Monday, June 29, 2009

Swiss Nationals Road Race + Bern

Saturday Shannon and I departed for the Swiss Nationals Road Race in Nyon at 7:40am. An early morning compared to recently. The drive was quite uneventful as I slept through the entire thing. Once we got there, there was a bit confusion. Eventually things were sorted out and we found that we had arrived at the race just under four hours early. Shannon and I opted to fit in our ride before the race so that we could attend the race. The countryside there was very nice with the lake on one side and the mountains on the other. Lots of sonnebloomen (sunflowers) were in bloom as well!
I love Sonnebloomen

The beautiful lake

I love the whole requirement the Swiss have that all races must have showers because I definitely enjoyed being clean for the rest of the day. We got dropped off in the feed zone and waited. The thirty women at nationals were mostly Team Bike-Import, Cevelo, Bigla, and this Giant team that wasn’t pro. Their race was only 98k for their nationals! They did 6 laps that were half uphill and half downhill. It seemed like an odd course to me, more of a circuit race than anything else. Anyways, the group stayed together until the end. Bike-Import ended up getting third through fifth, so not too shabby results. They were bested only by two Bigla gals.

The field

Andrea Wolfer, right, on the podium

Shannon went home with Fabienne after the race and is staying there for the week and I went back to Zollbruck. It was only on this ride home, that I fully realized the language thing. I didn’t understand one word of what was said on the ride home in the car even though people were talking the whole way. It was kinda lonely! Of course I did what I did best though, and went to sleep.

Sunday my day started with a 10am ride with Marco who helps out the team. I looked up the word “thirty” and “minute” and tried to find up or uphill or something like that but couldn’t find it. I ended up getting my thirty minutes of climbing up some nice mountain a whole ten minutes from here (we passed quite a few other options, but he preferred this one). The few from the top was astonishing as always. On the way down, my tire started making these weird thumping noises. I thought I had a flat but I didn’t. At the bottom I got off and found my sidewall was busted. Crap. We sorted fixed it and went on our way. The ride ended up being faster than I was expecting, averaging just under 30K an hour which included a total of 40 minutes of climbing. It was good to go fast again though- seems like I haven’t done a lot of racing lately, but I guess that is about to change.

In the afternoon, the parents, Susanna, Abigail, and I left for Bern to take this train up to the top of a mountain. There, there was a park with hiking, grass, a really cool playground for kids, a restaurant, and an amazing view of Bern. You won’t believe me, but I forgot my camera in the car! No pictures. After walking around for what felt like ages, we stopped at the restaurant for a coffee. They had these cool machines that made cappuccinos with the proper ratios of everything- foam, milk, and espresso. It was neat. There cappuccinos are served in bowls- weird huh?

Today was my first ride all by myself here. It was actually kinda nice to change it up. I realized I haven’t ridden by myself since I was in Austin almost two months ago. Later this afternoon, I’m going with the mother to the strawberry fields to pick some of the last strawberries of the season and to get some strawberry wine. Plans have changed again and I'll be staying here all week and then Shannon will be returning here and Peter will visit!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Breakfast, Ballet & Bloomen

Today started off early with a safari breakfast at Abigail’s Swiss elementary school in a teepeee, well we thought we were going to get to eat in the teepee, but instead we had breakfast inside her classroom. The school was cool- lots and lots of art and even trampolines in the classroom! Sounds like the kids had a good safari- they learned all about tigers and lions and other ferocious cats, made masks, and decorated pots, looked for cats in the forest, and camped out in a teepee, among other things. It was pretty cool.

Unfortunately, the weather today was bad- it was thunderstorming and pouring buckets the whole day. If we had trainers, it wouldn’t be a problem, really, but since we do not, we kissed our workout goodbye in favor of staying healthy and not sick. Instead we joined Abigail and her mom, Susanna, to Abigail’s ballet practice in Langnau. While she was at ballet, Shannon and I walked around the town and window shopped.

