About a month ago I was waiting to make a big announcement.
A couple of weeks ago I watched my international race calendar fall apart. First, three stage races in China, then Italy. There was a small bit of hope amongst the team that the Tour of Thailand would still be on, but travel of any kind did not feel safe. I started focusing my efforts towards US races I could drive to, and I started accepting invites to ride for composite teams for upcoming stage races, building out a crit/gravel/MTB race season in my head to supplement until things were back on track. I competed in my first 2020 gravel race and won, then, as you know, all were cancelled.
With this news I went through a rollercoaster of emotions, but the one that sticks out and was the most surprising was a sense of relief. I had no idea just how much anxiety I had been experiencing around racing and training until racing was taken away. I have come to realize as I have had the time to process that my head has not been in a good place for a while.
Our family has been through a lot and I have spent the better part of 6 years feeling anxious, selfish, and fearful, that I would regret my choices no matter what path I went down.
To explain, my husband has a genetic disorder called Fabry Disease that is robbing him of his life. Fabry is the reduction of, or the total lack of a single enzyme in our bodies that breaks down lipids. Over the course of decades, the lipids build up in many parts of the body, and the kidneys and heart are most often affected first. He was diagnosed a few weeks before we met nearly ten years ago, and as the years have passed it has greatly effected his quality of life, and we have spent a lot of time in hospitals and a lot of time holding our breath waiting for the next blow.
In 2015 I was racing for Fearless Femme. We were sitting at a coffee shop having finished up a team ride, and were discussing team stuff. Phones were not allowed, but I had mine hidden in my lap receiving updates as Gino was going in for a kidney biopsy. I was upset with myself for not being there with him, and I was scared for him and for the test outcome. Eventually I had a meltdown and told the team what was going on, and apologized for not being present as my mind and my heart were with my husband.
This would be a common theme over the next 6 years. My head and heart have constantly been pulled in different directions, struggling to be present as I struggled to reconcile with the choices I was making.
As Gino’s body continued to be brutalized by this disease, decisions to continue to train race and travel became harder and harder to make. The conversation was to live a life with no regrets but this felt impossible, not spending every precious moment I have with Gino would lead to regret, not pursuing my life’s passion of sport would be a regret. It was a constant guilt-ridden battle to find balance. Together we made decisions, made sacrifices, and fought for Gino’s life.
In 2017, Gino’s kidney function had dropped to 9%, and while most people require dialysis at the 20% threshold, he fought through it and never did dialysis. Through reaching out to our network he was fortunate to receive the gift of life through a living donor kidney transplant from a coworker. Gino is a fighter, and an incredibly driven individual. Within a week after the transplant, he was back to running his company from home, and I was back to getting out for short rides mostly to allow myself to have a good cry, but also to create hope.
As we ticked off medical milestones things never got back to normal, but we had a new normal that was ours. We relaxed a little because we had to, and after encouragement from him, my attention and energy went back into training and racing for me, and continuing the success and growth of Gino’s company that provided security for us and his employees.
The stress, the worry, and the anxiety all had it’s effect on my training and racing, and for that I have guilt and regret, but I was doing the best I could at the time. When I was racing I kept telling myself to be present and in the moment, to make the most out of it because if I did not give it my all then this time away from Gino was wasted, all the sacrifices made leading up to this point, wasted. When things were not under threat and I was able to focus, I had glimpses of what my true potential could be. I saw what hard work and sacrifice could achieve.
In 2018 Gino was under great stress with work and was experiencing chest pain, after putting the company first for way too long, and days after his company was acquired, he had an angiogram and found that the main artery of his heart was 99% blocked, not because of unhealthy life choices but because the progression of his disease. They placed a stent that would fail a year later, requiring double bypass surgery.
Here we are today almost three months out from surgery. The world is in crisis and we are watching things unfold behind the relative safety of our devices. On a day-to-day basis not much has changed for us in terms of our health behavior. Ever since the transplant, we have taken all the necessary precautions of constantly sanitizing our environment, washing hands, avoiding crowds, and avoiding people who are sick, because Gino has to take daily meds that suppress his immune system.
