Three cheers for not quitting

If I could go back 12 months and tell myself something, I would say, “This season will not be what you expect or want, but it is what you need to grow up on and off the bike.”

If I could go back 6 months, I would say, “Don’t give up (and stop crying, for christ’s sake). Things are about to work out and this will all have been worth it.” I might also recommend taking a pass on that bird tattoo.

If I could go back 3 weeks, I would say, “What you are about to do will be totally worth it. This is what it means to live the dream.”

On stage 3 of Valley of the Sun, we pulled off a 2nd place finish for Sarah and a 4th place GC finish for Laura. The crit was fast and fantastic – it was too exciting for me to even register how shitty I felt, except for a few instances of hacking and coughing that got quizzical looks from other riders. Don’t mind me; I just quit smoking last week. Twenty16 kept the pace high while FCS/Visit Dallas threw out multiple attacks, so I just had to ride the wave at the front and make sure Sarah and Laura were set up as needed. I loved this race. After burning my last match at one to go to help Sarah position for the sprint, I jumped on the sidewalk and rushed back to the finish to see the end. It was so thrilling to watch my teammate sprint her ass off against a huge field to finish so well. The three of us played our hand as best we could and I wouldn’t be more proud if we’d won the whole damn thing.

I’m also proud of myself for being the racer I was this past weekend. The person who cried through starts and dropped out of everything seems long gone. Sure, I still get nervous as hell, and yes, I cried a little when I started to warm up on the last day. But this time it was because I was sad to still be sick, to be away from home, and to be saying goodbye to my teammates later that day. And then the tears passed and the racing started and holy SHITBALLS it was great. I am so glad the people in my life made sure I stayed in the sport long enough to get to this place.

2015 Julie the Baller Soigneur

Julie was a kick-ass soigneur, always with ice cold diet sodas and a pacifier on hand. You know, just in case I got too fussy.

2015 Laura and the Sprinklers

Laura fell over laughing about a lady getting drenched when the automatic sprinkler system near the crit course came on.

2015 Taillight

I’ve now done a crit and a full stage race with my taillight still on. Not seeing a reason to stop now.

2015 VOS Stage 3 Podium

Sarah on the podium for stage 3!

2015 VOS GC Podium

Laura finished 4th on the GC! Also, this may be the first 20-deep podium I’ve ever seen.

2015 Pepper Love

So much love on this team. And beer. Lots of beer.

2015 VOS and that's a wrap

After the racing was done and the cars were packed and everybody left, I needed a moment to sit down, take a breath, and eat the scrambled eggs and kale that had been in my car for five hours. While the eggs weren’t exactly delicious (or sanitary) by that point, it was really nice to just be there, leaning against my car on a gorgeous day, thinking about the awesome things we had just done and everything that is still to come.

2015 Terzan and the Art

This was hanging above the bed in my Tempe hotel room. Seriously. WTF? Some hotel employee must have brought this in and been like, “yeah, my preschooler made this but it’s too ugly for the fridge, you take it.”

2015 Balcony View

The view from the top-floor balcony. After the team left Phoenix, I spent a free night at the Graduate Tempe, compliments of a prime we won in race last weekend. Who says bike racing doesn’t pay?!?!

2015 AZ Sunrise

The upside to waking up before sunrise is this. (And only this.)

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The Unstoppable Pepper Palace

Today was the second stage of Valley of the Sun and, despite sounding like Louis Armstrong on a bad day and hacking up green blobs that deserve their own area codes, I am still in the race and happy about it. I didn’t commit to starting the time trial until the officials pushed me off the start ramp and then figured what the hell, I’m wearing this ridiculous helmet and can always stop pedaling if things get really bad. But it’s a time trial; if things aren’t feeling bad, you’re not going hard enough, and so I finished.