Das Ballet

Chocolate hippos

Afterwards, we went to a garden where you can cut your own flowers for a bouquet and pay by the flower. It was really cool! You can support the local farmers and know you are getting the freshest flowers possible! Check it out:

Yay flowers for the host family

Abigails cuts a fresh flower

Swiss Nationals Time Trial & Stockhorn

The past two days have been pretty busy for Shannonand me. Wednesday was an early wake-up and a nice 2-hour ride out past Bergdorf and through beautiful, forested valleys and back to Zöllbruck. As soon as we got back, we had a lunch of another traditional Swiss meal called Raclette. This involved a small “oven” that is put on the table and personal-sized square pans with mini spatulas. You put a slice of cheese in the pan and put it in the oven. When it is completely melted you pour it over hot boiled potatoes, scraping out every last bit of cheese out with the spatula. We also dined on the ever amazing salad we have with every lunch, made with lettuce from the mom’s garden. Amazing. Here is a picture of the oven with the pans with cheese:

After the meal, we met up with the team car and journeyed to Nyon, in the French region of country to help out and watch the girls’ national’s time trial. The region looked much less lush than Zöllbruck, more arid, and full of more gentle mountains in comparison to the sharp ones here. During the time trial, we were lucky enough to get to go in the follow car for Sereina. Yep, riders here are allowed a follow car and each has a lead motorcycle so no wrong turns here! That was fun. The course was super windy by U.S. standards and mostly on one-lane roads through farmland. There were a couple short climbs, too to mix it up. The total course was only 18K, quite a bit shorter than last year’s 40K TT in the U.S.! The team did pretty well, getting most of the spots from 5th to 10th, bested only by some Cevelo gals. I definitely wish I was able to compete- the course looked awesome!

Early Thursday morning we journeyed with Bruno's parents to his business, Bike-Imports, his online bike shop. It was pretty neat. Think of hundreds upon hundreds of shelves of bike parts.

We somehow were somehow convinced to go Stockhorn, a rather large mountain that we would take a tiny cable car up. I don't like heights like that and neither does Shannon, so I'm not quite sure how we got convinced to go do this. We pretty muched squealed the whole way up. The view was absolutely breathtaking. The mountain flowers, the vast mountains, the clouds! At the tip-top we had a picnic with Susanna's parents. After playing in the tiny bit of snow at the top and a hot kaffee, we headed back to the middle station for a "short" hike around the lake. I guess from not walking and just riding, I got pretty tired from this 40-minute hike. It was very beautiful, which made up for the soreness I'd later feel in my calves. Eventually we left and headed back to our town in the car. Shannon and I were so worn out we ended up sleeping the whole way home and our ride ended up just being to the post-office. Oops.

You can't even see the first stop for the cable car...

The stairway to heaven?

Amazing...hard to believe a lake is below these clouds

Thunersee (Lake Thun) is below these clouds and the Alps are behind the other ones

The amazing view from the top

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Salt Bath for Your Cheese?

Well the Käse (cheese) tour was neat. If only I had been feeling better, I would have enjoyed it more. We saw how they bring in all these jugs milk and put them in this huge, warm container that combs through the milk until a soft solid form is made. Then the cheese goes into a salt bath a few times. Each cheese round weighs 95 kilos! After that it is aged in a humid but cold room. It will occasionally get additional salt baths. It’s a hard process to describe and I definitely didn’t get all of it. I guess the cheese from the Emmental is exceptionally salty and you can even see salt crystals attached to the cheese. Man, even though we were looking at the cheese through glass walls, the aging cheese stunk so bad!

Cheese aging

Where all the cheesy magic happens

After, we went to this old farmhouse that was made in 1741. Those people were so short! I had to duck to go through the doorway, so just imagine Shannon! I have pictures so I’ll have to show you. We got to see the old process for making cheese…they made it in these huge vats and just stirred and stirred. They also had these stone benches that were attached to the room where they made the cheese and would take the warmth from that fire to heat the benches in winter for a nice warm place to sit. The benches in turn were hallow so bread could be bakes inside and the benches also heated the house. Talk about efficient!

Shannon showing off her height

Stone bench to heat your buns and bread

Shannon is a natural cheese-maker

We then went to a tourist shop and they had some interesting things. For example, they make these wooden farm animals for kids that apparently grandparents buy for their grandkids for special occasions to put in the kids’ wooden farmhouses (apparently, every kid has a wooden farmhouse as well).Also, they sold traditional farmer’s shirts with this common flower print of the flowers that grow all over the land.

More Cow Bell?

I guess the grandfather refuses to leave the factory without getting dessert so we went to the restaurant so that he could do that. I was so sick by then (stomach pain and nausea), so I didn’t try anything, but what they got looked good. The factory makes the ice cream in house, so I bet it is very good. Shannon got this good looking dessert of warmed berries with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream.

Shannon's dessert

We look a long way back with lots of scenic views of the Emmental and took a whole bunch of pictures as well. Even though the day was very cold and rainy, the landscape was so lush and colorful. It is so beautiful here, in a way unlike anything I’ve seen. Unfortunately, the combo of me not feeling well and the very curvy roads made me very carsick.