We are both high risk. I have Asthma and an autoimmune disease. No one would know any of this by looking at either of us, and that is what is so scary about this pandemic. Everyday we see people choosing not to take it seriously or make the right decisions to protect themselves or the vulnerable in their communities. We are doing everything in our power to stay safe and keep others safe, so we are self isolating.
In this time I have gone through all the emotions for different reasons, as I’m sure everyone is experiencing right now.
I could go though the list of why I have fear, feel anger, sadness, frustration, and so on, but most of you are here because I am a cyclist and I share my experience as one. As a cyclist, watching the season crumble was really hard. Finding meaning in my training when I have no idea what I am training for took some time to reconcile, and looking at my bikes while not being able to ride them outside stopped me in my tracks one afternoon, and I just cried. I had to ask myself Why? Why do I train? Why do I compete? Those questions led me to here, to reflect back over my career, through all the struggles, sacrifices, and emotions.
Being an athlete is all I have ever wanted to be. From a young age I developed the mentality that I must push myself, and must achieve more than I could before, always growing, and never being satisfied with what I am currently achieving. That want – that need to be better is what makes me feel alive, and having the ability to keep pushing and fighting to achieve is what makes me happy, and grateful.
The feeling of physical or mental breakthroughs is unparalleled, pushing myself against my own goals to achieve or competing against others is a way to measure the work I have put in, but it’s also the relationships and community that comes with the traveling circus that is bike racing. Being an athlete has defined the majority of my life, so when I ask myself why, it’s because it is what make me feel alive, it’s what I love and without it I’m not sure who I would be. Professional athlete or not I believe I will always be an athlete, and will always strive to improve.
With no outside competition in sight, I continue to train because I love it. I love feeling fit and strong, seeing my body change, and witnessing what it is capable of achieving. I have given myself new goals and challenges all while staying the course for one day returning to the start line with my community.
The greatest thing that has come from this forced break from competition is the mental break and the anxiety of decisions needing to be made. Being away from Gino is gone since we are now together 24/7, and we are in lockdown. That has been fine, and good, and we certainly eat at home a lot more now.
I can’t remember the last time I felt this at ease around my training because it’s not tied to any upcoming races or travel. I am simply training again because I love it. My hope is that when competition does resume I will have a healthier mental relationship and preparedness with what I can take on, and be able to go into every race with focus not only for myself but for my teammates and all those who have supported me over the years.
Until then, I will be at home, riding indoors as not to take the risk of an unnecessary accident putting myself and family in further harms way, and putting unnecessary stress on an already stressed medical system. I will continue to support my local community by not going to scheduled appointments but still paying for them. We are ordering necessities from local businesses, and grossly over tipping those who are risking infection while shopping for and delivering goods to us at home. We are planting a garden to become more self sufficient, and running our dogs a lot so they let us sleep in longer. We’re cooking – so much cooking! We are reading actual books made of paper, and are facetiming with friends on the regular. I am coaching Gino back into physical health now that all restrictions from January’s open heart surgery have been lifted. He is on his MTB on Zwift, and even though he hates it he is doing it, we are also working on his functional mobility and working up to strength work. I continue ride on Zwift and am continuing with strength workouts as well, and have even brought back running in to the program. I’m avoiding time spent online, and focusing on being present and enjoying time with loved ones.
I hope you all can find a bit of peace in these turbulent times. Stay safe as you look out for the safety and wellness of your communities, understanding that things are not always as they seem. You never know who is vulnerable, or who is struggling. Be mindful, loving and caring because it will take all of us together to get through this.
We kicked off the season with HB Supermint Team Camp – Media Camp and VOS Stage Race in AZ, where we broke away, crashed, broke a lot of wheels, chased, stood on the podium, won and enjoyed our time together.
Next stop Redlands CA for the Redlands Cycling Classic. We held on for dear life as strong winds tried to rip us from our bikes during the Time Trial. We had some crashes and Podiums and experienced sacrifice and incredible team work throughout the following stages.
