MN CX State & Jingle Cross

MN State CX Champs

State Champs brought the ladies of Koochella their first taste of true cold-weather cyclocross riding with temps hovering in the teens for the first race of the morning. The course featured a mostly-frozen “litter box” sand pit, a long stair run-up, and some downhill off-camber turns, playing into different riders’ strengths and weaknesses. Emily raced the Women’s Cat 4, Beth & Tiana raced the Women’s Cat 3, and both France and Sarah took on the challenging 45-minute singlespeed race.

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While Beth may have not made it onto the podium, she took first place in the hearts of our fans.

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Photo by: France Barbeau

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Tiana rode/ran hard to a solid 6th place finish in her field – her best Cat 3 finish since upgrading earlier this fall! She reports learning that singlespeed bikes can sometimes completely outperform geared cx bikes when it comes to forcing you to mash up hills, and that sometimes your teammates play mental games with you during your race, but it’s always out of love.

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Photo by: France Barbeau

Challenging course. Strong ass field. My Best Finish as a Cat 3. I hate stairs… HATE THEM. Probably wouldn’t have made it up them a 4th (I think) time if my lovely teammates were not screaming so damn much. I was dying out there until Renee started running behind me screaming ” Shes right behind you!!” I finally looked back once I made it to the top only to find that I was alone. So…that worked. -Tiana “T-Bitz” Johnson

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NEW BIKE DAY!!!! Raced on my brand new All-City Koochella custom-painted 853! It was perfect. Pink on pink on pink. I thought it would be funny to wear colored checkered Vans during this event. This was a mistake only because of the temperature. Everyone tells me I’m crazy for rocking flats, but I guess I have yet to learn why. My feet feeling free to jet out when I need instant leverage around a sharp corner or stability through some sand or over ice? No mistake made. Wearing Vans when it’s 20 degrees instead of winter boots? Mistake made. When I came around the lap to my favorite part, the barriers, Mattio Montesano announced my name as Sarah “Speedway” Bonneville. This melted all the frost bite. Thanks, Mattio. :)  – Sarah “Speedway” Bonneville

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Photo by: France Barbeau


Jingle Cross

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Photo by: France Barbeau

For many of the Koochella ladies, Jingle Cross was their first time racing outside of Minnesota! With cars full of snacks, bikes, and our new arm/leg warmers and jackets from Podiumwear, we made the trek to Iowa City. The course was everything we dreamed it would be and more. Complete with derailleur-destroying mud, insane downhill sections, and the notoriously grueling Mt. Krumpit. Our new Nature Boy 853’s, however, were totally up to the task.

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During my two laps pre-riding the course, I came close to falling a few times because the deep ruts in the mud from the previous night’s racers was completely frozen, making “commit to the rut,” pretty much pointless. By the time the juniors were done racing and my field was up, however, the course had completely warmed up, making it soft again. The best was to describe the mud consistency was peanut butter-like. I definitely felt that I had an advantage as a single speed rider with disc brakes. Not only did I not have to worry about ripping my derailleur off my bike (many riders did!), but I also didn’t have a bunch of mud/grass clogging up canti brakes, thus preventing my wheel from moving (which was also super common). I got 11/22, which felt pretty good considering we had riders from all over the Mid West show up! –Renee “Dark Horse” Hoppe 

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Photo by: France Barbeau


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JINGLE CROSS WAS SO MUCH FUN! It was incredible to see an event/race at that scale – and watching the pros race was super inspiring! The course was – insane. Bikes were getting ruined. It was epic. Super fun – going out to race the single speed race was an opportunity to get on the course early & leave the rest of the evening to cheer on the other fields. I was a bit jealous of the HUGE women’s field Friday night; that would have been great to race in too! – Beth “Treasure” Franklin 

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Photo by: France Barbeau

Mud up hill bad, Mud down hill… Awesome. -Tiana “T-Bitz” Johnson

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Bike handling through MUD means you gotta stay loose or you’re gonna lose. – Sarah “Speedway” Bonneville 