Typical Road

Garden Dragons

Today we have an easy ride, but unfortunately, it looks like it'll be a wet one with the rain and the cold. It is still freezing here at 16*C (in the 50s in F), but it looks like that will leave us later this week.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wetzikon Kriterium

The race was a good two hour drive away on the other side of Zurich in a town I don't remember how to spell the name. Shannon and I met all of our awesome teammates- I'm very excited to race with them this summer. It was freezing cold at 12* C and it started pouring buckets as soon as we left to warm up. We all hid under a bus stop to wait out the worst of the rain and the hail and then we jetted back to where the cars were so we could get the wheels switched from carbon to aluminum wheels. The staff of the team is ridiculously helpful. The rain was a bummer not just because it was rain and because it was cold rain, but because Shannon and I were eager to try out the ridiculously light carbon wheels Bruno had given us to use. I seriously think it made my bike 5-7 lbs lighter.

By the time we got to the start, it had stopped raining and the sun was shining, although the roads were wet. Only 10 girls showed up, 8 of which were us. The course was weird in that we had to go over curbs and that the path was about as wide as 2/3 of a car lane in the U.S. We made the race hard by attacking over and over again. Kriteriums are different here in that its like a points race on the track with sprints for points every 5 laps and whoever has the most points at the finish wins (so not necessarily the one who wins the final sprint). The last laps, the points are doubled. It was fun attacking and going off the front for a bunch of laps and getting points. We pretty much raced each other and then once breaks were set, we worked to make sure the girls on the other team didn't get spring points. It was fun. It was pouring by the end and we were freezing so everyone jetted off the the showers. Its' so nice having showers at all the races. You get to go home feeling all clean instead of nasty.

It's funny with neither them or Shannon and I knowing each other's languages perfectly. There was a very funny mix up yesterday. Fabienne crashed when a kid ran into the road during the race (she's okay), and she was telling Shannon and I how an attractive guy was trying to get her to go to the cemetary and Shannon and I were very confused. She meant the medical tent. Hehe. We do lots of the same though, except we pick up much less right now :-) I am amazed at how much we've picked up in just these past six days. I'm sure I'll pick up more at an even greater rate once I'm at Jessi's in Wichtrach.

Today we're talking a tour of a local cheese factory here in Emmental, since it is an off-day. It should be good. I think I'll get pretty cheesed-out today since we already had fondue for lunch ;-) I guess what we had was called farmer's fondue because we stuck other stuff in it like meat and pickles and bananas. Well, its time to go...until tomorrow!

From the TT in Luzern Tuesday

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Power Washing

The last few days have been pretty low key. Shannon and I have luckily missed rain so far on our rides. We've done intervals the last few days, riding out towards Thun. Unfortunately, the rides have been shorter so we haven't made it all the way there yet. The ride is still very nice though and every day we pass the cutest little baby sheep ever. Shannon wants to take one home. Haha. It feels like all we do here is sleep, ride, and eat. Meals are very drawn out family affairs. Three generations of family at every meal- it's amazing! Lots of fresh food and everything is home cooked. We are learning Swiss German/ High German combo pretty quickly which is good. Bruno showed us today that we can power wash our bikes in a minute flat at the car wash. It's so much easier that way! Now our bikes are all clean for tomorrow's Kriterium! Today I also finally got to test out Skype and catch up with Peter who I hadn't talked to yet! We'll be staying here in Zollbruck next week as well because it will work out better logistically for our teammates. Next weekend we'll be journeying to Geneva to watch and cheer our teammates on for their Nationals!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The First Race

Tall trees

Wow well our family here has taken good care of us. Shannon and I have hardly had a minute to ourselves, we've been so busy. After dinner our first day, Shannon and I went for a walk along the river. It was very beautiful, minus the very large slugs and snails. The family is so nice and brought us some grocery staples like muesli, milch (milk), crackers, freshly made rhubarb-strawberry jam, rhubarb cake, and fresh honeydew melon from the garden.

Traditional Farmhouse with lots of Bloomen

Yesterday was a good day. After our 11 hours of sleep, we got up for a quick breakfast at Susanna's house, some internet and emails, a delicious fisch fillet, reis (rice), and salat (salad), we went to a small town on top of a small mountain and hiked to a large wooden tower with 198 steps to the top. The view from the top was breathtaking. We could see the Alps and all the surrounding valleys and mountains and beautiful towns.