Next Stop was the first stop on the USA crit Series Calendar in El Paso TX. Strong winds and nightfall made for an interesting race. Lilly got away in an early break with one other rider, and the field worked hard to bring them back and everyone thought it would happen. But then, LeighAnn jumped across and the gap went back out. Harriet and I would spend the rest of the race covering attacks until Harriet was taken out in a crash. The timing and getting caught up in the crash worked out for me as it allowed me to pull the plastic bag that had tangled in my front wheel… With a little help from our friends we both got back in, and Lilly and LA went one-two, and I took the field sprint for 4th. Lilly would take lap leader and USA crits overall leader for the series opening race.
More stage racing on tap as we headed to Arkansas for Joe Martin Stage Race. What an absolute blast racing hard with this group of ladies at what I would consider the best version yet of Joe Martin! I have raced many versions of JMSR over the years and hands down this year’s courses were the most challenging and provided teams with the best opportunities to truly race hard and challenge each other. We walked away with two podiums, 8th overall, many lessons learned, and so many laughs were shared with these wonderful humans.
Next stop Alabama for Sunny King. We were defending champions, with Lilly winning out of a break last year in the rain with now teammate Harriet. We raced a strong race this year, just missing the podium with Lily sprinting to 4th out of a late race break started by Whitney, who rode an incredible race along side Julie, Harriet and myself. Even though we raced a strong race, I believe we can always learn and get better. I went back to watch the race that was live-streamed to learn from how we rode as a team, how other teams rode, and to see the race from a different perspective. In the final laps I knew we needed to keep the pressure on as shown below. When I saw this part of the video I got a bit choked up. I want to thank Brad Sohner for the acknowledgment and kind words. Supermint is a team unlike any other I have had the honor to ride for. Every single rider is willing to sacrifice themselves for one another and I truly love animating the race and giving my everything for these ladies. So thank you Brad for the coverage and phenomenal support of women’s racing.
More Crit racing on tap and the second stop on the USA Crits Calendar in Athens, Georgia. We had a small but strong crit loving squad of Julie and myself. Having placed 4th in the first race of the series we knew it was all about points, so that is what I went for all night while trying to stay out of all the crashes. Mission accomplished! What an honor to stand on the top step at the 40th edition putting on the USA Crits overall leader’s jersey, and to be able to share the moment with my husband Gino (UGA alum!) and teammate Julie!
Back to Stage racing! Our next stop was Tour of the Gila in Silver City NM. My entire racing career I swore I would never race this race, and would retire happy. Then last year Supermint told me I was going, and it quickly became my favorite stage race of all time, so I was super excited to return again this year with the team to ride for these fantastic women who achieved two podiums and 8th in GC. This was a fantastic race for me because I was able to ride with a super focused goal and that was to protect Jess so that meant make it over all of the climbs with the pack and sprint her into the finish to not lose time on GC and I did. It was an honor to ride for her.
The team went on to race Tour of CA achieving most combative rider and 3rd on a fantastic sprint stage finish.
Back at home I took on the famous PDX Ronde finishing it in its entirety was a check on the bucket list for me, one that I never need to do again. By the numbers: 70.9miles pedaled • 5hr 21min rolling time • 347 TSS • Temp high 95 • 8143 ft of climbing up to 21% grades.
Stop number three on the USA crits Calendar, Winston Salem rated one of the toughest courses in the Series. Followed by the only one day UCI road race in the US. 90 degree temps, sweltering humidity, and the largest field we have seen, including international teams that were in the US for the UCI race. We went in with a lot of cards to play and options as race leader: Lilly was in the lap leader jersey, and team being so close in team competition, we wanted the race to be hard so we made it so. I was focused on point sprints and the finish to maintain race leader. The team rode fantasticly, countering off the sprints where I took full points on every one, attacking and attacking to keep it fast and bouncing back from crashes. However,on the final lap a crash in the front of the field with two turns to go lost us our chance to contest the sprint for the win. Lily collected me in the chaos to chase the leaders who slipped through, and I came in 7th with team mates coming in close behind to move us up in to the team lead. What a team effort.
Next up Winston Salem Cycling Classic UCI 1.1 Road Race. it’s a fantastic feeling when a plan comes together, and the team takes home the win. Julie and Harriet did the heavy lifting, covering moves in the first half of the race then Whitney and I took over the second half until we were both taken out in a crash from the front bunch on the last lap that landed us both in the hospital, luckily Lilly and Leigh Ann made it through making the final selection and LA powered away to a solo victory taking home the win for Supermint for the 2nd year in a row.
