelling, “C’mon!! GO!  Pedal! GO!”    “I’m going, I’m going!!!” I tried to huff back, but it probably came out more like “IGUuuuuunn..BAAARF!”  

The end was near.  The light at the end of the tunnel of trees to the glorious finish line where bottles of water and a nice place to lie down awaited me.  

“UUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGG…whimper” I’m sure I sounded like a hippo in labor as I pedaled through the fire road chicanes, but damnit I charged.  I gave 100% as I came through the finish line and I was spent.  That was a successful run and I was happy with it.  Although I could improve on my lines and some technical aspects, I gave it everything and that’s what I had expected of myself.  What I was not expecting was to hear “Allegra Burch with a time of blah blah blah sitting in third place!”  My brain was doing back flips while my body fell off the bike.  I tried to do the math. let’s see, I’m in third, there are three faster riders, that means the lowest placing I could get today = blue.  I decided just to sit there and see what happened.

Dawn came tearing through the finish, then Melissa Buhl lit it on fire.  There was now only the defending Pruitt who had taken the Stars and Stripes home last year…and she came down on a flat.  Just because Kathy had a flat, however doesn’t mean she still didn’t have a smoking time.  She could still claim a podium spot, however it was not to be.  She must have flatted at the very top, and there we had it.  The 2008 Pro Women’s National Championship podium:  Buhl (KHS), Streb (Luna), Borque (Rhino), Harvey (Sobe/Cannondale) and Burch (Velo Bella)!  As I’m writing this a day later I’m still kinda stunned.

Thus, we have continued to uphold our 2008 record.  Every single venue that one of the DH team members has participated in during 2008 has seen one of us on the podium for at least one of the events. 


My goal in the beginning of the year, before I knew we were moving across the country, was to accumulate enough UCI points to be able to race some World Cups.  Specifically, I wanted to attend the two in Canada, Monte Sainte-Anne and Bromont which followed the week after.  Since moving and buying a house put the financial damper on travel, training and racing, I scrapped it and focused on local stuff, which started going really well.

The podium spot at Nationals in itself gave me all the points I needed for the Monte Sainte-Ann and Bromont races the weekends after!  I could go!!!  Or so I thought. 

The reality is, the cutoff date for all points to be accumulated for either of these two events was July 8, 2008.  this means that the only US event where a gravity racer could gain UCI points was at Angel Fire, and since it was an E2 event, only a modest amount of points were granted.  Basically, you had to win in order to get enough points.  I could go to the last two World Cups in Australia or Austria, but I’m afraid with the price of gas, my car just won’t make it there.  😉

I’m not exactly sure how it all works, if points carry over or if I’ve just got to do more races in Canada.  I’m new to this World Cup thing, but now it’s a solid goal for 2009 and I’ve got a lot of time to ask questions, learn, plan…and get faster.

You can’t do it alone:

The support was awesome and so very very helpful.  Just knowing that I could bring my bike in and someone would actually help me fix it, or wash it or tell me to sit and put my feet up was invaluable.  Having a place to just sit for a while was key.

Morgan was our amazing and valued mechanic and Alex did the running, figuring out and cat-herding that is just mentally exhausting.  Thank you so very very much!

Giv’r Skidoo! National Podium Time for Allie

July 15, 2008

By Allie Burch
Patterson, New York

wyndam mountain“You want this! Pedal, damnit, you want this!! You’re gonna watch from the sidelines again if you don’t get your ass moving!!! You’re run’s been clean enough to get it, now GO!!”

I wish I could say that this is what I was thinking to myself as I raced toward the finish of the downhill finals at the Windam Resort in NY this Sunday, but it wasn’t.

I was screaming it out loud like a damned maniac as I came out of the second to last wooded section, past mothers and children, past other spectators and probably past someone with just the right type of credentials to diagnose me as a bona-fide loony.

July 1st, 2001, NCS #3 at Deer Valley Resort in UT. That was the last time I stood on the podium at a national for a downhill event. My friend Tammy Pickerell and I took first and second, respectively in our expert class and I said hello to the pro ranks and goodbye to the DH podium. A lot has changed since then. Moves, marriage, houses and other obligations should have kept me from even trying to keep up with the newer, younger more talented racers who kept popping up, but with change comes circumstance, and circumstance can be used to an advantage.

It’s funny what just the right combination of desire, confidence and chance will do. This weekend there were two major gravity races running. One, the Windham national, that seemed to draw racers traveling through to the US Nationals in Vermont next week then on to the Worlds in Canada, and two, the Mountain States Cup in Colorado that drew most of the local racers who also happened to be most of the national racers. So, the racing population of the United States was split which caused our field to be rather small, small enough, in fact to make me think I had a pretty damned good chance of getting on the podium.