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It was great watching the more experienced racers, it made me really nervous think about my race the next day. They were just sleekly gliding down the muddy slope. The course I rode was much shorter and less muddy than the day before, but still very muddy. I rode down that same hill the next day and had no control of my bike whatsoever, I glided my legs against the mud as I slid down. I was trying to take the advice to not use the breaks down the hill, but I had no slick way of controlling myself. – France “Fancy” Barbeau

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Coming off the fly over on my second lap I hit the mud wrong and crashed pretty hard. I got up fast but only made it a couple feet before I had to straighten my handle bars. I didn’t notice it that moment but my break cable was disengaged in the crash so for the next 2 laps I only had a rear break which made going down hill off camber in mud very very difficult but very amusing to spectators *cough*Beth*cough*. I can also file this race under one of my better finishes for the season. 12th over all is pretty great in my book. On a single speed in a huge field too? I’ll take it. – Tiana “T-Bitz” Johnson 

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Photo by: France Barbeau

When we rolled up to the line on Friday afternoon I was super nervous. Though the mud and hills were intimidating, I was more anxious about being in a field entirely composed of men. Tiana saw my nerves and calmed me down enough for me to enjoy the sight of our bright kits along with Beth’s amidst a sea of dudes. The race was hard. But I was stoked I got to *walk* up Mt. Krumpit and impressed with my ability to go down the hills without breaking. Though I probably should have breaked down the last hill – a bad line sent me over my bars which was fun in its own way though I’m still a bit sore. – Emily “Eagle Screech” Wade

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Photo by: France Barbeau

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Photo by: France Barbeau

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Photo by: France Barbeau

Unless Otherwise Noted Photos by: Blake Kelley, Renee Hoppe, Emily Wade, and Beth Franklin

Star Cross & Wirth CX 2015

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

“Star Cross was pretty cool, literally,” “Fancy” France Barbeau said after shivering her way through the first half of Fulton’s two-day event. While she enjoyed racing at Aquilla Park in the dark, she was a bit intimidated by the lack of sunlight. The course’s steep hills and technical turns didn’t help matters, keeping France on her toes all night. “It was the hardest race of the season,” she said.

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Photo by France Barbeau

Teammate Renee “Dark Horse” Hoppe found the course just as challenging:

Overall this weekend highlighted exactly what I know my strengths and weaknesses are as a rider. Both Star Cross and Theo Wirth CX featured relatively long stretches of straights where I knew I could pick up speed, and then technical features like off camber downhills sections or 180-degree turns in sand, which really slowed me down.

Photo by Matthew Pastick

Photo by Matthew Pastick

For France, things started heating up the next day at Wirth CX. “It was the perfect warm November day for the Theo Cross race,” she said. “Though I mountain bike, I found some areas difficult for a cross bike, since I never ride as fast as when I race. There were a couple climbs that were hard, but everything else was nice and flowy.”

After her race France stuck around to watch teammate Tiana “T-Bits” Johnson in her element.

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Theo CX is one of my favorite races. There is a sick single track section that can really break up the feild. I tried to ride the hairpin drop with just my foot down and totally failed. I crashed pretty hard. I decided to follow Deidre’s lead and just run it from there on out. I went 100%.

Tiana ended the day wiped, but proud of her results adding, “I still hate mud.”

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Sarah “Beezy” Bonneville was stoked on Theo’s single track, switch backs, and steep sharp turns. “I definitely would never have tried these without blindly signing up for cyclocross,” she said.

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

The next weekend Emily “Eagle Screech” Wade joined Sarah for Star Cross II: Daylight Boogaloo. The course was mostly grass with several tight turns, short, steep hills, and off cambers. A wooded section marked the middle of the course, beginning with an uphill barrier and ending with a steep climb riddled with exposed roots and a matching descent on the other side.

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Today was one of the first cross races where I really, really had fun. Riding our new 853s is magical. They handle so well. Just having a nice bike motivates me to be a better rider. Even though it was just Sarah and I racing, I was feeling the love from her and France, who came to cheer us on, along with a few other friends. Combine all that goodness with sunny skies and 60 degree weather and you have the perfect day for a cross race.