All the pretty colors and swelling, but no one has time for that! There is more crit racing in our future. Next stop DC and the Air Force Cycling classic, and the official kick off to crit season. It’s hard going into a race knowing you’re not at 100% but you still have a job to do, and people are counting on you. Injury is frustrating, and I rode the best I could for my Supermint teammates. Whitney was a rockstar teamie all weekend, and helped me through dark times in Sunday’s race. It’s the small words of encouragement that can pull you back up, help to refocus from the pain to the job at hand. Harriet delivered two fantastic podiums and 2nd overall after Lindsay, Liza, Julie, and Whitney rode tremendously strong races.
The hand was not getting any better, and the body was hurting pretty bad but I was not going to let that stop me, after all it was Tulsa Tough time. Stop number 4 on the USA crit Calendar in Tulsa OK, and Gino was there! With a sold out field of a 120 starters it was a heck of a kick off at blue dome with super fans, super host kid, and Supermint all over the podium! Harriet took 3rd after a massive lead out from Liza, Whitney, Leigh Ann and Lilly, Lily maintained lap leader, I snagged all the points to extend the lead in the overall series and the team extended our lead in the team competition, taking home all the beer.
Tulsa Tough Day 2 The team rode a flawless race up until the end with Liza Whitney, and myself covering moves and making the race hard. From an early attack I found myself solo off the front early on then joined by one other rider. We worked together until the chasing field brought us back, then I went again to keep chase for another lap, then we countered and countered. In the final laps I attacked, then attacked again until I had daylight from the field with 4 to go. With Roxsolt on my heels, we took turns pulling, with two riders bridging and the field in chase. Butcherbox would make contact but the field was on us. Inside two to go, I made my final attack leading into Sound Pony hill where Liza took over until the leadout train of Leigh Ann, Lilly, and Harriet formed at the front. With one lap to go, unfortunately both Harriet and Lily went down on the last lap, unable to contest the sprint. Bike racing is not easy, but we keep showing up and giving it our all for each other.
Cry Baby Hill – I honestly can’t recall what happened but I know we raced hard, got into the break had some bad luck and wished we had finished on the top step. You know we gave it our all, and put on one hell of a show.
After Tulsa, and went home and got the bad news I knew was coming. My thumb was fractured despite initial x-ray and now the bone was displaced due to continuing to race on it despite braces and taping the hell out of it when I raced. (that pin was in there from a fracture years ago as a bike messenger) Now I had a tough decision to make keep racing or give it a rest. I did what any bike racer would do, I packed my bags and headed to Nationals.
If you watched Criterium Nationals live you would have witnessed Supermint truly racing our hearts out. We laughed, we cried, we attacked, we crashed, we attacked some more and then Lilly came away with 2nd.
If you watched Road Nationals, you also would have seen another spectacular battle. Every day on the bike is an opportunity to learn, get stronger, and to believe in yourself a little more. Supermint may not have landed on the podium at Pro Road Nationals, but we all rode a race we can be proud of. Spending the day driving the break, I knew as the laps counted down that even if I got caught I was doing the work to best set my team up for a shot at the title while they did the same, covering move after move in the chase.
BC SUPER WEEK !!!!!!! It’s so good to be racing on the West coast!!!!!!! We kicked things off with a win! We attacked from the gun until a break of 7 got away, including Leigh Ann and Lilly. While Lily did the heavy lifting in the break Julie, Liza, Whitney, Lindsay, and I covered attack after attack until we were down to 7 laps to go. The break was close to catching us, (when a break laps the field things can get messy…) so we got to the front, Liza, Whitney and Lindsay did a 6 lap lead out decimating the remaining field. From the break Lily set Leigh Ann to take the win, and I took the field sprint. So incredibly proud of this team and how we raced.
Day 2, I got the day off. I think every athlete should spend the day as a member of the staff to truly appreciate what it takes to make a team run smoothly, and to see the race from another perspective. I truly enjoyed supporting my teammates and staff.