When we got back, we packed our bags and prepped our bikes for the time trial. It was an hour drive to Luzern where the time trial was through the town and in the countryside. It was a 13k course that you did two laps of. Shannon and I met three of our teammates: Nicole, Andrea, and Jessica. They were all very nice and I'm very excited to race with them. The race itself was rough since we hadn't gotten to ride at all beforehand, just warm up before the race. The course was absolutely breathtaking and quite rollings. Shannon and I didn't have high expectations with the severe-jetlag and not riding, but it looks like we did okay for a time trial on road bikes with no aero equipment and big, fat training tires, well enough that it looks like we'll be able to use some race wheels the team has around.

The Alps are in our backyard :-)

Today Shannon and I exchanged money by ourselves at the bank in deutsch. It was a good accomplishment and the lady understood us. She got really excited when we tried. After lunch, we went on a nice 3 hour ride to Bern and through tons of villages. It's amazing- we never got honked at for being on the roads and cars never got too close for comfort. A little different than in the U.S. for sure. Pictures will follow!

Our friend Abby

Here are some funny stereotypes we have found to be true: The cows, sheep and goats all have bells around their necks, the whole country is just as beautiful as in the pictures, and yes, they eat lots of cheese, bread, and butter.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hallo Switzerland

Well, we made it to Zurich after a grueling day on the plane. But first, I'll back it up a bit. The Colorado trip finished up nicely with some quality family time, a New Belgium Brewery tasting with Brenna, and some good riding. Shannon and I went on an awesome group ride Saturday with the Echelon Health team, complete with attacking ;-)

Bier, Bier, Bier

Brenna likes New Belgium Beer

Well the journey to Zurich didn't go as smoothly as planned. The day started out with a 3:30am wake-up...Let me say this: cyclists should never fly with Delta! Shannon and I used a double bike box and with our bikes it weighed 70-lbs, hardly over the 50-lb limit for suitcases- they charged us $450 one-way for the bike box- $300 because it was a bike and $150 because it weighed over 50-lbs! My only suitcase also cost $150, so my plane ticket's cost was basically doubled getting here. I don't deal well with things like that. What's even more messed up is that Delta's headquarters said that the cost of my single suitcase and the bike box should have been less than half of what was charged, but nothing was done about it.

Giant snail

We couldn't get seats together for the long flight from Atlanta to Zurich. Luckily, the guy next to me switched with Peter so I could sit next to him and Shannon made a new friend on the flight who shared her love for Twilight ;-) Those next eight hours consistested of dozing, reading, and doing Rosetta Stone. When we got here this morning at 7:30am, all our luggage made it except Peter's bike box. We're hoping its on its way and it should show up tomorrow. Also, Peter's ride from the airport was MIA when we left with our ride. It would be much easier if I could just call Peter to make sure he made it.

Shannon in our room

The language barrier fun as begun- the staff of Team Bike-Imports speaks very little English and Shannon and I speak very little German. All the more reason to really focus on that Rosetta Stone and to try to take in as much as possible. Everyone so far as been very, very hospitable. The landscape is very beautiful here- it is exactly like I imagined it- very picturesque. I love everything about this country so far!
A view outside our window

Another view outside our window

On our way to where we're staying this week, we had breakfast at a gas station restaurant consisting of amazing pungent coffee and some doughy pastry filled with a nut and apple paste. The drive to where we are was amazing with all the little villages and pastures and forests and mountains and just magnificent beauty. We got settled into our room, unpacked and eventually headed to lunch at Bruno's sister's house. The food was good and of course was concluded with yet another coffee- this one a macchiato. Yum, I could get used to their coffee. The only other item on the agenda today is putting together our bikes. Tomorrow we're going to watch and maybe race the local time trial.
The farmhouse where we are staying

The view outside our window

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cold and Rainy

Colorado has been great.  Friday we journeyed to Boulder and Estes Park on our day off.  In Boulder, we went to Pearl Street Mall which I thought was fabulous.  If only our legs weren't so tired, we could have walked around more than just a couple hours.  After our exploration of Boulder, we journeyed up to Estes Park.  Can you say wow?  The drive up there was beautiful and the little mountain town was awesome.  It was better than Boulder in many ways.  We got to Estes Park later than we should have, so we ended up having to leave earlier than we would have liked.  All in all, it was a very enjoyable day off the bike.

The Bean Cyclery, Fort Collins, CO

Saturday we did a group ride with a local Cat 2 and 3 men's team here.  They did a quick loop over Rist Canyon and back around to Horsetooth Reservoir.  Shannon and I dropped back before Rist Canyon so as to keep to our "easy 3 hour" training ride.  The guys were nice and we're looking forward to riding with them this weekend.  My parents, Shannon, Peter, and I went into downtown Fort Collins late in the afternoon and walked around.  For dinner, we went to Boujo's Pizza which was Coloradoan Pizza.  What exactly is Coloradoan pizza?  Well, it has crust approximately 8x as thick as the pizza itself and you are supposed to eat the crust the honey.  It was pretty good and doughy.  
Garden of the Gods

Sunday after church, Peter, Shannon, and I went out to ride with my dad.  My dad was going to do intervals with Shannon and I.  The sky looked like a bit of rain, which really wouldn't be a big deal since it had rained on us every day anyways.  The rain turned into hail.  Instead of the usual 5-10 minute hail storm, this one lasted over an hour.  After about twenty minutes, we pulled over and my mom came to get us.  The roads were covered with an inch of hail, just like it would with snow.  It took quite awhile to warm back up after being drenched with rain and the icy substance.  We were good though and all three of us finished our rides on the trainers later ;-)

Shannon hates snakes- even when stuffed.

After my dad figured out why my speed on my SRM wouldn't work (one of the prongs on the headunit was broken), Shannon and I took a day trip to Colorado Springs to the SRM Service Center to get it fixed.  They were very nice there and offered to finish it by the next day.  Since we were already down there, we rode around the area to Garden of the Gods and a surrounding mountain town.  We had dropped poor Peter off west of Denver so that he could journey the 110-miles back through Estes Park and back to Fort Collins, but unfortunately, his directions weren't quite right and he ended up not being able to find the road he needed to continue his journey.  We ended up going and picking him up after he did a 7-mile climb over and over again for 5-hours.   
Yesterday Shannon and I went on a nice ride up to Horsetooth Reservoir and the towns around there.  It was hard to go as easy as our legs needed.  I broke my chain going up the last climb before home so I walked to the top, descended the climb into town and Shannon pushed me a good ways until I got to a parking lot to wait for my dad to come pick me up.  Hehe.  Once we got back, Peter, Shannon, and I hurried downtown to New Belgium Brewery in hopes of catching the last tour, but we were too late and there was no room left.  We  went with Brenna to Bean Cycle which was a neat coffee shop, juice bar, and volunteer-run bookshop.  No one else liked my orange-apple-carrot-ginger juice :-(  

Despite the cold and the rain (both good preparations for Europe), Fort Collins has been great.  It's nice getting to spend time with my family, and I'm looking forward to these last four days when they won't be at work!  Today, we have a busy day- trying the brewery tour once again, getting my hair cut, and venturing to Wednesday Night Worlds.  More later!  

Estes Park

Miss Shannon taking photos

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tulsa Tough and Fort Collins

Last weekend, we journeyed to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the infamous Tulsa Tough.  This weekend was not my lucky weekend for racing, but hopefully I was just getting all the bad stuff out ;-)  Friday I didn't feel well at all, but I managed to stay away from the many crashes, and just finished mid-pack.  Shannon had a much better race and Lauren ended up in a crash (but she's okay).  Saturday there was a huge wreck that took out half (really, half) the field.  Lauren got stuck in that one too.  With two to go, Shannon and I were moving up the outside for the leadout, but in a turn, I got taken to the curb, complete with a somersault into the grass.  I finished though, but unfortunately I couldn't help lead Shannon out. Sunday was just as awful.  I guess I kinda broke my cleat Saturday, so that when I stood up to accelerate, my foot would pop out.  Oops.  My race didn't last long like that.  Shannon had a great race- breaking away for a lap and finishing top 20.

After the races, Shannon, Peter, and I went to one of our sponsor's houses in Oklahoma City to hang out with his hilarious 7-year old tomboy daughter.    Somehow we managed to pack the car, with a little help from magical magician Nathan.  It was stuffed to the max.   The next morning at 5am we left for Fort Collins.  It was nice getting into town early enough to hang out with the 'rents.  Boy, it's nice to hang out with them a bit.  It's been awhile.  Shannon, Peter and I have gotten spoiled with lots of delicious food, lovely riding, and very little on the agenda besides prepping for the trip.  We did a nice ride today to Rist Canyon.  It's so beautiful out here- much more scenic than Texas.  Tomorrow we're taking a little day trip to Boulder.  I'll report back later and hopefully with pictures!

We'll be here in Fort Collins until June 15th, when Shannon, Peter, and I will fly out to Zurich, Switzerland, for the remainder of the summer to race over there.  Shannon and I will be racing for Team Bike-Import ( and Peter will be racing for Alchimist-Skoda (  It will be a great experience for all of us.  I'm really really excited!!