While France was too sick to race, spent the morning navigating the course with her camera taking all these seriously incredible shots:

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

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Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Photo by France Barbeau

Night CX p/b Koochella

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With new gear from Knog and Paul Component Engineering Koochella racers needed a setting to put the Qudos Action Video Light and MiniMoto break to the test. While local sanctioned and unsanctioned races challenged the Koochella babes’ skills, the team needed just the right combination of dirt, friends, and darkness to make conditions perfect. Naturally they decided to throw a race of their own – Koochella style.

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On race night Koochella Queen of Fun Lilah “Fratboy” Guertin began the quick work of setting up a rogue course through the urban landscape. Armed with a handful of Knog blinders, Guertin joined teammates Renee and Emily in lighting the most technical parts of the course so racers could clearly spot obstacles after darkness fell.

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Photo by Matthew Pastick

Meanwhile, a slew of riders streamed across the pedestrian bridge into Bryn Mawr Park.  Cross celebrity and Koochella Classic award winner Lee Penn made sure to arrive with plenty of time to get to know the course.

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By dusk dozens of local crushers congregated in Bryn Mawr. The Hub Cycling Team’s Holly Windschitl came hot off the Green Acres CX podium sporting one of the raddest kits around.

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Once every Knog light, glowing pink cone, and scrap of course tape was in place, Lilah led the racers to the far side of the pedestrian bridge connecting the Cedar Lake Trail to the park. After a neutral lap for riders to get to know the course, Fratboy broke out her best heckling voice and set them off on a six lap tear.

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The course started with a sprint up a dizzying ramp to the pedestrian bridge and a matching descent on the other side. From there racers maneuvered through a tight, wooded single track dotted with fallen trees lit by Knog. Winding out of the woods the course hooked left under the pedestrian bridge into a construction zone where racers navigated building materials strategically placed as barriers.

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After shouldering their bikes across railroad tracks under a pitch black overpass, racers blasted through a gnarly straight away atop a torn up asphalt trail. At the trail’s end riders sprinted back into the woods forming a figure eight with their competitors rounding the bend.

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By the end of six fast laps through Lilah’s dirt dream several racers found themselves pulling tools out of their bags to tend to their bikes’ wounds.

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A few flat fixes later the crew corkscrewed their way back over the pedestrian bridge, hopped on the Cedar Lake Trail, and descended upon Sisyphus Brewing for local beer as dynamic as Fratboy’s course.

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At Sisyphus the Koochella babes turned to the very serious business of reeling new women into the local sanctioned race scene. And learning to hard style like a pro.

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Green Acres CX 2015

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Photo by Matthew Pastick

“To say that course isn’t single-speed friendly is an understatement,” Crusher Queen Beth “Treasure” Franklin said after Saturday’s races. With a steep climb up loose asphalt, double barriers among tight turns, teetering off-cambers and sections through woods and a cornfield, Green Acres CX posed one of the most challenging courses of the season. But that didn’t stop Koochella from tearing it up.

Photo by Matthew Pastick

Photo by Matthew Pastick

“Rolling up to the course on Saturday morning I looked at the off camber on the hill and was terrified. Thinking I would have to ride up it, I dreaded the climb, and my exposure to spectators,” Emily “Eagle Screech” Wade remarked, “Yet once I raced, the course was my favorite of the season.”

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Attempting not to worry too much about her finish position, Wade tried to tailor her race into a set of personalized challenges. “Going in to day 1 I set three goals for myself,” she said. “One of them was to make it up the asphalt hill every time. Though my finish position wasn’t stellar, I accomplished all of my goals and left the race pleased with a much better understanding of my gearing – I’ve never shifted so much in a race!”

Racing her second sanctioned cyclocross race, Sarah Bonneville also surprised herself. There were “what seemed to be impossible switch-backs down a big hill face,” Sarah said. “However, upon further investigation, they were quite possible with such knobby tires. The technology is truly amazing.”

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But steep hills and slippery inclines weren’t the only challenging features at Green Acres. Renee “Dark Horse” Hoppe found herself thankful for all the hours of training she’s put in so far this season. “I got to put my cornering skills that we did at practice this week to use this weekend and it felt awesome!” She said. “It was a big course with lots of different features, which required a whole slew of different skills.” 