A crash two laps in neutralized the field, and created chaos in the pit as mechanics rushed to swap out broken bikes and wheels. Harriet and Lindsay were involved, but restarted with the field. The race was aggressive, and team covered the moves. With 6 laps to go they took to the front to set pace, the back of the field started to come apart, and with 3 to go Leigh Ann took home the gambler prime and returned to her position in the Supermint train. In the final corners we were bested, and the defending champion took the win.
Day 3 Delta UCI Road Race: Not how I thought this day would go.
It was an incredible honor to stand on my first UCI podium. It was not the plan. The race was aggressive from the start and a break formed early on. I bridged across on the hill to work with Whitney to drive and attack the break, setting Lilly up for the sprint. Teammates Leigh Ann, Lindsay, and Harriet covered moves in the field while Liza and Julie supported us in the feed zone, even executing a perfect bike change for Harriet. The team was working perfectly together. Then, things went sideways when Lily went down inside 800 meters to go. I went from leading out to sprinting in a blink of an eye, to racing for the podium, and am happy I could salvage things by getting on the podium for my Supermint teammates.
Day 4 New West Grand Prix: Leigh Ann landed another podium for the team salvaging an unfortunate turn of events.
New West is a fast course with a steep uphill continuing to climb on one side of the course, then a steep fast decent into the final turn with a continued down hill to the finish. The team covered and attacked in this 40 lap race, and as the laps came down so did the rain. With the weather, the field fell apart from crashes and splits in the field. We were left with Leigh Ann, Liza, Lindsay and myself. Leigh Ann followed a late race attack with three to go and took the gamblers prime. In the final lap, Alison Jackson of Tibco launched a massive attack on the top back side and I tried to follow. She had clean wheels so I was racing for second. Leading into the wet final turn a Rally rider made a very dangerous move on my inside and went down. I pointed my bike towards the wall of hay bales to minimize damage, Liza who was sitting on my wheel got caught up and went down as well, along with several other riders. The splintered field made it through for the finish. As someone who is accustomed to riding in the rain in the Pacific Northwest, and knows my equipments limits, this outcome to an otherwise strong race for the team was very frustrating, as it could have been avoided had the Rally rider taken the wet ground into consideration before diving the corner.
Gastown Grand Prix and final podium of BC Super week.
Attack, cover, attack was how the race went down, keeping things fast and safe into the final lap so Lilly could get into position to take 2nd. It was a fast wild race, as always in Gastown. I also ran into some PDX folks from my local shop, West End Bikes, and found myself on the wall at Global Relay headquarters.
Next up Boise ID for stop number 5 on the USA Crits Calendar
We did hometown hero Liza proud in downtown Boise. After the team put on quite a show in the sweltering heat, Harriet took second on the night. I sprinted all night for points, and continued my lead in the overall race for orange. Lilly had lap leader locked down, and we still led the team overall in the USA Crits series.
Moving on to Salt Lake City for stop number 6 on the USA Crits Calendar.
Salt Lake Criterium was on fire. Our crit squad hit squad of Whitney, Liza Harriet, and I properly handled things, extending my lead in the #racefororange, taking all three point sprints and finishing 3rd while Harriet dominated the sprint to take the win. We also took home some sweet primes and continued to lead the team competition. It was hot, speeds were high, and the course had a lot to offer including cobbles.
Stop number 7 on the USA Crits Calendar San Rafael Sunset Crit
I bet on myself and won! This is a night I won’t ever forget. I was so incredibly honored and excited to take home the win in front of friends family, and the cycling family where it all started! I took the chance following a move that went for the gambler’s prime, saw we had a gap to the field, so I took the prime and kept going until I pretty much blacked out throwing across the finish line. The small squad of Harriet, Liza and me raced hard all night attacking and covering moves. We didn’t really have a plan other than to take the mid-race points and win. I can’t thank them enough for their fantastic rides and finishing 3rd and 7th on top of all their efforts. This was my first USA Crits win, and my second time winning at San Rafael. I can’t express how special this night was to me.
Next on the circuit was USA crits Calendar stop #8 Littleton CO, where we continued to dominate with what we called the Staria Aria Show. We also got to hangout with our Ambassadors and meet some really fantastic locals! The race was fast and in the dark. We took all the points, raced aggressively, and finished it off with a one-two punch. With just one more stop the lead in the race for orange continued to grow.
