Debut race with Hagens Berman Supermint

Before you lose 5min of your life reading my blog, let me inform you that I won’t be giving you an in-depth count by count recall of my races. Rather, I’ve decided to focus on the people and encounters I experience along the way, briefly brushing over the racing part. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, please continuing reading. Firstly, some background info

Who is Hagens Berman Supermint?

Hagens Berman is our main sponsor who are a class action law firm based out of Seattle. The company has been sponsoring several cycling teams for over a decade now, mainly the ‘underdog’ teams such as under 23 and women. Or to put it more bluntly, the teams with no money! So where does the Supermint fit in with all of this? Dental hygiene comes to mind, toothpaste sponsor maybe? Finally, I’ll have those pearly whites I always wanted. To my disappointment Supermint is purely our brand name, no free toothpaste and dental appointments. Initially Jono Coulter, the team owner and Director sportif (DS) wanted just mint as our team name. Jono comes from Brisbane Australia and is a true blue aussie, slang and all. Mint means awesome or rad. Unfortunately, mint was already taken so what’s one up from mint…SUPERMINT!

The master mind behind the business is Lindsay Bayer. Let’s be honest here, my initial thoughts upon meeting Lindsay was, “how the hell am I going to put up with nutter for the whole season?” She would be the first person to point out that she can be a total bitch. Not only does Lindsay manage the team but she also rides for the team. Not to mention her fulltime government job. But if that’s not enough for one person, why not throw in one last commitment, running a podcast, ‘the dirtfield diaries’. Let’s not forget her 30min core workout she does religiously every day, sometimes right in front of you in the kitchen while you eat your breakfast. Just to make you feel even more inadequate about your lack of abs.

Both Jono and Lindsay do a terrific job of juggling the different roles within the team and I see now how their individual strengths compliment these roles perfectly.  

Lindsay and Jono talking business

Lindsay and Jono talking business

Who else makes up the team?

We have 11 riders and 4 staff on our permanent roster. The other crucial staff to our travelling circus is AJ the red bearded mechanic (what is with all my mechanics donning a ned Kelly beard? And lastly, our hipster, vegan photographer Justin, that loves eating raw broccoli on toast for breakfast. Now that’s just going too far.

All riders other than Peta and myself are from different parts of the states and generally have full or part time jobs to go home to after racing. I don’t want to forget our most valuable assets to the team, the volunteers. Doctor Baker has been with the team now for the second year running. He not only looks after the health of the staff and riders but also doubles as a soigneur, prepping bottles and standing in the feed zone in his scrubs! Katy our host in Little rock selflessly gave up her time to help the team with massage and feeding also. Your efforts are much appreciated. Thank you!

Katy our little superstar in the feed station

Katy our little superstar in the feed station

AJ and Dr Baker checking our bikes

AJ and Dr Baker checking our bikes

Justin our Photo whizz

Justin our Photo whizz

First stop, Little Rock Arkansas- Meeting the HIA-Velo bike sponsor

One of my most enjoyable parts about racing in the US is having the opportunity to meet and stay with local families. After a massive long haul flight, you’re always feeling fragile. Peta and I were welcomed by Eli, Katy and Neil’s 16year old son. He was home alone with his younger brother Cole. They lead us to our rooms (their own rooms that they gave up for us for our 2 nights there). Not long after, their mum Katy arrives home. Katy is a petite, trendy and softly spoken lady. Far too young to have a child in their teens. She makes us comfortable in her homely abode. Later, Neil arrives home from work and starts cooking us dinner. I’m still gobsmacked by the generosity and kindness these families show to strangers they have only met just hours ago.

Over dinner we start talking about travel insurance and Peta asks what one did I go with…. I scratch my head, and think to myself, ‘do I even have travel insurance?’ This conversation then moves onto international racing licences. ‘Shit! I don’t think I even have that either!’

This is a typical Lizzie thing to do…remember to pack my felt pussy slippers but forget the most important things! To add to my problems, I discover my bike has cracked in transit. So, my first hours in the US involved me discovering that; I had no bike and no license. Two crucial things I need to race in 4 days’ time. At this point I had to call on my breathing techniques I’ve learnt from meditating and yoga. But unfortunately breathing slowly and mindfully wasn’t fixing these problems anytime soon. Luckily, Peta jumped into action and immediately contacted Cycling Australia to get the ball rolling with the process of my Licence. Within 1hr we had emailed all documentation needed for the licence to be processed and thanks to CA I had my international licence 24hrs later. Thankyou Renee from CA and Peta.

Now to resolving the bike situation. Luckily, we were visiting the HIA Velo headquarters the following day so the team could arrange a carbon repair before race day. During the visit the team had a personal tour, learning about the different stages of the building process of the frames from scratch to complete. All materials are sourced locally and built under one roof, avoiding outsourcing from other countries. Something HIA Velo feel proud to be doing. Not to mention the traditional shaped frames ride like a dream and look neat.