When I wasn’t feeling worse this morning, I decided to start the road race and then stop if my symptoms worsened. My symptoms worsened exponentially right about the time I followed an attack from Andrea Dvorak up the main climb (PAIN), and again when I made the break (MORE PAIN), but just when I was certain the tortured donkey in my lungs had heaved his final breath, things would ease up. Then the stage ended and now there is only one more stage. Assuming I don’t wake up with pneumonia tomorrow (which at moments feels like a real assumption), I’m going to start and give everything I can muster for my teammates.

This seems to be how we roll. Everybody gives everything they’ve got: Julie has the same virus and had to sit out the race, so she’s spent the last two days working her butt off to support us, run errands, and work the feed zone, all while being sick. Suzanna has raced while also using her professional massage skills to fix our legs each night.  We don’t have staff here, so we make it work as a team: prep bottles and food, help each other in any way we can, and spend all day making jokes and remembering that racing is supposed to be both hard and fun. The results have been tangible – a 2nd place finish for Laura on stage 2 – and intangible, in the certainty that together we can do anything and make it funny in the process.

2015 VOS TT Bosses

We don’t need TT bike to be aero.

2015 VOS Laura Podium!

There was no podium ceremony after stage 2, so we held our own for Laura to celebrate her 2nd place.

2015 Pepper Palace Ballerz

There are polls lately to vote on the best team kit style for 2015 and while that’s probably a nice contest to win, we’d rather just have the best style period.

2015 VOS Post Race

Post-race recovery in our condo’s swimming pool. In the words of our team toddler, “IT’S COLD!”

2015 Julie and Her Cookie

My mother sent a care package for Valentine’s Day that included homemade cookies that we all promptly devoured.

IMG_3760

Who could ask for anything more?

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That time we hit up Pepper Palace and ate all the sauce

In case the name wasn’t obvious, our title sponsor Pepper Palace offers a huge and delicious array of hot sauces and related items. I love food sponsors because food, but even I knew that trying too much sponsor product during a store visit could end badly. Fortunately, the manager was kind enough to keep a supply of chips, bread, and ice cream to help idiots undo their painful, burning mistakes. If you have a chance to visit a Pepper Palace store, I highly recommend it because few things are more invigorating than lighting your insides on fire with condiments.

2015 Lindsay Bayer Suzanna Dupee SO SPICY

So much burning.

2015 Pepper Palace Visit

The ladies of Pepper Palace.

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Phoenix Rising

It’s been nearly a week of living in Phoenix and because I am an asshole with a short-term memory, I’ve pretty much forgotten that everybody back home is still suffering miserably through a chilly winter. As a sign in our condo says, “Phoenix: Where Summer Spends Winter” (but then goes on to say “…and where Hell Spends Summer.”) It’s so nice to ride in shorts and cultivate my sunburn! And now that I have made enemies of you all with my bragging, I will mention that I have a cold, it hurts to breathe, and I’m hacking up phlegmballs. See? There is fairness in life after all.

The week has been uneventful, aside from the part where we’re all living off zinc, emergen-C, and paranoia. It’s almost a relief to already be sick because when you are in team housing, it’s only a matter of time. At least I have stopped waiting and started suffering already. This is what is called trying to find the silver lining.

We have found a new home in town at Bicycle Haus, a place to buy all of the fancy bicycle things and get great coffee. The people there are very nice and welcoming (HI JOHN), even after I kept showing up with more riders and more requests. I am excited to show Andrew the shop when he comes to Phoenix, right after I steal his wallet so that he is unable to buy everything. That is the best part of being a wife: I get to crush hopes and dreams every day.

Today we are visiting a Pepper Palace store to spread sponsor love (and probably this virus as well). Then tomorrow comes the first stage of Valley of the Sun. I have worked all winter for this day – the first stage race of the season, the first opportunity to throw down in a TT after months of training – and now I don’t even know if I will be able to start. It sucks and I don’t want to make the wrong decision, but here is what I do know for sure: regardless of what happens, I want to race my damn bike. When I look back on where I was at this time a year ago, how I was broken down and anxious and wanting to run away from racing, I feel so happy to be here now, even with this shitty cold. Because this cold will pass and I’ll be able to breathe normally again in a few days, but this confidence that has finally returned isn’t going anywhere.