Final race of the USA crits series was West Chester PA. Having been short a few riders throughout the series we lost valuable free points for riders starting in the team competition. We went into this race points hunting, but the math did not add up. This did not stop us from animating the race, along with taking all mid race points. We also went for lap lead, trying to eek out every last point we could. Colavita had the starting numbers we lacked all series, and ended up jumping us to take the team overall. It would have been great to take home three out of the four competitions, but we settled for two, with Lap leader and the grand prize, USA Crits overall leader! It was an absolute honor to stand on so many podium steps with my Supermint team mates and to celebrate the overall with fellow Winner, it was a hard fought series.
With the USA Crits Series over and won, and only a few more Crit race days on the Calendar, it was good to be home, but I needed to hold on to fitness. I returned to Prineville, OR to defend my gravel glory and restock the fridge with my weight in beer for Gino returning to race the Ochoco Gravel Roubaix.
I raced a steady race, watching one woman ride away from me early on. She was a strong mountain biker, but in my experience from last year, if I kept a steady pace I felt confident I would catch her. The course was beautiful, temps were perfect, and the gravel was challenging. Again, I ran my tire pressure way too high. Maybe I’ll learn this year. As I approached the final climb I caught my carrot. At the top of the hill we approached the Chase the Chaise photo opp, but neither of us stopped, and I’m super disappointed in this missed moment! She did stop for the last water stop so I took this opportunity to push on. Not only was my goal to win, but also beat last year’s time. I descended the last gravel section and hit pavement, and settled into a solid pace. At one point I looked back and saw a small group of men chasing, and eventually they caught me. Guess who was in tow… my competition. These dudes had blown themselves up chasing me to give her a chance, then they then fell off the pace, out of sight. At this point I was not worried, and kept focused on the time, as we approached town a male rider caught us and she jumped on his wheel. It got a bit chaotic as we got into town, because traffic was not stopped, but there were flaggers waiving us in. Yes, open roads and a bike race finish. We took the final left into the finish stretch, and a truck and trailer turned left right in front of us. Luckily we dodged it, crisis averted, and then she started to sprint. I smiled at this point, knowing I had it, then sprinted to win! I wish they had done the full podium, but she had entered age category. I would have loved to have shared the podium with her as she was a great competitor that made the race really fun. Also, next time I need to put rolls of quarters in my pockets for the weigh in for beer winnings.
Our final race series of the season and as a team was Gateway Cup in Saint Louis. This picture is one of my favorite of all season, maybe of all time. Lindsay and I will never forget our conversation, and only we know what we are laughing so hard about. Despite freezing in the pouring rain, and having mixed emotions about racing in the rain on a mostly dark course, we took to the start line and relaxed because this is home to us. This is what we do, what we are good at, and what we love.
This night was epic with thunder, lightning, rain, and a lot of tough women. Team stayed safe with Lindsay, Leigh Ann, Julie and I attacking, putting in work, and covering moves. Harriet did what she does best, blasting through turn 4 to nab second. Not a bad start to the cup.
Day two we saw dry roads and sun. This stage last year I led Harriet out for the win, and this year things were not much different but a slightly different ending. It was another tight sprint at Francis park. The team marked moves, and took a couple digs to ensure the race would come down to a field sprint. Julie, Leigh Ann, and Lindsay did a fantastic job keeping it fast in the final laps, then I took over, leading through the final turn with Harriet barely getting pipped at the line and taking second.
Day three we went hard and came up empty handed. Like Tad said “sometimes even the best teams miss the mark” and it was not for a lack of trying all day we tried to force the break.
Our Swan Song
We were all brought to tears when the announcer Dave Towle said many special heart felt words about our team, and the impact it has had in women’s racing, and in the sport as a whole. I get choked up thinking about all the amazing times, hard times, and all the little moments in between. This team has helped me grow as an athlete and as a human, and I will never forget this time in my life.
So in Supermint fashion we went out on top! We took the win on the final day of Gate Way Cup, ending our season and our time together on Supermint by riding and winning as a team!