 

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From Little Rock, the team drove south to Fayetteville, arriving at Cindy and Pauls host housing. This couple are no strangers to hosting cycling teams, but never a women’s team. I think both Cindy and Paul weren’t ready for the complete takeover of their kitchen and fridge for a week. Paul couldn’t believe how heathy we ate, and any chance he got, he was waving pastries and wine in our face. Luckily Peta took one for the team. Over dinner one night we found out that Paul is an Olympian, representing the Czech Republic at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in Salem Kayaking. He’s now a keen (mammal) cyclist and runs a restaurant fulltime. His wife Cindy is a bubbly little American lady that is fit as a fiddle. I felt she was training harder than most of us during our stay, punching out double sessions of runs, yoga, riding and gym. Go Cindy!

Paul and Cindy both got out on their bikes with us during the week

Paul and Cindy both got out on their bikes with us during the week

Initially there was a lot of unknowns signing with Hagens Berman Supermint. One of those being about the rider combination for success. Already knowing that Peta Mullens had been signed, I knew that we both obtain similar racing styles and strengths. Punchy, savvy snivellers, taking opportunities when they arise. Off the bike, I’m learning that we couldn’t be anymore opposite. Only common denominator, we both have bogan/tomboyish tendencies. We are the Yin and Yang, Walmart V’s Wholefoods, Kellogg’s special K over of Kale, organised and somewhat disorganised.

A week has passed and Peta has managed to resist the golden arches. I’ve knocked back multiple glasses of red wine; our differences are rubbing off on one another for good, not evil, and these Aussies mean business!

Our first race together is Joe Martin Stage Race UCI 2.2. Because it’s a ranked event (1.1- World Tour eg: Flanders), our team can gain points towards being ranked world-wide. Something a new team needs to strive for recognition and gain invites to bigger races like the Giro or the Women’s Tour. Joe Martin consist of 4 stages; Stage 1: Uphill 5km Time trial, Stage 2: 100km Road Race, Stage 3:110 Road Race, Stage 4: Criterium (1hr circuit race).

The team brought 8 riders to this race and went into the event with some high hopes of contesting for the GC and potential stage wins.  ‘Scotti’ our mum and hometown girl of the team notched up some great results last year at this same race so we were backing her for GC. For me, coming off my first solid 2-month strength block since I returned from Europe in May 2016. Personally, I had no expectations for results, instead, allowing myself to slowly adjust back into racing. The Uphill TT was a harsh opener but I managed to get through it finishing 29th-, clocking the exact time as Peta. A confirmation that we are very similar riders. Our top placed rider Scotti finished 13th, 45sec behind the winner from UHC, Ruth Winder.

Stage 2 was majority flat apart from ‘the climb that’s not really a climb’, from Ernie’s (Scotti’s husband) interpretation. We had a team plan to be aggressive on the ‘the climb that’s not really a climb’, making it hard enough to then shoot Scotti or Lindsay off the front in a breakaway. Upon entering the climb something substantial got caught in my rear wheel that fed through my brake pads (just when the hammer went down). I had a few teammates try to unhook it but it was wedged good and proper. I made the decision to risk riding with it still attached. In hindsight, I should have gone back to the convoy to get it sorted before we started climbing the looooong hwy berg. 10km in I was tailing the back end of the bunch struggling to keep up. Not realising that the rubber tyre stuck in my wheel was adding 20+ watts to my climb. At that point, Scotti launched off the front, myself off the back! I rolled back to the team car and got AJ to unhook the tyre and within moments I was working my way back through the convoy to the peloton. Scotti was pulled back by UHC 30km later, Lindsay countering solo before being caught 1km to go. Was a technical tough finish and Peta managed to get up for 5th, myself 6th.

Stage 3 suited me a lot better, made up of two laps of a punchy, technical circuit. Today the team wanted to commit to a lead out train for Peta, a fast flat 6km run into the finish. Unfortunately, we were down one rider, Scotti pulling out with a fever prior to the start. Our Beth Anne spent most of the day in a break but was caught 8km to go, feeing perfectly into our lead out plan. With 300m to go I was 3rd wheel, Peta 4th. I left my jump too late and we got swapped either sides finishing 4th and 5th. Lesson learnt.  

 

T'was a special day wearing the green and gold stripes in the last stage of the criterium

T'was a special day wearing the green and gold stripes in the last stage of the criterium

Stage 4 brought us a technical, hilly criterium, finishing on a 200m steep climb

(16 times). Generally, a race of nutrition because of the nature of the course. Multiple attack was made but nullified and it came down to a small bunch kick. 400m from the finish I had Peta on my wheel, all I heard was just f#*ing GO!! I gassed it to the final corner leading her into 200m climb in prime position. We gave it a red-hot crack but the better rider won on the day, Ruth Winder (UHC) winning the stage and the tour.

Bell lap!

Bell lap!

As a team, we went into this tour with high hopes and came away with 11th GC, and several top 10 finishes. Just outside the UCI points. Personally, I was content with race and my form is building. It’s great to be back racing and doing what I love and can’t wait to get out there and do it all again in a week’s time. Next Stop Alabama.