I arrived late and didn’t have a chance to walk the course before practice. I took a slow cruiser down and was kinda surprised at just how steep a course could get. There had been very little rain here the past few weeks and all of the dirt was powdery, but the exposed roots and rocks were still grippy. The course went straight down the mountain’s fall line with a few sweeping turns in dry grassy exposed areas that, if a rider stayed low and counterbalanced, shot the bike perfectly into the next wooded section with no braking required. The weather held Friday through Sunday morning’s practice runs, and the course’s iambic pentameter went something like this: Bump bump bump bump skid..bump…WAHOOOOOOOO…bump.bump.bump bump clank bump…YEEEHHAAAA…

That was before the rain came.

Our small pro women’s field ascended the chairlift just as the first drops started to fall. By the time we made our way over to the starting block, it was a steady rain. Twenty minutes before our starting time, the heavens let loose and we ran to the ski patrol hut for cover. What in the hell was the course going to look like now?? No one really spoke too much about it, but Lauren, who had also just moved from CA and I looked at each other, both just a little concerned about what the rain meant for those of us who haven’t ridden mud in a looooong time.

I’ll be honest, once my qualifying run started and I ducked into the woods, where the dirt used to be powdery and predictable, I was shocked. I no longer knew where or when to brake, my tires had a solid layer of muddy silt packed on them and I couldn’t stay clipped in or on my line for anything. As I slid and surfed my way down the steeps spectators heard me asking, “What the hell???”

Once that nonsense was over, I gingerly rode the first grassy sweeping turn and stayed up, but got sucked too low to hit my line in the next wooded section. The next grassy sweeper I tried to carry a little more speed and counterbalance, but went skidding and spinning on my side as I watched the course go by. Thus went the entire run. What a debacle!

At the bottom, Lauren and I exchanged horrified glances that were then shared with the rest of the field. We all slinked off to the bike rinse to wash…everything.

The rain continued through most of the men’s qualifying, but then miraculously stopped. The ladies went up for the last time to race our final. This was it.

In the words of my friend and co-dh racer Alicia Hamilton, “Giv’r Skidoo!!!” What the hell? I’m either gonna podium or come in last with a spectacular crash story. No more of this pussyfooting around in the woods crap. I was hauling in practice, why not now?

I had a good start and it felt like I dove into the first wooded section. The dirt was holding much better than in qualifying and I hit my lines with speed and caution. I hit every line except for one where I came to a near stop after nicking a tree and then my slowdown in the woods where I actually inhaled and started to choke on a glob of mud.

I carried much more speed in the damp woods than I did in qualifying, but not as much as in practice, and then I came to the second to last grassy connector where I wanted to coast. It was here that I realized I needed to take further pro-active action.

I pedaled through the grass and into the last bit of woods before the big chute and double at the finish. I stayed clipped in and pedaled through the gravel at the last sweeping turn. I braked slightly before and in the entrance of the chute and hit the double low and perfectly and jammed on the cranks as soon as I felt my tires hit the earth and on through to the finish.

I knew it wasn’t my fastest run, but I knew it was faster than my qualifier. I heard my time announced and breathed, “YES!” I had taken thirty seconds off of my qualifying time. After all was said and done, I had done well enough for fourth place, just three seconds off of third.

Even though it wasn’t a full field I’d be a liar if I said I’m not still thrilled. I loved every bit of it and I loved racing with the people who were there. I guess that the East Coast is kinda agreeing with me.

On a side note, I had the opportunity to meet quite a few people, one who is an eight-year-old future downhiller. (I just know it, as long as she keeps bugging her dad for that bike) and a woman who approached me and said, “you are so much fun to watch when you race! I just love watching you ride!” She had seen me at Plattekill the past weekend and then here. Something that I had never expected to hear from someone, but was I ever flattered to have her tell me that!

Allie Podiums at MTB #5 – Pro Downhill

July 14, 2008


Allie finished in 4th Place in the Pro Downhill event at the National Mountain Bike Series #5 held on Windham, New York.

Allie’s announcement


Allie’s report

Downhill Chatroom

July 11, 2008

What new wheels REALLY mean a downhiller.

(via chat)

me: hey!! – i’ve got our wheels in my grimy little paws…

kimber: if your paws. leave grime. on my shiny wheels. you’re in trouble.

My reply: