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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kelly Benefit Strategies and the American Diabetes Association meet and greet.

This past week Janel, Rachel, Mike Sherer, Ian Moir and myself flew to Baltimore to visit Kelly Benefit Strategies and to learn about the American Diabetes Association.

Kelly Benefit Strategies (KBS) is one of Optum P/B Kelly Benefit Strategies title sponsors, and is one of the top Insurance Consultants in the Country. (http://www.kellybenefitstrategies.com/). KBS also supports the American Diabetes Association which includes the sponsorship of a huge Nation-wide cycling event called the ‘Tour De Cure’.

John Kelly and myself talking before the start of the ride. John is one of the main reasons this team exists and not only does he support ADA he also helps to raise funds and awareness for World Bicycle Relief (http://worldbicyclerelief.org/).

The Tour De Cure is a series of fundraising cycling events held in 44 States Nationwide to benefit the American Diabetes Association. Nearly 26 million Americans are diagnosed with Diabetes so the mission of the ADA is to ‘prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected’. KBS Sponsors two of the Maryland Tour De Cure events (Cooksville, MD and Easton, MD).

John Kelly, the President and Senior Consultant at KBS and the Diabetes Association organised a fantastic event which the five of us were lucky enough to attend. John took us for a ride around the beautiful Country roads of Baltimore where we met some of the KBS staff and cyclists as well as ADA supporters, including the Executive director of the Maryland Diabetes Association, Kathy Rogers. Everybody was so lovely and the ride went really well thanks to John’s perfect organisation. We were then greeted after the ride to a delicious BBQ dinner, some refreshments and music as well as learning about the Tour De Cure and what the ADA do to help prevent and support Diabetes within America.

Thank you John and Kathy and everybody else who was part of this event, I was so fortunate to have been able to spend the afternoon with such inspiring people.

JK introducing Ian, Janel, Mike and myself. 
The five of us before we headed off for one beautiful ride!
Thank you Umbrella Syndicate for all of the photos taken on the day; http://theumbrellasyndicate.com/

If you want to learn more about Tour De Cure or if you are interested in donating the website is; http://tour.diabetes.org

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Redlands 2013

Redlands Classic is the first NRC (National Racing Calendar) event of the year, and it was a big one! The start list was outstanding with close to 90 riders entered and the field was top, top quality. 
We had a strong team of 8 including; Annie, Joelle, Denise, Brie, Amber, Jade, Janel and myself.  

The first stage was a Time Trial in Big Bear. With an altitude of about 7000 feet this stage really suited the riders who have just come from places like Boulder or from somewhere high up. The entire race felt like my throat was bleeding and everyone was coughing endlessly once we had finished. Imagine riding as hard as you can, through a straw, it is similar to that.. The legs and lungs definitely do not enjoy it. Anyway, the tt was hard, I went out all guns blazing and was completely done by 9kms. Unfortunately the tt was 12kms long so I fell a little short with my pacing.  

Alison Powers had a phenomenal ride finishing close to 30 seconds in front of second place and beating a large quantity of the elite men's field. Our little pocket rocket Brie had a hugely impressive ride finishing in 4th place, Janel in 7th and Denise in 10th with the rest of us close behind. Unfortunately Jade got a very unfair time penalty which put her back 50 seconds, and I came in somewhere in the 20's about 1 and a half minutes back from Alison.  

The next day was a 120km road race (thankfully back down to sea level).The race was fast, hard, and fun. The team rode awesome with Jade going for the QOM, Brie taking out the sprints and the rest of the team chasing the breaks and keeping things hard. On the final lap I got in a small break and stayed with them for a wee while, I was blown, my legs didn't have much, I hung on with gritted teeth until Joelle bridged across, then I hit the wall and came back to the bunch. On the last climb Janel was going backwards, unsure of the reason I tried to stay with her and we worked hard together in the final Km's to keep the time gap as small as possible. We later realised she had a slow leak on the front wheel which slowed her down considerably on the climb. Further up the road Brie sprinted to 3rd place, putting her up to 3rd on GC and Alison pulled out another win with fellow Kiwi rider Joe finishing 2nd. 

Day three was the Redlands Criterium, known to be one of the hardest, most technical crits on the American calendar. Fast it was! Denise got away in the final 15 minutes and stayed up the road for quite a few laps, Jade countered her but it ended up coming to a bunch sprint with Joelle coming a close 2nd, to Alison (again). Unfortunately I had some bad luck on one of the corners in the final laps with my bike coming to a holt. Once I got going again the bunch was up the road, Dang!  

Last stage, the Sunset Loop, known to be the most brutal stage of the tour, and of most races in the US. Basically the main race is in the first 15kms. It starts with a long neutral section where everyone jostles for position, then it goes to a narrow, rough, windy downhill which runs straight into the climb of the day. If you are not at or near the front when you get to the base of the climb, you're toast. 20 riders got away on the climb, including 4 Optum girls. Denise and I were in a small (ish) bunch that was caught in the middle and the rest of the field was behind. In our bunch were some GC threats so there was no need to do any work or try to get up the road in case we got chased by these riders. Some of the teams got to the front to try and catch but the chasing was too inconsistent so it ended up being more of a bunch ride as riders would give up one by one. The front of the field was getting smashed to pieces, Marra Abbott and Claudia Haussler got away (Two of the best climbers in the worlds) while Joelle faught it out in the chasing group and Brie, Jade and Janel very close behind. Mara ended up staying away, just! With Joelle getting the bunch sprint in 2nd. 

Overall it was an awesome race, the team rode extremely well together and we have some great times coming up. It is early season so we are not at our best yet, but it's not going to be long until we get there. Next up is Charlotte Criterium in the weekend after a stop off in Baltimore to catch up with John Kelly and the team from Kelly Benefit Strategies and the diabetes foundation. 

The weather is getting warmer, the tan lines are at their best and the legs are on the up, time to win some bike races =)

Getting ready for the Time Trial at 7000 Feet.
Just starting the Time trial, with the beautiful lake next to me.
                Team Talk before stage three road race.
 Riding the front in my new awesome NZ champ jersey. Thank you so much Champion System for such a fantastic job!! http://www.champ-sys.com/
At some stage during one of the stages at Redlands. Photos thanks to; Danny Munson, Cyclingillustrated.com