Last August, LPV dipped a toe into NRC stage racing at the 2013 Alexian Brothers Tour of Elk Grove. The circuits were fast and furious and we loved it. We loved the up-close experience of racing at the highest level in the U.S. and we loved seeing our Chicago Women’s Bike Racing peers right in the mix. We went into the weekend afraid we would be time cut, but by stage 3, LPV had cracked the top 20, Jeannie Kuhajek came inside the top 10, and the other local ladies, Daphne Karagianis, Ellen Ryan, and Kelli Richter were all racing well. Between congratulations to each other, we discussed plans for a Chicago Composite Team for the following year.
We soon learned that the Tour of Elk Grove would not be returning to the National Race Calendar in 2014, so we set our sights on the prestigious North Star Grand Prix and convinced Daphne, Ellen, Sarah Rice, and Sierra Siebenlist to go in with us as a composite team. With six stages compared to Elk Grove’s three, we knew we’d need the backup.
Putting team allegiances aside and attending NRC stage races as a composite team is less about teamwork in the tactical sense, and more about sharing resources and supporting each other–at least with moral support. NRC stage racing has an additional set of logistical demands on top of the physical ones. Beyond normal stuff like making meals and keeping track of the schedule for each day, there are manager meetings to attend, support vehicles to be driven in the race caravan, and the potential of being selected for random anti-doping control. Professional teams have a director as well as several staff to worry about these things so that the athletes don’t have to. We are not professionals, but coming together as a composite team meant we had an expanded network of truly amazing friends and family willing to help out.
First, we had many of YOU, because if you’re reading this, it is likely that you pitched in during our fundraiser. We were able to cover race fees, meals, and provide a travel stipend for our guest riders. Your support is a really big deal to us and we are happy that some downtime between races in Minnesota gave us a chance to thank you all properly and personally. Keep an eye on your mailboxes!
Next, we had Eric Lindahl, most devoted husband and team car driver, EVER. Some people will really go the extra mile; Eric literally went several hundred extra miles to make sure we had a support vehicle in the race caravan. Between Sarah’s experience from last year’s Nature Valley Pro Chase Team and Eric’s caravan driving skills, this power couple taught LPV a thing or two about domestique duties and sticky bottles.
After that, we had Gracie, childhood friend of Daphne, who married a guy named Andrew, whose family lives in Menomonie, Wisconsin. Andrew’s family loves cycling and they hosted a heck of a dinner party after Stage 5, Menomonie Road Race. We felt like something between family and honored guests as we were treated to great company and conversation around a cozy fire, piles of delicious foods, hot showers, fancy soaps, and all the sparkling water and craft beer we could possibly drink. We were also lucky to have wonderful host housing the entire week at the homes of Randy & Erin Bell and Heather Leide.
Of course, we also had Tenspeed Hero, who continue to redefine what sponsorship even means to an amateur cycling team. Sure, we got a sneak peak at some new water bottles and socks, but that’s not why we love being LPV/TSH Women. We love it because these guys came all the way to Minnesota to be a part of our adventure! Thank you Luke, Samuel, and Matthew for being there when we needed a swig of water, or a hug, or 12 stitches in the medical tent, or a ride to the airport. And thanks for capturing women’s cycling in a unique way with your trained eyes and skillful camerawork.
Last, we had each other. For me, the most transformative part of the NSGP experience was returning to the team car after Stage 3, Cannon Falls Road Race. I was the last LPV to roll in, and–after nearly 90-miles out in brutal cross winds–at my lowest point of the week. A few tears were inevitable with all the hugs, warm clothing, and hot tea coming from every direction. Accepting help isn’t one of my strong suits to begin with, and then there was this sense of overwhelming gratitude for teammates who stepped up to fill critical support roles. Despite an injury at the Quad Cities Criterium that knocked her off our NSGP roster, Madi drove over from Madison to help with feed zone support during the toughest stages. Mia sent a thoughtful care package containing compression tights, foam roller, and herbal salves for sore muscles. And, instead of checking out when an unfortunate crash or mechanical cut their racing short in stages 2, 3, and 4 respectively, Jannette, Ellen, and Daphne remained committed to the integrity of the LPV Composite Team through the end of the NSGP. These women are the best! I hope that we can continue to support each other and collaborate as teammates and friends. Speaking of friends, the NSGP peloton also felt a lot friendlier with the presence of these ladies: Kelli Richter and Sarah Szefi of PSIMET Racing, Jeannie Kuhajek of Vanderkitten, and our other favorite composite team, PBLRB! Great to see all of you out there, gettin’ after it.