2015 Zanna and Lindsay in Team Housing

Aside from getting each other sick, this is what we do in our down time.

2015 Lindsay in Team Housing

And this.

2015 Peppers Racing Sun Devil

Jeffrey Buchanan was kind enough to share his great race photos from the Sun Devil Criterium

2015 Lindsay Bayer Sun Devil Crit

Let’s call that expression a ‘smile of exertion’ as I try to make this solo break stick.

2015 Sarah!

We talked about The Land Before Time the other night and concluded that Sarah the Sprinter and Sarah the Dinosaur occasionally look very much alike.

2015 Defeated by the gate

We are staying in a gated community and sometimes the gate is smarter than us.

2015 Zanna and John at Bicycle Haus

On our visit to Bicycle Haus, we got the VIP treatment with fancy coffee made in the shop espresso bar. Then Suzanna tried to touch all of the nice equipment.

2015 Zanna and Lindsay at Bicycle Haus

Coffee tastes better out of a $60 mug.

2015 Sarah and Zanna AZ Ride

Phoenix is lovely. What you can’t see in this photo is the headwind that nearly cracked me yesterday. It was one of those rides where nothing feels good and I almost shrieked with frustration and tossed the bike into the shrubs.

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BOOM Goes the Dynamite

When I arrived in Phoenix on Friday, it was with mixed emotions. I was thrilled to have successfully driven across America without getting arrested or killed or stranded on the side of the road (in that order of concern), but also sad to be pulling off the highway for a while. I’d have to actually start wearing respectable clothing and eating food that requires refrigeration. TRAGEDY.

[Also, it is now Monday and I am still wearing the same outfits anyway.]

The highlight of arriving in Phoenix was getting to see my teammates. And holy shitballs, it is awesome to be with my teammates. They are already my home away from home. We moved into our team condo for the week and promptly exploded all over the house; every surface is covered with helmets, glasses, bottles, Chomps, sunscreen, and snacks.

Sunday afternoon was the Sun Devil Criterium, our first race of the season. It went really well; Julie, Suzanna, and I launched multiple attacks and I had ample time to work on my time trial skills while riding solo off the front. (Lesson of the day: Thinking, “THIS HURTS OH BARF THIS HURTS” does not make pedaling feel easier.) With a few laps to go, we took control of the front of the race, set tempo, and led Sarah out to win the sprint while Julie nabbed 4th. HELL YEAH! And I left my taillight on the bike the whole time because safety first.

Then I rode around Phoenix in the dark for another 90 minutes because Coach Sue said to and she is the boss. I was thirsty and out of daylight and ready to take off my chamois, but if she says ride, I ride, because that is what you do when you believe in your coach. I trust her to make me the best rider possible and I trust my teammates to be an awesome family of killer riders, and between these two things, I know this season is going to be fantastic.

2015 Lindsay Bayer and The Moose

I find myself blessed with an abundance of mounted animal heads on this trip.

2015 Pepper Party

This is what happens in team housing. This and pillow fights, of course.

2015 Team Ride

There is no such thing as too much red.

2015 Road Trip to Coffee

Wait, we’re racing already? But it’s February and we haven’t even gotten to the coffee shop yet.

2015 Me and The Kid

The team kid is truly adorable, even while she is scalping me.

2015 Fuck Yeah Peppers

The Peppers looking hot before the first race of the season (the first of what will likely be many hot sauce puns this year).

2015 Sun Devil Crit Podium!

FOR THE WIN!

2015 The Devil Went Down To AZ

I need this bell on my bike.

2015 Julie and the Puppy

And we all need this puppy.

 

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