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Monday, October 30, 2006


Women's racing in NorCal is hot like the naughty right now. There isn't a huge difference in ability between the top 5 or 6 women in our region and each race there's just that bit of tension pulsing through the airwaves as the femmes take their warm up laps. True, we have riders who are considered 'favorites' or 'likelies to...' but, overall - every race we've had has been a quality showcase of local talent fighting it out for the prizes.

Around the US this cross season we've had a couple of women dominating the CX scene ... 2-time Natzy champ and wicked fast Katie Compton is one, and just behind her in physical prowess, but perhaps a bit craftier in big race experience, is Lynn Bessette. As a canuck, Bessette won't be snaking any of our US World's team spots ... but, a very probable replacement of arguably similar speed and power is Luna's GGould. Those three have raced against the best in the US and separated themselves as a thin, but recognizable slice in ability above all others.

Of course, there are always the regional racers out there waiting to take a bite of that pie, as well. A good example is the NorCross vet Rachel Lloyd. She is definitely one of the major contenders choosing to not travel the states in search of the UCI points scrums. Of those who have, Velo Bella look to be fielding the strongest team in America. Kerlin rode away from all the East Coasters at the last big event, and fellow Bellas Winfield and Schwartz appear to be only a match stick behind in the ability to dominate a race that doesn't have Compton, Bessette, or Gould in it. Winfield looks strong and rides like a steady veteran, while Schwartz is pure energy on the bike, throwing herself at whatever comes her way.

It's very likely that we're going to have a HUGE battle in the final countdown as to who makes the US World's team. If Compton wants it, it's hard to think she won't be an auto-selection. So too might be Gould, given her consistent scoring at UCI events. But beyond that? It's up for grabs, baby. And the big decision maker, the Natz race course itself, is just as big of a player as any of the women who race it.

Will it be snowy frozen oysters, over in RI? Will it be snotty slick EastCoast muddy wetness? Will there be one last gasp of fair dryness to force a festival of speed and endurance?

If it's a frozen snowfest ... Compton will be hugely favored to win another Natz title. She is powerful and efficient in adverse conditions and rumbles over a race course like a freight train. But, anyone can puncture, anyone can crash hard on a hip or a hand, anyone can get sick. That's why we don't get to email our results in.

And so, I think that Natzy race is going to be a straight up catfight for the remaining podium spots and, likely, tickets written to World's. It will be who can handle the pressures of a big race, who can ride in that specific day's conditions, who comes in the sharpest, hungriest.

If Lloyd makes the trip to Nationals - I see her fighting for a top 3 with Kerlin and Winfield. The darkhorses will be Christine Vardaros, Rhonda Mazza, and Shelley Olds. Each rider excels under different conditions. In the ugliest of conditions, I see Mazza, Winfield, and Vardaros as having a slight advantage over the other regional contenders. And we can't discount Josie Beggs as a rider who finds something extra in performance when the weather goes psycho. If the conditions turn more to speed and power ... Kerlin and Olds might be more favored. But, who can say?

Olds has taken the largest jump up in ability and ambition. But, inexperience can be a killer in this sport - and someone like Vardaros will always have an edge in that regard. But, Olds has a good crew behind her who can help deal with all those innocuous little items of preparation that can make or break a race. The Velo Bellas always have a big crew helping their team and that will be a huge benefit at Natz. And Mazza will always have the NorWest mafia traveling with her. Will Vardaros and Lloyd's teams drum up enough support to keep them well tended to at the big show?

Anyway, the steps to Nationals are taken now and this weekend down in Surf City we had a very interesting battle between the heavies. Physically, Lloyd, Kerlin and Olds looked very evenly matched on a course that revealed fitness more than any other I've seen this year. Lloyd raced at the front from the Vanderkitten Naughty Hotness lap on and won with a fair, but not dominating gap. Olds crashed early and chased like a bulldog. Kerlin broke a chain in a bad spot and had to put in a long run to make it to the pits. After all that drama, each pedaled at roughly the same level of ability throughout the event and makes us all anticipate a few more beauty battles to come as we progress through the season.

good stuff.

uh oh, lunch hour over ... time to jet.



Brennabella said...

Cool! cool! cool! Thanks for your insight and race report. Can't wait to meet you, someday. Coming to PDX in November?

Anonymous said...

ya, ya, ya hernandi. I'd agree they deserve some press but it seems every other post as been of the girly scene.

Give yourself some italian flair and change that "o" to an "i"

Olaf Vanderhoot said...


Olaf Vanderhoot said...

and don't worry, got many a scribble about the boy-parts coming up.

... just let me down this beer, or three, first.

Olaf Vanderhoot said...

BB - right on, sistah! Unfortunately, Sabine and I probably won't be able to make it up to the great NorWest for the races ... but more than a few of the Bellas will brave the goop to get up there and grind it out.

I expect pictures on your bloggie-log!

we'll see you soon,

Anonymous said...

THANKS for the mention!!! I arrived in belgium last week, just in time for the Womens world cup opener in Kalmthout, Belgium where i placed 14th. Last sunday i did my 2nd euro uci race in france - got 8th (marianne vos won!) Tomorrow is koppenbergcross. I'm sure it will be quite painful to ride up those infamous cobbles multiple times! I'll try to keep you updated of my travels here.
Best, Christine "peanut" vardaros of Mill Valley

PROMANgirl said...

There is never too much chick chat!

Johnny Sprocket said...

Breaking it down. Wow!