One of these features was a tall, wooden fly-over that propelled each racer high into the air and immediately back down into the corn field.

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Photo by Matthew Pastick

Second-year racer “Fancy” France Barbeau’s love for mountain biking helps her be comfortable zipping through technical twists. Yet France’s crusher status does’t keep her from seeking out opportunities to improve. “I love feedback from other racers while I’m racing,” she said. During the race another rider advised France to shoulder her bike at exactly the right time. 

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Photo by Matthew Pastick

Catch Koochella this weekend as they return to their beloved NSC Velodrome for Velo CX 2015. While they won’t be bringing their track bikes with them, these racers always have a few surprises up their sleeves.

 

 

 

Donkey Cross 2015 at Baker Orchard

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This year’s Baker Orchard extravaganza featured the largest amateur women’s field in the race’s recent history. For Mama Duck Anna Schwinn, lining up with thirty other women had her gushing. 2015 marked Schwinn’s third year racing at Baker Orchard. In 2014 she raced with 12 others, 2013 brought her only five competitors. “This year was freaking amazing,” Schwinn said.

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Yet right out of the gate Schwinn’s stellar sprint was foiled by a course post. The crash tangled Mama Duck and a few other babes making Schwinn gush in a slightly different sense of the word.

I didn’t get back on the bike until basically the full field had passed. The rest of the race was spent trying to pass racers- an art as I found out. Despite crashing and sliding out and bleeding during the race, it remains my favorite. The orchard is gorgeous. The crowds are amazing. The community is so fun.

Of course, part of that fun community is Fratboy Lilah Guertin who brought her megaphone and stood at the log stair run-up cheering until she was hoarse. Between heckles Fratboy also raced in the Women’s 3/4 field.

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After an immediate crash in my field after the start I had to crank harder into some better positioning. The course was technical but flowing with extremely difficult soft sand and boulders that were higher than 20″. There was a fun wood section through the apple orchard. 

As far as what she learned from Donkey Cross 2015, Guertin remarked, “PSI can make or break your race.”

Teammate Tiana “T-Bits” Johnson agreed. “The course felt like little hands coming out of the mud, grabbing at your tires,” she said. “It was soul destroying.”

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The course’s beauty almost made up for it. “I loved riding the course!” Renee “Dark Horse” Hoppe said. Donkey Cross was Hoppe’s third sanctioned cross race. Though still new to the discipline, Renee fought her way to 11th place, narrowly missing a top ten finish in the Women’s 3/4 field.

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Also new to cross, Emily “Eagle Screech” Wade was pleased just to finish her second sanctioned race ahead of a handful of riders.

I can tell that I’m still not on a level where I’m pushing myself as much as I know I can. But, with practice I’m becoming more confident. We’re lucky to have support from our teammates, our coach Drew, and local crusher Deidre Ribbons. Last Tuesday Deidre saw I was struggling with lifting my bike over barriers. She recommended I try a down tube carry and it’s helped me a lot. Still not perfect, but it’s progress.

At Donkey Cross Beth “Treasure” Franklin joined T-Bits in the elite women’s race marking her debut as a Cat 3 racer in cross. “I’ve been intimidated of that Cat 3 upgrade due to the longer race time and the fact I’d be racing (er…at least starting) with the Cat 1/2 elite women,” Franklin said.

Yet Franklin’s quad-bursting pace earned her a spot on the podium. 

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I didn’t even know I was sitting in 3rd place until Kristi caught up with me midway through the race and the Koochella cheering section started freaking out at the staircase. Kristi overtook me eventually but on the 2nd to last lap I edged her out at the barriers. I found a little something left in my legs and I cranked out my fastest lap of the race. I was honestly banking on getting lapped by the race leader in that lap. If I didn’t get lapped, I knew I’d be screwed; I knew it was unlikely that I would be able to hold onto the 20 second lead I had fought for.

Lucky for Treasure, the race leader passed her on the grassy straight away near the end of the course. Hear more about Beth’s race experience in her post-race interview conducted by the Mama Duck herself:

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